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‘Scotland may be proud’: International opinion of the Scottish National Institution

One interesting item in the Royal Scottish National Hospital collection is the visitor’s book (ref: RS/2/6). In it are recorded the impressions of visiting deputations and individuals. The deputations were usually from Parochial Boards visiting the children they had referred to the Institution but include groups from similar institutions across Britain.

Many of the visitors came from overseas, particularly in the earlier years, and there are comments from Belgium, United States, France, Germany, Norway, Russia and New Zealand.

For example Dr J A Peeters from the Colony Gheel was commissioned by the Belgian government to examine the organisation of the Scottish system of lunacy administration. In July 1892 he wrote (in French but helpfully translated in the book) ‘I have been deeply touched by the care which is lavished upon the children. I hope that Belgium may some day have the glory of possessing an establishment organized in a similarly admirable manner’. In July 1894 William S Manson from Stanford University, California wrote ‘Scotland may be proud of this school and its work’.

Entry by William Manson, 1894

Entry by William Manson, 1894

Also included is a touching note of thanks from a grateful parent in Philadelphia, September 1896:

‘I must record my deep sense of gratitude to Mr and Mrs Skene [the medical superintendent and his wife] in whose charge I left my delicate little girl over a year ago. During her last illness of twenty-one weeks duration she has been nursed day and night and every facility given to one to see her at all times…The Children’s Home is not excelled by any one in England or America’.

It is a fitting tribute to what, for its time, was such a progressive institution that it should be recognised as an example internationally.