How many of us ever walk by Mill Lane and bother to stop, look and imagine – not only at what was once there – but how a bunch of bricks could mean so much to so many?
To those under 50, you probably see a block of residential apartments. Those over 50, however, probably see not just the once glorious Leith Hospital – but a literal representation of Leith’s community spirit over the past 100 years.
Sadly, Leith Hospital is no more (closed in 1987), yet it remains very real in the hearts and minds of those who came to the documentary and subsequent talk at The Granary yesterday afternoon.
Produced by the Citadel Arts Group, Stewart Emm’s visual history of the hospital got off to a sticky start when some gremlins got the better of all this new-fangled technology. Edited a little too quick in order to digest fully perhaps; nevertheless the recording of a Leith hospital’s Monk-founded origins, and precious scenes from a Gala pageant of yesteryear were nice, surprising touches.
Millie Gray’s oral and highly personal account of Leith Hospital, however, is (probably) what the many former porters, cleaners, nurses and fundraisers who packed into The Granary had really been looking forward to.
Sadly, there’s simply not enough space to highlight all the invaluable, emotional recollections Gray spoke of. Still, whether it was sacrificing herself to ensure her sister could train as a nurse; the humanity of welcoming staff who wouldn’t turn away those, who, normally, required half-a-crown to be seen to; or the togetherness displayed by the Leith community at the time of the Gretna Train Disaster – you could almost smell the antiseptic.
Post-NHS, it’s clear we’ve forgotten a lot about what our Leith grannies and granddads fought for. Today, Leith is a transient place and in some ways we’ve neglected The Leith Way: always helping each other. Indeed, a former Leith Hospital casualty doctor who was in the audience – and who worked 160 hours a week for a pittance during 1948 – said Leith Hospital was the best education he’d ever received.
And that, fellow Leithers, just about says it all.