Friday, July 18, 2008

Mary-Sutton-Coulson, Dr Williams' daughter

Mary and Ruth with "Father Christmas" aka Jenkin Evans, the dentist

"We were aged from four to fifteen and we weren’t really allowed anywhere near the children because of the chance of catching TB. But we were allowed to go into the babies’ ward.

I used to go and find my lovely friend, Sister Bessie Powell. After my sister went to school she was such a lovely lady and she used to look after me if Mummy and Daddy went away. We used to go and pick mushrooms at six o’clock in the morning before I went to school. She was absolutely lovely. My father used to call her “the menace”. He’d say, “You two. Have you and the menace been doing things again?”

He had a very, very healthy respect for Bessie Powell. She was like his right-hand-man, really. She was just fantastic. She lived in the ‘Annexe’ at the top of the walled vegetable garden with the other ward sisters.
She was in charge of the babies’ ward

She had lost her fiancé in the First World War and never married.
(As did the matron Mary Knox-Thomas).

(Right) Mary and Ruth watch the Christmas festivities in the Patti theatre with Matron Knox Thomas on the right.

We spent a lot of time in Matron Knox-Thomas little flat if Mummy and Daddy were away.

Then we had this situation where Harry Secombe came to do a pantomime, and I went and had tea with him and sat on his lap and had chocolate biscuits in matron’s flat. If we weren’t allowed to go to the performances we’d be watching them from our attic view.

Yes, I went to the school in Pen-y-cae a mile up the road. There are two pubs up there (I can’t remember their names now) and I remember I used to call into one of them and have lemonade on my way back home. We used to walk up to that little school most of the time and then my sister went to the grammar school in Ystradgynlais. When it was my turn to go to the grammar school when I was ten, it because Ystradgynlais Comprehensive. It was one of the first in the country, I think, and so it was a huge school.

I was there two years and went to boarding school when I was twelve, mainly I think because my parents were quite interested in us going to a smaller school, as much as anything, but we would have to travel either down to Cardiff or Brecon or North Wales, which were an awful long way. We couldn’t do it really on a daily basis so they thought they might as well send us to a school where one of the teachers, who my mother had taught, was a house mistress. My mother had kept in contact with this particular lady who was lovely and we both moved into her house at Abbots Bromley School, Staffordshire.

What was very interesting was the station at Craig-y-nos (Penwyllt), I gather was built by Adelina Patti for Edward VII to visit. During the petrol crisis in the 1950s – the Suez Crisis (1956) – my parents didn’t have enough petrol to drive us to Staffordshire so we used to have to go by train from Craig-y-nos Station, and it was five changes. It used to take us all day."

Extract from interview given by Mary Sutton-Coulson, daughter of Dr Ivor Williams, to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

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