Thomas Annan and the Documentary Photograph

In my job at the College Library I get to see, handle and browse through a lot of fascinating books, both old and new, but it’s rare to find time to sit down and read these books cover-to-cover. Over the Christmas holidays I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading and took home one of our latest acquisitions, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman.

Front cover of 'Thomas Annan of Glasgow'

Thomas Annan (1829-1877) was an early Scottish photographer, probably best known for his photograph album, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow.  He had a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading photographers, and in 1866 he was commissioned by the City of Glasgow Improvement Trust to capture images of the closes and wynds of old Glasgow that were scheduled for demolition under the Glasgow City Improvements Act. The album presents many fine examples of 19th century photography and Annan’s use of the carbon print process (for which he had secured exclusive usage rights for Scotland), and the images of the condemned slums and their inhabitants have since become iconic in Glasgow’s history. The College holds a copy of this album, presented by Glasgow’s Lord Provost John Ure to Dr Robert Scott Orr, President of the Faculty of the Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Gossman’s book addresses the potentially problematic nature of Annan’s photographs of Glasgow’s slums. How accurate or unbiased are the photographs in their portrayal of the filth and squalor of these dwellings? Should the focus be on architecture or on social documentary? In other words, was Annan concerned with photographing the buildings themselves, or was he saying something about the lives of their inhabitants? Does it matter that these photographs were commissioned by the City Improvement Trust? Frustratingly, Annan himself does not provide any commentary on his work to help answer these question, save for a simple title or label.


A slum close, off High Street, Glasgow

In addition to the Old Closes album, we also have a copy of Annan’s The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry (which we have written about previously) and Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow, which features images of the University of Glasgow at its previous location on High Street, before it moved to Gilmorehill in the city’s west end.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow is understandably the main focus of Gossman’s book, but a fair amount of attention is also paid to Annan’s portrait and landscape work (such as his photographs of the Loch Katrine water works). There is also some discussion of Annan’s contemporaries and predecessors, including the partnership of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, two of Scotland’s earliest photographers. In a chapter on portraits, Annan’s 1864 portrait of the explorer and medical missionary David Livingstone is featured. The College holds a very interesting copy of this portrait, which Annan created by enlarging the photograph and painting over it in oils, almost like an early form of ‘painting by numbers’. The colouring process took place shortly after Livingstone’s death, a decade after the original portrait was made. The College purchased it from Annan for 30 guineas in 1875.


Annan’s portrait of David Livingstone

Lionel Gossman’s book provides a sound overview of the beginnings of photography in 19th century Scotland, and sets Thomas Annan’s work in context before going on to discuss his most famous work in finer detail. Anyone with an interest in the history of Glasgow, documentary photography, or photography as an art form in the 19th century should fine something useful here. Members of the College can borrow the book from the College Library. It’s published by Open Book Publishers, which means it is also available to read online for free (with physical copies available for purchase).

The Girton and Newnham Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in World War One

Images as a stimulus to research in Scotland and in France (Version française ci-dessous)
by Carol Parry and Elaine Morrison FRCP (Glasg)

In June 1915 the very first tented mobile unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals was established in the grounds of the Chateau de Chanteloup in the countryside near the medieval French city of Troyes.  The latter become a hospital town during the First World War with schools and other buildings converted into temporary hospitals to care for the wounded from the Front.

The striking images in Sister Annie Allan’s photograph album (RCPSG 74) inspired us to research the Girton and Newnham Unit leading to the publication of an article about the work of the unit in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in December 2014.

Meanwhile, unknown to us, Francis Tailleur, Directeur Pédagogique at the Institut Chanteloup, had also discovered some striking images of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals at Chanteloup, in the form of postcards. The use of the Chateau de Chanteloup and its grounds during the First World War had been almost completely forgotten. Francis, with the support of Marie-Odile Velut, the manager of the Institut Chanteloup, and the help of the local museum (amongst others), researched the work of the unit at Chanteloup and curated a wonderful exhibition to commemorate the work of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals there.

Having seen our paper, Francis contacted the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. We were delighted to discover this shared enthusiasm and a friendly and productive correspondence then ensued between Troyes and Glasgow, culminating in our visit to the exhibition in early June.  The Library and Archive supplied images for the exhibition at Chanteloup from the photograph album of Sister Annie Allan, a nurse with the Girton and Newnham Unit during the First World War (for details of Sister Allan see an earlier blog post). We were also able to help coordinate music for the exhibition via James Beaton at the National Piping Centre and further images via Marianne Smith, Librarian at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Nurses walking in the grounds of Chateau de Chanteloup, 1915 (RCPSG 74)

Nurses walking in the grounds of Chateau de Chanteloup, 1915 (RCPSG 74)

The Chateau de Chanteloup was to house the German army for a short time in August 1944 later became the Institut Chanteloup, a school for children with special needs. The Chateau no longer houses the school – a remarkable new purpose built school has been built in the grounds where once the large tents of the Girton and Newnham Unit were erected to provide medical and surgical care to soldiers of the French army.

The grounds were used to great effect for the exhibition, much of which was outdoors. The woodland surrounding the chateau is still there, as is the orangerie which was used by Dr Louise McIlroy, as the Unit’s operating theatre – this was meticulously recreated as part of the exhibition.

The Orangerie which was used as an operating theatre.

The Orangerie which was used as an operating theatre.

The X-ray room and a tisanerie were also recreated, so too the office of the Unit’s formidable administrator, Madame la Directrice, Mrs K Harley.

Particularly poignant were the recreations of the tents used to care for the soldiers and to accommodate staff.

Nurse's tent recreated for the exhibition, June 2015

Nurse’s tent recreated for the exhibition, June 2015

Even the uniforms of the nurses and doctors of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals were represented in an uncanny likeness.

Uniforms made especially for the exhibition at Chanteloup

Uniforms made especially for the exhibition at Chanteloup

The pupils and staff of the school also played their part in the exhibition with work from their First World War project on display along with family stories from that time. Local people and schools visited the exhibition and it proved a wonderful way of involving the whole community in a commemoration of an, until now, largely forgotten event. The Girton and Newnham unit was further honoured by the naming of a pathway next to the school – Allée des Dames Ecossaises.

Allée des Dames Ecossaises

Allée des Dames Ecossaises

For us, having researched the work of the unit for so long in Glasgow, our visit to Chanteloup was something of a pèlerinage and also a wonderful opportunity to establish new friendships.

Further information about the exhibition can be found on the Chanteloup Centenaire 1915-2015 blog

For further information about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals see the website created and maintained by Alan Cumming: Scottish Women’s Hospitals.

L’Unité Girton and Newnham du Scottish Women’s Hospitals pendant la Première Guerre mondiale

Images comme un stimulant pour la recherche en Ecosse et en France
par Carol Parry et Elaine Morrison FRCP (Glasg)
En Juin 1915, la première unité mobile de tentes du SWH a été établie dans le parc du château de Chanteloup, dans la campagne près de la ville médiévale française de Troyes. Cette dernière était devenue une ville hôpital au cours de la Première Guerre mondiale avec des écoles et d’autres bâtiments transformés en hôpitaux temporaires pour soigner les blessés du Front.

Les images frappantes de l’album photo de l’infirmière Annie Allan (RCPSG 74) nous ont incitées à faire des recherches sur l’unité Girton and Newnham conduisant à la publication d’un article sur le travail de cette unité dans le Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh en décembre 2014.

Pendant ce temps, à notre insu, Francis Tailleur, directeur pédagogique de l’Institut Chanteloup, avait aussi découvert quelques images frappantes du SWH à Chanteloup. L’utilisation du Château de Chanteloup et de ses pelouses au cours de la Première Guerre mondiale avait été presque complètement oubliée. Francis, avec le soutien de Marie-Odile Velut, la directrice de l’Institut Chanteloup et l’aide de partenaires locaux, faisait des recherches sur le travail de l’unité à Chanteloup et organisait une exposition merveilleuse pour commémorer le travail du SWH là-bas.

Après avoir vu notre article, Francis contacta le Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Nous avons été ravies de découvrir cet enthousiasme partagé et une correspondance amicale et productive débuta entre Troyes et Glasgow, culminant dans notre visite de l’exposition au début de juin. La Bibliothèque et les Archives fournirent des images de l’album photo d’Annie Allan pour l’exposition à Chanteloup, une infirmière de l’unité Girton and Newnham pendant la Première Guerre mondiale (pour les détails concernant Annie Allan voir un blog plus tôt). Nous avons également pu aider à coordonner la musique pour l’exposition par l’intermédiaire de James Beaton, du National Piping Centre et d’autres images par Marianne Smith, bibliothécaire au Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Dans le Château de Chanteloup s’installa l’armée allemande à la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Le site accueille maintenant l’Institut Chanteloup, un établissement pour enfants ayant des besoins spéciaux. Le Château n’abrite plus l’école – un remarquable nouveau bâtiment a été construit dans le parc où jadis les grandes tentes de l’Unité Girton and Newnham avaient été érigées pour fournir des soins médicaux et chirurgicaux aux soldats de l’armée française.
Les pelouses ont été utilisées à bon escient pour l’exposition qui présentait une grande partie de ce qui était à l’extérieur. La forêt qui entoure le château est toujours là, comme l’orangerie qui a été utilisée par le Dr Louise McIlroy comme salle d’opérations de l’unité – cela a été minutieusement recréé dans le cadre de l’exposition.

La salle d'operations

La salle d’operations

La salle de radiographie et une tisanerie ont également été recréées, ainsi que le bureau de Madame la Directrice, Mrs. K. Harley.

La salle de radiographie

La salle de radiographie

Particulièrement poignantes étaient les reconstitutions des tentes utilisées pour soigner les soldats et pour loger le personnel. Même les uniformes des infirmières et des médecins du SWH étaient représentés dans une ressemblance troublante.

Les élèves et le personnel de l’établissement ont également joué leur rôle dans l’exposition avec le travail mené sur la Première Guerre mondiale et l’affichage d’histoires familiales de cette époque. Les populations locales et les écoles ont visité l’exposition et ont permis d’une merveilleuse façon l’implication de toute la communauté dans une commémoration d’un événement, jusqu’à présent, largement oubliée. L’unité Girton and Newnham a en outre été honorée par le nom donné à une voie à côté de l’établissement – Allée des Dames Ecossaises.

Pour nous, après avoir étudié le travail de l’unité pendant si longtemps à Glasgow, notre visite à Chanteloup était une sorte de pèlerinage et aussi une merveilleuse occasion d’établir de nouvelles amitiés.

Plus d’informations sur l’exposition peuvent être trouvées sur le blog Chanteloup-Centenaire 1915-2015.

Pour plus d’informations sur le SWH, voir le site web créé et animé par Alan Cumming: Scottish Womens Hospitals.

Guest blog: Sources for the First World War

Maria Pepe Incerto, a distance learning student on the Master of Information Management course at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, undertook a three week work placement recently in the Library of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.  Maria writes about her experience with us as follows:

“My three-week work placement at the College was an invaluable and enjoyable learning experience at a very active library and archives. During this time I contributed to a First World War source list of the College archive collections. The list will guide users to the materials relating to the First World War in the College archives.

While reviewing the collections for relevancy to the war I became familiar with their depth and breadth. They include the College’s administrative records, records of local medical societies, and personal papers.

The minutes of the College and some of the medical societies make reference to the war. For example, in response to the deaths on active duty of the sons of Fellows of the Faculty, the minutes (RCPSG 1) include expressions of condolence including one relating to the death of Captain James Maitland Downie (BA Cantab, MRCS Eng., LRCP Lond., Captain RAMC), the son of James Walker Downie who was President of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons from 1915-1916.

A different perspective can be found in the minutes of medical societies. The minutes of the Partick and District medical society (RCPSG 22/1) include details of the effects of war on local medical practice, such as the scarcity of doctors and the care of patients whose doctors are on active service; establishment of the Society’s War Emergency Committee; and contributions to war relief funds. The majority of societies, however, ceased to hold meetings (or held very few) during the war years.

The papers of Sir Ronald Ross (RCPSG 9) contains materials relating to his time in the War Office, where he made an important contribution to the prevention and treatment of tropical diseases, particularly malaria. Also in the papers is a poem “The fall of the zeppelin” (1916), which Ross was inspired to write after seeing a zeppelin brought down in London.

Shoemaking in one of the workshops in Princess Louise Hospital, Erskine (RCPSG 10)

Shoemaking in one of the workshops in Princess Louise Hospital, Erskine (RCPSG 10)

The papers of Sir William Macewen (RCPSG 10) include correspondence regarding the establishment of the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers, now known as Erskine as well as correspondence relating to Macewen’s time as Surgeon-General in Scotland for the Royal Navy. (For further information see our previous blog on Macewen’s war work).  Photographs relating to the First World War include those relating to Andrew Hutton (RCPSG 64) in Étaples and Arles, France in 1918.

Hospital ward at Étaples, France, 1918 (RCPSG 64/4/2)

Hospital ward in Étaples, France, 1918 (RCPSG 64/4/2)

In addition to compiling the source list, I answered enquiries, and attended several Wednesday morning Coffee Conversations meetings hosted by the library. I was also fortunate to meet many of the library’s skilled and dedicated volunteers, who are involved in various aspects of cataloguing, conservation, transcription, and digitisation.

My thanks to the library staff who so generously and enthusiastically introduced me to the College’s remarkable collections, and to the College staff who were very welcoming.”

Glasgow Cathedral

Today, Monday 4th August, a special service is being held at Glasgow Cathedral to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The service is being held in Glasgow just after the close of the Commonwealth Games, thereby allowing the Commonwealth heads of state to attend.

Glasgow Cathedral, also sometimes known as St Mungo’s Cathedral, is a medieval church in the centre of Glasgow, with strong links to the foundation of the city. It was built between the late 12th and 15th centuries and houses the tomb of St Mungo, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow. The cathedral is built on the site where Mungo is believed to have been buried in AD 612, on the bank of the Molendinar Burn (which is now covered over by Wishart Street). Along with many other cathedrals in Scotland, Glasgow Cathedral was badly damaged during the Protestant Reformation of 1560. It was not destroyed, however, and today it is the only medieval cathedral in Scotland to have survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 largely intact (i.e. without becoming unroofed).

Plate from The Cathedral Church of Glasgow: A Description of its fabric and a Brief History of the Archi-Episcopal See by O. MacGregor Chalmers

Plate from The Cathedral Church of Glasgow: A Description of its fabric and a Brief History of the Archi-Episcopal See by O. MacGregor Chalmers

In the College Library, our Glasgow Collection is an excellent source of information about the history of Glasgow Cathedral, and our archive also includes a selection of photographs and engravings. The College’s strongest link to the cathedral is probably the tombstone of our founder, Peter Lowe, which can still be seen in the cathedral grounds. A service is held at the cathedral every year on our Founder’s Day, to commemorate the life of Lowe.

Tomb of Peter Lowe in the grounds of Glasgow Cathedral (RCPSG 1/12/9/4)

Tomb of Peter Lowe in the grounds of Glasgow Cathedral (RCPSG 1/12/9/4)

President W.R. Snodgrass, laying a wreath at Peter Lowe's tomb after the Commemoration Service on the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Faculty in November 1949 (RCPSG 1/12/7/189)

President W.R. Snodgrass, laying a wreath at Peter Lowe’s tomb after the Commemoration Service on the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Faculty in November 1949 (RCPSG 1/12/7/189)

The cathedral is often regarded as one of the finest in Europe, and there are many features to be admired both inside and out. The cathedral is large enough that, following the Reformation, it was put to work as three distinct parish churches, with the Inner High Kirk making using of the choir, the Outer High Kirk residing in the nave, and the Barony Kirk using the crypt. However, the latter two eventually vacated the premises and since 1835 the cathedral has functioned as a single great church, as was perhaps originally intended.

Floor plans of the cathedral from "The Book of Glasgow Cathedral" by George Eyre-Todd (1898)

Floor plans of the cathedral from “The Book of Glasgow Cathedral” by George Eyre-Todd (1898)

The cathedral warrants a detailed exploration for many reasons, not least the quality of the masonry work on display. The crypt, or lower church, is mostly of 13th century construction, and is home to some of Scotland’s finest examples of medieval masonry. In the upper level, the screen standing between the choir and the nave is truly striking, and some excellent carvings can be seen in the Blackadder Aisle (built around 1500 under the command of Archbishop Blackadder). The cathedral has been constructed and rebuilt in parts over many years, and visitors with a keen eye may be able to spot where the 12th and 13th century construction work merges with work from later periods.

Copy of a 19th century picture, showing the interior of the cathedral (RCPSG 1/12/9/6)

Copy of a 19th century picture, showing the interior of the cathedral (RCPSG 1/12/9/6)

Somewhat unusually the building has actually been Crown property since 1857, and its upkeep and maintenance is managed today by Historic Scotland. Despite this, there is still an active Church of Scotland congregation, and Glasgow Cathedral continues to be used as a place of worship, as it has been for over 800 years. Admission to the cathedral is free, and all Glasgow residents and visitors are welcome. Please note that the cathedral is closed today (Monday 4th August) for the aforementioned service. Visit the Glasgow Cathedral website for more information on visiting times.

From Pagan's History of the Cathedral and See of Glasgow

From Pagan’s History of the Cathedral and See of Glasgow

The College’s library and archive collections offer a much more detailed history of the history, construction, and use of the cathedral. If you’d like to consult any of our collections, or to find out more, please email or leave a comment below.

How film, TV and radio stars helped to bring a little magic to the wards of Mearnskirk Hospital

You may think that celebrity visits to hospital wards are a relatively new phenomenon but photographs from our fantastic Dr Alexander Dale collection document a number of visits from famous faces during the 1940s and 50s to the wards of Mearnskirk Hospital.

Mearnskirk Hospital was opened in 1930 primarily for children with surgical tuberculosis, children with long-term orthopaedic conditions and those with infantile paralysis. Many of the patients would be in the hospital for very long spells and so it was extremely important to keep spirits high, particularly as visits from family and friends were restricted to only a couple of hours each week, sometimes less.

To help keep the children entertained and brighten up the long days, the staff at Mearnskirk would often arrange special trips and treats for the patients including days out to the seaside or visits to the local cinema. Many children, however, were unable to leave the wards and so a visit from a famous face was always an exciting prospect and helped to bring a little magic and glamour to Mearnskirk.

Dale Evans with patients and staff at Mearnskirk Hospital, 1954

Dale Evans with patients and staff at Mearnskirk Hospital, 1954

Beatrice Campbell

Movie star, Beatrice Campbell, best known for her roles in Last Holiday (1950), The Master of Ballantrae (1953) and The Mudlark (1950), visited Mearnskirk on the 5th November, 1948. We have several photographs of her visit where she is pictured chatting with staff and patients and enjoying afternoon tea. There are also some beautiful, signed studio of photographs of the actress.

Signed studio photograph of actress, Beatrice Campbell

Signed studio photograph of actress, Beatrice Campbell

In our archive we also have a letter written on Beatrice’s behalf from Pathe Pictures Ltd. Enclosed with the letter were several photographs including one of the actress with a Miss Campbell, a patient on the ward, who Beatrice wishes the photo be given to.

A letter sent on Beatrice Campbell's behalf from Pathe Pictures Ltd.

A letter sent on Beatrice Campbell’s behalf from Pathe Pictures Ltd.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

One particularly exciting event for the children at Mearnskirk must have been when cowboy Roy Rogers (born Leonard Franklin Slye) and his wife, Dale Evans paid a visit to the hospital on the 9th February 1954. There are some lovely photographs of Roy Rogers handing out gifts to the children – some of whom look a little overwhelmed to meet their hero.

Roy Rogers with a patient at Mearnskirk Hospital, 1954

Roy Rogers with a patient at Mearnskirk Hospital, 1954

There’s even a rumour that Trigger the horse came along but unfortunately we don’t have the photo to prove it!

There were many other famous faces that graced the wards of Mearnskirk including Frankie Laine, Frankie Vaughan, Jimmy Logan and Princess Margaret.

Many of the celebrity visits to the hospital were arranged by Mr Alfred Ellsworth, who was awarded an MBE for his charitable work in and around Glasgow – he is pictured here in this photograph alongside Judy Garland!

A signed photograph of Mr Alfred Ellsworth with Judy Garland

A signed photograph of Mr Alfred Ellsworth with Judy Garland

You can find out more about the Dr Alexander Dale Collection on our website If you are interested in seeing any of the items in the collection please contact us at

A Tale of Two Cities

The College’s triennial conference, Advancing Excellence in Healthcare 2014, takes place on the 19th and 20th June at the SECC in Glasgow. The conference programme includes a series of symposia, covering a range of topics in medicine, surgery, dentistry, travel medicine, podiatric medicine, and more. In anticipation of the History of Medicine Symposium on Friday 20th June, we’ll be posting about some of the sessions and looking at how their subjects are reflected in the College collections. We have already talked about Professor Sir Graham Teasdale and the 40th anniversary of the Glasgow Coma Scale. Now we move on to Dr Dermot Kennedy’s talk, Glasgow’s health and housing: a tale of two cities, three heroes.

Few items in the College Library demonstrate the “two cities” aspect of Glasgow’s history better than the photograph albums of Thomas Annan. Annan was a Scottish photographer active in the late 19th century, and is recognised today as a pioneer of photography. The two books in question are The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry (2nd ed., published in 1878) and Photographs of Old Closes, Streets etc., taken 1868-1877 (published in 1881).


The first of these books features a series of photographs of country homes around Glasgow, belonging to some of Glasgow’s most famous old families and gentry. The book was intended to be a record of some of Glasgow’s oldest landmarks and to prevent the houses and their former owners from being forgotten. Some of the houses included in the book have since been converted for other purposes and can still be found standing as flats, golf clubhouses, or within the city’s public parks. Many of them, however, have been demolished and the areas they once occupied now bear little resemblance to the countryside depicted in Annan’s photographs. Today’s Glaswegians are likely to recognise the names of many of the houses, such as Castlemilk, Gilmorehill, Possil, or Kelvinside, although they are far more likely to associate them with busy areas of the city than with country houses.

The 19th century occupants of these houses were, according to the authors, those who regarded Glasgow as their home and were prepared to serve the town in offices such as Provost, Bailie, or Dean of Guild, and who could be depended upon to stand up for the rights of the city. The authors decry the newer breed of merchant “who lives as far from Glasgow as he can, cultivates other society and send his children to English schools to make sure they don’t speak Glasgow.” The occupants of these houses certainly had a strong involvement in the life of the city, whether as successful merchants or as magistrates, but their style of living was far removed from the conditions endured by other inhabitants of Glasgow.

A slum close, off High Street, Glasgow

The second book is a very large volume, bound in green leather and bearing the Coat of Arms of the City of Glasgow. The photographs in this book show a completely different side to the city from the fine country houses of the gentry. In the 1830s and 1840s the population of Glasgow increased rapidly and those who could, moved westwards. They left behind grand and elegant houses in the centre of the city, which were divided in to multiple dwellings for working class families. The open ground formerly accompanying these buildings was also sold off, and rows of tenements were crammed into the remaining spaces. This led to serious problems with overcrowding, and by the 1840s there were over 600 common lodging houses in the city with about 10,000 inhabitants. In addition to the intense overcrowding (in some cases, up to 40 men were crowded into a single room), there was no real sanitation to speak of. Middens were often kept in a close until a country farmer could be persuaded to buy them as manure, and most of the populace relied on the town wells for water until the Loch Katrine water works were eventually opened in 1859. The combined effect of overcrowding, poor sanitation and poor diet was, unsurprisingly, rampant ill-health. Rickets was a common complaint, and the city saw four major outbreaks of cholera between 1832 and 1866. The Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow offered free vaccinations against smallpox, but resistance to vaccination was high until it was made compulsory for infants in 1863.

19th century slums of old Glasgow

The College’s copy of this book was presented by Sir John Ure, a politician who strove all his life to improve social conditions in Glasgow. He held various positions in the Town Council before ultimately becoming Lord Provost in 1880. During his career Ure oversaw many changes to the slum conditions in Glasgow, most notably thanks to the City Improvement Act in 1866. When this act was passed, Glasgow set up an Improvement Trust to buy over and demolish the crowded housing around the High Street, Glasgow Cross and Gorbals areas of the city. The slums began to be cleared, and by the time Annan’s book was published many of the scenes depicted within had already disappeared.

Looking at two of Thomas Annan’s collections of photographs gives us at least one way of looking at the “two cities” aspect of 19th century Glasgow. To find out more about the History of Medicine Symposium, or for more information and booking details for the triennial conference, please visit the Advancing Excellence in Healthcare website: Advancing Healthcare.

Celebrating Joseph Lister’s Birthday

Saturday the 5th April was the 187th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgery. We were tweeting throughout the day to share Lister-related items from our archive and museum collections. You can have a look through the day’s activity below if you missed it first time round. You can see all of this on Storify too at