Saturday, June 28, 2008
The Morgan family -Gaynor (1954)
“ A family in Craig-y-nos”
The Morgan family, mother and five children, Ann, Allan, Gaynor, Janice and Margaret were all in Craig-y-nos at the same time. When the youngest, Margaret, aged 11 months, died of TB meningitis the mother was allowed out for one day to go to the funeral.
This is Gaynor’s account:
“I was five year old when I went into hospital in 1954 for two and a half years.
“I was in the Babies Ward (Glass Conservatory) and I remember being in a cot there and having rice pudding out of a tin basin.
Later I was taken up to Ward 2, the top ward. The ward below was known as “Big Ward 2” for teenagers.
I would say there were about at least 20 girls in my ward.
Something that occurred to me recently, I don’t know why, but I had no idea what I looked like all the time I was in Craig-y-nos.
We never had mirrors.
We had a washroom outside the ward where we would go every morning to wash and clean our teeth but I cant ever remember seeing a mirror.
I didn't know what my hair was like because that was all done for us. I remember a tin of ribbons and we could choose a ribbon for our hair.
All of the nurses were stern not nasty, but stern. I realise now I work with children that you have to be. You have got to have discipline.
I was in restrainers twice.
I can’t remember why the first time. But I do remember it being tight. Other girls would get out of bed all the time but I had been quite ill and being rather timid and wanting to please people I stuck by the rules.
One girl had fluffy slippers and I wanted to try them on. Well, I literally put a toe on the floor and I was caught.
And I was put in restrainers for the second time. I had to sleep in it too. I don’t know for how long.
It had straps that were tied to the back of the bed and straps that were tied to the side of the bed. It was a punishment and I didn't really resent it cause I knew I had done wrong.
Now when you think about it though it would be child abuse.
I remember my bed being put up by the fireplace and I got upset because if your bed was there it was because you were really naughty and I hadn't been naughty.
I can’t honestly say I had a bad bad time there and when I came home I remember crying because I wanted to go back.
Mother in Craig-y-nos
I used to see my father at visiting time. He was the only one left at home cause my mother was in Craig-y-nos too but we weren’t allow to see her.
She was there for 9 months and we never saw her.
At my last Christmas there both my parents came to see me so mother was home by that time. I remember they were allowed to come because it had started snowing so they made an arrangement to come and see me in case they got snowed in.
I know that I had visitors on a non-visiting day and that was quite special.
I remember having streptomycin but I don't know why. I had a fear of needles then and I still have. We used to have gastric lavages and whatever they put on the end of that tube I can still taste it now.
I was good at mimicking.
I used to imitate Dr Huppert and the nurses would put me on a chair to do it.
“You Muz not do zat” “You Muz not do zat!”
Of course if the nurses said I could do it then it was all right.
(Gaynor’s excellent imitation of Dr Huppert was one of the weirdest experiences I had during research for this book - hearing the voice of Dr Huppert come down the telephone line after 55 years!)
In winter we would have pieces of Welsh flannel to wrap our feet up. Nurses would do that for us. So our feet were warm. I was never cold.
Something else we had was singsongs, not religious songs but one song before bed would be:” Now the day is over.” I was trying to sing it last night and I had forgotten.
The nurses would lead the singing and I remember Glenys Davies saying “Softly softly, “ and I piped up and said:” Turn the key.” Little things like that silly little things like that I remember.
There was a big storeroom where they kept all our sweets. Whatever was brought in to you would be taken from you as soon as visitors went.
I loved raspberry ruffles and my father would bring them to me and I used to eat them while he was there because if I didn't I wouldn't see them again.
If we went to the theatre they would give us some sweets then.
I saw “The Student Prince” there with Mario Lanzio, very rarely did we have live performances.
Once there was a live play on and my mother couldn't go to it cause she was in bed, and I wasn't allowed to go because I was too young but Ann was allowed.
She has got a very vivid imagination. Well, my mother was listening to this play on her headphones over the hospital radio and there was a scene where an old lady is sitting in this chair and somebody comes up behind her with a knife and Ann starts screaming: “ Don't kill her! don’t kill her!”
My mother who was listening to it on the hospital headphones and heard her. ( the mother was not allowed any contact with her children except to write letters).
Boiled onions and lumpy porridge but it was not always lumpy. Sometimes we would have a good cook.
In summer we had cold milk on our cornflakes and in winter we had hot milk .
There was not a great deal of what we call luxury food more substantial food and quite a lot of it.
I never remember being hungry or cold, it was just the fact somewhere in my mind I knew it wasn't my home.
Lessons with Miss Thomas
I remember Miss Thomas, the teacher, tall, thin with a bun, and if someone would say:” where is it to?” she would correct us and say: “ where is it?”
I only remember doing arithmetic with her and doing reading and writing. I have always loved books. If I had been at home I wouldn't have had so many books because there wouldn't have been the money.
I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles too,
I can’t honestly say I had a bad time there and when I came home I remember crying cause I wanted to go back.
I remember Sister Morgan coming around with Dr Williams and Dr Munhall and Dr Williams wanted her to write something down so she turned up her apron and it was so starched she could write on the hem of her pinafore.
The Patti ghost
I do believe I saw Adelina Patti. It was night and I was in bed and I remember looking down over the terraced lawns and I saw three ladies in what looked like crinoline with bustles. I knew there was a ghost in the castle and I take it that’s who it was.
I was not frightened or anything . In fact I went to sleep. ( Her sister, Ann, recalls the incident and says this was the time that Gaynor was serioulsy ill and not expected to pull through. But the night she saw the Patti ghost was a turning point though Ann says Gaynor told her the next day that Adelina Patti and the two women were around her bed , not in the grounds.)
I never felt cold. In the winter we would have pieces of Welsh flannel to wrap our feet up. the nurses would do that.
We used to sing before bedtime. In of the songs was “Now the day is over”. the nurses led a sing song and I remember Glenys Davies saying:” softly now, softly”.
Parents protected us
I remember my father visiting me once and he had black bits sticking out of his side and I asked what had happened and he said:”Oh the cat scrammed me”
I always believed that only later did I learn that he had an accident down he pit and those were stitches sticking out of his face.
Children today are told so much that it is not always good.
Not a normal childhood.
I didn't know my father very well, because he only came at weekends and he was killed down the pit when I was 13.
Six years later my mother died.
In that respect it was not a normal childhood.
I hospital I was such a “goody-two shoes” because I have always been a bit gullible as well and always believed what people told me. I believed that God had this big book and he was up there keeping track of us.
We always went to chapel, God fearing I suppose. My mother was a believer. Janice my sister used to say she was afraid of the dark and my mother would say to her:
“when you are afraid hold God’s hand”.
I used to think that if I was naughty I would get caught out. Being in hospital you were very, very sheltered, you never saw the outside world.
“ By the time I came out we had a council house. I remember coming through the front door and there was a passageway to go into the living room and I remember feeling it was all coming in on me because I had been used to such a large area before that.
I remember going to bed that night and having a cry and my mother called in to the bedroom:”Gaynor go to sleep now please, that’s a good girl.”
And I did as I was told. I didn't cry again.
Discovering I had TB
My mother always told me I had been in hospital for observation . I got married when I was nearly 26. I had central heating in the new house which we had never had before and I started having problems with my chest so the doctor sent time to the chest clinic I must have been 27.
The doctor looked at my x-rays he said:”Oh you have had TB.”
So I said :”no.”
He said: “Yes “and he was quite firm and he said:” I am telling you that you have had TB” and he showed me the x-rays with the scars.
I remember thinking that my mother told me that I was only in under observation because
she was protecting me from the truth.
Life after Craig-y-nos
I have only been back once .
Janice , my younger sister, doesn't remember much about her time there apparently when she came home from hospital if there was anything she didn't want to do she would say:” Nurse Taylor says I am not supposed to do that.”
or if she wanted to so something then it would be:” Nurse Taylor says I can do that.”
I married a widow and he had two children then we decided to start a family again and we had two more children.
But I am now separated . I have to work and I have a job in a school.
I am a bit of a disciplinarian, so they give me the troublesome children on a “one- to- one” basis something called social inclusion, children with problems.
I am 58 years of age and I love working with children. I am in the school from 8.30 in the morning.
I work in the classroom during the morning then I am a dinner lady for an hour and half then I am back in the classroom with older children until 3.30 pm.
Then I help run help the “ after school club”.
I always said I didn't want to retire but now I find it tiring .
I live in Gilfach, Bargoed.”