Body of Work Bites Episode 2 Show Notes

Written by on October 15, 2021

Mearnskirk Hospital and Alexander Dale

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.”


J.M.Barrie’s masterpiece Peter Pan encapsulates the adventure that is childhood, a time full of endless possibilites and the magic of imagination. However for the young patients of Mearnskirk Hospital, adventure was a harder thing to come by.

Mearnskirk Hospital was established as a sanatorium for children with tuberculosis in 1930. Situated just south of Glasgow, Mearnskirk allowed patients to escape the busy, overcrowded city to receive treatment in the open-air suburbs. The treatment of TB at the time focused on a plentiful supply of fresh air and exercise (if possible). Due to how contagious the disease was, the children were isolated from their families who were often miles away from them. This would have been a very isolating and confusing time for children so young.

Thankfully, the staff of Mearnskirk hospital worked hard to provide the best treatment and stay for the children of Mearnskirk. Dr Alexander Dale was superintendent of the hospital for over thirty years, heading up a team of clinicians dedicated to the care of the children. The staff not only cared for the physical health of the children, but also their mental and emotional wellbeing. With the help of benefactors such as Mr Alfred Ellsworth, a philanthropist and confectioner from Bridgeton, many activities were put on for the patients to lighten the experience of lengthy hospital stays. These included fetes, gala days, and trips to nearby Troon and Ayr.

Although many consider celebrity hospital visits to be a relatively modern thing, Mearnskirk was no stranger to visits from stars of the stage and screen. These visits were down to the many connections of Alf Ellsworth, who frequently rubbed shoulders with celebs at charity events. Some of the famous faces that came to visit patients and staff of Mearnskirk included singer Frankie Vaughn, comedian Terry Thomas, and actress Beatrice Campbell. One memorable visit was that of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the acting couple of The Roy Rogers Show. The cowboy and cowgirl duo visited the children at the hospital, bringing gifts and taking photographs. Unfortunately, Rogers’ horse, Trigger, wasn’t able to accompany them!

Photographs of Mearnskirk feature throughout the current heritage exhibition at the College, “Words of Hope and Kindness.” A digital version of the exhibition is available here, with more information on how hope and kindness were part of the foundation of Mearnskirk Hospital.

Archive Collection: Dr Alexander Dale, Superintendent of Mearnskirk Hospital

Reference no.: RCPSG 52


Listen to episode 2 of Body of Work Bites here:

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The College’s heritage collections – including thousands of medical and surgical instruments, rare books, archives, and pictures – span over 6 centuries and are an excellent resource for exploring the history of medicine and the history of the city of Glasgow. Many items from the collections have been digitised and are available to view here. Our digitisation work is ongoing, and we add new items to the site regularly, so keep checking back to discover more.

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