Mentalists (or memories inspired by Twiggy)


Twiggy – no relation

Twiggy was on “Who Do You Think You Are” last night, and was talking about how her Mum had problems with her “nerves”.  Which is olde worlde speak for an assortment of mental disorders, something that folk didn’t talk about back then.

Which, naturally enough, got me thinking about my Mum and her family.  Before she was married, my Mum spent some time in the hospital with her “nerves”, as had her mother before her.  In fact, I’ve got a letter somewhere from my Granny to my Mum asking her to bring some bits and pieces from home while she was in the hospital.

My Mum was never hospitalised after she was married, although I remember many instances of ups and doons, and she was peculiar, to say the least, until the day she died.  Of course, any mentalism she had was overshadowed by the arch mentalist in the family, my Aunt Bette, my Mums sister.

Elizabeth Robinson (pictured left)

Elizabeth Robinson (pictured left)

As mentioned before, Bette was actually sectioned when she lived with us in the late seventies, and your official white van came to cart her away to Craighouse.  Although the van was actually grey, fact fans.  Suffice to say, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree in my case, not helped by my Dads family having its own share of nutters, including my Gran, who never learnt my name, despite me being forced to stay with her every Saturday night from the ages of 4 to 9.

And they wonder why I ended up the way I am!

Mum and Gran - a pair of mentalists

Mum and Gran – a pair of mentalists


Auntie Bette goes mad

Auntie Bette goes mad

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There have been a lot of nutters in my family, but only Mad Auntie Bette (Birth 1924 in Leith, Midlothian, Scotland, Death 29 Jan 1996 in Edinburgh) actually got certified.

“Elizabeth Robinson), sister of mum, who married young becoming Bette Wiltshire, moved to America, begatting my late cousin Edward, before abandoning him in Edinburgh with my Mum, heading back to the USA, before coming back to Scotland. She then went officially mad, ending up in a mental institute after trying to burn our house down, before causing a scene at my Dads funeral when she claimed that she’d been having an affair with him. This despite him being bedridden and on 4 hourly morphine injections for a fair while. There’s a soap opera in there somewhere.”

You’ll be glad to know it runs in the family, as both my Mum and my Gran spent some time in the hospital with their “nerves”.

And here’s the actual letter from the asylum, confirming that she’d been taken away in the white van.

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The Thomas Clouston Clinic was at the forefront of mental health treatment for almost a century until its closure in 1993, due to spiralling maintenance costs. It pioneered the treatment of ‘shell-shock’ following the First World War, and the development of nursing homes in the 1930s. Today, its legacy is preserved through a number of commemorative exhibits as well as in the building’s construction: New Craig features ‘hidden’ staircases and disconnected floors, designed to allow doctors to circulate separately while limiting access to patients’ wards.

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