Dalkeith Fever Hospital – Part 2

History Dalkeith fever hospital

The Dalkeith Fever Hospital may have had one of its busiest periods from 1918 – 1920 with a pandemic called the Spanish ‘flu.

By the spring of 1918, the First World War was into its fourth year. The British population were weary and bereaved as fathers, sons, uncles and friends had died in the battlefields and rat infested trenches. At home, another silent war was raging – a deadly ‘flu virus was spreading which resulted in a deathtoll of 50 million people world wide and thousands in Scottish towns and cities.

Newspapers, reluctant to spread more bad news, only quietly reported the epidemic. The virus took the name ‘Spanish ‘Flu’ because the epidemic was sweeping Spain.

The flu arrived in Britain via ports in Glasgow however similar to the Corona virus,. the original source is still a mystery. Suggestions are that it originated from the far east or from the filthy overcrowded British military camp at Etaples in France. One hundred years on and other similarities can be drawn – it is believed that in Scotland the railway and ships helped carry the virus. Travellers and soldiers stepping off ships at Clydeside would journey further into their own communities spreading the virus. Areas with good rail networks also added to the problem with the amount of passengers they carried.

It can only be imagined the Dalkeith hospital was under considerable pressure to deal with this pandemic – the hospital also had a mortuary.

In December 1919, it was reported that Mr Doughty, the Public Health Convenor, and his committee visited the hospital but found everything to be in perfect order. Records reveal that there were only five patients and four were able to move around. Inspections were made to the slaughterhouse which was thoroughly satisfactory.

The Dalkeith hospital had been closed sometime before World War 2 and was put under a care and maintenance order. By 1946, the hospital was being used as a children’s home. In May of that year, it was reported that it would probably never revert back to its original use for infectious diseases. A survey of Scottish Hospitals revealed that Dalkeith, in line with other fever hospitals, was in an isolated position and had a central admin block with a kitchen and accommodation for nurses and three small wards. Larger hospitals were more central and more equipped to deal with modern illnesses.

Well, dear reader, the next time you are travelling on the A68 from Dalkeith, stop the car if you have time and walk around the grounds and see the buildings that once treated the infected people of our town. If the walls could talk, what stories would they tell ………………