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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Isles of Wonder - some connections

I don't know what other countries made of Friday's Olympic opening ceremony, but we Brits loved it (well, most of us did). It was full of surprises, it was funny, crazy, and very British. Naturally I was pleased that there was so much history in it, and I liked it when the tone was set by Ken Branagh (from Northern Ireland, but has an English accent) quoted Shakespeare (English, but set an awful lot of his plays in Italy) while dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel (a Great British Icon who was half French).


From The Girl's Own Paper 1894
 The ceremony celebrated, among other things, our National Health Service, of which we are very proud. In particular it featured Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) the world-famous hospital for sick children. Founded in 1852 is almost a century older than the National Health Service which dates only from 1948. It was the first hospital in the English-speaking world devoted entirely to the treatment of children, and its history is well-recorded, not least in its own museum and archive (open by appointment only) and The complete history of GOSH on its own website. Since 1929 it has benefited from the copyright of J M Barrie's 'Peter Pan', published in 1911 in book form and in 1926 as a play, donated to the hospital by the author during his lifetime.

According to the Hospital Records Database most of Great Ormond Street's records are held in its own Museum and archives services with a small number at the London Metropolitan Archives. However, for family historians the most useful records are the Admission and Discharge Registers which are online as part of the excellent Historic Hospitals Admission Records Project which also includes the records of the Evelina Hospital, the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease (both in London), and Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow. This database is well worth searching, and if you register you can use a number of advanced search features. Best of all, it is completely FREE!

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