Thursday 9 August 2012

The Mission work of Dr D.W. Torrance and Dr. H.W. Torrance in Tiberias.

The Torrance collection, which includes thousands of photographs and colour slides of Israel, Palestine and medical illnesses, has now been fully updated on our online catalogue. The photographs were taken by David Torrance and his son Herbert  Torrance who established a hospital in Tiberius in 1885 which lasted for over a hundred years helping the local communities.

David Watt Torrance (1862-1923) was educated at Glasgow University before travelling to Palestine in 1884 and assisted in the inauguration of the sea of Galilee Medical Mission. In 1885 he returned to Tiberias and opened the first hospital for those of any race or religion in two rooms near the Franciscan monastery. By 1984 there was a fully functioning hospital with 24 beds and 6 cots. In 1890 Dr Torrance married Lydia Huber and they had four children: Gordon, Stuart, Herbert (1892) and Lydia (1894). Dr D. W. Torrance died in Tiberius on 26 August, 1923.

Herbert Watt Torrance (1892-1977) was educated at Glasgow University and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps serving in France and Serbia and was awarded the Military Cross. In 1923 he went to Tiberius and become superintendent of the hospital. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and received an OBE.

Following the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 the mission hospital became a maternity hospital in Northern Galilee under the Israeli Department of Health. In 1959 the Israeli Government closed the mission hospital and a hospice for travellers was established in the buildings with a resident minister continuing the mission work. Dr H.W Torrance returned to Dundee in 1953 and died in 1977.

These photographs provide a glimpse into the world of both David and Herbert Torrance and their lives and work alongside the Israeli and Palestinian people. The collection of over 4,500 items can be searched online at and can be consulted in the Archive searchroom.

We would like to thank our volunteers and Elizabeth Thompson and Hazel Elder for their hard work on this collection.

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