FRAMED Laying of the B.G.H. foundation stone. ( June 1984)
FRAMED Laying of the B.G.H. foundation stone. ( June 1984)

It is a date in the history of the health service in the Borders that is firmly set in stone.

On May 31 in 1984, the minister for health and social work laid the foundation stone of the Borders General Hospital.

The much-vaunted ceremony took place exactly a year to the day since the local health board chairman, John Gibb, had ceremoniously cut the first sod to allow construction of Huntlyburn hospital to begin.

In 1984 the cost of the hospital was put at £28million. When the first patients were admitted in 1988 the final cost was said to be £30.5million. The Queen preformed the opening ceremony.

But in May 1984, that was a long way off – although many were impressed at the efficiency and speed at which main contractors John Laing had progressed the work during the previous 12 months.

No one could have blamed Borderers if the construction had hit delays – the battle for a replacement for the wooden huts of Peel had been long and hard. And even when it was agreed a new hospital was needed, there were more arguments over a site and design.

There was fury after former Galashiels town and Selkirk county councillor Russell Fairgrieve who, as the Conservative MP for Aberdeen West and an under-secretary with responsibility for health, wanted a redesign in a row over the height of the planned hospital which led to another delay before construction could begin.

On May 31, 1984, John Mackay declared: “Hospitals are indeed complex structures with sophisticated engineering and services, and it is important to get the design right, and built properly.

“I am sure that when the hospital comes into use some four years from now, it will become a credit to all who have worked on it and an asset to the population of the Borders.”

John Mackay became Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and, in 2001, died at the age of 62 after collapsing on his way to the House of Lords.

The inscribed 1984 stone can be found just within the main entrance to the hospital.