Argyll & Bute Hospital Timeline


Prior to the Asylum being established in 1963, patients were placed in Inveraray Jail

Minutes of the Burgh of Inveraray

1835 – 43

“No provision for lunatics, who were placed in the Jail to the annoyance of the regular prisoners. No helpers or suitable accommodations for such a class of prisoners.

‘Normal’ prisoners required to be relieved of the immense trouble and intolerable annoyance occasioned by many lunatics and furious persons.”

Extracts from the reports of the General Board of Commissioners in Lunacy for Scotland


District of Argyll: Since last report, a site for the district asylum of Argyllshire has been secured on the estate Auchindarroch, in the neighbourhood of Lochgilphead. It contains about 45 acres of tolerable land and commands extensive views. It is held at an an annual feu-duty of £3,5s per acre.”


The second Medical superintendant Dr Rutherford suspended construction of walls & fences around the hospital since

“The patients showed no tendency to run away”


“Employ the Patient steadily in a manner suited to his rank and education, avoiding any occupation which is associated with his delusions, and indulging him in any not positively injurious to him, to which he may have taken a fancy.”

Extracts from Argyll & Bute Asylum Reports 1873 – 1882 and 1893-1902 and Extracts from PATIENTS' BOOKS containing annual reports by the Commissioners in Lunacy, eventually styled as the General Board of Control

These books contain written reports regarding visits made to the asylum by the Commissioner in Lunacy. In them are outlined his findings regarding how the asylum was being run, including hygiene, patient numbers, treatment of patients, work undertaken by patients and their general well-being. There is also information regarding the use of restraint and seclusion, the number of private patients, pauper patients, admissions, discharges and deaths. The financial accounts were also scrutinised as part of the inspection.

Early reports highlight a growing problem with overcrowding which is made known to the District Board. Various options were considered including the provision of additional accommodation. Despite these problems, there is a positive picture described throughout all of the reports. Expressing how well the asylum is run and how the patients were content, well nourished, well clothed and in many cases usefully employed in active work.

There were virtually no instances of the use of restraint or seclusion with the emphasis on treating patients humanely and with their best interests in mind, remembering also that at this time there was almost no beneficial medication.

Although some patients undoubtedly had unpleasant frightening experiences and were detained for lengthy periods, there is a powerful and consistent theme throughout that is one of care and proper treatment of patients often in difficult and crowded conditions. It would seem that the majority of patients were well fed, well clothed and generally content. The visits by the commissioner were frequent and thorough, and astonishingly allowed for an interview conversation with every single patient, bearing in mind this is when patient numbers were in the hundreds.


The beneficial influence of placing the patients in circumstances so greatly superior to those they have been accustomed to in their own homes is seen in their tranquil, and, so to speak, rational behaviour. There was an entire absence of those features which are still too frequently seen in Asylums.

The inmates learn to respect the comforts by which they are surrounded, and thus not only refrain from injuring the articles of furniture and decoration, but exert themselves to protect them to the utmost of their power.

As an example of the civilizing effects of good surroundings, it may be stated that the patient alluded to in former reports, as having been found utterly untractable in other Asylum, and as dirty and destructive in the highest degree, was on this occasion found seated in the best furnished and most highly decorated of the female day-rooms, quietly engaged in knitting. She is still far from sane, but the improvement in her condition is so great that recovery is not despaired of. But it would be wrong to ascribe the satisfactory condition of the patients entirely to the influence of comfortable and cheerful accommodation. The extensive industrial occupation in which they are led to engage, and the full and appropriate manner in which their physical wants are supplied, must receive a due share of the credit.

Another result has been that seclusion is rendered unnecessary Patients who might have required seclusion in closed Asylums are sent out into the open fields under the care of one, or, if necessary, of two attendants.

There are, however, several cases at present in the Asylum which are difficult to treat, and in which I have avoided seclusion rather than commence a practice, which if once inaugurated, might so easily be abused.

The ordinary farm and garden workers are employed from 9 a.m. to 12.40 p.m., and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, or, when the days are short, to 4.30, 5, or 5.30 p.m. The patients who live in the farm buildings begin work at 5.30 a.m., take an hour and a half for dinner (mid-day to 1.30 pm.), and end the work of the day at 6 p.m.

The farming operations continue to be carried on with a gratifying financial success, and with very manifest advantages to the patients, who are largely employed in healthy out-door work, which is varied and interesting in its character, and which proves a source of profit. The industrial occupation of the patients of both sexes remains a prominent and pleasing feature of the management.

The open-door system is being extended to the whole Asylum, and it is understood that the locks are in the course of being altered so that it will very soon be possible to pass from one end of the Asylum to the other without the use of a key.

The wards were clean, and in good order. The industrial occupation of the patients continues to receive great attention. The claiming of land, which affords a valuable outlet for the labour of the patients, and the ordinary work of the farm, are being steadily carried on. The chief dificulty here, as in all such institutions is experienced in finding suitable occupation for the men during bad weather, when the farm necessarily leaves a large number unemployed.

The amusements consisted of a bi-weekly dance, together with special entertainments at Christmas and the New-Year. These were attended by the great majority of the patients, and were much appreciated.

One of the most marked results of the system of sending all the patients in small parties to various occupations on different parts of the estate, is that airing courts are rendered unnecessary.

Difficulties in the way of procuring the necessary supply of bread has led to the conversion of the Turkish bath, which was not looked upon as of any use, into a bakehouse, and for the last three weeks all the bread used has been baked on the premise


It is advised that male attendants should not wear a uniform which is suggestive of a policeman or prison warder

The Lorne and Argyll dormitories have been connected by means of a bridge; and extension of the male department is in progress

The work is being carried out by the patients and staff, who are to do everything except the slater work.

The painter-attendant, who was appointed last year, is assisted by two, and sometimes three, patients, and has succeeded in overtaking all the necessary work without any hired assistance.

The shoemaker, with the aid of a few patients, has kept the boots and shoes of the patients in repair, and has, in addition, been able to make house-shoes for about 60 persons

A further section of the new road round the feu has been practically completed, and a circular walk, nearly a mile in length, is now available for the exercise of patients.

The laundry has been supplied with machinery, consisting of washing, ironing, and wringing machines, all driven by a 10-horse power engine


The importance of industrial occupation in the treatment of the insane has not been overlooked.

Till quite recently the women spun all the yarn required

Of late years, however, so few of the female patients admitted were found able to spin that it has become impossible any longer to carry on this branch of industry.


The Asylum is now more than full, overcrowded, and consequently the patients are more restless and excited than they used to be.

Telephonic communication has been instituted throughout the Asylum and has been found useful and convenient


The Dining Room, the Recreation Room, and the Larder are all too small. They can easily be enlarged at a moderate cost by the Asylum Staff.

An additional Washing Machine is about to be fitted up in the Laundry, and earthenware Washing Tubs are to replace the old wooden ones which are worn out.


The heating apparatus has been overhauled and improved, the House can now be warmed more efficiently and with greater economy than before

Telephonic communications has been extended to the East House and to all the Observation Dormitories, and one of Gent’s Electric Tell-tale Clocks has been fitted up in order to test the watchfulness of the night nurses and attendants.

At the farm-steading a byre for 40 cows and a large corn shed have been built by the patients and artisan attendants.

Several complaints were made chiefly referring to undue detention and to the quality of food supply. Those complaining of undue detention were all found to be insane and properly retained in the Asylum. The complaints regarding food were not substantiated on investigation, but some of them included objections to the colour of the tea and of the soup which probably pointed to the impurity of the water supply.


The female infirmary bathroom is being enlarged, modernised and furnished with new baths.

The East House which was formerly heated from an independent source is now supplied with steam for all purposes from the main boiler.

Eight new telephones have been fitted up, and the service may now be regarded as complete.

A commodious house for the storage of potatoes and other vegetables has been built by Asylum labour in the garden.


Attention has been drawn in a former report to the inadequacy and unsuitability of the present accommodation for the staff. A small dormitory, in which the beds are so overcrowded as almost to touch each other, is the accommodation given to 10 nurses.

One male attendant left immediately on being shown the unsatisfactory bedroom he was to occupy.

The married attendants are provided with suitable cottages, and the duration of their services is excellent.

It is worthy of note that all the extensions of the last ten years have been built by the staff and patients. These additions are valued at £8983, their cost was only £3427, and they provide accommodation for 102 persons.

In no asylum in Scotland have additions to accommodation been made at so small a cost to the ratepayers.

The sum of work annually done in the various departments is commendable. The small amount of land in connection with the Asylum continues a defect in the arrangement for the employment of the patients in healthy outdoor work.

The District Board are strongly urged……….to secure more land at as early a date as possible.


The Asylum was found, as usual, in excellent order, and uniformly clean in every department.

The furniture in the newer wards has all been made in the Asylum, and for comfort and elegance of appearance, will compare favourably with that in any modern institution.

It is learned with some apprehension, that the District Board are contemplating lighting the Asylum with Acetylene gas. Such a proceeding would be of the nature of an experiment, which, even if successful, would only have cheapness in cost to recommend it.

Of the 23 Royal and District Asylums in Scotland, 14 are already lighted by electricity…

This light is for asylums – the safest and most convenient, the most sanitary, and the only one which experience has yet shown to be in all respects superior to ordinary gas.


Owing to the high price paid for gas an undue economy is being exercised in the lighting of corridors. Some were in semi-darkness.

It is again recommended that the introduction of electric lighting be considered.

The new square of workshops is completed and constitutes a most useful addition to the asylum. The joiners shop is a large, well lighted, and well-ventilated room, and the patients working there do so under healthy conditions.

The District Board are negotiating for the lease of 25 acres of land lying contiguous to the asylum grounds.

Outdoor labour on land is one of the best curative agents in the treatment of insanity as it conduces to good bodily health and promotes tranquillity and contentment.

For the open air treatment of consumptives it is recommended that a French window is put into each sickroom.

The smallness of the supply of plants to the wards was noted.

This is due to the inadequacy of the present greenhouse, which is in a dilapidated condition. It is recommended that a new larger conservatory be provided, it could be built by the artisan attendants at a moderate cost.

The corridors are now well lighted by means of Blands incandescent lamps.

The means of alarm in case of fire have been increased by the instalment of telephonic communication.

The patients are at present employed in altering and extending the piggery.

A large amount of tastefully executed painting and decoration has recently been done in the wards and dormitories, and during the past season the whole of the outside woodwork of the institution has been painted and repaired.

These improvements and additions have been accomplished by the labour of patients and their workmanship and design appeared to be excellent.

As a means of treatment, work on a farm or garden and in the open air has been found to be most suitable, and it is mainly for these reasons that asylums of all hospitals are the most economically conducted.

The District Board has lost through the death of Mr Robert Hamilton, Mason, an old and valuable servant. For may years he had drawn the plans and supervised and carried out all the building operations and alterations at the asylum with out outside aid or advice.

The new kitchen is now in working order and the wooden temporary erection has been removed. The dining room is being renovated and repainted

The Asylum is in reception of 45 patients chargeable to the parish of Edinburgh, their removal being necessitated by the conversion of the latter asylum into a military hospital.

The Medical superintendant has patriotically volunteered for service in the Royal Army Medical Corps.


315 patients are stated to be regularly employed in useful and beneficial work, of whom 86 are employed in farm and garden work.

A room has also been set apart for young mentally defective and demented patients where they are retained to hand work on the lines of a ‘kindergarten’ school. This effort is very pleasing, and it shows initiative and resouce in the medical supervision which deserves and promises to meet with success.


It is an evidence of the humane methods of treatment in vogue that there has been no use of restraint or seclusion.

It is recorded with satisfaction that the District Board have purchased the Farm of East and West Fernoch, and the Druim Hill extending in all to about 440 acres.


The work done by the patients in converting parts of the coal store into an engine room is most praise worthy.


There has been no restraint nor seclusion in the institution since 1917 and in the period under review no case of suicide has taken place.


One man while working in the grounds made his escape but was brought back in 3 hours.


No provision is made for the special care of the mentally defective throughout the Counties of Argyll and Bute. A mentally defective boy of 3 years and 9 months is an inmate of the institution.

It must have a very bad effect on the recoverable mental cases to see such a child and other mentally defectives constantly about them.


One man made the unusual complaint that rats had been eating his coat buttons. It transpired that the buttons were made of a dried milk composition and that rats had gained access to them. Immediate steps are being taken to deal with the rats


Number of elderly persons is a great tax on the wards of the hospital type and makes the task of caring for the more acutely mentally ill very much more difficult.


Further inspection of this hospital allows one to appreciate how complicated it is in structure with an extraordinary variety of levels, floors, passages and additions.

The staff are working at a definite disadvantage compared with the staff of hospitals which are more recently built.


The position of the employed patient is not always clearly appreciated as it might be. Relatives and friends sometimes and not unnaturally wonder how it can be that a patient is considered fit to assist one of the staff and yet is not considered well enough for discharge.

The weekly dances were held throughout the winter.

The Bowling Green has now been constructed and will be an excellent recreational addition available for both patients and staff. It is noteworthy and a source of satisfaction that the legacy was left to the mental hospital.


The ‘strong’ dresses used for patients on the female side who are destructive of their clothing…seemed to me to be unnecessarily conspicuous.

Thereafter, on the 28th August last, no less than 200 additional inmates were admitted from the Glasgow District Asylum, Gartloch, under arrangements made for the emergency evacuation of the establishment.

The existing situation is incompatible with the restoration of a reasonable minimum of comfort for the present inmates

In the event of any outbreak of infectious disease in the establishment, such conditions are likely to give rise to considerable difficulties in its administration.


It was noted that among those confined to bed were 5 cases of tuberculosis. This is not perhaps a large number but in view of the impossibility of isolating these cases under overcrowded conditions and the ventilating difficulties inherent in the ‘Black-out’, must be regarded with some concern.

Summary of Notes from the years 1941-46

It is observed that depleted staff, the complicated layout of the building, small dayrooms and narrow irregular passages, make for difficulties in supervision and cleanliness.

Due to the evacuation of patients from Glasgow, Aros had to be used for the overflow of mental patients instead of the planned senile unit.

Increased cultivation of the land to ensure plentiful milk, potatoes and vegetables.

Patients continue to be employed and many show special interest in the work they are doing.

The emphasis on outdoor activities and extensive parole for both male and female is due to the sound therapeutic policy on the part of the Medical Superintendent Dr Annandale.

The recreation hall is being used as a female dormitory so community amusements are not possible. There is no wireless anywhere and the lack of it is keenly felt by a majority of patients. Some of the attendants bring in their own sets, a kindness much appreciated by the patients. Although the female staff are having to work 54 hours a week they are doing so cheerfully and willingly.

In 1944 one wireless is installed.

By 1946 X-rays of suspected fractures are not possible, the nearest facilities being Glasgow or Oban, rendering them a most undesirable and often impossible procedure to perform.

Womens' clothing has much improved due to a generous gift of clothing from the WVS.

In 1939 there were 47 female nurses, now only 28 working a 60 hour week. Domestic staff reduced from 19 to 8. Were it not for the faithful and loyal service given it is difficult to see how the hospital could have carried on.


The fall in the total number of the inmates from 592 to 440 is largely accounted for by the return to Gartloch of the patients evacuated during the war.

Since the last visit wireless has been installed throughout the hospital. this should not only help greatly to brighten the lives of the patients, but should be of real value in rehabilitation and adjustment to normal living.”

The close association between the life of the hospital and the life of the town of Lochgilphead sustained by the tolerance and understanding of the townspeople is now a well established tradition which has proved beneficial.


Treatment is planned on modern lines. Electrical therapy is given not only to inpatients, but also to outpatients thus obviating the necessity in some cases for admission to hospital.