Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reunion- Barbara and Mari- after 50 years!

Mari (left) with Barbara

Barbara O'Connell ( nee Paines) and Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) met up in Swansea for the first time since they left Craig-y-nos as children over fifty years ago.

Says Barbara:"I knew Mari straightaway. She hasn't changed a bit."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Re-union - after 50 years!

Mari (left) with Florence

Barbara (centre) with Jean Shakeshaft (right) and Jean Griffiths ( left )

Barbara Paines ( nee O'Connell) and Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) met up recently for the first time since they left Craig-y-nos over 50 years ago.

Barbara says:"I recognized Mari straightaway. She hasn't changed a bit!"

Now that's a compliment if ever there was one.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A child's letters from Craig-y-nos

Sue Baker from Bath has sent me copies of some letters she wrote to her parents while in Craig-y-nos.

She says she will be 60 on December 27th and she plans to go back to Craig-y-nos for the first time later this month with her family for a meal there.

We wish her luck.

Dulcie Oltersdorf 1948-1949

Some more photos from the collection of Dulcie Oltersdorf who was in Craig-y-nos during the late 1940s.

Unfortuantely we do not have any names.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Book- "Children of Craig-y-nos"

Dr Reeves is working ont the final stages of this book and she will be in discussion with the designer next week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Boxes within boxes- Craig-y-nos

view of the balconies- Craig-y-nos Castle

Dr Carole Reeves

The Casco girls, Utrecht Project organizers. Mieke Van de Voort is second right. Binna Choi (far right) is the Director of Casco

street scene, Utrecht

The Children of Craig-y-nos in Utrecht

Last Thursday, 20 November, I was invited to Utrecht to participate in a project by Dutch artist, Mieke Van de Voort, developed in collaboration with Casco (Office for Art, Design and Theory). The project consisted of a three-day workshop leading up to a ‘game’ in which participants were set on an imaginary island called Orania, which had been stricken with an unidentifiable but deadly epidemic. No one could escape. The participants assumed character roles on the island – there were policemen, doctors, a mayor, as well as ordinary islanders – and had to cope collectively with the state of emergency. Over the three days leading up to the game, participants were given various tools, in the way of knowledge about the history of viruses and pandemics, theories of control and social order, self-organization strategies, notions of community, decision-making and conflict resolution. They then had to use this knowledge to deal with the pandemic and issues arising out of it.

I used the Craig-y-nos example to deal with ideas of quarantine, contamination and isolation. I spoke about how there were different layers of isolation – the location, the castle itself, the wards, the babies from the children, the children from the adults, boys from girls, ward from balcony, patients from families, children from animals, etc. Boxes within boxes was how I described it.

I gave lots of examples of individual experiences based on many of the collected memories, and included a great number of our wonderful images. I had a brilliant and responsive audience of people from all around the world including the Netherlands, Britain, South Africa and South Korea. Everyone was extremely hospitable and I greatly enjoyed my two days in Utrecht. (Dr Carole Reeves)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Boys on balcony - 1950s

boys on the balcony

This photo, taken around 1950 of boys on the balcony, comes from the collection of Mari Friend's (nee Jenkins) sister, Llywella. No names are known except that of Sister Rich.
Let me know if you recognize anyone: annshaw@mac.com

Friday, November 21, 2008

TB killed one person every 2 hours in Scotland - 1948

This alarming statistic - one death from TB every two hours in Scotland- comes from the following web-site -60yearsofnhsscotland.co.uk

which a former colleague of mine on the Glasgow Herald, Chris Holme's, was responsible for setting up.

Chris has written extensively on Dr Crofton, the Edinburgh doctor who pioneered the drug regime that was to successfully treat TB.

Sorry folks this link doesn't seem to be working- just "google": nhs scotland 60 years tb

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Glynne Lowe - and the ventriloquist

the Patti theatre

Six-year-old Glynne Lowe, one of the sick children confined within Craig-y-nos Castle in 1926 clutched his chair with excitement. There on stage of the Adelina Patti theatre, modelled after the Milan opera house, was a special kind of magician - a man by the name of Harry Elston.

He could throw his voice. He could become different people. Magic. Glynne had never seen a ventriloquist before.

And that concert remained etched in his mind, one of the big memories from his time in this isolated institution on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.

By a strange quirk of fate when Glynne grew up he got a job working for Harry Elston, a businessman and part-time entertainer, in Brecon selling tractors and agricultural machinery, a job he held for fifty years.

Yet Glynne never mentioned to Harry that day in Craig-y-nos when his act so enchanted him.

Why not?
“You never talked about TB …" says Glynne now in his 89th year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Edward Telesford - put on a train, age 7, with label around his neck

Just received an email from Edward Telesford:

"Having recently come across the Children of Craig-y-nos Castle website, I'm delighted to see so many anecdotes from former staff and patients.

I don't remember where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated, but I do remember where I was the day World War 2 was declared. I was a patient in Craig-y-nos Castle and I was in the playground when nurses broke the news.

Like many before and after me, I spent time out on the long verandah overlooking a valley with a stream running through it. Occasionally, we'd be taken for walks, crocodile-fashion, and even to this day the smell of bluebells takes me back to those days.

I was later transferred to Highland Moors Convalescent Home where I spent a year or so before being put on a train and sent home alone at the age of seven, with a luggage label round my neck! I arrived safely."

Friday, November 14, 2008

The smell of Craig-y-nos

Ann at home on Ty-Llangenny farm before going into Craig-y-nos

Now the book is almost complete I realise nobody has commented on the smell of Craig-y-nos.

Indeed, even in my own account I make no mention of it though I remember it vividly when father carried me inside Craig-y-nos Castle, a vast ice-cold cave, and I am engulfed by the stench of pine disinfectant.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dr Carole Reeves, Craig-y-nos and Utrecht

Dr Carole Reeves

Dr Reeves has been invited to speak at an international conference in Utrecht next week on "The Children of Craig-y-nos":

"I'm flying to Utrecht next Thursday morning, presenting in the evening, and
returning next day. It's part of a three-day workshop which will include
performance, art, medicine, photography, etc. So 'The Children of
Craig-y-nos' will fit in well with the theme of the dynamic of infectious
disease and its social, political, individual impact."

She adds:
"This is yet another example of the impact of our project on groups worldwide."

Whoever would have thought that our stories about growing up as sick children in Craig-y-nos Castle would have aroused so much interest?

The book, by the way, is almost complete.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Adelina Patti and Craig-y-nos- some little known facts

Patti with her god-daughter on the lake at Craig-y-nos.

Here's some facts I have just discovered:

Did you know that Patti's father and godfather were both professors of music in Madrid? and that her family came originally from Sicily in the south of Italy?

Patti bought Craig-y-nos when she was in her mid or maybe even late 40's. After parties the local lads were invited to come to the castle kitchens with jugs to collect food left over.

Later the castle became a sanatorium and Patti's boudoir was used as a private room for TB patients. This became the Six-Bedder.

During the first year it opened as a sanatorium there were only two members of staff- the matron and Sister Phillips, assisted by
one maid.
Mr Christie was appointed as the first hospital porter and he lived in rooms above the former stables.

( Sources: biography of Patti and a taped interview with Sister Phillips done by her son)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Glyne Lowe - 1920s in Craig-y-nos

Christmas 1928 - Thomas Edward Isaac, centre, blowing a trumpet. Although this photo was taken two years before Glynne was in it gives some flavour of the place.
Is this the Patti theatre or the Glass Conservatory? Both boys have different memories. Can anyone confirm? Glynne thinks it is the Glass Conservatory.

(Both Valerie Brent, a nurse in the 1940s in Craig-y-nos and Glynne Lowe are adamant the above photo is taken in the Glass Conservatory not the Patti theatre- Ann)

I have just spoken to Glynne Lowe, now 88 years of age, who was in Craig-y-nos as a six year old. He used to sell tractors for a living and tells me he often visited my home, Ty-Llangenny Farm, where Dai Price an agricultural contractor, used to keep his equipment. He knows several of my cousins around Brecon too. 'Tis a small world...

Here's his story:

"I made the long journey from Bronllys via Brecon to Craig-y-nos as a six-year-old in 1927. At Pen-y-cae station an ambulance was waiting to take me to the hospital. I have no memory of treatment, apart from lying in bed, though I do remember having red sores on my legs and I still have the marks today. I don’t think my mother came to visit me but cousins from Aberdare did. I have no memories of the food although I recall eating at a table at one end of the ward.

They kept sweets there, and we were given sweets after dinner. I don’t remember being cold - you don’t feel the cold when you’re a kid.

Christmas was a highlight. I remember being entertained in the Adelina Patti theatre by Harold Elston, who was a ventriloquist, and Mr Whitney, a butcher who did conjuring tricks. At the end of the performance there was a big box of sweets thrown to the children. We may have had lessons but not many. I remained at Craig-y-nos for seven months. I didn't like it much. It was a miserable damn place. I was transferred to Talgarth ( … sanatorium) for a further five months where I enjoyed the camaraderie - they were quite a bunch of boys. I sometimes wonder if I really did have TB. I’ve had pernicious anaemia for forty or fifty years and I think my illness might have been a sign of that.

I started work at fourteen as a motor mechanic but after an accident, which smashed my toes, I sold tractors.
In the course of my work I would pass Craig-y-nos and would go into the forecourt to look at the goldfish in the pond.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Texas and T.B.

Patti from Texas tells me that she finds the story of "The Children of Craig-y-nos"

" touching and even a bit intriguing because none of us have had to witness a victim of TB in our life times. We take the funny little test at the doctor's office, get an injection and that's all we really know of it."

I am amazed.
Most people I know in Wales will have known at first hand of a friend, relative or have suffered from TB themselves.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Craig-y-nos and Texas

“The Children of Craig-y-nos” story– of sick children locked up in a remote haunted castle for years- has touched people around the world.

Take this email I got yesterday from Texas:

I am almost ashamed to tell you that I first heard of Craig-y-nos through a book I happened to buy last weekend entitled "Ghosts of the World". I bought it on a lark, as I had been sick and unable to participate in our usual "Haunted House" outings we take during the Halloween season.

Anyway, I happened upon a story about Adelina Patti and her castle. Although it was very brief and vague, it mentioned the ghostly sounds of children giggling and playing in various parts of the castles...remnants of an era when the castle was a hospital for TB patients. Captivated by such an intriguing collection of stories for one castle, I decided to research the castle online. What I found was so much more than I would have ever expected! All the stories and photos of the people, mostly the children, who were treated in this “hospital”, captivated my heart.

More than anything else, I wanted you to know that your story has touched me so that I plan to share this with my friends. It is not a whimsical look at "sick kids in a castle" or even for the rush of telling ghost stories. My parents gave me the special ability to give appreciation to human life and the stories we can gain so much from.

I am so glad I found this story. Thank you for all your hard work to share this almost lost moment in time...and THANK YOU for sharing it in a way that it even reached someone like me...all the way in Houston, Texas, USA.

Most respectfully,

Patti Abbott-French

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who are they? - circa 1950

Can anyone remember the names of these young women? again the possible date is around 1949-52.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Craig-y-nos and Iceland

I guess there can't be many folk around who have lived in Craig-y-nos Castle and Iceland.
But I am one of them. I was four years in Craig-y-nos and one year working in Iceland.
So what's the link between the two? a love of a cold climate.

So, with Iceland in the news every day and images of Reykjavik flashing up on the telly screens most night I am agog.
It is my old stamping ground many years ago and I am eager to see how it has changed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Carol Hughes( Davies ) - 1950s

Carol Hughes (Davies) from Skewen writes on the BBC Mid-Wales web-site:

The nursing staff at craig y nos treated us the best they could but the place was not the best to treat children in the rules were hard to keep i remember the best ones auntie maggie, sister morgan, nurse glenys davies. I was often tied to my bed i can remember once i was on bed rest i called a nurse who was in the ward to say i wanted to go to the toilet she ignored me so i got out of bed ran to the toilet for this the nurse caught me and gave me a good shaking and i had restrainers put on to stop me getting out of bed. I was 6 years old at the time i was also in sully hospital that was like a luxury hotel compared to craig y nos but credit must be given to the young nurses, many people would not come near us. TB was something to fear then i went to the exhibition in swansea museum and i found people wanting to know more because there are no records and they even gave me a hug which is a far cry from the 1950s.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Night-time in Craig-y-nos

The memory of being woken in the early hours of the morning by night sister’s torch flashing in my face, when I was still coughing up blood, came back to me with a jolt as I read through children's accounts of those days.

Many have spoken about waking up in the morning to find the bed next to them empty.

John, then aged 9, recalls:
“Sometimes the person you had been talking to one day was not there the next day just an empty unmade bed! This happened too many times. It was a scary lesson to learn for someone of a tender age.”

Or June, age 4, who woke morning and put her hand out to touch the girl in the next bed on the veranda to find she was not there and Sister Morgan telling her that she had “gone home in the night because she was missing her mother.

Going to sleep was associated with dying in many young minds.
Rosie, age 6 at the time, says:

"I was aware of people dying there. That's why even to this day I don't sleep very well because I was afraid to go to sleep because the nurses used to say oh she died in her sleep. I used to think well I don't want to die and I was afraid to sleep.I was terrified of going to sleep because that is when people died”.

Myfwany, a teenager, added :

“My father's brother died in Craig-y-nos as the clock struck midnight.

Well, when it was my turn to go in this thought was in my mind and every night it was me fighting to stay awake until that clock had struck midnight. And then I could sleep.”

Monday, October 06, 2008

Girls - early 1950's

These are the only names known so far:
top row (right) Norma Pearce
Mari Jenkins ( middle row left) and Barbara Paines ( middle row- right).
Does anyone know the names of the others?

Thats my Mum in the top right - Norma Pearce - Lewis for the last 40 odd years.
Mum really likes knowing additions to this blog.
Well done & Kind Regards

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Adelina Patti theatre, 1901

Dr Carole Reeves found this poem in the archives at the National Library of Wales. It’s not attributed to anyone so perhaps there was a court poet in the castle! The accompanying photograph shows the Patti Theatre at the same date.

From limestone ridge and mountain crest
The landscape seems a vast unrest.
Disturbed the face of Nature shows
The rocky vale where Tawé flows
With leaps and bounds – ‘mid storm and spray
It rushes on its noisy way.
The lofty skyline bounds the scene
With rolling uplands in between
The river’s marge, the hill’s recess
With verdure deck the loveliness.
The stately Black Rock rears its head
Above the river’s rugged bed.
The winter scene more grandeur shows
Than Summer, but when sunshine glows,
The vales with green and gold are fair,
And cool and sweet the mountain air.
Yet Nature in her wildest mood
Can best be read and understood
By force of contrast – look, ‘tis Art
Has played an open-handed part,
And raised amid this glorious space
A lordly house of light and grace –
A gem of art in nature set
That one shall see and ne’er forget,
Upstanding in its stately pride
It dominates the countryside –
A palace in the wilderness,
A feudal keep in modern dress
That Merlin’s magic wand might raise
Had he been living in these days,
Or fairies building in a night
Had brought this beauteous place to light.
And yet enchantment reared the walls,
And filled with luxury its halls.
The power of a voice achieved
More than magician e’er conceived,
And raised a castle high and strong
By aid of music and of song.

(This looks like a poem written by Ethel Rosate-Lunn, former maid to Adelina Patti who became known as the "poetess of the Tawe". I may be wrong. Does anyone know the author? - Ann)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unknown patient- 1950?

This photo comes from the large collection belonging to Mari Friend,( nee Jenkins). It is from her sister's album( now deceased).

Would anyone recognize this woman? We believe it was taken around 1949-51.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sisters Morgan, Outram and Powell

Dr Carole Reeves writes:

By looking in the staff registers and journals of the Welsh National Memorial Association, I’ve managed to fill in some gaps in our knowledge of these three ladies remembered by many ex-patients. All of them would have been born around the turn of the 20th century.

Sister Winnie Morgan first came to Craig-y-nos as a staff nurse on 12 March 1923. She had previously worked at Glan Ely Hospital, another of the Association’s TB sanatoria, near Cardiff, from 1919 to 1921. Her starting salary as a staff nurse was £60 a year, which increased to £70 when she was made a night sister on 1 March 1924.

Sister Ethel Outram was appointed staff nurse to North Wales Sanatorium on 14 November 1921 and became a sister on 1 April 1922. She developed TB and was admitted as a patient shortly afterwards. Although she returned to duty after a few months, she seems to have had sick leave on and off for the next three years. She was a sister at Glan Ely Hospital before transferring to Craig-y-nos in 1930 at a salary of £75 a year. Nurses who’d had TB were welcomed in sanatoria but found it difficult to get jobs in general hospitals. I discovered a number of cases of young student nurses (none relating to Craig-y-nos) who had caught TB and tried unsuccessfully to claim compensation from the Association.

Sister Elizabeth (Bessie) Powell was a student nurse when she was appointed to Pontsarn Hospital, a TB sanatorium in the Brecon Beacons, in 1919. She remained there (promoted to sister in 1927) until going to Craig-y-nos on 1 October 1936.

I have a list of staff appointed to Craig-y-nos during the 1920s so if you think a member of your family might be among them, please let me know.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The bird tamer - "Ann on Blocks"-1957

"Ann on Blocks" feeding blue-tit on balcony.

Ann Peters, ( nee Williams) known as “Ann on Blocks” because her bed was raised on 12-inch blocks, was known as “the bird tamer”.

From her bed on the balcony she would entice robins, blue-tits and sparrows to hop on to her hand by saving crumbs of bread for them.

“They used to come in and sit on my hand.”

Life on the balcony was cold, with the temperatures plummeting below zero in winter yet on clear nights it could be very beautiful:
“We used to watch the Northern Lights from our beds. We had tarpaulins on the bed to keep the snow and rain off. Yet it was very enjoyable. At the time, it didn’t seem as if there was anything wrong or hard about it. We were all in the same position and nobody complained.”

Ann’s father had died of TB at home when she was “ about five years old” and her two brothers and sister had also been in hospital.

Ann says:” One would have it, come home, and then the next one would have it. It seemed to go on forever.”
So, when the time came for her to go into Craig-y-nos she knew partly what to expect.

“I know it might sound silly but it was really enjoyable there. We had visitors every weekend. My father’s sister was in at the same time as me. She was on Ward 1. She died, unfortunately.”

“ I wasn’t allowed to sit up. I was on my back for sixteen months.
I was caught sitting up once by Dr Huppert.
Oh, gosh! She told me that if she caught me doing that again, she’d put me in plaster of Paris so that I couldn’t move. It was for my own good, I know, because I was so ill.
She said that she’d put me in the room next to her so that she could watch me all the time.”
Ann laughs as she tells this story.
“It did stop me sitting up, I can tell you.
Dr Huppert told my mother that when I went in it would be twelve months before they’d even know if I was out of the woods. Those were the words she used.

“Dr Huppert was a lovely person. It’s just that she was so very abrupt. She was nice to me.
As I say, I never felt ill. I used to think, why on earth am I here? I don’t think any of the girls really felt ill.”

After eighteen months Ann was allowed up.

But it is the friendship of the other girls that remains in her memory:
“They were smashing. We had loads of fun there.
Even though I couldn’t sit up and do things, they’d position me where I could watch the telly. (Later I went out on to the balcony). I wasn’t allowed to do anything, only read. The girls would all come around to talk to me.
I started off in the centre of the ward and then I went up near the window, and if I had a mirror in my hand and I held it up I could see who was coming in and out. “

Eventually she was moved into the Six-Bedder, Adelina Patti’s former bedroom
“That was a very posh! It was very hard to get in to there.”

When she was allowed to get dressed she says some of them bought orange trousers.

“I don’t know why.
We could be seen for miles. We couldn’t escape anywhere, with these bright orange trousers on. We used to go over the lake, the boating lake. We’d fall in a couple of times. Then we’d go down, over the bridge to the woods, to the end of the Craig-y-nos mountain. The grounds were lovely.

I remember a Mary Williams. She was at death’s door when she went in. She had a terrible, terrible cough. Every morning they would have to bring her over the bed and thump her back to get rid of what was on her chest.

We had schooling in Craig-y-nos, very elementary stuff.
Someone bought me a typewriter, I don’t know where it came from, and I learned to do shorthand out of a “Teach yourself” book.

“We had a lot of fun. We used to go down to the basement and they had ‘Jimmy the skeleton’ down there.
We used to go down there and frighten the life out of one another.
One of the girls used to have an empty bottle and blow into it so it made an eerie noise. We used to be awful. We’d frighten all the new girls that came in.
I know it’s a terrible thing to do.
We used to have a lot of fun there.”

She remembers settling well into the sanatorium regime:
“No problem at all. It was a very enjoyable stay.”

“And it’s never bothered me to say that I’ve had TB and been in Craig-y-nos.”

To-day Ann, a mother of three in her sixties with four grandchildren, has restricted mobility and gets around with the aid of two sticks.

“I’ve had both hips replaced and has been on sticks for four years.

It has left one leg two inches shorter than the other one. As long as I can get about I’m happy.
It’s painful all the time. It hasn’t stopped hurting from the time I had it done.
But it’s part of me. I don’t notice it too much.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

May Bennett ( nee Snell)- 1955-1956

May Bennett (née Snell) wrote to Dr Carole Reeves:

"I went to see the exhibition in the museum in Swansea yesterday (Tuesday 29 July). It really was like walking back into the past. They conjured up so many memories, both happy and sad. You and Ann have worked very hard to bring back and hold onto a very important chapter in the lives of ‘the inmates of Craig-y-nos’!

I did see my photograph - blushes in embarrassment! (May – we love this picture), and I also recognised myself in another photograph, which I haven’t seen before, with Pat Curry (that was) from Abercwmboi, and one of the orderlies."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

May Bennett ( nee Snell)- 1955-1956

Mary Snell

By the time May Snell, age 13, entered Craig-y-nos in November 1955 the strict sanatorium regime had become more humane , with for example visiting changed from monthly to weekly, due to the successful introduction of antibiotics.
TB was no longer the killer disease though going to Craig-y-nos still aroused fear in peoples minds. Some people still thought:"If you went there you never came out again."

May says:
“Dr Huppert came in one Saturday morning and said, ‘From now on, you’ve all got visiting every weekend.’

But we weren’t sure that our parents would get the message in time for the present weekend. There was a lady in ward 4 engaged to a man from Penclawdd, so I wrote a letter to my parents and asked Nurse Glen if she’d give it to them.
I wrote, ‘Dear Mum and Dad, visiting every weekend starting from today. If you can, come up tomorrow, just jump on the bus.’ I was still in bed then. I remember on the Sunday, the girls by the window used to watch the buses coming up and wait for the Swansea bus to come.
On that Sunday, they said, ‘Here’s the Swansea bus coming!’ One said to me, ‘May, your dad’s there. He’s hanging on the pole and waving!’ My aunt and uncle came as well because Nurse Meikel had told them.

First impression of Craig-y-nos
“I remember looking up at Craig-y-nos Castle and saying to my mother, ‘Are we in the right place? This is a jail!’ -- because of all the bars on the windows. It was a bit of a culture shock.” ( the bars have been removed from the windows because Craig-y-nos Castle is now a hotel )

Despite being put initially on strict bed rest she quickly adapted to the teenage culture inside Ward 2.

’ Some of the girls like Christine Bennett had been there four years, I was lucky really. I was only there for a year but when they’re telling you these things, you think, ‘Oh gosh.’ It was like being in another world. You were in a world of your own, you realised then. You were a bit upset to start with to think you’re not going to see your parents, but you get used to it.”

The visiting tortoise:
“ Astrid’s mum brought a tortoise for her to see one Saturday and my uncle, who was visiting that weekend wrote it up for the local paper.
It said ‘George, the tortoise comes to visit’. It was quite a big piece, a nice piece, and put the hospital in a good light, nothing nasty.

Dr Huppert

Well, the following week, Dr Huppert walked into the ward demanding to know who had done it.

She really went on the rampage. She’d said, ‘Nobody’s going to have visitors until we know.

‘Well,” I said “ I think it’s my uncle that’s done this.’
He had to go and see her the next weekend he came and she wasn’t very nice, she wasn’t very pleased about the tortoise coming in.

Dr Huppert inspired fear not only among the children but their parents too.
“I think all the mothers were terrified of her.
I’ve seen many of them come out in tears. Terrible. I remember once, my hip played me up at one time because I’d had displacement of the hip when I was five, and I was in plaster for a year all down my left leg and up to my chest. Well, they must have given me an X-ray, so she called my mother in to see her and she said, ‘You’re a funny woman, you’re a funny mother because you didn’t tell me about this.’ Well, my mother didn’t. She gave her a list of all my illnesses but that was something she’d forgotten.”
Dr Huppert was also a tough disciplinarian. If she heard children talking after lights out“your bed would be pulled out into the middle of the ward next day as punishment.”

Nurse Glen

But May has fond memories of the nurses:” They were lovely. You had Nurse Glenys Davies and Auntie Mag – Maggie Williams – she was lovely. And Nurse Mair Williams. I remember her doing the Can-Can.”

Auntie Maggie

The only food she can remembers are the burnt sausages, porridge, semonlia and tapioca.
Once a month an aunt would send a little food parcel
“ sweets, a packet of cream crackers, farm butter and a knife.“
Every Saturday my mum would bring me a fish from Belli’s fish and chip shop Swansea it’s not there now, and pickles because I loved pickled vinegar.”
May had visitors every weekend, unlike some of the children.
“Perhaps their parents were too far away or whatever. Well, you shared your visitors. My mum and dad would go and speak to the others, so really I suppose, we were like one big family because I remember Christine’s gran, Mrs Bennett, she was a character. Two of the girls got confirmed there, in the Madame Patti theatre.

The teachers, Miss Thomas and Miss White

Schooling, recalls May, was minimal.
I came from Gowerton Grammar school. They didn’t have all the books in Craig-y-nos. Miss White was the teacher. You didn’t really have lessons like you should. I remember children in maths saying, ‘Can you show me how to do this?’ She’d be the whole lesson doing this. The others then, they didn’t care if they didn’t do anything.

On a Thursday afternoon, we used to have Miss Thomas with music. I remember ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ and ‘Oh for the wings of a dove.”

“I didn’t go back to grammar school. When I went home the following year, the doctor in Grove Place (TB clinic) said, ‘There is no way you can go back to grammar school because it would be too stressful.’ I would have such a lot to catch up on that I wouldn’t be able to do it and I had to be careful. When you come out of a TB hospital, you’ve got to watch and go to bed by certain times and all that. So, I went to Gorseinon Technical College to do a commercial course for two years. I became a shorthand typist.

Like so many other girls May found it a strange experience going back home especially to a small terraced house after the high celings and vast rooms in the castle”
“You really felt as if the ceiling was going to come in on you. Also you
. did miss the company. You missed the routine.

I’d only been away a year but that year felt like ten. You really did feel as if you were on another planet. You were in a different world.
You were allowed to go out into the grounds but only to certain places..
I remember the Ystalyfera Band. I’ve got a photograph of the Band down in the grounds.
We weren’t allowed to go upstairs to the little ones and neither were we allowed to go into the six-bedder.”
Despite this strict segregation some friendships did form.

You used to go down for X-rays every so often and I remember going there once and Mary Cullen from Swansea was there, so we were speaking. She said, ‘Oh, well, I’m next door to you in six-bedder.’ They weren’t allowed to come in to our ward really, and we weren’t allowed to go in there. Of course, they were older and they had visitors every week.
Mary started sending me then some little cakes and things in from the weekend, with a little note saying, ‘From your X-ray pal, Mary.’ I’ve got a photograph of Mary that she gave me and she’s got on the back, ‘From your X-ray pal.”

Sign language.
Like a number of other teenagers around this time May learnt sign language from Joan Nicesro, the deaf and dumb girl. “Her mum lived in a trailer in one of the fields in Gower. She was a traveller’s child.”

May used to put fruit in her pocket for the weekly weigh-in:
“I was very light and Dr Huppert said, ‘Oh, you can’t go home. You’ve got to put weight on.’ I So I put fruit in the pockets of my dressing gown.
But they sussed that out. ‘We don’t think you’re that heavy. Let’s have a look.’

Times change.
“Years ago they would say: ‘You go to Craig-y-nos and you don’t come out.’ I was there in the 50s in the streptomycin era so it was bed-rest and strep.
There was a lot of camaraderie in the ward once you got to know everyone. It was a bit strange to start with because it was quite a big ward and you had people on the balcony as well but you soon got to know them. I think we were all good friends really. There used to be Girl Guides.
you made your own entertainment. You’d sing.

Life after Craig-y-nos
I’m sixty-five now. I’ve got a son of forty-four and a daughter forty-three and four grandchildren.

I did ask, before we got married to see whether everything would be alright to have children and they said, ‘Yes, it’s fine.’

I can’t say that Craig-y-nos harmed my life. I suppose I was one of the lucky ones because I only had a shadow on the lung and it did clear up with the bed-rest and antibiotics.

On going home
I remember leaving a lot of stuff behind, and what I did bring home was fumigated.

On reflection

You just accepted your way of life there because you didn’t know anything else. You were in a place that wasn’t home but you had to make it home.
You’ve got your sad memories but on the whole, it was a happy time.
When you think of it, it was a beautiful place to be in. It was just that when you went there, the first impression was the bars on the windows.

If it wasn’t for Dr Huppert, it would have been like paradise!”

Monday, September 15, 2008

BBC radio programme

If you missed the BBC Wales radio programme in which Roy Harry Betty Thomas and Valerie Brent were interviewed don't worry: the producer is going to send me a copy on CD which I can put on the web.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exhibition finished today!

Whoops! sorry about this but there seems to have been some last minute misunderstanding. Larry Perry and Christine tell me that they went there today at lunch-time to find the staff finishing packing up the exhibition.

Still we have had a very good run and over 700 people have signed the Visitors Book.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Week extension - Swansea exhibition

Valerie Brent tells me that the exhibition has been extended for another week! But it will definitely close by September 15th.
Meanwhile she has been asked if she would put together a mini exhibition of The Children of Craig-y-nos for the annual Book Fair on Sunday October 25th inside the Swansea museum.

The exhibition has proved so popular - over 700 have signed the Visitors Book - that the museum have invited her to have a space in the Book Fair to allow people to have yet another look at this historic photographic record of children's lives inside a TB sanatorium.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Boys with teacher, Miss White

Miss Amy White , teacher, with two boys standing beside the stag, a well-known spot for photographs in the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle. ( Circa 1949-50)

From the collection of Llywella Jenkins

Friday, September 05, 2008

Valerie Brent-Swansea exhibition

A special vote of thanks to Valerie Brent, former nurse at Craigy-nos Castle who regularly sat in on the Swnasea exhibtion every Friday and Saturday and talked to many of the visitors.

This has added greatly to both their understanding and appreciation of the Children of Craig-y-nos photographic exhibition.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Swansea exhibition- ends this weekend

If you have not already visited The Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition in Swansea museum then this week is your last chance.

It closes on Sunday after a very long and highly successful run.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Swansea exhibition- patient and nurse re-unite

Pamela Hamer with Nurse Glenys Davies

Roy Harry with Nurse Glenys Davies

Roy Harry arranged for Nurse Glenys Davies to meet up with Pamela Hamer - first time they had met for over 50 years! they did so at the exhibition in Swansea museum.

Monday, September 01, 2008

BBC Radio Wales - Craig-y-nos

On reflection I realise that the programme yesterday while accurate (a) did not mention the Craig-y-nos project (b) the exhibition in Swansea museum or (c) how BBC online kick-started the project through their community web-site (d) or how the this missing piece of history has only been made possible through the internet and it is an intergenerational project because it is the children and grandchildren who are acting as intermediaries in piecing together the lost 40 years.

The programme was also weak on analysis. While it mentioned Betty Thomas' forced abortion it did not put this into the historical perspective .

However, radio and television are notorious for lifting the research of others without any acknowledgement, so I guess yesterday's programme was par for the course.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Craig-y-nos – BBC Radio Wales

Margaret Blake rang me lunchtime to say that the programme on the history of TB in Wales, which included Craig-y-nos, was being broadcast.

However, I can't get Radio Wales in Scotland so I am going to look for the programme online.

This is the link to it. Hope it works:


Incase you can't find it then search BBC Radio Wales
Past Master Sunday 12.30. BBC Radio Wales.

I have just listened to it and it is excellent.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Off duty nurses at Craig-y-nos, 1923

Dr Carole Reeves writes:
Who are the girls in this photograph from Neath Museum? I collected a list of nurses’ names from the staff registers for the early 1920s – they include Sisters Daisy Carne and Sarah Enoch, Staff Nurses Jessie Richards, Mary Jane Bennett and Olwen Hopkins, probationers Florence Lambert, Dorothy Jefferies, Gladys Russell, Winifred Law, Rachel Morgan, and S J Jones.

The turn round of nurses, particularly probationers, seems to have been fairly rapid but of course girls couldn’t remain at Craig-y-nos if they got married. Many girls liked the idea of nursing to fill in the time between leaving school and marriage. The ‘career’ nurse was a rare breed because it involved a dedication beyond marriage and a family. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the option to do both became accepted. In that decade the contraceptive pill revolutionised women’s lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gastric Lavages and guinea pigs

Dr Carole Reeves writes:

I think I have discovered the origins of this distressing procedure in an article published in the British Medical Journal, 3 March 1934, entitled ‘A note on the study of pulmonary tuberculosis in infants and children’ by G Gregory Kayne.

Kayne is reporting on diagnostic methods that he observed at the Hôpital Hérold in Paris. In order to check for TB you have to catch your germ. The TB germ is called tubercle bacilli. If it’s in the lungs it can usually be coughed up into sputum pots but young children find this very difficult. They cough but then swallow the phlegm. So now for the nasty part. Here’s how Dr Kayne described gastric lavage à la français:

‘The tubercule bacilli are looked for as a routine in a gastric washout. A suitable-sized stomach tube is introduced in the morning before the first feed, and 80 to 100 c.cm. of warm water (with a trace of sodium bicarbonate) allowed to run in by holding the container about two feet above the child’s head; the gastric contents are then siphoned out by lowering the vessel …Armand-Delille and Lestacquoy (the French docs) claim eminently satisfactory results from this method, and consider it no more inconvenient to the child than swabbing the back of the pharynx (nose cavity) after a cough, or removing a small piece of mucus during a laryngeal (throat) examination.’ The gastric washout was usually sent to the laboratory to be injected into guinea pigs to see whether they developed TB.

By 1944 it was a very routine procedure at Craig-y-nos. In that year 82 children had a total of 169 gastric lavages. Of the 82 children, TB germs were found in 33, and the Welsh National Memorial Association had its own guinea pig breeding laboratory.

With hindsight, it’s a very traumatic procedure as most of the children who experienced it testify. Many can still recall the smell of the red rubber tubing. So how could medical staff appear so callously indifferent to the children’s obvious distress? Children who lived through the 1930s will often recall having their tonsils out with no anaesthetic – another common procedure. It was believed that children didn’t feel pain to the same extent as adults and that they would forget more easily. In the case of gastric lavage, the end justified the means. It was the best way to catch germs from kids who couldn’t cough.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Swansea exhibition

Nurse Glenys Davies

Great news! the exhibition has been extended to the end of September. So plenty of time for those who have not been there to go and see it.

Pamela Hamer with her husband

Nurse Glenys Davies went last week and she remembers Pamela Hamer. They had quite a chat.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Carol Hughes (née Davies). 1951-54, age 5

Carole in Ward 2

“If I won the Lottery I would buy Craig-y-nos and pull it down” - Carol

Carol was the first of the ex-patients to return to Craig-y-nos. Roy Harry followed, then myself.
Shortly after my visit I received an email from Carol and we began a lengthy email friendship in which she suggested I write a book about our time there.

I dismissed the idea. But she had planted the seed. Another year followed and another visit to Craig-y-nos before I finally made the decision to begin the search for “The Lost Children of Craig-y-nos”.

Carol's return to Craig-y-nos

“I was the first of the ex-patients to go back.
They offered me a meal and a room. They treated me like royalty, but I had to turn everything down because I couldn't eat there. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
During the sanatorium period they made it important that you had to eat. (You had to do this and you had to do that. It puts you off, and even now there's things I won't eat. Carrots are top of my list! )
Thinking back, it wasn't suitable for children, and when I went back to visit, I couldn't face up to it.

Afterwards I got a phone call from Craig-y-nos to say another patient had turned up and they gave me Ann Shaw's email address.

Someone there was thinking of writing a book and I said to Ann, 'Look, you should do it because after all, we were the ones who suffered.'

Childhood in Craig-y-nos
I was five when I went in and about eight and a half when I came out, but I did leave there in 1952 for three months. I went to Sully, I had a lobectomy and I went back to Craig-y-nos.

They were strict, very strict.
I was one of these hyperactive kids and I was always in trouble. I got tied to the bed and I used to wander. Well, a lot of children did, when they could get out of bed they went in the grounds but I wouldn't, I'd wander round the cellars. I was a terrible child, I think. An awful child.

I remember Staff Nurse Smith. She used to read the Bible to us every Sunday because they were very, very religious.

I was always in and out of hospital from the time I was born. I was kept in hospital after I was born with bronchiectasis. I went from one hospital to another and then they sent me to Sully. It was there they found out that I had TB.

I'd lost so much weight. I think they sent me the first time to Craig-y-nos to die because my mother was crying. But I picked up and they sent me back to Sully to have the lobectomy. I had a relapse in 1957 and sent back to Sully. I didn't know I was ill. We never knew we were ill. Don't ask me why we thought we were there but we didn't know we were ill.

Children dying
I can remember the girls dying, and I asked Sister Morgan, 'Where has she gone?' 'She's gone home because she's too naughty to stay here.'

The longer we were there; we began to put two and two together. That they'd actually died, but there were a lot of lies. I don't know whether it would have been better maybe if they'd told us the truth because we knew.

The staff would say: 'they've gone home. They've been so naughty.' I thought, 'Well, how naughty have you got to be,' because I got out of bed and was squeezing toothpaste all over the floor, and they were so clean. The cleaners worked hard, and I was one of these naughty, naughty children, and then I'd get tied to the bed. But if a child hasn't got enough to do, they're going to do things like that.

They used to put the restrainers on you. It was like a harness and they'd tie you to the bed. We were given milk to drink. We were the younger children on the top floor. We were given milk in plastic beakers, and I can remember those now. It was awful.

There were two films shown on TV - when it went from the TB hospital to an old people's hospital in 1959, my mother said to me, 'Come and look at this.' They were showing it closing, and then again when it closed in the 1980s.

Daughter never knew I had TB
My husband said to my daughter, 'Oh, your mother was on TV last night in Craig-y-nos.' Then my daughter found out that I'd been there. She didn't know. I had difficulty when I came out. When you go to school, I could only go for half a day, and they'd say, 'Oh, you are the girl from the sanatorium,' and because it was TB, they didn't want even children to bother with us. We were singled out. I know that it's not the same now but it was something then.

Family with TB
My father had two cousins, one died in Craig-y-nos in 1937 so my father never came to visit. He wouldn't come there, and in 1939, another cousin died even though her father had bought a smallholding away from everyone. Despite the fresh air and food, this cousin still died. They had their own chickens and goats and grew their own food. They never had to go out, the girl had plenty of fresh air and she still died. So my father didn't have any faith in TB treatments.

I know of a lady who was in Craig-y-nos in the 1920s. I've only just found out. I'm friendly with her son. He's a neighbour of mine. He said that his mother's father, who was a miner, would walk across the Beacons to the hospital to visit her.

Never talked about it
No, I never told anyone I had been in Craig-y-nos. In fact, I was going back and forth to the Neath Chest Clinic, and when I got to be a teenager, my friends would say, 'What are you going there for?' So, I went in and said, 'I don't want to come here any more.' I explained to them why and they said, 'Fine, but if you get any chest problems, tell us.' They said I should go straight away to the clinic, don't leave it.

Letters censored
We got visitors once a month, on a Saturday I think. We were allowed to write home but all the letters were censored. You had to write what they told you, and parcels coming in would be opened. Letters were censored. The only one that wasn't opened was when I was going home. I had a letter on a Thursday and Nurse Glenys Davies gave it to me. She said, 'Can you read this?' I said, 'Of course I can read,' and I opened it. It said, 'Dear Carole, I'm fetching you home Tuesday.' So I had to run after the nurse. I gave her the letter and she said, 'I thought you could read.' I said, 'But I can.' I was reading it alright but I couldn't work out 'going home Tuesday'. I can remember that letter, and the Queen's Coronation. They showed pictures of the country and they showed the Victoria Garden in Neath. One of the nurses said to me, 'Look, that's where you are from.' We were watching an old black and white TV, and I couldn't work out what she was telling me. I'd been home on the odd day or two but I had been in hospital most of the time. But it was in Sully that they found the TB.

Never knew I had a brother
I've got one brother, and I didn't know I had one. When I came out of Craig-y-nos, they were waiting by the fountain in the forecourt with my brother, and my mother said to me, 'This is your brother.' I looked at him, and I didn't know I had a brother.
She said later on that she didn't tell me about him in case I got jealous or something. I don't get on with my brother to this day. It was not knowing about him from the start, I think.

If you did something wrong, they'd pull your bed out in the middle of the ward or take it outside of the door and say, 'Right, you're in disgrace. You just wait till Dr Huppert comes.' Then she'd come. She had a limp and she'd be shouting at us, but she was a good doctor.
Many of us are alive now because of her. Sister Morgan was lovely.

Having children
When I had my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, I couldn't feed her myself. They wouldn't allow it. They thought it would be advisable if I didn't have a lot to do with her handling until she was six weeks old, and of course, that upset me. So when I had my other two daughters, I had them at home. They are alright, they're healthy, but I didn't like the way I was treated then. But they thought they were doing it for the best.

Never asked permission to have children
I never bothered to ask if I could have children. I'd signed myself off at the chest clinic and I had the three children, and they're healthy, and I've got three grandchildren.

I know with Elizabeth I did everything they told me, and at the end they said, 'You know, you can't feed this child yourself and it will be better if you didn't handle her much until she's six weeks old.' I listened to that. So, when I had the other two, I thought, 'This isn't going to happen,' so I had them at home, but they did have to have the vaccination (BCG) at six weeks old.

I had an allergy to streptomycin
because I can remember when I was having Elizabeth they wanted to give me streptomycin for ten days before she was born and ten days after. My mother said, 'You can't do that. She's got an allergy to it.' That's when I found out that I had an allergy, but when I had a relapse in 1957, they gave me about six or seven little pills. Very small pills. I don't know the names of them, but I do know that one could affect your liver. So, every month I'd go for blood tests to make sure that my liver was alright.

I know that I had six or seven little pills, and I know that one pill could make you depressed so they were giving me another pill then to buck me up. I was weaned off one of the pills because I got down to one every other day and then it would be half a week.

But because I didn't know what was going on, it didn't affect me.

I had a friend there, Olwyn Price,
and I don't know what happened to her. We all had a friend each and she was older than me but she was my friend. I went back to visit her after I came out. My mother took me back there, but I never heard what happened to her, whether she's still alive.

Sully and Craig-y-nos
I wasn't too good and I can remember being in a side room and my mother crying on visiting days. I was sleeping. I was out of it, most of the time. The first thing I remember after the lobectomy in Sully was they put me in the big ward and the matron came round and she said, 'How many days to Christmas?' I said, 'It's eighteen days.' From there on in, I was getting on leaps and bounds. They took me down to see their pantomime.

Harry Secombe
In 1953, I was on the stage (Adelina Patti Theatre) with Harry Secombe singing 'Jingle Bells'. That's got to be December '53 because by then I was really on my feet.

Salvation Army
The Salvation Army used to come along to the grounds and play music. They must have thought we were terrible. We were hanging out of the windows through the bars. My mother at first thought it was awful having bars on the windows but then she could see why they had to have them.
My bed was the second one away from the windows, so with the windows open both ends, when the weather turned cold or wet we'd have covers on our beds. The ones nearest the windows would get a soaking (wet). My mother would come in with a coat on, a hot water bottle in her coat, that's how cold it was, and we had to sit there, but we'd got used to it.

There was the old kitchen there, and in the old kitchen there was a big black grate. There was a table and an old Welsh dresser. I'd go in there and play. They never cleaned the grate out. The ash was still there in the grate, and I don't think the hospital were lighting fires there. I thought it was lovely in there, fantastic. It even had one of these big china sinks inside. When it was built they had a tap outside, and that's what they must have used in the beginning. We were only allowed one toy so I had my teddy bear because my grandfather bought it, so everything that I didn't want them to see I'd sneak down there. One of the gardeners used to leave a bit of chocolate for me.

Yes. He'd leave a bit of chocolate there for me, and any food I didn't want I'd put in a carrier bag and take it out and dump it. It was terrible. I would dump it and they thought I'd eaten it because if I didn't eat the food, it would be given back to me. So once you could get out of bed, it was lovely.

I know that at night they'd say that if you didn't go to sleep they'd put you down the cellars with the rats. I didn't mind, it was lovely down there.

Other children used to go down too. They used to go on the roof too. I went up there once and didn't get caught. There was a little door and you'd go up the few stairs to the roof.

Visitors and lockers searched
When visitors came, stuff that they brought had to be handed in to the sister and I had to have my locker searched.

If you'd got something you weren't supposed to have, they'd take it. It was a bit like a prison but they wanted to make sure you ate your food and they could give you a sweet after. I didn't eat my food. When I went back there two years ago, I said, 'What an awful place to have kept children in.'

But it was out of the way and we had to be out of the way.

We had schooling with Mrs Thomas and the thing was you couldn't bunk off from school when you were there. We mainly learned to read.

We used to make flowers out of wax. We used to have wire and you'd have the wax and the warmth of your hands would melt it and you could mould it into shapes of petals. We'd make little flowers. I think the older ones used to do basketwork. I learned to knit, only plain and pearl. I can knit anything now but we only learned plain and pearl. Little squares we used to knit. We had a rest hour in the afternoon.

I hated the rest hour because with some nurses you wouldn't dare move. You had to stay still and that really wasn't fair on children.

Girl dying
I can remember one girl dying there in the night and it frightened the life out of me. I wasn't more than about seven and her bed was opposite mine and she started coughing. When I looked I thought she'd fallen. I noticed blood on her mouth and I shouted. They all started shouting. There were fifteen of us up there, and an orderly came in and took her out, and when we asked Sister Morgan the next morning …

'Where is she?' 'Oh, we've had to send her home. She was naughty.'

The morgue
Then it didn't take me long to find out where the morgue was. The lift would carry them down to the basement, and there was a door going through to the morgue. I don't think I put two and two together what was in there although I knew they were going there.

Blood tests
I had one or two blood tests before I went to Sully.
Dr Huppert did them. I screamed the place down.
There was no getting away from it. You were there and they were there, and what could you do?

I never had a gastric lavage. They'd say when they were doing it and children were coughing, 'Don't cough, don't cough, don't choke.' We'd be watching them. It was really, really cruel.

Little sisters
When I went home and I found out that I had this brother, and my mother was trying to get me to sleep in the night. She said, 'You've got a brother.' I said, 'But I had fifteen sisters there.' We were treated like sisters. That's what we were called. We had each other.

Adjusting to home life
My mother thought she wouldn't have trouble with me when I went home but for all it was, you were safe in Craig-y-nos. When you came out you had all this about being 'the girl from the sanatorium.'
In school I was always 'the girl from the sanatorium.'

They wanted to know why I was only going to school in the mornings. My mother was told, 'only send her in the mornings. She needs to rest in the afternoons.'
Then I started going to school full-time and I ended up back in Sully. It was terrible.

When I left school, my mother wanted me working somewhere in a shop but I said no. I went to a factory to work.
Against the doctors' and my mother's wishes I worked in an aluminium factory and I was happy. I loved it there. Then I got married and I had the children so I stopped work. I loved that job and nobody knew about my past there.

Looking back on Craig-y-nos
We were taught to share, and my mother could never get that out of me because I always did share. If I had one of something I'd share it. We were taught that there.

When I had my three children I realised we weren't naughty in Craig-y-nos. We were just doing what children did. We played.
The cleaners did keep the place spotless there. They had the laundry bins and some of us would sit in there and we'd ride around in them.

Well, to them we were bad children. We were told, 'You are very naughty children.' Looking at children now, no we weren't. We were just looking for things to do.

We were bored.
If you moved in rest hour you would be punished.
and if you had difficulty dropping off to sleep at night you were disciplined for that as well. 'We'll put you down the cellar with the rats.'

I didn't mind it down there. In fact, I took a lot of little bits and pieces down there and I could play. Nobody bothered you.

I used to go out sometimes. Yes, they thought I was outside. We didn't often see any nurses or anything because I went on the roof - only once, but I went up there. I got back down and I wasn't seen. We were left to watch each other. I used to collect daisies for this girl, Olwyn, who I was friendly with and she'd make daisy chains. She couldn't go out.”

To-day Carol is married with three children and three grandchildren. Unfortunately her health isn't too good:
“ I've got COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Well, they said it could be a result of TB. There's a weakness there from when I was small. I get good days and bad days.”

On another return visit
I was there at Craig-y-nos one day and they had all these Tarot card readers and faith healers. This woman was talking about self-healing. They didn't know I'd been there. She said, 'As you know, we've got AIDS now and it's the same thing as TB …' I looked at her and said, 'Oh, my God,' and I walked out the door. That's what they're linking it with now, AIDS and TB. They're two different things.
I felt terrible. I felt awful when I heard that.

After my last visit I looked at the building and thought, 'If I won the Lottery I'd buy that and pull it down.'

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Craig-y-nos – 1950 and no trained Sisters

Sister Rich with staff nurse ( unknown).

These photos, taken during 1949-1950 come from the collection of Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) sister of Llywella Jenkins ( now deceased).

Does anyone know the names of the above staff?
if so email :annshaw@mac.com

Dr Carole Reeves writes:
Hospital inspectors from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales visited Craig-y-nos for the second time on 18 October 1950, having refused its application to be a training school for nurses five years earlier.

Had things improved?

The inspectors noted ‘several improvements’, including handbasins in the wards and crockery sterilisers in the ward kitchens. There were still four wards in the main building but the annexe had been constructed to house 22 women patients. There was in addition an operating theatre, X-ray department, plaster room, light treatment room, dental department, and out-patient facilities.

The number of in-patient beds was 136 of which 132 were occupied by 61 women and 71 children. The Patti Pavilion for 24 women was considered light and airy with modern bathrooms and toilets. However, the babies’ ward in the glass conservatory, which contained 30 cots plus 10 on the verandah, ‘appeared to be overcrowded’.

There were certainly more trained staff in 1950 than in 1945. The matron and 11 of the full-time nurses had qualifications, either State Registered Nurse (SRN) or State Enrolled Assistant Nurse (SEAN), as did the two part-time staff nurses. Interestingly, none of the ward sisters had the higher qualification (SRN). So, Sister Morgan, Sister Outram, Sister Roberts and Sister Powell weren’t really qualified to be in charge at all, except that they’d been in post for so long that their experience probably made up for some (but not all) of their scientific knowledge. Otherwise, why would they believe, as many did, that girl’s long hair had to be cut because it took the strength from their bodies!

Dr Williams and Matron Knox-Thomas said that they were anxious to have State Registered Nurses but there was little or no response to advertisements for staff nurses. In addition, there were 6 nursing assistants. The working day was very long by today’s standards – a day shift was from 7am to 8pm, with only one day off a week; a night shift was 8pm to 7am, with 3 weeks on duty and one week off.

Recommendation: that the children’s wards be provisionally approved for training pupil nurses from Brecon and Radnor providing they didn’t stay longer than 2 months, that they were supervised by State Registered Nurses, and that bedpan and instruments sterilisers were installed. Not much change in five years considering that, in 1948, the National Health Service took over the hospital from the Welsh National Memorial Association.