Psychiatry in pictures

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John Gilmour (1882–1931), The Confessional Press.

John Gilmour, who featured in last month’s issue, drew pictures of his time as an inmate in asylums in Trinidad, America and Scotland. He also wrote about his experiences in his letters to his family and asylum staff. In addition, Gilmour contributed poems to the Crichton Royal magazine, The New Moon. In his letters, Gilmour outlined his belief that he was being persecuted: ‘a system of cruelty exists in this institution not by starvation, nor beatings, but by a system of mental suggestion, and mock... pantomime – cruel jests – telepathy or other art unknown to me’. Gilmour also used his art to describe how he was being tormented. In this picture Gilmour portrayed himself trapped in a large press. Various figures representing asylum staff and patients are seen seated about the contraption. They are all making disparaging remarks about Gilmour. On the left of the picture is a figure, carrying a padlock and a whip, and wearing long boots. He is urging Gilmour to confess. This is Dr Wilsey, the physician-in-charge of the Amityville Asylum in New York or the Long Island Home for Nervous Invalids as it was also known. Gilmour was a patient there before being transferred to the Gartnavel Asylum, Glasgow and then to the Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries. Thanks to Morag Williams, Archivist, Dumfries and Galloway Health Board, Crichton Royal Hospital, Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries. For further details about Gilmour, see Beveridge, A. & Williams, M. (2002) Inside ‘The Lunatic Manufacturing Company’: the persecuted world of John Gilmour. History of Psychiatry, 13, 19–49.