Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Carol Hughes (née Davies). 1951-54, age 5
Carole in Ward 2
“If I won the Lottery I would buy Craig-y-nos and pull it down” - Carol
Carol was the first of the ex-patients to return to Craig-y-nos. Roy Harry followed, then myself.
Shortly after my visit I received an email from Carol and we began a lengthy email friendship in which she suggested I write a book about our time there.
I dismissed the idea. But she had planted the seed. Another year followed and another visit to Craig-y-nos before I finally made the decision to begin the search for “The Lost Children of Craig-y-nos”.
Carol's return to Craig-y-nos
“I was the first of the ex-patients to go back.
They offered me a meal and a room. They treated me like royalty, but I had to turn everything down because I couldn't eat there. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
During the sanatorium period they made it important that you had to eat. (You had to do this and you had to do that. It puts you off, and even now there's things I won't eat. Carrots are top of my list! )
Thinking back, it wasn't suitable for children, and when I went back to visit, I couldn't face up to it.
Afterwards I got a phone call from Craig-y-nos to say another patient had turned up and they gave me Ann Shaw's email address.
Someone there was thinking of writing a book and I said to Ann, 'Look, you should do it because after all, we were the ones who suffered.'
Childhood in Craig-y-nos
I was five when I went in and about eight and a half when I came out, but I did leave there in 1952 for three months. I went to Sully, I had a lobectomy and I went back to Craig-y-nos.
They were strict, very strict.
I was one of these hyperactive kids and I was always in trouble. I got tied to the bed and I used to wander. Well, a lot of children did, when they could get out of bed they went in the grounds but I wouldn't, I'd wander round the cellars. I was a terrible child, I think. An awful child.
I remember Staff Nurse Smith. She used to read the Bible to us every Sunday because they were very, very religious.
I was always in and out of hospital from the time I was born. I was kept in hospital after I was born with bronchiectasis. I went from one hospital to another and then they sent me to Sully. It was there they found out that I had TB.
I'd lost so much weight. I think they sent me the first time to Craig-y-nos to die because my mother was crying. But I picked up and they sent me back to Sully to have the lobectomy. I had a relapse in 1957 and sent back to Sully. I didn't know I was ill. We never knew we were ill. Don't ask me why we thought we were there but we didn't know we were ill.
I can remember the girls dying, and I asked Sister Morgan, 'Where has she gone?' 'She's gone home because she's too naughty to stay here.'
The longer we were there; we began to put two and two together. That they'd actually died, but there were a lot of lies. I don't know whether it would have been better maybe if they'd told us the truth because we knew.
The staff would say: 'they've gone home. They've been so naughty.' I thought, 'Well, how naughty have you got to be,' because I got out of bed and was squeezing toothpaste all over the floor, and they were so clean. The cleaners worked hard, and I was one of these naughty, naughty children, and then I'd get tied to the bed. But if a child hasn't got enough to do, they're going to do things like that.
They used to put the restrainers on you. It was like a harness and they'd tie you to the bed. We were given milk to drink. We were the younger children on the top floor. We were given milk in plastic beakers, and I can remember those now. It was awful.
There were two films shown on TV - when it went from the TB hospital to an old people's hospital in 1959, my mother said to me, 'Come and look at this.' They were showing it closing, and then again when it closed in the 1980s.
Daughter never knew I had TB
My husband said to my daughter, 'Oh, your mother was on TV last night in Craig-y-nos.' Then my daughter found out that I'd been there. She didn't know. I had difficulty when I came out. When you go to school, I could only go for half a day, and they'd say, 'Oh, you are the girl from the sanatorium,' and because it was TB, they didn't want even children to bother with us. We were singled out. I know that it's not the same now but it was something then.
Family with TB
My father had two cousins, one died in Craig-y-nos in 1937 so my father never came to visit. He wouldn't come there, and in 1939, another cousin died even though her father had bought a smallholding away from everyone. Despite the fresh air and food, this cousin still died. They had their own chickens and goats and grew their own food. They never had to go out, the girl had plenty of fresh air and she still died. So my father didn't have any faith in TB treatments.
I know of a lady who was in Craig-y-nos in the 1920s. I've only just found out. I'm friendly with her son. He's a neighbour of mine. He said that his mother's father, who was a miner, would walk across the Beacons to the hospital to visit her.
Never talked about it
No, I never told anyone I had been in Craig-y-nos. In fact, I was going back and forth to the Neath Chest Clinic, and when I got to be a teenager, my friends would say, 'What are you going there for?' So, I went in and said, 'I don't want to come here any more.' I explained to them why and they said, 'Fine, but if you get any chest problems, tell us.' They said I should go straight away to the clinic, don't leave it.
We got visitors once a month, on a Saturday I think. We were allowed to write home but all the letters were censored. You had to write what they told you, and parcels coming in would be opened. Letters were censored. The only one that wasn't opened was when I was going home. I had a letter on a Thursday and Nurse Glenys Davies gave it to me. She said, 'Can you read this?' I said, 'Of course I can read,' and I opened it. It said, 'Dear Carole, I'm fetching you home Tuesday.' So I had to run after the nurse. I gave her the letter and she said, 'I thought you could read.' I said, 'But I can.' I was reading it alright but I couldn't work out 'going home Tuesday'. I can remember that letter, and the Queen's Coronation. They showed pictures of the country and they showed the Victoria Garden in Neath. One of the nurses said to me, 'Look, that's where you are from.' We were watching an old black and white TV, and I couldn't work out what she was telling me. I'd been home on the odd day or two but I had been in hospital most of the time. But it was in Sully that they found the TB.
Never knew I had a brother
I've got one brother, and I didn't know I had one. When I came out of Craig-y-nos, they were waiting by the fountain in the forecourt with my brother, and my mother said to me, 'This is your brother.' I looked at him, and I didn't know I had a brother.
She said later on that she didn't tell me about him in case I got jealous or something. I don't get on with my brother to this day. It was not knowing about him from the start, I think.
If you did something wrong, they'd pull your bed out in the middle of the ward or take it outside of the door and say, 'Right, you're in disgrace. You just wait till Dr Huppert comes.' Then she'd come. She had a limp and she'd be shouting at us, but she was a good doctor.
Many of us are alive now because of her. Sister Morgan was lovely.
When I had my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, I couldn't feed her myself. They wouldn't allow it. They thought it would be advisable if I didn't have a lot to do with her handling until she was six weeks old, and of course, that upset me. So when I had my other two daughters, I had them at home. They are alright, they're healthy, but I didn't like the way I was treated then. But they thought they were doing it for the best.
Never asked permission to have children
I never bothered to ask if I could have children. I'd signed myself off at the chest clinic and I had the three children, and they're healthy, and I've got three grandchildren.
I know with Elizabeth I did everything they told me, and at the end they said, 'You know, you can't feed this child yourself and it will be better if you didn't handle her much until she's six weeks old.' I listened to that. So, when I had the other two, I thought, 'This isn't going to happen,' so I had them at home, but they did have to have the vaccination (BCG) at six weeks old.
I had an allergy to streptomycin
because I can remember when I was having Elizabeth they wanted to give me streptomycin for ten days before she was born and ten days after. My mother said, 'You can't do that. She's got an allergy to it.' That's when I found out that I had an allergy, but when I had a relapse in 1957, they gave me about six or seven little pills. Very small pills. I don't know the names of them, but I do know that one could affect your liver. So, every month I'd go for blood tests to make sure that my liver was alright.
I know that I had six or seven little pills, and I know that one pill could make you depressed so they were giving me another pill then to buck me up. I was weaned off one of the pills because I got down to one every other day and then it would be half a week.
But because I didn't know what was going on, it didn't affect me.
I had a friend there, Olwyn Price,
and I don't know what happened to her. We all had a friend each and she was older than me but she was my friend. I went back to visit her after I came out. My mother took me back there, but I never heard what happened to her, whether she's still alive.
Sully and Craig-y-nos
I wasn't too good and I can remember being in a side room and my mother crying on visiting days. I was sleeping. I was out of it, most of the time. The first thing I remember after the lobectomy in Sully was they put me in the big ward and the matron came round and she said, 'How many days to Christmas?' I said, 'It's eighteen days.' From there on in, I was getting on leaps and bounds. They took me down to see their pantomime.
In 1953, I was on the stage (Adelina Patti Theatre) with Harry Secombe singing 'Jingle Bells'. That's got to be December '53 because by then I was really on my feet.
The Salvation Army used to come along to the grounds and play music. They must have thought we were terrible. We were hanging out of the windows through the bars. My mother at first thought it was awful having bars on the windows but then she could see why they had to have them.
My bed was the second one away from the windows, so with the windows open both ends, when the weather turned cold or wet we'd have covers on our beds. The ones nearest the windows would get a soaking (wet). My mother would come in with a coat on, a hot water bottle in her coat, that's how cold it was, and we had to sit there, but we'd got used to it.
There was the old kitchen there, and in the old kitchen there was a big black grate. There was a table and an old Welsh dresser. I'd go in there and play. They never cleaned the grate out. The ash was still there in the grate, and I don't think the hospital were lighting fires there. I thought it was lovely in there, fantastic. It even had one of these big china sinks inside. When it was built they had a tap outside, and that's what they must have used in the beginning. We were only allowed one toy so I had my teddy bear because my grandfather bought it, so everything that I didn't want them to see I'd sneak down there. One of the gardeners used to leave a bit of chocolate for me.
Yes. He'd leave a bit of chocolate there for me, and any food I didn't want I'd put in a carrier bag and take it out and dump it. It was terrible. I would dump it and they thought I'd eaten it because if I didn't eat the food, it would be given back to me. So once you could get out of bed, it was lovely.
I know that at night they'd say that if you didn't go to sleep they'd put you down the cellars with the rats. I didn't mind, it was lovely down there.
Other children used to go down too. They used to go on the roof too. I went up there once and didn't get caught. There was a little door and you'd go up the few stairs to the roof.
Visitors and lockers searched
When visitors came, stuff that they brought had to be handed in to the sister and I had to have my locker searched.
If you'd got something you weren't supposed to have, they'd take it. It was a bit like a prison but they wanted to make sure you ate your food and they could give you a sweet after. I didn't eat my food. When I went back there two years ago, I said, 'What an awful place to have kept children in.'
But it was out of the way and we had to be out of the way.
We had schooling with Mrs Thomas and the thing was you couldn't bunk off from school when you were there. We mainly learned to read.
We used to make flowers out of wax. We used to have wire and you'd have the wax and the warmth of your hands would melt it and you could mould it into shapes of petals. We'd make little flowers. I think the older ones used to do basketwork. I learned to knit, only plain and pearl. I can knit anything now but we only learned plain and pearl. Little squares we used to knit. We had a rest hour in the afternoon.
I hated the rest hour because with some nurses you wouldn't dare move. You had to stay still and that really wasn't fair on children.
I can remember one girl dying there in the night and it frightened the life out of me. I wasn't more than about seven and her bed was opposite mine and she started coughing. When I looked I thought she'd fallen. I noticed blood on her mouth and I shouted. They all started shouting. There were fifteen of us up there, and an orderly came in and took her out, and when we asked Sister Morgan the next morning …
'Where is she?' 'Oh, we've had to send her home. She was naughty.'
Then it didn't take me long to find out where the morgue was. The lift would carry them down to the basement, and there was a door going through to the morgue. I don't think I put two and two together what was in there although I knew they were going there.
I had one or two blood tests before I went to Sully.
Dr Huppert did them. I screamed the place down.
There was no getting away from it. You were there and they were there, and what could you do?
I never had a gastric lavage. They'd say when they were doing it and children were coughing, 'Don't cough, don't cough, don't choke.' We'd be watching them. It was really, really cruel.
When I went home and I found out that I had this brother, and my mother was trying to get me to sleep in the night. She said, 'You've got a brother.' I said, 'But I had fifteen sisters there.' We were treated like sisters. That's what we were called. We had each other.
Adjusting to home life
My mother thought she wouldn't have trouble with me when I went home but for all it was, you were safe in Craig-y-nos. When you came out you had all this about being 'the girl from the sanatorium.'
In school I was always 'the girl from the sanatorium.'
They wanted to know why I was only going to school in the mornings. My mother was told, 'only send her in the mornings. She needs to rest in the afternoons.'
Then I started going to school full-time and I ended up back in Sully. It was terrible.
When I left school, my mother wanted me working somewhere in a shop but I said no. I went to a factory to work.
Against the doctors' and my mother's wishes I worked in an aluminium factory and I was happy. I loved it there. Then I got married and I had the children so I stopped work. I loved that job and nobody knew about my past there.
Looking back on Craig-y-nos
We were taught to share, and my mother could never get that out of me because I always did share. If I had one of something I'd share it. We were taught that there.
When I had my three children I realised we weren't naughty in Craig-y-nos. We were just doing what children did. We played.
The cleaners did keep the place spotless there. They had the laundry bins and some of us would sit in there and we'd ride around in them.
Well, to them we were bad children. We were told, 'You are very naughty children.' Looking at children now, no we weren't. We were just looking for things to do.
We were bored.
If you moved in rest hour you would be punished.
and if you had difficulty dropping off to sleep at night you were disciplined for that as well. 'We'll put you down the cellar with the rats.'
I didn't mind it down there. In fact, I took a lot of little bits and pieces down there and I could play. Nobody bothered you.
I used to go out sometimes. Yes, they thought I was outside. We didn't often see any nurses or anything because I went on the roof - only once, but I went up there. I got back down and I wasn't seen. We were left to watch each other. I used to collect daisies for this girl, Olwyn, who I was friendly with and she'd make daisy chains. She couldn't go out.”
To-day Carol is married with three children and three grandchildren. Unfortunately her health isn't too good:
“ I've got COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Well, they said it could be a result of TB. There's a weakness there from when I was small. I get good days and bad days.”
On another return visit
I was there at Craig-y-nos one day and they had all these Tarot card readers and faith healers. This woman was talking about self-healing. They didn't know I'd been there. She said, 'As you know, we've got AIDS now and it's the same thing as TB …' I looked at her and said, 'Oh, my God,' and I walked out the door. That's what they're linking it with now, AIDS and TB. They're two different things.
I felt terrible. I felt awful when I heard that.
After my last visit I looked at the building and thought, 'If I won the Lottery I'd buy that and pull it down.'