Glimpse into past of Aberdeen's Asylum By Louise Aitken

Some of the earliest medical records from the first city mental hospital have been revealed.

An annual report from the 19th century has shed some light on North-east patients admitted to the former Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum.

The historic archives come from a collection of records covering more than 100 hospitals and health organisations across the region from as early as 1739.

NHS Grampian archivist Fiona Musk oversees the collection and says the well-preserved documents, which are thought to be some of the most comprehensive in the country, provide fascinating reading.

"Not only do we see why people were admitted, but the treatment they received, and the spread of epidemics such as measles."

Grampian patients admitted for mental health care were split into two categories - physical and moral.

"The physical reasons for admission included old age, head injuries and intemperance. "While the moral reasons included anxiety, death of relatives and disappointment in love."

Some of the first finance reports for the health board reveal the treatments used back in the 19th century.

"We can see from these records that the hospital budget was used to purchase brandy and whisky, which was often given to patients as part of treatment."

Sifting through thousands of the records, which are kept at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Fiona has noted a few memorable cases.

"There are so many, but one in particular is the case of a local man called Alexander Sinclair. He was admitted to Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum on 19th April 1849, believed to have been suffering from vegetable poisoning. His case notes show that he believes the cause of the attack to have been drinking a decoction of herbs which he prescribed himself, but cannot give a very intelligible account of what the herbs were."

Another fascinating case concerned a female patient in the late 1840s, who was thought to be suffering from an ailment called 'abusive tea'.

"She was a quiet woman day-to-day, but she started suffering from paranoid delusions. The only reason the doctors could fathom at the time, was that she drank too much tea and that must be the cause of her madness. They always needed to find a reason, no matter how strange."

The asylum, which is now the site of the Royal Cornhill Hospital, opened in 1800.

It was known as Aberdeen Royal Mental Hospital in the 1920s but didn't officially change its name until 1933.

In the 1960s, it became Royal Cornhill Hospital.

Fiona says patients came to the facility from all walks of life.

"There were two classes recorded - pauper or private. "Private patients paid for their care and depending on how much they paid, they could even have their own servants.
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