Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Roger Wyn Beynon - 1949

Children were often wheeled outdoors during the day for the "fresh air" treatment".
Roger was in Craig-y-nos for five years.

How did you discover you had TB?
I fell down on the back steps as a toddler and hurt my right knee. I’m given to understand from old family members who are no longer with me, a lad in the area with a similar name was suffering from worms. So they treated me for worms and him for whatever they thought I had.

After a good few months of being shifted around various hospitals, I ended up in Craig-y-nos.
I certainly do recall being on the balcony in all weathers. Also I remember the peacocks, the park, the train on the far bank, and the injections of course.

Roger in the Glass Conservatory with his father
I was up there last Christmas at a function with my wife and I showed her the conservatory.I could picture where my cot was. That was nice.

Do you remember any of the children you were with?
There was a lad alongside me whose name I’ve carried all my life (Graham Canning), whom I thought was in an iron lung, but apparently, looking into the history, it would appear that it was a plaster cast.

What happened to your knee?
When I came out of hospital, I was in a calliper for a long time.
It was replaced when I was nine by a plastic cast. This was removed when I was about ten.
Seven years ago I had a replacement knee.
For the first time in my life, I’ve got a knee that looks like a knee.

Roger with his father

When I came out of hospital at aged seven, I certainly could read and write very well. I found my primary school was rather bland. Whether I was one of those snotty little buggers who knew it all, I don’t know, but certainly I got a grounding there (in Craig-y-nos), and for all of my life really.

Did you read a lot?
I’ve submerged myself in books and I think as a child that came to me in Craig-y-nos. My relatives would say that I was always in a book, so I think as an individual I lost myself, which is natural I would imagine anyway. Ever since then I’ve had a love of books, and Craig-y-nos certainly taught me independence.

I was independent in a way that I would think anybody who has been institutionalised for a while would be.
I think if I’d gone in like many of the other poor kids of about eight or nine upwards, it would have been a more marked effect, but what you’ve never had you never miss. I didn’t know any different.

Certainly I’ve played sports. The only thing I felt deprived of, as a child was that I was unable to correctly ride a bicycle. I did ride a bike simply because I wanted to but my right leg was sticking out all the time.

Craig-y-nos formed attitudes in me that I have to this day. I dare say as a teenage lad, like all boys who want independence and finding it suppressed, I did become very rebellious with a chip on my shoulder. That wasn’t so much at society but towards my parents.

I’ve always enjoyed a relationship with my father, but myself and my mother – it goes back to those days – that’s gone and it’s never going to come back. It’s not a sob story, that’s how it is.

Tell me about the day you went home.

I had a brother who was born while I was in hospital so coming out, I didn’t know who he was, and there was this other strange thing as well. I remember coming home – I don’t know how – but coming out of Craig-y-nos and it was a glorious summer’s day, and being on the lawn and having all these strange objects coming up to me and making a fuss. I realised afterwards that they were girls and of course I’d never seen a girl before.

I was very apprehensive. I’d never seen a girl so I’d assumed when I was in Craig-y-nos that it was just for the very young. As I say, the only person that I can recall is Graham Canning alongside me. Obviously, we didn’t move about. We were bed-bound all the time so I wasn’t aware of other children in the ward. It was only seeing pictures on Ann’s blog that I was amazed at how many were in there.

What effect did Craig-y-nos have on you?
It made me very independent. As far as the leg itself is concerned, I have a marked disability and I’m registered disabled. I have rheumatoid arthritis and the consultant told me that it was inevitable as a result of my experiences as a young boy. That’s how it is, you know. I don’t complain about it and just get on with it. The only thing I feel hurt and resentful for is that, growing up, I lived only in books.

Things were difficult on the domestic front (as a boy) -- I just wanted to get the hell out and see the world.
I left grammar school having passed my exams to join the Royal Navy as an officer.

Then I found out that I’d failed my medical as a result of my knee, and that was a real choker. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do was join the Navy, and unfortunately I was unable to do so. That’s the only legacy as far as the physical aspects are concerned.

Since the (knee replacement) operation I don’t get any pain. I suffered from pain for years and I wore a knee band constantly. I’m ok as far as the physical side is concerned. The mental scars I think have long gone and I feel myself very lucky to have survived.

(Roger ran his own engineering business)
I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve got no cross to carry or anything like that. I’m very accepting. As I say, what you’ve never had you never miss. It’s pointless becoming bitter or twisted. What’s gone is gone.

I was in a partnership and when I was diagnosed with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) in 1995, I stuck it out till ’98 and I just couldn’t do it any more. My partners fleeced me in the last year I was on sick so I lost my business and virtually everything then.
At least I can look them in the face. They can’t do that with me.

On marriage
I’m quite content. I’ve got a good marriage and a lovely wife who is actually a psychologist and she’s helped me no end. She did her thesis on institutionalisation.

Dr Reeves on children’s emotional needs
"Roger told me that as a small child in Craig-y-nos, he missed having a cwtch (cuddle). I said that as far as the emotional needs of children were concerned, a lot of children said that they never got a cuddle. The nurses weren’t allowed to become emotionally involved with the children and they also kept some physical distance to avoid catching tuberculosis. Also, it wasn’t fully appreciated at that time how important it was to fulfil the emotional (as well as the physical) needs of children in hospital."

Roger Wyn Beynon was in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London. (Extract from interview).

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