Friday, July 06, 2007

Susan Evans (nee Davies), age 12 ,March 1951- January 1952

The balcony girls- early 1950's.
(From left to right- back row): Jean Shakeshaft, Mari Jenkins, unknown, unknown
(front row) Ann Rumsey, unknown, Florence, unknown

How did they discover you had TB?
I hadn't been well and my mother took me to the doctor's.
I'm one of ten children, and the doctor said to her: 'Oh, Mrs Davies, you're fussing too much.'

But my brother had been in the Navy and he contacted tuberculosis. And then, my sister … so my mother had the three of us going into sanatoriums. So, really, I had contacted it off my brother and my sister.

Did your mother and father come to visit you?
Oh yes, every month. During the month my brother, who was just two years older than I was … going fifteen … would catch the bus from Neath, which is quite a distance, up to Craig-y-nos, and bring me some treats.
But he wasn't allowed in.
He used to have to leave them at the door.
And then I had cousins who worked for Jenkins' sweets factory in Skewen, and they would be delivering up there and they would always drop in with some goodies for me.
But, it seemed a long time when you wouldn't see your mother and father because that was the first time I was ever away from home.

The first fortnight I thought :” This is great.”
It was a bit of a treat, but after a fortnight, it hit me that I wasn't going home. But, you soon settle down. You knew you had to stay .

I wasn't allowed out of bed for seven or eight months.

Then I was out on the balcony in all weathers.
We slept out. you'd wake up and there'd be snow on the bottom of the beds, we'd have green tarpaulin over the beds. But I can honestly say I can never remember being cold.
I had long hair ( I used to sit on it) and there'd be bats flying around the light. We'd be afraid of the bats coming, and the girls used to tease me that they'd get tangled in my hair.

I asked the girls to cut my hair. I didn't have to have it cut. But I remember we used to have to have a de-licer put in, just in case.
I remember the grounds, beautiful grounds, even when it was snowing.

Dr Margaret Huppert
I can always remember, Dr Huppert. Oh, she was a German doctor, she looked very manly.

I remember her screaming … I think we were throwing snowballs or whatever, and her shouting across, oh my God, we were terrified of her.

The staff?
They were lovely. I can remember there was an Auntie Maggie. She used to go into Ystalfera, and chocolate flakes had just come out then. We'd give her the money, and then she'd bring some back
And there was an orderly, and she was ever so kind as well. And Sister Morgan. She looked frightening but she was quite nice and many years after I came out, I met her in Neath.
A lot of people have said that it's made them very psychologically damaged.
Oh, good heavens, no. We had lots of fun there.
You don't feel that?
Oh, gosh alive, no, far from it. No, no, I wouldn't say that at all. I was there to make me better as far as I was concerned.
Lots of people have been traumatised.
Why is that?
I don't know. Obviously you have spoken about it.
Oh yes. Whenever I hear about Craig-y-nos I say, 'Oh, I was there.'

Schooling ?
Yes, we had schooling, which I didn't like (laughs). Then, of course, there were boys underneath us, on the balcony below.
We used to have a cord and write notes and drop it down to them,
Do you know, I've got a friend now who was out on the balcony with me, Diana Cousins, from Caerau in Maesteg. Diana lives not very far from where I'm living now, in Neath, but she's usually my first Christmas card that I get still.
I've got two daughters and grandchildren. I've got a lovely family. Unfortunately, I just buried a brother last week, so we're down now to two brothers and four girls.

What sort of things did you do to while away the time in bed?
We just talked. There was nothing … or read. That's all we could do. There was no television or radio.

I was in bed at home before I went to Craig-y-nos, so I missed what we called the scholarship .
I went to a secondary modern school just for one year.

I was a sales assistant at Woolworth's. I loved it.
My oldest daughter started there as a Saturday girl and now she's got her own store in Brecon. The manager of Brecon. Helen, my other daughter is the manager of a clinic in Cardiff University. They've both done well.

My mother used to bring fresh eggs up because we kept chickens. And then we'd write our names on the eggs and they'd boil them and then you knew you'd have that egg back (laughs).

Inside Ward 2
They used to have very highly polished floors, and the cleaners used to sprinkle dried tea leaves.

Dorothy Johnson with a staff nurse

I remember Dorothy Johnson in the next bed to me. She was a little bit older than me and she was writing to a boy in Ramsgate, and he used to write some really hot letters (laughs), and she wanted him to stop writing to her. And he was blackmailing her, that if she didn't carry on, he would show her parents the letters she had written to him. I was quite a few years younger than her but she used to show me these letters.

And there was another girl, she was quite posh, she was, and she had boxes and boxes of flowers coming from Jersey or Guernsey … Jersey, I think it was.
I can't ever remember feeling cold . I think we had the china hot water bottles.

No, I can't say anything bad about it, to be honest with you. It certainly didn't affect me. When I went in, I was thin beyond thin. When I came out, I could hardly walk, the weight that I'd put on.
As far as Craig-y-nos was concerned, it was an experience… after a fortnight, I did break down, and I was a bit unhappy for a short while.

But I can't understand why other patients have been distressed about being in Craig-y-nos unless of course they had a lot of treatment. I mean, there were people there that had treatment.
You sound cheerful
Oh yes, I am. I suffer from arthritis. I've had a knee replacement. I've a lot to be grateful for, nothing really to be angry for.

I remember going into the house, and thinking, 'Oh my God,' the walls seemed as if they were coming in on me. It seemed so small compared to the size of the ward.

Susan Evans in telephone interview with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

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