Lunatic at Large: an escaped patient from Ayr District Asylum

geograph-667812-by-Mary-and-Angus-HoggThe former Ayr District Asylum, now Ailsa Hospital photographed in 2008. The building to the left is one of the villas built in 1899 © Copyright Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

‘Lunatic at Large’  was the sensational headline in the Glasgow Herald, at the end of November in 1871 of a sad story about a woman in her 30s who had escaped from the Ayrshire District Asylum at Glengall, just south of Ayr (now Ailsa Hospital). She was named as Christina Morton or Reid. Her story made the headlines because it was linked to the disappearance of two young children, a girl of about five or six years of age and a boy of just two and a half, who had been sent by their mother to fetch milk from the dairy, a few doors from their house in Mill Street, around seven o’clock in the evening. When after an hour they had failed to return the mother first searched for them at her neighbours’ houses and then raised the alarm. A diligent search was made, even of the river Ayr which ran past the foot of the gardens in Mill Street, but no trace of the children could be found. All the inhabitants of Mill Street ‘were running in search of them in all directions’. While the search was underway the police received a report that a female patient had escaped from the District Asylum that afternoon. And so the story unfolded:

Near midnight…

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 14.43.18

It is a pitiful tale. Ayr District Asylum had only been opened for a couple of years in 1871. Evidently she was returned to the asylum, as she is listed as a patient there in the 1881 census.

Sources
Glasgow Herald, 30 Nov 1871 p.4
Scotland Census 1881

 

 

About Harriet Richardson

I am an architectural historian, working on the Survey of London at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. I have worked on surveys of hospital architecture in Scotland and England.
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