Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club

Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street

On Thursday 12th March 2015 at 7.30pm


Attendance 88


Ms Cairns (President)


Ms Cairns welcomed members and visitors to the March meeting and thanked them for coming out on such a wet and windy night.

The fire drill procedures and house keeping rules were explained and all mobile phones were requested to be set to silent or off.


Sallie Marshall, Anna Forrest, Isabel Haddow, Gaynor MacKinnon, Jim O'Kane, Sharon Macys and Jane Collie


The minutes of the Members Meeting, held on Thursday 12th February were approved and proposed by Joyce McNae and seconded by Cameron Low. There were no amendments or matters arising.

Secretary's Report

Mrs McNae welcomed everyone and said that there were club activity dates for the diaries.

Tappit Hen Bowling Tournament at Kelvingrove on Thursday 21st May at 6.30pm. The tournament has been taking place since around 1934 and is a great social event which you most definitely don't have to be a bowler to take part in. There's no supper but we will be retiring to a local hostelry where people can order their own food should they wish to.

The annual Old Glasgow Club Summer outing is to Kellie Castle, Fife, stopping at Callendar House near Falkirk on the way. It's the second Saturday in June, the 13th. Bus only is 14 (if you have NTS membership). Bus and Castle is 24.50 / concessions 21.50.

The bus will be leaving Mount Florida Bowling Club at 9.30am and Cochrane Street (at side of City Chambers) at 10am.

J.A.S. Memorial Walk is on Thursday, 25th June. We will be meeting at 6.15pm in the library at Sinclair Drive for a cup of tea before the walk. This year it is the "Langside Heritage Trail". Bob Marshall who co-wrote the Heritage Trail is going to lead us on the walk.

As usual, there is a lot going on in and around Glasgow's Museums and Libraries. Information can be found on www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums.

Please also check out the People Make Glasgow website, peoplemakeglasgow.com.

President's Report

Thanks to everyone for their support at last months Members Night. It was great to see Peter again and wasn't Colin's film something special.

I hope everyone has had a chance to participate in the book sale tonight. It's a fundraiser and an experiment and if successful we might try it once a year.

Congratulations to the Tenement House in Garnethill which is now protected with a 'B' listing for it's unique interior.

For all the Toshie fans out there, good news that a Charles Rennie MacKintosh visitors centre has been given the green light to open next door to the Willow Tea Room on Sauchiehall Street.

Another petition is doing the rounds - "Save the Concert Hall Steps".

Glasgow City Council plans to demolish the steps leading up to the Concert Hall as part of the 390 million expansion. The steps have been there since 1990, so on the whole scheme of things they aren't particularly old but they seem to have firmly embedded themselves into Glasgow life. If anyone is interested in signing the petition, the website is called "Save the Steps"

Our facebook page is going from strength to strength and we now have 309 members. Other history groups are members of our page and have been sharing our information.

Friends of Govan Old Church are hosting a talk, "Closing the Circle : the Story of the Govan Old Churchyard". It's being given by Dr Susan Buckham, expert on historic graveyard and burial monuments and author of the Conservation Management Plan for Govan Old. It's on Saturday 14th March at 12 noon.


Ms Cairns introduced tonights speaker, Dr Keith Beard who is giving us a talk called "History in Glasgow Hospitals".

Thank you, Madame President. I've been retired for years now. I once heard "here's the Geriatric Doctor coming". I used to find that funny but as the years went on, I found it less so.

My ethos on doctoring was learned from illustrious and esteemed Doctors. When asked to give this lecture, I thought that I would talk about 2 of the hospitals I had worked in but I eventually settled on Belvidere. I only worked in it briefly 30 years ago but it will become apparent why I have chosen it as the talk gets started.

Early Days - around 1850 Glasgow Royal Infirmary housed fever patients. The overspill were sent to Old Town Hospital on Clyde St (converted to a fever house) and fever sheds in Anderston with diseases such as typhus, typhoid, relapsing fever. All were dealt with as epidemics that came and went, there was no long term plan on how to deal with them.

Overcrowding was just part of the problem and Glasgow's doctors first demonstrated a link between dirt and disease in 1842. It wasn't until the cholera epidemics of 1848 and 1853 that minds focused on the issue. Infectious disease spread easily and it knew no class boundaries. The middle classes were petrified of them.

After the germ theory was proven in 1854, Dr James Burn Russell was instrumental in helping to persuade the City Fathers to bring a clean water supply into the city from Loch Katrine.

In 1865 the Kennedy Street Fever Hospital was built to house the overflow from Glasgow Royal but in 1870, after an outbreak of 'relapsing fever' (louse borne) had swept through the city and with Glasgow hospitals full the City bought the former Belvidere Estate along with 33 acres of land for 17,000.

The plan was to build a temporary facility of 250 beds to isolate and care for the sufferers. There were patients in one month after starting the speedily constructed pavilions and by 4 months there were 366 patients.

To maximise the benefits from having such a facility so far removed from the centre of the city, it was decided that a permanent fever and smallpox hospital be sited at Belvidere.

Changes in Nursing - Dr J B Russell, medical superintendent of Kennedy St, then Belvidere, wrote in 1865 "Good people are amused that I have not yet learned to believe that drink and dishonesty are essential properties of a nurse".

Amelia Sinclair was critical to the development of Belvidere Hospital. She was not a trained nurse but was clearly a good manager. Amelia arrived at the hospital aged 44 and worked until she was 76.

Dr Allan wrote in the 1920s, "When Mrs Sinclair entered as Matron of Belvidere Fever Hospital it was in a somewhat primitive condition. When it was transformed from a collection of wooden sheds to a well planned, well equipped  brick hospital the Matron secured the desires of her heart in the provision of bedrooms, loos and baths for her nurses. As she expected, a more intelligent and better educated class of women presented".


Things improved quickly. Nurses now worked 12 hour shifts and were allowed off 12noon until 4pm once a fortnight and occasionally on a Sunday 10am-2pm.

Nurses lived in and the hospital acted in loco parentis and were expected to live by the hospitals rules. There were early dismissals if you were caught sleeping on night duty, gambling, drinking or being 'silly with men'.

Very little credit was given to nurses at this time but Dr J B Russell recognised that "a fever patient with a bad nurse and a good doctor has a worse chance than one with an indifferent doctor and a good nurse".

There were deaths among the nurses, mostly from enteric fever, scarlet fever and diptheria. This sacrifice was acknowledged by the City Fathers at Sandymount Cemetery with a commemoration stone.

In 1900 there were 1700 cases of Smallpox at Belvidere and the infected were kept to the west part of the hospital as the gate could be closed.

1920 there were 342 cases and 113 deaths even though patients were kept isolated. It transpired that patients were climbing over the walls and going to the pub!

1942 and there was another significant outbreak of Smallpox.

1950 and 7 nurses contracted the disease with 3 tragically dying even though an inoculation was available. 1977 Smallpox is officially eradicated from the world.

What do the Black Death and the International Exhibition of 1901 have in common ? They both came to Glasgow in 1901

It was a dreaded disease that had worked it's way along the shipping trade routes from Hong Kong  until it arrived in Glasgow where a dock workers wife and granddaughter contracted the disease and died. There had not been any reported cases in the UK since the reign of Charles II. At a wake held for the victims, the disease spread to the people attending.

The plague's arrival in Glasgow coincided with the appointment of Dr John Brownlee as Physician Superintendent of Belvidere. Unlike similar outbreaks in other areas of the world, Dr Brownlee was able to identify the disease early on.

Of the 36 cases there were 16 deaths. The plague nurses were segregated and worked in isolation, wearing long overalls which buttoned up to the neck and at the wrist and ankles to avoid flea bites. A temporary boiler was installed to boil items before sending them to laundry and items that had been in direct contact with patients were burned.

Of the hospital staff, remarkably only one cleaner suffered mild symptoms of the disease. It is a testament to the rigorous efforts of Brownlee and his nurses that there were not more deaths. The plague nurses each received medals for their bravery. 

Dr John Brownlee 1868-1927, one of the greats of the Glasgow Medical profession, born in Rutherglen and a true son of the manse.

He graduated from Glasgow University with a first in mathematics and natural philosophy in 1889.

Staying in Glasgow but changing direction, Brownlee went on to qualify in medicine (MB CM) in 1894, followed by MD in

1897 with a thesis on scarlatina. He then sat the examinations to receive the Diploma in Public Health from Cambridge in 1898. In 1907 he was awarded a DSc for his submission "Statistical Studies in Immunity and Incubation Period", and some years later after this had conferred upon him the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, an honour very seldom bestowed.

After graduation he spent 2 years a resident physician in the Belvidere and Kennedy Street Fever Hospitals and then 9 months as assistant to Dr James Burn Russell, the famous sanitarian that I talked about earlier. Brownlee was deeply impressed by Russell and said "for him one of those great men who alter one's whole scale of values". In 1899 Brownlee was appointed Medical Officer of Health for Guernsey but after 18 months returned to Glasgow as physician superintendent, first at Belvidere, then from 1908 at Ruchill Hospital.

Professionally, while in these posts he found time to apply his mathematical skills to both medical and biological problems and his medical knowledge to understand the source, spread and ultimately decline of epidemic cycles.

There was a real sense of community living in Belvidere under Dr Brownlee who was also very accomplished in arts and music. The doctors played golf on the small course that was within the grounds where where the scores of players were meticulously kept.

50 years on and another esteemed doctor, Dr Peter McKenzie 1914-94.

Born in Alexandria, Dunbartonshire and educated at the Glasgow University. He gained the qualifications MB, ChB in 1938 and DPH in 1940. He then became a Resident at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, a casualty surgeon at Knightswood Hospital, Senior Medical Officer at Southern General and Hall Tutorial Fellow at Western Infirmary between 1938-46.

Following this, he became Deputy Physician Superintendent at Belvidere from 1946-49 and then Physician Superintendent between 1949and 1979.

He did a huge amount of work and research into polio, a viral disease not related to poverty and overcrowding with epidemics in late Summer and Autumn.

Dr McKenzie was instrumental in helping to set up an intensive care unit at Belvidere for polio patients suffering from respiratory paralysis. This resulted in paralysis of muscles and breathing and being put in an Iron Lung, which some people didn't do well on. This was replaced by tracheostomy and bag inflation.The first Mechanical Student Ventilatory Support (much kinder than the so called 'Iron Lung') in the UK was installed at Belvidere in 1955. McKenzie and others went on to develop Intensive Respiratory which were the beginnings of Intensive Respiratory Treatments and ICU.

There were still other epidemics to deal with like tuberculosis, meningitis (200 cases in 1 year in Glasgow, all died). With the advancement of antibiotics such as Streptomycin for tuberculosis which Dr McKenzie said "we do not need a trial, this is history". The first case to leave the hospital cured was a momentous occasion. There were other advances, like the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis.

Dr McKenzie taught me as a student. He was a great, charismatic teacher who lived through so many breakthroughs of modern medicine.

I was in sunny Belvidere for 3 months in 1980 (sunny because you had to walk between buildings). It was my third year of doctoring and I was studying for postgraduate exams. I worked a 1 in 4 rota and dealt with hepatitis, meningitis etc.

I learned what a "carry up" was. I hadn't a clue when I first got called to deal with it. It's when a mother carried her sick child to the hospital with no referral. The hospital traditionally saw any child that was brought to them.

What remains of Belvidere today. Along the river where the golf course was is now National Cycle Route 75. On London Road only the Belvidere Chip Shop, opposite the entrance is left and the central avenue is new a development of new houses, called Belvidere Village.

It's all gone now, did any of it matter? I think so. Dr Brownlee is one of the most respected experts in the field of epidemiology and medical statistics. The Brownlee Centre at Gartnavel is named after him. This centre carries on where his work left off and deals with HIV, Hepatitis, Antibiotic Resistance, Tropical Diseases and Ebola. Things move on, changing patterns of disease and Ebola is something that we don't know much about yet.

Peter MacKenzie died about 20 years ago. He left a vast archive and is still widely revered by the medical community. I met him at a formative time in my career. He was a bridge between old and new and lived through huge advances in medicine and said "I have seen it with my own eyes". I realised 30 years later how fortunate I was to have worked at Belvidere history and I have been privileged to come and share these thoughts with you.

Ms Cairns thanked Dr Beard very much and invited him to answer questions from the audience.

 Q  Thank you for that wonderful talk, Keith Beard. After Penicillin for Polio, what in your opinion, was the second most     important drug discovered for infectious diseases?

A  The drug treatment for Tuberculosis was a huge advance. The need for the old TB sanatoria like Mearnskirk was     virtually wiped out with the introduction of this drug treatment.

Q "Nurses with interest in men and drink"! The Matron in nursing was a real figurehead. The woman that you mentioned,     Amelia Sinclair, was she at the forefront of women being in charge?

A  I think it was happening elsewhere too. The University of Nursing has lots of information. She was certainly     charismatic and a real driving force.

Q  Was Brownlee a graduate of Glasgow University ? In 1818, a very distinguished Lord Kelvin was teaching there.

A  Indeed, great minds. With a teacher like that he really couldn't go far wrong.

Q  I know that my mother was hospitalised in the late 20s early 30s with Scarlet Fever. Was there a list of patients or        people affected kept ?

A  The archive in Mitchell Library has feet and feet of records. Patient Records and Ward Books. If you knew the year I     think it would be possible to find out. Ask the archivists, they're very helpful.

Vote of Thanks

Liz Smith said that she was sure that we had all enjoyed Mr Beard's history of Belvidere Hospital and the beginning of good nursing practice brought in by the first matron,  Amelia Sinclair. Thankfully, we no longer have to deal with these diseases due to esteemed doctors like Dr Brownlee, Dr MacKenzie and Dr Russell. I've been at Gartnavel several times and wondered where some of the units got their names, now I know. The talk was delivered with vast knowledge and humour and for that we would like to thank you with these tokens and in the usual manner (huge applause).


The AGM is nearly upon us. Should any members like to consider a role as a Club Director, please ask any one of the current Directors for more information and to pass your details on.

There is a talk tomorrow by Alistair Dinsmore on the history of the Glasgow Police. It's taking place in the library of GOMA at 2pm. Phone 0141 287 3010 to secure a ticket. There are still some left.

Frank Kelly has brought in some photographs of the first ever Come Dancing which was held at the Locarno in 1961. He, and his girlfriend (later his wife) were in the competition.

Aye Write brochures will be free with the Herald this coming Saturday, 14th March.

Hope to see you next month on the 9th April when Gavin will be shuggling to the microphone to speak about the Clock Work Orange, aka Glasgow's Underground.

Next Directors Meeting - Thursday 2nd April 2015 Next Ordinary Meeting  - Thursday 9th April 2015

Ms Cairns thanked everyone for coming and wished everyone a safe journey home.       


                                                                                                                                                        Shona Crozer

                                                                                                                                              Recording Secretary