The fascinating history of Sunnyside Royal Hospital

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NHS TAYSIDE is holding an exhibition at Montrose Museum to celebrate the 230-year history of Sunnyside Royal Hospital in the lead up to the transfer of mental health services to Stracathro.

On display at the exhibition, which runs from Saturday, July 30, until Saturday, September 24, are a number of artefacts showing the history of the hospital and charting the daily lives of staff and patients over the years.

The exhibit includes medical equipment, plans, papers and uniforms as well as portraits and display boards about the developments in the field and the key figures involved locally such as founder Susan Carnegie and Dr James Howden.

Much of the collection was put together by the late Dr Kenneth Keddie, a former consultant psychiatrist who established the Sunnyside museum in the 1980s.

NHS Tayside has brought together artefacts from the museum collection, the hospital and the Dundee archives for this exhibition.

Three talks will be given over the course of the exhibition run.

They are: ‘The history of psychiatry’ on Thursday, August 11, at 7.30pm; ‘The present and future of psychiatry’ on Thursday, September 22, at 7.30pm; and ‘The history of Sunnyside’ with the date to be confirmed.

The head of mental health services for Angus Community Health Partnership, Bill Troup, said: “With this exhibition we hope to share some of the stories that have shaped the lives of those working and living in Sunnyside and the local community, and to look back over the contribution that the hospital has made to local mental health care over the last 230 years.”

Sunnyside is the second site for the local psychiatric hospital in Angus.

The original Montrose Asylum, which was the first asylum in Scotland, was funded by public subscription established by local woman Susan Carnegie and opened in 1781. Expanding patient numbers led to the purchase of a new site in Hillside and the current hospital buildings opened in 1857.

The site was further developed with Carnegie Clinic and the hospital block, as well as a number of villas to house patients, added over the years.

Notable patients include the father of Arthur Conan Doyle who was a talented artist, and Adam Christie who sculpted the Hillside Robert Burns plaque. Some of Adam’s sculptures are on display in the exhibition.

From the 1970s, advances in psychiatric care and greater community resources, including supported accommodation and the set up of three community mental health teams in the 1990s, led to reduced patient numbers and the closure of some of the buildings on the Sunnyside site.

The museum exhibition is part of a series of events to mark the closure of Sunnyside, which also includes a service of Thanksgiving at Hillside Church on Friday, August 19, and a summer fete in the hospital grounds on Saturday, August 20.

The new mental health facilities at Stracathro are expected to be handed over to NHS Tayside in late October, with patients and staff transferring from Sunnyside a month later.

The new development at Stracathro will replace the existing facilities at Sunnyside.

Along with the development at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth it is part of a £95 million project to provide state-of-the-art facilities for adult and older inpatients, out-patients and day patients from across Tayside.