Wednesday, July 11, 2007

June Davies (nee Bevan) age 3, 1945-47

Early days in Craig-y-nos
" I was there for two years, going on for two and a half.
and I remember all of it.

I remember going up to the top room, looking out of the window and waiting there for my mother to come because she was only allowed once a month to visit me.

And when she did come, I wouldn't speak to her because, you know, I was so … I can't explain to you. But my father, when he used to come, he used to cry all the time so they stopped my father from coming to see me.

Then, there was somebody else from Rhossili (Gower) in Craig-y-nos and my mum got friendly with that person's mother and they used to share a taxi up to see me because I used to live in Oxwich which is down on the Gower coast.

"Fresh air" treatment
And then I remember being out on the veranda with a tarpaulin on me and covering all over the bed, and it would be freezing cold … snowing, wind, rain, any damn thing … I was on the veranda. And I remember then, they used to take me … you were not allowed out of bed … so, of course, I was getting out of bed.

Death in the night
And then I remember when I was out on the veranda, the next patient to me was a shy little girl like me, and when I woke up in the morning, I put my hand to have a look for her and she wasn't there. So, I said to the nurse … I can see her now … Sister Morgan, she was. And I said to her, 'Where's so and so?' 'Oh,' she said, 'She's had to go home for a little while because she's missing her mother.' So, I said, 'Well, I'm missing my mammy, too.'

But she had died in the night. I was thinking then after, if she's gone home, why can't I go home?

When did you find out that she'd died?
Oh, not until … after a while. I'd been there a while, I was looking for her and everything. And they said she'd gone home and I don't think she will be coming back. But they never told me she'd died. They just said she'd gone home and didn't think she was going to come back.

Dr Huppert
I always remember the doctor … she was German … and I think her name was Huppert. She was a German doctor.

Oh, she used to have her hair cut like a man. I think she had a wooden leg, honest to God. She used to drag one leg and I can see her now with her white coat on, her stethoscope, and dragging this one leg. And she used to be ... gggrrrrrrr (glowering).

I had no milk because they said that the TB bug was in milk. I can remember the lift coming up with the dishes on (from the kitchen) and the cutlery. And I used to go out with the knives and forks and give it to everybody. And I said then to my mother, 'I'm going to be a nurse one day.' And my mother said, 'Well, we'll see about that.' So when I came about sixteen years of age, I did a pre-nursing course in the Tech.

How did they found out you had TB ?
“My grandmother said to my mother, 'This child's not well.' So, my mother said, 'Which way?' She (my grandmother) said, 'They don't cough and cough and cough, like that.'
And my grandmother said, 'You take this child to a doctor.'

First of all, I went into Morriston Hospital, because I went home then to pack all my clothes and everything, then I had to go up to the laundry to be measured for a … I had a white gown, like a white night shirt, that could go to the laundry regularly (in Morriston). And if we were good girls we used to have an orange and an apple once a week (in Morriston).

In Craig-y-nos we never had anything like that. Only what your parents brought up to you.

My mother would come in with all these toys and different things, and then I'd throw them all on the floor and say, 'I don't want them. No, I don't want them, take them home.'

Was your brother allowed to come and see you?
Yes, but he didn't come very much because he was working. He'd just started working on the Evening Post as an apprentice

So, being in Craig-y-nos didn't stop you becoming a nurse?
No, I passed my SRN, and then I was a senior staff nurse. I was in charge in one geriatric hospital.

Have you every spoken about your experiences of being in Craig-y-nos before?
No, not really.

They'd say, 'Have you had any illnesses?' And I'd say, 'Yes, I've had TB.' 'When?' 'Oh,' I'd say, 'I was just three.' I was born in '42, so it was about 1945.

How many children have you got now?
I've got one boy who's forty-two.

Has your TB ever come back?
No, but I got MS.

How long have you had MS?
Since I was about twenty years of age. I first started my signs and symptoms. I was dragging my left leg all the time. And my father used to say to me, 'For God's sake, pick that foot up.' I said, 'I am picking it up.'

So, you must have been working as a nurse then?

Was it always cold in Craig-y-nos?
Yes, it was always cold, and I'm cold all the time now. I'm shivering and I'm cold, and my husband is sweating.

Was there any heating at all in Craig-y-nos?
There wasn't.

Did you have lots of blankets?
If you wanted them, you asked for them, but I was only little. It's only now, because I know so much, how I really survived.

Do you remember any treatment?
No, there was no treatment for TB . It was just fresh air, and fruit and things like that. No milky foods at all, no cheese, no butter, nothing like that because they thought that the TB bug was coming from butter and milk and things.

Was there any time in Craig-y-nos when you were allowed to get up and go outside?
No. I remember getting out of bed to do this and that.
And the next thing, they came round … it was Dr Huppert … she said, 'This child's hair is too long.' I had a mass of curls. And she said, 'It's got to be cut.' And they cut all my curls off.
Who did that?
The nurse. And do you know it never grew back curly at all. It's just dead straight.

Did they tell you why they cut your hair?
My mother went to ask, and this Dr Huppert said, 'Because all the strength's going in the hair and not in the body.'
My mother said, 'Oh.'

What was Sister Morgan like?
Very nice. I used to send her Christmas cards. She used to send me a Christmas card.

Do you think that you suffered trauma from being in Craig-y-nos?
It must have been, mustn't I? Because I can remember everything. I can remember going up and down in the lift and then having a row for going up and down in the lift. Oh, and I remember they put me in this strait jacket, in the bed and I couldn't move. And I can see it now in films and things, and I think, God, I used to have one of those.

Did they tie you to the bed?
Yes, in this strait jacket, and they used to tie me each side of the bed. I couldn't move, I couldn't get out, I couldn't move … nothing.

Were you ever bullied by the other children?
No, I think I bullied them myself. My name was Bevan and they used to say my nickname was 'Bully Bevan'.

Even at a very young age, you were a bully?

So you've stuck up for yourself ever since?

So you don't feel that you were too traumatised long-term by this or do you?

I don't know really. I think in the beginning, yes, because I couldn't understand why my mother only came once a month to see me. I used to sit there waiting, waiting, and if I've got to wait now, I say to myself, 'My God, I've done nothing but wait all my life.' Wait for this, wait for that.

Do you think your parents suffered from you being in Craig-y-nos?
My mother did, and my father. I'm sorry to say, do you think I can go off now because my husband has cooked my meal?

Dr.Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London in telephone interview with June Davies ( nee Bevan).

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