Museum Collection: Wooden Horse-drawn Ambulance

Ambulances are a relatively new invention, having been created towards the end of the 19th century. Before then, police, firefighters, and taxi drivers would staff their vehicles with wheeled stretchers – or “litters”, as they were known – in case they were called to take an ill or injured person to the nearest hospital or doctor’s surgery- a duty they kept sharing until full-time ambulance service was established around the turn of the 20th century, years after ambulances had been invented.

The horse drawn ambulance at the Dundee Museum of Transport was built in 1884 for around £100, which is over £12,00 in present day money. It carried one “litter”, and it served for almost forty years in Aberfeldy as a fever ambulance until 1920, when it was last used to take an appendix patient to Perth Royal Infirmary.

It then spent the following fifty years as a henhouse before being restored by the Scottish Ambulance Preservation Society, with help from the craft department of Kirkcaldy Technical College. To celebrate its restoration, it was paraded along the harbour front of Kirkcaldy and put on show in the High Street. There were no available horses on the day, so they had to use a Land-Rover to pull it!

The SMT (Scottish Motor Traction) Company held the ambulance in its showroom on Victoria Road, in Kirkcaldy, before moving it to the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford. It was thereafter transferred to Dundee Museum of Transport and has been on permanent display since the museum opened in 2014.