Skip to main content

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Samaritan Society

Identifier: GD2

Scope and Contents

Management 1879-2001; administration 1889-1979; cases 1902-1994


  • Creation: 1879-2018

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Public access to these records is governed by UK data protection legislation, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and the latest version of the Scottish Government Records Management: Health and Social Care Code of Practice (Scotland). Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records conveying sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time.

Where health records relate to named deceased adults, they will be open 75 years after the latest date referenced, on the next 1 January. Case records of individuals below 18 years of age or adults not proven to be deceased will be open 100 years after the latest date recorded, on the next 1 January. Further information on legislation and guidelines covering medical records can be found here:

LHSA encourages the use of these records for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes, and records that are designated as closed can be consulted by legitimate researchers if certain conditions are met. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on: 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Biographical / Historical

Mrs Elizabeth Cleghorn, the daughter of Lord Cockburn and widow of the Sheriff of Argyll, began in 1874 to help destitute patients in the medical wards of the Royal Infirmary. She visited wards, distributing clothing and sometimes money. When she appealed to her friends for help, the response was so great that, in 1879, a formal organisation was created: the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Samaritan Society. The original aim was to assist patients and their dependants with clothes and money and if the patient were the bread-winner, to help him find employment. Gradually the work was expanded to encompass all the Edinburgh hospitals. Almoners were appointed to identify patients in need, visit their homes and provide help and guidance.

From 1923 the Infirmary appointed its own almoners, who worked in parallel with those of the Samaritan Society. In 1948 the Society's almoners were transferred to the Infirmary's social service staff. Even after the National Health Service came into being the Samaritans continued to work as a voluntary organisation. Their Committee of Management meets regularly with the Hospital's social work staff, in consultation with whom they make grants to tide patients and their families over until official help is given. Sometimes help is also provided in ways not covered by statutory rules and regulations.

For a more comprehensive history of the Society see The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Samaritan Society, 1879-1979 (GD2/9/2).


3.7 shelf metres: bound volumes, papers


Chronological within record class

Other Finding Aids

Manual item-level descriptive list available

Custodial History

Transferred to National Library of Scotland

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ian Cunningham, Keeper of Manuscripts, NLS, March 1995


Further accessions are expected

Related Materials

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (LHB1)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Samaritan Society
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Lothian Health Services Archive Repository

Centre for Research Collections
Edinburgh University Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44 (0)131 650 3392