The 100-year-old journey of Dr. H. Gordon Roberts Hospital

Episode XIV

The history of Shillong is written not only in textbooks and engraved on plaques but its significance is visible in the form of age-old structures that have stood the test of time – their foundations as secured as the day they were laid.

In this episode of Shillong’s Iconic Structures, we bring to our readers Dr. H. Gordon Roberts Hospital, which is one of the oldest health institutes in the state and a pioneer in nursing training in Meghalaya.

Located in the heart of Jaiaw locality, which is only a few kilometers away from Motphran – the busiest commercial hub in the city, the Dr. H. Gordon Roberts Hospital has been rendering its services since 1922.

This Hospital, formerly known as the KJP Synod Hospital, is named after its founder, Dr. Hugh Gordon Roberts, a Welsh missionary and medical professional, who arrived in Shillong in 1913. It was officially opened to the public on March 25, 1922, by the then Governor of Assam, Sir William Marris.

According to Dr. RA Hughes, a recipient of the medal of the Order of the British Empire and former Medical Superintendent of Roberts Hospital: In October 1913, Dr. and Mrs. H. Gordon Roberts set sail from Liverpool, United Kingdom to work as medical missionaries in Shillong. In 1914 when World War I broke out, the Government asked him to act as a Civil Surgeon in the Shillong Civil Hospital in addition to his other medical duties. It was during this time that Dr. Roberts prevailed upon the District Committee of Missionaries to recommend that a hospital be built in Jaiaw – on the border of Shillong, then.

The main building was almost complete in 1917. And it was finally completed with a capital grant from the Government of Assam and help from the friends of the Mission in Wales, who donated over 30,000 pounds for its completion.

At a time when scientific and medical interventions were alien to the tribals of Khasi and Jaintia hills, convincing them to get treatment for different kinds of ailments and providing medical care was a gigantic task but that did not stop the Hospital authorities from reaching out to the public, both near and far.

Dr. Roberts retired from his active role in the Hospital administration in 1942 but continued helping the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in its endeavour to provide facilities for the soldiers who were camped in Shillong until he returned to England in 1945.

The Hospital, which initially began with 90 beds, now has the strength of 350 beds. At present, the Hospital is spread across 14 acres of land stretching all the way from Jaiaw Pdeng to the CRPF camp in Jingkieng Mawlai.

Lest we forget, the iconic lawn of the Hospital located behind the Private Ward is adorned with flowering plants, fresh-cut grass, and a small concrete bridge. It is definitely an ideal spot to convalesce.

The Hospital was handed over to the Trust Association of Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Assam in the Khasi Jaintia Hills and is administered by a Committee of the Synod in 1962. At present, the Hospital is managed by the Khasi Jaintia Presbyterian Assembly (KJPA).

Yes, the Hospital is celebrating its 100 years of existence this year and the journey thus far has been indeed filled with memorable moments. Going forward, the present management hopes to keep Dr. Roberts’ legacy alive and continue in its stride to render selfless service to the people. To know more about the history of this heritage structure, watch the full episode on our Youtube Channel @TheShillongTimes as we take you on a trip down memory lane.

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