A pelican appears on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) Coat of Arms, the pelican being an ancient symbol of charity and sacrifice.
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing was granted authority, in 1917, to introduce its badge which depicts a Pelican, exactly as it appears on the RIE Coat of Arms. The Pelican is shown sitting on her nest, and plucking her breast to feed her young with her blood, symbolizing the nurse’s dedication to the service of others. To be awarded this badge, a nurse either had to (a) successfully complete the three year education and training course required in order to become a Registered General Nurse (RGN), followed by one year as a Staff Nurse at the RIE, or (b) successfully complete the two year education and training course required in order to become an Enrolled Nurse (EN), followed by six months as an Enrolled Nurse (EN) at the RIE. The badge awarded to the Registered General Nurse (RGN) had a blue border, and that awarded to the Enrolled Nurse (EN) had a green border. Holders of the RIE School of Nursing or RIE Enrolled Nurse (EN) Training School badge came to be known, worldwide, as ‘Pelicans’.
In 1927-1928, the RIE Nurses’ magazine, ‘The Pelican’ was first published. It aimed to bring together the many aspects of a nurse’s life, and to keep the old in touch with the new.
In 1935, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Nurses’ League was established. The aims of the League were to form a link between all nurses who had trained at the RIE and gained their Pelican badge, to keep a register of names and addresses of members, and to publish an annual report containing this register and the chief hospital and nursing news of the year.
From 1936, the Pelican magazine was incorporated into what became ‘The Pelican Nurses’ League Journal’.
The badge (left, top) is the badge of the RIE School of Nursing, awarded to nurses who completed their training and became a Registered General Nurse (RGN) followed by one year as a Staff Nurse in the RIE. The badge (left, bottom) is the badge of the RIE Enrolled Nurse (EN) Training School, awarded to nurses who completed their training and became an Enrolled Nurse (EN) followed by six months as an Enrolled Nurse (EN) in the RIE.
In 1974, South Lothian College was created by amalgamating three Schools of Nursing. Thus the RIE School of Nursing/Enrolled Nurse (EN) Training School no longer existed as a single entity.
Discussion ensued at RIE Nurses’ League meetings to consider the future use of the badge.
AGM 1978: Minute item 10. ‘Consideration was then given to the future of the Pelican Badge and it was decided to circulate all League members to ask for their help in making a decision on whether to continue to award the Pelican as a League badge or to discontinue it altogether.’
October 1978: A letter written by the Hon. President, Miss J L P Robertson, to all League members. ‘I am writing this special letter to you because of my deep concern for the future of our Pelican Badge.’ Miss Robertson went on to explain the changes since 1974, the amalgamations and the South Lothian College replacing the RIE School of Nursing. It had been suggested that nurses who trained at South Lothian College and who then held a Staff Nurse’s post in the RIE for one year could be eligible for a badge. In such a case the badge wording would change from ‘Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing’ to ‘Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Nurses’ League’. League members were asked for their opinion and it was pointed out how important this was. A postcard was sent to each member asking if the badge should be issued as suggested.
AGM 1979: It was reported that there was an 83% response to the letter (see October 1978 above). Of the 874 replies received 768 were in favour of continuing with the Pelican as a League Badge. It was agreed that the words ‘Nurses’ League’ would replace ‘School of Nursing’ (see Minutes of AGM 28th April 1979).
Journal 1980: The Treasurer’s report mentions ‘The Special Fund for perpetuating the Pelican Badge.’
AGM 1980: It was reported that 500 badges had been ordered in white metal, silver plated.
AGM 1981: Pelican Badge Appeal Fund is detailed separately (Accounts 1979/80).
Newsletter 1982: Treasurer’s report, penultimate paragraph, ‘This fund is fulfilling its purpose completely, and already twenty-seven trained nurses have received the badge and joined the Pelican League.’
Executive Committee Minutes April 1982: 11.3. ‘Note pads, key rings etc. with the Pelican motif are once again available. Interest was expressed in diaries once more.’
Newsletter 1990: The Badge Fund, £28.79 transferred to General Fund, Balance at 30.9.89 NIL.
How the badge has appeared on Journals and Newsletters since 1965:
Up untill 1980: with the words 'Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, School of Nursing'.
1981 – 1991: no writing on the badge on the Newsletter.
1992 – 2009: no writing on the badge on the Journal.
2010 until the present day.
Note: sometimes the badge without any words would appear all black (as right).