Let the bells ring out

View from the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, 1955

This view from inside the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, brings into focus the Christmas bells. The image taken in 1955 is one of a number of slides from the Torrence collection held in the Archives.

David Watt Torrance was educated at Glasgow University, graduating in 1883.  Despite being offered a post at Glasgow Infirmary he travelled to Palestine and assisted in the inauguration of the Sea of Galilee Medical Mission.  Following further training in Egypt, Damascus and Nazareth he returned in 1885 to Tiberias and opened the first hospital for those of any race or religion in two rooms near the Franciscan monastery.  A move to Beit abu Shamnel abu Hannah preceded the opening of a new hospital in 1894.  During World War I (1914-1918), Dr Torrance served as resident officer in charge of Oakbank War Hospital in the west of Scotland.  Dr Torrance married three times and had a large family.

His son, Herbert Watt Torrance, was educated at Glasgow University, graduating MB in 1916.  He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, served in France and Serbia and was awarded the Military Cross.  After demobilisation he returned to Glasgow University as demonstrator and lecturer and to study for the FRCS.  In 1921 he was awarded the degree of MD and went to Tiberias where in 1923 he became superintendent of the hospital.  He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.  For services rendered during the British Mandate in Palestine he was awarded the OBE.

Following the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 the mission hospital became a maternity hospital responsible for midwifery and gynaecology in Northern Galilee under the Israeli Department of Health in 1949..  The hospital closed ten years later but a hospice for travellers was established in the buildings and a resident minister and bookshop continue to promote the work of the mission in Tiberias.  Dr H.W. Torrance retired to Dundee in 1953 and died in 1977.

Photography was an abiding interest for Herbert Watt Torrance.  The collection provides a record of the main period of the British Mandate, the increasing rate of Jewish immigration and the impact of the State of Israel on the landscape.  It also contains many photographs of medical conditions which have subsequently been eradicated.  Dr Torrance's interest in flowers, animals and archaeology is well represented and many photographs show examples of the ‘biblical situations’ popular with photographers. 

The records, spanning from 1880-1944, were deposited by the Torrance family in 1977 with a further donation in 1998.

Ref no: MS 38/4/2 (1)

Images from the collections featuring WW1 material