Lance Corporal Nancy Irene Ford (nee Kirkland).
Lance Corporal Nancy Irene Ford (nee Kirkland). contrib

How this Northern Rivers girl served her country

DURING the First World War young women from our area served as nurses both in Australia and overseas.

However, the Second World War saw many enlist, not only as nurses but in all the services as clerical workers, drivers, and even pilots.

There was also the Land Army, and of course the thousands who worked in our factories and other essential services.

Many served overseas, and some died or were taken as prisoners of war, enduring harsh treatment.

One of our local girls who joined the Army was Nancy Irene Kirkland, who had been born at Alstonville in 1923, the eldest child of Ken and Myrtle Kirkland, of "Beulah", a dairy farm at Fernleigh.

Some members of the Kirkland family had come from Robertson in the Southern Highlands and were well established on the North Coast while others had remained in the south.

Nancy had one sister, Naida, and one brother, Neville. She had a happy childhood, attending Fernleigh Public School and then going on to Lismore High to complete her Intermediate Certificate.

Not many girls at that time had the benefit of high school education and she had to travel by train to Lismore each day along the Booyong to Ballina line.

The family was very musical and Nancy learnt to play both the violin and the piano.

She was a pupil of violinist Henry Edward (Harry) Jarratt, who travelled from Ballina by horseback to his pupils' homes.

He and his daughter, Ethel, were members of the Ballina Orchestra.

Nancy also learnt the piano. Nancy's piano teacher, the famous Arthur Brockington, also travelled to homes but Nancy later stayed in Lismore with the Brockington family while she finished her education.

When the Second World War began, she was anxious to enlist.

However, she was only 16 at the time and her mother would not give her consent.

She helped about the farm instead, milking cows by hand and helping her mother with domestic duties.

Nancy's father, Ken Kirkland, had been a Gallipoli veteran and supported her desire to join up so, in 1943 when the Army was making an urgent appeal for women recruits he signed Nancy's papers and she forged her mother's signature!

She was posted initially to Melbourne, where she was attached to Signals.

She drove trucks and vans, delivering important documents and packages.

When peace was declared, she was one of many who danced across the Princes Bridge in Melbourne.

She went to Sydney and began training as a nurse.

So began her close association with Western Suburbs Hospital, Croydon.

After finishing her general training, she completed her midwifery at Royal Hobart Hospital and for short periods worked at Casino and Lismore.

She spent holidays travelling and never forgot her family at home.

In 1977 she married Joseph (Joe) Ford and they went to live at Bowral, where she met many of her Kirkland relatives.

There was always travel and many friends, and a beautiful garden.

Nancy died in 2013 aged 90, four years after Joe had died.

CONTACT: Prepared by Geoff and Margaret Henderson for Richmond River Historical Society, 02 6621 9993.

Museum at 165 Molesworth St, Lismore is open 10am-4pm Monday-Friday; Research room open 10am-4pm Monday and Wednesday.

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