Monday, March 24, 2008

Beryl Rowlands 1956-57

Beryl with Tosca, the pony belonging to Dr Williams daughters, Ruth and Mary, which the girls would sneak off into the woods to ride using dressing gown girdles as halter.

Just got this email from Beryl:
I have just been reading Sylvia's account of her time at Craig y Nos I remember the Wimbledon incident well, I think it was 1957 and Anthea Gibson was the champion that year.Christine Bennet and myself tried to turn the little black and white TV for Sylvia to see it. I can also remember Sylvia's father bringing her a wooden musical box, I think it played 'My papa' I was delighted to know the wherabouts of Teresa O'Leary. I have often thought of Teresa.When I was admitted in 1956 I was put in the next bed to her, near the open fire . Teresa was very kind to me. I was 11years old I was terrified ,I was so far from my home at New Quay Cardiganshire and I was very homesick. Those first few days would have been far more difficult if it hadn't been for Teresa O'Leary. I have always remembered her with great fondness and gratitude. "

This is a very short extract from the interview given by Beryl to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the Hisotry of Medicine, Univeristy College London.

“My return to Craig-y-nos… a time-bomb waiting to go off” - Beryl

“There were fifty years locked up in that one day when I returned to Craig-y-nos for the first time in January 2006 and I didn't realise that I had locked it up and that I hadn't been allowed to discuss anything. It never hit me until I walked in … I felt that I'd been hit with a sledge hammer when I came home. I just cried and cried. My husband said, 'What's wrong with you.' I couldn't stop crying - it was like a relief, I was releasing something. When I tried to speak to my daughter about it … I never really discussed it with them, not really. I told them funny stories but when I tried to speak to her about it, I just started crying and she said, 'What is the matter?' I said, 'I don't know. I can't stop crying.' And I carried on in this way.”

Her friend, Valerie Brent, who had nursed there as a 15 year old in the 1940s, asked her to accompany her to Craig-y-nos.

“I don't think she knew what she was bringing with her the day she took me.”

Neither realised that Beryl was an emotional time-bomb waiting to go off.
“I was a time-bomb, and it hit me badly. I'm glad I didn't have my family with me because I couldn't have relived it. I would have been hiding again.
“I walked in (to Craig-y-nos) and it felt as if a wall had fallen on top of me.

Len Ley (the local historian who showed me around) was wonderful. He chatted, and when he asked me things, I remembered some things he didn't know about.

When I walked into six-bedder, it was if somebody had punched me. I said, 'It's exactly the same … my bed was there. That window …'

I set somebody's hair with Amami setting lotion in a little tooth mug, and I poured the water out of the window, not looking out of the window, and it actually landed on the matron's head. And they came up to the ward. Oh, I had a row! I hadn't done it purposely, you know. I did say I was sorry.

Discovering TB
I was eleven when I went in to hospital in 1956.
I was always a very small puny little child anyway, but I had lost weight . I was in bed, I couldn't get up, and then of course this thing (Mantoux test) on my arm obviously showed that there was something wrong. I was having pains in my stomach, terrible pains. I used to cry in pain.

Nobody explained, it was as if I was in the dark. When I was better I went up to the library for my mother, and I met a girl my age - her name was Sian Evans, I've never forgotten that day. As I came out of the library with my mother's library books, she said, 'Oh hello Beryl. Are you better?' I said, 'Yes, thank you.'

And she said, 'How does it feel to have TB?'

The only time I'd ever heard about TB was when a girl in New Quay (Cardiganshire) had TB meningitis

New Quay was a village and I can remember people thinking she was going to die, so when Sian mentioned TB I ran home all the way, ran into the house and I ran straight upstairs onto my bed to cry.
My mother came up and asked what was wrong and I said, 'Why didn't you tell me I've got TB?' She said, 'You haven't got TB.' I said, 'Well Sian Evans says I have.'

I knew people worried about this girl with TB meningitis. This is what I was frightened me: that I was going to die.

The letter arrives
Later that week, a letter came, my father was away at sea so it was my mother and my sister and I at home. My brother had gone to a college up in Rugby.
When the letter arrived, she told me, 'You're going to have to go to hospital for a while.' I said, 'Why?' She said, 'Well, they're going to see if they can find out what's wrong with you properly.'

I didn't know where I was going. I don't think my mother knew how to deal with it. Then I can remember my father coming home and being told that I was going into hospial on Monday. I always remember it was Monday.

The journey to Craig-y-nos
There was a couple in New Quay. They had a taxi firm so my parents hired them to take us because they were friends and also their son had been a patient there back in the early fifties.

The taxi driver's wife came because she wanted to visit Craig-y-nos. She had a paper shop in New Quay, a newsagents, and she brought a big pile of comics and she said, 'They're for the children on the ward.'

It seemed a very, very long car journey, and I still didn't know why I was going.
Now, when I look at my grandson - he's soon eleven, I think, 'I'm sure he'd want to know more than I asked.' When we got there, we stopped in the lay-bye before you got to the hospital.

As we got back into the car, my father slammed the car door on my finger, jamming my finger. I'll never forget it, my finger was a mess, and he was upset, you can imagine.


Early impressions of Craig-y-nos

Joan, the deaf girl
I can remember this girl coming and sitting on my bed and grabbing my finger like in a wish and twisted my finger around, and I was looking at her and I thought, 'Who is she, what does she want?'

I was scared, and somebody said to me, 'She can't speak.' That was Joan (the deaf girl).

She said, 'She can't speak and she's trying to tell you she wants to be your friend.' She sat on my bed. I was tired, I was frightened and she was making me learn her language, her sign language. She was trying to teach me and then the nurse came and gave me a little book, and said, 'All the girls learn.' I still use sign language and I actually used it with my pupils.

Joan would come and sit on your bed and she'd sort of tap you quite nastily, hard. I was quite scared of her … she'd shake my hand and say that she wanted to chat. So we'd sit there. I got to know her and I liked her, I really liked her. I didn't like the fact that she was teased, but she was teased because I don't think people understood. I didn't tease her. I think I was too scared of the people who teased me. I used to hide away from them.

Beryl Richards (nee Rowlands) went on to become a primary school deputy headmistress. She is Welsh speaking and every time the media ask us for a Welsh speaker to talk about their time in Craig-y-nos Beryl always agrees to step forward. We are most grateful.

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