Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why is Craig-y-nos so important?

I put this question to historian Dr. Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.
I was genuinely puzzled why our stories, concealed for over half a century, could have any interest to people outside our immediate family.

This is her reply:

This is a very important project for a number
of reasons.

Firstly, there are no collective accounts of patient experiences in a TB sanatorium, and certainly none from those who were there as children or teenagers.
Secondly, the catchment area for Craig-y-nos was relatively small, so this is as much a study of a community and the impact of tuberculosis and institutionalisation on its children as it is of a sanatorium.
The time span - 1930s to 1950s - is also important because it covers the years prior to and beyond the introduction of effective drug
treatment (1946).

Thirdly, although this is a historical study, tuberculosis
is not a disease of history. Since the mid-1980s there has been a worldwide
increase in TB of about 1 per cent a year. In Britain the increase has been
nearer 2 per cent and continues to rise.

Although TB no longer commands the shame and dread of 60 years ago, it's important for us and for future generations to keep alive the memories of a generation of youngsters whose experiences, both physical and emotional, have helped change the way that sick children experience hospitalisation and treatment today.
In many ways,it is a heartening story of courage and survival.

Dr. Carole Reeves- Outreach Historian

Dr. Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian , the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, has agreed to co-author my book by providing the medical and historical background to TB in Wales along with an analysis of Craig-y-nos showing how it fits into this period of Welsh history.

Check the Trust’s web-site at
and Carole Reeves at:

Friday, June 29, 2007

Myfawny Blatchford ( nee Hoyle) - 1953

Alfie, the Spanish gardener, rescues Myfwany and Mari

Alfie, Mari and Myfwany. Who took the photograph?

Myfawny Blatchford born 1939.
She entered Craig-y-nos as a 14 year old for 5 months in 1953, just after the Coronation. She was on the balcony of Ward 2.

"Before I knew I had TB and would have to go to hospital my uncle, that was my father’s brother, died in Craig-y-nos as the clock struck midnight.

Well, this always stuck in my mind, and when it was my turn to go into Craig-y-nos this thought was there and every night it was me fighting to stay awake until that clock had struck midnight.

And then I could sleep.

Running away from Craig-y-nos
We had been naughty and had done something we shouldn't have and we were being reprimanded and there were three of us.
I think one was Mari and we were told once again that we were going to be punished , going to be kept indoors and after being out of doors, day in day out, it was cruel.

It was like taking part of our life away.

So we decided to run home although the castle being miles and miles from home.

We ran past the morgue where the bodies were kept because obviously it was a killing disease then, past the big oak tree and the horse chestnut trees and we were running along the road and suddenly these bodies came chasing after us and took us back into hospital.
And we were told that if it happened again they would get in touch with our parents we would be discharged.
There were such beautiful grounds we used to love being out of doors.

What type of treatment did you receive?

Nothing just rest and that was only for a short while. I was a week inside the ward then straight out on to the balcony and I think I was only in bed for a month and then I was up and about playing havoc.

Were there strict rules?
Oh yes, you mustn't stretch.

Would you have been punished if you were naughty?
Oh yes. Mari and I took a boat out on to the lake and neither of us could swim.
( We had to spend the day out. We had been given a packed lunch .)
We couldn't get back and Alfie Repado the gardener had to come and rescue us and while we were there we were shivering in our shoes because we could see Sister Morgan’s white hair and her hat coming through the trees.
We were were confined to bed as a punishment.

How many were in the ward?
I think there were between 16-20 in the ward.
They were mostly teenagers 12-16 year olds.

Were you cold?

When I went in first and I went outside on the balcony my mother kept saying “ Oh dear! dear! you are going to die !” But we were hardened to it.

What do you remember about the food?
I can remember the first time in my life that I ever had fish for breakfast and funny thing is that we had kippers this morning for breakfast but if my mother had given me fish for breakfast at home I wouldn't have eaten it.

Another thing that stand out in my mind was our tea. We had these big enamel trays like the butchers have today and they would be stacked high with cut bread and butter and a bottle of red sauce and a bottle of brown sauce and that was our tea.

I will never forget those teas but we ate it for we were starving after being out all day.

Only arithmetic and English. We had 2 lady teachers elderly women. They would go to individual beds. And we had guides. A lady used to come in and give us the Girl Guides.

Everybody was friends. That was your life wasn't it?
We did have Jean Shakeshaft. She was the boss. She was the big girl. She was older than the rest of us. She was the maximum, I think she was 16.

Dr Huppert?
She used to frighten me. She was a strange looking woman I shouldn't say it but she was strange looking, rather manly, and her accent as well. I can remember going to see her one day in the duty room. Because I was sleeping outside my mother naturally made sure that I had vests to wear under my pyjamas.
When I stripped off for her to examine me she gave me heck.
“Tae zat off! wot eeze zat you got on!”
You must let your body breathe!”
She made me strip if all off. I came out crying.

Yet the other doctor, Dr Williams was wonderful.

And the other staff?
They were lovely. Well, we did have one staff nurse, Katie, she was only a prim little thing and we used to go up to the window to wave at visitors and she used to come and slap our hands:”get back to your bed” . She was a little bit nasty. On the whole the staff were lovely.

Family and visitors
Visitors were once a month but I was fortunate because my brothers wife was moved to Craig-y-nos from a sanatorium up north. She had been taken ill on honeymoon and she was seven years in this hospital up north.

She was in the ward below and my brother, my parents and my sister used to visit her every weekend so I was lucky. I would see them even if it was just to wave through the window. We would go halfway down the stairs and there would be a parcel of food left there for us.

Midnight feasts
We were a naughty group of girls. Our parents used to bring parcels of food and after visitors we used to go up on the roof for a midnight feast. It used to be wonderful. All that was part of my healing process. Better than sitting at home waiting for my brothers and sisters to come from school to talk to me


All I wanted to do was work with flowers but they wouldn't let me because of the pollen. I had the option of going to college to pick up schooling I had lost. So they put me into Gorseinon Technical college to do a secretarial course

Was it difficult to settle back into the family?
Yes it was , even after five months, but some of the girls had to be in for years so it must have been awful for them.
My sister often used to come into my room at night and I would be sitting up in bed talking to myself in my sleep, so used to the company I was, she used to wake me up and chat with me.

If anything it did me the world of good because it brought me out. I was very, very shy person until I went in there.
Given the choice of having that year at home or five months in Craig-y-nos every time I would have chosen the time in Craig-y-nos. It got me better quicker, and not being spoilt and the company and seeing people worse off than yourself.

I had no treatment apart from the fresh air, the food and rest.

Myfawny Blatchford was interviewed by Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation. This is supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Myfanwy Blatchford (nee Hoyles) -1953

(from left to right) Myfawny, Ann, Mari, Valerie and Sheila. The two small girls in front are unknown.

Caroline (left) with Pat on the balcony of Ward 2

Myfawny Blatchford, age 14,went into Craig-y-nos in 1953 just after the Coronation. She was there for 5 months.

She tells of an eerie experience:

" I have repeated this story to friends and family and you may think its utter rubbish but its true, I tell you its true.

One particular night, after being to the theatre, stands out in my mind.

It was a dreadful day cold, and wet and the windy. When the weather was bad like that they used to put canvas tarpaulins on the bed and tie them on.
I can remember getting into bed and having the tarpaulin put on and there was a little girl, Caroline, in the next bed to me.

She had been brought up from the children's ward where she had been since a baby.

I think she had TB of the spine and she couldn't get on with the other children. She was the boss of the ward because she had been there the longest.

She must have been about 5 or maybe 6 and she had never walked in her life.

I can remember this particular night waking up - and this is the truth-something had woken me, and the canvas on my bed was rising.

I was terrified and the next thing I could see Caroline standing, holding on to the iron bed and looking at me.

I panicked and rang my bell. No nurse came. Nothing. I was absolutely terrified. It was blowing and raining and I went down under and put the blanket over my head and stayed there. I got out later pushed my bell and the nurse came and I said I had been ringing it earlier.
They hadn't heard a thing.

And the following day the specialist came to see little Caroline to arrange for her to have callipers.

It was like a premonition. I saw it before it happened.
It is true. I am not one to exaggerate.”

Adelina Patti Sings

Just noticed that someone has added a comment to my video on YouTube (type in Adelina Patti singing ghost in search field once you are into the site) of Adelina Patti singing:

"How lovely! I had never heard of this remarkable woman."

A local guide told me that when they were doing the first recording in Craig-y-nos of Adelina Patti singing it was made in her boudoir - the Six-Bedder- and she was asked to stand on a trolley. When it came to loud passages they pulled the trolley away from the trumpet and as quiet passages appeared they pushed her forward again.

Thought you would like to know...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Florence and Ann - 1953

Ann (left) and Florence

If the size of the hats are anything to go by the summer of 1953 must have been warm on Ward 2 balcony.

This photo of Florence and myself turned up in the photo collection of Norma Lewis.
I am 12 years of age and Florence 15.

I am back in bed after a relapse but at least I am on the balcony, not on blocks, and I am allowed to sit up and even wash myself - note the white tin basin.

So far there has been no news of Florence. One girl thought she had died. It would be lovely if this was not true and she is alive and well.
We were very good friends.

"Ann on blocks" with bird - 1957

Who is this mysterious girl with a bird perched on her hand? Is this Ann Williams, or "Ann on blocks" as she was known as in Craig-y-nos?

Sully hospital - link

Here's a link to Sully hospital sent in by Carol Hughes.

Thanks Carol!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Haydn Harris -Craig-y-nos- 1936-37

Haydn Harris of Port Talbot.

“ I was born in the village of Clyne in the Neath Valley.

I was 3 at the time I was admitted to Craig-y-nos and my 4th birthday was due after I arrived there in March 1936 . I came out before my 5th birthday, probably around February 1937.

I can remember continually having what was thought of as cold or flu, especially on the chest but it wasn't all that serious and I was not incapacitated in anyway by it.

After I came out my mother always referred to the fact that I was under observation though I don't think that was the case.

That's what she used to say :”I had been in under observation.” I wasn't all that bad.

I can’t remember much about settling in. I can’t remember being put out much with it. I never felt as if I was missing something.

Was there any one person there that helped you to settle?

No...the one person that does stick in my mind though strangely enough is the odd job man on the ward.

I seem to remember he was a very friendly bloke but somehow strict he wouldn't play down to a child. I liked him. He was the one person I can remember.

Did you receive any treatment?
The one bit I can remember was the “fresh air treatment”. They often put us out on the balcony to sleep. In all weathers and I can even remember being out there in the snow with tarpaulin over the bed. That’s the one time that I can really remember.

There were times during the day you had to rest. We went out for walks quite frequently down in the garden.
There was a group of children and we would go through the gardens.

One thing I can remember is that the gardeners used to catch squirrels and keep them in cages to show us. Things like that. That's the part that sticks in my mind.

We never went beyond the bridge though.

It was an all male ward but it was not all children.
There were grown up people there as well. It was big ward and big windows along the veranda side overlooking the gardens.

Describe the ward and the iron lungs.
The ward had two areas. And I was down by the window that's where my bed was, that's how I got to know the odd job man because he was always cleaning the windows.

The raised part was for the iron lungs.
Young though I was I knew that was not a place to go, very rarely if ever did I go up on to the platform.

I think there were half a dozen iron lungs. They were big, at least six foot in length. The only part of the person you could see was the head. From the neck down was completely covered, it was like box with a man’s head on it. That sticks in my mind.
Were you ever cold?
No except the time I was out in the snow.
no I cant remember any.
I cant say I remember being terribly cold. There was no fireplace or stove.


My mother had a long journey to get to the hospital to see me having to catch a couple of buses.
At visiting time I was running around. I wasn't in bed.

The last few months I was there my mother didn't come up to see me at all and I couldn't make that out until I got home and found that she was expecting my brother.
He was born shortly after I came out.

I just ate what was put in front of me.

This is one memory I can remember. That's one time I enjoyed going up on stage with the iron lungs because on Christmas morning Father Christmas arrived. He set his chair up on that level and the children in the ward had to go up and get a present off him. I was glad to go up that day.
I was given some sort of truck.

That's another big memory I have!
The x-ray machines were in the rooms alongside the theatre, I suppose they used to be the dressing rooms . Maybe it was once a week though I wouldn't swear to it, they used to take us down there in wheelchairs and leave us sitting in the theatre and we could sit for maybe an hour or so there .

The one thing that stuck in my mind was the painting over the stage of the chariot .

About 15-20 years ago, the first time I ever went back to Craig-y-nos, I was most disappointed because I couldn't find the picture. I had a word with one of the people there who was looking after the place and he said: “ come with me” and he pressed a button and this screen came down and there was my picture. Thank God for that!

There were no lessons.

Did you have any friends?
I can't remember any that stick in my mind.

Were there any members of staff that you particularly liked?
No, except the odd job man.

(Cynthia comments on the fact that many former child patients have remarked that it is the cleaners and orderlies that they remember most clearly maybe because they had more time for the children than the nurses who were too busy.)

The odd job man

One thing I can remember about the odd job man was in the winter of 1936, a very snowy winter, and he was up a ladder doing something in the troughing just outside my bed and he fell off the ladder and he injured his arm. He ended up in the next bed to me, just for the night.

How did you settle back into family life?

I didn't go out much at all. My parents were a bit scared to let me go out.
On my 5th birthday there was a boy living across the road and my mother invited him in and I got quite friendly with him afterwards and that's what broke it, getting friendly with him, he was a year older than me.

I started school soon afterwards. I hadn't been to school before and I settled down very well.

What effect did Craig-y-nos have on you?
I don’t think it had any. I seem to have taken it all in my stride.It didn't seem to have worried me all that much.

The one concern I had was when my mother failed to turn up for a couple of months to visit.
Nobody explained why. That's the one bad memory I have.

Family history

My father was married twice. His first wife died of TB at 28 years of age leaving him with two children. My elder sister had TB when she was 12 years of age and she was in another sanatorium.

My cousin living next door died of meningitis and I know people who had scarlet fever and being very ill and some died.

Haydn Harris was interviewed by Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation.

This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Streptomycin - Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian

Ever wondered about the origin of streptomycin in this country?

Dr Carole Reeves Outreach Historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London has just interviewed a woman who was one of the first to receive streptomycin in Craig-y-nos.
She says:

" I was able to tell her that in 1948 she was almost certainly on the MRC controlled trial for streptomycin. The post-war British Government only had enough resources to buy a small batch of streptomycin from America so had to make a decision as to who received it. The recipients were randomly selected - hence the first ever randomly controlled clinical drug trial. Some, like Barbara, received it, whilst others received a placebo. I told her about this - she had no idea (although she has a small picture of Selman Waksman, the discoverer of streptomycin, which she brought back from the US years ago), and I think felt relieved that it wasn't her fault she survived. I told her that, in fact, there was a huge black market for the drug. George Orwell, who was in a sanatorium in Scotland (Scotland wasn't included in the drug trial) obtained black market streptomycin but had such bad side effects that he stopped taking it. He gave the remains of his supply to treat two women who survived although of course he died.

Another Dr Huppert story...

I have just heard a passable imitation of Dr Huppert on the phone!

During my interview with Gaynor Morgan who entered Craig-y-nos as a 5 year old in 1954 I ask her if she remembers the Austrian woman doctor.

She roars with laughter.
“The nurses used to stand me on a chair to do an imitation of Dr Huppert!”
She gives a demonstration.

It’s uncanny. It’s 50 years or more since I heard the deep guttural voice of Dr Huppert in her broken English admonishing children: “you must not do must not do that..”

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Some Adelina Patti ghost stories

I make no apologies for adding these ghost stories to my history of Craig-y-nos as a TB sanatorium for children because the aura of Patti was with us every day we were there. She was an invisible, benign presence.

The child soloist
Eleven year old Anne Davies was a patient in Craig-y-nos in 1928 . She loved to sing and she had a good voice. She was in the choir.
In those days the children gave concerts for the parents and staff.

On this occasion she was also standing in for the soloist. On the night of the concert the girl who should have sang was suddenly taken ill and Anne had to step into the role.

She was standing in the wings feeling very nervous when she became aware of somebody standing alongside her.
She turned and saw this woman in a Victorian dress with her hair in a bun and a bustle at her back.
The woman said:”You will be all right.”
She kept telling her this, offering words of encouragement and Anne stepped forward and sang as she had never sung before.
She went back to thank the woman but she had disappeared.

(Source of story: Haydn Harris, ex -patient).

Haydn adds:”Anne used to belong to the same Writers Circle that I did in Swansea. She was 83.
We urged her to write it down as a short story, to make it a bit more dramatic. But she refused. She would say:”That is how it happened. That is my story. it is true.”

The clock tower

Doug Phillips was employed as a maintenance engineer at Craig-y-nos and he was the least likely person to experience anything out of the ordinary but he did on one occasion.

He went up into the clock tower to wind the clock up and he became aware of a presence behind him . He looked down at the floor and he saw these scalloped edge of a dress and as he raised his eyes up the figure disappeared.

(Source : Cynthia Mullan of The Sleeping Giant Foundation )

Victorian Ladies
"I looked out of the window one summer evening and saw three ladies dressed in Victorian clothes with big bustles walking in the grounds. It didn't bother me. I just went back to sleep," said Gaynor Jones ( nee Morgan) who was a 5 year old patient in Craig-y-nos at the time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Valerie, balcony boss -1953/54

Valerie with unknown girl on Castle roof.

It was Valerie, the balcony boss, I had a fight with which resulted in a permanent small mark in my right eye.
Opticians still pause thoughtfully when they examine it and ask how long I have had it. When I tell them they say:”Oh that’s all right,” and move on.

I remember that fight.
Towards the end of my stay at Craig-y-nos I had become something of a “street fighter”, while lacking the physical strength of the older girls I had developed a neat way of scratching, biting and pinching.

Valerie, a big tough teenager, claimed I was stirring the younger girls up in rebellion against her authority, something I strenuously denied though there might have been some truth in it because we were all afraid of her.

She grabbed a pillow , pushed me down in the bed and jammed it hard in what she thought was my mouth but was in fact my eye.

( Years later I was to become a trade union official in Glasgow, a campaigner on environmental issues, and founder member of Falkirk Women's Aid...maybe it all started with a deep sense of injustice in Craig-y-nos - thanks to Valerie!)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sylvia Cottle (nee Price) 1952-53, age 20, feeding swans

This is another photograph from Sylvia's vast collection and shows the beautiful grounds and lake of Craig-y-nos Castle.

Christmas carols on hospital radio?

Have had an e-mail from Mary Sutton-Coulson, one of Dr Ivor Williams daughters, who was growing up at Craig-y-nos at the same time as us.

"The young doctor in Sylvia’s album was Dr Mulhall. 

Also my pet badger that Sylvia was holding was called Bonzo and I used to take him out for walks on a lead!! He lived in our stable for a year or more before we managed to persuade him to go back to the wild.

  Regarding Harry Secombe, I definitely remember him doing at least one pantomime in the Adelina Patti theatre and having tea with Matron Knox Thomas whilst sitting on his knee!!

Do any of the patients remember my sister and I singing Christmas carols over the internal radio on Christmas morning?  "

What happened to Sully hospital?

Just got this reply from Carol Hughes:

"Sully is still there . It is closed now at one time it was used for the mentally ill  then that closed there was talk of placing  refugees  there but nothing came of that
So as far as I  know the building is just left a shame it was such a lovely place."

Thank-you Carol for this information.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Peggy Tizzard 1939-41

Photo: "Images of Wales: Around Brecon" by Mike Davies, published in 2000.
Barely visible on the photo are the words:" 104 children in Adelina Patti Hospital"

My name is Catherine Margaret Tizzard but I am known as Peggy.
I was born on July 21 1936. I was living in Crofty when I was admitted to Craig-y-nos as a 3 years old.

Arrival in hospital
“I was told I was going on holiday and wore a red coat and a red beret. Then they left me in a cot with lots of other children. I can remember crying quite a lot when I was put into this cot but after that the nurses were very kind so I settled quite all right.

Every morning I had injections. Later I was told that they were gold and sulphur injections.

The rules were strict. There were certain areas you couldn't go to.

You were not allowed to go downstairs and you were not allowed to go into the kitchen and obviously you were not allowed to go outside.

Would you be punished if you broke any of those rules?
Yes, when I was allowed out of bed I decided I would go walkabout and I went outside and they found me by the lake.
I was sitting in this wooden building throwing sticks at the swans and ducks.
They had a big search party for me. When they found me they took me back and tied me to the bed.
I was put into a canvas sort of contraption.

I remember that experience.

Were you ever cold?
Yes I was cold and I was told that if you are cold just pull the blankets up around you and snuggle down under the blankets. And that was it.

How did visitors cope with the cold?
Well, when my mother came she used to keep her coat on.

Can you describe your daily meals?
I can remember having chips and porridge. The smell of porridge today I just cant stand because they used to put syrup on the porridge and it brings back so many horrible memories of the food.

Did you have anything special at Christmas time?
I cant remember Christmas at all. Just one day seemed like another day.

Once I was given a balloon but whether that was for my birthday or Christmas I don’t know.

Can you recall going to the Adelina Patti theatre?

Yes when I was allowed out of bed one of the nurses wrapped me in a blanket and sat me in the theatre and I can remember sitting there looking at the picture of Madam Patti and thinking how lovely she was and then suddenly a woman picked me up and cuddled me and I started to cry because this person was a stranger and I didn't realise that person knew me but I didn't know her.

She was from my village.

Did you make any friends amongst the children?
No because we were in cots so we had very little contact with each other. I can vaguely remember some of the children sitting there playing with pieces of paper but other than that nothing. We were not allowed soft toys because they would have to be fumigated .

Were you moved into the women's ward?

Yes , after a while I was taken upstairs into the women’s ward. I was the only child there and was spoilt rotten.

Did you ever see other children?
No, except once when Dr Jarman brought his son in who was the same age as myself and we spent time rolling this thing, like a round ball, down the stairs. Eventually Dr Jarman came back and he picked it up. He said it was an orange and he peeled it and we ate it.
It was the first orange I had ever seen.

Can you remember any members of staff?
Yes I can remember Sister Morgan who I used to follow around once I was allowed out of bed. She was my favourite. She was so kind.
Also Dr Doughty and Dr Jarman. Dr Doughty went to war and when he came back on a visit he walked into the ward and saw me and picked me up and carried me around the ward which he used to do before he went away.

A special bus came up from Swansea and waited for the visitors and took them back again.

Were they allowed to bring you anything?
No, we were not allowed to receive anything but on one occasion my mother brought in chocolate biscuits that the villagers had collected coupons for me to have because it was wartime and she fed me the chocolate biscuits and I was promptly sick

Do you remember any upsetting moments during your stay at Craig-y-nos?
No...other than when my father was leaving and I didn't know he was being sent home to die.

I was wrapped in a blanket and carried downstairs.

He hugged me and I cried because he was walking away and I didn't know that he was going home to die and I wanted to go with him wherever he was going and he gave me a book which I was not allowed to keep because of the risk of infection.
So that was the last gift from my father.

How did you pass your time?
My local teacher sent in a slate and a piece of chalk .
Then I was allowed some bricks and they had pictures on four sides and I played with them quite a lot.

I was able to bring them home. I passed them on to my nieces and nephews and now their children.

What can you remember about going home?
I had never been outside for two years so when my mother came to take me home she forgot to bring shoes. I always wore slippers. So I got on the bus to go home to Swansea wearing slippers.
I found it difficult because the house was full of people, strangers, obviously they were neighbours but I didn’t recognise them. They were waiting to welcome me home.
But my father wasn't there.
So I took my teddy bear and went upstairs to bed.

What effect did the stay in Craig-y-nos have on your life?
I think it has made me appreciate other people, also tolerance, and I can enjoy my own company.

Peggy Tizzard was interviewed by Maureen Mountford, volunteer oral historian at The Sleeping Giant Foundation.

Additional research Ann Shaw:
Peggy became a nurse then a teacher.
She recalls being told by her headmaster that she was “too dull” to take the 11 plus.
Later she got an opportunity to go to grammar school but she was interviewed in Welsh and she was so nervous she replied in English.

She left school at 15 and became a nursery nurse. She suffered a relapse and decided to go into teaching. She went to Trinity College Carmarthen and after that took a diploma in education from the University of Swansea.

This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unknown Nurse - 1952-53

Can anyone put a name to this nurse? I am not sure of her exact status from the uniform she is wearing.

Orderlies/cleaners wore pink and white striped pink garments.

(Photo from Sylvia Cottle’s collection ).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Christine Perry (nee Bennett) 1954-57

Christine has just e-mailed me the following information:

"The young doctor was Dr. Mulhall and he was so handsome that he was worshipped!!
He didn't reside at APH but came down one day a week from Brecon ( probably Talgarth).
He accompanied Dr. Williams & Dr. Huppert on their rounds and had lunch with them.

I've revisited Ward 2 recently, and I reckon that 20 beds was about the number but, you're right, when you say, looking at it now, it seems hard to believe that such a room could hold that number of beds but it did!! The beds must have been small and close together at the time but it couldn't have been significant to us.

(Re Christine's photographic album from Craig-y-nos)
"... before long, you should start to get to see my two albums containing three and a half years worth of a very happy period in my life. "

Octogenarians re-union!

Heard yesterday from a relative of Caroline Boyce (nee Havard) that a group of octogenarians who were in Craig-y-nos together and live in the Brecon/Sennybridge area had recently met up for a lunch-time reunion.

Suddenly people are beginning to meet and talk about their childhood experiences in the Adelina Patti Hospital.

September Patients Reunion and Photographic Exhibition

Date for your diary

To coincide with the opening of an exhibition of photographs of life inside Craig-y-nos as a childrens TB sanatorium a Sunday lunchtime reunion will take place at the Castle on September 9th.

The exhibition will be held in The Welfare Hall, Ystradglyais from Friday September 7th to Sunday September 23.

More details to follow. Meanwhile keep this date free if you want to meet up with folk who were in Craig-y-nos with you.

The cost of the set Sunday carvery lunch is £11.95.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Carol Hughes (nee Davies) 1951-53

The Secret Power of Objects

The arrival of Carol's Coronation certificate on e-mail coincided with a review I have just read of Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT, new book"Evocative Objects".

She talks of the secret power of objects we hold dear to unlock memories from the past. This is something that I have become very aware of in my research for this book as a result of the wealth of photographs, most are tiny fragile faded objects that are clearly treasured by their owners, not to mention the autograph albums even one containing a lock of nurses hair held in place with a now rusty pin and birthday cards.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ward 2 - how many children?

I am still trying to establish how many beds there were in Ward 2. My own memory is 16- 18. Others have suggested 14 so I was interested to hear that Rose Hunt thought it was closer to 20.

When I re-visited the derelict childrens ward earlier this year I couldn't believe it would have been possible to get so many beds into that room. I would have estimated 8, maybe ten. Now with the passing of time it does not seem such a vast room after all.

There was an occasion, probably in the winter of 1952/53, when there was only three of us left outside and it began to snow heavily.
That night there was a new young night nurse on duty and it was the first time she had seen the full -blown "fresh air" treatment. She was shocked at the severity of it.
But we didnt mind the snow. In fact we were quite cosy and had built little igloos from tarpaulin over our beds. We revelled in the snow. It added excitement to our lives.

"You poor things! I can't leave you out there!" So she wheeled our beds in. There were only three of us. We had great fun in the ward that night dancing on the table and having races over the beds, jumping easily from one to another throughout the ward.

Next morning Sister Morgan pushed us back outside saying that a bit of snow never harmed anyone.

The proximity of the beds lead to sexual experimentations by the older girls. Night sister once found two kissing behind their locker and they got a fearful row.

Robert on balcony 1952

No information is known about Robert except that the photo was supplied by Sylvia Cottle. She just remembers him as Robert.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The doctors at Craig-y-nos

Dr Ivor Williams

(Unknown) Young doctor at Craig-y-nos

Found these two photographs in Sylvia Cottle’s album. I recognise Dr Ivor Williams but who is the other one?

Let me know if you can put a name to him.

I remember Dr Williams with a particular fondness, not that we saw much of him except once a week on the infamous Wednesday morning “Long Rounds” when we would sit in our chairs, if we were up, or lie motionless in bed with sheets tucked in and lockers immaculate until Dr. Williams and Dr.Huppert escorted by Sister Morgan had completed their weekly morning round.

One day Dr williams tickled me behind my ear. It seemed such a totally unexpected friendly gesture that it stuck in my mind. I was 9 years old.

What do you remember about the doctors? do you have a story to tell? if so email me at:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ann's tadpoles - 1952

Reading Rose Hunt’s account of the staff reminded me that it was the cleaners we turned to for help and advise - anything from the “facts of life” to how to keep tadpoles alive.
The nurses, along with Sister Morgan and Dr Huppert, were regarded as authority figures. They were people to be feared; people who gave out medicine and punishment. The exceptions were Nurse Glenys Davies and "Auntie Maggie".

I remember it was a cleaner who brought in huge Bell jars for me to keep my tadpoles and black slugs, not in the same jar I hasten to add.
( Some of my black slugs went missing and I often wondered what happened to them: did they eat each other? how did they escape? if so where were they? these were worrying times for me with my little collection of living things).

It was the same cleaner, Mavis, I believe she was called, who told me that I needed to collect water from the lake for my tadpoles because they kept dying on me.
I was using tap water.

After that, much to Miss White’s (teacher) annoyance I would be seen wandering through Ward 2 armed with jam jars full of lake water. Once she hit me on the head with a rolled up newspaper as I passed and demanded to know when I was going home.

Sylvia Cottle (nee Price) 1952-53, age 20, with lamb

Sylvia is holding a pet lamb belonging to one of the gardeners.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rose Hunt- 1941-43

(Extract from interview given by Rose Hunt , age 72, of Gorseinon to Cynthia Mullan, oral historian at the Sleeping Giant Foundation.)

Rose was an evacuee who caught TB in Wales.

“ I was 6 year old when I was admitted to Craig-y-nos in 1941.
I didn't settle easily. I came from a very caring family and they were very strict rules in the hospital.
The atmosphere was not conducive to being happy as a child

“There was no treatment. I was kept in bed.

The nights were the worst. I was out on the veranda and I used to be terrified of the noises. There was an owl in the fir tree and foxes that made high pitched noises though I didn't know what they were except that I knew they were not dogs.

I was afraid to go to sleep. That's when people died. Nurses would say:”So -and -so died in her sleep.”

I didn't want to die so I wouldn’t go to sleep.

In the ward it was worse: there you had the groans and moans, coughing and spitting.

How many in Ward 2?
I have thought about this and I have come to the conclusion its about 20.

The beds were so close, separated only by a narrow locker, that if you were upset in the night you could always put your hand out and touch the person in the next bed.

I had an uncle in the Merchant Navy and he was allowed to come in to see me even though it was not visiting and he brought with him a big bunch of bananas. The bananas were cut in half and there were just enough for everyone in the ward to have one. That's why I think there must have been close on 20 beds in there.

Life on the veranda.
I always remember the porridge which had big lumps in it. The other girls would give it to me and I would push it down the drainpipe. One day it rained so heavily the porridge bubbled back up!...
You had to own up who did it otherwise everyone would have suffered. a
And you really did suffer! I had a terrible row.

The ladies who came in from outside who were cleaners were absolutely marvellous! they would bring us comics and sneak in sweets. But the I allowed to say this?...some were bitches. I suppose they had a job to do.
Some of them took great delight in tucking you in so tightly in bed that you couldn't move and you wouldn't dare move anyway.

There was no schooling. This was 1941. I had already learnt to read and write and I found some books there that used to belong to Adelina Patti. One day I said to my mother:”If I ever get out of here I am going to go to this place.” It was a book on Rome. There were other books too on Greece, India and China. I read whatever I could.
Ralph “the books” in Swansea used to give my mother damaged comics to bring in to me.
I wasn't able to start my travels until I was 50.

Visiting“Once my mother missed the bus in Ysterfera and the postman saw her standing there crying. He put her in the back of the van with the mailbags and dropped her off at Craig-y-nos.”


If you made friends all too often the girl would be moved to another ward as she got older or she died.

Rats“One night there was this rat in the ward.
It jumped from the table on to one of the beds and I screamed and screamed.

Life afterwards“Did Craig-y-nos have an effect on me? Definitely! it made me a much stronger person, made me able to stand on my own feet...except I still cant sleep at night and I hate porridge, rats and mice.”

(This interview is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Legs galore!- 1950

Who are these dancing girls?

This photograph was taken in the boathouse adjoining the gardeners shed - much we suspect to the delight of the gardeners! But who are the girls? Their names remain a mystery.

(From the photographic collection of Mari Friend's (nee Jenkins) sister, Llywella, who was a patient at Craig-y-nos but sadly died a few years ago.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Robert Spetti 1952

Sylvia and Robert inside Ward 3

It's rare to get photos taken in any of the wards so a special "thank-you" to Sylvia Cottle for this one of her inside Ward 3 with young Robert Spetti, one of the boys on the balcony.

Says Sylvia:”I shall always remember Robert. He was such a sweet child.”

Friday, June 08, 2007

Boys on the balcony- 1950

Young boys getting the "fresh air" treatment

Photographs of the boys who were in Craig-y-nos are rare so I was delighted to find several in the latest collection of photos I have received from Mari Friend (nee Jenkins) of Cwmavon.

Mari and I were in Craig-y-nos together.

The photos belonged to her sister Llywella Jenkins, who sadly died a few years ago, so its difficult to put names and dates to them.

Llywella was in Craig-y-nos in Ward 3 on the ground floor which led to the boys balcony.

One boy, standing between the two members of staff, appears to be wearing some white contraption on his head and another, sitting semi- naked on the bed, has what looks like a calliper on his leg.

I wonder where these children are today?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sylvia Cottle (nee Price) 1952-53, age 20, with badger

Sylvia with pet badger, Bonzo, belonging Dr Ivor Williams daughter, Mary.

Extract from interview
“It was very cold in Craig-y-nos. My fiancĂ© used to visit me and I shall always remember him sitting there with snowflakes on his shoulder blowing in through the window which of course we were not allowed to close.
I was there for my 21st birthday and my mother brought in a cold chicken for me. The girls in the ward bought me a Toby jug. I still have it.

“There was a little black boy on the balcony. I shall always remember him. There were half a dozen other boys out there too .”

“I had started on strep and bed rest at home but I found that when I got into Craig-y-nos bedrest was very strict.
We had rest hours and silence. You were not allowed to do anything.

I had been there less than a week when I leant out of bed to pick something up off the floor and I got a terrible ticking off from the nurse followed by another from Dr Huppert.
I cried and cried for really upset me.
That's when I learnt that bed rest meant lying absolutely still in the same position.
My bed was put on 18 inch blocks and I had to lie on my side.
It’s amazing what you can still find to do even though you are lying like that. I used to do embroidery .

I had a pneumothorax to collapse the lung but it didnt work so I was sent home to wait for a bed in Morriston.

How did Craig-y-nos compare to other hospitals?
“I was used to ordinary hospitals but Craig-y-nos was so strange! It was so strict unlike anything I had experienced before.
You had to lie perfectly still.

“You accepted things in those days.
You were conditioned to, people didn't protest like they do now.
You did what you were told. They were only doing what they thought was for the best for you.”

I remember Jane a young girl dying. I think the disease was too advanced for the drugs to cure her.

After one year at home I was allowed to marry only I was told: “no children for three years”.

Sylvia went on to have four children and now at 75 years of age she lives in Mumbles, Swansea. She has kept very well all her life.

TB the taboo disease

Having spent the last week in Wales at the Hay Book Festival I took the opportunity to visit family members I had not seen for years.

Mentioned to cousins about the book I am researching on Craig-y-nos and there is surprise.

My sister-in-law’s family who farm just outside Abergavenny, about 15 miles from Ty-Llangenny farm near Crickhowell, had no idea I had spent 4 years as a child in Craig-y-nos Castle with TB.

One asked :” Is that the same as consumption? I mentioned to an aunt about your book and she said that Craig-y-nos was somewhere you were sent if you had “the consumption”. She spoke about it in a hushed whisper, as if it was a place you went to and never came out again.”

Another cousin’s husband had a step mother, a young woman in her early 20’s, who was in Craig-y-nos at the same time as I was, she was there was for several years before being sent home to die on the farm, a lingering death that took six months. Yet it had never been spoken about outside the immediate family. I knew nothing of it.

Another cousin remembers visiting me and standing in the courtyard next to a fountain and waving up at the barred windows on the second floor. She was too young to go inside.

Other cousins had vague memories that I had been been ‘sent away” because I had something that was never talked about, a bit like a child prison for
“being naughty”.

Behind all these stories lies the unspoken taboo: you never talked about TB. It was eluded to in hushed tones, whispered behind hands.

For the first time in our lives we talk about it. Why did this wall of silence exist? was it because of fear, fear that even the very mention of the “white plague” would bring the disease to the house? or was it a sense of shame, of social disgrace?

Not surprising as soon I grew up and had a fistful of certificates I caught the train to Paddington, to London where my past no longer haunted me .

Yesterday I spoke to Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) to thank her for the latest set of photographs she has sent me. I mention to her my visit to Wales and how even now I am remembered as “the sick child”.
She had a similar experience recently when an acquaintance of long ago met up with her and her first words were:”You were the sick child” and Mari thought “Good grief! that was over 50 years ago!”

Carol Hughes (nee Davies) 1951-53

Carol, aged 8 years.

I have just received this email from Carol who was in Craig-y-nos for three years from. She went in as a 5 year old.

“I read your blog often  and some of the comments there I can remember like being given  so much milk to drink .
I wont touch milk in anything now.

I  can remember having restrainers on  and being tied to the bed.
I cant remember why.
  I can remember sneaking onto the roof once in all the time I was there 
I look through the photos but I cant remember any of the girls there even though I would have been there the same time.

I still have my certificate from the Queens coronation even though it is falling apart. We had an old black and white TV that day and Nurse Glenys  Davies watched it with us. I always remember her saying when they showed St Davids church in Neath she said :”Look that is where you are from!”

In 1953 I had a letter from my mother on a Thursday. Glenys Davies gave me the letter  and the letter said my mother would be taking me home on the Tuesday. I can always remember that letter.”

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Astronomy -1953

I think this is the first ever “stunted photo” that I was involved with, an early premonition maybe of a later life in journalism..

Florence and I shared an interest in astronomy and we decided one day to have a photograph taken of ourselves looking at the sky.

After all we had easy access to our material from our beds on the balcony.

The cardboard box Florence is holding contains all our books and sky maps.

We belonged to an astronomy society, a postal club which we had found in the back of the Childens Newspaper and this club would send us information monthly on what to look out for and they would also send diagrams on how to find the releveant stars and planets.

The cupboard at the end of the verandah is where all our school books were kept though neither Florence nor I had the slighest interest in Miss White’s lessons.
We taught ourselves.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

War 1941

It is difficult to gauge the impact of World War 2 on patients in Craig-y-nos though it must have added another level of stress for both patients and family.

This 1941 entry in Agnes Holden’s album is one of rare references to it:”Let’s pray that this dreadful war will soon end and ask God for help for our allies to win.”

Agnes died in 1942 and this album is in the possession of her daughter.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Remember the swans?

We remember the swans.
There were two lakes one on the left of the castle with rowing boats next to the gardeners shed and the other, more secluded in the wood.

When I re-visited Craig-y-nos earlier this year there were still swans, or rather their descendants, on both lakes.

Pictured here is Marian (1954) with Jean