Words from the Wards

Submit your story about the old Royal Infirmary

Our brand-new home at Edinburgh Futures Institute is an ecosystem of learning, research and inspirational ideas about the future. But it has an even longer history as the place that birthed and healed the city when it was familiar to one and all as the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

To celebrate the rich history of this recycled hospital, we’re stitching together a collection of your stories of healing, prescribing, treating, and repairing. On this page you can read stories submitted so far and you can send us your own story at the link below. We’ll feature select authors and stories at a series of events during August, so keep checking back for more wonderful memories of this iconic Edinburgh building.


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Explore Words from the Wards

Celebrating the city’s incredible history through your stories, Words from the Wards brings together memories, shared histories, thoughts, feelings and reactions to an iconic building and the incredible people who visited its wards and wings.

Firas Ibrahim: Jimmy The New

23rd May 2024

I feel bad for my little brother Jimmy, well I say little even though he is 79 years old and 6 ft tall. Yes, a whole foot taller than me. Anyway, I digress, the reason I feel bad is that Jimmy shares his birthday with a very sad event. I...


21st May 2024

Tom worked in the Royal Infirmary as a porter in the 1950’s. Every day he walked up the steps to the entrance of the hospital and looked up at the coat of arms and the gold lettering above the front door. He was fascinated by the detai...

Maureen Baker: CAROL’S STORY

21st May 2024

As a young local eighteen year old in 1959 I was filled with excitement at the thought of starting my nurse’ s training at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Student nurses in 1959 were all female and had to live in the nearby Red Home with ba...


21st May 2024

In January 1973, my journey as a nurse began at the Preliminary Training School(PTS) in The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh(RIE) Assigned to the nurses home in Chalmers Street, our rooms & room mates were arranged based on the proximity of ...

Gordon Lawrie: A Nightmare on Lauriston Place

21st May 2024

I’ve been very fortunate. Only once in my seventy-plus years have I ever spent a night in hospital. It was a horrible, and entirely unnecessary, experience. Picture the scene: it’s early afternoon on the first day of 1973, and I emer...

Lynn Reid: A Vocation

17th May 2024

I commenced my Registered Nurse Training with South Lothian College of Nursing and Midwifery on the 3rd of March 1979. Most of my placements and college sessions were at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Little did I know that I would nu...

Helen Graham: Our Brief Acquaintance

14th May 2024

I must confess, little one, I was unaware of you until after you exploded and nearly took me with you to Kingdom Come. Not that we didn’t want a third child – we did. We’d even begun letting nature take its course with you in mind....

Bernard Harkins: Endings and Beginnings

7th May 2024

I couldn’t remember the last time I had been here, In fact, it felt like I had forgotten your looming presence, clock tower and all, But how could that be? When for 3 years my bus to secondary school had passed here every day, And I ha...

Jeff Kemp: Ghostwalk

26th April 2024

Ward 12, worked here for years. south corridor, I’ve walked miles along it. Hundreds of night shifts. Habituated, I mean, got used to it I mean, probably cost the marriage but why speak of that. Ward 12 room 9. Mr Marner, I was young t...

Jeff Kemp: Bladder

26th April 2024

A decade spent living there but it’s not surprising that I never learned that particular word. Translation is reckoned to be the changing of one language into another. Which is a truth which hides a larger question. “What does এম...

Joanna Craig: My Story

23rd April 2024

I worked in Cardiology from 1969 until February 1973. My office was in the basement. Lots of cockroaches around, so bad our office was fumigated over a weekend. There was a camera club in the hospital and I often modelled for them. There...

Carol Brogan: The First Lesson

23rd April 2024

In any other surroundings it would have been an unremarkable relic, a piece of furniture rendered invisible by age in a busy room: black leather with a worn sheen, creased and wrinkled, its heavy frame and bulbous wooden limbs layered wi...

SH: It All Turned Out Ok

23rd April 2024

I had never been to visit a friend who had just given birth…why would I have? We were only just 16. A high-ceilinged room and a clean gown, she was ruddy from the long night of labour. Her infectious smile, ready to chatter about every...

Carl John Barber: Covid Nurse

17th April 2024

Where would I be with out you your nightingales cry softening my own upon a bitter livid darkening day. In your white sheets I sail this choking sea where from my eyes rise up and you are there tired breathless yourself on those busy war...

Patricia Mitchell: First and Last Breaths

17th April 2024

Like many Edinburgh residents, I took my first breath in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, in the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavillion in March 1970. This building overlooked the Meadows, and I used to pass it regularly during my childhood. Eve...

R T Wright: Old RIE

16th April 2024

For 3 years in the 70’s I was in charge of the Royal Bank Branch inside the Infirmary. It was situated on the Main Surgical Corridor. It was a small space one larger room and a small interview room. There were 10 of us male and female wi...

Karen Michael: Just a memory.

16th April 2024

Back in September 1978 I was pregnant with my first baby and attended all the antenatal clinics where you were taught how to bathe feed dress your baby ,and many friends were made . I was admitted with high blood pressure and had to get ...

Ali MacDougall: Its a gas

16th April 2024

The hospital at night held infinitely more appeal for me. Most of the great institution’s staff were at home, sleeping off the toils of the day. The usually bright busy corridors with their gleaming black and white linoleum and lists o...

Kathleen MacDonald: Reunion: May 1980 PTS

16th April 2024

12 of May 1980, we started our course Do you remember that day as a scared student nurse? Young and naïve, thrilled to leave home Anxious, excited and a wee bit alone But soon we made friendships That have lasted for ever We’ve steere...


16th April 2024

My family was married to the rie everyone worked there the beautiful checkered floors the winding staircase, Dad did 40 years in instrument sterilisation, nan and grandad cook and porter, uncle microbiology lab,sisters nurse and medical ...

Ellen Watters: The ghosts in the walls

16th April 2024

My first job as a newly qualified Enrolled nurse in 1980 aged almost 20, was in female orthopaedics on night shift – 8 shifts on and 6 off. Ward 2, a Florence Nightingale ward – as most were then – where you turned the kitchen light on...

Jeff Kemp: Edinburgh Evening News (04/07/1904)

9th April 2024

A fire in the hospital was contained but decimated microscopic specimens and caused havoc amongst cadavers,   no laughing matter, a thousand quid’s worth of damage and traffic stilled, horses bridled,   a crowd thrilled, some muttering...

Olivia Begbie: ERI

9th April 2024

1)  Treading in their God’s footsteps  They crush through the doors,  White coats swinging  Eager faces shining  Adoring eyes gleaming.  Hanging on his every word  Like limpets on craggy rocks,  Clinging in devotion  Afraid of...

Jeff Kemp: Ghostwalk

9th April 2024

Ward 12, worked here for years.   south corridor, I’ve walked miles along it.   Hundreds of night shifts. Habituated, I mean got used to it I mean,   probably cost the marriage but why speak of that.   Ward 12 room 9. Mr Marner, I was ...

Jane Murray: Royal Infirmary

9th April 2024

Words and laughter, tears and hysterics  chocs and Mint Imperials, and a banana.  Neighbours range from citrus to butter  Purples of various shades    We smile and nod and generally give silent support.  There is a look of a shared...

Dave Pickering: THE GIANT CHEF

9th April 2024

Pad, pad, pad  This corridor gets longer every time  At least I’m getting my steps up  I wonder when they’ll change those pictures  They’re good – well, some of them  But a change is as good as a rest?    Pad, pad, pad  S...

Nadini Sen: The Whale’s Stomach

9th April 2024

I wonder how to name the hospital.  It is inside a huge whale’s tummy in the North Sea.  The mattresses were torn and old, gagged the gateway of the tummy.  They all wore the red striped shirts and pyjamas, black boots and loose soc...