Stories of St Giles’

Here we’ll share some stories of St Giles’, whether they be stories from our volunteers, staff of interesting anecdotes.



A Famous Doctor

Dr. Elsie Maud Inglis was a pioneer of hospital care during World War I, despite being told by the War Office to ‘go home and sit still’. Not to be deterred, she founded the Scottish Woman’s Hospital for Foreign Service and worked tirelessly as the Chief Medical Officer in the Serbian Unit. Despite being captured and then repatriated home, she went to Russia to spearhead a hospital in Russia and only returned to Scotland shortly before her death in 1917, and her funeral at St Giles’. Prior to the war she had opened a hospital on the Royal Mile for impoverished women, which included a midwifery training centre.

Not only was Elsie a physician and a surgeon, but she was the secretary for the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage in the 1890s and according to historian Margot Lawrence ‘was to the Scottish groups what Mrs. [Millicent] Fawcett was to the English.’ Her memorial in St Giles’ includes the symbols of faith, hope and charity and stands as a reminder of all the women who risked their lives fighting for safe and compassionate medical care across the theatre of the First World War.

A Moment Shared

“When I welcomed a young man at the St Giles’ reception desk one morning last year, I was unprepared for the truly moving experience which was about to unfold. Having informed me that he was a student from Seoul, he asked if he could be shown the Korean War Book of Remembrance which contains the names of all the British men and women who fell in that conflict.

I was pleased to show him where the Book is displayed. He then proceeded, very carefully, to read the names on every single page of the Book, of which there are many.

As he turned to the final page, we both noticed the verse from Robert Laurence Binyon`s best known poem which, on an unexpected impulse, I offered to read to him. In a strangely quiet and atmospheric St Giles’, I then read out loud

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.” Tears started to well up in both of our eyes before I dared to ask him a personal question. Was he, so far from his home, remembering a relative who had been a casualty in the War?

I shall never forget his response. “No, I am here to pay my respects and to remember all the British soldiers who died to help save my country”. In meaningful silence and across the generations, we shook hands.” Graham Garvie Voluntary Guide