During the nineteenth century Glasgow became a huge city. As shipyards, foundries and factories sprang up, thousands of people moved to the city looking for work.
Waste poured into the River Clyde. Factory chimneys polluted the air. Working conditions led to ill health.
Living conditions were sometimes appalling. Some families lived in one room, sharing a filthy outside toilet. Infectious diseases such as cholera or scarlet fever often broke out. Child death rates were high and adult life short.
Gradually, the authorities introduced clean drinking water, better sewers, new housing, public baths and wash-houses.
More hospitals were built. Some, like the fever hospitals, were run by the city council. Others, such as the Glasgow Eye Infirmary, were charities. New discoveries such as antiseptics improved people’s chances of surviving surgery.
In the Southside
By 1881 one third of Glasgow people lived south of the Clyde. There was only one hospital in the area, at Merryflats (now the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital). Run by Govan Parish Council, it provided for the poorest people.
Most Southsiders did not have access to a local hospital. A group of doctors and progressive businessmen decided this had to change.
In 1801 the population of Glasgow was just 77,000. By 1901 this had risen to 740,000.