The legacy of Elsie Inglis – Edinburgh’s shame

by Chris Holme of The History Company – the legacy of Elsie Inglis

The History Company

Elsie's in better times in the 1930s Elsie’s in better times in the 1930s – note the sheep in foreground, long since removed from Holyrood Park along with the maternity hospital. Courtesy of Lothian Health Services Archive

Recent controversies over the centenary of World War One sometimes overlook a key factor – how the survivors wanted it to be remembered by future generations.

Elsie and colleagues captured in Austria - courtesy The National Archives Elsie and colleagues captured in Austria – courtesy The National Archives

In the case of Dr Elsie Inglis, this was quite simple – build maternity hospitals to continue the work she had dedicated her life to before 1914.

Two were constructed – one in Belgrade reflecting the huge sacrifice she and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Unit (SWHU) volunteers made in Serbia. The other was in Edinburgh, where a public appeal supplemented the remaining funds raised in wartime for the SWHU.

The Hospice in the High Street The Hospice in the High Street – from Elsie Inglis by Eva…

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Gordon The Gifted Goat

Once upon a time there was a goat named Gordon. He lived in a field beneath a mountain with many other goats. But he wasn’t like them.

There was something a little bit different about him and Angus the crofter, knew this. He could see that Gordon was mostly on his own.

Angus watched him day by day, alone, seemingly quite happy. He bounced around (as goats do), ate everything (as goats do). But, no sound.

All the other goats bleated to one another. Gordon didn’t. So, one day, Angus decided to approach him and talk to him.

And he heard the most beautiful sound ever, that a goat could make. Gordon was singing, to himself. Oh what a beautiful morning, he sang.

Angus stood a while and listened and smiled to himself. I have a singing goat. How lucky, he thought. I must tell Jessie.

Jessie clapped her hands with glee as she heard Gordon singing. His life is not with the other goats, in a field, Angus, she said.

Gordon was so pleased when Angus and Jessie had realised he wanted to sing for ever. And he agreed to  go to musical theatre school.

He packed his yellow suitcase and boarded the train. Angus and Jessie waved good bye, with tears in their eyes. They were going to miss him.

Gordon loved being at the school. He had made great friends with Portia the pig who danced and Donald the piano meister duck.

Soon it was time to put on their very first performance and invite all their family and friends to watch. Gordon sent an invitation home.

He secretly hoped that Angus and Jessie would be able to go to the performance. They lived so far away in the mountains.

Jessie was joyful when she read the letter. Angus, we must go, she said. Gordon would love to have us there on his first night. Angus agreed.

They set off on a snowy morning on the train through the mountains. Jessie had made a blanket for Gordon for the winter months. She huddled it close to her as the train slowly wound its way down the mountain side.

Gordon, Portia and Donald were  very excited. They were all in the musical together, The days flew by as they bustled about rehearsing and making last-minute costume changes.

All the time, Gordon was thinking of Angus and Jessie. It was a cold wintry day. Had they made it on the train.Would they get to the Big City on time.

The time came to start. Gordon was a little bit nervous as he was to sing first, all by himself. All the animals hugged each other before going on to the stage. Donald sat at the piano, ready to play.

The curtain slowly rose and there was Gordon, in the centre, ready to sing.

Then suddenly his mind went blank. His mouth was dry. He didn’t know what to do.

The audience waited patiently. It seemed like an hour had gone by, but it was only seconds.

Then in the audience, he spotted Angus and Jessie. They had made it and his heart filled with so much happiness he thought he would burst. All the words came back to him and he sang and he sang and he sang.

That night, Gordon was the most joyful goat in the land. Angus and Jessie were the proudest crofters from the mountains.

I put this story together many years ago, for my son. He was very young when we used to play it out using his animal farm, his wee theatre and train set.

Gordon is still happily singing.

The End.