Excerpt from Australian Dictionary of Biography:
Mary Louisa (Mollie) Skinner (1876-1955), nurse and writer, was born in Perth on 19 September 1876, second child of James Tierney Skinner, army officer, and his wife Jessie Rose Ellen, daughter of George Walpole Leake. The family moved to England and Ireland in 1878 and at 9 Mollie was sent to an academy for young ladies in Edinburgh. A keen student and voracious reader, she had to abandon formal education in 1887 because of an ulcerated cornea. She spent so much time during the next five years in England in a darkened room with her burning eyes bandaged that she thought of herself as the fifth sparrow (Luke 12:6)—’a poor, befeathered, blinded little bird yet still having joyful life, ability to fly, to sing, to preen, to pick up crumbs and drink and to find fellowship with my kind’.
After painful cauterization partially restored her sight, Miss Skinner began to write poems and stories; she also learned singing and cookery. Later she trained as a nurse at the Evelina Hospital for Children, London, and at the Metropolitan Convalescent Home for Children; she recognized within herself an intuitive power, or sixth sense.
Unlike her mother, Mollie was homely: short and sturdy, with thick, dark hair and smoke-blue eyes. She wore sensible clothing and low-heeled shoes. She was intelligent, perceptive and practical, her mind ‘a delight of unexpected treasures among a conglomeration of serviceable items and irrelevant bric-a-brac’. Born with a cleft lip and threatened by blindness, she avoided marriage but found single life hard. She earned her living as a nurse, and wrote for pleasure and money. Both callings were considered ‘common’ by her family.
Continue reading her bio here if interested.
This last week the card drawn for the Deal Me In Challenge was the Ace of Spades. The story was a very short story called The Hand and it was written by M L Skinner in 1876. It was a simple tale of a few nurses working in a shed of a hospital in Western Australia one night. The night is dark and one of the nurses walks into a room where something seizes her ankle in a firm grip. She has no idea what has hold of her and of course screams. When another runs into the room holding a lantern, which of course gets blown out and needs to be relit, it turns out the ‘grip’ is caused by a hand. A straggler had become lost in the heat, wandered about and in a delirium ended up collapsed in the hospital. The hospital was shaped like the letter L and the back side of it was only under cover, not completely enclosed. The story, in my opinion was very weak and I am still not sure what its meaning was. Perhaps to show the conditions in this building of which they worked? I have no idea. I would be surprised if this was Ms Skinner’s finest work. I must admit though that it did hold my attention in its sparse four pages. Maybe it is more about defining a moment in the late 1800’s in rural Western Australia and I did get a feel for the night. A sort of memoir (if it was a true account which kind of felt like it.)
The descriptions were good and I could feel the heat and the dark and see the shaded light caused only by the lanterns available.
I was running behind in the Deal Me In Challenge with getting this story read. On Tuesday, the day I wanted it finished by, I still had not completed it. I had an eye surgeon’s appointment (just a check-up) and thought, “Right! I always need to wait while I get shuttled around in this busy practice and wait for my eyes to dilate. I’ll read it then.” I looked forward to some forced reading time. I found a quiet area of the waiting room. Opened my book and began the first paragraph. I felt a small wave of peace. At which time another lady sat beside me and I knew I couldn’t hide from as our arms were practically touching. She is a member of a group I belong to. Of course it would be “HER”. The most talkative, chatty bunch of the entire group and down she sat with a big smile on her face at seeing someone she knew beside her. The story of my life. Luckily the story was so short and as her number was called I too got moved to another area of the practice and managed to finish the story while the photos of my eye were developed. That is life in Tasmania. You can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone you know. We are known for it. Time to draw another card. (In silence, I hope.)