Thursday, May 31, 2007

Photographic exhibition and re-union

I am in Hay for the Book Festival and have taken the opportunity today to slip down to Craig-y-nos and to visit the Sleeping Giant Foundation. They have given me all the oral recordings they have done so far and Cynthia very kindly helped me to find a venue for a photographic exhibition for all the photos I have received from former patients.

The Ystraglynais Miners Welfare Club may not be an obvious venue but we much preferred it to the Pontadarwe Arts Centre which seemed bleak and also had a two year waiting list for those proposals which were accepted. The official in charge of exhibitions was "too busy" to see us which was just as well because it saved me from the embarrassment of explaining that I found the venue inaccessible and unsuitable though their web site had painted a much more optimistic picture.

In contrast the Welfare club literally welcomed us with open arms and offered us a choice of sites all on the ground floor, unlike the Pontadarew Arts Centre which had a gallery tucked away undere the eaves on the second floor.
And the lift did not work.
Have already approached the Dylan Thomas Arts Centre in Swansea and been turned down.

Checked out some dates with the staff at Craig-y-nos Castle for a reunion of patients this September. More later...

Castle roof (1957)

This story was sent in by Christine Perry (nee Bennett)

As it was Summer holidays and there was no schooling, we decided to see what the view was like from the roof. We knew that the door of the stairs to the roof would be locked, so we went through the window of the toilet of the Childrens' Ward upstairs. We knew that the window next to it would allow us onto the stairs if we could swing over from one window to the next!!

So, we managed to do that and we were up on the roof admiring the view. Not satisfied with that view, we wanted to see the view from the other end of the roof but we were prevented from accessing that end by a small wall. Fortunately, there was a small opening in the wall & we all got through except one. Pat was larger than the rest of us and she managed to get herself stuck!!

By now, the children had split on us & Nurse Glen was calling us. We hid on the roof but Pat, who was stuck fast, was plaintively calling for “Help”. So, we had to reveal ourselves. Nurse Glen gave us a right telling-off &, of course, she was obliged to report the incident to Sister.

In due course, we were up before Dr. Huppert in her office. The punishment for each of us was being confined to bed for a week. We didn't go up there again!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Castle roof feasts. Mari Jenkins - 1952

Midnight feasts on the castle roof

I wonder how many remember the midnight feasts on the castle roof organised by Mari Jenkins?....would love to hear some of these stories.

Mari tells me these feasts occurred after visiting and she would hide the food in her bed waiting for night sister to do her rounds before they would all get up and go on to the roof.

( I was still in bed, so was never part of these escapades).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Welsh Country Life - 1953.

Hay Book Festival
I am in Hay for the week so I thought I would put up on the blog this little story told to me the other day by Mrs Olive Hughes from Swansea.

While I was growing up within the walls of Craig-y-nos Castle life on the farm went on as usual.

Mrs Hughes, now in her 92nd year, told me this about my parents.

She had read about my project in the South Wales Evening Post.

Her husband, Eddie, had been the vicar of Llangenny church and he had baptised me.

“We had just finished eating our evening meal in the vicarage when there is this “tap,tap” on the door.

Eddie goes to answer it. Standing there is Bill Powell. You remember Bill Powell? ( How could I ever forget him, a local character a gentle garrulous soul given to doing all kinds of odd jobs that nobody else would do. And he had one such errand tonight.)

“Jack Rumsey has had a very good day at the market, a very good day “and he nodded and winked at the vicar.

“Where is he?” asks Eddie.

“He’s in the Dragon.”
Eddie nodded. Just as he thought. The pub was known as the ”gluepot” because of the way it attracted all the local men.

“Jack is afraid to go home,” says Bill.

Still the vicar said nothing. He had only been in the parish for a couple of years and coming from an industrial area the ways of country people still surprised him.

What was he supposed to do?

“He wants you to take him.”
Eddie wondered if escorting drunken farmers home to their wives came within the remit of his pastoral duties.

He had heard that Mrs Rumsey was a woman of ferocious character, quite handy with the farm pitchfork or which ever implement was near at hand. He hoped God was with him as he agreed to the request.

“You had better come with me,” Eddie said to me.

We only had an old Singer car at the time. It was a tight crush getting the four of us in with the two men, merry with drink, in the back of the car.

Well, when we go to Ty-Llangenny farm, Jack gets out and he says:
“I think vicar, you had better go in first.”

So he took me and Bill around the farm buildings to see the electricity. Ty-Llangenny was the first farm in the area to have electricity and it was marvellous. Jack opened each shed and switched on the light and there they were: all the animals, cows, calves, and horses.

We came to the last shed and Jack says as he is about to open the door:
“This is the fella that pays our rent.”

And there standing in this big shed on his own was this huge bull!”

We went into the farm kitchen and your mother was sitting beside the big kitchen fire. Not a word was said. It was as if nothing had happened.

She had a bad cough and she had a big jug of lemon and honey keeping warm on the stove.”

But she gave us a good welcome and made us a cup of tea.
As we left she whispered to me:”Thank you for bringing Jack home.”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Unusual viewpoint- Craig-y-nos

This a rare viewpoint- taken from the hill opposite the front of the castle and supplied by Marian Thomas ( nee John).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Christine Bennett - Girl Guides - 1956

Girl Guides on the bridge at Craig-y-nos

Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) has sent in the following story:

"I enjoyed Guides so much, and was so very enthusiastic about guiding activities, that I was promoted to Leader. Three of us were asked to escort the Standard to Abercrave Church so that it could be blessed.

We, of course, needed to have Dr. Williams's permission to go. This was granted and Dr. Williams, and his wife, took us in their car. We were very excited as, for me, this had been the first time I had been outside the hospital grounds in two years.

We had a lovely day but for me the outcome wasn't so good as shortly afterwards, I suffered my third relapse and had to return to bed yet again. "

Her husband Larry says:" Christine took a long time to settle back into home life after coming out of Adelina Patti Hospital and longed to return as she missed the life, would you believe!"

They recently celebrated their Ruby Wedding by going back to Craig-y-nos for a family party.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Gleed sisters 1956-58

I wonder if anyone remembers the 3 Gleed sisters, Sandra, Sue and Pat (5, 6 and 7) who were in Craig-y-nos from 1956-58?

Sue went to the staff and patient reunion the other day. She says: :
“I had gone to put memories to bed”
especially the horrific one she has carried with her all her life of the night Dr Huppert ordered her bed to be pulled out into the corridor along with her sister for talking after lights out.

The next morning her sister Pat was wheeled back into the main ward.
But Sue was put into a locked room on her own and there she remained for days.
Her food was brought into her and nobody was allowed to talk to her.

Dr Huppert said it was to “teach her a lesson”. When her mother visited and found her in this locked room she complained to Dr Williams and she was put back into the main ward.

But the experience of those few days has been with her all her life.

“I was in remember restrainers but that was not as frightening as being locked up on my own.”

Sadly none of the staff at the reunion either remembered Sue or believed her story.
But her sisters, Pat and Sandra, are able to corroborate the incident.

Some may remember Pat for she was the little girl with a limp having contacted polio at six months of age.

Her father also had TB and was in hospital ( Talgarth and Sully) at the same time.
“My mother had a dreadful time trying to visit us all.”

Sue believes the traumatic experience in Craig-y-nos has affected her all her life:
“It’s made me very nervous, very anxious.”

Sue is now Mrs Turner, age 57, married with 1 child and 3 grandchildren and has fostered children for the last 20 years.
“I know what these children are going through because I have been there myself.”

She lives in a small village near Newport, Gwent about a mile from where she grew up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Departure - 11 March 1954

This is a photo of my bed on my last morning in Craig-y-nos on March 11th 1954.

My mattress, on which I had lain for four years and two days, is neatly rolled up, and the blankets folded into a tidy pile.
All my possessions are tied up in parcels with most of them in one big cardboard box.
A long piece of string is dangling from the bed waiting to wrap up any items that might have been forgotten.

The front door of Craig-y-nos.
You were allowed to go through it twice- first on entry ( 4 years ago in my case) and on departure.

The red crosses mark the windows of Ward 2

Going home

I had so looked forward to this day.
In Wales we call this longing ‘hireath’, a pining for that place we call home.
But nothing had prepared me for that move back into the outside world, to that place I had thought of as home.

Why was returning to the farm so uncomfortable? why did I feel so isolated and lonely?
I had left the farm as a sick child and returned four years later as an institutionalised adolescent, though neither my parents nor I realised this at the time.

Here after all I was surrounded by my family.
Except I no longer fitted into the family circle.

I found it claustrophobic.
I didn’t like home.

Mother suspected my unhappiness though she never said so in so many words just asked if I wanted to go back to Craig-y-nos to see the girls.

So we did. At the next visiting.
And they were still lying there in their beds, just as I left them barely a month or so ago.

I had changed.
They had a not.

Now I was in limbo, neither at home on the farm nor could I go back to Craig-y-nos.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Molly Barry (nee O'Shay) -1950-52

"The robin story"

Speak to Molly from Swansea this morning.
We discover we were in Craig-y-nos at the same time- except she was 10 years older and in the Six-Bedder.

Molly talks about the robin she befriended.
"It came into our ward every day and would perch on the end of my bed."

I tell her about my budgies.
She is astonished: "You were allowed birds!”

It's my turn to be surprised. “Did you not know about the budgies in Ward 2?”

The Six Bedder was only about 20 yards from the entrance to Ward 2 yet she knew nothing of the existence of my budgies!
We shared the same nursing staff and were in adjoining wards at the same time for years yet communication between the two was non-existent.(I have heard though of some women at one stage writing letters to the children).

This highlights another curious fact about life in Craig-y-nos: we knew there were other children in the building yet we never saw them for mixing was strictly forbidden.

In my four years in Craig-y-nos I never went into another ward. Indeed the first time I saw inside the Six-Bedder was earlier this year. It's now derelict and used for ghost tours and seances.

In later life Molly worked as an auxiliary nurse and looking back at Craig-y-nos she is struck by how few nurses there were.
Indeed it is the same names that keep recurring in peoples memories: Dr Williams, Dr Huppert, Sister Morgan, Nurse Glenys Davies, “Auntie Maggie” and a handful of other names.
There were certainly many people working behind the scenes in administration, kitchens, laundry maintenance - witness the popularity of staff reunions

As a young adult in Craig-y-nos Molly’s memories are positive:

“For a child it must have been a frightening place to be but for and adult, once I had settled in and was allowed up I enjoyed going for walks in the beautiful grounds,” she said.

She got engaged while in there:“My boyfriend was wonderful, we met dancing as you did in those days,and he used to visit me in hospital. We got engaged while I was there. He brought in a sample of rings for me to try on.”

She had only been home for a few months before she had a relapse so they hurried to get married and had special dispensation from their priest.

“Married on the Friday and back into Craig-y-nos on the Monday.”

Sister Morgan used to tease her that she went out Molly O'Shay and came back in Molly Barry.

Molly’s been married 56 years and she has a daughter, son and 4 grandchildren.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Balcony 1951

Yet another photo showing the close-knit community and camaraderie that existed on the balcony.

Here I am in bed surrounded by a group of friends. The only names I can remember are Rosemary Harley (second from left) and Mair Edwards ( far right).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Doreen Farley, age 91

Receive this letter today from Mrs Doreen Farley in Swansea:

“I felt I would like to get in touch with you after reading about the reunion at Craig-y-nos hospital.

My memories of Craig-y-nos go back to 1924.
My sister was a patient there and died there on 2nd March 1924.
She would have been 18 years old on the 31st March 1924.
When I visited with my mother ( my Dad died of TB in Talgarth in 1916) there was a young Irish girl in the next bed who was very ill. Her sister used to visit her.
I can remember that my mother always took things for the young girl as she did for my sister.

My sisters bed was close to the double doors which opened out on to a veranda where were beds out in the open with tarpaulin on top of the bed clothes.

For an eight year old like me I couldn't understand it, in fact I thought it was terrible of course in later years I learnt all the reasons...

I hope you don't mind me writing to you have been blessed with a good memory so such things really stand out for me.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Letter in the Powys archives regarding education for children

This is an extract from a letter in the Powys archives, Llandrindod Wells. Note the reference to the:"sick, often spoiled, children who are parted from their parents' for long periods."

It is not clear whether these are all children with TB or if they included mentally handicapped children too.

It is to 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"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Girls on the balcony 1953

Some names are missing but the ones known are: (from left to right, front row) Ann Rumsey, unknown, Florence, unknown
(back row) Jean Shakeshaft, Mari Jenkins, unknown, unknown.

If anyone knows these missing names I would much appreciate it if you could let me know -contact: or (01786) 832287.

Photo supplied by Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lotte Munson (nee Lewis) -cleaner Craig-y-nos -1950-53

Lotte rings me this morning from Edinburgh.
“I have just been sent this cutting from the South Wales Evening Post about the reunion.”

“I worked in Ward 4 with the small children. I got paid 8 shillings a week. In those days we had to live in . Remember Matron Knox-Thomas? she was Scottish.
"I also worked in the plaster room, the light room and the scullery.
“There was always plenty of food. Lots of porridge and mince and tatties.”

Lotte, now 73 years of age, promises to ring again when she has more time. She has to go to work.

Married with five children she has lived in Scotland for 43 years .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

“Creepy crawlies in Craig-y-nos”

Roy Harry says his mother was amazed when he returned home in 1946 after a long spell in Craig-y-nos :
“Singing in Welsh with nits in my hair!”

I was reminded of this story while transcibing an account of 11 year old Beryl Richards early days in Craig-y-nos some 10 years later .
She asked why one new girl had her head swathed in towels and was told it was because she had “creepy crawlies” in her hair.

It resurrected a long buried, shameful, memory from that summer of 1951 when Frances, the girl in the next bed to me on the balcony, and I discovered we had head lice.

We knew about new girls having their heads searched on arrival and how they would have to have their hair covered in evil smelling liquid and how girls would stare at them .

But we had been in for years. And in bed. How come we got nits?

Tell the staff? no way!
We would have to suffer the humiliation of having our heads disinfected.

We came up with a plan.

It was summer with long light evenings.

After night sister had made her evening tour we got out mirrors and combs and caught the nits. We lined them up in neat rows. Killed them and counted them. That first night produced a lucrative haul of nearly 100 nits. We compared our nights work.
I had more nits that Frances.

By the end of the week our perseverance was rewarded. We were down to eggs. We carefully cracked them with our finger nails to make certain they would not hatch.

Finally we declared our heads clean.

And nobody knew about it.

Our heads were never checked for lice, except on admittance.

Many have commented on the fact that Craig-y-nos taught us to be self-reliant, independent, you had to sort things out for yourselves cause nobody else was going to do it for you.

We were 11 years of age.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pen-friends - 1950

Pen-friend June from Dundee

How did we pass the time?

Those of us who were too ill to receive lessons from Miss White found our own methods of entertaining ourselves.

Twice a day a trolley came around and we would buy comics.

Horror comics were particularly popular and I remember frightening myself silly over one story. Even today I cannot look at a coach load of people without remembering that scary story of a young girl who got on a bus in the depths of the countryside one evening only to find that everyone on the bus was dead. She had to sit next to these corpses; and they looked so lifelike.

Most of the time I read. Or wrote letters. I had lots of pen-friends, names collected from the back of the weekly Childrens Newspaper.

These girls would send me photos of themselves which I would carefully stick in my photograph album. One was June from Dundee.

I was very proud of this photo because unlike my other pen pals photos which showed only their heads this was a portrait.
June had a ribbon in her hair that matched her dress. She sat on a sofa with soft cushions clutching her dog, and she had ornate curtains on her window. It was a glimpse into another world.

What did I send her in return? What kind of a picture, as a 9 year old, did I paint of life inside Ward 2?

I can only hazard a guess. Would I have told her about the morning Sister Morgan pulled the curtains across the glass door so that nobody would see the little ritual, the “mark of respect for the dead” , except the curtains were not fully drawn and I got to see.

Two porters stood there with a stretcher containing a dead body from Six-Bedder and they stopped outside Ward 2 while Sister Morgan rushed in and picked up a bunch of fading flowers from the table in the middle of the Ward and placed them on the dead woman’s body.
I saw it . Would I have written about it to my pen-friend?

The morning post with letters from my pen-friends was the highlight of the day. They told of a world outside of which I knew nothing, for these were city children not from a country background like myself.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Milwyn Bufton - 1926

I am very aware that recording the stories of Craig-y-nos is a race against time.
Take this email I received some months ago from Milwyn Bufton.

 "I read with interest you letter in the Evening Post Swansea about CRAIG Y NOS IN THE 1920'S. It was a TB hospital and I was a Patient there in 1926/7. I was about 6 or 7 years of age. There  were a lot of children in those days.I am now 86  and it is difficult to remember so far back.Sorry i cannot be more helpful.     I am Milwyn Bufton."

Despite several emails to her I have not had a reply.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Allan Morgan -1954

9 year old Allan in his iron cot

Alan was browsing on Google and idly typed in Craig-y-nos. He found my web-site and contacted me .

Now 62 years of age he was admitted to Craig-y-nos as a 9 year old with his three sisters in February 1954.

A few months later his mother was transferred there too from another sanatorium.

Many people have already spoken to me about the family who were all in hospital together and how they were not allowed any contact with each other.

So I was very curious to hear Allan’s story.

He remained there for four and a half months before being transferred to Sully.
This is a brief extract from the interview I did with him.
Asked to compare the two institutions he said:
“Craig-y-nos was like a prison camp and Sully a holiday camp.”

He was tied to the bed in Craig-y-nos and regularly beaten. He was allowed no contact with his mother, except by letter and these letters had to be left open, and minimal with his sisters. If he saw them in the grounds he could wave to them.

“ I was kept in an iron cot and tied to the bed.

They would take the restrainer off at night. I had it on cause I kept getting out of bed.

My memories of the time I spent there are not pleasant ones. I remember the cruel way we were treated in the mornings.
Nurses would come around look at the bottoms of your feet if they were dirty you would be walloped with whatever they could lay their hands on.”

I never cried . I just grit my teeth except on one occasion one of the nurses, one of the Gwynne sisters hit me really hard and I cried. Afterwards she put her arms around me and tried to comfort me and apologised. But I wouldn't speak to her for weeks.”

In Sully they tackled the problem differently.
The doctor offered him a radio to listen to on condition he stayed in bed.
“I promised him I would and I did. I was never tied to the bed in Sully.”

He was told he had the kind of TB that did not respond to drugs and he had a section of his lung removed.

Today Allan lives in Bargoed.
He has three children and four grandchildren and worked all his life within the coal-mining industry.
“I was only in Craig-y-nos for less than five months. In many ways it was a cruel regime.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Valerie Williams ( nee Llewellyn) 1938 -1940

Whatever happened to Bridie O’Sullivan, the Irish child abandoned by her parents in Craig-y-nos?

Valerie, age 72, would love to find out.
Her parents had thought at one stage of adopting four year old Bridie as company for Valerie because they were the same age until the “monkey incident”.

“I had an uncle who had once worked as a sailor and he brought me back this big wooden toy monkey. But we were not allowed to play with toys because of the fear of infection. So they put it at the end of the ward so that everybody could enjoy it and nobody would be jealous.

“Well, Bridie got out of bed in the night and broke my monkey. I was so angry with her. I remember that.

Bridie had been left there by her parents when she was about 12 months old.
I often wonder what happened to her.”

Valerie says she has only snippets of memories of those early days in Craig-y-nos in the Glass Conservatory.

“I remember the big iron cot and looking out through the bars. I have no memory of walking about during my two years there.

“And I remember it being bitterly cold. They would wheel our cots outside. If it started to rain they was a rush to bring them back in again. Once my uncle, who was a bus driver and he used to sneak in to visit me when he was passing once a week, helped to pull the beds back into the Glass Conservatory.
We were not allowed to get damp.”

Another memory she had is of a family celebration after she left the hospital:
“We had a party for my grandmother and after it was over I put on my hat and coat to go back home to Craig-y-nos. and my mother had to say to me: “You are home.” She was quite upset .”

After she grew up Valerie worked as a telephonist with major companies in Swansea.
Now aged 72 she leads an active life swimming three times a week, ballroom dancing with her husband and going to jazz festivals.

If anyone reading this can recall any information regarding the abandoned Irish child girl, Bridie O’Sullivan, I will pass it on to Vallerie Williams.
e-mail me at: or ring: (01786.832287)

Abandoned children at Craig-y-nos

Sometimes children were abandoned .
Their parents simply stopped visiting.
The isolation of the hospital and the sheer difficulty of getting there by public transport, before cars became common, proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to families already under a great deal of stress.

Also the death rate before the introduction of drugs was high - 25 per cent- so it is hardly surprising that some parents experienced a sense of hopelessness and despair at having a child sent ot Craig-y-nos.
One former member of staff told me it was often viewed as a death sentence, such was the taboo and fear with which TB was held in Wales, a notorious black spot for the disease.

How many children were left to grow up at Craig-y-nos? nobody knows.
All we do know is that it did happen from time to time.

On the whole it would appear that these cases were an exception. What emerges is a picture of incredible dedication on the part of parents, some who were very poor, to struggle to make the long journey to Craig-y-nos once a month to see their children often relying on relatives or friends with a car for transport.
Those who made the journey by public transport found that it would take up the whole day, often involving several bus changes especially for those coming from remote villages or rural communities.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nurse Glenys Davies 1943-1973

Glenys in playful mood...

Helping out with the children at the Christmas pantomine.

"Preparing" Ann for an x-ray - 1951

Ann and Glenys back at Craig-y-nos in 2007

Nurse Davies worked at Craig-y-nos from March 1943 until the hospital closed in December1973.

She started there initially as part of the war effort to get women into the workforce.
Much to the chagrin of her parents she chose to nurse TB patients instead of working on the family farm.

She enjoyed the contact with the children so much that even after the war was finished she carried on nursing there.

Her name is the one that most frequently crops up amongst ex-patients, and they all speak of her with a great deal of affection.

Today Glenys, aged 82, is still living in the Swansea valley and , while she is not as active as she was up until five years ago she still maintains her love of life, her sense of humour and her independence.

Many ex- staff and patients refer to her as “the Rock”, the unchanging figure in the turbulent history of Craig-y-nos.

This is a brief extract from an interview with her.

Mary Williams- first cure

“I remember Mary Williams from Talgarth coming in. It must have been about 1950 or 1951.

She was very ill and she was put in the sisters office so that we could nurse her. She was dying and we didn't expect her to last very long.
Well, within a couple of weeks of receiving streptomycin she had recovered.

It was like a miracle.”

Nursing regime
All patients had to have their lights out by 9.30 pm and nurses by 10 pm.

They were very strict in the nurses home.
You were not allowed to go out in your uniform, not even just across the road to the shop which was just the front room of a nearby cottage.

“if you went there to the shop you had to go in mufti and if you did go in uniform and were caught you would be very sorry for it. You would get a row from matron . “

“I don't believe a word of it. I was here over 30 years and never saw a thing.”

Memories and x-rays
“I have very happy memories of my time working at Craig-y-nos.

Nurses at other hospitals were not X-rayed as frequently as we were and we had quite a number of nurses as patients from Swansea hospital, and some died.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Names please! (early 1950's)

These photos are from the early 1950's but there are no names for any of the patients or nurses.

The teenagers are on the balcony of Ward 2 and the nurses are standing next to one of the famous stags.

Can anyone put some names to these people please?
Send email

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mair Harris( nee Edwards)- 1950-52

Ann and Mair on the balcony

Mair and Nurse Glenys Davies on the balcony

...and 2007 in Craig-y-nos

"My memories are happy."
"When I arrived at Craig-y-nos and saw the big wall and the gate I can remember saying to my mother:” I don't want to stay in here.”

But once I had got into the ward and got to know the girls I had happy memories after that.
We had lots of fun. We had the Girl Guides. Also,we would drop letters to the boys on the downstairs balcony on a piece of string. Things like that. It was great.

I got on well with some of the staff. If I had been unhappy I wouldn't want to come back here but I come for the summer sometimes , not to go into the building, but to walk around the lake like I used to as a a teenager.

“I was 13 when I went into Craig-y-nos and 15 when I left. Most of the time I was on the balcony. I was in bed for 15 months and I had streptomycin and PAS.

Mair on the balcony
Learning to walk again
You got up for an hour the first week then this was increased to two hours, four hours, six hours and eight hours. Then it was considered you were up all day.

Theatre and concerts.
People from the area would come in and give us concerts.

Miss White, the teacher
Yes I remember Miss White. She was quite good to me actually. She helped me a lot I was in the grammar school when I went in and she told me to bring my books.
When I went back to school I wasn't very far behind the other children and I was able to catch up quite easily with them.

I felt she did quite a lot of work for me.

Dr Huppert
I did hold her in awe though I was never punished by her.

Shirley and Mair
Christmas was fantastic. I used to go to the Adelina Patti theatre and there would be Santa Claus and presents from Friends of the Hospital. I remember having a huge jigsaw.
Other children put up stockings.We were allowed to put up pillow cases that were full of parcels that had come from home. I remember having a huge pillow case with 70-80 presents.

Christmas was worth remembering.

On leaving
I went back to grammar school for 2 years then I was unlucky. I had two relapses, in 1954 and again in 1956 and I was sent to other hospitals.

After that I didn't bother to go back to school. I went to work in the library. And that was it until I got married. I worked in the library throughout my career then I retired.

How did TB affect my life?
I missed out on my teenage years. I went into hospital when I was 13 and I was 19 before I was better so I didn't have the fun that the others were having like going out to the cinema. I missed out on all that.
But otherwise I don't think it really affected me.
I was going to go in for teaching but my mother felt it was best that I stayed at home rather than go away to college. So I went into the library.

Girl Guides: Mair in the centre with other Guides

It made me stand on my own two feet. I have very positive memories of my time there. You only saw your parents once a month so you were depending on the staff to take their place to a certain extent but otherwise you had to do everything on your own.

It taught me to be independent. My memories are happy."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Jean Shakeshaft - 1953

Jean in the grounds of Craig-y-nos with the balconies clearly visible in the background.

Jean ( left) with Pat and Jean ( June 1953)

Jean Shakeshaft keeps cropping up in lot of photographs sent in by ex-patients.
Where is she now?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Pioneer of “fresh air” treatment

Ever wondered who introduced “fresh air” treatment for TB into this country?

Well, Caroline Boyce ( nee Havard) who was in Craig-y-nos at the same time as me, and is helping with some of the interviews, found this newspaper obituary in Dollar museum.

“ Dr Jane Walker 1938
Open-air treatment of consumption.

“Dr Jane Walker, C.H., M.D., pioneer of the open-air treatment of tuberculosis in this country - her sanatorium at Nayland, Suffolk, of which she was Medical Superintendent, was founded in 1901- and one of the oldest women doctors practising, died yesterday at Harley Street, at the age of 79.
“Early in her career she satisfied herself by experiment that one of the most efficacious methods of combating consumption was systematic fresh air treatment, and in 1892 she was the first to introduce the open-air treatment of the disease into England.

“A centre was opened at Downham Market, Norfolk, which was moved to Nayland as it developed. It has become a model in tubercular institutions. Sections for working-class people, for children, and for soldiers were added to it.

Recently she said that the ravages of tuberculosis had been halved in the last 30 years.

She recognised, too, that measures had to be taken not only to cure tuberculosis, but to prevent it, and throughout her medical life she had emphasised the importance of improving social conditions and the necessity of abolishing insanitary and overcrowded slum dwellings. She lent her support to every effort made to secure adequate nutrition, for those unable to afford to provide it for themselves.

Her publications included:” Modern Nursing of Consumption” (1904) second edition 1924.”

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Douglas Herbert 1945- 48

Douglas was admitted to Craig-y-nos as a five year old.

He has many vivid memories of his time there and he will be doing a full oral history recording with the Sleeping Giant Foundation.

Meanwhile here are two of his stories.
Derby Day
“I remember the 1947 Derby Day. All the visitors were clustered around my bed because I had the only workable radio. My father had put a 6p bet each way on My Love and it won.

“A couple of years ago there was this pub quiz. They said there was a free pint of beer to anyone who could tell them the winner of the 1947 Derby. Well, I put my hand up.....My father was astonished because he knew I had no interest in horses. So I reminded him of that day in Craig-y-nos ..."

Less happy memories are the times he was force-fed cold cabbage.
“One of the things I couldn't stand, and I can’t now is cabbage.
They got so used to me throwing up after swallowing the cabbage that the nurse would bring a bowl along at the same time so that I could be sick into it.
After I was sick they were happy. The nurse would take the bowl back to the sister to prove that I had swallowed it.”

Looking back on his time there he asks:
“I often wonder what they did for us. I don't think we really had any treatment. You either made it or you didn't.’

Douglas still remembers with sadness his close friend Andrew, a plaster bed patient, who died six weeks after he left.

He voices the view of many ex child patients when he says:

“I always felt I lost my childhood.”
He adds:
When I left Craig-y-nos I was happy for every day that came along.
And I still am.”

Douglas works as an accountant in Swansea.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A toddler in Craig-y-nos

Receive a phone call this morning from Mary in Surrey, a 56 year old art teacher. She was in Craig-y-nos for 2 years entering the hospital as a 14 month old toddler..

She only has vague memories of the place except she does remember nurse Glenys Davies.

She says:” I am grateful to the staff for they saved my life.
Nevertheless what happened to us was traumatic and should be acknowledged.

She goes on to say:
It is unfair to erase this part of our history. We have a right to remember it for we lost our childhood.”

Mary will write her own account of her memories of that time and the course her life took as a result of TB.

The most obvious ones she says is that streptomycin affected her hearing.

Treatment for TB - in the 21st century

Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins)

A few years ago Mari had a relapse. She doesn't know who was the most surprised: herself, her family or the doctors who were doing tests for cancer.

She says:
”They gave me drugs and told me to carry on living as normal. I didn't even have to stay indoors and rest!’

We both marvel at the change in the regime for treating TB. Over 50 years ago (the time we first had it) the treatment was all about fresh air, high calorie diets, bed rest and operations.

But the universal introduction of drugs wiped out all these medical procedures for they were found to be of doubtful value: at best palliative, at worst, useless.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Caroline -1953/54

Can anyone throw any light on this photo? All we know from the information on the back is that the girl’s name is Caroline and that it was taken either in 1953 or 1954 on the balcony of Ward 2.

She is tied to the bed. This procedure was known as “restraints", a practise used on children who would not stay in bed.