Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ken Lewis-stoker/boilerman, Craig-y-nos

These children from Pen-y-cae school were photographed outside Craig-y-nos Castle in the mid 1940s. They are dressed up as the "Rattle Taddle Gypsies"preparing to take part in concerts in Abercraf and Brecon.
Ken Lewis is the first in the front row on the left.

(from Will Davies book “Now and Then”. )

Ken Lewis, age 80, from Pen-y-cae, was a boilerman/ stoker at Craig-y-nos from 1956-58 before leaving to work in the quarry.

Brian Jones, whose mother nursed at Craig-y-nos suggested I call him ( thank-you Brian !)

Ken recalls the campaign to keep the hospital open after the authorities wanted it closed as a TB sanatorium in 1958. The local community fought the proposed closure because it was the major source of employment in the area. Craig-y-nos remained open until 1986 first as a chest hospital then as a geriatric nursing home.

Ken says they had seven boilers for hot water dotted around the building supplying water to the cast iron radiators.
All the radiators were placed under the open windows.
These radiators were covered with metal grills.

(When Ken said this I instantly recalled those radiators - how I used to sit next to the one between the two French doors on Ward 2 leading on to the balcony practically hugging it trying to keep warm and read at the same time).

After the balconies were closed in they put radiators out there too.

Ken had no recollection of fires in any of the wards though I distinctly remember that on some very rare occasions- extreme low temperatures- Sister Morgan would agree to a small fire being lit in Ward 2. Maybe other wards were not so lucky. Certainly Miss White, the teacher, used to sit in front of it with all thoughts of teaching us forgotten as she too struggled to keep warm.

Ken’s remembers other members of staff:

"Christie the cockney porter. We never had anything to do with the staff who worked in the hospital with the patients. All I know is that he was there in the porters lodge.”
Ken is uncertain of dates: “maybe he was there in the early 1950s...I can’t be sure.”

Victor Davies, the porter

porter Victor Davies another Londoner.
“He was in the army and after demob got a job as a porter at Craig-y-nos”.

David John Richard's, hospital chauffeur:” He was my father-in-law. His job was to take patients to other hospitals. sometimes up to Welshpool or Llandridod Wells. He worked there for 25 years.”

Edgar the head gardner: “ He was my wife’s uncle.”

Dr Williams (right)

Sister Powell:” She was the boss, She was very fussy. She used to curry up to the doctors . Always remember her going into the grounds and picking daffodils and taking them to Dr Williams office and Matron Knox Thomas. She had to pass my window. No, never to the children wards.”

Matron Knox Thomas :
“She was born and buried in Kendal. Once a few of us went on a holiday and we called in at Kendal to see the house where Matron Knox thomas was born and the place where she was buried.

At Christmas time Matron Knox thomas used to roll her sleeves up and get in the kitchen to to make the Christmas pudding for the whole hospital. She made all the male staff give 6d each to put in the pudding.”

Dr Huppert:”I used to take her shopping to Brecon. She was very abrupt and hard, the children didn't like her. She used to smoke like a trooper.”

He recalls Craig-y-nos as :“ one big happy family. We all worked together. I enjoyed working there and there are lots of happy memories. I wish I had stayed instead of going into the quarry.”

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