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Memories from the Early Days of Erskine

John Calder, author of the Vanishing Willows, first became acquainted with Erskine when he was only four years old.

Along with his sister and mother he travelled on the train from Gourock to Bishopton, to visit his father, who was one of the first patients of the newly founded hospital, Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors & Soldiers.

Mr Calder Senior was receiving treatment for an injury he had received whilst serving. Firstly as a volunteer for the Highland Light Infantry in the South African War and latterly as a Territorial soldier in the Great War of 1914.  He was being fitted for an artificial arm.

As a four year old John remembers vividly the bright blue hospital uniforms of his father’s fellow patients. However he had an even clearer recollection of the two artificial limbs his father was provided with. He remembered: “They hung on the back of the cupboard door in our home”.

It was to be another 35 or so years before John revisited the hospital. This time in the company of Maurice Chevalier who was appearing in the Kings Theatre in Glasgow performing his one man show.  John remembers: “Chevalier had been a solider of France and a POW in the first World War. After his visit he was enthusiastic in his praise of the both patients and staff”.

Another 20 years on, in 1976, and this time he visited in his capacity as a Daily Record columnist. He wrote: “I was writing a piece on the hospital's forthcoming 60th anniversary. Much had changed in the 60 years since the mansion had first opened its doors to the war shattered men who returned from the “shambles of the Somme and obscenities of Passchendaele.”

And John noted that despite a constant flow of changes and developments to the hospital once thing remained steadfast and unchanged and that was the fortitude of the patients.

To be continued .....


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