Mystery surrounds origin of hospital nativity scene

Southland Hospital maternity ward receptionist Kim Perkins (left) and charge maternity manager Sarah Stokes look at the recently restored nativity scene in the ward's reception area.

IT is a nativity mystery Southland Hospital maternity staff are keen to solve.

Where did the recently restored nativity scene originally come from?

Southland Hospital maternity receptionist Kim Perkins said information they had from former nurses put the set at the old Dee St maternity hospital as far back as 1958.

“That’s as far back as we know at this stage,” she said.

“We know it was possibly gifted to the hospital by a matron and that’s all the information we’ve got.”

The set had been through a few rough years, she said.

After a stint in the Children’s Ward, it was stored for a long time in the obstetric ward at the old hospital.

“Then it finally came back to us,” Mrs Perkins said.

“They found it this year.”

Unfortunately it was badly damaged so Mrs Perkins’ mother Josephine Carr (87), who had previously worked as a photo colourist painting black and white photos, began about restoring it.

“She’s done a wonderful job of fixing them all up and giving them a facelift,” Mrs Perkins said.

A case to put it all in was then assembled, including a painted background scene, straw-strewn floor and lights to depict the night sky including the Star of Bethlehem.

Mrs Perkins had spoken to former nurse Jan Broad to try to gain some information.

Mrs Broad was set to have a lunch with former staff next week, so it was hoped a bit more provenance would be available after the get-together.

It was hoped if they could get some more information about the nativity scene, they would get a plaque made to make sure the details of the donation were never lost again.

“It’s a shame the history hasn’t come with some of these things,” Mrs Perkins said.

The only distinguishing mark on the whole set is a stamp on the back of Mary which says Germany’.

Charge maternity manager Sarah Stokes said the nativity set was important because of its history and because it depicted the true meaning of Christmas.

Ward staff were also hoping to fundraise for a larger nativity set to be put in the waiting room at the ward’s entry.

The $5000 set stands at about 120cm tall and is similar to one which is displayed in the Wellington Hospital.

Mrs Stokes said it was hoped, like Wellington, Jesus’ manger could be used to put babies in, so parents could take their photos.

They were hoping to set up a Givealittle page in the next few days to start crowd funding in the hope they could have it for next Christmas, Mrs Perkins said.