Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Christmas comes off the shelf!

In the final LHSA blog of 2015, Archivist Louise has been finding out how the festive season was celebrated in Edinburgh’s hospitals…

This week, I’ve been searching through our catalogues and going through archive boxes to find out how Christmas was marked in hospitals in our region. In the first three days of next week, I’ll be introducing what I found on Twitter – so don’t forget to join us on @lhsaeul…

When I was first asked to look out some festive-themed items, I must admit to being a bit stuck – after all, Christmas and hospitals are not exactly linked in people’s imaginations. However, simply by searching for the word ‘Christmas’ in our online catalogues, I found a surprising number of items reflecting the importance of the holiday in the hospital year.

Christmas was a time when staff went out of their way to make a normally family-centred time happy for their patients, and we’ve more than a few pictures of celebrations on the wards, as this image of Charles Falconer carving the turkey at the Western General Hospital in the 1970s shows:

Charles Falconer carves the turkey (GD28/8/3/73)

However, as early as 1826, it was recognised that medical staff needed to mark Christmas too, as James Hamilton Junior reminds us:

Letter from James Hamilton Junior (GD1/75/36) - I had to go into the Treasures' Room for this one!

Because the handwriting is a bit difficult, I thought I’d transcribe it:

‘It will save the very unpleasant task of examining Dr Hope as a witness if he will admit that in the beginning of Decr. 1815 and before the annual meeting of the Senatus Academicus he announced to his audience in his classroom that he and his colleagues of the Medical Faculty had agreed that in future the medical students should have Christmas holydays.’

Christmas is also traditionally a time for giving and, in a time before the NHS when many hospitals relied on donations for their livelihoods, institutions put out special Christmas appeals in order to boost their coffers:

A Christmas calendar, sold in aid of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children (LHB5/20/3/7)

After 1948, hospitals carried on fundraising at Christmas, as shown by this card sold in order to raise funds for the Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s TASK appeal to build a new wing for the hospital:

Christmas card sold in aid of the TASK appeal LHB5A/6/4/9

So don’t forget to join us on Twitter next week to see what other items I’ve unearthed from Christmases past and present. There’ll be some familiar-looking items and some festive surprises... For example, can you guess who this is?

This is GD1/15/12 - that's all I'm saying... for now!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas and all good wishes for 2016 from the LHSA team - Ruth, Becky, Paul and Louise!

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