The Blantyre Health Institute

Blantyre's Ain Website

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Blantyre history

The Blantyre Health Institute

Another bite sized chunk of Blantyre History

Blantyre Health InstituteAfter the Welfare on the left hand side going West on Calder Street is The Calder Street Public School, this meets up with Victoria Street which is traveling North and South. Across Victoria Street on the corner of Calder Street and Victoria Street is the Blantyre Health Institute. This institute was used during the war years like a town hall, everything from Gas Masks, Cod liver oil, Orange Juice, Ration Books, everything that was in short supply and was controlled by the Government was distributed from here to those who were in the category of essential need.

I can remember four things in my life associated to the health institute. The first would be back around 1937 when we as a miner’s family were taken up to the health institute to be deloused. I think the reason behind this was coming from the raw’s into a new council house they wanted to make sure we did not bring any unwanted little beasties with us. When we came out of there we were all covered in a purple paint. Most families in Blantyre went through this, so it was in no way considered degrading, that’s just the way it was. I and my three brothers, well we could not care less but my older sister, she was a different story, mortified I believe was the word she used through her tears.

The second item was around about the same time and it is quite possible that they both went hand in hand. Our family and a lot of other families were all issued new clothes at the health institute. These clothes and footwear were all donations from the Toc-H. They consisted of a grey flannel jacket, shorts, a white silvery shirt and a pair of Clakity/Clickety Bit’s.

For the first month in Blantyre there were all these kids going around all wearing the same type clothes, but they soon got torn and dirty and were soon flung aside. Again my older sister rebelled with the idea of wearing those ankle length tie up boots,which immediately singled you out as some one who had to be supported through donations. Nothing would make her wear those boots, she was a red-head and had the anger and spirit that seems to go with them.

The third item was the time when the whole town alphabetically had to go to the health institute for a Smallpox inoculation (or jab’s). I can remember the stories that went about on how sore (painful) it was passed around the town by those that had had their inoculation first the A.B.C.D. It was a painful procedure for us kids but it was blown all out of proportion, so by the time your name came up you were already petrified of what was going to happen to you. There was a lot of squealing and crying before the Doctor or Nurse got anywhere near you, all you had to hear was your next and it was your turn to do your thing. I can remember I was pretty good at it. This was the inoculation that left you marked for life.

Two or three days after the jab’s the whole injection site scabbed over for a couple of weeks and when the scab had formed into a crust it then dropped off and left you scarred for life. Also around about this same time in Blantyre we had Tuberculosis cases, Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Scabies, Chicken Pox, Mump’s, Whooping Cough and Poliomyelitis and various other problems. We did not at this time have the National Health Service so any ailments were taken to your local doctor and as most miner’s in Blantyre did not have the money to spend on a doctor, it was the norm most of the time, to live and survive with it.

There were not to many families in Blantyre that got away without any deaths in the family through all of these illnesses. Our family and a lot of the families that lived around us all suffered through the years 1926-1945.Those were hard times in Blantyre, more so if the head of the family was out of work up until 1939, as many a miner was.

The fourth item Margaret was to do with my own Father, although he had worked the pit’s from when he was twelve until the beginning of the war 1939 he had managed to get himself from being a miner to being a member of the medical rescue team. He had gone to school to learn First Aid and had passed all his exams through the St Andrew”s Ambulance Association, putting him in a much cleaner job and environment and a better hourly salary. When war was declared he was immediately called into being a member of the National First Aid Post. Their job was to go to various parts of the country where a rescue team was needed. He spent a whole two weeks in the Clydebank blitz during which time we as a family never knew where he was until he came home. The First Aid Post was in the Blantyre Health Institute during the war and I used to visit my dad often on my way home from school.

The health institute still stands on the same spot, Corner of Calder Street and Victoria Street but has been enlarged to suit the increase of population.

Note from Bill: I have since made contact with Margaret in Australia, who emailed me via the site and although she only knew her correspondent by his username, TDH or Drapadew, I managed to trace Thomas in Chicago. And guess what, he was a childhood and life-long friend of my friend and Mentor, the late James Cornfield. Talk about a small world! Thanks Thomas and Margaret for such a wonderful insight into Blantyre’s past.


Continuing the conversation between Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman in Chicago (known as TDH or Drapadew) and originally from Logan Street, Blantyre and Margaret in Queensland Australia on TalkingScot.


Your Comments:

Elizabeth Weaver: Great to hear stories like this. I remember our mother used to say that when weans wore those donated boots to school, other weans would shout “Pairish bits! Pairish bits!” at them, so I can understand the reluctance of the writer’s sister to be seen wearing them. I also remember the cod liver oil and orange juice – I can picture them in their glass bottles, lying at the bottom of the pram (wee brother Brian, inside) as we left the clinic. We were given the cod liver oil every night, followed by a spoonful of Virol, “to take the taste away”. It was still vile.

Mary Mcguire: Great stories that should not be forgotten.

Christina Frame: Remember this well!

Irene Steiner: The centre also provided sun ray treatment which I attended once each week. I now live in Auckland New Zealand and my sister Ishbel McKinlay Wilkie contributes to this site.

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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