Auchterhouse Community

Sidlaw Sanatorium

Background to the Auchterhouse tuberculosis hospital

Aerial View of Sanatorium

2nd May 1899 - A public meeting was held in the Town Hall Dundee. 48 people attended including councillors, ministers and doctors. The meeting was called "for the purpose of considering and devising means for the establishment and maintenance of a sanatorium for the treatment and cure of consumption."

Provost Moncur gifted £10,000 originally but agreed later to meet the increased costs, up to £25,000 for a 30 bed hospital. The Sanatorium Organisation Committee was formed. It was recorded that "a sanatorium for the treatment of consumptive cases is sorely needed in Dundee".

24 January 1900 - Meeting reported that "Lord Airlie had offered the committee a free gift of a site at Auchterhouse measuring fully 21 acres and in every way suitable for the erection of a sanatorium".

William Alexander, Bank St, Dundee, was appointed architect at a fee of 4% of the cost of the work. His plans were approved in May 1900.

The Earl of Airlie's gift of land was recorded in the Register of Sasines for the County of Forfar on 25 July 1900. It was signed by him in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 28 days before he died in battle near Pretoria. Provost Moncur paid a further £5,000 to cover costs.

The Brae

Sanatorium in Colour

A road from the village to the site was built by John Gray and Son - 1288 yards long. It was finished at the end of March 1901.

Preparations for beginning the building of the Sanatorium are being actively carried forward. The road leading from the village is approaching completion, and the steam roller is putting on the finishing touches. The foundations for the building are being dug, and the planting of young trees on the ground surrounding is now going on.

  • A quarry was opened which had a good supply of excellent building stone. "A railway has been laid down for the conveyance of the stones from the quarry to any part of the buildings".
  • It was difficult to get workers as there were no lodgings to be had, so a hut was erected to house 24 men on site, along with a stable.
  • Tree planting and a wire fence around the property were commenced at the same time as the building work.
  • A total of 50 men worked on the site.
  • Heating apparatus cost £645 Cooling apparatus cost £101.7s 6d.
  • A vegetable garden was proposed and a site approved.
  • Some discussion about the conveyance of the boiler, supplied by James Carmichael, from the station to the site. The boiler was 7'6" x22' and weighed 12.5 tons (conveyed between May-July 1902).

Sanitorium with people outside

The Dundee Sanatorium which has been erected near the village of Auchterhouse, was formally opened by the Countess of Airlie yesterday. The function was brilliant and interesting. The weather fortunately proved fine in that the proceedings were conducted chiefly in the open air, took place under the most pleasant conditions. There was a large party from Dundee, while members of many county families from the surrounding district were also present.

The cavalcade as it drove through Dundee and Lochee caused quite a stir in the streets, and evoked the liveliest interest amongst the inhabitants. The party gathered within the extensive grounds of the building shortly after one o'clock.

The work of laying out the grounds was far enough advanced to give an idea of what they will be when completed, and the visitors were thus enabled to admire the skill with which the tough hillside has been adapted for its intended purpose.

The buildings themselves were beautifully decorated with flags, banners and flowers, and a number of the rooms were furnished so as to show the appointments of the institution.

Those taking the principal part in the opening ceremony were accommodated on the terrace, while the others were seated on what is intended to be the lawn.

As to the possible usefulness of this Institution which has been set apart today for this beneficent purpose there can only be one opinion. The establishment of institutions of this kind has been very much encouraged by the unanimous approbation of the medical profession all over the country.
That this disease is no longer regarded by the medical profession as either hereditary or as incurable - hence the establishment of these sanatoria all over the kingdom - is a circumstance that is calculated to bring an element of hope to those sufferers, and be a source of satisfaction to their relatives and friends.

The Institution so auspiciously opened today enters upon its course of usefulness and will shelter and bring healing to very many of our afflicted sisters and brothers. That the sanatorium is splendidly situated and admirably equipped for the work it is expected to do will be present to all your minds. The site, as most of you are aware, is the gift of the late Lord Airlie, and was one of the last of the many proofs of his interest in the people of Dundee - a gift which, apart from its considerable monetary value, was enhanced by the cordiality and readiness with which it was bestowed.

No better, and no more desirable situation could have been obtained on any part of the Airlie estate, or for that matter on any other estate within measurable distance of Dundee. It possesses several valuable advantages so necessary for an institution of the kind.

There are the familiar Sidlaw Hills, sheltering the Institution from the cutting north wind and from the cold and trying east wind; there are sheltering woods in the rear, with delightful walks - a health asset which cannot be overestimated. The view to the front of the Institution as beautifully open and uninterrupted - an invaluable advantage having regard into the importance of an abundance of sunlight in the healing of the disease.

You will be willing to acknowledge that there are few lovelier prospects. "People ought certainly not be impatient in regard to this treatment. They ought not to expect results too soon. I am told it takes two, three or four years before we can expect any marked change." (Duke of Argyll)


The first Medical Superintendant was appointed at £250 per year - Dr Macfie, formerly of the Liverpool Sanatorium.

The first matron was Violet Wilson. She received £70 per year. She was formerly from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London.

Fireman Peter Struthers from Aberdeen was appointed at 21s per week and free house, coal and light, to look after the boiler, garden, joinery and window cleaning and 'otherwise to make himself generally useful'.


The first admissions took place on 11th March 1903 and included the following:

Douglas Freeland, Carnoustie paid £2/2s per week
Alexander MacNicoll, Dundee paid £2/2s per week
May MacDonald Brown, Dundee paid £2/2s per week
Jeannie Robertson, Dundee paid £1.00 per week
Netta Ross, Kirriemuir paid £1.10s per week
Peter Hean Sellars, Dundee paid 10s per week
Thomas Mackie Ness, Dundee paid 15s per week
Alexander Rea, Glasgow paid £1.05s per week
James Suttie, Brechin paid £2/2s per week

Visitors were allowed on Saturday afternoons between 3pm and 6pm.

All applicants offering £2/2s were to be admitted if passed by the Medical Superintendent and all other cases were to be considered by the committee.

By 1903 the total expenditure on the building was £20,764 12s 1d - all of which was paid for by Ex Provost Moncur


Telephone line established.

Letter from Albert Institute asking for stone cists that were found. (See archaeology section)

Jan 1904

The name was changed from The Dundee Sanatorium to The Sidlaw Sanatorium.

The County Council was asked to repair, put in order and take over the roadway leading from
Auchterhouse village to the Sanatorium, on payment of £959.10s

During the first full year of operations 87 patients were admitted, 67 of whom were discharged, 1 died and 19 were still in residence. The average stay was just under 4 months.

11 November 1904

Adverts in BMJ, Lancet, Herald and Scotsman

February 1905

Mr W R Sharp gifted an Albion motor car to the society for the transportation of patients from Auchterhouse station to the society.

May 1905

Medical Supt. Macfie resigned. He was replaced by A K Traill

August 1905

Lord Provost Moncur died. He left an additional £5,000 in his will for the Sanatorium

28 March 1906

Opening of the pavilion paid for by Mr Weinberg. Had billiards and bagatelle tables.


A separate female pavilion was built, paid for by Miss Symers


An extra 8 acres southwards was leased from the Airlie Estate to help overcome drainage and water supply problems

From 1907 the sanatorium was making a substantial yearly loss of £500 - £700. The annual reports repeatedly say that the sanatorium was endowed for the purpose of helping the working classes of Dundee, but that it was not possible to do this due to the need for paying patients to contribute to the costs of the establishment.


Mr Traill resigned

Dec 1909

Due to financial problems, the Directors agreed to close the sanatorium at the end of the following year. Sir James Caird offered £1,000 annually for 10 years if DRI would take it over. DRI agreed and the transfer was completed in October 1910. 20 beds were to be reserved for adult pulmonary tuberculosis

Moving from the administration of the hospital to what the patients themselves thought of the establishment:

Christmas number of the Sidlaw Echo
Mon Dec 31st 1906
(2d No. 5)


The Christmas hangings were good but why oh why was mistletoe left out in the scheme of decorations? It has been a custom from time immemorial to see a bunch of mistletoe suspended amongst the holly. It is I'm afraid a sign of the times for it prophesises that some years hence men and women shall wear muzzles like puppies to prevent them meeting a rosy life. Germs again.


There was a patient named H...
Who for walking was a terrible glutton.
He ran up Kinpurnie
And on the return journey
Ate a shoulder and leg of mutton.
There was another patient named H...
Who was supported by a solitary button
When that one gave way
Which it did one fine day
He exclaimed "my goodness that's rotten".
What a busy people we are here in the San! Even the representative of the law is not allowed a total relaxation from duty. He has been posted on duty in the subway several times lately for the purpose of assisting distressed lackies up the incline.
Patient: "I suppose you often go to town?"
Sister: "Not very, it's such a very long walk to the station."
Patient: " But don't you go in the motor?"
Sister: "Oh no, the motor is not for that, it's for bringing up parcels and patients not things like that."

Men outside the Sanatorium

Song with apologies to W.S. Gilbert Esq and Patience
If you're anxious to belong to the atmospheric throng
A fresh air fiend complete
You must rid yourself of germs
On the easiest of terms
And think the job a treat.
You must walk upon the Brae in whatever kind of day
As if a pleasant joke.
The weather doesn't matter, though you're teeth are all a-chatter
When out your head you poke.
And everyone will say, as you walk your breezy way
If bareheaded folk walk out on a day which scares tile-covered me
Why what a very singularly polar folki'm bold folk must be.
The eloquent in praise of the lack of ruddy rays
Which have long since shunned the great
And convince'em if you can that the breezes of the San
And those of sinless Eden's happy state
Of course you will poo poo the believers in a flue
And instantly expel it from your room
For heat is but a trick of some truly ancient Nick
Who's spoiling for a carbonaceous fight
And everyone will say as you walk your cooler way if that's not cool enough for him which is cold enough for me
Why what a very fridgidated kind of crowd this kind of crowd must be.
The inner thermamatic passion of a scientific fashion must excite your lovely souls. A Fahrenheit attachment on a Centigrade catchment and flirtation with the poles.
To the world of coal and coker they'll think you've got a joker
And far removed from weakness of man.
If you walk out coat and hatless and seem at all the fatless
Everyone will say as you walk your healthy way
If they're content with a clinical love which would certainly not suit me
Why what an odd particularly regulated crowd this regulated world must be.

Christmas Festivities

Christmas Day was the day of days. Postman arrived in the morning and as is superfluous to add he was heavily welcomed. At 5 o' clock we gathered for dinner and such a gathering and such a hall.
The elite of the Sanatorium were there. The dining hall wore a festive look which is only seen on state occasions. From rafter to rafter were ropes of evergreens and holly from which were suspended brilliant Chinese lanterns shedding their subdued light down on the goodly company in evening dress and dresses light and airy.

The windows were closed for one night in the year. The tables were set in the form of the letter E who were prettily decorated reflecting great credit on somebody's good taste.

The menu card was printed as follows:
Game soup
Roast turkey
Roast suckling pig
mashed potatoes,
bread sauce
apple sauce
Brussel sprouts
Plum pudding,
Tiffany cake,
Mince pies,
Apricot éclair,
Banana trifle,
Cascade of prunes,
Charlotte Rousse,
apricot creams,
orange jellies

The toast was opened by the Chairman Doctor Traill with a toast of the King, The Army, Navy and Reserved Forces were toasted by Mr White in an excellent speech and were responded to by Mr Carl. He was not too complimentary to Dundee as he might have been but doubtless spoke the truth.

The Trip to Norway

On December 18th we had a most enjoyable lecture from the Rev Mr Inglis of Auchterhouse on Norway. The magic lantern assisted with the series of some very fine slides.

December 27th

On Thursday of above date there took place in the recreation hall the first exhibition of waxworks ever held in the Sanatorium. The stage was beautifully decorated. A subdued light shed a soft radiance over the statutory figures.

Rules or bye-laws for the management and regulation of The Sidlaw Sanatorium, Auchterhouse, 1905


  • Patients must rest for an hour before dinner and supper, i.e. from 12 to 1 and from 6 to 7.
  • Patients must take their temperature four times a day, viz.: at 8am, 12 noon, 6pm and 9pm.
  • Patients will remain in bed only when instructed to do so by the Doctor.
  • Patients must take only such exercise as the Medical Superintendent prescribes during his morning and noon visits.
  • Male and female patients must take their walks separately.
  • No patient shall at any time go into a ward or room occupied by any other patient without the express sanction of the Medical Superintendent.
  • No patient shall write any letter to the newspapers or make any public complaint on any subject connected with the Sanatorium without the same having first been submitted to the Committee of Management through the Secretary.
  • Patients must finish all food given them unless specially exempted by the Medical Superintendent.
  • Patients' windows must always be opened except when dressing and undressing.
  • Only such games as the Medical Superintendent sanctions are permitted.
  • Patients are forbidden to enter any shops or dwelling houses during their walks unless specially permitted.
  • Baths to be taken as prescribed by the Medical Superintendent.
  • Patients must retire to bed at the hours prescribed by the Medical Superintendent
  • No patient shall leave the grounds of the Sanatorium after supper without special permission.
  • The Nurses have instructions to see that all Regulations are strictly obeyed by those under their charge, and infringement of any of the above Rules will render the patient liable to dismissal.

DUNDEE 17th August 1905 - Adjusted and approved of this date by the Executive Committee. F.B. Sharp, Chairman Wm. H Blyth Martin, Hon. Secretary Minutes of Sidlaw Sanatorium.
(Dundee University Archives)

A document was created by Miss Alison Wood from the Sector Administrators Department at Dundee Royal Infirmary that details more of the hospital's history from 1899 - 1980

History of Sidlaw Hospital