Friday, October 26, 2007
Jeanette Wakeham, age 10, 1950-51
Entrance to the castle- some of the childrens wards
Jeanette , from Merthyr Tydfil, talks of her journey to Craig-y-nos as if it was yesterday.
“I shall always remember going into hospital. It was a horrible day, all overcast, and we had to take a bus to Brecon and another down the valley to Craig-y-nos.
The hospital looked such a strange building. I had never seen a place like that before.”
It was the first Thursday in the month, not that Jeanette knew the significance of that then. But she was no sooner settled in the ward than in came the Gospel Singers, for it was the practise in those days to give the children regular religious services once a month.
“They started singing and it was so sad. It just made me feel worse. I felt I had been dumped there. My mother had gone and there was no-one to turn to.”
Later she discovered the nurse who had admitted her that day had herself become a patient and was in the Annexe.
“She remembered me. She said “when I admitted you I didn't think I would end up here as a patient too.”
Jeanette recalls the day she had a gastric lavage, the fight she put up and how the “Enforcer”, Dr Huppert , was brought in.
“I fought the staff. One nurse held me while the other tried pushed “the pipe” down my throat. But I put up a big fight. Honest to God I put up a fight.
“So they sent for Dr Huppert. She was a formidable woman, she frightened me. She stood there and shouted while one nurse held me by sheer force and the other pushed the pipe down my throat.”
Not surprisingly she does not have happy memories of her time there.
She says it was a “bad experience”. Today if children were treated like that, says Jeanette, it would be considered abuse.
How did she come to be holding such a big teddy-bear?
“Well, it belonged to the girl in the next bed. ( Mary Morris from Rhayader ) Her uncle had brought it in for her for her 9th birthday and he photographed her with it then he gave it to me to hold. “
This girl befriended Jeanette and shared her visitors." It was a long way for my family to travel by bus and they could only manage one Saturday a month."
She did not get on with Sister Morgan and believes that for some reason Sister Morgan took a dislike to her. At one stage she found herself isolated at the far end of the balcony alone all day cause the other children were up and it was another nurse who finally moved her next to the French doors, on sister Morgan's day off, so that she would be within earshot of the girls inside the ward and at least have some company during the day.
“Sister Morgan was not pleased but she left me there.”
She found the food acceptable except for salads which she hated (“I still do!”) because they were always full of “creepie-crawlies”.
Out of bed
The time came for her to get up and she recalls that a nurse came along picked her up and put her in an easy chair and told her to sit there for half an hour. Then she came back half an hour later and put her to bed again.
Jeanette remembers taking the 11 plus "and failing”. She learnt to do embroidery and she remembers the green canvas bag we all got when Miss White, or rather Dr Huppert decided we were strong enough to have lessons.
( One day Miss White came to “test” me and she came to the conclusion that I had not reached any standard so I was left alone to read my books).
Walking in the grounds
Jeanette recalls the excitement of going out for her first walk in the grounds only to be stopped at the last minute by Sister Morgan who decided she had a temperature.
“I went back to my bed and cried. I was so disappointed.”
Later however she did go out for lots of walks and still talks of the day the swans chased them and they had to run back across the bridge.
I tell her Craig-y-nos is now a hotel specialising in ghost tours and weddings.
“Well I never saw a ghost all the time I was there.”
She recalls that the height of entertainment in the wards was listening to Donald Peers on the ward radio,going to concerts and films in the theatre. Oh yes there was Bonfire night too.
and at Christmas time carol singers from outside and sang around all the wards.
How did Jeanette get TB?
She had rheumatic fever as a child and one day her legs came out in big bumps. She was sent to the clinic and diagnosed with TB but she had to wait for nearly six months for a bed in Craig-y-nos.
She never had any treatment there except bed rest.
Speaking about her time there:
”It was not a happy time for me. That’s why it has stuck in my mind.
“There was no-one to comfort you. I know some folk have said to me I should have told my mother and father about what went on but what good would that have done? it would have made my life worse.”