Mr. Metcalfe with his accordion, a familiar sight at High Hall where “he played his accordion on many occasions over the years to entertain residents with all the old tunes and war songs,” says Mrs. Dyanne Whyte. “He’s given a lot more than just doing the job.”
Mr. Ernie Metcalfe of Sedbusk, near Hawes, retires this weekend from the post of second officer-in-charge at High Hall, Bainbridge, after more than 26 years work there.
Mr. Metcalfe, who was born into a farming family on Mallerstang and started work as a shepherd at Thorneymire, Appersett, joined the staff of High Hall in November, 1965. At that time there were 48 residents, a resident master and matron and a handful of attendants and domestic staff working long hours.
“I’ve seen vast changes at High Hall, says Mr. Metcalfe. “When I first came here the residents were people who were destitute, hadn’t anybody to look after them and needed somewhere to go.
“The biggest change is that High Hall Residential Home Bainbridge serves the community now. Then it served the county and there were no visitors. Gradually, though accelerating in the last few years, it has become a community centre.”
Now there are 28 residents, in modernized premises, with two beds reserved for short-stay ‘holiday’ use. There is a ten-place day centre and a local meals-on-wheels service is provided on two days each week.
“The county council would have been amongst those who pioneered a reduction in working hours for staff,” says Mr. Metcalfe. “There has been a considerable increase in staff and there is a great deal of support from local people. Red Cross volunteers provide a trolley service, the Friends of High Hall work alongside staff and take residents on outings”.
“Students from Wensleydale School do work experience at High Hall and there is a 15-hour ‘social module’ for work with elderly people which is part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.”
The other great change is that social activities have been recognized as of equal importance to physical care, said Mrs. Dianne Whyte, officer-in charge. “There has been a change in routine management. We knew we wouldn’t get a fantastic increase in staffing levels so we altered the rotas and routines to bath people at getting up time. This freed time to socialize.”
When Mr. Metcalfe started at High Hall bath time continued throughout the day. “I had 20 men to bath in a day,” he said. “There was no time for social activities. One or two residents got half a crown extra pocket money for helping other residents to the toilet, sweeping yards and gardening. It makes you wonder how we managed. “I’ve had happy days here, or I wouldn’t have stayed. You learn a lot from old people.”
The attributes needed for such work included a caring nature and a sense of humour. Patience and understanding also went a long way. A retirement party was due to be held yesterday and Mr. Metcalfe will continue his association with High Hall as a recognized driver of the minibus provided by the local community for the benefit of elderly people. He is a keen fisherman, enjoys wood-turning and cabinet-making, and is looking forward to more time for caravan holidays with his wife, Margaret.