From farm cart to air ambulance - celebrating 100 years of healthcare

Centenary celebrations for the Highlands and Islands Medical Service Committee of 1912 continue with an exhibition and conference organised by the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre.

The Committee met to investigate medical conditions in the Highlands and Islands, taking evidence from local witnesses, including crofters. In Skye and Lochalsh, hearings took place at Dunvegan, Portree and Kyle. The Committee’s report led to the establishment of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service in 1913. This was the first state subsidised medical service in the world and is considered to be the pre-cursor to today’s NHS.

A one-day conference will take place in Portree on Friday 1 February, with a varied programme which begins with an introduction to the Dewar Report before looking back at the Beaton medical kindred of an earlier era. Other contributions will consider the impact of Dewar on local hospitals and the experience of Highland practitioners in the first half of the twentieth century. The final session focuses on Dr Lachlan Grant of the Gesto Hospital and the story of a Skye nurse who took the idea of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service to Kentucky in the 1920s.

The associated exhibition runs at the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre until February, and includes a showing of the 1943 film, ‘Highland Doctor’.

To book a place at the conference contact Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre on 01478 614078 or email

Conference Programme

Venue: Tigh na Sgire, Park Lane, Portree, Isle of Skye

Chair: Dr Neil MacGillivray

Cost: £5

10:30 Registration

11:00 Dr Stephen McCabe Background to the Dewar Report

11:30 Prof Alasdair Munro The Beaton Medical Kindred and their Contribution to Traditional Medical Care in the Highlands

12:00 Jim Leslie Dewar and the Highland Hospitals

14:00 Dr John Adamson Highland Medicine Before and After Dewar

14:30 Hugh Lamont and A Highland Practitioner: Dr Angus Lamont

Dr Janet Bisset

16:00 Dr Roddy MacLeod The Real Gesto Collection: Dr Lachlan Grant and Some Predecessors at Edinbane

16:30 Norman Macdonald Ann of Appalachia: A Skye Nurse and How the HIMS was Transferred to America, 1927-1953