Monday, January 14, 2008

Rose Hunt- 1941-43

Rose, born in 1935, was an evacuee who caught TB from the family she lived with, and was admitted to Craig-y-nos as a 6 year old.

I knew that I was quite ill and I was told much later that it was tuberculosis but my mother always told me that I had a bad chest.

Loving family
I know I was there when my sister was born in 1942 and I can remember two Christmases in there.
I came from a very close loving family and I had a sister who was very close to me – she was only 13 months younger and I had a brother which had been born in May 1939 and my mother was a very caring person so I found it very hard to settle down.

Arrival in Craig-y-nos
I wasn't so ill that I couldn't walk into the ward because I remember walking up the stairs and going in but they insisted that you had bed rest. I received no treatment when I got there.
I was kept in bed. The sisters were quite firm. They were very strict. Not conducive really to being happy as a young child.
We never went out but we did go on to a veranda.

Life later on the verandah
I went out on to the veranda for quite a long period of time. I don't know how many months because my parents are dead and I can't ask them but I know it was a long time because it was from the spring right through until it got so bitterly cold that we had ice on the tarpaulin. We were very cold. I'm sure it was through the night as well. Frightened I was because you had the woods in front of you and you heard the foxes, which you didn't know what they were. You knew they weren't dogs because it was too high and a blasted owl. There was an owl in a huge fir which was quite near to the hospital itself and that was really frightening.

Difficulty in sleeping
I found it hard to go to sleep and in the wards it was even worse because you could hear the groans and the moans and the coughing and the spitting and the ones that were out on the veranda were those that weren't so bad. You were really starting to improve I think.

"She died in her sleep"
I was aware of people dying there. That's why even to this day I don't sleep very well because I was afraid to go to sleep because the nurses used to say:" oh she died in her sleep. "
I used to think well I don't want to die and I was afraid to sleep.

Ward furnishings
I don't remember anything on the walls at all. It was a metal bed, thin mattress and the beds were so close together that there was only a small locker between us so really and truly when you were upset at night you could stretch your hand out and you could touch the next person. There was no heating.

How many patients in the ward?
I've given this a bit of thought. My uncle was in the navy and he was allowed to come in with a hand of bananas and each banana was cut in half and there was just enough to go round so there must have been close on 20 in the ward.

I don't know how to this day I can eat porridge because I can remember being on the veranda and everybody passing me their porridge because it was thick with lumps and there was me pushing it down the waste pipe and then one day it rained so heavy the porridge all bubbled back up. You had to own up who did it and you really did suffer.

I must admit there were a couple of ladies who came in from outside – they weren't nurses they were cleaners – and they were absolutely marvellous. They used to bring in comics and sneak in sweets. I suppose the nurses had a job to do and some were bitches. Some of them took great delight in tucking you in so tight in bed that you couldn't move. You wouldn't dare move. Then there were some that were absolutely lovely.

There was no schooling.
This was 1941 and there was nothing but I was fortunate. I could read fluently before I went and while I was there because of the restriction on visiting I used to read whatever I could get my hands on and there was some books left in Craig-y-Nos belonging to Madeline Patti or whatever and I can remember quite distinctly saying to my mother if ever I get out of here I'm going to this place and I had been reading a book on Rome. I didn't understand half the words and other people couldn't tell me what the words meant but I still read it and Greece and India and Egypt and China. I would read whatever I could. I wasn't able to start those travels until I was 50 and I did it.

If you made a friend they either got older and they moved to a different ward or they died.

Rat in ward
There was a rat in the room and to this day I can't cope with rats or mice. The rat jumped from the table in the room on to the bed on the other side. I can remember screaming and screaming. Nobody believed me.

Visitors were allowed once a month for a very short time. Very difficult for my mother to get there because during this time my mother was pregnant with my sister Gloria and one visit in particular my mother missed the bus and she was crying at the bus stop and a post office van pulled up and he put my mother in the back with the mail bags and dropped my mother at Craig-y-Nos. I can remember my mother turning up at my birthday, 3rd May and my sister was born on the 7th. My mother was very, very big and at 6 years old you didn't understand what it was all about. My mother explained she had been allowed to come at a different time because of the birth.

Trifles for my birthday
The bakers in the High Street was very, very good and when my mother told him that it was my birthday. There must have been a lot of children on the ward because my mother had to have the trifles put on two layers. He made the trifles in waxed cartons and this was 1941 and stuck cardboard in between them but when my mother actually arrived they were running everywhere. You drunk it practically.

Books and puzzles
Ralph the books in Swansea by the station in the High Street were absolutely marvellous. They used to give my mother the comics that had been damaged so my mother would turn up laden.
There was puzzles. I can remember that. We played snakes and ladders I think but I'm not sure but I know we had some board games there. If you were very good you were allowed to sit at a table. That meant getting out of bed so that was a privilege.

Going home
I must have come out in winter because I had only been home a few weeks and I know I had pneumonia.

I can remember the fact that we had better food at Christmas. The staff did something. It wasn't a pantomime – it was something similar but I don't know what. I can remember being wrapped up and going down to the theatre with blankets but that's all I can remember.

Life after Craig-y-nos
I didn't go to school for a long time because I had pneumonia and there's a clinic in Swansea which is called Grove Place – that was the TB clinic – and I'll never forget the doctor, he had bright ginger hair, Dr. Lewis. He was a lovely man and he was so kind because he kept saying you don't have to worry about school but I did. Of course I could read but I'm still hopeless at maths. I missed a lot of primary school. I know I was home for a long time.

An evacuee who caught TB from her host family
Up until last year I used to do talks in schools and women's groups about being an evacuee – it was appalling and I think that's where I got my TB from. I wasn't evacuated far but the family didn't want us and my sister and I had to sleep in a cabin trunk, one each side and we literally didn't get food. The man had a continuous cough. That's all I can remember. They said it was because he had been a miner but the general idea of my mother was later that he had TB and that's where I picked it up.
Talks to schools
I go to schools because its part of the curriculum andI tell them that not everybody had wonderful evacuation. I ran away with my sister who was very young and I knew we got there on a train so I got to the railway line which was across to the field but I walked in the wrong direction. Instead of towards Swansea I walked towards Caernarfon.

Long term effect of Craig-y-nos on my life
It definitely had an effect on me, with the sleep. The one good thing out of it, it made me a much stronger person. I'm not afraid to travel on my own. I'm not afraid to face things.

I blocked out my experience at Craig-y-Nos.

Rose Hunt was interviewed by Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation.

Rose Hunt

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