Shelagh Turner — our guide to the Call the Midwife character

Shelagh Turner in Call the Midwife.
Shelagh Turner in Call the Midwife. (Image credit: BBC)

Shelagh Turner is a recurring character in Call the Midwife, and has appeared in all 12 series of the BBC show.

She is a registered nurse and midwife and former nun, once going by the name of Sister Bernadette. Shelagh is a very gentle and kind person, she is passionate about nursing and deeply committed to her job.

Intelligent, efficient and calm under pressure, Shelagh is regarded as the most accomplished midwife at Nonnatus House, and often tutors the younger nurses. She is also friendly with the nuns, and is particularly close to Sister Julienne.

Shelagh has been happily married to Dr.Patrick Turner since series two. She is stepmum to his son by his late wife, Timothy. The couple are also parents to adoptive daughter Angela, foster daughter May, and son Edward.

Here is everything you need to know about Shelagh Turner. 

Who plays Shelagh Turner? 

Shelagh Turner is played by Scottish actress Laura Main. Born and raised in Aberdeen, Laura's career began in musical theatre, and at age 15 she debuted in the role of Louisa Von Trapp in a stage production of The Sound of Music.  

Her other stage credits include playing Princess Fiona in the second UK tour of Shrek the Musical. And in November 2015, Laura won the Children in Need Strictly Come Dancing special with professional dancer Brendan Cole.

In 2011, Laura was cast as Sister Bernadette in Call the Midwife. In an interview with the Sunday Post, the actress reflected on her time spent playing Shelagh, saying: "If she was a real person, I think I’d like her in real life."

"I can see little bits of her which are like me — she’s quite precise, careful and thoughtful — but I think she’s calmer than me. Although she copes way better than I ever would with her incredibly busy life, working and bringing up a family."

Shelagh Turner's personality

When Shelagh was first introduced to the show as Sister Bernadette in season one, she was shy and reserved. 

We don't see a lot of development from her initially, although it's clear she wants to stop being a nun after she's seen looking in a mirror, removing her veil and letting her hair down. 

Since renouncing her vows she becomes more confident around other people, very efficient and calm under pressure, making her a real asset to the team at Nonnatus House.

In her Sunday Post interview, Laura Main added: “Being a midwife and nurse is all about thinking of others; I’ve learnt a lot about that from playing the role. When you play a character, it does rub off on you, and it’s made me aware of being thoughtful and aware of other people’s needs.”

Shelagh's relationship with Patrick Turner

Shelagh Turner goes on to marry lead character Dr. Patrick Turner, after developing feelings for him during the second series of Call the Midwife.

The couple struggle to start a family after Shelagh is told she cannot have children due to damage caused to her fallopian tubes as a result of tuberculosis. 

However, they're later approved to adopt a baby girl who they name Angela. In season six, Shelagh is shocked to learn that she's pregnant, and despite some complications she gives birth to a healthy baby boy, who the couple name Edward Patrick Turner.

Talking about filming the labour scenes, Laura told us: "“There was so much build-up to it on set, it was like something was about to happen for real! I was excited but apprehensive about doing it in front of people I’ve been working with for six years and those scenes take a long time to film and get right."

In series 8, the Turners fostered young May Tang into their family. May was brought to the UK by Sister Mildred as part of the Hong Kong adoption project where the children of refugees are adopted by British families. 

Shelagh's role as a stepmother

Shelagh Turner is stepmother to Dr Patrick Turner's son Timothy, who he had with his late wife Marianne. Patrick approves of his father's new relationship and in a heartwarming scene when Patrick decides to propose, he writes a note saying "Please will you marry my dad?" wrapped around the ring box. It is revealed in season 11 Shelagh has kept Timothy's adorable note all these years.

Timothy contracts polio during the 2013 Christmas special episode, and Shelagh becomes fiercely protective over him as a result of this. 

The Turners are a close-knit family, and Timothy, who is following in his father's footsteps by training to be a doctor, is very welcoming to his younger brother, Edward and sisters, Angela and May.

Shelagh Turner's friendship with Sister Julienne

In Season 2 of Call the Midwife, Shelagh was facing a dilemma over her future as a nun and confided in Sister Julienne she was thinking of leaving the Order. 

Sister Julienne was there to console her friend and gave her the encouragement to follow her heart. 

Sister Bernadette changed her name to Shelagh Mannion and was comforted by the support her former Sisters as she married Patrick. 

Shelagh and Sister Julienne's bond remains unbreakable, and in series 11, Julienne entrusted Shelagh with organising the centenary celebrations for the orders 100th anniversary in Poplar. 

You can watch all 12 seasons of Call the Midwife on BBC iPlayer now.