A Hospital on the Move: Sciennes' royal unicorn goes to Little France (2017)

Here is how Cate pictures Eunice the Unicorn as she discovers Edinburgh's historic beauties in an unlikely setting as well as meeting an old friend. Illustration by Cate James
As the new RHSC building gets further established over the coming year, inside and out, there are many exciting developments. Cate and I won't be working there still when it opens but we've sent one of our 'Whatsits' Hospital characters into the near future to make a visit for the final story-book in our series. 

The Royal Arms above the main entrance at RHSC Sciennes
You will probably be aware of this character, sitting with her nose in the air above the main entrance at Sciennes next to the kingly Lion, Leopold. We always felt she looked not just snooty but slightly uneasy next to such a fierce creature. But perhaps it's just because she 's been sitting on a thistle for the last 122 years and her legs are very stiff.

'Eunice the Unicorn Goes to Little France' tells what happens when she gets fed up with sitting up there and, having never seen the beauties of Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, demands to jump down and set off on a sight-seeing journey. Unfortunately she takes a wrong turning and ends up at the southern limits of the City where she finds - guess what? - her new hospital. Surprisingly, she's able to see some of Edinburgh's historic sites right there as well as meeting old friends like 'Radio Lollipop'. But will she feel unsettled by moving and miss the old place, including King Leopold and the other Whatsits who were her friends at Sciennes?

The new book is COMING SOON! More on Little France history below.
From the Bartholomew 'Plan of Edinburgh and Leith', Edinburgh Geographical Institute 1912. National Library of Scotland.
In 1912, as the map shows, Little France was definitely not part of Edinburgh. Now it is, more or less, and from next September will be home to the new 'Sick Kids'. I love the fact that the site is already layered with history that the hospital will add to.

Some say that the name 'Little France' comes from the residence of servants to Mary Queen of Scots, some believe it to be named after the French cloth-workers who settled in this area in the 17th century. But in either case it is well documented that Mary Queen of Scots stayed at nearby Craigmillar Castle, a fabulously evocative hilltop site which Cate and I had made part of the journey of the Hospital across town we imagined with children (see here and here for the last two stages of that fantastic journey to its new home as visualised by Cate James and young illustrators). 
with Kind permission of Peter Stubbs edinphoto
It's also well documented that Queen Mary was responsible for planting various trees around Scotland, including one at Little France which stood close to what is now the hospital's main entrance and was said to be planted in 1566 when she was staying at the Castle (marked on the map above). People still remember it being there in the 1950s, protected by railings as an ancient monument, but reduced from its former grandeur to a blackened stump by that time.

Some recent reminiscences here tell us about the farm and campsite there in the 1950s and more about the 'Mary Tree' which was the focus of a short story I wrote for BBC Radio 4, broadcast in January 2016about the build-up to the hospital move

No comments:

Post a Comment