Is There A Doctor On The Train?
Recently read an article regarding a baby that was born on a London Bus in Hackney, which made me wonder how much of a regular occurrence this was. I couldn’t find any documented numbers, although the search did turn up several instances. However, there is documentation regarding babies born on London Underground. This comes with a slight caveat due to the numbers of people that used the Underground as shelters during the Blitz.
In fact, none other than Jerry Springer claims he was born in Highgate Tube Station, but given the chaos and confusion of the times, there must have been more deliveries that went unrecorded, Also bear in mind that Londoners used the Underground to shelter during the first war as well, so the numbers could be quite high.
It’s surprising that a transport system that has existed since 1863 and now handles around 1.3 billion passengers a year does not have more members of such an exclusive club. In total there have been five such occasions.
The most recent was in 2019 at Baker Street, where this notice was posted to alert passengers of delays.
Strangely, the previous occurrence was earlier in the year when in February, the mother went into labour at Warren Street, luckily there was a medical student on board, who helped with the birth.
There’s then a gap going back ten years when in 2009, 32-year-old Michelle Jenkins’ waters broke on a Jubilee train, and she found herself giving birth to a baby boy in the London Bridge station staff room.
The previous year, in December 2008, Julia Kowalska went into labour on the Jubilee line, and she gave birth to a baby girl, Jennifer, on the platform of Kingsbury station.
There’s then a very big gap back to the first such documented case, Mr Springer and many other possible births excepted.
The first recorded birth on the underground system was at Elephant and Castle, on Tuesday 13 May 1924. Mrs Daisy Hammond was already on her way to hospital via the Bakerloo line but went into labour at Marylebone. The train was emptied of passengers and ran non stop to Elephant and Castle, where a doctor was waiting, and a baby girl was delivered.
The birth generated a lot of interest in the newspapers and readers sent in suggestions for names, two of these were Jocelyn, as she had been born during rush hour (think about it) and Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor so that her initials would spell T.U.B.E.
Her birth was registered in Marylebone as Marie Ashfield Eleanor Hammond. The name Ashfield came about after the Daily Express suggested to Lord Ashfield, Chairman of the Underground Railways, that he should be the baby’s godfather. Lord Ashfield attended Eleanor’s christening and presented her with a silver christening cup.