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Special ceremony to mark closure of the Western Infirmary Chapel

ONE of the most poignant ceremonies in the history of the Western Infirmary Chapel (Alexander Elder Memorial Chapel) is taking place on 21 May at 6pm, to mark its closure and celebrate its history.

The ceremony is open to staff past and present, and also heralds the retirement of the chapel’s first and last whole-time chaplain, the Reverend Keith Saunders, after 16 years.

Keith gained his Bachelor of Divinity degree/post graduate Certificate in Pastoral Studies at Edinburgh University, and has an MSc degree in Advanced Practice in Palliative Care from Napier University, Edinburgh.

For the last 16 years, he was chaplain to Gartnavel General, Drumchapel and the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospitals, the former Blawarthill Hospital and the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre – as well as the Western.

He said: “I have always liked being involved with people. I feel this is something that I do best and it has been a privilege meeting and helping staff and patients over the years under many different circumstances.

“Some of the happiest have been conducting weddings of staff and patients, including a country and western-themed ceremony!”

Among those attending the ceremony will be Marjorie Murray, a retired nurse specialist who trained at the Western School of Nursing, and Professor Anna Dominiczak, University of Glasgow Regius Professor of Medicine and Vice Principal and Head of The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.

Another guest will be Donald Blair, nephew of Lieutenant Donald Mackintosh VC, who has two beautiful stained glass windows dedicated to him, donated by the Western Nurses’ League.

Lieutenant Mackintosh, son of the Western’s then Medical Superintendant Colonel Donald Mackintosh, was killed at the Battle of Arras during WW1.

The chapel opened in 1925, thanks to a donation by the Elder shipbuilding family in Govan.

It is one of the few in the world dedicated to the memory of doctors and nurses who died in both World Wars.

One plaque commemorates the deaths of 22 Western doctors and surgeons who were killed during WW1.

The Western site will be taken over by the University of Glasgow and discussions about the future of the chapel are ongoing.