Thursday, March 27, 2008

Edward Ellis Thomas, -1928

Edward Ellis Thomas, age 85, a retired civil engineer with local government wrote his own account of life in Craig-y-nos as a 7 year old in 1928.

At the age of two I was seen to be limping on my right leg. “Hip disease” (TB hip) was diagnosed and I was sent to the remote St Brides hospital ( or “Kensington Castle”) on the Pembrokeshire coast.

Over the next few years I was to spend varying periods there, while at home I was strapped to a horizontal frame resting on a 4 wheeled wickerwork carriage. I seem to remember rumours that my hip ball had dissolved and that an eminent specialist in Liverpool hd sent for my x-ray plates out of interest.


In 1928 with my parents I travelled by train from Swansea to Pen-y-cae, the station above Craig-y-nos where we were met by a black ambulance and taken to the hospital

On arrival there I was sent to bed The ward was the large “all glazed” Children's Ward overlooking the river Tawe.

My second afternoon we were all carried down to a picnic by the river.
I remember George from Pontadawe for he seemed always to be standing on his bed in a long white night-dress and with one arm bent at the elbow in a metal frame. Glenys Evans, with dark curly hair, like a pretty little doll was the ward flirt, who “married” each of us boys in turn.

Dr Helen Turner

There were three lady doctors. Dr Clarke, the senior, an elderly Scot, white haired with specs and a little Scottie terrier at her heel.
Dr Walker, tall with upswept hair. The third, (Dr Turner) the youngest, had eton-cropped hair who always sat on my bed and made a big fuss of me.

I can only remember Sister Dowey, tall and dark, and to whom my parents took a big liking ( she came to tea with us at home after my discharge).

The engineer
Tall, with shiny dark hair neatly swept back, in a yellow boiler-suit. He looked after the generator-engine whose exhaust “phut-phut-phutting” from the chimney. This from the shed outside the ward. The engineer always called our heads “yer knowledge boxes.”

At certain periods of the year our beds were carried out to the roofed veranda adjoining the ward. Our bed clothes had tarpaulin covers to protect them from the dew. In fine weather dawn on the veranda was beautiful fresh, nose tingling air, all silent apart from awakening farm animals, foxes and birdsong

My only memories are of rice pudding with burnt milk-skin and hard boiled eggs.

To torment us, the older boys told us that we would have our bones scraped, and that at midnight the sculpted figures of fairies etc. arranged around the ornamental fountain outside would come to life and dance to eerie music.

A few years later the fountain was removed and rebuilt in Victoria park, Swansea, near the Patti Pavilion, where it is to this day.

We were thrilled to hear of pirate buses on the main road. Actually they were unlicensed buses illegally competing with the authorised services.

My parents and others would bring me parcels of comics (“Puck”, “Tiger Tim” etc.). these I would read avidly. Running beneath the beds were heating pipe ducts with ornamental cast iron covers.

We would wet tiny paper pellets in our mouths and drop them through the covers to hear the mice and rats scuttle.

My own pinnacle of achievement was playing one of the Seven Dwarfs ( on crutches) in the famous theatre.

We had periodic tuition in reading.

This is about the sum total of my memories of Craig-y-nos.

In the early 1960s suffering with lower back pain I asked my GP for x-rays of my hip to see if this was a possible cause. He agreed. The consultant concerned told me that I had never had hip disease but was born with a dislocated hip!

My family were sceptical because I was seen to limp at the age of two or three as I am to this day.
I have a shorter right leg ( by and a half inches) withered and with a stiff knee.
Still all this has not prevented my leading a more or less normal life and pursuing a satisfactory and lucrative professional career.

I certainly have no criticism to make of my medical treatment. All was done for the best at that time.

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