Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pat Davies, nurse, 1951-54

Pat Davies, former nurse now living in Coventry talking to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine University College London.

Jenkin Evans, the dentist, as Father Christmas

" We used to have concerts in the theatre and at Christmas Jenkin Evans would always be Father Christmas, and he used to sit down there and talk to anybody that could come down.

He always pronounced it J(soft J)enkin Evans. It’s the Welsh way of pronouncing it, and he had his surgery in Ystradgynlais.
He came up and checked everybody’s teeth every so often. He was actually a private dentist in Ystradgynlais. We’d have concerts – the local people used to come occasionally. I can well remember when Harry Secombe brought his pantomime up there. It was Jack and the Beanstalk.
At the time, I was on Ward 1, and we had a patient – I think her name was Margaret – and she was going home to die. She was too ill to go down to the theatre and she asked if he could sing a special song for her. I was the one who had to go and ask him if he’d do it. It was relayed over the loud speakers for her."

Did she die?
Yes, she went home. She didn’t want to die there (in Craig-y-nos).
Did she know she was going to die?
How old was she?

She was in her twenties. It happened quite a few times. You never get used to it. You have to take the bad with the good.

That pantomime, was it relayed over the loud speaker system for everyone in the wards?
Yes. The children that weren’t able to go down to the theatre, they heard it over the loud speakers.

You were never addressed by first names. He was always Mr Jenkin Evans. Chat. It was such a wonderful place to be. As a patient I was quite happy there and then when I went back I absolutely loved it. You were allowed to go round the grounds on walks and it was wonderful.
Did you see the stone, which was to Baron Cederstrom? There’s a tree there.

Ghosts? Well, I was never nervous there at all but there was only one room, and I didn’t see it I when I was there (at the reunion). At the back of the lift shaft on Ward 1 there was a small room where the governors used to meet, and on the wall was a big coat of arms of Baron Cederstrom. They were coming to some meeting or other and I was asked if I would take some papers and put them in that room. When I went in, I went absolutely ice cold.

It was as if there was something in there. Did you know that Matron had her own chapel in her flat? Her flat was upstairs and there was a chapel that had been built there by Adelina Patti, and that was still there.
It’s where they laid Adelina Patti out after she’d died. (Today it’s the bridal suite)

Matron Knox-Thomas receiving a presentation of a piano from Friends of the Hospital. 1951/52. If anyone can provide more information about this photo I would be most grateful. It is from the collection of Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins). Mari is second from the end of the front row -right-hand side.

So that was the flat that Matron had?
Yes. The maids’ quarters above the kitchens over on the opposite side where the kitchens were. The sisters were in the Annexe.

Dr Huppert

We think we know where Dr Huppert lived but was she in the flat that you had to go up the stairs to?
Yes, you had to climb the stairs. It was at the back of the lift that had her staircase going up. I can remember one Christmas, Matron had put mince pies and sherry for us in our sitting room and we’d all got our pyjamas and dressing gowns on, and somebody had the bright idea that we’d go and sing carols. So, we went over to Dr Williams first and it started snowing slightly. We sang carols outside and then we thought we’d go up to Dr Huppert, and she was so thrilled. She’d been listening to a service coming from Austria. She was strict but very fair, and she was a brilliant doctor, absolutely brilliant.

What happened to the children who got dumped in Craig-y-nos?
Many of them were adopted. A lot went on to children’s homes and then we heard through the grapevine that they had been adopted. There was a baby that came in and went to the baby ward (Ward 3) where Patie Taylor worked (Glenys would know her) with Sally Jones. The baby was about six months old and she was just dumped there.

Did she have TB?
Yes. We had children brought in that had had TB meningitis, and they were deaf.
And they were dumped?
Yes. I could never understand how anyone who could do that to a child. That’s why I went back there because I wanted to be there with the children. First of all I was on Ward 1 and then they put me on Ward 2, which was lovely. I loved being up there. Somebody asked me when we were at the reunion, ‘Somebody used to do our ribbons for us.’ I said, ‘Yes, that was me.’ I used to take them back into the ward with the ironing board and iron them dry.

And have a sing song.
Oh yes, and then in the mornings we’d do all their hair.

Were they still cutting children’s hair off at that stage?

Some of them were cut off but not all of them. If they had head lice it was always cut. I hated the saffron caps that we’d put on. They were horrible!

What were they?
They were called saffron caps. It was a substance they used to put on the child’s hair and then put a bandage in the shape of a turban over it and make it into a cap so when you took it off all the dead lice would be inside it.

A lot of the children say that they were very distraught when their plaits were cut off. Was that partly because of their lice?

Yes. When I was a patient there my hair was quite long and they cut my hair, and I was quite upset about it.

You didn’t have lice?
No, they just cut it.

Because they couldn’t manage it?
That’s right.
That’s what a lot of them were told.

We were told that we weren’t to hold our arms up above our head, you see. So if you had long hair and you had to hold your arms up for a long time, it was dangerous because it would affect the lungs. Some of the things, I learned later, were old wives tales.

I think those tales were rife when there was no cure for TB.

Those ghastly splint things that they used to tie the children on. Have you ever seen those?

Well, there was like an iron frame with a round head piece and then it went down the sides of the body and onto the legs, and onto that there was like a leather waistcoat with straps on it, and that was tightened onto them. Then their legs were bound onto the frame.

Was that for TB spine?

Yes, and also the hips.

I spoke to one lady who’d had a leather and iron jacket made for her but it was so uncomfortable that she stopped wearing it when she was seventeen.

A lady came into Ward 4, and she was on what they called a plaster bed, which was about six inches up above the mattress on like a box. What they did then was a plaster of Paris mould of the front of her body and she had to lie on her stomach in this. It was very, very uncomfortable.

She had to lie on her stomach?
Yes, in this plaster frame.
Some people have said that they lay on their back in a plaster bed.
It depended which way they wanted them for so long. The child who came and told me that she could walk after her operation, she was on her back when I knew her. It was very difficult for her (the girl on her stomach) and she was very embarrassed about it.

I can imagine because she was older, wasn’t she?
She was in her mid-forties, I think. If I was on duty, and I’m not bragging in any way, she’d say, ‘I want a bed pan, a big one. Will you come and see to me?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course I will.’ I’d put the screens around her and I used to clean her up and everything.

Some nurses do have the trust of patients more than others. Patients do have their favourite nurses. It’s very interesting hearing it from the other side because obviously we’ve heard a lot of experiences from the children but not from the staff.

every child in Craig-y-nos received a Coronation certificate

Queens Coronation
Has anybody mentioned about the Queen’s Coronation (1953)? About the ward televisions being brought in.
Only a small one! Did you know that Matron made proper covers for them?

For the televisions?
Yes (laughs). You had to draw back the covers like curtains.

do you remember the small black and white television set ?

You had to draw back the curtains to watch the screen?
Yes. I was down on Ward 4 when it was the Coronation. I was sitting on the end of a patient’s bed and we were watching it. The Friends of the Hospital had acquired all these televisions for each ward so they could watch the Coronation. When we switched the television off we had to draw the curtains.
They were red. They were made out of old red blankets.

Nursing qualifications
I didn’t do my SRN because we couldn’t do it at Craig-y-nos but I did do my Prelim (preliminary examination). It stood me in good stead over the years and I was able to help people.

No comments: