Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Molly Barry (nee O'Shay) -1950-52

Molly in the "Six-Bedder"

" I went into Craig-y-nos in the May of 1950 and I was there until the May of ’51, so I had my twenty-first birthday there, and I got engaged whilst I was there.

That was in the August of 1950, so I came home in the May about 1951, and then I was home for a few months … and then I wasn’t very well again, so I was back in bed and then they told me in the November, I think it was, that I had to back to Craig-y-nos.

As I say, I’d got engaged the previous August. My husband insisted on us getting married before I went back in, which we did in quite a hurry. We had sort of a few days. I got married on December 1st 1951 and I went back in then in the December, and I was there until the September of ’52. So it was thirteen months the first time and nearly ten months the second time.

But of course, in those days if you mentioned TB, oh it was like as if you’d said you had plague.

(Carole) It was a very taboo subject.

I think about it now and it reminds me of the olden days when they used to paint red crosses on the doors and say, ‘Bring out your dead’ (laughs).

Molly with "Auntie Maggie"

Which ward were you in?
I was in the six-bedded ward, Adelina Patti’s old bedroom.
I was in there, a nice little ward. There was only six of us so we all got like a little family then, there were so few of us in there. We were just like a little family. I was obviously upset at twenty-years-old, having something like that but I think you … well, I don’t know, I just accepted it and got on with it.
I had streptomycin and PAS (para-aminosalicylic acid) and just bed-rest with the bottom of the bed up on blocks. That was all, no surgery or anything like that.
It must have been quite a few months -- injections in your buttocks and then the horrible PAS stuff, which was a huge white tablet. Oh, that was dreadful to take – it was so big, you know, I couldn’t swallow it. It used to make me vomit every time I tried to swallow the thing. It was quite a long regime, I think.

How did you pass the time in Craig-y-nos ?
Oh, I read. I always enjoy reading, and then when I got a little bit more ‘with it’, I used to do the flowers. They used to bring the trolley to me, you know. I had to lay on my left side all the time so I got quite handy. They used to bring the trolley and the vases with the water in, and I used to arrange the flowers and used to write letters for some people and write my own letters every day, but just read, you know, and keep myself occupied that way.

The flowers used to go out every night. There was a tiny little ante-room off the bedroom, and they used to be taken out every night into that room.

What about the food?
Well, not very good. I suppose it did us good at the time the only thing that always sticks in my mind -- we used to have some kind of broth or stew and it always had like a black pudding floating in it. That always stuck in my mind, the horrible black puddingy thing. But you eat everything you’re given to put on your weight and just make yourself better.

Molly with her mother

I had visitors almost immediately and my husband ( who was obviously my boyfriend then), he was there every weekend, and my mum used to come every weekend. Sometimes we’d be snowed in but I don’t think they missed very often, and then a few of my very close friends used to come. But, as I say, it was like as if you had plague, and some wouldn’t bother to come, and it’s then you find out who your true friends are.

Nurse Glenys Davies with Molly in Swansea

What members of staff do you remember?
Oh yes, I remember Dr Huppert. I remember Dr Williams and Sister Williams I think she was, and of course Glenys Davies who I always called ‘Maudie’. That was my nickname for her. I always called her ‘Maudie’, and I have got a lovely photo of her and I taken in Swansea. She came to Swansea one day when I was home, and we met up in Swansea. We (my husband and I) did make visits back and fore when I first came home. We used to have a little run up to Craig-y-nos and see her but I haven’t seen her now for many, many years.

Other patients?
I remember quite a few of them. There was another girl from Swansea called Minnie … Minnie Morris. Unfortunately, she’s died now. She died a few years ago. I remember Minnie and there was another one, Gwyneth. She was a police sergeant’s wife from Llanelli. There was another girl from Ystalyfera that worked in the bank.

Did you go to the Adelina Patti theatre?
Oh, yes, often. I used to get taken down in a chair, sometimes you’d go down in your bed, which was lovely. They’d take your bed in the lift and you’d go down. Oh yes, we went to lots of those, and as I say, once you were allowed out of bed … you started off half an hour one week and then it increased.

Molly boating on the lake

and then you were allowed to go round the grounds, and that was lovely.
Oh yes, once you were able to get out of bed, they let you go around the grounds. You went out for your walks every day. It was a beautiful place and the grounds were gorgeous.

A lot of the young people have been badly affected by having been in there … the children particularly. But it wasn’t the case for you?
No, no, it didn’t affect me. It obviously affected me that I was in the hospital and I wasn’t very well but no, I just accepted it and got on with getting better. And once I came home, I was home and it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I was married for three years, I think, before I had my first child, which was a daughter, and then I had my son. Well, you’re kept busy then looking after them.

Did you ever see a “ghost”?
I got accused once of going into the children’s ward with a white sheet over me, but it wasn’t me. Of course, I suppose at twenty I was a bit wicked … even though I was in hospital I was still full of joy and quite a happy person. We used to have our own little ward door propped open at night with a stool, and for some reason, the stool moved and the door closed.
Whether there was a draught from somewhere, I don't know, but it was quite a heavy stool. But I never saw anything myself.
Did somebody actually go into the children’s ward with a white sheet on?

Well, I don’t know whether it was a white sheet but we heard the children … a couple of them shouting, you know. And they went in to investigate, but they couldn’t see anything and as I say, that’s when Sister Morgan accused me of doing it (laughs).

Sister Morgan accused you?
Yes. ‘What have you been up to, going in the children’s ward?’ But it wasn’t me. I was sometimes wicked, I suppose (laughs).

Sister Morgan with Molly ( far left) and some of the children from Ward 2

Did you mix with the children?
No. Well, I did go onto the veranda. I’ve got photographs of the veranda but they didn’t really like the adult patients … for I was considered an adult … they didn’t really like us mixing with the children, you know.

You didn’t write to them or anything?
And Dr Huppert?
I didn’t mind her. . She was a very short, Germanic woman, and very abrupt, but no, I didn’t mind her a bit. I know some people thought she was horrible but no, I didn’t mind her.
I was at the age where you accept things more than a child would. She could be frightening to little children.

Gastric lavages?
I didn’t have a cough or anything and I had to have those, and they were horrible. I didn’t like those one bit.
I couldn’t swallow the tube very well. I couldn’t even take these big tablets (PAS) very well. And even today, I can’t put a pencil in my mouth if I’m doing some writing without heaving. So it was a problem. I mean, I obviously did it but not as I should have done because they liked it to go quite well down."

Molly was interviewed by Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

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