Colorful memories shared for the centenary of Insch Hospital

It officially opened on August 24, 1922 with a piper leading a procession of 50 former servicemen through the village.

Now, 100 years later, the slow march has been repeated at Insch War Memorial Hospital with a parade and a local pipe band to celebrate the building’s centenary.

It was built with money from public subscriptions and was dedicated as a lasting memorial to local residents who lost their lives during the First World War.

Hundreds of people from Insch and surrounding communities gathered in the streets of the village on Sunday to mark the special occasion.

About 2,000 people showed up for the opening event at the hospital in 1922.

Generations of Garioch families have been born in the health facility, which over the years has served as a delivery room, minor injury unit and hospice.

For many, the face of the doctor in the hospital was the first and also the very last face they saw.

Unforgettable memories…

In 1912, Dr George Mitchell, the driving force behind the hospital, established a general practice at Benmohr House on the adjacent Rue Rannes site.

Locals remember the keen rider who rode his mare in all weathers to tend to patients across the district.

Over the years, village doctors have traveled to patients’ homes by all means of transport, on foot, on horseback, by bicycle, in Land Rovers – and even on skis.

Dr George Mitchell on his mare Mona which was kept in a stable outside his home in Insch.
Dr George Mitchell on his mare Mona which was kept in a stable outside his home in Insch.

Operations took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and patients from as far away as Peterhead and Fraserburgh had their neck glands dissected in hospital.

However, major surgery ceased after Dr. Mitchell’s death in 1952.

Wheelbarrows and boxing matches

It was the start of a new chapter for the hospital with the arrival of the next generation of doctors James Chalmers and Douglas Stewart.

Many doctors, nurses and midwives have worked there since and have shared fascinating stories in a new book: Insch Hospital – The First 100 Years.

Dr. D. Michael Kay fondly remembers starting work at the hospital as a 24-year-old trainee general practitioner in 1980.

Former medical staff and patients at the centenary celebration of the Insch Hospital.  Photo by Jasperimage
Former medical staff and patients at the centenary celebration of the Insch Hospital. Photo by Jasperimage

He said: “The hospital’s emergency department was well used and appreciated by locals.

“Of course, most farmers were too busy to worry about injuries during the hair period and came back a few days later after finishing combining with bandaged wounds and even broken bones.”

He also remembers a man being delivered to the casualty gate by friends in a wheelbarrow after the patient drank a few drams and fell down the stairs.

Young doctors were also assigned to attend boxing matches in the village in case they were needed to treat serious injuries.

The doctor once found himself summoned to the ring to decide if the match should be stopped.

He said: “Luckily the referee whispered in my ear that he was not fit to continue and I walked out of the room in one piece before rushing the boxer to the hospital. to get stitched up and he was as nice as ninepence.”

Craig Wilson, The Kilted Chef, was born in the hospital and says it remains a
Craig Wilson, The Kilted Chef, was born in the hospital and says it remains a “special place” in his life.

Centenary of the Insch Hospital: The ties of well-known families…

Well-known families from the northeast also have strong ties to the hospital.

Dr Halldis Mackie, of the family business Mackie’s of Scotland, was a big supporter of the health facility and worked there as a general practitioner and medical director of the hospital.

Dr. Mackie enlisted the help of her husband Maitland to raise money through community-owned wind turbine projects to fund improvements for the hospital.

The founding member of the Friends of Insch Hospital group also pushed for the creation of a palliative care suite after the maternity ward closed in 2002.

Activists won their fight to keep the maternity ward in 1998, but it finally closed four years later.
Activists won their fight to keep the maternity ward in 1988, but it finally closed 14 years later.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s late family, the Souters of Insch, have also received care there over the years.

And Kilted chef Craig Wilson, owner of the Eat on the Green restaurant, was born in the building and received care there throughout his childhood.

Changes and campaigns to keep services open….

There have been many changes to Insch & District War Memorial Hospital over the years.

Extensions have been added, services have been removed, and new health services have been introduced.

The building was handed over to the NHS in 1948, the year the National Health Service was established.

A new health center opened in 1979 at the rear of the hospital.

Visitors had access to the Insch Hospital during the centenary event.
Visitors had access to the Insch Hospital during the centenary event.

Local resident Jane Reid is one of the founding members of the group Friends which was started in 1989.

She said many people in and around the village had been treated in hospital throughout their lives.

“A lot of people have really appreciated having elderly relatives in Insch who can come to hospital to recover from surgery in Aberdeen,” said the group’s secretary.

“It allows people to get up before they go home. But one of the really crucial elements is palliative care and that’s something Insch has done very well.

“Even current GPs have been attracted to work at Insch because the health center is attached, which provides a very good service to the community.”

Piper outside the hospital.
Piper outside the hospital. Photo by Jasperimage

The group has played a key role in the campaign to keep the hospital, which was built on land donated by the Leith-Hay family, open since its inception in 1989.

The hospital was closed in March 2020 due to Covid but has not reopened and its future remains uncertain.

Over the past few months, Friends have been busy organizing the centenary event.

Hundreds of children, parents and retirees came out to celebrate on the hospital grounds yesterday.

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A parade of vintage vehicles also took place to celebrate 100 years of the automobile. Photo by Jasperimage

It was a special time to share fond memories and talk about their hopes that the site will continue to provide home care for another 100 years.

The procession, led by the Huntly Pipe Band, was followed by a parade of vintage vehicles. Drivers from all over the northeast showed up to participate in the event.

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[Colourful memories shared for Insch hospital centenary]

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