One of the first challenges facing the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers hospital was the shortage of artificial limbs in Britain. Sir William Macewen was adamant that the hospital would design and produce its own limbs with input from the patients. He enlisted the help of several Glasgow shipbuilding firms including Yarrow & Co Ltd whose owner, Sir Harold Yarrow served on the Executive Committee. A Limbs Committee of expert engineers and surgeons was appointed for the making, standardisation and improvement of the artificial limbs, with Yarrow as Convenor and Professor Archibald Barr, of Barr & Stroud Ltd, as Sub-convenor.
Limb manufacturing workshops were established on the River Clyde where trained craftsmen designed and produced the first Erskine Limbs. Production moved from the shipyards to the hospital in late 1917.
Sir William believed that patients should be offered vocational training as a part of their aftercare and recovery. It was decided to establish training workshops at the hospital in various trades to give the men choice. A building on the estate was divided into three sections. One was devoted to artificial limbs, another equipped with two weaving looms, and a third with up-to-date wood working machines, a turning lathe and planing machine. Basket making, a staple product of the Erskine Workshops throughout the 20th century, was also taught.
Soon there was a range of training options including hairdressing, commercial training, tailoring and French Polishing. Agricultural or smallholder’s courses provided training in market gardening, bee-keeping, pig and poultry rearing and agricultural carpentry.
By 1920 the workshops were expanded to provide increased space for 140 trainees. Throughout the twentieth century the workshops were an important function in the care provided by the hospital, offering men interesting and financially rewarding work.