Veterans and Pupils Join Forces for New Community Garden

Young and old came together this week to celebrate the official opening of the newly refurbished community garden at Falkirk Community Hospital.

The garden – once a focal point of the hospital grounds – has been caringly restored to its former glory, with decorative railings, pillared walls and a carved stone culvert from ‘Jenny Mair’s Burn’, which runs through the area.

The wrought iron gates in the garden, which were donated by former Falkirk High School pupils in memory of their peers who were killed in World War I, have also been restored and there are plans to restore two commemorative plaques which were originally displayed on the gates.

During the visit current pupils from Falkirk High School interested in volunteering at the hospital met war veterans Ally Gemmell and Charlie MacFarlane from the Armed Services Advice Project, which supports and builds relationships with local veterans in the Forth Valley area to find the best outcome for veterans and their dependants. Charlie said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with NHS Forth Valley and Falkirk Council to deliver vital support to today’s veterans and their dependants throughout the Forth valley area.”

The pupils also learned of the hospital’s history – courtesy of local historian and author Ian Scott – who explained that the site was used as a ‘distribution hospital’ during World War I, and that of the 500 Falkirk High pupils who fought in World War 1, almost 20 per cent did not return home, hence the commemorative gates and plaque donated by their peers.

Contractor Walter Gibb also explained the process of renovating the gardens, which were so overgrown when work began that developers were surprised to find Caithness stone under the weeds. This, in turn, has been used to border the garden’s new flower beds.

This is the latest green space development at Falkirk Community Hospital, after the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) donated funds last year to create a garden within the inner courtyard for patients and staff to enjoy. It also helps deliver NHS Forth Valley’s commitment to retain features from the former Falkirk Royal and District Infirmary and improve landscaping across the site following the demolition of a number of buildings. A stone engraved with the Falkirk Coat of Arms, which was originally displayed on an archway that once stood beyond the gates, has now been incorporated into one of the garden’s walls.

After officially opening the garden, NHS Forth Valley Chairman Alex Linkston said: “I’m delighted that the gates and the garden have been restored to their formal glory to create a lovely, peaceful area which can be enjoyed by staff, patients and the local community.”

Councillor John Patrick, Falkirk Council’s Depute Provost and Veteran’s Champion, also believes the garden will be beneficial to local people. He explained: “This lovely garden not only pays tribute to the past but also provides a great community facility for the future. It’s wonderful to see the progress and improvements which have been made since I visited the site last year.”