Hospitals and Medical Personnel

A History

e-mail Rosie

Updated 23 March 2009
More information:

Past and Present Chap XXII

Bangour Hospital  (Herbert Haddrell remembers);  Historic Scotland Listed Building Report; Lothian Health Services Archive; Wikipedia page with many photo links
  • In 1897, Edinburgh District Lunacy Board was elected from Edinburgh Parish Council.  Sir John Sibbald was elected Commissioner in Lunacy and medical Adviser.  He recommended a segregated village-type asylum, and so, after a research tour of European examples, Board members recommended that a new asylum should be built following the design of Alt-Scherbitz, Leipzig.

  • In 1900, an Act of Parliament gave the Board the right to create a railway line, to be paid for by the Board, but run by North British Railway Company.  50% of revenue (to minimum of 1,500) had to be paid the the Railway Company.  The line was public from the junction west of Uphall to the intermediate station at Dechmont, but it was private from the village to Bangour

  • In 1902, the  bought the 960 acre estate of Bangour (which included 200 acres of woodland), originally the home of poet William Hamilton (b1704 d1754 Lyons).  Five basic structures were built because of acute need, but, by 1905, 4 were occupied by 200 patients and the fifth by staff as offices / sleeping accommodation.  John Keay was the Medical Superintendant.

  • 19 June 1905: the first passenger service ( a 25 mph 'Wee Bangour Express') ran on the hospital's private 1 mile railway line (one of a number run by other British hospitals), which had been used initially as a means of conveying building materials to the site. 

  • 13 October 1906: Bangour Village was opened by the Rt Hon The Earl of Rosebery, Lord Lieutenant of Linlithgowshire.

  • During the two World Wars, the Village housed large military hospitals, which, in turn, after World War II, made way for West Lothian's general hospital services.

  • In 1952, Dr J.K. Hunter, first Director of the Scottish Hospital Advisory Service was given the role of planning a new West Lothian General Hospital by the Scottish Home and Health Department.

  • 1962: the Government announced that the fifth and final new town in Scotland would be at Livingston. 

  • Years of discussion (and disagreement) about hospital provision in the area ended when Lothian Hospital Board was given the authority to commission the first phase of the new hospital planned for the Howden site in Livingston.

  • 12 July 1990: St John's Hospital, at one time the largest European hospital project, was opened by Queen Elizabeth

For the interesting account of Bangour Hospital aka Bangour Village and its importance as a pioneering medical institution, see The Bangour Story by W.F. Hendrie and D.A.D. Macleod.

Employees paid a small sum of money weekly (docked from their wages by employers) to cover the cost of the doctors chosen by their employers to oversee their medical needs.  However, none of the doctors lived in the immediate Armadale area.  If medical assistance was needed, an intimation had to be sent to a specific location, or a watch had to be kept at as time when the doctor was expected to pass by.

1866: Dr J. Balfour Kirk of Bathgate was appointed Medical Officer for Armadale.  He stayed in Bathgate and covered the needs of Bathville and Woodend employees on a daily basis.

Another doctor, Dr Clark, who stayed in Whitburn, later Harthill, covered the needs of Monkland Iron and Coal Company employees every second day.

When Monkland Iron and Coal Company had abandoned No 9 and No2 pits, Young's Paraffin Light Company took them over and re-opened them.  The employees medical needs were then covered by Dr Longmuir who stayed in Bathgate.

Mrs Alison Douglas provided midwifery services and is believed to have attended at over 4,000 births.

1882: Dr J. Kirk died and, after several meetings at the subscription School, it was decided to appoint Dr Kirk's son, Dr Robert Kirk.  He was offered the entire practice, but, since his main practice was in Glasgow, a condition was imposed and agreed to that he should appoint an assistant who would be resident in Armadale.  Dr Felden was appointed but only held the assistantship for  six months.  He was replaced by a newly qualified graduate, Dr John Anderson.

1883: Dr Stevenson became the second doctor for the area when he was appointed to replace Dr Longmuir and to serve the needs of Shotts Coal and Iron Company employees at Woodend.  After a few years, he sold his practice to Dr Jago who eventually sold it on to Dr Kirk and Dr Anderson.

In turn, Dr Anderson obtained Dr Kirk's share of the practice and appointed an assistant to help him with the large, popular practice.  Eventually a second assistant was appointed to reside at Blackridge.

1903: Goth fundraising secured a resident nurse for the town.

1912: Dr. John Anderson died.  Dr William Anderson was appointed as the town's Medical Officer.  During WW1 he became a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. After the war, 'Doctor Willie' continued to serve the people of Armadale.  He was also a cine camera enthusiast and gave many talks about his travels with the aid of the films he had taken.  Other lectures given by him covered his other passion, pigeons.

1917: A nurse was appointed for Armadale and its district.

1919: After interviewing 4 candidates, the panel appointed Sister Stevenson as Armadale's first Lady Health Visitor at a cost of 120 pa.  She began a weekly child welfare service in 1920.


Dr. Anderson by Mrs Murgatroyd of Unity Terrace, Armadale.

Hats off to Doctor Anderson
Known far and wide.
There are few beds in Armadale
He has not stood beside.

The young and old respect him.
He is a man of high degree.
In the 1914-18 war
He received the O.B.E.

We seem to pin our faith on him
And banish any fears.
He has been our faithful Doctor
For forty-two long years.

When ill don't get down hearted;
There is brightness round the bend.
May God bless and keep our Doctor -
Who has proved a faithful friend.



Tippethill Fever Hospital Armadale


Colquhoun Postcard

In 1899, the total cost of building the hospital was nearly 7,000, Armadale's share being nearly 800.  The land for the hospital, on high ground half way between Armadale and Whitburn, was bought from the Trustees of the late Sir William Baillie of Polkemmet.  From its opening in 1901, it was administered by a Joint Hospital Board representing Armadale, Bathgate and Whitburn.

In 1902, a smallpox pavilion was added to the original building, but, once the need declined, it was used as a sanatorium for consumptive patients in the early stages of the illness.

Past Tippethill Staff and Conditions of Work:

Matron: Miss Johnston

Doctors Willox, Ruxton, Anderson

Caretaker / odd job / man mortuary attendant: Andrew Blake

At 17, applicants could apply interview by the matron, Miss Johnston and by Dr Anderson, the Medical Officer.  If accepted, they would work a  48 - 50 hour week, for a year, earning  1 18s a week.  Out of that, parents would give them 2/6 as pocket money.
During their second year, they would have a 2/6 rise, and they learned their skills from nursing sisters.  They experienced labour- intensive, heavy work, and everything was controlled by a strict discipline. Since it was an isolation hospital,  they learn the skills of barrier nursing.

By the 1960s, most people needing medical care were taken to Bangour, Edinburgh or Glasgow as Tippethill was so small.

Gradually it was realised that the hospital in its current form was no longer needed.  Instead, on 28 March 2001, a new hospital was opened by Susan Deacon, the Scottish Health Minister.  The new name, Tippethill House, reflected its changed role.  At the opening of the 2.3m community hospital, Susan Deacon commented:

'The new Tippethill hospital will offer continuing care for 60 older people in the West Lothian area. It will provide a modern and comfortable environment which will give older people high quality care.........   Frail older people have many sensitive and complex needs. I am pleased that in designing this facility great care has been taken to ensuring that those needs are met, including advice and assistance from Stirling University's Dementia Unit.'

Here's another postcard, which features Tippethill Hospital

We think the addressee is Esther Gathercole, bc1881, who was living with her father, Joseph, a farmer, at Church Farm, Holm Hale, Thetford, in 1901

We wonder why this particular postcard was sent with greetings from Camberwell in August, 1908. 

Does anyone know?