Friday, June 29, 2007

Myfawny Blatchford ( nee Hoyle) - 1953

Alfie, the Spanish gardener, rescues Myfwany and Mari

Alfie, Mari and Myfwany. Who took the photograph?

Myfawny Blatchford born 1939.
She entered Craig-y-nos as a 14 year old for 5 months in 1953, just after the Coronation. She was on the balcony of Ward 2.

"Before I knew I had TB and would have to go to hospital my uncle, that was my father’s brother, died in Craig-y-nos as the clock struck midnight.

Well, this always stuck in my mind, and when it was my turn to go into Craig-y-nos this thought was there and every night it was me fighting to stay awake until that clock had struck midnight.

And then I could sleep.

Running away from Craig-y-nos
We had been naughty and had done something we shouldn't have and we were being reprimanded and there were three of us.
I think one was Mari and we were told once again that we were going to be punished , going to be kept indoors and after being out of doors, day in day out, it was cruel.

It was like taking part of our life away.

So we decided to run home although the castle being miles and miles from home.

We ran past the morgue where the bodies were kept because obviously it was a killing disease then, past the big oak tree and the horse chestnut trees and we were running along the road and suddenly these bodies came chasing after us and took us back into hospital.
And we were told that if it happened again they would get in touch with our parents we would be discharged.
There were such beautiful grounds we used to love being out of doors.

What type of treatment did you receive?

Nothing just rest and that was only for a short while. I was a week inside the ward then straight out on to the balcony and I think I was only in bed for a month and then I was up and about playing havoc.

Were there strict rules?
Oh yes, you mustn't stretch.

Would you have been punished if you were naughty?
Oh yes. Mari and I took a boat out on to the lake and neither of us could swim.
( We had to spend the day out. We had been given a packed lunch .)
We couldn't get back and Alfie Repado the gardener had to come and rescue us and while we were there we were shivering in our shoes because we could see Sister Morgan’s white hair and her hat coming through the trees.
We were were confined to bed as a punishment.

How many were in the ward?
I think there were between 16-20 in the ward.
They were mostly teenagers 12-16 year olds.

Were you cold?

When I went in first and I went outside on the balcony my mother kept saying “ Oh dear! dear! you are going to die !” But we were hardened to it.

What do you remember about the food?
I can remember the first time in my life that I ever had fish for breakfast and funny thing is that we had kippers this morning for breakfast but if my mother had given me fish for breakfast at home I wouldn't have eaten it.

Another thing that stand out in my mind was our tea. We had these big enamel trays like the butchers have today and they would be stacked high with cut bread and butter and a bottle of red sauce and a bottle of brown sauce and that was our tea.

I will never forget those teas but we ate it for we were starving after being out all day.

Only arithmetic and English. We had 2 lady teachers elderly women. They would go to individual beds. And we had guides. A lady used to come in and give us the Girl Guides.

Everybody was friends. That was your life wasn't it?
We did have Jean Shakeshaft. She was the boss. She was the big girl. She was older than the rest of us. She was the maximum, I think she was 16.

Dr Huppert?
She used to frighten me. She was a strange looking woman I shouldn't say it but she was strange looking, rather manly, and her accent as well. I can remember going to see her one day in the duty room. Because I was sleeping outside my mother naturally made sure that I had vests to wear under my pyjamas.
When I stripped off for her to examine me she gave me heck.
“Tae zat off! wot eeze zat you got on!”
You must let your body breathe!”
She made me strip if all off. I came out crying.

Yet the other doctor, Dr Williams was wonderful.

And the other staff?
They were lovely. Well, we did have one staff nurse, Katie, she was only a prim little thing and we used to go up to the window to wave at visitors and she used to come and slap our hands:”get back to your bed” . She was a little bit nasty. On the whole the staff were lovely.

Family and visitors
Visitors were once a month but I was fortunate because my brothers wife was moved to Craig-y-nos from a sanatorium up north. She had been taken ill on honeymoon and she was seven years in this hospital up north.

She was in the ward below and my brother, my parents and my sister used to visit her every weekend so I was lucky. I would see them even if it was just to wave through the window. We would go halfway down the stairs and there would be a parcel of food left there for us.

Midnight feasts
We were a naughty group of girls. Our parents used to bring parcels of food and after visitors we used to go up on the roof for a midnight feast. It used to be wonderful. All that was part of my healing process. Better than sitting at home waiting for my brothers and sisters to come from school to talk to me


All I wanted to do was work with flowers but they wouldn't let me because of the pollen. I had the option of going to college to pick up schooling I had lost. So they put me into Gorseinon Technical college to do a secretarial course

Was it difficult to settle back into the family?
Yes it was , even after five months, but some of the girls had to be in for years so it must have been awful for them.
My sister often used to come into my room at night and I would be sitting up in bed talking to myself in my sleep, so used to the company I was, she used to wake me up and chat with me.

If anything it did me the world of good because it brought me out. I was very, very shy person until I went in there.
Given the choice of having that year at home or five months in Craig-y-nos every time I would have chosen the time in Craig-y-nos. It got me better quicker, and not being spoilt and the company and seeing people worse off than yourself.

I had no treatment apart from the fresh air, the food and rest.

Myfawny Blatchford was interviewed by Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation. This is supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

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