Thursday, February 07, 2008
Craig-y-nos -over 1,000 photos sent in
David Perrott, a plaster bed patient for two years, on the balcony with his mother (1950 ).
To-day his son, Ryan, carries this photo in his wallet, a daily reminder of the hardship his father suffered as a child.
He produced it for me to see at the first meeting we had in Craig-y-nos of ex patients.
"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
These lines come from the opening of L.P. Hartley's book The Go-Between, and they could equally apply to the years that Craig-y-nos Castle was a children's TB sanatorium.
The strict regime, the archaic rules,the physical cold (fresh air was believed to cure TB ), gastric lavages, the use of restraints the removal of children from their families and the placing of them in an isolated castle on the edge of the Brecon Beacons portray an alien world, almost medieval, which is incomprehensible to people today .
Yet it is within living memory and many of those children are still alive.
To help piece together a picture of that world I appealed through the local newspaper, South Wales Evening Post, South Wales Evening Post for people who had been patients to come forward.
Now, one year on I am gathering all my research together. It has been a cathartic exercise for me too because of my own close emotional involvement. After all I did spend four years of my life there after being admitted as a nine year old.
The response has been phenomenal, heartbreaking in some cases where former patients spoke for the first time about their childhood experiences living in this remote Welsh castle, former home of the international opera diva Adelina Patti.
Around 150 people came forward with phone calls, emails, and letters. For months I was deluged with calls. Initially I had given the book the provisional title of :"The Lost Children of Craig-y-nos" but it quickly became obvious that they were far from lost.
So the title was changed to:"The Children of Craig-y-nos".
The project got under way with in-depth oral recordings being made by
Dr Carol Reeves Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, Cynthia Mullan of the Sleeping Giant Foundation in Abercraf and myself.
A number of people chose to write their own stories.
While these oral history recordings form the basis of the book I have been inundated with over 1,000 photographs from this period, taken mainly by children.
This was a startling revelation for no-one suspected the existence of so many photographs.
I still recall the surprise and delight when for many weeks the post would bring yet another bundle of faded photos which my husband, Malcolm, set about restoring and digitizing.
My regret is that so many have already been destroyed. I heard of one collection recently. They belonged to a woman, an orphan who had been in Craig-y-nos, when she died ,with nobody to leave the photos to, the house was cleared and they were dumped.
I would like to thank the following who have allowed their photos to be used in exhibitions, both in Ystradgynlais and Brecon, online and for the forthcoming book:
The photos were sent in either by ex-patients , or their relatives. Many arrived on email.
Evans.Amy teacher _
Isaac Thomas Edward
Jones . Lil Lorraine
Joseph. Olive Pamela.
Whitelock . Anna