Western General


Seafield, Edinburgh  -   now demolished




James Morton-Robertson

Sevenoaks, Kent, England


"When I was 19, I had a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and was taken to either the Eastern General or the Western General, more likely the latter.

The hospital had a separate TB sanatorium ward intended for children but by 1956 there were no children with TB, thanks to streptomycin, so the ward was used for chest cases.  Several patients were there for pleurisy and pneumonia  -   and one man was a paraplegic ex-miner who was there to give his family respite.

One patient in this ward was a small man who had pneumonia.  Every time a nurse went to give him an injection, he would say “I’ll gie ye a pund if you go away”.   But he got the injections, and they were very painful.

An auxiliary nurse was instructed to give him a bed bath so the usual offer of a pound was made, but she just grabbed his pyjama jacket and hauled it off.  Dozens of pills cascaded on to the floor and scattered all over the place.  He had been hiding his pills under his tongue then popping them into his pyjama jacket pocket.

Then all hell broke loose, the matron and senior consultant came tearing in and gave him a severe tongue lashing.  He died three days later.  He had 3 or 4 sons.  They all gathered round the bedside in tears as he breathed his last.  It was a very moving scene."

Daily Shave

"I was in a General Ward at the Western General Hospital*.  It had a sun terrace and floor-to-ceiling window/doors which could fully fold open.  I was just having breathing exercises and regular x-rays so I was able to walk around after a week.

There was a paraplegic in a separate room, so I went  in to see him.  I noticed that he needed a shave, so I got white coat and shaved him every day with a cut-throat razor.

Many years later, I was at my cousin’s wedding in Bonnyrigg when a lady came up to me and said “Oh Doctor, I want to thank you for looking after my father when he was in hospital."

I looked round to see who she was talking to then realized it was me.  The white coat fools everyone.  It turns out that I was related to that family anyway through my father’s side and that they lived in Gogarburn."

James Morton-Robertson, Sevenoaks, Kent, England:  October 4, 2009

* James tells me that these incidents could have been at the Eastern General,
but he believes they were more likely to have been at the Western General.



Bryan Gourlay

Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland

After writing about the death of his great great grandmother, Elizabeth Buchanan,  at Craiglockhart Poorhouse in 1909, Bryan Gourlay added:

St Cuthbert's Poorhouse

Western General Hospital

"Sadly, Elizabeth Buchanan’s father Andrew and her mother Janet also died in an Edinburgh poorhouse in the 1880s – St Cuthberts Poorhouse which was the forerunner of the Western General, built to replace an earlier poorhouse that stood where the Caledonian Hotel is today.

You might recognise St Cuthberts as the old building, still part of the Western General complex about half way up the south entrance road on the right.

Here is some more information I found about St Cuthberts:

'In the 1881 census, there were 668 inmates in the St Cuthberts Poorhouse, housed in sections where the inmates were classified as:

‘very decent’


‘bastardy’ and

‘depraved’.' "

Move to Craigleith

"The previous St Cuthberts Poorhouse had been in the centre of Edinburgh at the west end of Princes Street.  The new buildings were formally opened on 21st December 1868

During the previous month, 410 inmates had been transferred from the old poorhouse, with the able-bodied walking, and the remainder being carried in cabs and vans.

However, the ‘powers-that-be’ decided to tuck its replacement far away in Craigleith, in what was the north-western outskirts of the city at that time.

Except for the period 1914-19 when it was a military hospital, St Cuthberts remained a poorhouse from 1868 until 1929, when it became Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital."

Bryan Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:  January 11, 2009



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