Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Six-bedder" photos - 1953


Nurse Ritchie

It seems strange that Adelina Patti's boudoir should have acquired the mundane name of "six-bedder" but there it is, enshrined in everyone's memory, not as the bedroom of the most famous opea singer of her day, but known simply as: "The Six-bedder".

I wonder if anyone knows what Ward 2 and Ward 1 were used for in Patti's day?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Christine Thornton (nee Davies) - 1944-48 and 1952-53

Christine is nearest the camera.

I try and encourage former patients to write their own story.
This is Christine's personal account of her time in Craig-y-nos.

Going into hospital
“I was taken ill before my 8th birthday and was admitted to Swansea General hospital. I was a patient there for sometime before I was transferred to Craig-y-nos.

My illness was caused by TB in the glands of my stomach. My treatment as I remember was complete bed rest.

As time went on I became aware of a pain in the upper half of my right leg especially when I was jumping around in my bed as children do, I cant remember when it was that Dr Huppert came to Craig-y-nos but I do remember her doing the rounds and when it was my turn to be examined I remember screaming out with pain because she couldn't straighten my right leg.

Iron frame
I was taken for an x-ray which showed I had TB in my hip which was quite serious. I was put onto an iron frame which I can only describe as follows:

the leg parts were similar to two callipers with a bar across the middle splaying my legs outwards, the calliper parts were attached to a straight piece covered in something like vinyl and this made up the iron frame. My legs and body were strapped down to this frame and my only movement was of my head from side to side, and both my arms were free.


It was difficult for some parts of my body to be washed and despite being rubbed with metholayted spirits. I did get bedsores and I still have the scars today.

Plaster casts and callipers
I remember being very ill with my TB hip. the dr told my mother I might not survive and if I did it was unlikely that I would ever walk again. I was quite some time on the iron frame but I did make progress and eventually I was put into as plaster cast that covered my right leg and my body up to my under arms. Then after some time spent like that I had a calliper fitted from ankle to thigh on my right leg. At last the rest of my body was free. I was taught to walk again and I eventually went home. I was 14 before I could walk without the calliper.

Two relapses
When I was 17 years of age I was once again a patient in Craig-y-nos this time with TB of the lung. I did have a relapse of TB in my lung about 3 years later but I was treated with drugs at home this time.

My working life
Despite my loss of schooling while at Craig-y-nos and the life long disability of my TB hip I did manage to learn a lot and ended up doing some really good jobs. Many people today cringe when they know of my treatment for my TB hip but its what worked in those days and I am thankful to have survived such a dreadful illness.

On the balcony in the 1947 snow“Most of my childhood in Craig-y-nos was spent out on the balcony. I was the only patient on an iron frame, two girls were on plaster beds and a few were in callipers.

We were on the balcony in the snow of 1947. We had tarpaulin sheets on our beds to keep the snow off and we had vaseline rubbed into our faces to stop us from chapping.

The nurses were wonderful, although they must have been freezing they did their best to keep us cheerful. The cold was the best cure for TB in those days.

Children dying
On occasions that I spent in the ward I remember that some patients were not in their beds in the morning and when we asked the nurses where they were they told us they had gone home but we all knew they had died and although we were all very sad they were not mentioned again. The beds were soon taken up by new patients.

Going out
I remember times in Craig-y-noss when we were taken out. Once we went to see a show in Swansea. I think it was at the Grand. They put a board over two or three seats on the bus that took us and the same in the theatre and my iron frame was laid on to this board.

Trip to the seaside
Another time I remember going to the “slip” part of Swansea Bay. I believe I was in my calliper this time and I remember lots of people gathered around us just looking and smiling.
We often had shows in the theatre of Craig-y-nos.

Death in the “Six-bedder”
The second time I went to Craig-y-nos I was in the “six bedder” and the six of us got on very well together.
One girl did die and it was a very very sad time for us.

We played games like “I spy” and once we had a seance at midnight. We all got out of bed for this and the screeching of the glass across the glass topped table frightened us so much we never did did again.

Cold bedpans
We often teased the nurses and played some tricks on them and they got their own back by giving us cold bedpans which were made of steel in those days.

Graded time up
Once we had finished our course of streptomycin which took about 9 months we were allowed up gradually. At first it was half hour in the chair then toilet walk, followed by 1 hour out of bed. When it got to two hours out of bed we could get dressed and walk around and then three -four hours increasing to all day when we could go out in the grounds for a little walk.

Dusting duties
We also helped with the dusting- light duties to get our strength back before going home.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inside Ward 2 : Summer Salads- 1950

Ann ( in bed) and girl with pig-tails.

I remember finding a live slug in my salad during my first summer there and calling the nurse over to inspect it convinced that at last I had found a reason why I could not eat my food.

She took one look at it and reprimanded me for “searching the food.”

I was told to “get on and eat it” while the slug walked around the edge of my plate.
I was 9 years of age at the time . And coughing up blood.

Can anyone remember the food at Craig-y-nos?

Putting together the story of Craig-y-nos is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

Take the question of food.
What was it like at Craig-y-nos?

In theory it should have been plentiful and good after all did we have a team of gardeners who grew all the fresh fruit and vegetables for the hospital.
And a high calorie diet was deemed essential along with the "fresh air" treatment.

Well, the food was certainly abundant. In fact it was not just the patients who were coerced into eating all their food.
Nurses were expected to eat a high calorie diet too in order to build up their immune system to combat TB.

One young nurse told me that in the 1940’s the matron would threaten:”No food, no ward.”

So it was interesting to speak to one ex-patient last night who had clear memories of the food. She summed it up in one word:”Horrible!”

Looking back she says the main complaint was that it was served cold.
By the time we got our meals the food had already travelled through several corridors, and a lift to the ward kitchen on the second floor.
Here Sister Morgan dished it out on to plates which maids carried into the wards.

Secondly, most of it was boiled and overcooked.
She remembers we had a lot of boiled potatoes and tapioca pudding.

These are some sample menus:

Breakfast- lumpy porridge, hard boiled egg, cold kipper, herring.

Dinner: boiled chicken, rabbit, mousse, tapioca, salads,

Supper: fried egg

Very small children in the Glass Conservatory recall “the sweetie tin” being handed around at the end of each meal.

Christmas dinners are looked back upon with affection by those who can remember them because they were warm and Dr Williams carved the turkey from a heated trolley in the ward though one patient recalls a year when Dr Huppert dissected the bird.

What can you remember about the food?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Margaret's poem about Craig-y-nos - 1955

Craig-y-nos towers high above us
Holding memories of the past
Such as Madam Patti singing
With a glorious voice that lasts
With its walls so firmly standing
And a turret of the best
It will guard us, be our refuge
Till at last we pass the test.

Margaret Blake (nee Howells) wrote this poem while at Craig-y-nos in 1955.

Young women in Craig-y-nos, early 1950's

(top picture) Pat, Jean and May on the stag in 1953
(bottom) Iris on the bridge , taken in 1952

These are some more photos from Pat Hybert's collection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Carol Hughes, nee Davies from Skewen - 1951

Extract from Carol's e-mail:

" I was a patient at Craig y nos.  I was admitted  there in 1951 from Sully hospital I remember sister Morgan telling my mother to leave me now  and see what the outcome would be.
  I was 5 years old at the time and my mother left crying  but I did gain weight and picked up . In 1952 I was sent back to Sully hospital to have the lower lobe of my left lung removed I was then sent back to Craig y nos for rest and fresh air.

I was on the top floor .  I just got better I never liked the food I will always remember the windows wide open in all weathers  and the bars on them.
Our teacher was Mrs Thomas. I remember singing with Harry Secombe . As I got better I was allowed out into the grounds."

Extract from Carol's contribution on the BBC MidWales site:
I was small when I was at craig y nos from 1951 to 1954 but I remember my time there we were expected to eat food.
If we wasted it we would get it back later in the day. Letters in and out were censored they all started ' dear mam and dad I am well and happy'. If I got a parcel from home some items were removed sweets and soap I never saw these when I could get out of bed I use to wander so I remember if I went too far I would get a harness put on me to keep me in bed for a few hours or our beds were pulled out in the middle of the ward in disgrace they said so Doctor Huppert would see we had done wrong.
I had 1 friend Olwen Price but we lost touch after going home.
I would love to know how she is.
It was cruel but I did go back to Craig -y -nos 2 years ago it brought back everything my missing years. It would be nice if they arranged a patients day once a year where we could all go if possible and remember our past our friends who went through the same as us.

Girls from 1955

Margaret Hughes

Anne Thomas

These girls are in the photo collection of Margaret Howells , and were taken on the balcony of Ward 2.

Do you know where they are now?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mary Davies (nee Morris) -1951

Got this email from Mary to-day:

" Hey I would like to add to your site with my experiences.

I was in Craig-Y-Nos in 1951. The photo shows me holding a teddy bear taken in September it was a present from my family for my 9th birthday in August.
I don’t remember much about my stay only that I was out on the balcony and when I was rainy and windy they had to put tarpaulin on top of the bed to stop it getting wet. While in Craig-Y-Nos I made 3 good friends one was called Mary Jones one Jeanette Wakeham but I cannot recall the name of the 3rd one, we had a photograph taken but I can’t find it but will keep looking for it, and post it when I do.
I also remember doing lessons much to my disgust.

When I had a bungalow built I named it Craig-Y-Nos after my experience of the real Craig-Y-Nos, this is a picture of the bungalow.

I have been married for 46 years have 3 children and 4 grandchildren.

The thing that sticks out in my mind was my parents were only allowed to see me one weekend a month. They only came one day as it was too far to travel as we lived in Rhayader in Mid Wales

Mair Harris ( nee Edwards) 1950-52 and 2007

Mair and Nurse Glenys Davies

Mair and Ann

The photos were taken over 50 years apart: all at Craig-y-nos!
They show Mair with Nurse Davies and the lower ones are of Mair with myself. ( She reminded me that I was known as "Titch").

Mair 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 the teaching she received from Miss White.

“She helped me enormously. By the time I got back to school I found I was not that far behind the other children.”

Unfortunately Mair was not able to finish her education because she had a relapse. But she later went on to become a librarian.

Mair ( in bed) with friends giving the Girl Guides salute.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pat Hybert ( nee Mogridge) -1951-53

Pat in the "six-bedder"

(from left to right) Pat, Jean and Babs

A disk full of photos of Craig-y-nos arrived this morning courtesy of Pat’s daughter who very kindly scanned them into the computer.

Pat was in the “six-bedder” as a 19 year old in 1951.
She says:”I recognise quite a few people from the photos you have put up on the net.
I remember Betty Jakes well. She was at one time living next door to me as we grew up.

"Betty was in Ward 4. I went to visit her in Morriston hospital after she had a lung removed and we kept in touch for quite a while.”
Betty now lives in Llanmadoc.

Craig-y-nos Castle : "the past is a foreign country"

“The past” said L.P.Hartley ” is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

I am reminded of this as the story of Craig-y-nos Castle, the former children’s TB sanatorium unfolds.

Not only is it half a century back in time but the whole regime was so unusual, and because of the taboo surrounding the “white plague” little spoken about that only now is the true story beginning to unfold.

It is one of incredible optimism in the face of a bleak medical scenario. Until the event of drugs there was a 25 per cent death rate.

Technology is helping to piece together those memories of people who were there as patients, most of them now into their 60,70s and even 80s.
Their children, and grandchildren, are helping them gather up photos tucked away in family albums from this era and transmit them to me either by email or CD.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Who are these girls- 1954

(from left to right):
Christine Bennett, Pam, Anne Thomas, Margaret and June. Is this correct? does anyone have any further information?

Inside Ward 2 - 1952

Both these photos were taken around the same time- 1952- and belong to the collection of Myfwany Blatchford ( nee Hoyles).
They tell very different stories: the unknown child with her bed on blocks inside Ward 2 with Norma and two teenage girls ( Mari and Florence) enjoying a walk in the ground.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Margaret Davies ( nee Maddock)-1951

Monday morning. Phone rings.
A lilting Welsh voice asks:”Are you still wanting ex- patients from Craig-y-nos?”
“Of course!”
“I was admitted in January 1951 into Ward 1."
“How old were you?”
“Four and a half. I left for Sully in February 1952."
We have a chat.
Her memories of Craig-y-nos are not pleasant.
“It was a terrifying place. I was the youngest in the ward and I only spoke Welsh. Nobody could understand me. There was a nurse, Auntie Maggie, who was Welsh speaking and that was a great help."

“I had to lie on my stomach and they put me at the foot of the bed otherwise I would not see anyone.”

She lay like that for thirteen months before being transferred to Sully for an operation to remove one lobe of her lung.

During this time she learnt to speak English and she recalls the ghost stories about Adelina Patti told by the older girls, often with the intention of frightening the younger ones.
“For years afterwards I slept with the sheet wrapped around my head.”

We share memories.

“I still sleep with a sheet around my head unless I am with my husband,” I say.
So powerful were those stories imprinted in my mind.

Like many of us Margaret has no recollection of Christmas or birthdays though she does recall going to see Harry Secombe in 1952.
“ My bed was wheeled down to the theatre. This was the only time, apart from x-rays, that I ever left Ward 1 in the 13 months I was there.”

She can’t recall any form of heating:
“ It was always cold and windy.”

Despite having lost nearly four years of schooling Margaret passed the 11 plus and went to grammar school leaving after her ’O’ levels to take a secretarial course.
After marriage and the birth of her daughter she worked as a practise manager for her local health centre in Penclawdd for 23 years.

(extract from longer interview)

"Auntie Maggie" on Ward 2 balcony

"Auntie Maggie" with Christine Bennett (right) on the balcony.
The two names that keep recurring in photos and stories are nurse Glenys Davies and "Auntie Maggie".
They are remembered with a great deal of affection by ex-patients for their kindness because they helped "humanise" the "Craig-y-nos" sanatorium experience.

Mary Davies ( nee Murphy) Craig-y-nos and Sully - 1951-52

Mary was only a toddler when she was admitted to Craig-y-nos in 1951.

She recollects being in the glass conservatory, ( the ward used for very small children) and her tears when her mother left.

“There was a black nurse and nurse Glenys Davies. I remember them. They were very good to me.”

Her father, a naval officer, had died of TB and her mother was told that she was unlikely to survive: “at one stage I was given 24 hours to live.”

After 14 months she was transferred to Sully for an operation. She still looks back upon the sharp contrast between the two hospitals.
“Craig-y-nos was dark, cold and close to the mountains. Sully was light, warm and near the sea.”

She recalls having to be reintroduced to her family when she did eventually get home.
“It was two years out of my life at a very young age”.

Mary is interested in finding out how other children survived the “Craig-y-nos experience because it was so unusual.”

Today Mary, age 56, is an art teacher, married, and living in Leatherhead.

She is the niece of Bridie Ronan, already featured in this weblog.

Nurses on Ward 2 balcony -mid 1950's

(Left) Nurse Faith Brown and unknown sister.

By this time the balcony had been enclosed . If you look carefully you can see the windows . True to tradition though they are wide open! I understand that the covering in of the balconies was the first stirring of "parent power".

Parents, so I am told, complained as they sat there with their hot water bottles that if they were cold then their daughters must be too!
All I can say is that they were lucky to get hot water bottles....

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Your age and the sanatorium regime

I thought at first that as the Craig-y-nos story unfolded there would be a noticeable change, a relaxation in the rules, in the sanatorium regime as the decades rolled by and this would be reflected in peoples stories.

True, the discipline was much more severe in the 1920’s and 30’s yet the regime remained surprising intact well into the 1950’s.

The crucial factors determing the kind of experience you had at Craig-y-nos was not the decade you were in but your age, and the stage of the disease, on admittance.

The younger you were the more upset you would be.

Yes I know its blindingly obvious to us today but in those days nothing was known of the psychological trauma children could suffer when removed from their families and placed into what would appear to a small, sick child as a cold, hostile, isolated environment.

I was reminded of this today when a woman rang up who had been in the children's ward ( the glass conservatory) as a 14 month old baby. She remembers forming a strong attachment to nurse Glenys Davies and a "black nurse" . Later she was told that her
mother was distraught because the child no longer recognized her. This was 1950.

Girls on stag - 1953

(back) Myfwany and Florence
(standing from left to right) Valerie and Mari.

The stag was a popular venue for taking photographs and it also marked an important step in your progress.
Your first five minute walk outside was between the two stags.

Eirlwyn - early 1950’s

At the end of the telephone interview Margaret Howells suddenly asked:
”Do you know what happened to Eirlwyn?”


But I remembered Eirlwyn. She used to play with herself. They put her on the balcony thinking the cold weather and fresh air would cure her.

It didn’t.
One nurse threatened her regularly:
” I will tie your hands to the side of the bed if you don’t stop.”

It had no effect.

So for months, or was it years, Eirlwyn was in a corner of the balcony. Left to herself.
It was said she had TB meningitis and it had left her with brain damage. She had thick glasses, dark hair and was very quiet. Her parents rarely visited.

Eventually they moved her back inside Ward 2 so they could watch her.

And still she kept playing with herself.
So they put her in another corner.
On blocks.
That's how Margaret remembered her: tucked in a corner with her bed high on blocks. For years.

“I felt sorry for her,” added Margaret quietly.
“ and I often wondered what did happen to her.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) - 1950-53

Strictly illegal! Mari and Myfwany Hoyles boating with Alfie the gardener.

“I have very patchy memories of my time at Craig-y-nos. I know that after the first six months I was allowed up.

Midnight feasts
Mari on the castle roof

“I was one of the naughty ones. We used to have midnight feasts up on the roof. We had lots of fun even though it was a bit of a barracks.

I can’t remember any Christmases or birthdays.

“The only food I remember is that on Wednesdays we had rabbit and mousse. I have hated them ever since.

“I used to smell food after I came out of Craig-y-nos. My mother couldn’t understand it. I wouldn't put anything in my mouth until I had smelt it first.”

Mari (right) with friend on the balcony of Ward 2

“One day a nurse came along and stuck a huge needle in my side. To this day I still don't know what it was for. It was very painful and it never happened again.

"My sister Lleu"
“My sister, Lleu, was older than me and she was in Craig-y-nos at the same time. She talked of deaths in her ward but the children as far as I can recall didn't die.

Life after Craig-y-nos
I don't think the experience effected me afterwards though I do regret not having had proper schooling.”

Mari worked in the retail trade in Wales and then in London in Bourne and Hollingsworth returning later to Wales and training as a nursery nurse.

“As a single parent I had to find a job that fitted in with school holidays.”

Mari (right) with friend in the grounds of Craig-y-nos

She was devastated a few years ago to find she had a recurrence of TB.:”They gave me tablets to take and I just stayed at home.” She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic bronchitis.


Now married again Mari lives a few doors from where she was brought up in Ynsysgwas, Cwmavon. She has one son and two grand-children.

(Mari has an extensive collection of photos from her time in Craig-y-nos).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Christine Thornton ( nee Davies) - 1944-48 and 1952-53

Christine (left) on the balcony of Ward 2.

Extract from an interview with Christine, age 70, from Gorseinon, Swansea.

She recalls being: ”very ill” when she was admitted to Craig-y-nos as a 7 year old.

“I had TB in the hip and I was put in an iron frame with a bar separating my legs which were splayed out. I could turn my head from side to side and move my arms but my legs were strapped in this iron frame.”

She says it was Dr Huppert who discovered what was wrong with her and she believes she owes her life to her diagnosis. ( It is believed that Dr Huppert had herself suffered from TB of the hip).

“Dr Huppert was new in the hospital. She tried to straighten my leg and I remember screaming and screaming with the pain. She ordered me to be sent for an x-ray straightaway and the next thing that happened I was put in this iron frame in which I remained for a year then into a plaster cast and eventually into a calliper for my leg .”

Most of her time was spent out on the balcony.
“I was the only one in an iron frame, the others were in plaster casts. I was out there during the 1947 snow. The nurses were very good. They still came out to look after us.”

She used to eat by balancing food on her chest.

During this time she remembers there were parts of her body that were never washed though the nurses used to raise her up to put metholyated spirits over her bed sores.

:” I still have those scars today. As a child you accept it as a normal.

“It was either that or die. I believe Dr Huppert saved my life.
I know I nearly did die. The doctors told my mother that even if I survived I would never be able to walk again.”

Christine (wearing white hat) at a concert in the Adelina Patti theatre.

She was to prove them wrong. Despite a relapse in her late teens when she was readmitted to Craig-y-nos Christine went on to become a secretary in London, and later worked as both a secretary and store detective in Swansea.

“Folk never thought a lame woman would be a detective!”

Christine (left) in the "six-bedder" with Barbara Hughes.

Altogether she spent a total of 5 years in Craig-y-nos , 3 and a half years in the 1940’s and again in the 50’s when she had a relapse.

Christine with her husband .

Monday, March 19, 2007

Margaret Howells - 1955

Out of Bounds!
Ward 2 girls take to the water: three in a boat with the gardeners Edgar, Arthur and Leslie, the apprentice.
Margaret wrote on the back of this photo:

” the one with the glasses was nice, the other one was a bit forward! “
(Note where his hands are on June’s bosom!)

Margaret Howells rang me this afternoon.
“Do you remember me? We were in Llanbedr junior school together. “
She went into Craig-y-nos in 1954, five months after I left, and was there for 18 months.

Margaret lived at Ty-Croes farm, a remote smallholding high on the Table mountain above Llanbedr village.

“Our cottage had no electricity. We had nothing to do in the evening except sit around the kitchen table, and talk would get around to TB and how it had wiped out whole families in the area.

“I was in Crichowell hospital for a time then I got moved to Craig-y-nos. I asked the girls what was wrong with them and each one said “TB” and

I said ‘I've got pleurisy" and they said:

“No you haven't you’ve got TB like the rest of us.”
Well, I cried and cried for weeks cause I thought I was going to die.

“But streptomycin had arrived. I was one of the lucky ones.
“Once I realised I was not going to die I enjoyed myself at Craig-y-nos.

Margaret Howells ( right) with Christine outside the summerhouse.

“I was very happy there. I am gregarious by nature and I loved the company.
I remember one summer helping the gardeners pick caterpillars off the cabbages.
We used to have Guides with sing songs around a “pretend” fire in the middle of Ward 2.

“Dr Huppert was a nasty bit of work. She announced one day who the girls were who were allowed to put curlers in their hair and who was not allowed. She said I could but the other girls wouldn't let me. They said if they couldn't have curlers then neither was I.

”Craig-y-nos brought me out. It gave me self confidence. All this happened once I realised I was not going to die.

The staff were very good. They did our Christmas shopping for us from the Boots catalogue.

Going home was an anticlimax. I was on my own in this remote cottage as my parents were out working. I went back to school for a year then moved away from the area and got a job looking after children in Porthcawl.”

Now married with 3 daughters and 6 grand-sons, Margaret lives in Aberpergwm, near Glynneath.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Education - 1962

This is an extract from a letter to the Brecon chief education officer in 1962 regarding the school in Pontywal hospital school, Talgarth ( where children were transferred from Craig-y-nos) over the appointment of a new teacher:

"I wish to state that Mrs Weale who holds this appointment in a temporary capacity has proved herself satisfactory in every way. Her firm but kind sympathetic understanding of the children quickly gains their respect and confidence.

This is an important asset at all times but is especially important when dealing with sick, often spoiled, children who are parted from their parents' for long periods.

I would add that Mrs Weale adapts herself willingly and wholeheartedly into the many unexpected conditions which arise in a Special School
yours faithfully

Mrs Freda Gonzalez. 22 Nov 1962"

(Source: Powys archives, Llandrindod Wells)

Patti's bedroom - the "six-bedder"

Reading through Jean’s account of her time at Craig-y-nos it struck me how the sanatorium regime varied according to the year you were in.

This is one possible explanation why so many people have such different memories of the place.

Take for example her account of freely visiting patients in the “six bedder”, Adelina Patti's former bedroom used for young female adults.

During my four years there in the early 1950’s this was strictly forbidden. Indeed I never did see inside the “six bedder” until I visited Craig-y-nos last year , some 50 years later.

Today it is derelict, and used for ghost hunting seances.

Jean Hopkins ( nee Phillips) - 1942

Jean was in Ward 2 with a TB gland in the neck as a 12 year old. She was allowed up and spent most of her time on the balcony.

This is an extract from her own written account:

“We lived in Swansea, so the journey there by bus seemed to go on forever. Mum and Dad were with me, which was very comforting. Thank heavens I was not aware of it, but I would in fact be spending my 12th birthday in July and Christmas 1942 as a patient there. I can remember feeling very sad and lonely after they had left, I know I cried quite a bit that night.

The trouble was I was the eldest child in the ward, so I could not let the younger ones see me sad. Jean Caldwell who was a year younger than me, became my friend, and after I was discharged in January 1943 she remained there.
Jean’s home was in London. She had been evacuated to relatives in Neath.
“I had what was known as the “sun ray treatment”. We patients sat in a circle around a contraption, which today seems antiquated. We were given very dark goggles to put on to protect our eyes from what I can only describe as a sparking flame.

“When a new girl was admitted it was a pleasant change. I can remember one such patient arriving and was duly settled in the “six bedder” ( Adelina Patti’s former bedroom).
We were allowed to pop in to see the six patients any time we pleased.

This new patient introduced us to her hobby of writing to film stars for an autographed photograph. I for one threw my heart and soul into this and was soon in receipt of my very first one, Gene Autry and his horse Trigger.

The male children were in the ward below us. Jean and I would write little notes to the boys below and lower them on pieces of our knitting wool. When someone discovered what we were up to, it was frowned upon and had to stop.


All our crockery and cutlery were numbered; this enabled each patient to have the same set each mealtime. If my memory serves me correctly, I was number 44.

One devastating blow was the fact the children were only allowed visitors once a month. All the time I was there I did not see my three brothers and little sister who was five years old. My eldest brother says he did come to Craig-[y-nos -y- one occasion,and can remember waving to me from the courtyard, and not quite seeing me distinctly at the window.

My time was spent reading, doing jigsaws and knitting. One idiotic rule I can remember was no knitting on a Sunday.

Sister Morgan was very kind. I do not know how often we had films in the theatre. Sister Morgan would take me on the promise I would not tell the other children where I had been. ...I cannot remember how I explained my absence to Jean.

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.

We had a very brief period of schooling. A teacher called Miss Watkins was the unfortunate one sent to educate us. I say unfortunate, as Miss Watkins had one heck of a task dealing with children whose ages ranged from five to twelve years old. At the end of term not to anyone’s surprise I was top pupil.
I still have my report.”

Early 1950's

Marilyn and Shirley out on the balcony, early 1950's.
(No further information known).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Adelina Patti and "The White Lady"

I was sent a copy of this readers letter the other day from Swansea.
It appeared in The South Wales Evening Post on March 2 1993:

“ Here is an anecdote I heard from a relation of a former butler at Craig-y-nos.
Madame Adelina Patti was walking in the surrounding hills and remembered she had to send a telegram.

At a village post office she said what her name was and that she had no money but wanted to send a telegram.
The Postmaster said:” How do I know you are Madame Patti ?” whereupon she stood back and started to sing thus proving who she was.”

Photo: Dorothy
“The White Lady”, the name given to the ghost of Adelina Patti, was a constant mysterious invisible companion in our childhood years in Craig-y-nos.

As children living in her former home we were less impressed with Adelina Patti's singing than her facility to materialise long after her death.

Once I was told by Dorothy, in the next bed to me, that The White Lady always appeared at the foot of the bed of the next girl to die.
Dorothy then announced she had seen her at the foot of my bed and that she had started to walk up to touch me.
I burst out crying.
“I don’t want to die!”.
Whereupon Dorothy had a re-think:” Don’t worry, she went away again.”

Nevertheless for weeks afterwards I would enquire about the exact presence of the White Lady in Ward 2.
Dorothy had as special gift, she told me, which allowed her to see "the other world".

I was 9 years old, and believed her.

Horace Batts - 1933

Top : Horace Batts
Bottom: Horace in his chauffeurs uniform with his employer’s car in Hay, 1920.

One of the first people to respond to my request for information was John Batts in Australia. He picked up the story from the BBC Mid Wales web-site, and he referred me to the archives in Llandrindod Wells where letters and photographs of a distant relative of his were kept.

They offer a rare glimpse of the sanatorium regime inside Craig-y-nos in the early 1930s.

Extracts from letters Horace wrote to his family:

Letter 1:
“We had a nice service on our wireless Sunday night. I have thought of Sunday nights I should have gone to chapel but never did I wish now I had but if God will spare I bet I’ll be different I’ve said that before haven’t I though?

Will Mam and all thank Mrs Prosser for sending eggs etc.
must close now all my love from your loving brother Horace”

Letter 2
“Since writing this I have been put on absolute bed rest...can’t write a letter, no visitors . This will be for 3 or 4 weeks to get my temperature down.
I have to be fed and can’t do a thing for myself, starting tomorrow. I can receive letters tell B don’t worry it’s all for the best please God, I might get someone to write a letter for Horace

PS Don’t forget I can’t see any visitors.”

Letter 3
“Well Jill I have been put on absolute rest which means I must not move in bed, receive no visitors, write no letters, have everything done for me even to being fed, it’s to get my temperature down I suppose, don’t worry will you.
I can receive letters though you can write to me Jill only I mustn’t write.

Can you manage to send me a pair of pyjamas, the ones I got are a bit thin one pair anyway Jill.
Well, Jill it’s all for the best, I may be on this rest for or 4 weeks.

Letter 4
Dear Jill
“Just a line, I wrote to you on Sunday and gave it one of the visitors to post in Swansea. I hope you had it all right.
Thanks very much for parcels Jill and postcards they do cheer me up so I haven’t had those books the chauffeurs wife sent yet.

I should like to be down with you in the sunshine of Bournemouth.”

Letter 5

“Dear Mam and all,
Just a line on the q.t. Tell Mrs P not to send any more cakes as cakes are not allowed.

I shall want some eggs and fruit, you can send bananas, apples etc. but no pears. Sister opens all my letters, parcels, just slits them that’s all so be careful what you are sending; can you send a bandage.

It’s a funny business this being fed and everything. I have gone thinnish but that is to be expected. Remember me to all. Thank Benzo for letters. I had a pair of pyjamas from Jill but they had to be washed before I put them on.
All my love..your loving bros Horace

PS. We had a service on wireless on Sunday.”

Horace died shortly after this letter was written.

(Source material: Powys archives, Llandrindod Wells)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hospital records-Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins)

Ann Shaw ( nee Rumsey) ( left) with Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) Ward 2 balcony, 1952.

Mari wrote to Ystradlynglais community hsopital and received this reply saying they have no records of the time Craig-y-nos was a TB sanatorium. So what's happened to them?

John Nelson - 1947

John Nelson sent in this account:
Aberdare Monday 12 March 2007

"Idly using the laptop yesterday I typed 'craig-y-nos hospital' into Google, (strange that these words are still lodged in my memory after 60 years), and I was delighted and amazed to be taken back to my early childhood, such stories of so long ago…and I was there.

After visits to the clinic in Cathederal Road in my home town of Cardiff and scrutinising
the x-ray machine it was decided that I needed to go to Craig-y-Nos for a while, I was about 9 or 10 at the time.

I arrived some time in 1947 or 1948. My mother and I travelled from Cardiff and it took all day, the final leg of the journey being by bus (?) from Swansea.

I am amazed at the proliferation of photo's and memories from so many ladies on record, I cannot remember seeing or passing any of the fairer sex during my 15 months here apart from the nurses, possibly I was not observant enough. My recollections are of some boys but mainly
older men.
The ward I was in was just inside the balcony…plenty of fresh air inside and I was not envious of those consigned to the balcony. Their lives must have been hell in the winter, beds covered with a tarpaulin to save the bedding getting wet!

I would suggest that their lives where shortened by this primitive (“cruel“?) treatment…its more like death by mis-adventure. Thank the Lord that such harsh treatments have disappeared due to the advancement of medical science.

In my time there us youngsters were allowed onto the balcony and we would chat to the friendly bedridden who I think welcomed a fresh face.
Sometimes the person you had been talking to one day was not there the next day..…just an empty unmade bed! This happened too many times. It was a scary lesson to learn for someone of a tender age.

One other form of “cruel” treatment that upset me was the sputum check. A thin tube was passed up through a nostril where it then descended, passing the throat, into the stomach when a sample was siphoned off. The tube , when passing the sensitive throat area, always made me want to vomit.

I have no bad impressions of my stay at the Castle, the medical treatments were usual for the time and one can see now that they were rather primitive by the standards of today (to be polite).

I seem to remember that the BBC came to visit at one time and a programme was recorded,
whatever it was we were able to listen to it on the wireless.

The only regret I have now is that I cannot recall having any schoolwork at all during my stay. I later failed my 11 plus and I always put this down to this gap in my education. But perhaps I am not being fair here, it was 60 years ago and my memory is not first class. I hope to investigate this further through the link on the blog.

The question that has always intrigued me is the psychological effect of being parted from family and friends for such a long time, the strain on parents on having a child such a long distance away out of their control and the long term effect on the young immature patients.

I remember having a visit only once a month…a terrific wrench for both parent and child. For a parent to visit in my case meant a long days travel from Cardiff and back plus paying for the fares and they certainly were not rich.

After 15 months at the Castle I was moved to Highland Moors in Llandrindod, spending another 9 months convalescing, then back home to Cardiff.

T.B. is a great nuisance…after about 6 years it came back to annoy me for another two years, 18 months in Talgarth H block and then a little visit to Sully where they snipped out the naughty T.B. from my right lung. I enjoyed it at the seaside… was warmer than the Swansea Valley!"