Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Haydn Harris -Craig-y-nos- 1936-37

Haydn Harris of Port Talbot.

“ I was born in the village of Clyne in the Neath Valley.

I was 3 at the time I was admitted to Craig-y-nos and my 4th birthday was due after I arrived there in March 1936 . I came out before my 5th birthday, probably around February 1937.

I can remember continually having what was thought of as cold or flu, especially on the chest but it wasn't all that serious and I was not incapacitated in anyway by it.

After I came out my mother always referred to the fact that I was under observation though I don't think that was the case.

That's what she used to say :”I had been in under observation.” I wasn't all that bad.

I can’t remember much about settling in. I can’t remember being put out much with it. I never felt as if I was missing something.

Was there any one person there that helped you to settle?

No...the one person that does stick in my mind though strangely enough is the odd job man on the ward.

I seem to remember he was a very friendly bloke but somehow strict he wouldn't play down to a child. I liked him. He was the one person I can remember.

Did you receive any treatment?
The one bit I can remember was the “fresh air treatment”. They often put us out on the balcony to sleep. In all weathers and I can even remember being out there in the snow with tarpaulin over the bed. That’s the one time that I can really remember.

There were times during the day you had to rest. We went out for walks quite frequently down in the garden.
There was a group of children and we would go through the gardens.

One thing I can remember is that the gardeners used to catch squirrels and keep them in cages to show us. Things like that. That's the part that sticks in my mind.

We never went beyond the bridge though.

It was an all male ward but it was not all children.
There were grown up people there as well. It was big ward and big windows along the veranda side overlooking the gardens.

Describe the ward and the iron lungs.
The ward had two areas. And I was down by the window that's where my bed was, that's how I got to know the odd job man because he was always cleaning the windows.

The raised part was for the iron lungs.
Young though I was I knew that was not a place to go, very rarely if ever did I go up on to the platform.

I think there were half a dozen iron lungs. They were big, at least six foot in length. The only part of the person you could see was the head. From the neck down was completely covered, it was like box with a man’s head on it. That sticks in my mind.
Were you ever cold?
No except the time I was out in the snow.
no I cant remember any.
I cant say I remember being terribly cold. There was no fireplace or stove.


My mother had a long journey to get to the hospital to see me having to catch a couple of buses.
At visiting time I was running around. I wasn't in bed.

The last few months I was there my mother didn't come up to see me at all and I couldn't make that out until I got home and found that she was expecting my brother.
He was born shortly after I came out.

I just ate what was put in front of me.

This is one memory I can remember. That's one time I enjoyed going up on stage with the iron lungs because on Christmas morning Father Christmas arrived. He set his chair up on that level and the children in the ward had to go up and get a present off him. I was glad to go up that day.
I was given some sort of truck.

That's another big memory I have!
The x-ray machines were in the rooms alongside the theatre, I suppose they used to be the dressing rooms . Maybe it was once a week though I wouldn't swear to it, they used to take us down there in wheelchairs and leave us sitting in the theatre and we could sit for maybe an hour or so there .

The one thing that stuck in my mind was the painting over the stage of the chariot .

About 15-20 years ago, the first time I ever went back to Craig-y-nos, I was most disappointed because I couldn't find the picture. I had a word with one of the people there who was looking after the place and he said: “ come with me” and he pressed a button and this screen came down and there was my picture. Thank God for that!

There were no lessons.

Did you have any friends?
I can't remember any that stick in my mind.

Were there any members of staff that you particularly liked?
No, except the odd job man.

(Cynthia comments on the fact that many former child patients have remarked that it is the cleaners and orderlies that they remember most clearly maybe because they had more time for the children than the nurses who were too busy.)

The odd job man

One thing I can remember about the odd job man was in the winter of 1936, a very snowy winter, and he was up a ladder doing something in the troughing just outside my bed and he fell off the ladder and he injured his arm. He ended up in the next bed to me, just for the night.

How did you settle back into family life?

I didn't go out much at all. My parents were a bit scared to let me go out.
On my 5th birthday there was a boy living across the road and my mother invited him in and I got quite friendly with him afterwards and that's what broke it, getting friendly with him, he was a year older than me.

I started school soon afterwards. I hadn't been to school before and I settled down very well.

What effect did Craig-y-nos have on you?
I don’t think it had any. I seem to have taken it all in my stride.It didn't seem to have worried me all that much.

The one concern I had was when my mother failed to turn up for a couple of months to visit.
Nobody explained why. That's the one bad memory I have.

Family history

My father was married twice. His first wife died of TB at 28 years of age leaving him with two children. My elder sister had TB when she was 12 years of age and she was in another sanatorium.

My cousin living next door died of meningitis and I know people who had scarlet fever and being very ill and some died.

Haydn Harris was interviewed by Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation.

This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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