Obituary: Christine was known as Sister Carmichael across Fife

Christine Carmichael.
Christine Carmichael.

Every Saturday, Christine Carmichael took the bus to Kirkcaldy town centre where she met friends, tour the shops, and go for a swim.

But as she made her way through Kirkcaldy, you would have been forgiven for mistaking her for a minor celebrity.

Every few yards, Christine, who has died aged  84, would be stopped by people who recognised her as Sister Carmichael and held her in great affection.

Many were just children or teenagers when they saw her last and were thrilled to introduce her to their own children.

Support

Decades earlier, Sister Carmichael had been the one who had supported and guided them through their journey with diabetes.

Born in Kinglassie in 1937, Christine and her brother Gordon were well grounded in village life and imbued with a sense of community and caring she never forgot and which led her, perhaps inevitably, to a career in nursing.

For many years Christine was the beating heart of Victoria Hospital’s outpatient department in Kirkcaldy.

Pioneer

The first diabetic specialist nurse in Fife, she had already been performing the role informally, having recognised a lack of practical guidance for those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

At that time, there was very little public understanding and many struggled with the strict management regime they were given.

But Christine was determined to change that, particularly with the younger generations, who were often wrapped in cotton wool at home and isolated in school.

Capable in equal measure of a disarming zest for life and a stern telling off when her patients disobeyed her instructions, Christine and her colleagues took a hospital clinic roster and turned it into a family.

Outreach

Over time, she would reach out to schools, youth organisations and workplaces, to demystify diabetes and to advocate  minor changes which would make a difference to her patients’ lives and opportunities.

Christine organised family picnics where diabetic children were encouraged to bring non-diabetic friends so their parents could see their child could do anything the other children could do.

She raised money through bake sales and other events for Victoria Hospital and for the British Diabetic Association, notably by taking busloads to Glasgow to take part in fun runs.

Recognition

In 1998 she was made an MBE in recognition of her fundraising and was presented with her award at Buckingham Palace.

However, Christine’s life could have been very different.

In 1957 she met Robert, at that time a military policeman with a larger-than-life personality and a quick wit that more than matched her own.

He was posted to Hong Kong and the couple brought forward their wedding so that Christine could go with him.

Kindness

She immediately fell in love with the culture and the people, her typical kindness and compassion helping break down any cultural or language barrier.

As a civilian sister working in an army hospital, she occasionally fell foul of army protocols along the way, but was able to get away with it much of the time.

However, she never forgot the discrepancies she saw between the treatment of the army families and the local Chinese, both those with money and those with none.

The young couple felt at home in Hong Kong and were looking forward to raising a family in the vibrant city.

Return to Scotland

However, Robert suffered severe back pain and was medically discharged from service and the couple returned to Scotland where their daughter was born soon after.

Had her husband not been forced to retire from service, they may have stayed there longer; perhaps forever.

Instead Christine returned to build a legacy in Fife where she will always be remembered as Sister Carmichael.

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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Kirkcaldy – The Courier