If you mention the name Carstairs every Scotsman will think of one thing: the State Hospital, the high-security prison for the criminally insane. It is part of the NHS and treats patients from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Carstairs’ reputation is powerful; murderers whose actions have terrified the nation, are kept just a few miles outside the village. What happens behind the high security fencing remains a mystery.
Perhaps it the mysterious nature of this institution that spread fear and terror, as well of course as the nature of its inhabitants, but what really scared people was the fact that quite a few of the inmates were able to escape Carstairs.
For a long time nobody knew what to do with the criminally insane. They were too dangerous for ordinary hospitals, in prisons they could not be treated. Carstairs thus filled a major gap in Scotland’s judicial system, the State Hospital opened in 1956. The first eight years saw 38 outbreaks. There were also cases discharged as cured, only to kill, rob, and rape again. And, of course, there were cases in which men were wrongfully sent to Carstairs.
How much more peaceful is the old cemetery in Carstairs. The people buried here will have had their secrets, maybe some of them have committed crimes, some will have been law-abiding, some good Christians. Death makes no distinction. For whatever you were in life, you will be remembered in death, but for death, the great equalizer, we are all the same.
sources and further reading:
David Leslie: Carstairs. Hospital of Horrors. Black and White, 2015