Beatrice Clugston was born in September 1827, the eldest of five children in a village near the East End of Glasgow to a prosperous, hard-working devout Christian family. Her father had a factory making power looms and also a bleaching works in Avonbank Larkhall. He and his family were responsible for the well-being of his many workers and their families. Beatrice was introduced to these responsibilities at an early age. She and her mother visited homes when family members were ill taking food or money as needed. Her early years must have known great sadness because three of her siblings died before they were 10 years old.The family moved into Glasgow and Beatrice started a remarkable life of service to the city. She worked among the poor, among alcoholics and prostitutes and visited women prisoners in a Glasgow jail.
Beatrice Clugston
Her work in the Royal lnfirmary started in 1862 when she visited a female prisoner transferred from jail to hospital during a cholera epidemic. Miss Clugston was shocked by the conditions in the hospital at that time.

Professional staff had neither the time nor the inclination to serve more than the medical needs of the patients. Many patients came to the hospital in rags. A patient was bathed and given hospital clothing and their clothes were washed and fumigated. When the clothing was returned to the patient it was often so scanty as to cause great danger of relapse. There was no one to comfort the sick and the lonely.

Beatrice and her journalist friend Annie B Church, called a meeting of doctors wives and asked them to help improve conditions. She told them “she didn’t know how they could sit back in their fine drawing rooms with all their maids and not feel for the poor souls who were their husbands’ patients”. A committee was formed with doctors wives in 1863 and Beatrice called this the Dorcas Society.  She paid for women to make clothes in the clothes room and organised a team of women to visit the wards with Christian words and any small comforts and necessities for the patients. She also found that some patients worried about their families at home and so she visited the families helped them if needed and then reported back to the patient in hospital. This liaison between patient and home developed through the years and indeed the first lady almoner was employed by the Dorcas in the 1930s.

Funds became increasingly necessary as this service grew. Miss Clugston knew many influential Glasgow people- city dignitaries ministers doctors businessmen and even royalty. Iwas said that one’s heart sank when finding that one was sitting next to her at dinner since one was sure to find one’s purse lighter. She was a persuasive and eloquent speaker and she called public meetings and collections were made from door to door. Miss Clugston maintained that “cash and clothes are easy got compared to personal service”. She started similar services in Edinburgh Royal infirmary, Western infirmary Glasgow Belvidere Hospital and the Victoria infirmary. The Dorcas Society of the Royal infirmary as the Dorcas trust remains the only survivor.

She launched a scheme to provide an invalid chair for every ward. Later the society undertook responsibility for supplying artificial limbs and to paying travelling expenses for return visits to the hospital. She resigned her presidency to continue with her next venture which was to provide convalescent homes for the needy patients of Glasgow  Royal infirmary. This required much fundraising and by means of bazaars and fetes over many years she raised a total of £51,000. The Dunoon convalescent home  was opened in 1869. In 1871 she organised a bazaar which was opened by Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, daughter of Queen Victoria to pay off the debts for the home. The home was visited by Princess Louise in 1872. The Glasgow convalescent home was opened in Lenzie in 1873.

Having been known as convalescent Beatrice she now became known as incurable Beatrice. She visited the Putney hospital for lncurable’s in London to find how it was run. On her return to Glasgow she held a grand bazaar in the  Kibble Palace which raised £14,000. In 1875 at the time of the bazaar she was accorded a piece in the Bailie and she was described as “cheery but thoughtful , bustling but businesslike, methodical and sympathetic”

With this money she bought Broomhill house and added an extension which was opened by her friend and supporter, Lord Shaftesbury in 1876. This was the forerunner of the modern day hospice. Many mirrors, brass work, carving and fine furniture were made by the patients, early examples of occupational therapy. The patients so appreciated Miss Clugston’s help that they had a life-size portrait of her painted and hung in their  dining room.

She herself did not accept a penny of expenses and indeed she so depleted her own funds through the years that latterly friends had to buy an annuity. She died in 1888 and there is an entry in Oxford dictionary of National biography and an obituary in the BMJ.

Her friends and patients erected a beautiful headstone in Kirkintilloch graveyard depicting Dorcasand the children of the convalescent home at Dunoon. The monument is by Salman and the bronze carving is by Pittendreigh MacGillivray. Sadly the bronze plaque was stolen in 2013.  

Headstone erected in Kirkintilloch

Mabel’s Tearoom
The staff at GRI can enjoy home baking and freshly made rolls at Mabel’s located in the Queen Elizabeth Building beside the out patient department. Mrs Mabel McKinlay joined the Dorcas Society as a ward visitor and worked in the clothes room. 
Mrs Mabel McKinlay
In 1942, she saw the need for refreshments for those waiting long hours at outpatient departments. Provided with a small room in the new outpatients, she provided a non-profit service for outpatients run by volunteers initially then as demand grew, required a nucleus of paid staff. ‘Mabel MacKinlay’s Tearoom’ became an important part of the hospital visit and all profits went to the Dorcas Fund. This Fund supported and continues to support and visitor facilities at GRI in the wards and outpatient department.
Many thanks to Dr Frances Dryburgh for providing the information above. Dr Dryburgh  worked at GRI for 30 years and was head of the Biochemistry Department and a committee member of the Dorcas Trust.