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Author: Alec Milne - Registered Naturopath
Title: More History

The rosy dawn of the first post war intake of students in 1946, for the ESNT (The Edinburgh School of Natural Therapeutics), promised much. We felt that the basic principles of personal responsibility and faith in the healing power of nature that underly the Nature Cure philosophy must surely triumph in the end, over what were seen as the slash, burn and dope tactics of the medicals. 60 years on we feel much the same, but the implementation of the ideal may take a little more time.

JC Thomson, our mentor, guide and guru, was an old fashioned pioneer, capable of riding rough shod over all obstacles and had by that time, acquired the building - and with the aid of his son Leslie and to a lesser extent the rest of his family, got it up and running as the Home of Modern Nature Cure ( a monumental achievement ). Not as the more fashionable, expensive and elitist other residential place that had been, or were in the process of being, set up, albeit under the Nature Cure flag, but as a somewhat dour but always straight forward attempt to show the patient the way to High Level Health.The astonishing thing is the length of time it took me and I'm sure many of the students to break through the mesmerizing effect of his personality and message. He even promised us martyrdom. Those of you who don't end up in a Court of Law to fight your case will have failed the test of belief, he would say. I did, and didn't like it; failed the test!

The Kingston Clinic, started in 1938, lasted an honorable fifty years, never refusing the patient who needed to come despite an inability to pay normal fees, or the ones beyond hope, because of a dedicated, underpaid staff from top to bottom, who could enthuse the initially bemused and usually fearful patient with their enthusiasm and knowledge. The message of take control of your life was based more or less on sound physiological principles.The religious fervour came from the staff - giving patients strength and hope, while JC said ' Do as I say and you will get better (and if you don't get better, it's because you haven't done what I said'.)

Kingston closed in 1988 and I had to get into the leisures and pleasures of an out-patient practice, before I could see it more clearly. JC's dictum wasn't correct and certainly wasn't fair. The patient who came with a well-developed mitral stenosis and all the complications of the blocked heart valve and slowly deteriorating, was dismissed as being a habitual gin drinker on the evidence of being married to a highly stressed bookie. This was before the advent of antibiotics that might have helped, and in that context, NC was much more positive and helpful than anything offered to her by the medical profession. With the retrospect came the recognition that the success story of Kingston, and it was truly that, was based not on Nature Cure techniques, but on the essential structural elements of its philosophy.

JCT was the totally authoritarian head who invoked terror, hate, and love inapproximately equal amounts but gave unshakeable certainty. Even I, in a uniquely favourable position, certainly more than was Leslie his son, dared not to criticise and could only meekly manage the comment on the assumed gin drinker of her claim that she had been a total abstainer for many years. Leslie (CLT) was so obviously highly intelligent and perceptive, that the patients, few of whom could reach him, looked on him with awe. The old patients were very supportive of the new one; an unconscious group therapy that worked like a charm. The diet was supremely important and to the last, the vegetarian food was wholesome, fresh, natural and as attractive as we could make it. Exercise, particularly walking and breathing was judiciously or challengingly offered. Patients were allowed to stay in bed, but were allowed no food there. The heartlessness of this enforced policy was undermined by the boss's wife, 'Tompi' who would ensure a regular supply of hot water bottles, sweet fruit and caring, to make a success of this dual policy. One grown up young woman remembers, apocryphally no doubt, when being ill as a child being 'shut in a darkened room and told not to come out until she was better.'

But then, such ruminations led to this question. Was the training of students both by the ESNT and later Leslie Harrison's Post Graduate Course based on a faulty premise; the study of techniques rather than the study of why they got better? Certainly we, the class of '46 have failed lamentably to have produced the glorious future that we were very happy to believe was ours for the taking, and it's not for the want of trying. In my old age it seems to me that the area of illness, the big important area, where prevention is the better part of cure, (and this is our area), hinges much more on the quality of relationships and the emotional thing, than on any other aspect.

The Kingston Clinic, Edinburgh (photo taken from Telegraph property 26.05.01)

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