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Our Leanchoil archive taking shape after Memory Teas at Forres Tolbooth

By Garry McCartney

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Attendees sharing their memories of Leanchoil Hospital in the Tolbooth. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Attendees sharing their memories of Leanchoil Hospital in the Tolbooth. Picture: Becky Saunderson

MORE than 20 people attended Memory Tea events at Forres Tolbooth as part of a new local heritage project.

Project officer, Helen Avenell, is gathering information for Our Leanchoil’, capturing unique stories of Leanchoil Hospital - the much-loved institution that served Forres and the surrounding area for 136 years that was closed for good by NHS Grampian in 2018 - for an archive that will be accessible to everyone through the Leanchoil Trust’s website.

Project officer Helen Avenell.
Project officer Helen Avenell.

Helen confirmed Memory Tea attendees, from nurses who worked at Leanchoil to folk who remembered having operations or visiting relatives there, brought photographs and reminiscences over four mornings and afternoons.

She said: “Memory Teas are a wonderful opportunity for us to hear stories of Leanchoil Hospital and its people.

“It was lovely to bring people together to listen, share and enjoy these special memories but also to talk around ideas and visions for the new Leanchoil.

“Two of our visitors came all the way from Aberdeen to share stories of their mother’s time as a nurse at Leanchoil!”

She added: “People were eager to tell their stories.

“There were some great conversations and connections.

“It was wonderful to see how much pleasure everyone had reconnecting with shared experiences.”

Juli Salt and Gladys Hayward.
Juli Salt and Gladys Hayward.

Under Helen’s supervision, trained volunteers recorded the oral histories and scanned photographs.

The project team are also working with third year English and Drama students from Forres Academy.

Jimmy James and Margot Henderson.
Jimmy James and Margot Henderson.

Local storyteller Margot Henderson is assisting Helen with Our Leanchoil.

She explained: “We wanted to include young people to give them the opportunity to respond to the stories creatively, to encourage intergenerational conversations around community wellbeing and to make sure they have a stake and a say in the future of Leanchoil.”

Academy librarian Shirley Munn said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for our third-year pupils to engage with the community and create a lasting tribute for Leanchoil.

“The pupils are learning new skills, being immersed in local history, and participating in a unique project of value which I know they have enjoyed.”

Helen finished: “Everyone is helping to weave the stories of the hospital’s past into a vision for the future of the site as a centre for community health and wellbeing.

“As Our Leanchoil develops, we hope to interview an even wider range of people.

“We are scanning some fantastic photographs which will be added to our new archive, launched in the coming weeks.”

Leanchoil Hospital played a central part in the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people over many, many years, from its role as a maternity hospital, through to providing palliative care to elderly people.

Over nine months, the Our Leanchoil project aims to bring together the human voices that make up the true history of the site to be shared in a permanent digital exhibition for all to enjoy.

To contribute contact Helen at history@leanchoiltrust.org or on 07909913558. See www.leanchoiltrust.org/our-leanchoil/ for more information.

Heather Taylor spotting a familiar face.
Heather Taylor spotting a familiar face.

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