Dr Gray’s Hospital is the third oldest in the area now covered by NHS Grampian. It was founded by Alexander Gray, who was from Elgin but spent his adult life as a surgeon in Bengal with the East India Company. He died in 1807, leaving £20,000 “for the establishment of an hospital in the town of Elgin for the sick and the poor of the town and county of Murray (Moray)".
His will was contested by his heirs, and it wasn’t until 1814 that the money was released and the building of the hospital began. A field to the west of Elgin was purchased, and the laying of the foundation stone took place on 11th July 1815 – a ceremony said to have been disturbed by the news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, though no mention is made of this in the surviving records.
The hospital opened to patients on Friday 1st January 1819, though the first patient – Helen Forsyth – wasn’t admitted until Monday 4th January. Throughout the 19th century, the hospital saw many changes not only to its layout, but to its administration, staffing, and the building of a separate institution in the hospital grounds. The Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum opened to the west of Dr Gray’s Hospital in 1835 and was the earliest pauper lunatic asylum to be built in Scotland.
Further donations allowed Dr Gray’s Hospital to extend, with the construction of an operating theatre, x-ray department and increased staff accommodation. This was situated at the rear of the building and opened in 1909. By the late 1930s the building of a further extension block was required. This provided out-patient departments and more staff accommodation and was opened in 1939.
Gray's Hospital was incorporated into the National Health Service in 1948 and along with the neighbouring hospital, Bilbohall, was administered by the Moray Hospitals Board of Management. Bilbohall had been built as a small lunatic asylum in 1835 and over the years had been greatly developed and extended. In the late 1960s a corridor joining the two hospitals was built. The corridor acted as a link between the two, and various departments were situated off the corridor including the occupational therapy department, a central kitchen and the staff dining room.
In May 1990, following a comprehensive review of acute health care services in Moray, the Scottish Office gave approval for the re-development of Gray's Hospital on the existing site. Most of the old Bilbohall Hospital was demolished to make way for the first stage of the re-development and construction work began in February 1993. The first stage comprised a main ward block, three new operating theatres, a 5-bed maternity delivery suite and a special care baby unit. A laboratory, pharmacy and a new kitchen and staff restaurant were also provided. This work was completed in May 1995 on schedule. The second and third stages were completed in 1997/98 and included a new acute psychiatric ward and new out-patient, accident and emergency and imaging departments along with refurbishment and upgrading of the original building.
Due to fire safety issues, the original building was no longer used for in-patients from 2013, ending 194 years of almost continuous use. It is now used for a variety of out-patient departments and teaching.
This exhibition as part of Dr Gray’s Hospital’s 200th anniversary has been compiled using original records held within NHS Grampian Archives, with assistance from volunteer Beth Carmichael and the support of the Friends of Dr Gray’s.
Elgin 11th July 1815
Mr Duff also stated that the Contractors for the Hospital having signified their being prepared to proceed in founding the Building he had intimated the same to several of The Trustees and obtained their sanction to Call the present Meeting to proceed in laying the foundation stone – and invite the Trinity Lodge of Masons to attend and aid in forwarding the business and afterwards to dine with the Trustees on a very moderate scale. The Trustees approve of these proceedings – agree to attend at two o’clock this afternoon and aid in the Ceremony of Founding the Hospital, and appoint their preses* to preside on the occasion.
*This is the chairman of the Trustees, Sir Archibald Grant of Northfield, Elgin.
GRHB 45/1/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book, 11th July 1815
Elgin 30th November 1818
The Trustees having considered the Report of the Medical Gentlemen as to the furnishings and stores laid in for the Hospital Resolved to open the same on the first day of January next and directed public notice thereof to be made in the Aberdeen and Inverness Journals for two following weeks.
GRHB 45/1/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book, 30th November 1818
Grays Hospital Elgin, 21st March 1826
The Trustees met on the present occasion in consequence of its being very generally reported that Mrs Stewart the Housekeeper has been for sometime past conducting herself in a very improper manner towards all the persons connected with the establishment and proceeded by examining the nurses and others to ascertain the reality and cause of such improper conduct and disturbance in the Hospital and having called them in separately and questioned them they concurred in stating that from the outrageous conduct of the Housekeeper which they all attributed to the effects of intoxication they had no place to do their work or duty correctly.
GRHB 45/1/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book, 21st March 1826
Elgin 19th January 1828
Mr Walker called the attention of the Meeting to the propriety of building a Lunatic Asylum on the Hospital ground and of connecting it in some measure with the institution and Sir Archibald Dunbar presented to the meeting a letter on that subject addressed to him by Mr Walker which having been read the measures therein proposed were unanimously approved of the Trustees present and the Physicians gave it as their opinion that such an establishment could be connected with the Hospital in the manner proposed by Mr Walker without doing any injury to the present establishment.
GRHB 45/1/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book, 19th January 1828
Elgin 28 August 1834
Drs Stephen & Paul having been called in brought two books of Prescriptions one commencing in 1833 and another current of this date. Dr Paul explained that there was another book which had gone amissing at his house either when it was painting or from the carelessness of some of his young men – that he had found it necessary to take the book from the Hospital to his own house to make up a Parliamentary Return lately ordered, and that it had gone amissing for the time in the way now explained, but both Doctors admitted that their Medical Books as kept for some time were considerably defective in their details and they expressed their Readiness to keep them in future in any way thought most proper by the Trustees. Thereupon Drs Stephen & Paul retired.
GRHB 45/1/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book 28th August 1834
Physicians Quarterly Report December 1839 – March 1839
Number of Patients in the Hospital 1st December 33 Admitted from 1st December to 1st March 87
Discharged Cured 73
Relieved & At Request 8
Died 5 86
Remaining in the Hospital 1st March 34
Number of out Patients 100
Amputation of the thigh
Excision of a large Tummour
Extirpation of Schirrus Lips
Excision of small Tummours above the eye
GRHB 45/1/2 Dr Gray’s Hospital Minute Book, March 1839
On examining the Case Books the meeting found that there were several patients who had been in the Hospital for two or three months and even longer there, by subjecting its Funds to a heavy expense without the tickets of admission having been renewed as provided by the Rules of the Institution and by recent minutes. On the motion of Dr Maclean it was agreed that a list of all such patients be immediately made out by the House Surgeon and thereafter sent by him to the Physicians with instructions to them to report upon each of these Cases to the Visiting Trustees within 48 hours.
Quarterly Meeting, 13th March 1866
The first admission to Dr Gray’s Hospital was on 4th January 1819. This page shows the first four admissions, and the outcome.
Helen Forsyth, unmarried, age 47, Parish of Elgin
Scirrhus mamma [a tumour in the breast] Admitted 4th
Recommended by Dr Stephen
Discharged Cured Jan 27th
Elizabeth McKenzie, unmarried, age 48 Parish of Elgin Affected with vomiting of Blood & violent dyspeptic symptoms
Admitted on the 6th
Recommended by Dr Stephen
Discharged 28th, out patient
Readmitted March 5th, anasarca – died May 19th
John Anderson, age 50 a Married Man, Parish of Elgin Nervous and bowel complaints
Admitted the 6th – Discharged convalescent on the 18th – continued as an out patient – cured March 20th
Elizabeth Young, a Widow age 70, Parish of Elgin
Affected with paralysis
Admitted on the 7th
Discharged on the 14th to be continued as an out patient – incurable, 1st March
GRHB 45/2/1 Dr Gray’s Hospital Admission Register, 1819
William Philip, from the parish of Birnie Admitted 20th August 1853
Under Dr Paul’s care
Presents all the symptoms of Scarlatina. The rash everywhere covers his body. Tongue bright red. Pulse 130, bowels open. Complains greatly of sore throat which is found much inflamed. The submaxillary glands are much enlarged. A poultice is ordered to be applied.
Sig(=take). One tablespoonful three times a day.
27th - has continued to progress favourably since admission, nothing in his case worthy of being reported having occurred. Skin is desquamating. There not being a very copious secretion of urine.
1st September – is now convalescent
5th – dismissed cured.
GRHB 45/2/4 Case book of Dr Paul and Dr Ross, Medical Attendants and Dr MacLagan, House Surgeon, May – August 1853.
Margaret Edwards, Lossiemouth Admitted 2nd September 1853
Admitted under Dr Paul’s care
States that when working at harvest she received a cut from a scythe on the lower part of the leg. The wound is now sloughing.
Poultice to be applied.
7th – the slough has now separated, Poultice to be continued.
12th – the wound now appears healthy and simple dressing is to be applied.
15th – wound is healing rapidly
17th – Wound almost well but complains much of pain in the throat and difficult deglutition(swallowing). She is now suffering from acute tonsillitis. Bowels constipated.
Margaret was prescribed magnesium sulphate and senna, along with a mustard poultice for her throat. She improved over the next few weeks, and was discharged on 13th October 1853 as cured.
GRHB 45/2/4 Case book of Dr Paul and Dr Ross, Medical Attendants
and Dr MacLagan, House Surgeon, May – August 1853.
Various admissions, June – July 1873
These two pages from the case book of Dr Duff show examples of general hospital admissions, including
Duncan Mactavish, a 45 year old shoemaker with pneumonia,
Peter Milne, aged 24 and a farm servant with an abscess under his Achilles, and
Elsie Gordon, an 18 year old servant with typhoid fever.
All but one of these admissions was discharged as cured – the one death was of Elspeth Walker, aged 64 who was brought in on 24th June described as ‘moribund’, or at the point of death.
While a stimulant was ordered to be taken, it was clear she was ‘evidently in a dying state’ and she died in the hospital the next day.
GRHB 45/2/7 Case book of patients treated by Dr Duff, 1873 - 1877
Elizabeth Allan, aged about 30 Admitted March 30th 1873
A dressmaker, suffering from dyspepsia, brought on by excessive tea drinking. Mild purgatives were administered, and then the patient was ordered a mixture containing quinine and iron.
April 10th Discharged Cured
GRHB 45/2/7 Case book of patients treated by Dr Duff, 1873 - 1877
John William Fox, re-admitted October 5th 1880
This patient dismissed from the Hospital a week previous, foolishly walked down to Burghead the
day he was dismissed. The result being, that the leg, altho’ quite whole was as yet weak and little able to stand such work; grew worse again & for this he was readmitted. Bandaging & rest had the desired effect & he was
October 18th 1880
GRHB 45/2/8 Case book of patients treated by Dr Duff, 1878 - 1881
John Shanks, age 72
Admitted 14th November 1884
Fracture of Skull
This man meet with an accident about 2 1⁄2 miles out the Pluscarden road by being ridded down by a man on horseback.
He was admitted here about 9.30pm on the 14th Nov. quite unconscious & with a wound on his left frontal bone in length 2 inches causing fracture of that bone & likewise of the anterior & lower part of the temporal bone. On further examination we found another fracture of the skull at the base extending from the mastoid process to the foramen magnum of the occiput no doubt injuring the spine. He had lost a great quantity of blood before admission as his pulse could not be felt & did not until beef tea and brandy were administered for over 2 1⁄2 hours. His breathing was quick & shallow almost imperceptible, his feet cold, bleeding at the left ear went on until 1am of the 15th Nov. His pulse could never be counted at all. His breathing was at from 36 to 42 per min & with great effort. His left eye was quite black & closed and his scalp was all more or less bruised
His wounds were dressed with pure cold H20 & kept continually wet. He also had beef tea and brandy every hour until 1pm on the day of death when he was unable to swallow. He never was conscious & died from the effect of these two fractures followed by concussion.
Died Nov 15th 1884
At 2.40pm being in the Hospital for 18 hours.
GRHB 45/2/10 Case book of patients treated by Dr Duff, 1883 - 1887
Mary Gow, admitted 11 May 1892
Disease – fracture of fibula
Patient send in by Dr Mackay. She had been jumping & foot caught in a hole & she fell over on side but was able to walk a small bit after resting but she then fell & found herself unfit to walk owing to the pain.
On admittance she was found put up with a side splint & on chloroform. Examination by Dr G Mackay she was found to have got a simple fracture of fibula about 3 inches from lower end with a good deal of bruising over tibia.
Treatment – put in a Liston Mackintyre with hot fomentations.
23 May 1892 – doing well, no pain in limb but still some swollen.
30 May 1892 – put up in plaster of Paris
9 June 1892 – sent home in plaster