Hands off! — Calls for historic artwork to be retained in Montrose

© DC Thomson
Local historian and author Forbes Inglis outside Montrose Royal Infirmary.

Hands off our artwork!

That is the message to NHS Tayside after it emerged a historic bust of Montrose benefactor Susan Carnegie was suddenly removed from the town’s Royal Infirmary.

For years it sat proudly on the second stairwell of the infirmary.

News of its removal was posted on the Montrose Memories Old and New Facebook page with many calling for the work, and any others from the infirmary, to be retained in the town.

One post branded NHS Tayside “vultures”.

The removal of the bust has sparked fears this is another step in a gradual process of preparing Montrose Royal Infirmary for closure, following the loss of the maternity unit and GP beds.

Local author and historian Forbes Inglis likened its removal to that of the grandfather clock which was rescued from going under the auctioneer’s hammer some years ago and which is now on display in the health centre.

Forbes Inglis outside Montrose Royal Infirmary which is mentioned in his book “The Sea Enriches”. DC Thomson

He said: “The precedence was almost set when it was to be put to auction.

“It turned out it never belonged to NHS Tayside in the first place – it was given to the patients of the infirmary therefore it never legally belonged to NHS Tayside. If you don’t own it you can’t sell it so it was presented to the health centre.

“Not everything in the infirmary belongs to NHS Tayside. This bust is part of the history of the town and it should either be donated to the museum or the health centre.”

The bust of Susan Carnegie.

Susan Carnegie, aided by Provost Christie, started a subscription to raise funds to build the Montrose Lunatic Asylum, Dispensary and Infirmary, the first such establishment to be built in Scotland.

Forbes continued: “She was the driving force behind the first asylum. She was forward looking back in the day, more so because she was a woman.

“It is a real concern in the town that this bust has been removed.

“It is a piece of local history and it should remain in the town.”

Kirstene Hair, Scottish Conservative MP for Angus, said: “Many people locally will fear this is just another step in a gradual process of preparing Montrose Royal Infirmary for closure.

“This type of historical artefact should be treated as an asset for the community.

“If the bust does not hold pride of place at the hospital, then it should be kept at a museum. It cannot simply be left to gather dust.

“The contribution of Susan Carnegie – particularly in changing attitudes towards mental health – was immense and should be treasured.

“The bust should remain on display so that people are reminded of all that she did for the local community.”

Gail Smith, head of community health and care services for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The bust of Susan Carnegie, which is a valuable sculpture, was on display in an area of Montrose Infirmary which is no longer being used and which was cordoned off for safety reasons.

“The bust was removed from the area for safekeeping and we are in discussion with Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath who have asked if they can borrow the bust for their Pioneering Women in Angus exhibition to mark the 100-year anniversary of female suffrage.

“We have a very clear policy to follow when we leave any premises and this includes cataloguing all assets and donated items to ensure that they are appropriately re-homed locally or returned to the donator.”