Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book:"The Children of Craig-y-nos"

A year ago I bought a rail ticket to Wales, hired a car and booked into a pub in Abercraf.

My mission was to find “the lost children Craig-y-nos”, those who had been patients in the Castle when it was a TB sanatorium.

I was one of them. For four years. Earlier attempts to discover my former childhood friends had not been successful .

(right) Len Ley
A recent visit had produced two contacts who had themselves tried to find ex-patients and failed. Local historian, Len Ley, said yes from time time patients did turn up on his guided tours and after listening to their stories he was convinced that there was, in his opinion, a parallel story to that of Adelina Patti waiting to be told.
But different. This was one about children .

But how to find them?

Omens had not been good. A reunion for staff and ex-patients organised by the Sleeping Giant, a local local history charity, organised a few years ago brought together ex-nursing staff and people who had worked there. No patients.

I had already contacted the South Wales Evening Post who promised to put my appeal in the paper.
One member of staff at Craig-y-nos castle , now a hotel, told me guests often ask about the past history of the castle when it was a children's TB sanatorium and because of the lack of any information, they make make it up.

Inside the Adelina Patti theatre

That made me more determined than ever to find “the lost children of Craig-y-nos” . Surely we had a story to tell too? nothing as glamorous as the Adelina Patti story, of the international opera diva who put Craig-y-nos on the world’s musical map, but nevertheless a unique childrens story of what it was like to live for years in a TB sanatorium in a remote castle in Wales.

Our story would be one of Welsh social and medical history, a filling in of a forty year silence in the Swansea Valley. For TB was a social stigma and a taboo subject.
Indeed one ex patient who revisited Craig-y-nos some years ago and tried to find out this missing history was told quietly by a local:”we don’t talk about that.”

Times change. The social climate today allows us to talk about the unmentionable.

Just as I was about to leave for Wales I receive a phone call from Len Ley. He felt it fair to warn me that his search for ex-patients had still been unsuccessful and that it was likely my journey to Wales would be fruitful, and that I should save my money.
However, if I insisted on the journey he would continue to search on my behalf...


Within 24 hours of the story appearing in the South Wales Evening Post the phone in my home in Scotland began ringing .
My husband, Malcolm , to his surprise found himself cast, not only in the role of my secretary , but that of a counsellor as people poured out their stories from fifty years ago.

Suddenly it became clear : “the lost children of Craig-y-nos” were certainly not lost but alive and well and eager for their stories to be told.

So I changed the provisional title of my book and my blog to
“The Children of Craig-y-nos”.

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