Thursday, October 11, 2007
Gareth Wyke 1953 -58 (age 5-10 years)
Here’s the remarkable story of Gareth Wyke who spent 5 years as a child in Craig-y-nos with TB in the bone and went on to become a PE teacher playing rugby until he was 50!
He lives in Stourbridge, the West Midlands, and he sent me the following e-mail:
“My sister recently sent me a copy of your article in the ‘Brecon and Radnor’ dated 30th August,2007 regarding the reunion of former patients of Craig-y-Nos sanatorium.This awakened many memories of my time as a patient there from when I was five in 1953 until 1958 when I was ten.
Silence within the family
Nothing much has been said ,within my family, of my time there ,so my memories are very sketchy and incomplete.
Apparently, many children from my home town of Talgarth contracted bovine TB from the milk of an infected cow,which the owner then buried to hide the evidence.
I was lucky in that the only part of me to be affected was my left knee.Why I was a patient for so long,I do not know,but I was , eventually, cured by streptomycin.
I do not remember feeling ill or being in pain before I was placed in hospital,or even the journey and being left alone.
Memories of Craig-y-nos
My first bed was in the mixed conservatory, before I was moved, years later, to the small adjoining aviary ward which was boys only.
My leg was plastered and placed in a calliper, which had a wheel similar to a cotton reel at its end which I used to scoot along when I was older and more rebellious.
My behaviour was not good: in earlier days I was frequently tied to the bedhead bars by a restrainer and was not moved out with the boys but kept with the younger children.
However, my mother was told that I was very good with the babies and toddlers; in that I used to look after them and keep them entertained.
Fresh air treatment
We were wheeled out on the balconies for fresh air treatment.Often, the tarpaulin which covered the bed was sprinkled with snow.
The only people I remember were the terrifying Dr Huppert, the stately and gentle Dr Williams, a nursing sister from Mountain Ash, a pretty nurse who used to give me bed baths (much to my embarrassment) .
I remember two brothers with the surname of Kiernan-may have been John and Michael or Robert.
John had very swollen joints and at least one of the boys disappeared, never to be seen again.
There was also a teacher who just seemed to sit on a bed reading Enid Blyton stories, whilst I slid under the bed whispering ‘pink petticoats’ .
‘Shadow the sheepdog’ was a particular favourite.This was when I had been moved to the aviary.I do not remember much education going on, but when I left I was above average reader and writer.
The plan to escape
Whilst in the aviary, we often used to plan an escape. During the night we were to go down through the garden over the river and across the mountain opposite, but we always fell asleep before it was time to go!
Not that I remember being unhappy very often. The worst times were when my parents, mostly my father, didn’t come on visiting days-I was unaware until now that they were only allowed once a month .
I used to watch expectantly when other visitors came through the door and down some steps into the conservatory and if no one came I used to hide under the bedclothes and hide until the visitors had gone.
I realised later that it was very difficult, both logistically and financially (there were five other children to feed and clothe),to get to Craig-y-Nos fromTalgarth, but at the time I felt very unloved.
Other bad times
Other negatives were: tubes slid down your throat, injections in the bottom, the less frequent, but excrutiating ‘injections in the knee and lumpy porridge and tapioca or sheeps eyes as we used to call it.
Other memories include film shows in the theatre and the time I was placed on a pony in the grounds by a gardener and it bolted for a short distance. I didn’t fall off but I didn’t know who was more frightened, me or the gardener.
How the Craig-y-nos experience affected him
“I think my time in hospital definitely effected the person I was to become.
I relate to words and phrases such as ones you mentioned, like'lost childhood','loner','self reliant','independant' and could also add
'anti-social (sometimes)','unloved',and 'persecution complex'.
When I arrived home I had a new sister I'd never seen before and she used to cry and say I wasn't her brother.
Howver,despite having 'matchstick legs' and being teased by new classmates I made a full recovery becoming a PE teacher and playing rugby until I was
I hope this is of use to you-it has been a useful exercise to me.”