Friday, August 31, 2007

Welsh speaker needed!

The Welsh speaking BBC Radio Wales were on the phone. Can I find them a fluent Welsh speaker to talk live about Craig-y-nos on Monday morning 10.30am?....the search is on.

Radio and newspapers

I have just had a reporter on the phone wanting some more photographs of Craig-y-nos. This weekly paper has been particularly supportive.

The South Wales Evening Post are carrying a story too.

Now BBC Radio Wales want to do an interview with Dr Reeves and myself next Thursday morning. Explain we will be putting the exhibition up so they are going to see if we can record it on Wednesday instead. Otherwise it will have to be done by phone from The Welfare Hall on Thursday.

Have just finished mounting all the photos for the exhibition - about 60 out of my collection of 600. It was really difficult making the selection.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine

I have just received the brochure from Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian for The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine.

There is a big article on "The Children of Craig-y-nos" in the centre spread along with photographs. Copies of this international medical history brochure will be available both at the Patients Reunion and the photographic exhibition.

It still seems strange that our childhood experiences, of which we never talked for so many years, should suddenly become of major interest- warranting an article in an international medical history journal!

Only yesterday I read one transcript from a former patient who had gone back to Craig-y-nos some 15 years ago to try and find out something about her past only to be told that " we don't talk about that."

New BBC web-site on Craig-y-nos

Just had an email from BBC Wales community web-site. They have set up a new site for the exhibition.
Click on:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Online photographic exhibition -Craig-y-nos

Yes, it's up and running!
Just click on:

Lots of photos, hope folk will recognize themselves. These are just a sample of what will be in the exhibition when it opens in a weeks time in The Welfare Hall, Ystradgylnais on Friday September 7 at 11 a.m

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Barbara Pye - 1945

Barbara Pye was in Craig-y-nos for 18 months in 1945 as a young woman.

She's already done an oral history recording of her memories with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Barbara went on to found Transmedia , a highly successful internet company based in Swansea.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teenagers - 1956

Many girls who were teenagers on the balcony during the mid 1950s look back on this part of their lives with fond nostalgia.

Thanks to the introduction of drugs TB was no longer the killer disease and the atmosphere on the balcony was more relaxed ,unlike the stricter regime imposed in the wards.

Here a group of girls are seen in the grounds with a Shetland pony.
Maybe Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) can tell us a little bit more about the photo. It is one from her vast collection.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Alan Richard -1952-53

Alan just rung me. Yesterday he visited Craig-y-nos for the first time since he left 55 years ago. It was a chance visit because he happened to be taking an American relative on a tour of the Welsh valleys and he decided, on the spur of the moment, to call in at Craig-y-nos as they happened to be passing.

The staff gave him my phone number and told him about the Patients Reunion.

He hopes to make it but first he goes to Las Vegas on Monday morning for his 25th wedding anniversary!

Alan was in Craig-y-nos with his two brothers,Brian, age 65 , a retired baker now living in Bournemouth and Idris, age 70, a retired Civil Servant.

Says Alan:" Both Idris and myself were bailiffs."

He doesn't remember much about his time in hospital and says his older brothers recall much more.
"What I do remember is the Coronation and pointing my coronation mug at the rainbow and it broke later that day. Its the only thing I am superstitious about!"

He has a photo of himself with tarpaulin on his bed. I can't believe my luck! nobody , but nobody has so far in the 600 plus photos I have received has had a photograph taken of themselves with the tarpaulin.
And to-night Alan rings up from Bargoed and says he's got one!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mary Williams - 1955-57

The phone rings. It's The Brecon and Radnor newspaper.
They want to do a “follow up” story on how the appeal in their paper to find Mary Williams resulted in many folk ringing me to say they knew her with Mary herself making contact.

Mary lives in Hereford and will be coming to the Reunion on Sunday September 9th at Craig-y-nos.
Yet another story with a happy ending...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thomas Edward Isaac - 1928

Paula Stretch sent me an amazing photo on e-mail of her grandfather, Thomas Edward Isaac, who was in Craig-y-nos as a child.

He is nearly 90 years of age and he read the article in The Evening Post a few weeks ago about our “Children of Craig-y-nos” book and he thought we might be interested in this picture.

Well, of course we are more than delighted to receive this unique bit of history.

Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, has spoken to him.

She says:
“Thomas is the child blowing the trumpet just to the right of the table. It was taken in the Adelina Patti Theatre which was also at that time used as a ward. It was his ward. He doesn't remember there being any balconies there at that time.”
Thomas is the first to mention that the Adelina Patti theatre was used as a TB ward!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Online photographic exhibition

Imagine my surprise this morning when I pick up the phone from a woman in Wales who rings to say how much she enjoyed looking at the online photographic exhibition :“The Children of Craig-y-nos”.

The site doesn't go “live” until next week and some parts of it are still “under construction”.

But her grandson had found his way into it at 9 am today!

Dr Huppert and the visiting tortoise

(Photo) Dr Huppert

May Bennett’s uncle brought a tortoise in to show the children in Ward 2 while she was a patient there in 1955.

“ He wrote about his visit in the local newspaper and Dr Huppert saw it. She was furious.

" She came in demanding to know who was responsible. She said if nobody owned up the whole ward would be punished. So I admitted it was my uncle.
He was sent for and he got a terrible row from Dr Huppert.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ann Harris - 1944

Following the story in the Brecon and Radnor this week Stephen Parle of Merthry Tydfil contacted me to say that his mother, Ann Harris was in Craig-y-nos as a nine year old in 1944.

He says she talked little about her time there except to say that she was very proud of the fact that she passed her 11+ and attributed this to the daily letter writing to her parents during her year and a half in Craig-y-nos.

He will be going to the photographic exhibition in The Welfare Hall, Ystradgylais of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" when it opens on September 7th.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Christine Bennett -(1954-57)


in clowning mode

..with her grandfather

Christine has very happy memories of her time in Craig-y-nos.

TB and sandbags

It is always interesting to see how other sanatoriums treated patients. Check out this site BBC site:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Women - late 1940s

Some of the young women from the Annexe ( late 1940s).

Do you recognize anyone? if so I would like to hear from you.

(Part of Barbara Pye's collection)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Visiting time Craig-y-nos - 1956

Craig-y-nos Castle courtyard

There was no place for visitors to wait, not even a shelter outside, so if parents brought along other children they had to stand outside for the two hours of visiting like young Wenna, sister of Beryl Rowlands.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dr Huppert and young women - 1947

The white coated figure of Dr Huppert will be a familiar figure to patients who were in Craig-y-nos during the 1940’s and 1950s.

She is seen here with a group of young women from the Annexe.

We have still to find out why Dr Huppert carried out regular blood tests on these young women. So far no medical reason has been found for this procedure.

(Photograph from the collection of Barbara Pye)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More 1920s photos...

These remarkable photographs from the 1920s shows what life was like inside the Adelina Patti hospital.
It is not clear from the small image on the web but it would appear that men and women were nursed in the same ward.
The bottom photograph is inside a womens ward and shows a child clutching a doll (on the left).

(Photos sent in by Phil Lewis, son of the first sister at Craig-y-nos, Sister Margaret Phillips).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Patients Reunion - September 9th

Numbers are growing by the day for this Reunion and we are expecting a good turnout.
We would like to get in touch with Dr Ivor Williams' daughters, Ruth and Mary to invite them along. Mary has been in email contact with us some time ago because she wrote to say that she was both surprised and delighted to learn that her ponies were being ridden by patients while they were away in boarding school.

So if either Mary or Ruth reads this do please contact us. Thank-you!

First matron and sister of Craig-y-nos - 1921

This is the first matron of Craig-y-nos and Sister Margaret Phillips with one young patient.
Both women were responsible for converting the former home of Adelina Patti into a children's TB sanatorium.

Do we know the name of the matron?

(Photograph courtesy of Sister Phillips son Phil Lewis).

Craig-y-nos -1844

An early etching and lithograph of Craig-y-nos in 1844.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beryl Rowlands 1956-57

Beryl Rowlands' email says:

"My mother and I on the balcony in 1957,  Christine Bennet is the girl in the background. Please note the posy of flowers on my cabinet, from our garden at home that day!!!

My mother always brought me flowers usually from our garden, a relatives or a neighbour.  I loved anemones from Swansea market, but there wasn't always money left over for them. 

The journey from home was very long and expensive for my mother, she always brought me little gifts. I now realise it can't have been easy, physically,emotionally or financially for her."

Beryl's Christmas telegram:
"This is a telegram which I received from my father Christmas 1956 when he was on the ship, the British Drummer."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Early Days- Craig-y-nos

Amongst the remarkable collection of photographs I have just received from Phil Lewis, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire are these two.

One shows a bed maybe two, beds that have been wheeled out into the open for the “fresh air” treatment. It has no date except it is most likely to have been from the early 1920’s.

The second photograph (circa 1880) is titled: Old Craig-y-nos Castle.

It contains the following information:” Built circa 1842-43 by Rice Davies Powell, and sold to Morgan Morgan ( my first cousin 3 times removed ) and he sold to Madame Patti who enlarged it.

Phil Lewis is the son of Sister Margaret Phillips who was responsible, along the the matron at the time, for the conversion of Adelina Patti’s home into a T.B. sanatorium in 1920.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Booth brothers John and David - 1954-58

John Booth rang me today after seeing the story in the Brecon and Radnor. Both he and his brother were taken into care from Merthyr Tydfil at the age of 2 years and 4 years and then they went straight into Craig-y-nos where they remained for 4 years.

He remembers being in the Glass Conservatory and the swans on the lake.

Asked about his memory of Dr Huppert he laughed.

"She was a man."

The Booth brothers were eventually adopted by a family in Llangorse and they plan to be at the Reunion on September 9th.

Gareth Dower - late 1940's?

Several people have mentioned to me that Gareth Dower the nephew/cousin of Welsh boxed Dai Dower was in Craig-y-nos with TB and polio. He was from Seven Sisters.

Can anyone confirm this or know anything of his whereabouts to-day?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mary Watkins ( nee Williams) 1955-57

Following my appeal in the Brecon and Radnor Mary rang me this evening. She now lives in Hereford with her family.

Yes she was desperately ill when she was admitted to Craig-y-nos and was not expected to live.
But she was not the first to receive streptomycin. By the mid 1950's the drug was widely used.

She remembers she was kept in the attic at Craig-y-nos for some time before being moved to Sister Morgan's office and eventually moved into Ward 2 and finally out on to the balcony.

She went on to Sully to have part of her lung removed. Mary remembers Christine Bennett and Beryl Rowlands and she plans to be at the Reunion.

First Sister at Craig-y-nos - 1921

Sister Margaret Phillips with child ( circa 1921).This is one of the earliest photographs seen yet of life inside the Adelina Patti Hospital.

It’s amazing what the post brings!

This morning a package arrived form Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire.

It was from Phil Lewis, son of Sister Margaret Phillips, who was responsible, along with matron in the conversion of Adelina Patti’s home into a TB sanatorium.

The family lived in Penwyllt the remote village on the opposite side of the valley to the castle.

One of his memories is standing on rocks and listening to the people singing hymns on the balconies of the hospital across the valley on a Sunday evening.

His mother went back to nursing after the family were of school age and she used to walk down the mountain from Penwyllt to the castle taking the short cut through the Patti grounds and over the bridge to the hospital, even so this was a distance of mile and a quarter over rough terrain.

Then, after her nursing shift was over she had to walk back up the mountain again.

How did his parents meet?
Well, Phil says the local boys used to court Adelina Patti’s maids - there was a shortage of young female company in the area in those days- and after the castle was closed and it became a hospital the lads turned their attention to the young nurses.

His father was one of them.

He remembers hearing stories, whether true or not, that Adelina Patti’s chef used to chase the local lads away with a carving knife.

His mother died, aged 92, some 15 years ago Craig-y-nos which had by this time become a geriatric hospital.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Maureen Powell, age 10, 1942 (Craig-y-nos)

Maureen (“My name is Maureen but I am known as Mary”) rang me this morning after seeing the latest story in the Brecon and Radnor newspaper.

She was in Craig-y-nos as a 10 year old in 1942 for one year:”Then I got moved to Kensington Hospital in St Brides, and I was there for 4 years.”

She was the only child in a roomful of adults at Craig-y-nos and she remembers being wheeled out on to the balcony when it was snowing for the “fresh air” and a having a tarpaulin on her bed and being very cold and crying for her mother to take her home.

She has written a very poignant song about her time there which she has now taught her grandchildren to sing!

She had TB in the neck glands and lung, and had a total of 25 operations ( in both hospitals) which affected her hearing. She remembers the “light treatment” in Kensington Hospital where she had to sit wearing goggles and a bikini.

She recalls the regime as being “very strict” and how the emphasis was on cleanliness and how they were never to touch second hand books.
“To this day I can’t touch a second hand book and I live in Hay-on-Wye - the book town!”

Leaving hospital after 5 years “confined to one room” she says the shock of the outside world caused her to faint in Haverfordwest.

“For five years I had been in my own little world, a secure place, confined to one room and suddenly without any warning I am thrown into this big outside world. The traffic frightened me. I remember fainting in Haverfordwest.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Strange objects in the sky- early 1950’s

Hayden recalls seeing a fox hunt through the grounds of Craig-y-nos in the early 1930’s and being “frightened to death”.

Well, in the early 1950’s we too witnessed an unusual event from Ward 2 balcony.

We weren't frightened. Just marvelled at this strange phenomena.

We were, after all, half prepared for it. Had we not for the past six months or so watched the night sky with growing fascination?

We had no name for what we saw. Yet these mysterious lights had become part of our lives.

I am surprised that so far nobody has mentioned them, perhaps for fear of being ridiculed, or having it dismissed as merely a product of overactive children's imaginations.

Except at least six, maybe even eight girls on the balcony witnessed the event one summer morning along with Miss White, our teacher.

But I jump forward. Lets begin at the beginning of this little story.

We first noticed these strange lights darting around the sky one evening.
It was in an area to the right of the Sleeping Giant mountain, an area which I now know has the quarry and railway station where Adelina Patti had a waiting room built for her convenience.

At first we thought these lights were aeroplanes, except they made no noise and would go backwards or sideways as well as forward.

They appeared at regular intervals, probably every few weeks. We grew accustomed to their presence in the night sky and would point them out to each other on the balcony. We certainly didn't mention it to the staff. They would have laughed at us in disbelief .

I doubt if it was even known within Ward 2 itself for that was a separate community.

Until one day something happened which changed all that. We were having a lesson, I believe it was hygiene, from Miss White, our teacher, and she was standing as usual in the middle of the French doors so that she could talk at the same time to both the girls inside Ward 2 and those of us on the balcony.

I think I was the first to notice this strange large metallic round object, like a giant silver globe hovering around the top of the Sleeping Giant mountain.

“They have come back in daylight!” we whispered excitedly to each other.

The object seem to hang as if suspended above the Sleeping Giant then it disappeared, only to reappear further up the valley towards Brecon.

“Its coming towards us!”
We couldn't contain our excitement and Miss White wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

She followed our gaze. Now it was her turn to be astonished.

We all watched as this silver globe, began travelling down the valley.

Miss White rushed off to get Dr Huppert.

As the object came nearer the castle it emitted a low humming sound. It had some kind of an engine. It did not move in a straight line but rather floated like some giant silver balloon.

We could see no windows in this strange object. As it came within several hundred yards of the castle it began moving away to the left and we lost sight of it.

By the time Dr Huppert arrived it had gone.

I can still see her now leaning over the balcony with a puzzled expression on her face. Neither she nor Miss White could offer an explanation.

We hoped this would be the start of more day time visits and the following week there was a surge of excitement again on the balcony as we heard the low hum of a machine in the distance.
It was not to be. Imagine our disappointment when it turned out to be an helicopter. Now the curious thing is that this was the first time we had ever seen one in the valley. And we never did again.

And the lights in the sky never did return with the same intensity after that daytime visit.

Many years later I learnt that the Brecon Beacons was a “hot spot” for UFOs in the early 1950s.

And when I did my research earlier this year in the Powys Archives I went through Miss White’s log book looking for a reference to this incident.

There was nothing. This is not surprising since her daily log merely noted that either the school was open or that Mrs Thomas was away ill - again!

I can only offer two possible explanations.
The first is that this was some kind of military experiment, after all the army were stationed in the area, except that there is no machine invented that will go vertical, sideways, backwards as well as forward...

The second alternative, far-fetched as it may seem, is that we had witnessed some kind of time travel.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Haydn Beynon - "down the pit"

"I went down the pit
You’ve got to remember the times. It was 1942. I was fourteen when I went in the colliery. When you look back it’s stupid because after two years in sanatoriums… (Craig-y-nos and Highland Moors).

I left school on the Friday and started work in the colliery with my father on the Monday. I can remember my father was a collier for forty-five years , and I can remember him saying that the manager said, ‘He can start but he’ll have to work with you because he’s not very big.’ But, of course, in those days, money was so scarce that mother was glad of me working.

Did they say anything to you about not working down the pit if you’d had TB?

No, they probably wouldn’t know.
I was working underground from fourteen till I was eighteen, and I ended up … where I was working it was wet.
Well, like as if it was raining, you were working underground but the water was coming off the roof and it was raining. And I can remember one Friday, I came home from work – seven till three I think the hours were – I came home soaking wet and I’d had enough of it, and I said to my mother, ‘I’m not working in the colliery any more.’

And her exact words to me were, ‘My handsome boy. Lovely,’ she said, ‘Take them off (working clothes).’

In those days, colliers didn’t have much money but they had a ton of coal every … about six weeks, I think it was, something like that, with the result … I can remember even when I came home from the sanatorium, that I couldn’t stick it (the heat). We had a small living room and the fire would be half way up the chimney.

It was red hot and I’d been used to the fresh air then. So, I came home this Friday, I can remember it distinctly, and I said to my mother, ‘I’ve had enough.’

She said, ‘Strip off,
and I put my working clothes straight on the fire. She helped me. The whole lot, all my clothes, underwear, shoes, the lot went on the fire.

And my father came in. He was comical, a lovely man but blunt.

‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ I had to go down to see the colliery manager. I went down to see him and, ‘Right,’ he said, ‘You know that you’ll be called up for the forces (this would be about 1942).’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ He said, ‘Fill this form up with the reasons for leaving.’

I said, ‘Right,’ so I filled it up and said, ‘All the water leaking and bad air.’ Parts of it were stuffy, you know. And when I took it back, he was out with the pen and whoosh, whoosh, whoosh (deleted all the comments). He said, ‘There’s no bad air in our colliery.’

Within about about a fortnight I was called up.

I went in the Navy. Marvellous, I enjoyed it. I stayed on after (the war ended), only for an extra six or nine months. I stayed on. I was lucky. We travelled to many places, all over the world.

After the navy Haydn worked in the local steel works for more than thirty years.

Haydn Beynon was in conversation wtih Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian,the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London'.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Haydn Beynon, -1931, age 7

Haydn was in Craig-y-nos for twelve months followed by another year in Highland Moors.

"I was one of five children. I was born in Mansell Street (Port Talbot), which I can look out and can see from my window now, literally a hundred yards from where I’m living.
But, at the time that I went to Craig-y-nos, we were living up Taibach in Port Talbot.

We lived halfway up the mountain in one of about a dozen wooden bungalows.

How did you feel about going into Craig-y-nos?
Well, I can’t remember, really. I do know that it was hard work for my parents. My father was a collier, you know, a miner, and getting from Taibach to Craig-y-nos, it took them three or four hours because they had to catch … they had to walk halfway down the mountain first to Taibach, then catch a bus into Port Talbot in the town, then another bus to Neath, and then from there up to Craig-y-nos. And of course it took three or four hours. So, I remember, I only saw them … I was told that visiting was once a month, apparently, so I saw my parents about every two months.

Were your brothers and sisters allowed to visit?
Oh no. My elder brother was two years older than me, and then the next one … my sister, she would be too young, you know. Only my elder brother, who was two years older than me, but he never came. It was too expensive because in those days money was very tight.
Yes, absolutely. All my mum’s family were miners and they were very poor in the thirties.

Have you re-visited Craig-y-nos?
Last Sunday I went with my son. I found the spot where my bed was.
On the wall was a triangle, like a shiny mark, it’s very distinctive, and that was where I knew my bed was.

So when we went there last Sunday, we had a look for this particular spot. We failed to find it at first then my son found it just by chance. It was about twenty feet up the wall because they’d taken down the veranda that we used to sleep on.
That marked the spot where my bed was.

The staff
I can remember, a tall severe-looking Irish woman, Sister O’Gorman.

She frightened the death out of us.

Life on the balcony
Was it cold?
Oh yes!I was looking through the comments by other people who had been patients (Ann’s blog), and all that they said about the snow and the rain blowing in and the heavy canvas sheet on top of the beds – all that is correct.
I can remember sitting up in bed with my pyjamas on and my mother and father with overcoats and scarves and hats on, the snow and the rain coming in, and they’d be shivering, and I’m sitting up in bed and not even feeling it.
Did you have hot water bottles?
You just got used to the cold?
Yes, you didn’t feel it after a while.

What about the food?
One thing that I can remember is the food.
Your daughter-in-law told me about that you have a lifelong hatred of tapioca pudding as a result of having it in Craig-y-nos.

Tapioca and semolina. They used to make me sick, just looking at them, especially tapioca because it was slimy and lumpy and uggghhhh. She probably told you that … I think it was maybe once or twice a week, you had a bonus of about four squares of Cadbury’s chocolate, and I didn’t qualify because if you didn’t eat your afters, you couldn’t have chocolate. I always remember that.

(chat about Hadyn being a rarity because there are so few people who were in Craig-y-nos in the 1930s., so you’re experiences are very rare. That’s why it’s so important.

On Death
I can remember vividly … every few days the curtains would go round a bed and porters would wheel somebody away who had died, you know. It seemed to be … of course I was only a youngster … it seemed that there were lots of people dying at that time.

It seemed to be every other day.

The Fox-hunt
Were you allowed out into the grounds?
Oh yes. I can remember one instance of … a couple of us children were together and we were down towards the beginning of the forest, and a fox and hounds came through there. It frightened us to death. It was a fox hunt

What about treatment?
As far as I know, nothing. It was just fresh air. We were told that the only cure was fresh air.

The Adelina Patti theatre
Did you ever go to the theatre there?
No. Not for entertainment, but I went in there because in those days … perhaps you could tell me, when did it start being a sanatorium?

Well, Adelina Patti, who owned Craig-y-nos, died in 1919, and then I think about 1920 or 1921 it started to become a sanatorium.

I remember going there, it was a beautiful place. It was in beautiful condition, you know, and the theatre, I can remember the theatre. It was absolutely dazzling, you know what I mean? Of course, that was her pride and joy. It was dazzling.

What is it like to-day?
It's neglected, it has been run down … we had a conducted tour by the administration supervisor last Sunday.
She was very good. She took us all round, but apparently the new owners had it for a very cheap price, because of the condition. Some of the rooms we went in, the ceiling had fallen down.

The theatre is listed. but I think the rest of the building is not listed and so therefore they can’t get any government money to restore it.

Some people’s experiences of being in Craig-y-nos were bad and some people’s have been quite good.
What was it like for you?

I can’t say there was anything particularly bad nor good really.

What was the difference between Highland Moors and Craig-y-nos?
Well, there was more … you were encouraged to play … I remember actually playing cricket there, in Highland Moors. I definitely remember playing cricket there.
There were fields there that you could play sport in.

So was it more active at Highland Moors than Craig-y-nos?
Yes, because it was more like convalescent. In Craig-y-nos, I don’t know, it just seemed monotonous, one day after the other.

Had you missed a lot of schooling?
Yes, and I can remember people making fun because I had a posh voice, apparently.
It was different from the local boys there.

When you went back home, did you settle well?
I found it very strange .

What about your family life?
Well, I’m eighty-two and a half now. I got married on December 3, 1949. We were married fifty-five years. My dear wife died two years last month.
I have a boy and a girl…

Edited interview of Haydn Beynon in conversation with Dr. Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

"Shadows of my past" - Pat ( 1945)

Pat, age 9 years.

Pat was in the Glass Conservatory as a 5 year old in 1945 and today she lives in North Yorkshire. This is a poem she has just written about her memory of her time in Craig-y-nos.

"Shadows of my Past" by Patricia O’Byrne

"We were those children that you speak of today,
But why weren’t we spoken of then?

As each of us languished in beds that were cold
Wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Would we be frightened once more of “that tube”
And would our hands be restrained by a nurse?

Would our mothers be there to calm our fears
And support us in our distress?

No! For our mothers had left us a long time ago,
And no-one had understood why.

And as we fought inner conflicts with a spirit so brave
We had dreams without any good-byes.

We knew nothing of happiness, or of love,
And knew nothing of what really was wrong.

We were lost little souls who had been left so alone
Until that monthly visit came along.

The sanatorium is now no more,
The lucky ones are healed and gone,
But the scars that are left will never be healed
For they’ll just go on and on..."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Joan, "deaf and dumb" girl

Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) has sent me the following email:

"I well remember Joan in Ward 2 even though I was an up-patient on the balcony. In order for her communication problem to be eased, Miss White brought in a sign language book in order for us to teach ourselves to sign between lessons. This we, the older girls, all did virtually without exception. I'm sure it gave the younger girl, Joan, a far happier outlook on her short time with us.

It was clear that she came from a more impoverished background than the majority of us. Her mother didn't visit too regularly. It could have been lack of finances but it just seemed to us that she didn't care too much about Joan's predicament. In fact, her behavior must have been rather embarrasing to Joan as when patients' tea time came around, her mother would eat Joan's tea & Joan wouldn't complain.

Joan wasn't in as long as many of us but she was resident over one Christmas. At Christmas, you may remember, relatives would bring/send in presents for their own family member patients & the staff would put them into pillow cases so that they could be left at the foot of each individual's bed on Christmas Eve night. Well, it was clear to us all that Joan wouldn't get many presents brought/sent in so we all contributed from our own cache of presents &, together with the staff, made up a substantial pillow case of presents for Joan so that she didn't feel left out on Christmas morning. I would hazard a guess that it was one of the more memorable Christmases that she had experienced in her short life.

Oddly enough, the signing that I learnt then I still remember & I can still engage/follow a conversation in sign( albiet slowly now!!)."

Girls from 1956

Some months ago Beryl Rowlands asked if any of the following had contacted me since they were all in around 1956 to 1957.

Linda Palmer,Christine Bennett,Ann James, Ann Williams (Ann Blocks) Sylvia Peckham, Mary Thomas, Ann Lewis,Teresa O'Leary,Yvonne Kidner, Anna ?, Pat ?, Francis ? from Monmouth, Jean ? Joan, who was deaf and dumb,

They were all there between 1956 and the end of 1957. There was a family there, I can remember 3 or 4 little sisters from the Annexe Ward, they were called the Bud Family. I have a photo of them. ”

Well, apart from Beryl, only Christine Bennett has so far been in touch. Maybe more will come forward at the Reunion on Sunday September 9th at Craig-y-nos Castle.

Sybil, the travellers child - 1949

Caroline Boyce ( nee Havard) says:

One abiding memory is of Sybil, a child from a travellers' family, being admitted into the ward and her frantic fear and misery as her weeping parents departed.

(Caroline was in the top ward of Ward 2 with the children under 10 years of age).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Deaf and Dumb girl - 1956

Several women have asked if anyone remembers the deaf and dumb girl, Joan Nisefero (?spelling uncertain) from Waunarlwydd, near Swansea.

She was admitted around 1956. She was very upset and they tied her to the bed.

Nobody understood Sign language so they could not communicate to her what was happening.

Later, after she settled in, she was always the first to befriend new patients and she would teach them the Sign language so she had someone to talk to.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The "x-ray man"

Now I have a name for him, the man I had known only as the “x-ray man” thanks to Joan Collins ( nee Coughlan’s) contribution a few days ago.

He’s called Mr Hughes and he came from Swansea to do the x-rays at Craig-y-nos.

My memory of him is not pleasant though I hasten to add through no fault of his, more a case of circumstances and the way it was in those days.

Mr Hughes probably never even gave it a thought except perhaps to comment later in the day, maybe to his wife, that there had been “an incident” with a “difficult” child.

I was that child.

My best friend Rosemary had just gone home and I was told by Sister Morgan that if my x-ray was OK then I too would be going home.

After more than 2 years in Craig-y-nos I positively skipped down to the x-ray dep.

X-rays were a routine feature of life every three months if I remember correctly, this was long before the dangers of radiation became known.

As if on automatic I go through the standard procedure.
“Take your clothes off...stand there...take a deep breath”.

Off to get dressed.

Only this time as I am in the middle of dressing I am told to wait.
A nurse appears with a worried look on her face.

The “x-ray man” stands in the doorway.

“There’s a problem. We need to do more x-rays. We need to do a tomograph. We need deeper x-rays.”

They don't need to spell it out. I know the scene. I’ve got TB again. I've had a relapse.
Back to bed with PAS and injections. No going home.

I cry, I howl in protest. A nurse sits me down in the waiting room. She puts her arm around me.

I refuse to be comforted. The more she hugs and talks to me the worse I get.

The x-ray man says he can’t do the x-rays with the state I am in.

They go into a huddle.
They change tactics.

Its nearly midday. They walk me into the x-ray room and I am told to climb up and lie down on the x-ray machine. It is a tomogram. A blanket is thrown over me.

Nothing is said, or if it is I am too distressed to hear it.
They walk out and close the door.
They go for dinner.

I am alone. For an hour, maybe longer.
I have no memory of time except that I know I am alone in this room full of machines and it’s hard lying on this slab of metal.

My sobbing eventually wears itself out and by
the time they return it’s given way to snivelling broken by the occasional gut wrenching sob. ( to this day the sound of children crying sends a cold chill through me).

The tomograph over I am wheeled back to Ward 2 in a wheelchair. Humiliated.

Many years later I revisit Craig-y-nos.
I am shown the derelict x-ray dep. and I stare at the empty space which once housed the x-ray machines.

My guide, a young girl from the Rhondda valley, interrupts my reverie.

She points to a bricked up door:
“That led straight to the morgue”.

The grotesque horror of the situation finally hits me.
During that hour that I had been left alone in the x-ray department weeping I was in fact not alone .

I had some silent companions only yards away.
Very silent.