Meadowbank Library, Polmont

20150323_140608Talk – Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Serbia – Evaluation summary
Meadowbank Library, Polmont

The talk was organised to mark the last day of the ‘Our Area in the First World War’ community exhibition being on display at Meadowbank Library. Our speaker is Alan Cumming, founder of www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk, spoke about his research into the fascinating history of The Scottish Women’s Hospital for Overseas Service.
The Scottish Women’s Hospital was set up by Dr Elsie Inglis early on in after war was declared. Over the course of the war fourteen medical units were deployed to serve in France, Serbia, Corsica, Salonika, Romania, Russia and Malta. This included doctors, nurses, cooks, ambulance-drivers, orderlies and relief-workers. Their presence was particularly welcome in Serbia where they are remembered to this day. Several women from the local area are known to have served in the Scottish Women’s Hospital, including Margaret Crowe from Laurieston; who features as part of the Our Area in the First World War community Exhibition.
The event audience were gathered around the large screen TV in the corner of the library and were welcomed by Meadowbank librarian Margo Johnston. Laura Macdonald, heritage learning assistant for Falkirk Community Trust then gave a brief introduction to the community exhibition and explained how the ‘Our Area’ research had crossed over with the ‘Scottish Women’s Hospitals’ project. Alan Cumming then introduced his project and explained its origin. He showed a film that he had made, recounting his research and travels to France and Serbia to visit the sites and graves of the women involved.
The reaction from the audience was overwhelmingly positive as well as emotional. One audience member, who was a relative of a Scottish nurse who had served in Serbia, was moved to tears to have her story shared and remembered in such a way. Several people asked for a copy of the film shown, so that they could share the stories with their friends and community groups. Two of the audience members admitted that they had seen the talk and film at a previous event, but had learned and enjoyed so much that they had decided to attend again. After the short Q&A that closed the talk, several people commented that they were shocked that they had never heard of this organisation before, or had any idea of the work that they had done. The conclusion was reached that the most important thing that we can do in these centenary years is to learn and share as many of these stories as possible. Alan explained that the project had already paid for the renovation of Elsie Inglis’ headstone in Edinburgh and the audience also seemed very keen to contribute to the fund that www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk has started to refurbish the headstones of several other nurses who did not survive the war.

Laura MacDonald

Remembering the Great War in Skye and Lochalsh

An Cogadh Mòr: Remembering the Great War in Skye and Lochalsh

Conference – Friday 15 May 2015

Programme

Chair: Dr Neil MacGillivray

Prof Ewen Cameron                      ‘The Highlands and Islands on the eve of War’

Richard Galley                                 ‘Bedford’s Highlanders, 1914-15’

Kingussie Camanachd Club          ‘Kingussie and Skye: Shinty Rivals – War Comrades’

Alan Cumming                                ‘The Women who went to War’: The Scottish Women’s Hospitals

Prof Marjory Harper                     ‘Symbolism and Substance: The Highlands, World War I and Emigration’

Murdo Beaton & Graham Ross   ‘Memorials – Remembering our Fallen’

British Residence in Belgrade named after Elsie Inglis

On the occasion of the WW1 Centenary and the International Women’s Day, Ambassador Keefe named the Residence in Belgrade “Elsie Inglis House”.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador Denis Keefe and the President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic revealed a plaque at the entrance into the Residence.

Elsie Inglis House

Dr Elsie Inglis was a British doctor, member of the suffragist movement and humanitarian worker, who participated in the foundation of the “Scottish Women’s Hospitals”. During World War One, she was active in helping Serbian army in hospitals in Kragujevac, Mladenovac, Lazarevac, Kruševac, Valjevo, but also Thessaloniki, Corsica, Odessa. She died in November 1917, immediately upon her return to Britain from German captivity.

Guests at the reception on the occasion were representatives of institutions, municipalities and organisations with whom the Embassy cooperated during Centenary commemorative events.

Elsie Inglis

Before unveiling the plaque, Ambassador Keefe emphasised that Elsie Inglis was one of more than six hundred British women who came to Serbia as part of the Allied medical missions.

Ambassador Keefe concluded:

Elsie Inglis was one of the first women in Scotland who had finished high education and was a pioneer of medicine. She fought energetically against prejudice, for social and political emancipation of women in Britain. She was also a tireless volunteer, courageous organiser of the Scotish Women’s Hospitals and a dedicated humanitarian. Unfortunately Elsie Inglis didn’t live long enough to see the triumph of some of her ideas, but she has had a tremendous influence on social trends in our country. In Scotland she became a doctor, in Serbia she became a saint.

Event Talk – Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Serbia

To mark the last day of the ‘Our Area in the First World War’ community exhibition being on display at Meadowbank Library, Polmont, join us for a special talk on the fascinating history of The Scottish Women’s Hospital for Overseas Service.

The Scottish Women’s Hospital was set up by Dr Elsie Inglis early on in after war was declared. Over the course of the war fourteen medical units were deployed to serve in France, Serbia, Corsica, Salonika, Romania, Russia and Malta. This included doctors, nurses, cooks, ambulance-drivers, orderlies and relief-workers. Their presence was particularly welcome in Serbia where they are remembered to this day.

Several women from the local area are known to have served in the Scottish Women’s Hospital, including Margaret Crowe from Laurieston; who features as part of the Our Area in the First World War community Exhibition which will also be on display in Meadowbank Library.

Our speaker is Alan Cumming, founder of www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk, will be talking about his research and will show a film based on his findings.

Meadowbank Library, Polmont

Mon 23rd March 2015, 2pm. Free but Ticketed. Please call the box office to book.

Forgotten Heroines

FORGOTTEN HEROINES

forgotten_heroines

The diaries of Ysabel Birkbeck, Ambulance Driver on the Romanian Front, 1916-17

edited by Douglas Gordon Baxter and Marsali Taylor.

When Dr Elsie Inglis offered the War Office two front-line units staffed entirely by women, she was told to ‘go home and sit still’.  Her reply was to create the Scottish Women’s Hospital for Foreign Service, funded through the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Ysabel Birkbeck, author of these diaries, drove an ambulance for Inglis’ last field hospital, attached to the First Serbian Division.

The drivers of Forgotten Heroines show how World War I was the turning-point in Edwardian women’s emancipation.  The Buffs, as they called themselves, were mostly ‘surplus’ county daughters who’d resigned themselves to a life of good works and flower arranging.  This was the most interesting time they’d ever had, and they made the most of it.  They cut their hair short, wore breeches, and were reproved by Dr Inglis for their swearing.  There were balls and excursions between aeroplane bombardments, and they learned to flirt in French, German and Russian.  While the army retreated, they continued to ferry the wounded from the front line; their Model T Fords were the last vehicles to cross the Danube. They inched through marshes by moonlight, and stuck in wheel-deep mud so often that all chauffeurs became known as ‘shovers’.  They were often hungry, ill, exhausted and afraid … but the only time they were bored was when a male mechanic was sent from England to take over the cars they’d coaxed and fixed themselves for three months.  Birkbeck’s diaries show how their intelligence, endurance and courage were tested, and how they thrived on the challenge.

Birkbeck’s story is brought to life by numerous photographs and her own lively paintings and line-drawings.  Paperback, 212 pages, illust. throughout.

Forgotten Heroines is privately printed. Copies are available at £9.99, including postage, through e-mailing marsali.baxter@virgin.net

About Marsali Taylor:  Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland’s scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women’s suffrage in Shetland. She’s also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  She is the author of four Shetland-set detective novels.

www.marsalitaylor.co.uk