Monday, December 31, 2007

Joan Wotton ( nee Thomas ) - 1950-53

Girls from Ward 2 out for their afternoon exercise.
(from let to right) Marjory, Sylvia, Anne and Polly

Colour comes to Craig-y-nos: this photo has just arrived on email from Joan's daughter Beth.
This is the first coloured photograph ( thanks to digital technology) I have received and it is also the first time Beth has emailed photos.

Well done!

This is a rare photograph of a man in Craig-y-nos. Is this Joan with her father ?

Joan says:" If anyone remembers me please get in touch. I was the one who had her teeth knocked out by Mary Jones, also I loved to sing and would often sing for the girls. I remember Rita, Marjorie, Anne, Polly, Gaynor, Rose, Irene,and Elaine.Rita and Marjory ran away but were picked up a few miles away down the road from Craig y nos."

You can contact Joan through her daughter Beth Rees.

I am looking forward to speaking to Joan as soon as the festive season is over - she says she remembers me. Certainly we were in at the same time.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The disease with no name

As a child my husband, Malcolm, had a TB in the neck in the early 1950’s. He lived in Yorkshire and was in hospital for two weeks receiving sun-ray treatment and he lost one term of school.

What has always puzzled me is that TB seemed to be treated differently in various parts of the country and I have a suspicion that somehow this was related to social class. Certainly in Scotland I keep hearing stories of how children were despatched to Switzerland for the cure.

So on a visit over Christmas to a 93 year old aunt in Yorkshire, I asked her about this. She had been a secretary to a hospital consultant and would visit Malcolm daily in his isolation ward and read stories to him.
And he was only in for two weeks. Yet every minute of those two weeks in hospital are written indelibly in his memory.

Even now, 50 years on, my aunt could not bring herself to utter the word “T.B.” She kept referring to it as an “infection” which he had picked up from “the local ice cream van”. Such is the power of language and the fear even today amongst older people that even the very mention of the disease could cause it like a genii to come leaping out of the bottle again and ravish a community.

Amongst my own family in rural mid-Wales the story was the same. References were made to “the exhibition in Brecon” though nobody dared mention what those photographs were about.

I am just as guilty.
We spent Christmas with my sister-in-law near Worcester, who I have known for over 30 years. She had no idea until late on Boxing Day evening when the subject got around to plans for 2008 and I mentioned “The Children of Craig-y-nos” book that my “dark secret “ came tumbling out of those four years confined within the walls of Craig-y-nos Castle.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is just to wish everyone a Merry Christmas as I depart south for Yorkshire ( to see Malcolm's 93 year old aunt) Wales (to see my family) and Worcester ( to see Malcolm's family).
Blog will resume on return to Scotland end of next week. Meanwhile a Merry Christmas to one and all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas time in Craig-y-nos

One of the earliest photos seen of Christmas in Craig-y-nos - 1924

Many children remember Christmas with fondness and nostaglia.

Christine Perry (nee Bennett )1954-57 recalls that every Christmas Day Dr Williams would come into Ward 2 to carve the turkey and later his wife and daughters would appear at the door to wish them a Merry Christmas.

“On Christmas morning all the patients would have pillow cases at the foot of their beds with presents in it.”

Mair Harris ( nee Edwards) 1950-52 air had already started at grammar school when she went into Craig-y-nos as a 13 year old. She was there for 22 months, and she has “very pleasant memories”of her time on the balcony and remembers Christmas as “a fantastic time”.

Vera Blewett (nee Paris) is held up in her cot - 1942 - on Christmas Day.

Small children often recall tiny incidents from their Christmas in Craig-y-nos.
RENEE (nee Griffiths) BARTLETT, aged 6 , 1945.
"I remember going in to the theatre at Christmas time to receive a gift from Father Christmas. I was given a sock which had an apple, a tangerine some nuts and dried fruit in it. I also remember having a doll there but when I left the hospital I was not allowed to take it home with me.

Children in the Adelina Patti theatre - 1920s

Rosemary Davies ( nee Harley) 1951 one of 11 children says she was made to feel “special” by being in Craig-y-nos and had lots of presents.

“At Christmas we had the pantomine. We were allowed to go to the see the babies ward. There was a mother in with two children one aged 3 years and another a couple of months. The mother was confined to bed, she couldn't see her children except through a window. I always remember that. She could wave to her children on Christmas Day.”

Haydn Harris was four years old when he went in 1937.
He recalls Christmas Day.
" The inside of the ward had a platform at one end, about four foot higher than there rest of the floor. As young as I was, I knew that it was best to keep away form the higher level. The “Iron Lungs” were situated there. These were machines that helped ‘extreme’ patients to breath. Except for their head and neck, the patient was completely enveloped in the machine. Very few patients came down from the platform alive.

The one occasion I didn't mind going up on to the platform was Christmas Day, 1937. Father Christmas arrived din the morning and sat at the edge of the platform with his sack. All the children that were capable went up on to the platform to talk to him, and receive a present. I seem to remember mine was a model truck."

Nurse Glenys Davies with some of the children in the Glass Conversatory - 1940's
Jean Hopkins ( nee Phillips) was in 1942 as a 12 year old with TB gland and she was not confined to bed.
"We had a lovely big Christmas tree in the ward. On Christmas Eve the nurses toured the ward singing carols. Christmas morning when we awoke there were presents for everyone at the foot of the bed."

Father Christmas (hospital dentist ) and Nurse Glenys Davies surrounded by children at the annual Christmas party.

Magaret Blake ( nee Howells) 1954
"The staff were very good. They did our Christmas shopping for us from the Boots catalogue."

Pat Hybert (née Mogridge), age 19, 1952 -1953
" I went in December. It was snowing, very, very cold, and being disappointed going in just before Christmas.
But there you are, we were all in the same boat up there in Craig-y-nos.

I can remember Harry Secombe coming there, that was on the Christmas, but I wasn't allowed down to go to that because I got out of bed and I shouldn't have done. "

The Christmas fish- Ward 2

Friends of the Hospital consulted Dr Huppert on an appropriate gift for Ward 2 for Christmas.

She suggested a tropical aquarium. Many of us thought an electric fire would have been more appropriate. No matter . We get the fish instead.

Their arrival causes great excitement.
It’s Carver who spots a certain irony.

“The fish are a lot warmer than us,” she says peering into the tankful of brightly coloured tropical fish .The exotic world of the aquarium sits in a corner of the ward, next to the French windows, a bright foil to the blank nondescript ward walls. We are enchanted. Meanwhile the castle windows with their bars are rattling in the winter gales and those of us on the balcony huddle under our canvas tarpaulins.

“They have got to live at 60F or they will die,” explains Miss White, our teacher.

Dr Huppert has even been known to call in some evenings just to gaze at the fish, an event not exactly welcomed by the inmates of Ward 2.

It is enough to see her once a week for Long Round without unexpected evening visits too.

She would stand at the tank admiring the fish and even dropping bits of food into it. She had her favourites.

Except tragedy struck.
Louise, the night orderly, a woman who enjoyed her cigarettes and sharing the details of her marital bed with the older girls, switched the aquarium off.

“Waste of electricity” she said and flicked the switch. After all none of us had any form of heating so it didn't make sense for the fish...well that was Louise’s thinking .

It was Carver who spotted the catastrophe next morning.

“Come and see this!” she shouts.
We scramble out of bed and rush to the tank.

There floating on the surface are seven dead fish.

The enormity of the event causes alarm in the ward.

“What will Dr Huppert say?”
“She will say we did it on purpose!”

To our surprise Sister Morgan regards the demise of the fish with a certain nonchanlance. She never did like them. She didn't want the aquarium in the first place, perhaps because it was Dr Huppert’s idea and also for it meant she had to squeeze the beds even closer in order to make room for the aquarium which needed lots of space.

Added to that they had to install an electric plug and this led to all kinds of disruption to the ward routine, not to mention the dust caused. No she was not an admirer of the tropical aquarium.

So she dismissed the demise of seven fish with a philosophical shrug.

“ I will got and get a plate,” she says .
She returns a few minutes later with one of our dinner plates and a large serving spoon.
Meticulously she lifts the dead fish out and places them around the plate.

“This will be a special treat for Thomas,” she says.

We watch captivated as she lays the fish out like a meal ready to be eaten which of course they were. For the cat.
Thomas. Officially he belonged to Dr Huppert except Sister Morgan harboured tender feelings for the cat too and the pair would fight for his affections. The result is that he was the most well-fed animal you could wish to see with a glossy black coat.

At the next Long Round Dr Huppert stops at the aquarium.

“How are my little fish doing” she murmured with something approaching affection in her voice. Sister Morgan tried to hurry her on.

But Dr. Huppert sensed something amiss. Out of the tank of thirty fish she knew some were missing.

“What’s ze happened to the Angel fish?” her broken accent had an urgency and edge to it as her eyes , hawk like, scanned the tank.

Sister Morgan turned her head sideways and winked with her left eye at us.

“Is there something wrong?” she says.

“I cant zee the big black striped fish either...or the red one? what’s gone wrong?”

She swung round and challenges Sister Morgan for an explanation.

Dr Williams, a gentle soul, waits for the inevitable explosion.

Dead fish are now top of the agenda.

“ I thought I saw them there this morning,” lied Sister Morgan.

Carver and I giggle as we sit around the big table in the centre of the ward waiting our turn. As it’s winter we are allowed to sit inside instead of by our beds on the balcony for the Long Round.

Had we not watched as Sister Morgan lift the dead fish out of the tank and feed them to Thomas, Dr. Huppert's big fat black cat, at the rate of one a day. After breakfast.

“Isn't that it over there?” says Sister Morgan pointing to a fish half the size of Dr Huppert’s favourite.

“No it's not!”
Dr Huppert gets angry, very angry.

She starts demanding explanations.

“Who in this ward has been tampering with the tank?”
She looks straight in the direction of Carver and myself.

We shake our heads. We are not guilty.
Like a ship in full sail Sister Morgan switches tac.

“How silly of me! I quite forgot to tell you but the heater was accidentally switched off by one of the night staff, I forget which one.”
She adds:” I do recall her saying something about a few fish dying.”

Dr Huppert explodes. She berated the entire staff, and patients too, of Craig-y-nos as incompetent, uncaring human beings not fit to be in charge of even a fish tank.

She demands the name of the culprit. Suddenly Sister Morgan remembers it and hands over the name, like a scalp, for she never did care for Louise.

“I will see her tonight,” said Dr Huppert.
God help Louise.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dr. Mulhall - postscript

Dr Mulhall wrote the following letter to Dr Carole Reeves .

“The sanatorium originally had both male and female patients, but eventually the male patients were transferred to the North and South Wales sanatoria.

TB male patients, you can imagine, were difficult to control in the early days of strict regime.

One anecdote I heard was about two pals asked permission from the Sister to go to see the swans in their allotted time of exercising. After several hours absent from the ward, the two lads arrived back looking the worse for wear, and on being asked where they had been, informed the Sister that they had been to see the ‘swans’ playing at their home venue in Swansea! Who can blame them?

I was amazed to hear that all the medical records of that period were destroyed. There should be archives of the Welsh National Memorial Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis in Wales in the Temple of Peace and Health, Cathays Park, Cardiff, which was taken over by the Welsh Regional Hospital Board in 1948 by the National Health, but I expect you have already been through this route. The National Library of Wales possibly is worth trying. "

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dr Patrick Plunkett Mulhall

Dr. Mulhall

“I went to Craig-y-nos first in 1952 to assist the medical superintendent at the time, Dr Ivor Williams, and I was there until 1985. The last fifteen years or more I was on my own there, but I just visited once a week … to visit the patients and I did rounds and also held a chest clinic downstairs in the outpatients.

Nurse Glenys Davies

Glenys Davies was one of my nursing assistants at the time. The ppatients were getting on very well then at that time because in 1952 they were starting to get new drugs. They were there then for about three or four years before they were transferred to Talgarth sanatorium (in 1959), and they ended up there for a couple of years more I think.

I was based at Brecon. I ended up there as consultant chest physician. The latter part of the time, probably the last ten years, the chest patients completed their treatment and it was turned over to geriatric patients. I looked after those as well.

Could you describe the treatment regime?

It was a very strict regime. The regime was strictly bed-rest, as much rest as possible and good food and fresh air. A lot of the children spent most of their time on the balconies. Before my time there were more severe conditions prevailing when they used to be left there in the rain, snow, everything. Of course, they were covered up but they had to endure that as well. A lot of the children also were in plaster casts for tuberculosis of bone joints and spines. Other children had tuberculous glands of the neck. They were treated by ultra-violet rays and they had a course of treatment.

Most of my work was with the adults and they spent most of their time in bed but they were gradually given graduated exercises to get them rehabilitated and continued to walk outside the grounds. That’s how they recovered, most of them.

When I went there first, probably for the first ten years, there was a monthly surgical session where a surgeon came from Cardiff – Mr Dillwyn Thomas (Dr Mulhall – I found a Malcolm Eward Dillwyn Thomas in the Medical Directory, Thoracic Surgeon, Sully Hospital) – to do minor operations on the patients that needed surgical intervention such as cutting fibrous tissues (adhesions) in the pneumothorax (collapsed lung) cases. These patients were treated by pneumothorax – by insertion of air into the pleural spaces – and because of the disease, quite a number of the lung surfaces were adherent to each other and to the pleura on the chest wall, so they had to be separated to give a complete relaxation of the lung. It was collapsed down to its smallest size. The patients were reviewed by the surgeon for possible surgery in Cardiff, in the thoracic unit, to be transferred down there. For example, people with cavities. So, it was quite a lot of activity at that time.

Were there more people in Craig-y-nos with TB of the lungs or TB of the bones?
Oh, TB of the lungs. There were only a small number who had tuberculous bones. Those were children mostly.

Have you any idea what the mortality rate was? Because there are no hospital records, it’s very difficult to ascertain.
I don’t recall any deaths in my time. I think perhaps they were selective. The patients were selective in that the worst cases were transferred down to surgical units and didn’t come back. Perhaps some died after they went home, but I don’t recall any sad cases of people dying there (in Craig-y-nos).

And of course there was streptomycin?
Yes, streptomycin and PAS (para-aminosalicylic acid). That made a big difference indeed. It changed the outlook completely for people who had diagnosed positive TB.

One of the things that the children always mention with some horror is gastric lavages.

Yes, that was necessary to try and obtain some tuberculous bacilli in the gastric juices being swallowed. It was very difficult otherwise to get a specimen from the sputum. Some didn’t have much sputum or they swallowed a lot of it. It was important to know whether the child was positive or negative so far as tuberculous bacilli was concerned. That also dictated what treatment they should need. It was not a very nice procedure at all for children and in those days, perhaps … I wasn’t involved in that … in these days they’d be a bit more refined now. The techniques of doing that are with simple tubes now.

Is there any other medical information that would help give a wider perspective of the hospital?
Well, the new drugs, streptomycin and PAS came in. Eventually, they found that people were becoming resistant to them. Then a new drug came in called Isoniazid and that was useful to help solve the problem of preventing patients developing resistance to the drugs and become tuberculous resistant.

Did you notice resistance quite early on, particularly with streptomycin?
If it was uncontrolled, it became apparent about six weeks after treatment, and if patients – particularly outpatients – took their drugs intermittently or not continuously, that could give rise to resistance very easily. It’s the problem they have in the third world.

Absolutely. Some of the nurses (Glenys Davies was one) developed sensitivity to streptomycin. Was that a problem with staff giving the injections?

Not a big problem. There were only a few that had problems with it.

Dr Hubbard with some of the small children from the Glass Conservatory
Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you think is important?

I don’t think so. Of course, Dr Hubbard was there. I’ve seen photographs in the exhibition of Dr Hubbard
Dr Hubbard was a very strict doctor amongst the patients there (laughs).

Some of the children have good memories and some don’t. I don’t know what you would say about her.
Well, she didn’t seem to have much feeling in one way, and then at other times she was very kind. She was a person who lived on her own in a flat up at the top of the building and I used to have my lunch with her in the dining-room adjoining to it once a week. She would never talk about her experiences. She came from Vienna (she qualified MD in 1923 in Vienna), and when the Austrian Anschluss came into effect she got out before that. She had a lame leg (she seems to have had polio). She used to limp around, she was a bit overweight and a formidable figure to these children, I’m sure.

I think they were frightened of her.
Oh, I’m sure they were.

And she had an Austrian accent as well.
One of the gardeners was also there at the time of Adelina Patti.

Is that someone by the name of Hibbert?
I think it might be. He used to live in a house opposite the hospital.

One of his relatives is in contact with us. I think it’s his grandson (Glenys Davies is also related to the Hibberts). I also interviewed a 99-year-old lady who was Sister Betty Lewis. Do you remember her?

The name is familiar. Can you remember who was the first medical superintendent?

It was Dr Frank Wells. He was there until 1930 when Dr Lizzie Robertson Clark became superintendent. She was followed by Dr David William Fenwick Jones who was, in turn, followed by Dr Ivor Williams. Dr Jordan (Norman Theodore Kingsley) was a chest physician in Brecon but not at the Adelina Patti Hospital, unless he went there in a consultative capacity. He was a physician to the Welsh National Memorial Association.

Dr Jordan was a chest physician in Brecon as well, which was the post I inherited eventually.

Sister Margaret Phillips
The first sister was a lady called Sister Margaret Phillips. We’ve got photographs of her in the exhibition, sent by her son, Phil Lewis. (Sister Betty Lewis is actually the niece of Sister Margaret Phillips).

Sister Roberts.

There was a Sister Roberts. She took the place of Sister Outram when she retired.
She went to Talgarth sanatorium and became matron there.
She died eventually.( She died at aged 50 – her niece contacted us and gave us that information. Dr. Reeves )

A lot of the girls have talked about you. I think a lot of the teenagers fell in love with you (nurses too, according to Sylvia Moore [née Peckham]). They said that you were very kind.

Dr Patrick Mulhall in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian , the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Alcwyn Davies - porter/odd-job man, 1942

Alcwyn Davies, worked at Craig-y-nos as a temporary porter/odd-job man in 1942.

Here are some of his stories.
He recalls his first day.
“On my first day there I was sent to work with Mr Christie, the head porter.
He says : "Come with me.”
He picks up a stretcher.
We go into a ward. The screens are around a bed.
A nurse pulls them back. There’s this young girl there, beautiful she was.
“You grab her legs “ says Mr Christie, he was always known as Mr Christie a funny chap, real funny chap kept himself to himself.
He seized her shoulders.
‘ I can’t do it’ I said”

“You either do it or you are out of a job.”
So I took hold of her legs. She was still warm.
She was about my age, 16.

I shall always remember that.”

How Griff (the fox) spent a night in the morgue

The porters lodge was on the right of the main entrance. That’s where you went when you were off duty.
One night there was , a big “do” up in Craig-y-nos just a few weeks before Christmas, it was a very eerie place with the wind blowing and you know all those balconies with people outside even in winter.
Well, there were four of us, and we missed the last bus home.
I says to my friends: “Come on boys we will sleep the night in the porters lodge”.
Two of them didn't want to stay and walked home but one, Gerald, stayed with me.
We went into the porters lodge.
The deputy matron , a really lovely woman, not strict like the matron, came to see us.
We tell her we have missed the bus.
She says:” I will bring you something to eat”.
So she comes back with a big plate of Welsh cakes left over from the party.

Well, about 1 o clock in the morning there’s a knocking on the door and this awful groaning sound.
It’s Griff “Canddo”, (Welsh for fox cause he is so crafty) the chauffeur, blind drunk.
“You are not coming in here:” I say.
I turn to Gerald :
“I am going to get the key to open the morgue( which was opposite the porters lodge).
We open it up but don’t turn on the lights.
Between us we carry Griff in and lay him on a slab.
We lock the door.
Around five o’clock next morning we are woken up by the most terrific bellowing noise.
“Dreadful racket !” says Alcwyn.
“That must be Griff”.
So they go to the morgue. They put on the lights. Now they see for the first time that there are three dead bodies on the stone slabs - and Griff, alive and groaning.

“He’s frozen. So we carry him out and put him by the side of the gate because there was a bus at 6 o clock in the morning, the first bus to Ystradgynlais. He could hardly move. He was that cold.”
He wasn't there when we went out at half past seven in the morning so he must have got the bus home.
He was that drunk he didn't know where he was, which was just as well.”

Coal for the castle
One of Alcwyn jobs was to go with Griff up to Penwyllt to get coal for Craig-y-nos.

“He could drive so it was our job to get the coal.
it for the hospital boiler-house.
The nurses had coal fires in their quarters and sometimes there were fires in the wards too.”
“But the only time I would only go in to the wards was to collect bodies,” says Alcwyn.

Thunder and lighting in Craig-y-nos castle
Thursday was always Mr Christie’s night off and I would have to stand in for him.
He used to go to the Astoria cinema in Ystradgynlais (they are knocking it down now) .
Well, there I am sitting in front of my nice big fire, reading a book in the lodge when I get this call from matron.
“Can you come over to the main entrance and bring a stretcher with you?” she says.
I knew what that meant, another dead body.
It was a bad night with the wind howling and the thunder and lightning and I didn't fancy going out one bit.
As I put the phone down there’s a massive big clamp of thunder and all the lights go out.
I find a torch and walk over to the main entrance and matron is waiting for me.
“Come with me” she says . She has some candles.
We go up to Ward 2 .
We put this chap who has just died on to the stretcher.
Matron carries one end and I the other.
We go to where the lift is only it’s not working.
There’s no electricity in the castle.
What to do?
Matron says:
“You carry him. I will wait for you at the bottom of the stairs.”
And she lifts him over my shoulder .
It is the back stairs and very narrow and his head must have hit against the wall. Suddenly the man makes this enormous sound: ”uuuggh.....”
I drop him and I run all the way back to the lodge and lock myself in.
Matron phones and I says to her:
“He’s alive!”
“No, he’s not.”
She orders me to go back and get him.

Immune to death
You would be taking out three or four bodies a week. It was very sad.
Some were very young, in their early teens, 12, 13 and 14 year olds.
“It was a sad , sad place but you got used to it. You had to. It was a job and jobs were hard come by in those days. ”
You got a bit immune to it cause you saw so much.
You had to...
Thank God those days have gone.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Christmas budgies - 1950

Ann with Bubbles, the budgie

On a recent visit to Wales to set up the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition in Brecon library I was reminded how difficult it often is in a rural community to purchase some items which if you live within reach of a big city you take for granted.

And it made me think of my mother over 50 years ago buying a pair of budgies to bring me for Christmas in Craig-y-nos.
Even today the purchase of these feathery creatures would have taken some sourcing.
But 1950? where on earth did she find them and whose idea was it?

Now she is long dead and there is no-one to ask but that day in Brecon made me think. Where would I start to look for a pair of budgies?

I remember the arrival of my Christmas budgies.

All that long dark winter of 1950 I snuggled under the bedclothes having been brought back in from the balcony. I had lost my best friend, Joan in a plaster bed. She too had been moved elsewhere.

Now I was amongst teenagers again who talked of things I knew nothing about and mocked my ignorance.

My bed had been taken off its blocks and the world seemed topsy-turvy. If I sat up I felt as if I was going to slide out of the bottom of the bed. And it made me feel giddy.

Also, it had been placed opposite the glass door so Dr Huppert and Sister Morgan could keep an eye on me.

I did not like it.
They would hassle me.

Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert shouted at me at regular intervals to “sit up” .

Once they were out of sight I would slide down into the comfort of the bed.

I didn't want to sit up. It was cold. I just wanted to read.Under the bed-clothes.

And on the December visiting mother walked in swinging a cage with a pair of budgies, one blue one green, one male one female.

I burst out crying.

“Take them away quick!” I sob to mother ‘I will get the most awful row from Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert.”

She kept “ssshhh..” me to stop crying assuring me that it’s all right that Sister Morgan knew all about it. I was not convinced.

Later Dr Huppert came along and named them “Bubble and Squeak” .

The arrival of these tiny brightly coloured feathery creatures, little bits of life, marked the turning point in my life in Craig-y-nos.

For I was 10 years of age and the birds had given me a reason to live.

I thought of this as I walked through Brecon a few weeks ago trying to buy a piece of card to mount the photos for the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition.

Where on earth did mother find budgies in Brecon over 50 years ago?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pat Davies, nurse, 1951-54

Pat Davies, former nurse now living in Coventry talking to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine University College London.

Jenkin Evans, the dentist, as Father Christmas

" We used to have concerts in the theatre and at Christmas Jenkin Evans would always be Father Christmas, and he used to sit down there and talk to anybody that could come down.

He always pronounced it J(soft J)enkin Evans. It’s the Welsh way of pronouncing it, and he had his surgery in Ystradgynlais.
He came up and checked everybody’s teeth every so often. He was actually a private dentist in Ystradgynlais. We’d have concerts – the local people used to come occasionally. I can well remember when Harry Secombe brought his pantomime up there. It was Jack and the Beanstalk.
At the time, I was on Ward 1, and we had a patient – I think her name was Margaret – and she was going home to die. She was too ill to go down to the theatre and she asked if he could sing a special song for her. I was the one who had to go and ask him if he’d do it. It was relayed over the loud speakers for her."

Did she die?
Yes, she went home. She didn’t want to die there (in Craig-y-nos).
Did she know she was going to die?
How old was she?

She was in her twenties. It happened quite a few times. You never get used to it. You have to take the bad with the good.

That pantomime, was it relayed over the loud speaker system for everyone in the wards?
Yes. The children that weren’t able to go down to the theatre, they heard it over the loud speakers.

You were never addressed by first names. He was always Mr Jenkin Evans. Chat. It was such a wonderful place to be. As a patient I was quite happy there and then when I went back I absolutely loved it. You were allowed to go round the grounds on walks and it was wonderful.
Did you see the stone, which was to Baron Cederstrom? There’s a tree there.

Ghosts? Well, I was never nervous there at all but there was only one room, and I didn’t see it I when I was there (at the reunion). At the back of the lift shaft on Ward 1 there was a small room where the governors used to meet, and on the wall was a big coat of arms of Baron Cederstrom. They were coming to some meeting or other and I was asked if I would take some papers and put them in that room. When I went in, I went absolutely ice cold.

It was as if there was something in there. Did you know that Matron had her own chapel in her flat? Her flat was upstairs and there was a chapel that had been built there by Adelina Patti, and that was still there.
It’s where they laid Adelina Patti out after she’d died. (Today it’s the bridal suite)

Matron Knox-Thomas receiving a presentation of a piano from Friends of the Hospital. 1951/52. If anyone can provide more information about this photo I would be most grateful. It is from the collection of Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins). Mari is second from the end of the front row -right-hand side.

So that was the flat that Matron had?
Yes. The maids’ quarters above the kitchens over on the opposite side where the kitchens were. The sisters were in the Annexe.

Dr Huppert

We think we know where Dr Huppert lived but was she in the flat that you had to go up the stairs to?
Yes, you had to climb the stairs. It was at the back of the lift that had her staircase going up. I can remember one Christmas, Matron had put mince pies and sherry for us in our sitting room and we’d all got our pyjamas and dressing gowns on, and somebody had the bright idea that we’d go and sing carols. So, we went over to Dr Williams first and it started snowing slightly. We sang carols outside and then we thought we’d go up to Dr Huppert, and she was so thrilled. She’d been listening to a service coming from Austria. She was strict but very fair, and she was a brilliant doctor, absolutely brilliant.

What happened to the children who got dumped in Craig-y-nos?
Many of them were adopted. A lot went on to children’s homes and then we heard through the grapevine that they had been adopted. There was a baby that came in and went to the baby ward (Ward 3) where Patie Taylor worked (Glenys would know her) with Sally Jones. The baby was about six months old and she was just dumped there.

Did she have TB?
Yes. We had children brought in that had had TB meningitis, and they were deaf.
And they were dumped?
Yes. I could never understand how anyone who could do that to a child. That’s why I went back there because I wanted to be there with the children. First of all I was on Ward 1 and then they put me on Ward 2, which was lovely. I loved being up there. Somebody asked me when we were at the reunion, ‘Somebody used to do our ribbons for us.’ I said, ‘Yes, that was me.’ I used to take them back into the ward with the ironing board and iron them dry.

And have a sing song.
Oh yes, and then in the mornings we’d do all their hair.

Were they still cutting children’s hair off at that stage?

Some of them were cut off but not all of them. If they had head lice it was always cut. I hated the saffron caps that we’d put on. They were horrible!

What were they?
They were called saffron caps. It was a substance they used to put on the child’s hair and then put a bandage in the shape of a turban over it and make it into a cap so when you took it off all the dead lice would be inside it.

A lot of the children say that they were very distraught when their plaits were cut off. Was that partly because of their lice?

Yes. When I was a patient there my hair was quite long and they cut my hair, and I was quite upset about it.

You didn’t have lice?
No, they just cut it.

Because they couldn’t manage it?
That’s right.
That’s what a lot of them were told.

We were told that we weren’t to hold our arms up above our head, you see. So if you had long hair and you had to hold your arms up for a long time, it was dangerous because it would affect the lungs. Some of the things, I learned later, were old wives tales.

I think those tales were rife when there was no cure for TB.

Those ghastly splint things that they used to tie the children on. Have you ever seen those?

Well, there was like an iron frame with a round head piece and then it went down the sides of the body and onto the legs, and onto that there was like a leather waistcoat with straps on it, and that was tightened onto them. Then their legs were bound onto the frame.

Was that for TB spine?

Yes, and also the hips.

I spoke to one lady who’d had a leather and iron jacket made for her but it was so uncomfortable that she stopped wearing it when she was seventeen.

A lady came into Ward 4, and she was on what they called a plaster bed, which was about six inches up above the mattress on like a box. What they did then was a plaster of Paris mould of the front of her body and she had to lie on her stomach in this. It was very, very uncomfortable.

She had to lie on her stomach?
Yes, in this plaster frame.
Some people have said that they lay on their back in a plaster bed.
It depended which way they wanted them for so long. The child who came and told me that she could walk after her operation, she was on her back when I knew her. It was very difficult for her (the girl on her stomach) and she was very embarrassed about it.

I can imagine because she was older, wasn’t she?
She was in her mid-forties, I think. If I was on duty, and I’m not bragging in any way, she’d say, ‘I want a bed pan, a big one. Will you come and see to me?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course I will.’ I’d put the screens around her and I used to clean her up and everything.

Some nurses do have the trust of patients more than others. Patients do have their favourite nurses. It’s very interesting hearing it from the other side because obviously we’ve heard a lot of experiences from the children but not from the staff.

every child in Craig-y-nos received a Coronation certificate

Queens Coronation
Has anybody mentioned about the Queen’s Coronation (1953)? About the ward televisions being brought in.
Only a small one! Did you know that Matron made proper covers for them?

For the televisions?
Yes (laughs). You had to draw back the covers like curtains.

do you remember the small black and white television set ?

You had to draw back the curtains to watch the screen?
Yes. I was down on Ward 4 when it was the Coronation. I was sitting on the end of a patient’s bed and we were watching it. The Friends of the Hospital had acquired all these televisions for each ward so they could watch the Coronation. When we switched the television off we had to draw the curtains.
They were red. They were made out of old red blankets.

Nursing qualifications
I didn’t do my SRN because we couldn’t do it at Craig-y-nos but I did do my Prelim (preliminary examination). It stood me in good stead over the years and I was able to help people.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pat Davies,(nee Cornell ) age 17, nurse -1951-54

Nurse Pat Cornell ( centre) with Amy Edwards (right) and Mrs Northcote

"I went for an interview to Swansea General Hospital with the matron, and she said, ‘Oh no, my girl. You haven’t been to grammar school. I don’t accept anybody that hasn’t been to grammar school.’ I felt really deflated but a few days later, in the evening paper – the South Wales Evening Post – there was an advert for nurses for Craig-y-nos, so I wrote to matron. I knew the matron because she was the matron when I was there. Matron Knox-Thomas
a fantastic woman. I went up for an interview. She remembered me and she said, yes, I could start, and I started there.
I always wanted to be a nurse

What was a typical day?
Well, we lived in the nurses’ home and I had a room of my own. I can remember most of the girls who were there at the time, starting with Glenys Davies, Peggy Taylor and Staff Sally Jones. They were in the nurses’ home. There were two Jean Evanses, just to make confusion. Kathleen Fielding, Gwyneth Woodlake, and we had a German girl for a while – Heather Schumann – and another girl who had been a displaced person.

Pat with Mary Leo

She came to work as a maid at Craig-y-nos and she’d worked with matron who’d taught her English, and then she came and joined us as a nurse. Her name was Mary Leo.

She came from Latvia. She spoke German and Polish as well as her own language, and then she became fluent in English as well. She was a very clever person.

What sort of day did you have?
Well, Night Sister used to wake us in the morning. She’d enter the nurses’ home and put all the lights on, and knock on everybody’s door. She’d come in and put the light on at the back of your bed (over your bed), and say, ‘Seven o’clock, Nurse!’ Seven o’clock you were woken up, you had to get out of bed, go to the bathroom and get washed and dressed, and being in the dining room before half past seven, and then you went on duty.

Glenys Davies said that you had to strip your bed as well.
Oh yes, we did. Sister or Matron came around to check, which they did quite often, and if your bed had been made they’d strip it – which they did quite often!

We’d go on duty and do the normal things like changing the patients’ beds from the night to day covers, helping with breakfasts, washing the patients and giving out any medicines that had to be done, supervising the patients who were getting up. We’d see to them and make sure they were going for their walk as they should do. We had to go to lectures as well.
We had an assistant matron. If I remember, her name was Rees. She was very small but she used to wear platform shoes to make her look taller. She used to give us lessons.

Did you have lectures from the doctors as well?
Dr Huppert did occasionally but mostly it was the assistant matron.

Did you take examinations?
Yes, we did. From Ward 1, I went down to Ward 4.
One sister down there was of the old school. She was older than most of them, and she said, ‘Right, you’re going to learn everything I can teach you on this ward.’ I did learn from her. She was absolutely fantastic. I did gastric lavages and I gave all the injections. I went back then to Ward 1 for a while and Sister Jones couldn’t give the (streptomycin) injections because it affected her very badly (she had become allergic to streptomycin – Glenys Davies was also badly affected). She had a reaction to it.
I used to give the injections and then occasionally I’d be the only one that could go and do them because people had a terrific reaction to them. I used to go to Ward 2.

Nurse Glenys Jones

Glenys was saying that lots of staff developed an allergic reaction to streptomycin.
Nurse Jones did terribly. If she was anywhere near where you were mixing injections, her face would swell.

Did you feel that you were more in tune with some of the patients because you had been a patient?

Yes, I thought so, and I could talk to them in a different way, I think. I understood how frustrating it was to be tied in bed. That was another thing they used to do then. If the children tried to get out of bed too often, they were put in restrainers.
It was horrible, absolutely.
It was to make sure that they did as they were told.

One little girl was on a plaster bed. She was on Ward 2. I used to talk to the children – I’ve always loved children anyway. I used to talk to her quite a lot and help her when she was on this plaster bed. She was going down for her operation and a number of us had to go and watch. It was performed by Mr Rocyn-Jones .

Joan (right) on her plaster bed. Is this the same child that Nurse Cornell remembers? If so Joan and I were best friends on the balcony with our beds next to each other for the summer.

We had to go and watch this particular operation. He took a fragment of bone from the pelvis and grafted it round her spine. He replaced part of her spine. It was fantastic. I moved from that ward and went back down to Ward 4 again. It was a little while later, about a couple of months, and suddenly one of the patients said, ‘There’s a little girl out here to speak to you.’ When I went to the window, it was this little girl. I think her name was Joan, and she said, ‘Look, I’m walking.’

And something a nurse is not supposed to do – you are not supposed to show emotion and it’s very difficult, and I can remember the tears streaming down my face. I went outside and gave her a big hug. It was so wonderful -- a little girl that couldn’t remember walking.

How old would she have been?
She’d have been about nine or ten.

She had the operation at Craig-y-nos?

Did they used to do quite a few orthopaedic operations there?
Yes, they did a lot of them. Children who had had TB of the hip, they did quite a lot of those (Rocky Jones used to come on special days. They also did tonsillectomies. Messy (laughs).
Very often children were in plaster round their waist and down their leg in TB hip, and sometimes the plaster would dig into their skin, into their bottom usually. I can remember one little boy. He was crying one day and wouldn’t turn over and tell me what was wrong with him. When we turned him over the plaster was eating into his bottom.

I think it was Dr Huppert who came and she cut the plaster around and then we had to use penicillin snuff (antibiotic powder) to fill the dent that it had made.
What about pressure sores?
That was another job we did, that was regular. That was always done in the evening after supper, between supper time and before you went off duty.
That was with methylated spirits, was it?
Yes, and cream.
Considering that some of them were on their backs for years, I’ve asked them and nobody has said that they had pressure sores.
Sister Jones and Sister Morgan insisted that you did that. That was an instruction you had to do, so it was done every day.

How long did you nurse at Craig-y-nos?
I left in 1954. The reason I left was that I’d met my future husband. We were getting married and the rule was they didn’t like married nurses.

Tell me about the staff
Sister Roberts was on Ward 4 -- after Sister Outram had retired. Everybody knew Sister Outram. The dragon!

Sister Roberts was quite a short, stubby little woman. She always used to use a very strong perfume.

Nobody said anything to her?
Oh no, they wouldn’t dare!

She died young, you know.
Did she?
She died when she was fifty.

I got on with her quite well. I always remember one instance with her. A young girl was brought in as a patient. She was shown to her bed and settled down, and after her mother had gone, Sister said, ‘Would you take her to the bathroom for her to have a bath to settle her in properly.’ Sister came with me and she was absolutely … oh gosh, everything on her body, lice and all. Sister went beserk. She said, ‘Go into the store room and get me some carbolic soap and two new nail brushes.’ And the stuff that they used to use for the hair (delousing).
She put her in this bath and literally scrubbed her.
She was about fifteen, this girl. Sister Roberts very annoyed because she said that she was old enough to keep herself clean.

Was it uncommon?
It was uncommon, yes. Sometimes you’d get patients coming in with bedsores because they were waiting to come in (patients sometimes spent weeks or months in bed at home before they got a bed in Craig-y-nos).
That sort of infestation was quite rare then?
Yes, it was.

Obviously, people did come from very different backgrounds didn’t they, and some children came from quite poor homes, didn’t they?
Yes and some children were literally dumped. There’s no other word for it. Their parents didn’t want to know. They left them there.There were quite a few. There was one that was adopted by one of the bus drivers, Bubby … I can’t remember his last name. It happened quite a lot (children being adopted).
Did it?
People have mentioned one or two cases but nobody’s said very much about what happened to the children. So, parents just left them in Craig-y-nos?
There was one little girl. I can’t remember her name but she was on Ward 2 and she’d been to Cardiff to have her lung operation She was only between five and six-years-old and she came back to us and they tried to get in touch with the family, and they didn’t want to know. When she was fit enough to go into an orphanage, the women on Ward 1 below, rigged her out – they knitted cardigans and all sorts of things for her.
It was quite common.

Dio you recall any children dying?
Well, when I was on night duty, we had the death of a child. That really upset one of our nurses. Her name was Jean Evans. She was locally from one of the farms going up towards Brecon. She called me but this girl was a Down’s syndrome, a lovely little girl in a room on her own. She had photographs of her brothers on her locker and everything. She was really charming but she was very, very ill – that’s why she was isolated on her own. Jean Evans went in one morning and she came running out to call me. She said, ‘Oh, come quick. I think the little girl’s died.’ She had, yes.

Did you enjoy your time there?
I did, yes. There was so much that we did at different times. We used to play badminton in the (Adelina Patti) Theatre with Dr Williams. We did have lots of shows and different things, and one thing has always stuck in my mind. You know that they used to have a Remembrance Day Service at the Albert Hall?

Matron (Knox-Thomas) insisted that if we were in the Nurses’ Home, we had no choice but to go down to the Theatre and the first television was there. It was a tiny 14-inch one, and we had to watch it. Before that, we had to listen on the radio. We always had to observe the two minutes silence.

Did the children have to keep that as well?
Oh yes, she was very strict about that. I don’t know whether it’s true but somebody told me that she lost her fiancé in the 1914-18 war.
That was the reason why she was so strict about observing Remembrance Day. We always knew when she was coming onto the ward because she’d come up in the lift and whether she stamped her feet in there or what, but she was a very big lady, and you’d hear the rattle. I’m trying to remember the name of the staff nurse that we had on Ward 1. She was from Pen-y-cae and was quite a large lady.

One thing that really sticks in my mind – we were giving out dinners – we’d just done the dinner round and the pudding that day was the little round Lyons ice creams. Well, this staff nurse was behind the door and she’d put one of these in her mouth, when suddenly we could hear the rattle of the lift, and she swallowed it (laughs). She went out and said, ‘Good afternoon, Matron.’ We used to have quite a lot of fun. I don’t regret my time there, I really enjoyed it. I’m very fortunate because I have a niece that lives in Pontardawe – well, it’s my husband’s niece – so I stay with her when I come down.

when I was a patient there … you know, we weren’t allowed to have chewing gum. We were told that it was very bad for us. I don’t know how it all came about but after one visiting day, there was a little girl on the balcony -- I can’t remember her name – but she died and they said it was because she’d eaten chewing gum. I mean that’s silly. When I got older I couldn’t understand that.

What else can you remember?
I can’t remember her name – all I remember is looking down the valley towards Swansea, there was a church on the right hand side, and her brother was the minister there. She came to us for a while and she was very, very strait-laced.
We used to a sing-song when I was on Ward 2. If I was on until eight o’clock, after they’d had their supper and the beds had been changed and we’d got the night rugs on, I used to have their hair ribbons and go and wash them and bring them back into the ward to iron them. We used to have a sing-song. They all had their choice, what they wanted to sing. Another thing that I can remember so vividly. We had to sing ‘Jerusalem’ for the hospital governors, and I think their name was Williams. They came up to our ward because they said we had the best singers. So we had to sing ‘Jerusalem’, but it wasn’t the usual version. It started off with, ‘Last night I lay sleeping, had a dream so fair, I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there …’ It was that one. I’ve always remembered it.
It wasn’t a bad time and I think if you talk to any of the ex-patients, none of them would say they were unhappy there.

"Father Christmas" -Jenkin Evans, the dentist, with matron Knox-thomas in the background

Has anyone mentioned Mr Jenkin Evans who was the dentist? He always played Father Christmas.
When I was down on Ward 4, his daughter came in as a patient.
Margaret Jenkin Evans. I nursed her.
She was about eighteen.
She was a difficult patient. She could be very awkward at times.

Did she survive?

(Pat Davies in telephone interview with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine University College London) edited extract.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pat Davies (née Cornell) 1944, age 10

Pat was a patient for a year in 1944 then she went back to nurse in 1951.

This is Part 1 of her interview with Dr Carole Reeves.

Because it is so rare to have someone who was both a patient and a nurse at Craig-y-nos , thus offering a unique perspective, I am going to carry this long interview over the next three days.

Pat lives in Coventry and attended the recent Patients Reunion.

"I was a patient from 19th of March 1944 to the 19th of March 1945. Exactly a year. I was very fortunate because it hadn’t taken such a hold on me. I think they caught it in time.

I was in the air raid shelter, and I had pleurisy twice. Really, I couldn’t get over it. I had a bad chest all the time so our family doctor recommended that I went for a chest X-ray, which I did in Swansea, in a place called Grove Place at the time. They did the X-rays and said, ‘Oh yes, there’s definitely shadows on both lungs. I was given a date when I had to go in.
I was ten. I had my eleventh birthday while I was in there.

Do you have any memories of the food?
One thing I absolutely hated and I still do to this day, was hotpot that we used to have on a Saturday.

It was ghastly, and do you know when I went back (as a nurse) they were still having it on a Saturday! It was horrible. It didn’t look like an ordinary stew. It was all thick and horrible. Most of the food was pretty good. I used to eat it all.

I can remember one meal when I don’t know what had happened but the food hadn’t come through to the hospital and we had a real concoction. We had bread and marge (margarine) – this was for dinner – with some potatoes and milk.

Were you on the balcony?
I went out onto the balcony round about June or July. Then, by September or November, I was getting up. I was out on the balcony until they brought us in when we had a snowstorm.

There was only one girl (Mary Morgan) and myself out on the balcony. It was mid-winter. We had a small spattering of snow but we were sleeping out there, and we woke up one morning and Mary said, ‘Can you move your legs?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t tried yet.’ ‘Try to move them.’ We couldn’t. She said, ‘Open your eyes.’ And the snow was inches deep on the bottom of the bed. They couldn’t open the balcony doors to get us in, so they had to send two of the porters round with a ladder to climb up onto the balcony to open the doors from the outside. Then they brought us in.

Sister Morgan ?
She was a bit of a tyrant but very fair.
She was the sort of person that if you had a worry you could go and talk to her, and she’d listen to you, but if you had been misbehaving you did get the raw edge of her tongue.

Did you ever have the gastric lavage that everybody hated?
No, I didn’t have that at all.

Generally, are your memories of Craig-y-nos good or bad?
Very good. For the first couple of days I was very upset. It was the first time I’d ever been away from my mum and I know I cried quite a lot, and they tried all ways to comfort me. It always seemed to happen around dinner time, mid-day. I always got these crying bouts then but it only lasted for a couple of days or so, then I settled down quite well. I got to know the other girls in the ward and we all made friends.

Your parents could only come once a month?
Just my mother. I’d lost my dad in 1942.

Was that in the war?
Inversely. He was wounded in the 1914-18 war. He was working on the docks and banged his knee and didn’t realise that there was a clot still underneath the knee cap – he was wounded in that knee. The clot just moved and that was the end. I was quite young.

It must have been quite distressing for you, having lost your dad and then having to go away from home.
It was, but the nurses were so kind. Some of them were really nice.

Apart from Sister Morgan, do you remember the staff?
I remember Sister Morgan very, very well. I can’t remember their names so much. There was one – Audrey Lloyd. She was a bit of a tease. She used to try to aggravate the children to upset us. I can remember I had a stuffed dog, a toy dog, and she took it off me one day. What I’d done, I can’t remember, but she took it off me and she threw it over the balcony. She was not the nicest of the nurses. Most of them were absolutely wonderful. There was a staff nurse when I was there as a patient but when I went back she was a sister, and that was Elspeth Jones. When I went back as a nurse I was on her ward. She said, ‘I remember you.’

What about Dr Huppert?
She was strict. Very, very strict but very fair. I got on with her very well. I thought she was alright.

What about schooling?
We didn’t have very much, not when I was there, not as a patient. It was a bit hit and miss. They came some days and they didn’t others. It wasn’t done very fairly.

You were there until you were eleven and then went back to school. Had you missed much schooling?
A lot of schooling, yes. It was very difficult to catch up. I couldn’t take the eleven plus because no way could I have done it. I went to the ordinary secondary modern school and I left at fifteen.

Pat Davies was in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peggy Jones ( nee Dobson)- 1955-56

Here are some photos from Peggy Jones' album. She was in the Annexe from 1955-56

Peggy's parents with Darry, her four month old son whom she had to leave in the care of her parents while she was in hospital. She didn't return home until he was 2 years and 1 month old.

Young women in the Annexe. 1st left unknown, 2nd left Myra Mort, and the lady on the far right was Glenys Ford.

Peggy with a member of staff

Christmas 1955: ( from left to right) Peggy, Glenys Ford, Mearl Davies and Connie Smith.

Peggy attended the first Reunion in 2004 organised by the Sleeping Giant

Peggy (left) attended the last Reunion organised by Ann Shaw and Dr Carole Reeves, September 2007.

Family connections: Mrs Thomas, the teacher

I wonder how many ex -patients realized that Mrs Thomas, the teacher, had a daughter Euryl, who was both a patient for a time in Craig-y-nos then went on to become the medical secretary for 18 years?

She says that there were some unkind people who suggested her mother had brought back TB from working with children in the sanatorium but Dr Willimas assured her this was impossible.

Porridge in Craig-y-nos

Am I the only one who can remember the "sawdust" concoction they used to sprinkle on the porridge every morning for those with a poor appetite?

I had it for months on arrival in Craig-y-nos and I hated it though on reflection the"sawdust" tasted well, of sawdust.

Looking back I think one of the reasons I hated the food so much was that I had come off a farm, and the war and rations had passed me by for we had a surfeit of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat coupled with mothers marvellous home cooking.

Never in my short life had I seen so much overcooked, badly prepared and downright unappetising meals until I went into Craig-y-nos as a nine year old.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Judy Smith ( nee Allsopp) - 1943

This is Judy's personal account of her childhood with TB and time in Craig-y-nos.

"Here is my story with a small preamble first. I keep on thinking of memories I could add but some are difficult to verbalise.

I went into Craig-y-nos-the Welsh name means “rock of the night” or “black rock” on February 18th.

Death of brother
I remember the date ‘cos it was my brother Tony’s birthday and he had died on March 1st.-coincidentally Welsh St. David’s day-1943 at the age of five (I was six).
It was very quick. One day we were “dainting together"-one of our favourite games walking on tip-toe, laughing at each other- the next day I was peering through the window of the rented bungalow near Lenham, Kent (we moved a lot during the war as our “Daddy was in the Army) and I could just see his shape on the bed. That was the last time I saw him. He was ill for two days. He died in hospital of tubercular meningitis. I found this out years later. All I knew was that my favourite playmate was gone. My brother Robert born Nov.27 1939 and sister Wendy born June 14 1941 were too young to play properly!

Move to South Wales

Not long after this we went to live in South Wales where our mother came from.

Search for father figure
Daddy was no longer around. I was told that he had died during the war. I remember helping him clean the brass buttons on his uniform and I felt proud when he carried me to school on his shoulders. The buttons and leather belt and cross straps of his uniform looked very smart and of course he was my Daddy.

I have searched for a tall man with strong shoulders and loving smile all my life-and that feeling of being loved.
Years later I found out that he was not dead but that he and our mother were divorced-so he might as well have been dead.

Uncle dying of TB in front bedroom
In South Wales our mother ,Robert and I lived with Aunty Linda, an older sister of our mother and Uncle Dai. It was a three bedroom house and Uncle Dai was dying of T.B. in the front bedroom, a common situation in those days in the Welsh valleys of mines and steelworks. I shared a back bedroom with someone-was it our mother or Robert? Wendy lived with another sister of our mother from the age of two till she was six.

Falling sick
I remember going to school, having a cough and strawberry tongue which I knew was significant but didn’t know why. I had to go into Swansea on the bus, which took ages,to the T.B. clinic at Grove Place for X-rays and examinations and being weighed and chest listened to. Once I caught a glimpse of someone having a lung drained-I think that’s what was happening-so I feared it would happen to me.

Arrival in Craig-y-nos
I remember being told that I had to go into hospital-just me-but the details of the journey on two buses and of being left in a frightening environment –totally alone-escape me.
Loneliness and fear from then on were constant companions.

Ward regime
I remember a large room (ward) full of beds,only girls no boys-there was strict segregation! For the first six month strict “bedrest” was the norm; getting out of bed for any reason even to go to the “loo” was forbidden. We had bedpans and blanket baths and temperatures were taken twice daily. We had to cough sputum into little dishes every day and to keep our bowels open we had to swallow either syrup of figs or cascara . One tasted sweet and the other nasty and we were never told before which was which!

Music in the wards
I remember Nurse Brenda Cowling. She was fair haired and plump and “warm” but no hugs came my way. There was Mrs. Williams who came on to the ward to play the piano. That was the first time I heard the “Moonlight Sonata” which is beautiful but I cannot listen to it or other classical pieces for too long because the feelings it arouses are too painful. We also played musical instruments in our beds which was fun except that I always ended up with the triangle when I wanted the drum! We also had some schooling but the details escape me.

The "tube"
Once a month (I think!)we were given toast for breakfast instead of porridge and then you knew that it was your turn for the “tube” which we dreaded. I was held down in a chair in a side ward and salt water was poured down a funnel into a tube in to my stomach so that I retched and heaved and spat.We weren’t told why at the time but I think it was to examine the sputum to see whether T.B. bacilli were present.

Body held in a leather and metal device
In one ward opposite me was Christine Walters. She had dark hair and T.B.lung as I did. But then she started having a pain in one leg which she could not move so she was put on to a leather and metal device in the shape of an upside-down Y; her head and body were on the straight bit and her legs were strapped to the two arms. She could not move. It was very painful and she cried a lot.

Children "disappearing" in the night
There was Joan Williams next to me. She had blond hair and blue eyes and rosy cheeks. One night she disappeared and I never saw her again. That happened often. Now I know that high colour and and feverish eyes were symptoms of the final stages.
When you were taken into the Duty room to be weighed which happened regularly and a screen was around the bed you knew that someone was dying. One day from my bed I saw what looked like a coffin being taken down in the lift.
Children were also put into wooden boxes which looked like coffins with no lids when they had T.B. of the spine. There was a patient named Leonard Smallden who had a leg amputated; I remember seeing the shape of the cradle over his body when the door of his room was left open. I was convinced that the same thing would happen to me.

Patti's legacy
After six months complete bed rest we were allowed “lav walks” then time allowed out of bed sitting in a chair at the side of the bed and eventually outings in the grounds of the sanatorium. The building was originally a “castle” or country house owned by a very famous singer of operas named Adelina Patti. She used to have country house weekends to which the king at the time Edward 7th.and his entourage were regularly invited. His train used to stop specially at Pen-y-cae station! Our heavy white counterpanes were embroidered with the King’s coat-of-arms.
In the harsh winter of 1947 some of us were wheeled out on to the balcony for the fresh mountain air.The snow was beautiful!

Brother Robert admitted to Craig-y-nos
Once my brother Robert who came to Craig-y-nos after me (he had pleurisy first) fell into a stone trough in the grounds and I tried to get him out but I couldn’t reach and I had to run for one of the nurses.I could see bubbles in the water.
I used to suffer from huge cold sores on my chin which were always painful; I don’t remember any treatment.

Wetting the bed
I remember wetting the bed regularly and sometimes the nurses wouldn’t change the sheet or my knickers as a punishment. I can still smell that stale urine and feel the dampness that I slept in.

Sexual abuse
The worst memory –which I didn’t remember till nearly 40 years later when I was having counselling for depression- was of Sister 'X' who smelled of nicotine putting the screens around my bed as though she was giving me a blanket bath. She used to touch me in a place where I knew she shouldn’t and manipulate me. I knew this was wrong and I felt dirty and guilty as though it were my fault. I don’t know how long it went on and I never told anyone. I’m sure this is where my claustrophobia originated.

Years later
For years I thought about death every day and looking back to my teenage years I realise that I was suffering from depression and anxiety then and to a certain extent this has remained with me.
My brother and I have visited Craig-y-nos on one occasion in the past few years to lay a few ghosts. The grounds are now a country park so out of pain and terror has come beauty and life."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pamela Hamer ( nee Osmond)

This email arrived today:

"Hello Ann. I would like you to know that the research you and Dr Carole Reeves are doing regarding Craig-y-Nos is so interesting I love to look at all those photographs of the children and the Nurses Doctors ect, I log on to Craig-y-Nos and I become a child again. I know the stories are true and some are so sad they make you want to cry.
Your story will one day make a fantastic Welsh Valley Film.
Best wishes to you both. Pamela ."

Nice to know we are appreciated.

Time zones: "Do you sleep?"

A friend said to me yesterday .
"Do you have problems sleeping?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Well, you seem to write your blog about 3 or 4 o'clock every morning!"
"It is the American time zone - this is open source software and it is set to US time - 8 hours behind us."

Thought I would mention it incase other folk think I am scribbling away throughout the night...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Emotions, ghosts and Craig-y-nos

I was very interested to hear the Rev Tom Willis, official ghost exterminator for the Church of England say on Radio 4 this morning that in his experience places where there had been a lot of emotional experiences like hospitals also had the highest reportings of ghostly sightings/hearings.

This ties in with something Kelly, a member of staff at Craig-y-nos Castle said at the recent Patients Reunion when I remarked that an awful lot of people had found that their cameras had lost power. Batteries had gone flat and their cameras were empty!

She was not surprised
"That's what you would expect with so much emotion swilling around in there."

Horace Batts- chauffeur?

Is this Horace Batts, former chauffeur to landed gentry in Hay-on-Wye who died in Craig-y-nos, age 29, 1933?.

I have just had an email from John Batts in Australia. He is a distant relative of Horace Batts and he was responsible for despositing all the memoribilia relating to Horace in the Powys archives.

He says it is news to him that Horace had worked as a chauffeur! he recalls being told as a young child that Horace had died in a fishing accident on the Wye - much more respectable than dying of TB, which he did in Craig-y-nos in 1933.

So who is the mystery chauffeur? Perhaps there is someone out there who can help? it was in the same archival box in Llandrindrod Wells as the rest of the Horace Batts material.

John says:
" I did not recognise Horace from that photo; under a large hat, there is not a lot to go on, of course. But if you are asking me for any confirmation, I am unable to be at all sure. The other photo' gave instant recognition by contrast. Not that I ever met him, of course, but there were certainly pix around in albums and I was a regular visitor to the surviving sisters, Tillie (Matilda) and Gertie in Hay. If Horace is not actually in that photograph, then that may explain why the notion that he was a chauffeur was all news to me within the past hour.

I found that U-Tube reunion quite fascinating. I'm not at all surprised that it was regarded by some as a prison! In any case, I have no objection to your using that material provided the source is acknowledged, as is required I think by Powys CRO.

The only other material I have is a series of postcards written by his older sister Matilda ("Tillie") to Horace in the months after he was sent there; most of these, if not all, are written from Bournemouth where she was clearly working at the time -- not that I ever heard her talk of those days so I was utterly surprised when I found these postcards.

Tillie never mentioned Horace to me either, or at least not that I can recall, whereas the youngest surviving sister, the bed-ridden Gertie, did so. So this may be indirect evidence of one of your correspondents remarking that Craig-y-nos were not normally spoken of as if there was some stigma attached -- rather like cancer-sufferers today I surmise.

The other reflection about Horace I can offer you is somewhat allied to that, namely, I am sure that someone in the family told me at a young age that Horace had met his death by drowning in the River Wye, perhaps in an attempt to make me more circumspect when walking on the riverside Warren or when fishing! Strange how these recollections surface decades later!! "

Twenty minutes later John sent the following postscript from Australia:

I don't think that I had seen that photo of Horace Batts as chauffeur before. I spent some minutes staring at his female companion sitting on the board of the car with him. I wondered if it might not have been his first cousin and my Aunt, Ann Batts, who died of TB in May, 1947. The picture is undated but probably is from the late 20s. However, Ann was born in 1918 and the personage in the pic' appears to be more than aged 10. I am not sure that I even knew that he had been a chauffeur; my recollection is that he had been a bit of a gad-about in Hay, having worked as a shop assistant (in a draper's?). And if you enjoy speculation -- though with more than a 1000 photos in this project, you probably won't need too much of this -- I wondered if the car might have belonged to Lord Glanusk. I doubt if the young person is one of that family because social mores of that age probably preclude it, but that relationship may explain why the Glanusk family were writing letters to and even visiting Horace's sister, Gertie Batts (also an invalid), in the 1930s, a correspondence that continues after the Glanusk people had left Hay Castle. Just theorizing! John. "

I think you theory is right John because I did read in Gertie's diary that Lady Glanusk had visited her on several occasions and had spent the afternoon reading to her. If Horace was their chauffeur it would excplain this relationship - and the Rolls Royce!I

Another story - forced abortion

Received an email with the following account of another forced abortion:

" I did know though that my mother was
also forced to have a termination in 1945 or 6. She too was told by
her doctor that it was fine, but on a subsequent visit to Grove Place
(clinic) they threw up their hands in horror. She was admitted to
Stouthall in Gower. Mum was in Craig-y-Nos in 1942, then Sully and
finally Llanybyther.
The treatment obviously worked because she lived
until two months before her 90th birthay in 2004. Gee, my
Grandmother must have had an awful time."

This came from Gaye, niece of Betty Thomas ( nee Dowdle) who also had a forced abortion.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Joan Thomas,age 15. 1950-53

If anyone remembers Rita, Marjorie, Polly, Gaynor, Rose , Irene or Elaine then Joan would love to get in touch with them.
You can contact her via her daughter's email address:

"My name was Joan Thomas.
I was 15 when I became a patient at Craig y nos and like many others my time there was one of unhappiness. Like most of the girls in ward 2 I was treated very badly, there were some who were favoured by the ward sister and some of her staff. I was humiliated often by one nurse who took a dislike to me instantly, she was to me a bully.

I remember one time Auntie Maggie telling her not to be so unkind to me as I wept in my bed.There are many stories I can tell and even though I am in my seventies the trauma of those times still have a profound effect on me.

Some of the girls I remember vividly even though I haven't got photographs of them. I have been back to Craig y nos quite a few times but never inside , I don't know whether I could, the dread of what went on there still upsets me. After leaving Craig y nos I went into the Cimla hospital and spent just over a year there where I had my lung removed.I am quite well {for my age] and if anyone remembers me please get in touch. I was the one who had her teeth knocked out by Mary Jones, also I loved to sing and would often sing for the girls.

I remember Rita, Marjorie, Anne, Polly, Gaynor, Rose, Irene,and Elaine.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Internet channel- Children of Craig-y-nos

If you want to check out my videos relating to the Children of Craig-y-nos project then go to:

Just had an email from the BBC saying they have added a link to the Reunion film on their web-site:

Patti in Nevada

Received an email from Brian Jones :

"If you hadn't known already you will have seen how much Adelina Patti influenced the area and its people and how much is remembered directly by, sadly, very few people now and indirectly by many others. Could this be an idea for a book? Yes, there are books but has any book looked at Patti and the local community? When I was a boy many local people had memories of Patti and memories related to Patti. Most have gone but there might still be much material out there.

Incidentally, I was lucky enough to visit Virginia City, Nevada, an old silver boom town of the Victorian era. The Opera House was still there. In a book listing performers was the name of Adelina Patti. It must have been a massive effort on her part to get there (presumably from San Francisco) and an unusual audience for her. At that time Virginia City was very rich (for some) so the audience must have been a mix of the elegant rich and rough rowdy miners. It must have been quite an evening. Some of those silver dollars might have helped build the Craigynos Opera House."

Thank you Brian for this intriguing piece of information.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Patients Reunion - September 9th, Craig-y-nos Castle

Portrait of Adelina Patti hanging in the Guildhall, Brecon

How many of you have ever heard the glorious voice of Adelina Patti? Well, what could be more appropriate than this recording of her singing "Home, Sweet, Home" welcoming former child patients back to her beloved home?

We tried to get as many photographs of people as possible, nevertheless there are lots of folk missing. If any of you have photos which you would like to send to me I will add them to the next video I make.