Family who gifted home as hospital challenge NHS sale

A family who gifted their ancestral home in East Lothian to the Red Cross 100 years ago to be used as a hospital in perpetuity are questioning an NHS decision to sell it.

The Alexander family outside Pinkieburn House, what was to become Edenhall Hospital. Picture: Contributed

The Alexander family want assurances the Edenhall estate, near Musselburgh, will continue to honour relatives who died during the First World War and had rooms named after them in the former hospital.

But NHS Lothian insist the property, originally named Pinkieburn House, was sold to the Red Cross and not gifted. They declined to confirm plans for selling the site, which is being marketed by Ryden LLP.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Michael Alexander, 62, who lives in Bowser, on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, said two great uncles who died in 1915 were the last relatives to live at Pinkieburn and the property was subsequently given to the Red Cross to be kept as a hospital with wards to be named after relatives killed in action, Andrew, Michael, Nicholas and Ninian.

Edenhall Hospital in Musselburgh today. Picture: Jon Savage

Mr Alexander said the family has seen no copy of the original deed but they had “oral history” and “documents from the NHS”. He has been corresponding with the NHS since 2012 and said he was “disturbed” by the sale.

He said: “While I understand that this sale is meant to help offset the costs of the NHS’s new Musselburgh Primary Care Centre, the sale of Edenhall is not consistent with the original terms of our gift to the Red Cross. The Alexander family is proud that our ancestral home, Pinkieburn, has been used as a hospital for almost 100 years. However, we believe that the terms of the gift must be honoured in some practical way in perpetuity, as originally agreed.”

Mr Alexander, a forestry and environmental consultant, said the family is not trying to get the site turned back to a hospital and it was most likely to be a housing estate.

But he added: “Because they are listed buildings, I would expect there would be some sort of protection applied. It would be nice if they would keep them in a way that at least the house itself could be somewhat open to the public to see and in some way the history of the gift be recognised. And it would seem to be that that would be possible if people knew about it.”

The home was owned by the Rev William Lindsay Alexander on land from the Earl of Weymss estate and site of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh between Scotland and England in 1547.