Centenary commemorations of Dr Elsie Inglis and of the Scottish Women’s Hospital Movement


Descendants of pioneering Scotswoman Dr Elsie Inglis gathered at her grave today (within Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh) to mark the centenary of her death and pay tribute to her remarkable accomplishments in establishing and running the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during World War One. Photo source: Lenny Warren / Warren Media

The story of Elsie Inglis and The Scottish Women’s Hospitals is an amazing story that should be more widely known and I was so pleased to hear, earlier this year, that there would be Centenary commemorations for this marvellous woman at St Giles Cathedral on the 29th November. Although I couldn’t attend I was very excited to receive an invitation.

When war broke out in 1914 the Government put out a call for doctors and nurses to help on the front line. “Elsie was more than willing to play her part. She went first to the military authorities in Edinburgh and then to London to the War Office itself to offer her services, only to be told: “My good lady, go home and sit still.”

Of course she didn’t sit still. She went on to form what soon became known as the Scottish Women’s Hospitals which “served the war effort from 1914 to 1919 and were not finally disbanded until 1925. They started off in Calais supporting Belgian soldiers, but their main locations were four hospitals in France, two in Corsica, two in Greece, one in Macedonia, two in Romania and six in Serbia. There were also a number of satellite hospitals and dressing stations.

As a writer, discovering the existence of the SWH was life changing and of course led me to write a novel inspired by the movement and Australian women who worked at the field hospital in Ostrovo, including the novelist Miles Franklin. I am indebted to Alan Cumming for keeping me company on this journey of discovery and to Ann Wells for the gift of the booklet that was given out at the commemoration and from which I have quoted. Also for the use of the photo above. Luckily for historians and writers there are quite a few good biographies and memoirs written by members of the SWH. Contact me through this website and I can give you my full list.



Doing a TV interview

It was fantastic. I’m not quite sure how Channel Ten Sydney came to approach the Adelaide BC group but bookcrosser Newk put up the information at BCAUS, the yahoo BookCrossing group, that the station was looking for bookcrossers. Yours truly, never backward in coming forward, put up her hand and also contacted the station.

Eve Neylon the segment producer was wonderful and the online intro the station put together to explain BookCrossing to the general public was one of the best examples I’ve seen. BookCrossing really is a parallel universe. It is a tricky thing to explain in a few minutes but the bottom line is that www.bookcrossing.com is about sharing books. If you love books and want to share books with others, read reviews of your favourite books, meetup with people to discuss books and even receive books in the mail from faraway places then BookCrossing is definitely for you.

For me discovering the site has literally changed my life. I have not only been to 4 conventions: Adelaide, SA in 2006, London in 2008, Greece in 2008 and the Sydney Unconvention in 2010 but it has also inspired me to write my second published novel Crossing Paths: the BookCrossing Novel.

One of the questions my interviewer Paul Henry was going to ask me was how did I get into BookCrossing. Well, a week before Christmas in 2003 I saw an ad in an Australian Publications mag about the site and immediately I was intrigued. I couldn’t wait to get home and sus it all out!

After an hour or two going over the site (it is a very comprehensive with a lot to take in) I immediately realised “This is so me.” I love books and I love synchronicity and BookCrossing is about both. After a little while I also realised that BookCrossing was also a book – a book that I could write. I remember working out that amazingly people can be tracked through BookCrossing. And you could also anticipate where people might be travelling to next, by the books on their “virtual” bookshelf.

I also remember, within a day of discovering BookCrossing, studying my “real” bookshelf to try and work out what books my character would take with her and how many. I initially decided on 10 but then lowered it to eight to allow for books she might pick up on the way. Also important was where she was going to release the books and so began my journey of writing a book inspired by an online bookclub, the doorstopper that I managed to hold up in my TV interview, as you can see for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PAqoC94Sis

Doing the interview was a wonderful insight into how segments are produced. Eve was very thorough. First interviewing me by phone, keeping in touch by email, phoning me again to confirm the appointment, asking more questions and a day or so before emailing me with background information that the interviewer would be reading to prepare themselves (Paul Henry as it turned out) for the segment and questions they would be asking to give me a chance to put together my best answers.

We only had three minutes and because the station decided on producing a small online intro to BookCrossing, that freed Paul up to ask different questions. He asked one or two on the list but the rest were dictated by his curiousity and the way the conversation went. Although he did interrupt a bit I’m glad he did because that’s how we managed to cover quite a lot in in such a short timespan.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to do the interview. It was such an enjoyable experience. I was lucky to have my friend Gina drive down with me from Newcastle and she was allowed to sit offscreen and watch the segment. Everyone was so friendly – the makeup girls, Lana, Eve, Paul and Kath. Thank you Channel 10! It was fun!