Fags, footie and Fergie

Everyone comes to the history of the NHS from their own perspective.

Thus, if you’re over 40 you’re likely to be clueless about Dr Finlay’s Casebook although it was the first peak time BBC original TV drama in the 1960s.

And millennials with their perfect orthodontically sculpted gnashers can’t believe their grannies would routinely get all their teeth pulled out and replaced with dentures as a dowry to save on dentists’ bills. That’s why half of Scotland’s population was edentulous in 1974 – nae teeth at all.

Board creators Ken and Andrew

Art is a  good way of articulating people’s own stories, as in these boards created at the NHS event in Glasgow last week.

And then there’s subject matter, Football doesn’t look promising but there is a surprisingly rich vein to tempt those currently glued to the World Cup finals.

In 1982 Scotland was the first non-smoking country in the World Cup finals. This was largely the brainchild of David Player, director of the Scottish Health Education Group and a tireless public health campaigner, In this brief audio clip (3 min) recorded in 2007.

David talks about Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager, Alex Ferguson of St Mirren and Aberdeen before disappearing into obscurity, the deal to sign up the Scotland team (at a cost of £70,000) and the unorthodox sanction captain Danny McGrain had for any players stepping out of line.

Smoking has probably killed a million Scots directly since 1948 and contributed the deaths of many more. The dangers were known in the early 1950s but it took five decades before legislation to denormalise smoking.

Top players routinely promoted cigarettes such as the Co-op’s Rocky Mountain brand, as in this film from 1960. where goalie Jocky Robertson lights up after making a save: http://movingimage.nls.uk/film/1166

The Scottish Football Association made the national team do worse things like play a “friendly” in 1977 against Chile in the national stadium where thousands were tortured and murdered after General Pinochet’s coup.

Surprisingly, Pinochet turned up as an NHS patient at the Western General in Edinburgh in 1996. His doctor was a personal friend of an Edinburgh consultant and was worried about a lung complaint on a visit to Britain. Pinochet was registered under his other names Augusto Ugarte, given some routine tests and sent to Boots in Shandwick Place for a non-prescription medication.

Three years earlier the Western also treated England’s greatest football hero, Bobby Moore. The captain of the 1966 World Cup winners was by definition never a favourite of many Scottish fans. His bowel cancer was initially misdiagnosed but he was offered the chance to take part in a new chemotherapy trial at the Western.

Overall several weekends, he flew up and stayed in an open NHS ward. He was recognised by score of nurses, doctors, cleaners and taxi drivers and he cheerfully signed autographs.  Throughout that time not a single person cliped on him by tipping off the media.

It’s a good example of the best values of decency, respect and kindness we associate with the NHS. A memorial research trust was set up after his death. To mark her gratitude his widow Stephanie made it first donation of £250,000 …..to the Western.

Categories: football, history on the web, medical and nursing

Tags: , , , , , ,

1 reply


  1. History Company newsletter – The History Company

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: