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The Three and Sixpenny Doctor

Infectious Diseases

'All her clothes and school books were burnt for the infection.'

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‘I had scarlet fever and I was in the City Hospital. You had a number, depending on the severity of your condition, and it was put in the paper. The numbers told you who was seriously ill, critically ill and making progress. This was because people were not allowed to visit. My mum and dad tried but they didn't get in to see me. I was about nine or ten and, oh boy, did I miss them. There was a sort of a corridor and it was encased in glass and you could go down and mum and dad were on the other side and just used to give me a wave.’
Helen Mustard, born 1926

‘I got taken to the City Hospital. There was beds and beds down the front, and they put me right under a light. I was in for two or three days and I didn't have scarlet fever and they said, if I didn't pick it up with bein' with all them, I'd be immune for the rest o' my days.’
Joyce Myles, born 1930s

Nurses and patients, City Hospital, early 1900s
(Photo, City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries Collection)

Bed-ridden patients getting fresh air, City Hospital, early 1900s
(Photo, City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries Collection)

‘One o' my older brothers, he went into Leith Hospital wi' a poisoned stomach. And they x-rayed him and they said to him, - Cough. Aand he coughed. They says, - How long have you been doing that when you cough? He says, - Oh since I was a laddie. They says,  - You've got a rib stickin' in your lung! He'd jumped in Newhaven Harbour to save his pal who'd fallen in and couldnae swim. His pal had kicked him but he thought nothin' o' it. He got a lovely silver watch from the Humane Society. And the doctor says, - That's been in your lung the whole o' your life. That's why, when you cough, you're holding yourself. They says, - You've got TB. You've had it all thae years. He died a young man, twenty-seven.’
George Hackland, born 1920

‘I remember one time being taken to a doctor's surgery during my mother's illness and she was a bit upset. I do not know how she caught it or developed it, but TB was rife in the 1940s. She could not bear to be parted from my sister and I as we were very young at the time. And there was a bit of a stramash when she discharged herself from hospital. She was away from home for a long time and aunts used to look after us. But sadly after many months in hospital she passed away at the age thirty four from pulmonary tuberculosis.’
Bill McLean, born 1944.

His mother died when he was five years old.

'Tuberculosis was rife in the 1940s.'

TB Patient and friend, Royal Victoria Hospital, 1950s (Photo, LMA archive)

Bill McLean with his sister and father, 1948
(Photo, LMA archive)