Many people in the community have fond memories of Astley Ainslie, whether it is playing in the snow and climbing trees as a child, having received treatment at the hospital, or enjoying the peace and quiet in some particular corner of the grounds.

We would like to collect as many memories associated with the site as possible.  Please add yours by commenting below.


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    The Astley Ainslie gardens, from the autobiography of Ian Green, Fuzz to Folk: Trax of My Life, Edinburgh, Luath, 2011, p. 47
    The walls between the houses were retained and the gardens kept as individual spaces, with their greenhouses, and with a good number of gardeners professionally employed. One of these men, Ian Green the folk musician in later life, worked on the site in the 1940s. He remembers:

    ‘The gardens there were extensive and included several houses and large gardens that had been gobbled up as the hospital expanded. I really enjoyed the new challenge and was soon being allocated skilled work since most of the other employees were garden labourers. It was there I met Andy Henderson, greenhouse undergardener. I was often sent to work in the greenhouses with him, and we quickly developed a friendship and respect for each other… Andy was a lovely man, with an absolutely charming wife and young son.
    The head gardener at Astley Ainslie was a strange man who rarely left his office except to sow seeds and, occasionally, to cycle around the gardens and grounds. I recall he had a big smelly dog, a spaniel. The assistant head gardener, Mr Cardownie, was very eccentric and he stood no nonsense. He ruled with an iron hand, but I always thought fairly. Working at Astley Ainslie Hospital was very rewarding and the wages were good. I learnt additional gardening skills and the characters who worked there gave me a great insight into life.’


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    In 1949, my mother Audrey Owen came to Scotland to work at the Astley Ainslie. She was a Canadian, and had trained at the University of Toronto as an Occupational Therapist. This was a new specialty, and during the Second World War she and others helped to rehabilitate troops who were invalided back to Canada. The Astley Ainslie heard of the advances made in the profession, and invited two Canadians to come to Edinburgh for a year, to teach and to work with the British servicemen who took up most of the beds at that time. Both of the young women met their future husbands in Edinburgh, and stayed. She would have been thrilled to know that this effort is being made to preserve the wooded character and history of the site.


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      As children in the 1960s my brother, friends and I used to make jumps out of old railway sleepers for our bikes on the old tennis court, adjacent to the railway line. We watched the birds, rabbits and squirrels whilst munching our packed lunches. Once we saw a fox trot past.
      In the 1980s I had a student holiday job as a domestic that included hoovering every new carpet in the Balfour Pavilion. I was based at Millbank and in my lunch break, or after work, I taught the nurses tennis on the Millbank Tennis hedged court – a veritable sun trap.


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    I’ve rediscovered The Astley Ainslie after moving back to Edinburgh from not very far (Ninemileburn). I’ve walked the grounds many times now and only recently found a pedestrian exit at South Oswald Road. Sitting having a take away coffee in the peace and quiet, remembering times with my Mum who convalesced there twice. The other day I saw a fox – I don’t know who was the more surprised !


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