Erskine and University of Glasgow Archive Project Goes Online

Issued: Fri, 09 Mar 2018 09:00:00 GMT

Erskine Archives Goes Online Photo of Case study James Henderson at Erskine (he is on the left front row)Photo of James Henderson at Erskine (he is on the left front row)

Fascinating historical records featuring the admissions registers of soldiers cared for by Veterans’ Charity Erskine after the First World War has gone online, it was announced today.

Erskine partnered with the University of Glasgow to catalogue and preserve the records of Erskine Hospital in Renfrewshire.

Now thanks to the University Archives Service and a team of volunteer indexers, the data from the 1916-1936 Erskine Hospital admissions has been fully digitised. Erskine took these digitised records and incorporated them into an online and fully searchable resource on their website

Erskine Hospital – then called the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers - was set up in 1916 to treat soldiers who had suffered the loss of a limb during the war.

Erskine Chief Executive Steve Conway said: “The details of every soldier and sailor admitted to The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers during the First World War were recorded in leather bound books which included the nature of their injury, where they were serving when injured and their unit, so we have a fascinating insight into the history of the patients admitted to the hospital.

"We can also see that many had return visits for treatment or the fitting of artificial limbs as their wounds healed. We are delighted that, thanks to the painstaking work by the University, relatives can now research our records about members of their families injured in the First World War from the comfort of their own home.”

The creation of the hospital was driven by Sir William Macewen, one of Scotland's most pre-eminent surgeons. He was also Regius Professor of Surgery at the University from 1892 to 1924.

The Erskine/University partnership to digitalise the hospital admissions is the result of research into Sir William Macewen’s connections with Erskine by Professor Tony Pollard.

Professor Pollard, the University’s Professor of Conflict History and Archaeology, said: “The Erskine records are quite remarkable and we are delighted that we could help to bring them to a wider audience.

“This online database is a portal to the past for many families and researchers. There are hundreds of personal stories of ordinary men who came back from war injured and broken.

“These are tales of endurance, rehabilitation and retraining to return to civilian life. And the admissions records also provide an insight into the development of prosthetics and care of war casualties post conflict.”

But for the families searching out their ancestors First World War story, it will give them online access to their relatives’ admissions records including details of injuries, recovery and in some case retraining at the hospital workshops.

Moira Gallie from Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway accessed the records of James Henderson, her maternal grandfather who lost his right leg in 1918, through staff at the University’s Archives Service before it was digitalised. 

Moira Gallie holding a photo of her grandfather who was treated at the Erskine Hospital after losing a limb in WW1 at launch of Erskine Hospital archives going online

Mrs Gallie visited The Erskine Home to help official launch the new online admissions records for Erskine and meet with both Mr Crawford and Professor Pollard.

Mrs Gallie said it will be great for other families to easily access for themselves their own relative’s records. Through the records Mrs Gallie learned her grandfather had retrained at the hospital as a shoemaker after he lost his leg.

Moira said: “I am delighted to hear that the database of Erskine admissions is now being put online for anyone to access. It is a great resource.

“It meant so much to my family and I to find out more about my grandfather’s time at Erskine Hospital. It was fascinating to put another piece of the puzzle back into his life story.”

The online database can be accessed here.  The new online resource has great potential to provide a foundation for a new analysis of the practice and impact of military medicine on British society, particularly in relation to prosthetics.

The cataloguing undertaken also opens up new avenues of research into the impact of the charity’s work in supporting veterans through the 20th century. In its Centenary year of 2016, Erskine partnered with the University of Glasgow to work on a variety of projects which gave a fascinating insight into the history of Erskine. Project details can be found here.

A key historical asset is the admissions register, covering the period from 1916 to 1936. The University received a grant from the Wellcome Trust to conserve and digitise the admissions register to make it widely available to researchers.

Thanks to volunteer indexers from the  Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society the data from 1916-1936 was fully digitised. Erskine took these records and have made them freely available for the public to search on their website.

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