Sunday, August 05, 2007
Haydn Beynon, -1931, age 7
Haydn was in Craig-y-nos for twelve months followed by another year in Highland Moors.
"I was one of five children. I was born in Mansell Street (Port Talbot), which I can look out and can see from my window now, literally a hundred yards from where I’m living.
But, at the time that I went to Craig-y-nos, we were living up Taibach in Port Talbot.
We lived halfway up the mountain in one of about a dozen wooden bungalows.
How did you feel about going into Craig-y-nos?
Well, I can’t remember, really. I do know that it was hard work for my parents. My father was a collier, you know, a miner, and getting from Taibach to Craig-y-nos, it took them three or four hours because they had to catch … they had to walk halfway down the mountain first to Taibach, then catch a bus into Port Talbot in the town, then another bus to Neath, and then from there up to Craig-y-nos. And of course it took three or four hours. So, I remember, I only saw them … I was told that visiting was once a month, apparently, so I saw my parents about every two months.
Were your brothers and sisters allowed to visit?
Oh no. My elder brother was two years older than me, and then the next one … my sister, she would be too young, you know. Only my elder brother, who was two years older than me, but he never came. It was too expensive because in those days money was very tight.
Yes, absolutely. All my mum’s family were miners and they were very poor in the thirties.
Have you re-visited Craig-y-nos?
Last Sunday I went with my son. I found the spot where my bed was.
On the wall was a triangle, like a shiny mark, it’s very distinctive, and that was where I knew my bed was.
So when we went there last Sunday, we had a look for this particular spot. We failed to find it at first then my son found it just by chance. It was about twenty feet up the wall because they’d taken down the veranda that we used to sleep on.
That marked the spot where my bed was.
I can remember, a tall severe-looking Irish woman, Sister O’Gorman.
She frightened the death out of us.
Life on the balcony
Was it cold?
Oh yes!I was looking through the comments by other people who had been patients (Ann’s blog), and all that they said about the snow and the rain blowing in and the heavy canvas sheet on top of the beds – all that is correct.
I can remember sitting up in bed with my pyjamas on and my mother and father with overcoats and scarves and hats on, the snow and the rain coming in, and they’d be shivering, and I’m sitting up in bed and not even feeling it.
Did you have hot water bottles?
You just got used to the cold?
Yes, you didn’t feel it after a while.
What about the food?
One thing that I can remember is the food.
Your daughter-in-law told me about that you have a lifelong hatred of tapioca pudding as a result of having it in Craig-y-nos.
Tapioca and semolina. They used to make me sick, just looking at them, especially tapioca because it was slimy and lumpy and uggghhhh. She probably told you that … I think it was maybe once or twice a week, you had a bonus of about four squares of Cadbury’s chocolate, and I didn’t qualify because if you didn’t eat your afters, you couldn’t have chocolate. I always remember that.
(chat about Hadyn being a rarity because there are so few people who were in Craig-y-nos in the 1930s., so you’re experiences are very rare. That’s why it’s so important.
I can remember vividly … every few days the curtains would go round a bed and porters would wheel somebody away who had died, you know. It seemed to be … of course I was only a youngster … it seemed that there were lots of people dying at that time.
It seemed to be every other day.
Were you allowed out into the grounds?
Oh yes. I can remember one instance of … a couple of us children were together and we were down towards the beginning of the forest, and a fox and hounds came through there. It frightened us to death. It was a fox hunt
What about treatment?
As far as I know, nothing. It was just fresh air. We were told that the only cure was fresh air.
The Adelina Patti theatre
Did you ever go to the theatre there?
No. Not for entertainment, but I went in there because in those days … perhaps you could tell me, when did it start being a sanatorium?
Well, Adelina Patti, who owned Craig-y-nos, died in 1919, and then I think about 1920 or 1921 it started to become a sanatorium.
I remember going there, it was a beautiful place. It was in beautiful condition, you know, and the theatre, I can remember the theatre. It was absolutely dazzling, you know what I mean? Of course, that was her pride and joy. It was dazzling.
What is it like to-day?
It's neglected, it has been run down … we had a conducted tour by the administration supervisor last Sunday.
She was very good. She took us all round, but apparently the new owners had it for a very cheap price, because of the condition. Some of the rooms we went in, the ceiling had fallen down.
The theatre is listed. but I think the rest of the building is not listed and so therefore they can’t get any government money to restore it.
Some people’s experiences of being in Craig-y-nos were bad and some people’s have been quite good.
What was it like for you?
I can’t say there was anything particularly bad nor good really.
What was the difference between Highland Moors and Craig-y-nos?
Well, there was more … you were encouraged to play … I remember actually playing cricket there, in Highland Moors. I definitely remember playing cricket there.
There were fields there that you could play sport in.
So was it more active at Highland Moors than Craig-y-nos?
Yes, because it was more like convalescent. In Craig-y-nos, I don’t know, it just seemed monotonous, one day after the other.
Had you missed a lot of schooling?
Yes, and I can remember people making fun because I had a posh voice, apparently.
It was different from the local boys there.
When you went back home, did you settle well?
I found it very strange .
What about your family life?
Well, I’m eighty-two and a half now. I got married on December 3, 1949. We were married fifty-five years. My dear wife died two years last month.
I have a boy and a girl…
Edited interview of Haydn Beynon in conversation with Dr. Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.