Friday, 23 February 2018

A poet's war

A large part of LHSA's work is answering enquiries from the public about our holdings - last year, we dealt with around 900 of them! In investigating one query sent to us, LHSA volunteer Ellen Black delved deeper into a figure we previously weren't aware of...

LHSA recently received an interesting enquiry linked to our collections from the Craigleith Military Hospital (situated on the grounds of the present-day Western General Hospital). The enquiry relates to the Scottish poet and solider, Hamish Mann, who was heavily involved in the hospital’s magazine, The Craigleith Chronicle.

2nd Scottish General Hospital, Craigleith c. 1914 (GD28/8/1)
Mann often wrote powerful depictions of the horrors of war, or amusing skits to raise the morale of his men, and sent them back to The Chronicle to be published under the pen-name ‘Lucas Cappe’. Mann’s role as a volunteer at the hospital meant that his life and works were unknown within the collection until the recent enquiry. However, approaching the centenary of Armistice Day in 1918, Mann’s writings and tragic death continue to reveal important insight into the devastation caused by the First World War.

Hamish Mann in uniform (image from
Alexander James ‘Hamish’ Mann was born in Broughty Ferry in April 1896, the youngest of five children. He was educated at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and subsequently under home tuition, due to Cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), a condition that kept him bedridden.

On the outbreak of war in 1914, Hamish was 18 years old. At this stage there was no conscription, and men who wished to enlist had to wait until their 19th birthday. Keen to contribute to the war effort, Hamish volunteered at Craigleith Military Hospital, where he co-edited The Craigleith Chronicle.

Mann began his officer training in July 1915, and was drafted to France in August 1916, joining the 8th Battalion Black Watch near Bethune. It seems that Hamish did not disclose his heart condition upon enlistment. He fought in several battles of the Somme, leading his men into battles and on long marches, despite his heart condition.  Hamish Mann died on the 10th April 1917, five days after his 21st birthday following being mortally wounded at the Battle of Arras. His parents collected his poetry, and published it as A Subaltern’s Musings in 1918.

Craigleith Hospital Chronicle (GD1/82/1)
The Craigleith Chronicle began publishing volumes in 1914 and continued producing magazines until the end of the war. The Chronicle detailed the day to day lives of those at the hospital and contained feature articles sent from troops fighting overseas. The Chronicle gives important insight into contemporary medicine, hospital management and personal accounts of the nature of war. The juxtaposition of harrowing accounts of warfare and satirical writings, alongside first-hand insight into war effort at home and overseas, seems to have proved popular among The Chronicle’s ever-growing subscription base.

Hamish Mann’s works are woven throughout The Chronicle’s pages until his death. A particularly emotive poem written under his pen-name was published in the August 1916 edition. ‘The Digger’, highlights the unglamorous reality of war on the Western Front and contrasts Mann’s earlier light-hearted works published during his time volunteering.

The Digger
‘He was digging, digging, digging with his little pick and spade,
And when the Dawn was rising it was trenches that he made;
But when the day was over and the sun was sinking red, –
He was digging little Homes of Rest for comrades who were dead ….’

Here is a selection of Mann’s earlier contribution to The Chronicle, before his war service, demonstrating the impact of war upon his writings:

If you'd like to learn more about Hamish Mann, our enquirer will be bringing out a book about his life and writings later this year, so we'll keep you posted!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Gertrude Herzfeld: Paving the way for female surgeons

In this week's blog we are recognising International Day of Women and Girls in Science by taking a look at the life of Scotland's first practicing female surgeon, Gertrude Herzfeld.

The upcoming International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2018 is a chance to promote the globally recognised goals to achieve full science and gender equality. A persistent gender gap underrepresents the participation of women and girls in education, training and employment in areas of science, technology and engineering. Here at LHSA we can find many examples amongst our collections of extraordinary women who fought many barriers and prejudices of history to make their mark in the field of science and medicine. One of our more unsung heroines Gertrude Herzfeld (1890 – 1981) is a perfect example of this and will represent our recognition of International day of Woman and Girls in Science. Celebrating Herzfeld, although a figure of history, is inspirational to the fight that still exists to empower women and girls to achieve full and equal access to participate in science. 
Gertrude Herzfeld (LHB8/71/1)
Herzfeld, born in London in 1890 to Austrian parents, first made her mark in studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1914. Although early in life Herzfeld had aspirations of being a doctor, being a woman at this time was strongly against a career choice in medicine. Least of all, women had to attended separate lectures from men at university and at the University of Edinburgh the Faculty of Medicine did not admit women on an entirely equal footing to men until 1916[1]. Nevertheless, from here she based much of her career in Edinburgh and is most famously known for being the first practicing female surgeon in Scotland. She was appointed as surgeon at the Royal Edinburgh hospital for Sick Children (together with LHSA favourite Norman Dott) and the Chalmers Hospital in 1925. Eventually she also took on the role of surgeon at Edinburgh Orthopaedic clinic (1925-1955) and at Bruntsfield hospital for Women and Children. Herzfeld was the first female practicing surgeon to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, taking her seat in 1920.
Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children (LHB5)
Over the next twenty to thirty years Herzfeld practiced and developed a wide range of procedures in paediatric and gynaecological surgery, becoming a specialist in abdominal, neonatal, orthopaedic and plastic surgery as well as the treatments of burns and trauma.  Aside from her surgical practice she gain accolade in her teaching and publishing, lecturing on childhood surgery at the University of Edinburgh and at the Edinburgh School of Chiropody, of which she was also a founding member. Throughout this time she was also medical advisor to the Edinburgh Cripple Aid Society and Trefoil School for Physically Handicapped Children. In later life Herzfeld chaired the Edinburgh City branch of the British Medical Association and was the National President of the Medical Women’s Federation between 1948-1950.

A selection of Herzfeld's publications 1925-1950 (LHB8/15/12)

Aside from these achievements and contributions to her field (but what also probably underwrote many of her great accomplishments in life) it seems Herzfeld was full of warmth and wisdom. It was noted that she showed real compassion to her patients and colleagues, in return she was affectionately nicknamed ‘Gertie’. One contemporary described her as, “Large in heart and in mind”.[2] As a highly skilled surgeon she was known to have performed the ‘Stiles’ Procedure’ to treat infants with inguinal hernia six times in fifty minuets! But even more than her professional brilliance she greatly respected her patients as individuals, getting to know their own social and psychological circumstances. Herzfeld reflected on this, "Orthopaedic surgery in the young child should really be linked with the general care of the child".[3] Through her practice and teaching Herzfeld was a great promoter of women in medicine and continued to support their fight against the barriers and challenges she faced in her own career. Herzfeld died aged 90 in Edinburgh in 1981. Her legacy paved the way for female surgeons in Scotland and she is remembered as an inspirational woman of medicine and science.
Herzfeld’s portrait is hung at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and her name is in the bank for Edinburgh City Council to use as a future street name – so there is potential for a little lasting tribute.


[1] University of Edinburgh. 2016. Alumni in History. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 5 February 2018].
[2] Macintyre, I and MacLaren, I (Eds.). Surgeons’ Lives (2005). Pg. 198.
[3] Herzfeld, G. (1949). Twenty-Five Years of Paediatric Surgery - A Retrospect. [Publication] Lothian Health Services Archive, Bruntsfield Hospital. Edinburgh.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Taking special care...

Today, the Neonatal Unit of the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health is holding a symposium to mark a very special delivery: the 50th anniversary of the Special Care Unit, first opened in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion (SMMP) in 1968.

The SMMP itself welcomed mothers through its doors in 1939, moving maternity services from their old location on Lauriston Place to a building on what was then the site of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
SMMP, c. 1950s (P/PL3/SM/064)

In the 1930s, the paramount concern in obstetrics was for the health of the mother, and survival rates for premature (and many full-term) infants were much lower than they were to become in the late 1960s. This meant that few facilities were devoted to specialised care for newborn babies. But attitudes to neonatal care were shifting, with birth practice becoming more child-centred, medicine advancing and the role of the pediatrician expanding. The maternity wards of old were no longer up to the job.

The new SMMP Special Care Unit had thirty cots over four nurseries, one each dedicated to premature babies, babies with problems with their metabolism, babies with breathing problems, and babies suffering from infections. The Unit had its own staff of expert, specialist nurses, and (being based on the same site as the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh) could call on clinicians from the Infirmary for support when it came to difficult and intricate procedures (in very small children), such as blood transfusion and anaesthetic administration.

In its first year, 765 babies were admitted to the Special Care Unit, over 16% of all babies born in that time at the SMMP. A dedicated neonatal course for nurses was also set up - ensuring that this specialist branch of care would be supported for years to come, not only in Edinburgh, but through the learning of students from around the world.

Specialist nurses caring for babies in the early days of the Unit, 1972 (P/PL3/SM/067, 071)

In 1972, the Unit was helped by the donation of an ambulance from the Variety Club. No normal patient-transport vehicle, it was designed to move at-risk or premature babies to the SMMP from areas where specialist neonatal care was unavailable. Until 1979, standard ambulances could not provide the environment nor carry equipment needed to safely transport such delicate patients.

Variety Club special ambulance, 1972 (P/PL3/SM/081)
The Unit is still going strong today, helping vulnerable babies back to health and supporting parents through the most difficult times. If you'd like to read some more recent stories from parents about their babies' care in what is now the Neonatal Unit, you can see them here.

The Special Care Unit in 1983 (P/PL3/SM/074)

Friday, 19 January 2018

What’s in store for LHSA’s 2018?

In the first blog of 2018, we continue the LHSA tradition of taking a quick look at what we have planned for the year…

We handed in our Archive Service Accreditation review paperwork last month and a visit from our assessors is imminent. We’ve had a busy three years since being awarded accredited status so there is plenty to update them on!

We’ll find out the outcome of our accreditation review in March and in the meantime we’re looking forward to welcoming someone new to our team. Alice, our previous Access Officer, left us last year and we’re in the process of recruiting her replacement. The interviews are next week and we hope to have someone in post shortly after that. Watch this space - our new Access Officer will be blogging here!

The next few months will be particularly busy as we make our final preparations for the new General Data Protection Regulation, which is enforceable from May, and we’ll be finishing off our Wellcome Trust-funded project to catalogue case notes relating to TB and diseases of the chest too. July sees the NHS’s 70th birthday so we’ll be getting involved in the celebrations by putting on an exhibition – more on that in the blog later in the year, and on Facebook (lhsa.edinburgh) and Twitter (@lhsaeul). 

And of course there’s all our usual LHSA business: we’ll be developing and preserving the collection, supporting research and teaching, answering your enquiries and continuing our volunteer and intern programme…all of which will feature here at some point in 2018. Providing access to the collections will be a big part of the next 12 months, and we started as we mean to go on by participating in a People’s History of the NHS Roadshow in Edinburgh's Central Library last week. You can find out more about the event, and the People’s History of the NHS project, here: the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh recipes below are just a little taste (pun intended!) of the collection items we displayed as part of the Roadshow. 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas from LHSA

As we are approaching the Christmas break here at LHSA, the team would like to wish our colleagues, readers and social media followers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have had another very busy 12 months, but look forward to returning in 2018, when we begin the year participating in the exciting NHS Roadshow!

LHSA will be joining the Roadshow, hosted by the People's History of the NHS, at Edinburgh Central Library between 1pm and 4pm on 8th January 2018. This is a chance to see NHS objects over time, learn about hospital histories, share stories and memories of the NHS and much more. You can sign up to the free event on Facebook here.

We will be out of the office from 22nd December, returning on 3rd January 2018. Until then, here are a selection of historical festive Christmas cards from various hospitals across Edinburgh. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Archive internship 2017: looking back

This week we say goodbye to our most recent archive intern, Claire.

So that’s it; my internship is over. It’s been such a great eight weeks and I feel like I’ve learned so much in my time here. Before I go on to give you a final update on what I’ve been up to I would just like to say a massive thank you to the team here at LHSA. Everyone has been so welcoming, and willing to offer help and guidance and to share their experiences with me, and I hope this isn’t the last time that I get to work with them.

In my first ever LHSA blog post, Hello to new intern, Claire!, I talked about the photograph cataloguing project I was going to be working on. The project initially involved working with several series of photographs that are currently catalogued in a legacy system and re-cataloguing them into a new system based on where the photographs came from. I was also tasked with establishing how much material there was and how much housing would be required to house the photographs in a more effective and efficient way.

Over the last six weeks or so I have focused mainly on my medical illustrations project, which I completed last week, and listing new donations that the archive has acquired over the last couple of years. This meant that the aim of the photograph cataloguing project changed slightly to describe and rehouse as many groups of photographs as possible in the remaining time.

The challenge with this project has been the fact that I knew it wasn’t going to be completed. This meant that I had to approach the task in such a way that I could round my work off when it came to the end of my final week, leaving it in a state that it could easily be picked up by someone in the future, but also in a way that didn’t require any immediate action.

The photographs I have been working with are in one of two forms: individually listed, housed and labelled, like the photograph of the Thomas Clouston Clinic below; or bundled together with anywhere from 10 to 50 photographs and negatives in one sleeve. The bundle below is one of the smaller examples.
P/PG1/60/B/C/063 – Thomas Clouston Clinic Tower [1], individually housed.

A bundle of photographs and negatives that require re-cataloguing and rehousing.

I decided that the best option would be to start with the individually housed and listed photographs as these could be easily transferred, one group at a time, into the new cataloguing system and I could skip the rehousing step if necessary, as the photographs are currently suitably housed. Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to get two series of photographs catalogued into the new system and relabelled with their new identifiers, and I’ve left details of the work I’ve done and decisions I made. Hopefully this is enough for someone else to come along and finish off the project, which would benefit both staff and future researchers.
Screenshot of the new catalogue P/PG1/60. Please note that this catalogue is not yet publicly available.
When I started my internship with LHSA it was my aim to gain as much experience as I could, in as many aspects of working in an archive as possible. After eight weeks I can safely say that I’ve achieved that: I’ve completed an entire cataloguing project from start to finish; I’ve appraised and listed new accessions; I’ve given a presentation on my work; I’ve learnt basic conservation techniques; I’ve visited other institutions and learnt how they function; I’ve learnt about the cataloguing software I’ve been using; I’ve added to the team’s outreach functions through social media; I’ve contributed to the service’s long-term planning. The list goes on.

Although it is my aspiration to be an archivist, the next step of my journey takes me back to my records management roots. I will be working with Historic Environment Scotland as an Assistant Records Manager and, after all, without good records management archives would be patchy, disorganised and a poor representation of the organisation they recorded. The archival skills and knowledge I have obtained and refined over the last few weeks will be invaluable in my new role and, I hope, will help me immeasurably in the years to come. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Exploring our archive

This week our interns Claire and Judith give you an update on what they’ve been doing with their projects, and what they’ve managed to find in the Archive as part of the Explore Your Archive Campaign.

First up: Claire …

When I last wrote a blog post I had been out and about in Edinburgh, but since then I’ve gotten back to my desk and managed to complete one of the projects I’ve been working on over the last six weeks. You’ll maybe have seen a blog post by Judith, our conservation intern, about the collection of medical illustrations, demonstration boards, sketches and photographs generated through the practice of the Edinburgh neurosurgeon, Professor Norman Dott (1897-1973) that LHSA holds and while Judith has been working on rehousing these beautiful illustrations I’ve been working on cataloguing them.

Initially I made a listing of each individual illustration so that we knew what we had, and what they were all of. From there it was easy to identify the four different types of material we had: drawings and illustrations, demonstration boards used for teaching purposes, material relating to a speech on aneurysms given by Professor Dott at an international conference in 1953, and loose notes and photographs that appear to have been used to create the rest of the material.

I went through each item entering it into our cataloguing system with the relevant extra bits of information like whether it contained any sensitive patient information and the name of the artist where we knew it, and had some fun dragging and dropping all the entries until they were in the order I’d decided on. Then it was time to start the sizeable task of physically rearranging all 213 drawings! It took a whole day, and a whole lot of space but I got it done, and we ended up with a much neater looking trolley of material than when I started.

Now that I’ve finished my part of this mini project I’ve handed the material over to Judith to rehouse them and make them look even neater than they did when I gave them to her!

Trolley holding the Dott illustrations collection after cataloguing and rearranging.

Judith hasn’t just been sitting around waiting for Claire though…

This week I have been working with the Special Collections Conservator Emily on some of the bound volumes belonging to LHSA. We have been treating a series of registers belonging to midwives, which were used to record their cases. The collection is frequently used by LHSA staff and so needs to withstand repeated handling.

We began by surface cleaning the registers using smoke sponge before moving onto repairing any tears to the spines or pages using wheat starch paste and a thin Japanese kozo paper. A number of the volumes had structural problems, where the stitching along the spine had broken or slackened and pages were working loose. To try to solve several problems with one treatment (and save time!) we decided to strengthen the exposed spines with kozo paper linings and use a stippling brush to ensure good contact between the lining and the contours of the spine, thereby simultaneously securing the loose leaves.

A close-up shot of Judith applying a spine lining in sections

The volumes were then rehoused into custom made 'book shoes' to afford extra protection during storage and use. We lured Claire into the studio on Tuesday afternoon to help make these! It is hoped that these treatments will ensure safe use of these registers for many years to come.

A midwife’s register that has been placed in a book shoe made by Claire


Explore Your Archive is a campaign designed for archives of all kinds throughout the UK and Ireland, co-ordinated by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland), to increase public awareness of the essential role of archives in our society, to celebrate our network of collections and emphasise the skills and professionalism of the sector. Between 18 and 26 November 2017 LHSA, and archives across the country, have been contributing to the campaign through the use of hashtags, letting Twitter know what we’ve found by exploring our own archive. Some of the themes we’ve covered include food, fashion and love. A particular favourite of ours is part of #HairyArchives ( an advert for John Atkinsons’s Marvellous American Formula which should help with your weak eyelashes! Advertising seems to have fewer standards in those days as the ‘after use’ shot is a drawing of a bearded gentleman! 

You can see more of what we’ve been tweeting about on our Twitter feed at, and you can share your own discoveries with us using the hashtag #ExploreArchives.