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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


298 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Infirmary Street. In that year a fishing company was dissolved, and the partners were pcevailed upon to assign part of their stock to promote this benevolent institution, which the state of the poor in Edinburgh rendered so necessary, as hitherto the members of the Royal College of Physicians had given both medicines and advice to them gratis. A subscription for the purpose was at the same time urged, and application made to the General Assembly to recommend a subscription in all the parishes under its jurisdiction ; but Arnot records, to the disgrace of the clergy of that day, that ?ten out of eleven utterly disregatded it.? Aid came in from lay purses, and at the second meeting of contributors, the managers were elected, the rules of procedure adjusted, and in 1729, on the 6th of August, the Royal Infirmary-ohe of the grandest and noblest institutions in the British Isles, was opened, but in a very humble fashionin a small house hired for the sick poor, hear the old University-a fact duly recorded in the Month0 Cirronicle of that year, on the 18th of the month. This edifice had been formerlyused by Dr. Black, Professor of Chemistry, as the place for delivering his lectures, says Kincaid, but this must have been before his succession to the chair. It was pulled down when the South Bridge was built. Six physicians and surgeons undertook to give, as before, medicines and attendance gratis ; and the total number of patients received in the first year amounted to only thirty-five, of whom nineteen were dismissed as cured. The six physicians, whose names deserve to be recorded with honour, were John &?Gill, Francis Congalton, George Cunninghame, Robert Hope, Alexander Munro, and John Douglas. Such was the origin of the Edinburgh Infirmary, which, small as it was at first, was designed from its very origin as a benefit to the whole kingdom, no one then dreaming that a time would come when every considerable . county town would have a similar hospital.? In the year 1736, by a royal charter granted by George II., at Kensington palace, on the 25th of August, the contributors were incorporated, and they proposed to rear a building calculated to accommodate 1,700 patients per annum, allowing six weeks? residence for each at an average ; and after a careful consideration of plans a commencement was made with the east wing of the present edifice, the foundation-stone of which was laid on the 2nd of August, 1738, by George Mackenzie, the gallant Earl of Cromarty, who was then Grand Master Mason of Scotland, and was afterwards attainted for leading 400 of his clan at the battle of Falkirk. The Royal College of Physicians attended as a body on this occasion, and voted thirty guineas towards the new Infirmary. This portion of the building was, till lately, called the Medical House. Supplies of money were promptly rendered. The General Assembly-with a little better success-again ordered collections to be made, and the Established clergy were now probably spurred on by the zeal of the Episcopalians, who contributed to the best of their means; so did various other public bodies and associations. Noblemen and gentlemen of the highest position, merchants, artisans, farmers, carters-all subscribed substantially. Even the most humble in the ranks of the industrious, who could not otherwise aid the noble undertaking, gave their personal services at the building for several days gratuitously. A Newcastle glass-making company glazed the whole house gratis ; and by personal correspondence money was obtained, not only from England and Ireland, but from other parts of Europe, and even from America, as Maitland records ; but this would be, of course, from Scottish colonists or exiles. So the work of progression went steadily on, until the present great quadrangular edifice on the south side of Infirmary Street was complete. It - consists of a body and two projecting wings, all four storeys in height. The body is 210 feet long, and in its central part is thirty-six feet wide ; in the end portions, twenty-four. Each wing is seventy feet long, and twenty-four wide. The central portion of the edifice is ornate in its architecture, having a range of Ionic columns surmounted by a Palladiau cornice, bearing aloft a coved roof and cupola. Between the columns are two tablets having the inscriptions, ?1 was naked and ye clothed me ;? I was sick and ye visited me ;? and between these, in a recess, is, curiously enough, a statue of George 11. in a Roman costume, carved in London. The access to the different floors is by a large staircase in the centre of the building, so spacious as to admit the transit of sedan chairs, and by two smaller staircases at each end. The floors are portioned out into wards fitted up with beds for the patients, and there are smaller rooms for nurses and medical attendants, with others for the manager, for consultations, and students waiting. Two of the wards devoted to patients whose cases are deemed either remarkable or instructive, are set apart for clinical lectures attended by students of medicine, and delivered by the professors of clinical surgery in the adjacent University. Within the attic in the centre of the building is a spacious theatre, capable of holding above 200 Many joiners gave sashes to the windows.
Volume 4 Page 298
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