Inveresk Musselburgh | Healthcare

GP services in Musselburgh overlapped into Edinburgh and East Lothian; being outwith a general hospital area, GPs were accustomed to dealing with serious illness and injury, time-consuming home maternity confinements and hospital deliveries at the 14-bed Musselburgh Maternity Unit in the old Fever Hospital, Park Lane.

Two large partnership practices were at 17 Bridge Street (Drs Clelland, Laing, Aitcheson, Hutchison – later Blyth, Maguire, George, Whittle) and at 22 Bridge Street (Drs Cochrane, Armour, Lutton, Watson, Miller – later Johnstone, Hind, Fisken, Pearson). 12 Bridge Street was established later as another group practice. Single-handed practices were in Eskside (McSwan), Dalrymple Loan (Doherty) and Levenhall (Binnie).

District nurses were directly controlled by the Medical Officer of Health and later allocated to individual practices. Notably Nurse Ingram was the district midwife for 33 years.

Support services

  • The local Training Medical Officer – Dr Armour, later Lutton.
  • Chemists: Co-op, Sidey, Steedman (North High Street), Harley and Harper, Gray, Stenhouse, Boots (High Street).
  • Dentists: Roger, Hunter (now Campbell & Timmons) on Bridge Street; Robertson on High Street.
  • Social Work: Prior to the 1972 Act the work was done by all GPs, local Registrar (Mr Love) and Children’s Officer (Miss Sinclair).
  • Assistant Police Surgeon GPs: 22 Bridge Street.
  • Psychiatry Services: Rosslynlee and Royal Edinburgh Hospitals.
  • Geriatric Services: Wedderburn House, Inveresk for infirm and chronic sick (60 beds).
  • Local GP care. Closed 1980. Old Age Pensioners’ Club established in old Fire Station 1960, later transferring to nearby Hollies, High Street.
  • Hospital – Edenhall Ministry of Pensions (160 beds) was gradually phased into an NHS second line hospital. GP pressure gained access for outpatients and X-rays.
  • Health Centre: Eskside Surgery built by GPs, 1988, but retaining two separate large practices under one roof.

Musselburgh had an average age population and particular problems with pneumonias, tuberculosis and industrial diseases (mining, fishing, wireworks, paper mill). In the 1950s and 60s, GP surgery hours were 9-10.30am and 4.30-6.30pm but often went on after 7.30pm because all patients were always seen, without appointment. GPs routinely visited 20-40 house calls each daily, and more during epidemics. Few patients had cars or telephones. Call houses operated in Newcraighall, Niddrie, Danderhall, Newton Village, Whitecraig and Wallyford. Patients requiring house calls wrote their names on a slate. Unpaid GPs’ wives answered telephone calls and staffed the surgeries but eventually receptionists were employed and appointment systems initiated, gradually creating consultation delays and fewer home visits.

Surgeries stocked medicines and equipment for emergencies, night and weekend work. Fairly extensive surgical procedure was the norm, in the days when the ambulance services were poor – single manned and staff untrained.

GPs carried, and often used, dangerous drugs. Medical crime was unheard of but times change. In the 1950s small children often stood and opened car doors for home visiting GPs and said ‘gie us a burl in your motor doctor’. GPs’ cars are always locked in 2000 and without drugs or saleable equipment or prescription pads.

Older patients find it worrying and sad. It was never that way in the past. Younger generations of doctors will never know first hand of the wonderful rapport that existed between patients and doctors and particularly of the time honoured expression ‘come away in doctor’ when the word trust meant what it said.

Dr Clifford Lutton MB ChB MRCGP


I was born at the original Simpson’s at Tollcross end of Lauriston Place, Edinburgh. Giving a new baby coins was still a tradition during my early adult life but I didn’t see this done when I moved to England.

Margaret Urwin, late 1940s

The Red House Home for Destitute Boys was founded in Leith Avenue in the early 1870s by the Rev Gavin S. Muir, and moved to the Red House in 1874. This independent home accepted boys aged 5-10 on admission and these were either orphans or children of parents who could not afford to bring them up. Some children only went to the home on a temporary basis. The children went to Fisherrow and Musselburgh grammar schools, and used the gym facilities at Loretto school. There were also links to the Barnardo’s Home in Corstorphine, Edinburgh. In 1958 a Red House boy, Fred Forrest was Musselburgh’s Honest Lad and visited the home as part of his official duties.

In December 1959 there were 33 boys and 22 of these had been placed there by local authorities because their parents were not able to look after them (Musselburgh News 1960 April); resident numbers were at times as high as 50.

Changes in social work policy – placement in foster care or even supported care in their own homes was preferred to placing children in a residential home – meant referrals to homes were decreasing and eventually the Red House Home closed in March 1986 (Musselburgh News 1986 March 7); the building was sold the following September to a developer. The home was converted in the 1990s to flats.

In 2000 work continued under the Red House Home Trust; the trust’s aims are:

To promote education and training of young people under the age of 22 who are in need of care, living in deprived circumstances or otherwise require assistance in adjusting to independent living and grants are given to Musselburgh and East Lothian youth organisations to aid their work with youth groups.