Monday, April 30, 2007

Craig-y-nos 1953- Scotland 2007

Ann (left) and Mari on the balcony of Ann's home in Bridge-of-Allan - 2007

Ann and Mari on the balcony of Craig-y-nos - 1953

Delighted to see Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) yesterday. She called in with her husband Peter while on their touring holiday of Scotland.

Mari and I were close friends while at Craig-y-nos and after we left we still kept in touch for a number of years even sharing the same hostel accommodation ( Bourne & Hollingsworth) when we moved to London.
Yesterday we took the opportunity to have a photo taken together.

It is interesting to note - though I had never thought of it before - that my home in Scotland for the past 20 years has a house with a balcony facing mountains ...just like Craig-y-nos.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rosie Pugh - 1941-42

Rosie was evacuated to Wales as a 6 year old and caught TB.

Among her many recollections of her time there are memories of a "nurse who brought in comics, being on complete bedrest on the balcony, sleeping under tarpaulin sheets and being terrified to go to sleep at night because of the noise of the owls. And at night the children died."

Rosie is the latest of a number of ex-patients to have given a full oral history recording to Cynthia Mullane at the Sleeping Giant Foundation, the organisation helping me with my research.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Edgar the Head Gardener- 1953

Remember Edgar?
We used to go and sit in the gardeners shed with the men while all the time Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert thought we were marching around the grounds filling our lungs with fresh air.
The older girls flirted with the gardeners while the younger ones, like myself, sat and watched, fascinated by this glimpse of "normal" life.

emails - reunion

I am getting e-mails coming in from ex-patients who have read an account of the re-union in the South Wales Evening Post and say they knew nothing about it.

BBC web-site

These two postings have appeared on the BBC Mid Wales website:

Debbie Evans Ystalyfera
This is a wonderful insight to peoples memories. I am too young to remember the TB hospital but My Mam was a patient there, and used to go to respite a couple of times a year and sadly died there . I myself spent a few days there with a chest infection at the age of 17 & I found it scary, later on when the castle was changed to a restraunt I was the cook. My memories of the snow falling and being able to sit by the roaring log fire are so different to the memories of the children of the castle. My Father who is from Abercrave has retold many stories of the Hospital, and I am looking forward to reading & learning more about the years people spent there.
Thu Apr 26 14:20:11 2007
Geraint Morgan, Llandod
My gran was there, and I think she has dug out a bunch of old photos from her time there for either this book or some similar project. She was a much older patient though, in her 20s. Had to make arrangements for treatment when she was on her honeymoon in Aberystywth.
Wed Apr 25 14:56:46 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Drinking 5 pints of milk a day

Sylvia Moore, ex patient and later member of staff at Craig-y-nos in the late 50's, says she remembers drinking four to five pints of milk a day while a patient at Craig-y-nos.

I find this extraordinary! Do other ex- child patients remember this?

Re-union-Craig-y-nos -last night

Over 60 people turned up for the re-union of staff and ex-patients at Craig-y-nos castle.

Most of the people were retired nursing staff, office workers and general maintenance workers. They even had a cake with a doctor and a nurse on it.

But one ex-patient who did attend said; "It was a bit disappointing. I had hoped to meet other ex-patients but I would say there were less than 10 there out of about 60 people," she said.

On the other hand as a staff re-union the evening was successful.

Another ex child patient who did go tells me that the staff did not believe her when she told them how she was treated as a child in the hospital.
She is hurt because the experience as a child traumatised her and now she discovers 50 years later that she is not believed!

Other ex-patients say that they would have liked to have gone but they did not know about it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Re-union Craig-y-nos Castle

This evening a re-union will take place at Craig-y-nos of ex-patients and staff. My regret is that I am unable to attend having just returned from New York and still suffering from jet lag. Also, I can't find a way of getting to Craig-y-nos in one day from Scotland.

The BBC News Wales online site is carrying a story about the event ( hope this link works!):

Have just had a phone call from the South Wales Evening Post. They will be sending a photographer to cover the event.
Lets hope this will produce more photographs!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anna Golesworthy -1954

This entry from Jeannette Barker, has just appeared on the BBC MidWales web-site:

"My mother Anna Golesworthy was in Craig- y -nos approx 1954 for 12 months flat on her back, she hated the behaviour of some of the orderlies who used lewd behaviour. But she made me so sad when she told me how she made angels of us three children to hang on the tree and could'nt remember what we looked like. The cruelty was not allowing or encouraging scared relatives to bring the children to visit Mothers. We didn't see our Mother for over a year, she then had gone to Sully for an operation that cured her and returned her to good health.
Mon Apr 23 09:47:38 2007"

Meanwhile Anna's grand-daughter, Suzy Branson, has sent me an email too asking if I remembered her grandmother. She adds that Anna was Dutch and from a prisoner-of-war camp in Indonesia.
" She was tall, blond and had 3 children, the youngest 18 months when she left" (for the hospital)."

I had already left Craig-y-nos when Anna arrived but if anyone does remember Anna then her family would love to hear from you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Agnes Holden's autograph album - 1942

lock of Nurse Davies' hair ( is this Nurse Glenys Davies?)

The book , along with other memoribilia, are among the treasured memories held by her 86 year old daughter, Ruth Greenow, living in Llowes.

One entry contains a lock of brown hair carefully held in place by a pin belonging to Nurse Davies.

It says:
“You asked me for something original
something right out of my head
but as I have nothing inside it
I’d give you something outside instead.
Nurse Davies

The other entry says:

“Now the golden sun is setting
And the earth no more be trod
May your name in gold be written
In the autograph of God.”

A speedy recovery
Joan Synnock

Agnes died shortly afterwards.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the balcony- early 1950's


Life improved after I was moved out on to the balcony.

Well, we were a smaller group, only about seven or eight of us, and we became a little community, even having our own balcony “boss”, a role that always fell to the eldest girl.

Instead of the crowded, dark, interior of Ward , we faced Craig-y-nos, the “Rock of the night”, also known as the “Sleeping Giant”, and we could hear the river Tawe from our beds as it flowed through the bottom of the garden.

Dawn broke with the birds singing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Pretend" operations

We lived in fear of being sent to Sully “for an operation”.

And to help us cope emotionally and psychologically, though we never thought of it in those terms, we used to role play what we saw as an inevitable event.

This is a photo of me in bed with the other girls on Ward 2 balcony about to perform an ”operation”.

Where did we get hold of such a huge carving knife?

As it happened I did not get sent to Sully then but five years later when I had a relapse.

And I discovered, contrary to the wild stories circulating around Craig-y-nos about the butchery regime at Sully, that it was a warm and pleasant place beside the seaside.

Adelina Patti School Journal

The Adelina Patti School Journal is a beautiful leather-bound book and the exterior is highly ornate with a brass lock. ( Location: Powys archives, Llandrindod Wells.)

Miss Amy White, headteacher, beside Ann's bed on the balcony of Ward 2 -1951

extract from The Adelina Patti school journal

When I started researching this book the only written evidence I knew that existed of the 40 years that Craig-y-nos was a TB sanatorium for children was that in the archives of Powys County archives in Llandrindod Wells was the Adelina Patti school journal compiled by Miss White.

I looked forward to examining this august journal. What would it say about our education? after all so many of us could hardly remember anything about it , except for Miss White and Mrs Thomas wandering around with an armful of books.

So, when I did finally get my hands on the journal, some weeks ago, I opened it with trepidation. Would I find a list of all our misdeeds written there for posterity in her spindly handwriting?
Would her attempts, often futile, to instil some knowledge of scripture, singing and hygiene, the “holy trinity” of her educational system be revealed?

Sadly no. Here are some typical extracts:

First entry: 14 April 1947

Class 1 (infants) 12 on roll
class 11 (girls) 16 on roll
class 111 (boys) 27 on roll
total 55 children

(It is not clear whether this includes all the children in the hospital or only those who were well enough to be taught.

My recollection is that only about half of the children were considered well enough to have lessons. The rest received no education or any kind of therapy at all.)

One entry in the school journal caused a cold shiver to go down my spine:

“ 24 April 1950: most of the little girls in Ward 2 are suffering from influenza and that class
is not taught.”

I had been admitted a few weeks before and I was very seriously ill.

Here are some sample entries from 1947:

June 27 1947. School closed for 1 day as children are to be taken to the seaside for the day.

July 9th 1947 Miss White kept off duty by order of the Medical Superindent due to skin-rash. During this time Infant class not taught as Mrs Thomas had to supervise 25 boys as well as the girls class.

July 15 Miss White returned ro duty.

Sept. 12 School closed for day as children to be taken to seaside.

Sept.22 Mrs Thomas absent as her son is ill. Infant class not taught as Miss White had 25 boys in W 1 and 17 girls in Ward 2.

Sept.23 Mrs Thomas returned to duty.

Oct 8 Miss White went to Swansea to see specialist. Mrs Thomas in charge of school.

Miss White returned to duty.

Dec.19 School closed for Xmas holiday.

It did clear up one fact though. Children did get taken to the seaside on several occasions during the 1940's.

By the way...while in Llandridod Wells I got chatting to a Welsh man over breakfast in my Bed/breakfast guest house who had emigrated but had come back to see his elderly father.

He told me this story over breakfast during a discussion on the long term impact of early childhood hospitalisation on children.

“As a child of six I was placed in total isolation for 8 weeks because of diptheria . My biggest fear during that time was that I would be abandoned and sent to Australia.”

He now lives in Australia.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On the castle roof

Mari Jenkins relaxing on the roof

Only two names are known here: Annie the maid (first left) and Mary Davies (far right)

Going on to the castle roof was strictly forbidden yet lots of photos have come in showing girls on the roof.

Yet all this was illegal.

Last week I spoke one ex -patient, Marian Thomas ( nee John)who remembers an awful kerfuffle one morning before breakfast because girls had got out on to the roof.
Breakfast was delayed and there was a general feeling of alarm in the ward.

But what puzzles me is why the staff never locked the door leading up to the roof.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Drama queen- 1953

Ward 2 balcony

We used to entertain ourselves by dressing up and creating make-believe dramas using whatever material we could find.

This looks like a re-enactment of Queen Elizabeth 1.

Mari Jenkins is on the right. Does anyone know the names of the other girls?

New York

If my postings over the next week seem a bit erratic it will be because I am sending them from New York, and it will depend on my access to the internet. Incidentally if anyone has noticed the strange times that some posts are uplifted to the net its because this software is set to an American time zone. ( No, I am not working at 3 am!)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nurse Valerie Brent

Valerie Brent worked as a nurse in Craig-y-nos from 1946-48.

(extract from interview)

“The matron took me in although I was too young ( I was only 15 years of age and four months) because I had been left an orphan .
“ My mother had died and I was the youngest of 12 children.

“Well, I was put to work in the Glass Conservatory with the very young children, aged from six months to 9 years. I think there would have been around 100 children in Craig-y-nos at that time.

I remember seeing people walking around the grounds wearing placards around their necks saying:”Silence. No talking” and I asked another nurse what on earth was going on.
She said it was all part of the treatment. It was to rest their lungs.”

She says the regime was very strict. “I threw myself into nursing. I got paid just over £3 a month.

“We had to eat 4,500 calories a day. Sister would say:”No food, no ward.” We had to eat a high calorie diet in order to protect ourselves against TB.

The regime was fresh air, rest and good food.

She recalls the winter 1947 when the hospital was snowed in for two weeks.

“I used to go and help them fill up the hot water bottles for the boys on the balcony.

“The children would be like little balls of fire buried at the bottom of their beds. We had to pull them up for the fresh air. It seemed to me that it was so cruel. But I was very young and that was the treatment.”

In the mornings it would take two nurses to lift the snow covered tarpaulins off the bed and throw it over the balcony.

Nothing had to be kept in the lockers which would deter children from eating their proper food.
After each meal they would get treats and the “sweetie tin” would be passed around.

As for visiting once a month she says the children “would go crazy.

There were lots of rules and regulations. “For example,
once relatives had passed over a certain mark in the corridor they were not allowed to take anything back out of the hospital.”

She recalls the notorious gastric lavages:
“You had to watch your fingers because the children would bite you.”

After she had been there for two years Dr Huppert took her aside and suggested she needed to gain more nursing experience so she left Craig-y-nos to pursue her career elsewhere.

Valerie has self- published a book on her nursing experiences called: “Life isn’t all kiwi and oranges”. (Published by Lifestory Services, price £9.99)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Adelina Patti and the burglar alarm

Christine Thornton says her brother-in-law, Jack Gunshon, a 72 year old retired engineer, asked if he could borrow the Adelina Patti DVD I sent her because he remembered visiting Christine when she was in the “six-bedder”.

(This room is now used for seances by the Craig-y-nos ghost hunters.)

“Well, Jack took it home.
Its a very short video- only three minutes- so he replayed it a couple of times.

“Then he got up to set his burglar alarm because he was on his way out for the evening and suddenly all the lights in the house went off.

“ Nobody else in the area had as power cut and it was half an hour before they came back on again.
He jokes:”Adelina Patti made me late for my game of cards.!”

This happened last week.

I am not too surprised. When I began researching this book several inexplicable “incidents” occurred......all relating to electricity, and writing about Adelina Patti.
I do NOT believe in ghosts, yet some strange things seem to happen. Maybe Craig-y-nos does justify its title as the "most haunted castle in Wales".
I am sure there is a scientific explanation for all this though at present I can't fathom out what it could be: except time travel.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Marian Thomas (nee John) 1953-55

Chopping wood was part of the "grading" process in 1955. Marian ( left) with Jean.

Marian on the bridge, Christmas ,1955. Note the snow at her feet.This is the first photo to show snow.

Marian, August 1954. She was on "strict bed" rest but got up for this photo.

(Extract from interview with Marian Thomas):

“It was such a long, long journey up the Swansea valley to Craig-y-nos...

...and the ambulance man was a neighbour and I remember thinking:
“Why has Mr Williams got tears in his eyes?”

“I asked the girl next to me in Ward 2 how long she had been in. She was lying flat on her back, with her bed on blocks, and she could not raise her head to speak to me.

“Six years” she said.

"I was 15 years of age and at grammar school. I cried and cried.”

Later Marian was moved to the “six-bedder” and she says that although she was in for 2 years and suffered a relapse she “never looked back” after she was moved out of Ward 2 and has fond memories of her time in the “six-bedder” at Craig-y-nos Castle.

(Marian with her grand-son.)
Like many ex-patients Marian went on to work in one of the caring professions - she became an auxiliary nurse for over 20 years.
“The experience of Craig-y-nos makes you aware of the needs of others.”
She is married with a son and grandson and lives in Morriston, near Swansea.

"I hope to go to the reunion of patients and staff on April 25th."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Re-union Craig-y-nos Castle: April 25th

Nurse Glenys Davies ( now Mrs Jones)

Glenys is in the centre. The name of the girl in bed is unknown and Nurse Miller is on the right.
(Ward 2 balcony, early 1950's)

In the course of every conversation I have with ex-patients the subject gets around to staff.
“Do you remember Nurse Glenys Davies?”
Along with Auntie Maggie, sadly who is no longer with us, Nurse Davies is one of the people we all remember with affection.

Now Mrs Jones, Glenys is enjoying a comfortable retirement after more than 30 years of nursing.

This photo was taken at an informal meeting at Craig-y-nos some months ago following a short article in the South Wales Evening Post saying I had started to research a book on “The Children of Craig-y-nos”.

It produced a flood in interest with letters, phone-calls and emails and I am still trying to get around to everyone to interview them.

Now a proper reunion is planned for Wednesday April 25 with a buffet evening in Craig-y-nos Castle.

Organised by Sylvia Moore a former patient (1956) who went back there to nurse, the reunion is attracting a great deal of interest.

“Nearly 50 people have already signed up and I understand that many more are interested in coming too.”

And among the guests will be Nurse Glenys Davies - known amongst staff and patients as “the rock”.

For more information contact Sylvia Moore at:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sybil Jordan 1944-49

Sybil on the iron steps at Craig-y-nos

Some members of staff with a baby patient. Is that Auntie Maggie on the right?

Sybil (right) with friend on the iron steps.

Patients gather for a day trip to Swansea.

It is interesting to note that during the 1940’s patients had outings to Swansea.
Was this to the seaside or to the theatre?

I wonder if anyone knows how frequent these trips were? did children ever get to go on them?
Certainly from 1950 onwards such visits outside Craig-y-nos never happened which suggests that maybe the sanatorium regime in the late 40's was less rigid than in the early 50's. If this is so then it is surprising.

Does anyone have any first-hand knowledge of this?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Shirley Bowen 1956-57

“ I was there for my 13th birthday,” she told me when we met a few weeks ago at Craig-y-nos.

“I was out on the balcony. I didn’t have any drugs but I do remember the gastric lavages!
...oh yes and Jacko the peacock who used to make such a noise...

On visiting
“It used to take my parent most of the day to visit.
During the winter they would sit out on the balcony at visiting time clutching hot-water bottles.

Exercise“Walks were graded starting with a a short walk between the 2 stags.”

Dr Huppert story
Like all ex-patients Shirley has her own particular memory of Dr Huppert: “She was very masculine. Once I got punished because I got out of bed during rest hour to pick up a piece of paper. She saw me and I was sent back to bed for a week.”

Working life
Today Shirley works as a manager in a care home for the elderly.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hold on!...nurse Frances Jones

Sister Roberts

Trio of nurses- names unknown

Can anyone give any more information about the above nurses?..or even the dates the photos were taken?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bubble and Squeak - 1951

If you look carefully at this photo you will see the birdcage behind Mari Jenkins. I am leaning on the bed. Date: 1953

I wonder how many remember my budgies?

They were a curious addition to Ward 2 and only many years later did I learn of their real reason for their unexpected arrival on the Christmas visiting of 1951.

Mother walked in with this birdcage containing two budgies, one male and blue and the other female and green.

I burst out crying.

“You can’t bring them in here!” I said . “ I shall get the most awful row from Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert.
Take them away. Quick. Before they see them!”

Mother shook her head.

“No its all right you can have them.”

I stared at the birds. What could it mean?

Why did I have budgies? living things were unheard of in the ward.

After all we were not allowed to touch living things incase they caught something from us.

Once I tried to stroke Sister Morgan’s cat. He had strayed into our ward and crept up on to my bed.
I had only been in a few weeks and the cat reminded me of home, of life on the farm with its half a dozen cats.

I wriggled down the bed to stroke it only to find that Sister Morgan rushed in, grabbed the cat and took him away.
”You must not touch the cat!”

Yet here were budgies... true I was not allowed to touch them, just look at them.

That winter in Ward 2 was difficult.

I was already having rows from Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert daily cause I was not doing what they told me.

I had been brought in from the balcony for the winter, away from my friends and placed in this huge,cold ward with older girls.
No longer was there anyone close to talk to, no-one to confide in.
The blocks had been removed from my bed and I was told to sit up, except I didn't want to sit up cause it made me feel all dizzy. Anyway it was cold, so I would slide down into the bed again as soon as Sister Morgan had left the ward.

Dr Huppert tried to make me do exercises like moving my legs around. She told me to pretend I was riding a bicycle .

She even gave a demonstration with her arms and I watched fascinated as this strange, short, fat, foreign woman gave a demonstration of riding a bicycle - with her arms instead of her legs.

I was not convinced.

I did try it but it was impossible to carry out the exercise cause the sheets were tucked in too tightly, the only way I could move my legs was to lie on my side.
And pretend to be on a bike. I soon gave up on that. It was boring.

Instead I retreated more and more into the world of books. I would slide down under the bed clothes and read all the time. Day after day.

This was my escape from the cold, inhospitable world of Ward 2 in winter.

Until Christmas and my budgies....

Dr Huppert named them Bubble and Squeak.

Those birds marked a turning point for me in Craig-y-nos. Somehow those little birds with their bright colours chirping away daily gave me an interest in life again, and I adapted to life in Craig-y-nos, to the institutional way of living.
I learnt to survive.
Thanks to Bubble and Squeak.

Myself with Bubbles on the balcony in 1953.

Years later mother revealed she had brought those budgies in cause she had refused to accept that I was dying , that I had lost the will to live.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Adelina Patti's Summerhouse - early to mid-1950's

Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) and Annette

Mary Ireland ( nee Jones)

Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) and Myfawny Blatchford ( nee Hoyles)

The summer-house was always a popular venue for photo opportunities.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fires on Ward 2 balcony

Remember the Girl Guides?

I found these photos in my Craig-y-nos album and I couldnt believe it! were we really lighting fires on the balcony?
I wonder if anyone else has memories of the Girl Guides...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Christine Bennett -(1954-57) to celebrate Ruby wedding at Craig-y-nos

Christine is the first on the left on the balcony of Ward 2.

Christine with her grandson,Tomas, at home.

Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) will be celebrating her Ruby wedding on April 22nd by going back to Craig-y-nos and spending the night in the bridal suite.

And she is inviting all the people who came to her wedding to her party in the castle.

One slight concern is that the bridal suite is the former private chapel of Adelina Patti and that is where she was laid out following her death by a fall down the stairs.

But, as Christine says, she spent three years in Craig-y-nos and never saw or heard anything spooky.

“I have happy memories of my time there.”

Of Dr Huppert she says:” She terrified me. We used to have regular monthly examinations in her office and
she always used to complain:”this child never puts on any weight.”

When she was leaving Craig-y-nos her grandmother saw Dr Huppert standing at the top of the stairs and she went up to thank her for all she had done and

and Dr Huppert shouted at her:
“Don’t thank me! if I had my way she would be in for another year until she had put on some weight.”

Christine weighed 6 stone. She still weighs 6 stone.

Adjusting to life at home was very difficult.”My Gran couldn’t understand why I was not pleased to be back home . It was difficult to explain. I was an only child. In Craig-y-nos I had lots of company. At home the house seemed so small and the ceilings so low. I couldn’t get used to it.
Also by this time I had left school and it was another year before I could start work.”

She remembers 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 us a Merry Christmas.

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

“If you tell people you used to live out on the balcony and there would be snow on your beds and you had to cover them covered with tarpaulins they don't believe you.”

Christine is married with 3 sons and one grandchild.