By James Kennedy
The purpose of this article is to describe the history of the Children’s Home Hospital which was in Aberfoyle from 1903 to 1913.
During the 1800s, many children especially in cities experienced health problems. Improvements in water supply and sanitation had a positive impact as did the development of hospitals for sick children. However many children were often born into filthy conditions owing to poor housing and poverty. They were sometimes born with pelvic deformities caused by rickets. As well as rickets children were also susceptible to tubercular diseases, scarlet fever, mumps and smallpox. This meant that many survivors experienced long term health and welfare issues.
Children’s Hospitals in Scotland developed when the first hospital was opened in Edinburgh in 1860. It wasn’t until 1882 that a specialist hospital was opened at Garnethill in Glasgow. This was added to in 1892 with a dispensary for outpatients. Yorkhill hospital opened in 1919 to succeed Garnethill which by then did not have sufficient capacity.
Giving sick children from the city of Glasgow access to fresh air and a nourishing diet in the countryside was important in their rehabilitation. This was reinforced by medical staff and supported by Victorian and laterally Edwardian philanthropists. Subscribers were sought for individual cots or to fund other aspects of care. Typically this task was undertaken by female volunteers with a focus often in their immediate area. In 1903 the first such facilities were opened in Drumchapel and Aberfoyle.
Writing in 1995, Helen Duncan (1) offered the following background to the Aberfoyle Home Hospital:
“It was Miss Marion Rutherford, first warden of Queen Margaret Settlement in Anderston, with the help of her friend Miss Penelope Ker, who opened the first Invalid School in Glasgow. The ladies decided a hospital was needed and aided by Sir Hector Cameron and others, the Children’s Hospital was established in Aberfoyle in 1903. A cottage lent, rent free, housed 7 children and 1 nurse but soon another was leased, the nursing staff increased and 20 children were accommodated”.
Penelope Ker played a major role in the community welfare of children in Glasgow and was also involved in the settlement movement (2). She continued to be a significant supporter when the Hospital later moved to Strathblane and left a financial legacy when she died. Number 5 Craigauchty Villas which was the first phase of the home was rented by her and over the following 10 years, numbers 4-6 were also rented to cope with the expansion of the hospital.
Craigauchty Terrace is located on the Main Street of Aberfoyle. It consists of six three-storey houses, designed by James Miller. The ground floor was built of red sandstone and the first floor is tile hung with half timbering in what is described as the “English Style”. Miller was also the architect of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church built in 1893-1894.
Craigauchty Terrace was built in 1895 and according to Louis Stott’s research (3) the terrace was built when the old hamlet of Craiguchty on the Trossachs Road was in the course of being abandoned. There were a number of variations on the spelling of the name such as “craigoughty” and “craigoughtie”. The terrace is situated on rising ground set back from the north side of the street with gardens.
The land was feued by the Duke of Montrose to Hugh Kennedy in 1876. Kennedy was the contractor who built the Buchlyvie to Aberfoyle Railway. He brought large quantities of cut red sandstone from a quarry he owned and this was used to test the railway’s weigh bearing capacity. In turn the sandstone was used to build the station buildings as well as Craigauchty Terrace as well as Corrienessan where Kennedy lived for a number of years.
Local contributions and the early years:
The early days of the Aberfoyle Children’s Home Hospital are described in the first 2 Annual Reports for the years 1903-04 and 1904-05 (4).
The hospital opened on 5th August 1903 supported by public subscription. The annual income required to adequately fund a house was £450.
Children with tubercular disease of the bones and joints were the first to be admitted. The main aspects of treatment were nursing care, fresh air and a good diet. The house and its furniture was rented from William Kennedy for a nominal rent. Medical supervision was found and a matron (Nurse Gordon) and assistant matron were employed. Medical support was provided by Dr. McGregor from Aberfoyle and Dr. Young from Glasgow. Dr. Young who was a Glasgow based surgeon visited weekly and the Invalid Children’s Aid Association remained in touch with the children after their discharge.
There was space for 6 or 7 children and 1 adult in a separate room. In the first year of operation 11 children with tubercular disease including hip and spinal problems were admitted. The length of stay was as long as necessary and the children were aged from a few months old to 12 years. Of those admitted during the first year, one was described as cured, two returned to hospital for surgery and were described as “doing well”. It was reported that two other children had shown no improvement and were returned to Glasgow.
To help with fundraising and management of the home a temporary committee was set up. It consisted of Mrs. Kennedy (13 Victoria Crescent, Glasgow) and Penelope Kerr, It is possible that Mrs Kennedy was a relative of William Kennedy from whom the property was rented. Mrs Blackett and her daughter Frances from Inverard near Aberfoyle also helped to set up the home and were committee members. Frances Blackett was Honorary Secretary.
Schooling was provided by a teacher funded by Glasgow Education Authority (5). Girls were instructed on knitting and sewing by Jessie McCroy from Aberfoyle. Gifts were offered from the people of Aberfoyle including clothing, fruit, games and toys.
By May 1905 the second house was up and running. This led to a significant increase in admissions and the Annual Report describes improvements in the health and recovery of the children. Because of the additional space it was possible to allow infants to be accompanied by their mothers which proved to be very popular.
Fundraising had been successful locally and also as a result of appeals in the Glasgow Herald.
The committee had become permanent and had some additional members including Miss Marion Rutherford from Queen Margaret Settlement (6) in Glasgow and Miss Marshall from Woodcroft, Crow Road in Glasgow. Frances Blackett continued as honorary secretary.
A further insight into the efforts to fundraise and the nature of medical support is illustrated from a report in the Kirkintilloch Herald in December 1904 (7). The meeting was held in Kirkintilloch and was addressed by several eminent medical practiconers including Sir Hector Cameron. The report stated:
“Stress was laid on the great need for long residences in the country with good nursing in cases of children suffering from tubercular diseases of the bone for whom hospital accommodation cannot be sufficiently provided. The average annual cost per child is £20 and children were received from Invalid Schools at Anderston, Partick and Hopehill Road. The appeal for subscriptions was also urged by Professor Jones, who pleaded for the work as one incumbent on good citizens, as it gave a chance of life and happiness to those who otherwise would pass their time in misery and pain.”
At the end of the article Frances Blackett was given as the point of contact for further information. Further details about the Blackett Family are detailed below.
The Blackett Family:
The Blackett Family lived in the Milton area of Aberfoyle since at least 1896.
John Blackett was born in North Yorkshire in 1833 and spent his early years in Durham when his father was agent on the Bessborough estates in Ireland. For much of his adult life John lived in the Agra district in India where he was employed by the East Indian Railway as a surveyor and civil engineer.
In 1864 he married Williamina Murray who had been born in Edinburgh in 1845. They married in Crieff where Williamina’s parents were living. For much of their lives the Blackett family lived in India where their 3 children were born. At various points they returned to the UK and according to the 1891 census, John had retired and was living in Westmoreland. By 1896 Mrs. Blackett had purchased Inverard which was a large property consisting of 3 public rooms and 9 bedrooms set in 2.5 acres.
Of their 3 children, the eldest Georgina was born in 1866 in Bengal and died in London in 1901. John Patrick was born in 1868 in Aligarh, North West Provinces in India. He spent his adult life as a teacher and lived most of his life in Durham where he died aged 96 in 1964.
Frances was the youngest and was also born in Aligurgh in India in 1870. Upon their return to England she continued to live with her parents. She never married and appears to have spent much of her life involved in philanthropy and community activities. Her involvement with the Children’s Home Hospital was followed by a period as Assistant County Director and Honorary Secretary in the Perthshire branch of the Red Cross. She was also Commandant of the West Perthshire Voluntary Aid Detachment during the First World War. At the end of the war she was awarded an OBE in recognition of her contribution especially to the Red Cross.
In 1929 she was one of a small number of women appointed as a Justice of the Peace in Perthshire. She lived in Inverard until at least the late 1920s. She retired to live in Bridge of Earn where she died in 1941 aged 71.
The Later Years and the move to Strathblane:
Numbers 4, 5 and 6 Craigauchty Terrace became part of the expansion during the subsequent years, all rented by Penelope Ker (8). When the census was recorded in 1911 the home had 17 patients, 8 boys and 9 girls. They were aged between 3 and 12 and were all from Glasgow. As well as Nurse Gordon as Matron there were also 3 probationer nurses and 2 servants. One was a cook and the other was a general servant.
In the Valuation Roll for 1912-1913 the hospital was described as “The Cripple Children’s Home” and was owned by the Trustees of the late Hugh Kennedy.
In the background the situation was changing. Hugh Kennedy had died and this may have been a factor in the inability to get new leases for the properties. There is also a suggestion that some people in Aberfoyle became fearful that the children brought disease to the village and organised a petition. (In my research I have not been able to find the primary source for this information).
It is clear that the home was proving to be popular and successful. Space was limited and the opportunity arose to move to more suitable premises in Strathblane. Penelope Ker also had links in the area and in later years lived in Napier Lodge in Strathblane.
The final move took place on 6th May 1913 and the hospital was officially opened on the 20th June 1913 by the Marchioness of Tullibardine. The new facility was called “The Children’s Home Hospital Strathblane (late Aberfoyle)”.
The hospital continued for many years and with the creation of the NHS in 1948 it became part of the Glasgow and District Children’s Hospital. Eventually it closed in September 1994. Right up until its closure it continued to support families who needed respite care for their sick children especially those suffering from spina bifida (9).
Whilst the circumstances of the move to Strathblane may not have been very positive, in Aberfoyle the Hospital was built on sound foundations providing a caring environment for vulnerable children. It seems that much of the early success was influenced by 2 significant women, Penelope Ker and Frances Blackett. Penelope Ker continued to be associated with the Hospital for the remainder of her life whereas Frances Blackett was to contribute to the community through her volunteering for the Red Cross and other organisations. Without their influence and energy it is unlikely that so many children over some 10 years would have had the benefit of the Aberfoyle Children’s Hospital Home.
Credits and Acknowledgements:
My thanks to those who have previously written about this subject .I also acknowledge National Records of Scotland for permission to use images 4, 5 and 6 which are subject to Crown Copyright and taken from the Annual Report for 1904-05.
James Kennedy 15.07.2020.
(1) H. Duncan Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital (Scottish Local History 1995) Vol 35 p.30.
(2) The settlement movement was a reformist social movement that began in the 1880s and peaked around the 1920s. Its goal was to bring the rich and the poor of society together living and working as one community.
(3) L. Stott Local Houses (Loch Ard Local History Group Archives undated).
(4) National Records of Scotland Aberfoyle Children’s Home Hospital 1906 IRS21/484.
(5) H. Duncan Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital (Scottish Local History 1995) Vol 35 p.30.
(6) The Queen Margaret College Settlement Association was established in 1897 in the Anderston district of Glasgow. Its aim was to promote the welfare of poor people, chiefly women and children.
(7) Kirkintilloch Herald, 7 December 1904 p.7 col 3.
(8) Stirling Archives Children’s Home Hospital blog 10th October 2016. http://www.stirlingarchives.scot/2016/10/10/childrens-home-hospital-strathblane
(9) The Children’s Home Hospital Strathblane http://www.strathblanefield.org.uk/history/ChildrensHome.html