Friday, February 29, 2008

"Auntie Maggie's" farewell gift

Ann Gardiner with the "tea for two" china tea service given to "Auntie Maggie" by the inmates of Ward 2 on her retirement.

"Auntie Maggie" (centre) with staff and patients in Ward 2 after it closed as a childrens TB sanatorium and became a hospital for people with chest complaints.

On my recent visit to Wales I called in to see Peter and Ann Gardiner in Ymysmeudwy after they had contacted me to say that they had photographs and memoribilia belonging to "Auntie Maggie". Her son Morgan was a close friend of Peter Gardiner and after his death Peter was asked to "clear the house".

Not knowing what to do with the photographs he has kept them recognizing that they were of historical importance but not quite knowing what to do with them. Well, I can assure him that they are now going to be saved for posterity - as "Auntie Maggie" would have wishes- and they will be put into the Powys Archives in Llandrindod Wells.

Thank you Peter and Ann for being such good guardians of "Auntie Maggie's" photographs.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Glass Conservatory - Craig-y-nos

During a recent visit to Wales I had a walk around the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle ( no, I could not bring myself to go in!) and I noticed that the Glass Conservatory is undergoing major restoration.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Auntie Maggie" with some of the balcony girls

Here's another photograh from "Auntie Maggie'" collection. It shows her with a group of girls ( no names known) on the balcony of Ward 2 around, I would guess, 1956/57.( The balcony has been closed in).

Craig-y-nos Castle- major source of employment

Talking to Ann Lewis from Pen-y-cae this morning confirmed yet again how the lives of this close-knit community at the top of the Swansea Valley were linked with that of the castle.

It provided employment for people from one generation to the next.

Ann' grandfather was a boilerman man, her father the chauffeur, her uncle Edgar Davies the head gardener and her husband Ken worked there as a stoker/boilerman.

Did she ever hear tell of any ghostly happenings in the castle?
"No, never."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ken Lewis-stoker/boilerman, Craig-y-nos

These children from Pen-y-cae school were photographed outside Craig-y-nos Castle in the mid 1940s. They are dressed up as the "Rattle Taddle Gypsies"preparing to take part in concerts in Abercraf and Brecon.
Ken Lewis is the first in the front row on the left.

(from Will Davies book “Now and Then”. )

Ken Lewis, age 80, from Pen-y-cae, was a boilerman/ stoker at Craig-y-nos from 1956-58 before leaving to work in the quarry.

Brian Jones, whose mother nursed at Craig-y-nos suggested I call him ( thank-you Brian !)

Ken recalls the campaign to keep the hospital open after the authorities wanted it closed as a TB sanatorium in 1958. The local community fought the proposed closure because it was the major source of employment in the area. Craig-y-nos remained open until 1986 first as a chest hospital then as a geriatric nursing home.

Ken says they had seven boilers for hot water dotted around the building supplying water to the cast iron radiators.
All the radiators were placed under the open windows.
These radiators were covered with metal grills.

(When Ken said this I instantly recalled those radiators - how I used to sit next to the one between the two French doors on Ward 2 leading on to the balcony practically hugging it trying to keep warm and read at the same time).

After the balconies were closed in they put radiators out there too.

Ken had no recollection of fires in any of the wards though I distinctly remember that on some very rare occasions- extreme low temperatures- Sister Morgan would agree to a small fire being lit in Ward 2. Maybe other wards were not so lucky. Certainly Miss White, the teacher, used to sit in front of it with all thoughts of teaching us forgotten as she too struggled to keep warm.

Ken’s remembers other members of staff:

"Christie the cockney porter. We never had anything to do with the staff who worked in the hospital with the patients. All I know is that he was there in the porters lodge.”
Ken is uncertain of dates: “maybe he was there in the early 1950s...I can’t be sure.”

Victor Davies, the porter

porter Victor Davies another Londoner.
“He was in the army and after demob got a job as a porter at Craig-y-nos”.

David John Richard's, hospital chauffeur:” He was my father-in-law. His job was to take patients to other hospitals. sometimes up to Welshpool or Llandridod Wells. He worked there for 25 years.”

Edgar the head gardner: “ He was my wife’s uncle.”

Dr Williams (right)

Sister Powell:” She was the boss, She was very fussy. She used to curry up to the doctors . Always remember her going into the grounds and picking daffodils and taking them to Dr Williams office and Matron Knox Thomas. She had to pass my window. No, never to the children wards.”

Matron Knox Thomas :
“She was born and buried in Kendal. Once a few of us went on a holiday and we called in at Kendal to see the house where Matron Knox thomas was born and the place where she was buried.

At Christmas time Matron Knox thomas used to roll her sleeves up and get in the kitchen to to make the Christmas pudding for the whole hospital. She made all the male staff give 6d each to put in the pudding.”

Dr Huppert:”I used to take her shopping to Brecon. She was very abrupt and hard, the children didn't like her. She used to smoke like a trooper.”

He recalls Craig-y-nos as :“ one big happy family. We all worked together. I enjoyed working there and there are lots of happy memories. I wish I had stayed instead of going into the quarry.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gwanwyn Evans- first lady mayor of Brecon

Eighty-seven year old Gwanwyn Evans from Abersycir near Brecon rang to say she has found some photos of herself and will send them on to me.

She was in Craig-y-nos for four months with a TB jaw in 1931 as a ten year old and recalls those early days as "clear as a bell".
She remembers the "Sun-ray room ... sitting around in nothing but calico pants and singing".

In later life Gwanwyn became active politically and was the first Lady Mayor of Brecon Borough from 1980/81.

She has just had a hip replacement and is relieved to be back driving and mobile again.

Doug Herbert - Antartica

Swansea accountant Doug Herbert, with his wife, arriving at the Patients Reunion last September in Craig-y-nos.

Receive an email from Doug Herbert
( see yesterday’s blog) on holiday in the Antartica. He is unable to open the link to the podcast. ( Technical problems amongst the ice-fields).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Podcast: A child's story - life inside Craig-y-nos Castle, a childrens TB sanatorium

Douglas Herbert (1945-48) tells -

-of learning to walk again,

-punished by Dr Huppert - sent back to bed for two weeks because he got out of bed to pick up a paper aeroplane

-being force-fed cabbage until he vomited

-death of his close friend Andrew.

(Length of podcast: 3 minutes)

Delyth Morris

The girl in yesterday's photo between Auntie Maggie and Christine is Delyth Morris.
This information has just arrived on email from Larry Perry, Christine's husband:

"Christine says that this is Delyth Morris from Ystradgynlais. She bumped into her a good few years back in the city centre and they had a chat. She was well, living locally (up the Valley) and married with children.
A nice, quiet, reserved girl.

She came into APH after Christine and went out before her. Same old story-no change there!!!

I have noticed that "Auntie Maggie's" dress uniform is always absolutely-immaculately starched and ironed in all pics of her.

Incidentally, Christine says that the dress she's wearing was her favourite. She really liked the flower pattern and she has no photos of herself with it on so she's pleased that she's seen it again. It brings back fond memories for her. Liking to look nice as a teenager is something she had to develop for herself being there since the age of 12 with no parental influence. Something many girls there must have had to deal with, I suppose. After all, you just couldn't pop into town with your mother to select a dress, could you? "

You are dead right Larry! There was no "popping into town" for a bit of retail therapy. Once inside the castle you did not cross the threshold again for years- four in my case.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Auntie Maggie" on Ward 2 balcony- mid 1950s

Looking through "Auntie Maggie's" photos I am struck by the fact she is more often than not photographed touching/holding patients. This was most unusual because staff were told not to have physical contact with patients because of the fear of infection.

The balcony had been closed in by the mid 1950s- result of parents campaigning that they were cold- but the regime continued with the newly installed glass windows kept wide open.

This is another photo from "Auntie Maggie's" collection and shows her with Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) on the left.( Girl in the centre unknown.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Zealand - ex TB patient

While going through my research ( yes I have finally started to write up!) I came across this email from New Zealand:

"When and where can I purchase your book?

I live in Flagstaff, AZ, US, which was at one time considered a “san in itself” by lungers. (It still is by those suffering from certain lung diseases. I speak from experience.)   I read the BBC article about The Children of Craig-y-nos Exhibition and went directly to this website... I’m blown away!!! This history is so important — and nearly lost and yet, inclusive. I was so deeply touched.

PLEASE keep the exhibit up online. It’s so valuable!!!

Kayla Rigney"

Remember the tubes? - 1940's story

Received an email from Pamela Hamer( nee Osmond) who was in CYN as a 7 year old in the 1940s ( the girl who woke to find a rat in her bed) who reminded us , if you were really unlucky, that tubes were put in both ends - down the throat and for enemas.


"Auntie Maggie's" collection - 1950s

"Aunti Maggie" giving a hug to a young woman ( name unknown).

I must confess that going through "Auntie Maggie's " photos I did wonder if I would find any of myself with her. After all I have many in my own album.

However, I noticed that in this photo both Joan ( plaster bed patient) and myself are visible in the background. I am wearing one of my big ribbons in my hair.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Auntie Maggie's" photographic collection

I am deeply grateful to Peter and Ann Gardiner for allowing us to have "Auntie Maggie's'" unique collection of photos from Craig-y-nos . While a number do duplicate some we already have, her photos are in a much better state of preservation.

Few have names on them so, once again, I am going to be relying on peoples memories.
Does anyone recognize this child?

All these photos, along with others donated to the project, will eventually go into the Powys Archives.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brecon Library-"The fallen picture"

"Have you had any problems with the exhibition?" I ask Janet Holmes, librarian at Brecon Library.

"No, it's been fine, except..."


"Well, every morning when I came in, and I am the first one in, there has been one picture on the floor. Every day."

"In the same position?"

"Yes, there was one morning when the picture was at right angles to where it had fallen off the wall. But still upright."

We joke about the Adelina Patti ghost.

"I have been 'Pattied' ", added Janet laughing.

There must be a scientific explanation though at present we are at a loss to think what that can be.

Er....if you have problems running this video clip you are not alone. It has been "jinxed". Will try and upload it again.

Dismantling the Brecon exhibition

Valerie tapes up the photographs helped by Malcolm Shaw ( left) and Roy Harry.

Malcolm and Valerie discuss the logistics of dismantling the exhibition while Roy has a last minute look.

Roy alongside a portrait of himself shortly after he came out of Craig-y-nos in 1946.

( P.S. Wondering where I am ? I take the photos...")

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Visitors Book. Brecon Library

Here are some of the comments from the Visitors Book in Brecon library during the two month photographic exhibition of the “Childen of Craig-y-nos”.

“emotional and sad” -Rogan and Frances Smith, Llanfaes, Brecon.

“very interesting” W. Howells, Brecon.

“Patient in 1958” A. Gore. Llangorse, Brecon.

“Quite sad. Excellent record.” Sue Snode (?) Defnnog.

“Excellent” Regina Errington, Velindre.

“Wonderful exhibition” School (30 pupils.) Brecon

“Patient from 1954-55) Peggy Jones, Pontardulais, Swansea.

“ A lovely exhibition which is very interesting. All the pupils enjoyed and learnt a lot from it.”St Joseph’s RC Primary school, Brecon.

“ Pupil of Talgarth school in 1950s when a number of children were admitted to Craig-y-nos.” Alun Morgan, Brecon.

“I was in a sanatorium in Hertfordshire as a child so found this exhibition very interesting. It brought back so many memories . The regime was exactly the same.” M.Farley, Bwlch.

“Moving - those poor children.” Barbara Lloyd, Powys.

“Excellent. captures the atmosphere very well.” Jon Davies, Libanus, Brecon.
“Intriguing” Alban Dunn, Brecon.

“Former patient, 1948-50. Many memories.” Caroline Boyce (nee Havard). Clackmannanshire, Central Scotland.

“Wonderful memories of Craig-y-nos” Bethann Channing, Brecon.

“Brought back my childhood memories of living at Craig-y-nos” Mary Sutton-Coulson (daughter of Dr Ivor Williams, medical superintendent). Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.

“Mixed memories of CYN” Joan Wotton (nee Thomas),Baglan, Port Talbot.

“ Success story- My sister-in-law spent 1953/54 and is still alive aged 89 years and still has her wits about her.” D. James, Brecon.

“My aunt, Mary thomas Bernier, the Blue Bear Brecon, died in Craig-y-nos (aged 21) during the Second World War.” Pauline James, Skeynton, Llandridod Wells.

“Former patient 1949-54”. Roger Beynon, Ammanford.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Official comment: Brecon exhibition

Chris Price, Brecon Branch librarian speaking about the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition which closed last Friday.

Youu can view it either on this blog on

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Auntie Maggie's" photos

We called in yesterday afternoon to pick up the photos from Peter and Ann Gardiner which they have held since the death of her son "Mog" (Morgan) in 1999.

More about that visit tomorrow. We have just returned to Scotland and are busy unpacking.

Swansea Museum

We called in at Swansea museum this morning to look at the space. Roy and Valerie Harry were already there and they had warned us it was enormous. Still it was a surprise, a very pleasant surprise I might add. Valerie Brent was also there too and we had quite a discussion about the forthcoming exhibition in July and August.

We thought it would be a good idea- Roy's suggestion- to have a genuine bed from Craig-y-nos, put it up on blocks and cover it with green taarpaulin. Don't know at this stage whether that would be feasible. Certainly they have got enough beds lying around in the derelict wards in the Castle .

The curator, Roger Gale, has very kindly allowed us to use this room which is normally given over as an Activities/Resource room to schools so it is available during the summer holidays.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thank-you to Brecon Library

We can't leave Brecon without saying a big "thank you" to all the staff in Brecon LIbrary for not only giving us the opportunity to show these photographs in their excellent venue but also for being so supportive of the project.

It has been a great pleasure working with them all.

Return to the Swansea Valley

We leave Brecon this morning for Craig-y-nos Castle, Abercraf and Ystradgynlais. This afternoon we will pick up "Auntie Maggie" collection of photographs from her years working in Craig-y-nos.

Brecon library: "Children of Craig-y-nos" exhibition

We walked in yesterday and the exhibition was still in the same pristine condition as we left it some two months ago.

Chief librarian Chris Price says the exhibition was very well attended with many ex-patients or their relatives visiting. We were delighted to see that school parties had been in too.

Even people with no connection with Craig-y-nos said they found it fascinating. This is all very encouraging. Roy Harry and his wife Valerie helped to dismantle it and Roy took it away in the back of his Volvo to Swansea museum. There it will remain in storage until July when it will be exhibited again for two months.
We anticipate an even greater degree of interest in Swansea for not only is it a much bigger population area but there is where most of the people who were patients in Craig-y-nos came from.

Staff at Craig-y-nos

Names please!
We think that is Sister Powell ( second from left) standing beside Sister Jones. Names of the auxiliary nurses are unknown.
If you know, please contact me:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alice Maund in the snow

Alice Maund

This is a rare photo of a girl in the snow standing beside the half frozen lake.
Does anyone know any more details about her or even the year she was in? We think it is mid 1950's but this is only an inspired guess.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thomas Edward Isaac (age 9) - 1928

Thomas Edward Isaac ( centre with a trumpet) at a Christmas party in the Adelina Patti theatre which was also used as a mixed childrens ward.

Ninety year old Thomas Edward Isaac recalls his early days in Craig-y-nos during the late the 1920’s as a nine year old.

How did you find out that you had TB?

It must have been through the doctor. First of all, I was sent to Cimla Hospital and from there to Craig-y-nos, and from Craig-y-nos to Talgarth. I finished up in Talgarth for a couple of years.

How long were you in Craig-y-nos? Was that a couple of years?
Oh yes, I was there for quite a while.

I think the photograph (above) was taken about 1928. I’m in the front row, of course.
I always tell everybody, ‘That’s me there blowing my trumpet.’

It was a mixed ward, boys and girls, and that was in the ballroom.

The only thing that I can remember is that visitors came. Mine didn’t come very often. Of course, they brought sweets.
Sweets and chocolate but no child was allowed to keep that. Whatever their parents brought them, it was all put into a container and every now and again, the staff would come round the container and there’d be so many of these sweets for you and so many pieces of chocolate for you, and that type of thing. That’s about the only thing I can remember.

The lake
I remember looking through some windows at the lake. The nurses had what they called a punt, a little boat, and they used to go there in their off-duty time. Those are about the only things I can remember. I went from there to Talgarth.

How long were you in Talgarth?
For quite a while again, but there the boys were separate from the girls. You had a job to do there. You had Boy Scouts and Cubs there. You had jobs to do in the allotment of the hospital. You were put on a certain job for the week and then you were weighed and examined all over, and if there was any improvement in your body, etc., you’d go on that again to get a bit more fit. That was Talgarth, mind. There was nothing like that in Craig-y-nos.

Doctor at Craig-y-nos
The only thing I can remember at Craig-y-nos is one of the doctors. He had a car which had a dickie seat in the back. You opened the back door and inside was a seat, out in the open. The doctor took one of the girls – don’t ask me which, I can’t remember – and me to Swansea, and we had ice cream. They weren’t going specially for us. They were going to Swansea on business and we had a free ride in the car, me and this little girl, on the dickie seat in the back. I was treated good there.

How often were your parents allowed to come and see you?
They were allowed to come but I was living in Pontycymer. Well, Craig-y-nos is on the way to Brecon. In those days it wasn’t easy to travel about.

Did you have any brothers and sisters?
Yes, we were seven altogether -- three boys and four girls.
Did any of the others have TB?
No, it was only me. I didn’t have TB. I had acute bronchial chest.
And if that wasn’t treated, it could have ended up in TB.

The army
But I didn’t know that until when I was called up to go the Army. I had to go and have a medical and the nurse there, she had all my particulars from when I was in hospital. I told her that I was in the TB hospital, and she told me, ‘You didn’t have TB.’ It was the first I’d heard of that. I always thought as it was a TB hospital, you had TB. I was in there to be treated to stop the TB.
I think some children in the early days had other things apart from tuberculosis. They did have a bad chest or asthma.

What sort of treatment do you remember having?

You weren’t doing any exercises. You were in the ballroom walking about and in bed. The beds were all round the room and some in the middle.

Was your ward in the ballroom?
That was the ward.

Did you have any teachers in Craig-y-nos?
No, none at all.

What about in Talgarth?
At Talgarth yes. There was more of a sort of school there. In Craig-y-nos it was just the staff, who were very, very good as far as I can remember. They treated me alright anyway, and everybody else as far as I remember.

What did you do when you left school?
Well, I was supposed to go and work at the colliery. In Pontycymer there was nothing but mines. My mother was from down my area (now), near Llanelli – Llwynhendy. She was born and bred there and all our relations are down there. She left Llwynhendy. She was in service as a housekeeper for a sergeant in the police. He had promotion and he moved up to the Garw Valley then, Pontycymer, and she went up with him. She met my father there. He died when I was a year old.
In the big ‘flu epidemic.

Oh, 1918 (Spanish influenza of 1918-1919).
That’s right. I was born in 1917. I was a year old when he died.
I was the youngest, yes. We have two left. My sister who is the next (in age) to me. She’s coming on ninety-two and apart from her eyes, she’s quite good, you know. None of the family had TB.

When you left school did you become a collier?
My eldest sister married a miner in Pontycymer. The rest of my family then came down farming … working on a farm with my mother’s relations (at Llwynhendy). Hard work. Slave work to put it lightly, and because you were related they expected you to work for nothing. You worked about twelve hours a day. When I was fourteen, my mother had prepared for me to go the colliery because there was nothing else. They couldn’t afford to keep you at home because things were bad, not only for my part of it but everybody. It was bad (the hungry thirties). My brother came home for a week’s holiday from Llwynhendy to my mother, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come with me for a week’s holiday and then come back and go to the colliery.’ To leave the roughness of the Garw Valley with pits everywhere. I came down to my mother’s relations again and I enjoyed it out on the milk cart every day, delivering milk. I was riding in the cart. They could see that I was enjoying myself and they asked me if I wanted to stop, and stop I did. And I’ve been down here ever since.

So you’ve always worked outdoors?
All six of my family (brothers and sisters) came down to this area to work on the farm. There was nothing else, you see. When you were on the farm you were getting paid so much a week. I wasn’t because I was related. I wasn’t getting any pay for a year, just my keep, and they bought clothes for me, which wasn’t very often. Then I went to another farm, which was totally different. I got paid every week there, five shillings. That was a lot of money to me then, not having any money at all. I worked on the farm for three years, which was good for my health and everything, you see. The money was very small on the farms but you had your keep. You had to find your own clothes but you had your keep and laundry and everything on the farm. My two brothers had left the farming and gone to work in the colliery at Pontarddulais, just outside Swansea. They went to work in the colliery and of course, had two pounds a week then.

I married in 1940. I married a farmer’s daughter, and I lost her fifteen years ago. She died of a heart attack. I’ve been on my own ever since but I’ve got a son and a daughter, and four granddaughters and a grandson. One is up in London, one is in Mumbles and the others live in Penclawdd.

Where is Paula living (Paula Stretch is Mr Isaac’s granddaughter)?
Paula’s in London. In Harpenden.

Were you in the forces during the war?
Because I was working in a reserved occupation (colliery), I wasn’t allowed to go to the war. I still had to go for the medical and then they decided that I wasn’t to go, not because of the TB or anything. I was in that then until the war finished.

You went into the mines during the war?

And then you went back to farming?
No, I went from the mines to work for a local builder, driving a lorry. I drove a lorry for nearly ten years. Then I had the chance of a job with the National Coal Board, on the Mines Rescue. I ended up a deputy manager there. The Mines Rescue Station.

Thomas Edward Isaac was in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Close community - "Auntie Maggie"

"Auntie Maggie" with Lil Lorraine Jones, on the balcony of Ward 2, 1952
(Is there anyone who can verify this? the photo was sent in by Anne Blake, niece of Lil Lorraine)

One of the reasons why “The Children of Craig-y-nos” project is possible is that the whole of the Swansea valley remains a very stable community.
Many of the people who were patients in the hospital, or had relatives who worked there are still around, or their descendants are, some 50 years on.

On Saturday I am going to be collecting material from Peter Gardener in Pontardawe , photographs as well as memorabilia belonging to “Auntie Maggie”, the auxiliary who was a surrogate mother to so many of the children in Craig-y-nos.

In my research I came across this email from Pamela Bowen (nee Hill):
“My uncle was going out with one of the nurses while I was there (whilst also having a girlfriend in Aberdare!) and she kept an eye on me though I can't remember her name; she had a brother Edgar who was a gardener there.”

And we know that Sandy Hansen’s mother, Olive Davies, got a job there in order to be close to her daughter.

(What happened to these two children? Well, Pamela trained as a teacher and Sandy became a nurse, now living in Canada.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Auntie Maggie's" photos

Fingers cross that Auntie Maggie's photographs from Craig-y-nos are still in existence....
Some months ago I got a phone call from Peter Gardener who had been asked to clear out Auntie Maggie's house after her death.

He says he still has her photograph album.

Later this week we are going to Brecon to take down the "Children of Craig-y-nos"exhibition and hopefully we will be able to see these photos.

If so it will be a unique record, the first collection from a member of staff.

Swansea exhibition

Great news!

Swansea museum have agreed to take "The Children of Craig-y-nos" photographic exhibition for July and August.

This should prove very popular for not only is it in a very central location but it will be open during the height of the summer so hopefully lot and lots of people will find it easy to visit.

I have to give a special "thank-you" to both Valerie Brent who made the initial contact with the curator and Roy Harry who followed it up last week.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

George Stewart, 88, tennis star

Having TB as a child should not be a deterrent to becoming a very active sportsman in later life.

Take the case of 88 year old George Stewart from Scotland.

He has just won the Super Seniors World Tennis Championships in New Zealand.
He plays tennis four times a week and still skis.

He says:”I was always interested in sport but I had a very unfortunate childhood in Glasgow.
I was plagued with TB and was able to do very little. That’s perhaps the reason I was so keen to play later in life.”
He took up tennis in his 50s and is ranked 10th in the world for his age.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Search for Swansea exhibition space..

Roy Harry...researching exhibition space in Swansea

Thanks to Roy Harry who has been putting in some footwork slogging around Swansea checking out possible venues for the the "Children of Craig-y-nos" exhibition it now looks very promising for later this year.

Dates and places still to be confirmed so it is still under wraps. this space!

Meanwhile we will be in Brecon Library next Friday and Saturday dismantling the exhibition there. Chief librarian Chris Price says it has aroused a great deal of interest in the area.

However, we suspect that once it gets to Swansea the interest will really surge because not only is this a major area of population but it is also the place from where most of the former" Children of Craig-y-nos" live.

Again, another example of how much this story has touched the lives of so many people: Roy spoke to one woman yesterday whose grandmother had starved herelf in order to feed her children. She contacted TB and died in Craig-y-nos.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The past on email

Joan ( above) asked her daughter Beth to "google" Craig-y-nos then sent me an email.

As the emails began popping into my mailbox it quickly became obvious that my search for the “Children of Craig-y-nos” was an intergenerational project.

It was the sons, daughters and grandchildren who wrote seeking to piece together their own family history, or they were writing at the request of their relatives.

Beth Rees Baglan, Port Talbot emailed on behalf of her mother Joan Wotton, nee Thomas:

“We only found the Craig-y-nos web site as she was at my home and asked me to see if there was any information about the hospital on the web. She was overjoyed to see lot's of familiar faces from her time there as a patient of 15. She arrived in 1950, and left at the beginning of 1953, Mum say's that she remembers you and even what bed you were in! I have been brought up on all her memories of her time at Craig-y -nos both good, and bad.”

For others it has been an opportunity to learn more about their own family past.

Betty Thomas’ niece, Gaye, wrote:
“ I knew no details of Auntie Bett's story until a couple of years back (perhaps I am now seen as an 'adult'!). Veiled comments were made by my father once in a decade but my mother quickly told him to'forget it now, there's no need'. “

Many, such as Janet Tayler from Worcester, express bafflement and regret on learning that all records of this period have been destroyed.

“I'm so disappointed to find out there are no records of patients at Craig y nos. My great aunt, Kathleen Powell, from Cwmgwrach, died there during the 1920s. My grandfather was only young at the time and he hasn't spoken much about his sister. I can't even find a record of her death.”

A small minority of ex-patients, those comfortable with technology, wrote directly.

And this includes a teacher who has confined herself to email contact only still finding it too painful to speak, even over the telephone, about this time in her life over fifty years on.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Craig-y-nos -over 1,000 photos sent in

David Perrott, a plaster bed patient for two years, on the balcony with his mother (1950 ).
To-day his son, Ryan, carries this photo in his wallet, a daily reminder of the hardship his father suffered as a child.
He produced it for me to see at the first meeting we had in Craig-y-nos of ex patients.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
These lines come from the opening of L.P. Hartley's book The Go-Between, and they could equally apply to the years that Craig-y-nos Castle was a children's TB sanatorium.

The strict regime, the archaic rules,the physical cold (fresh air was believed to cure TB ), gastric lavages, the use of restraints the removal of children from their families and the placing of them in an isolated castle on the edge of the Brecon Beacons portray an alien world, almost medieval, which is incomprehensible to people today .

Yet it is within living memory and many of those children are still alive.

To help piece together a picture of that world I appealed through the local newspaper, South Wales Evening Post, South Wales Evening Post for people who had been patients to come forward.

Now, one year on I am gathering all my research together. It has been a cathartic exercise for me too because of my own close emotional involvement. After all I did spend four years of my life there after being admitted as a nine year old.

The response has been phenomenal, heartbreaking in some cases where former patients spoke for the first time about their childhood experiences living in this remote Welsh castle, former home of the international opera diva Adelina Patti.

Around 150 people came forward with phone calls, emails, and letters. For months I was deluged with calls. Initially I had given the book the provisional title of :"The Lost Children of Craig-y-nos" but it quickly became obvious that they were far from lost.

So the title was changed to:"The Children of Craig-y-nos".
The project got under way with in-depth oral recordings being made by
Dr Carol Reeves Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, Cynthia Mullan of the Sleeping Giant Foundation in Abercraf and myself.

A number of people chose to write their own stories.

While these oral history recordings form the basis of the book I have been inundated with over 1,000 photographs from this period, taken mainly by children.
This was a startling revelation for no-one suspected the existence of so many photographs.

I still recall the surprise and delight when for many weeks the post would bring yet another bundle of faded photos which my husband, Malcolm, set about restoring and digitizing.

My regret is that so many have already been destroyed. I heard of one collection recently. They belonged to a woman, an orphan who had been in Craig-y-nos, when she died ,with nobody to leave the photos to, the house was cleared and they were dumped.

I would like to thank the following who have allowed their photos to be used in exhibitions, both in Ystradgynlais and Brecon, online and for the forthcoming book:
The photos were sent in either by ex-patients , or their relatives. Many arrived on email.

Barry. Molly,

Batts. Horace.

Blatchford. Myfawny

Bowen. Pamela
Cottle. Sylvia

Davies. Sybil

Davies. Rosemary
Evans.Amy teacher _

Suzanne Evans

Gardiner Winnie
Gibbons Eileen.


Harry. Roy.
Herbert. Douglas.

Howells, Margaret.

Hybert. Pat

Isaac Thomas Edward

Jones. Iris

Jones . Lil Lorraine
Joseph. Olive Pamela.

Lewis. Beryl.
Lewis. Norma

Martin. Peter
Mathoulin. Pat.
Morgan.Moira Grace.

Oltersdorf. Dulcie,
Perrott. David.

Perry .Christine.


Sutton-Coulson, Mar
Thomas. Betty
Thomas. Ellis.

Wagstaffe. Peter.
Whitelock . Anna

Wyke. Gareth.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Children of Craig-y-nos and the world wide web

Craig-y-nos Castle became the Adelina Patti Hospital.

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke Austrian author, playwright, poet.

Just over a year ago when I began this project little was known about the children who were in Craig-y-nos when it was a TB sanatorium.

Often guests in the Castle , which is now an hotel, would ask staff for information about this dark period in the castle's history and, rather than disappoint them, would create their own stories. After all the castle is said to be the most haunted in Wales and dozens of children died there. Ghost hunters repeatedly claim to hear their voices.

That was when I decided that : enough is enough.
Let us find those children who are still alive and hear their stories. After all I am one of them and I know that we too have tales to tell, many of them uncomfortable, as people are confronted for the first time , after half a century, with a child's perspective of life within Craig-y-nos Castle.

So began my search for the “Children of Craig-y-nos.” Soon emails were popping in my mail-box from all over the world....

Today you have only to google Craig-y-nos to find stories across several media platforms as we witness the convergence of information - text, video and podcasts - some even translated into Japanese and Slovakian!

The opening of both photographic exhibitions in Ystradgynlais and Brecon are on video web site . (including the excellent BBC news story )

Wikepedia carries an extensive entry - and no, neither Dr Reeves nor I put it in so we have no idea where it came from.

It says:
A "unique" record of life inside a tuberculosis sanatorium has gone on display after an appeal for memories prompted a worldwide response. The exhibition has been organised by Ann Shaw, of Crickhowell, Powys, a former patient at the Adelina Patti Hospital in the Swansea Valley. Better known as Craig-y-nos Castle, it housed TB patients from 1922-59. The display, at the Welfare Hall, Ystradgynlais, coincides with a reunion of staff and patients. Craig-y-nos Castle was the estate of the world-renowned opera singer Adelina Patti until her death in 1919. Two years later, it was bought by an organisation founded to combat TB in Wales and was reconstructed as a sanatorium before admitting its first patients in August 1922. Ms Shaw, a writer and artist who was there from 1950-54, began her search for information about the hospital and its patients last year, and advertised on websites and in local newspapers. She said: "Little did I know I was about to tap into the collective memory of a whole community, of people with stories waiting to be told, many of whom had never spoken of their experiences before." Ms Shaw said all the respondents had "their own unique tales of their time isolated from their families and the rest of the world in this secluded sanatorium on the edge of the Brecon Beacons." She said she had received e-mails from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK, and had been "deluged" with photographs. The exhibition is part of an oral history project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Sleeping Giant Foundation charity. Carole Reeves, outreach historian at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the history of medicine at the University College of London, said they were recording the memories of many of the people in the photographs. "It will be the first ever collective account by patients and staff of life inside a tuberculosis sanatorium and is therefore a unique heritage project," said Dr Reeves. "The time period, from the 1920s to the 1950s, is also crucial because of the tremendous activity by medical professionals and other groups to understand the nature of tuberculosis. "The real treatment breakthrough came in 1947 when the first effective medicine, an antibiotic called streptomycin, became available in Britain. "The children of Craig-y-nos were among the first to receive this new 'wonder' drug". The exhibition can be seen until Saturday 29 September, and is also online."

One of the most curious finds though was the following extract from Bratislava. ( I think it is about my blog though I can't be certain).

BRATISLAVA 12. septembra (SITA) - Obrázky zo ?ivota pacientov s tuberkulózou (TBC), ktorí sa kedysi lie?ili na anglickom zámku Craig-y-nos, sú sú?as?ou v?stavy organizovanej v Ystradgynlaise na juhozápade Anglicka. V niekdaj?om sanatóriu s romantickou scenériou sa chorí lie?ili v rokoch 1922 a? 1959. V?stavu zorganizovala b?valá pacientka Ann Shaw z Crickhowellu. Nemocnica bola v priestoroch zámku v Údolí Swansea od roku 1922. Meno dostala pod?a predo?lej majite?ky nehnute?nosti a svetoznámej opernej spevá?ky Adeliny Patti, ktorá zomrela v roku 1919. O dva roky neskôr kúpila zámok organizácia dotujúca boj proti TBC so sídlom vo Walese. Tá ho nechala zrekon?truova?, prerobila ho na sanatórium a prv?ch pacientov prijali v roku 1922.
Ann Shaw je dnes umelky?a a spisovate?ka. V dne?nom hoteli pre?ila ?tyri roky v období od roku 1950 do roku 1954. Informácie o nemocnici za?ala zbiera? pred pár rokmi. Príbehy ?udí, ktorí sa tu lie?ili, pova?ovala za ve?mi zaujímavé. Pod?a nej, "ka?d? zo zainteresovan?ch pre?il svoj vlastn? príbeh, posilnen? o to viac, ?e v?etci tu ?ili v izolácii od domova a svojich rodín". O svojom zámere získa? viac informácií o ?ivote niekdaj?ích pacientov uverej?ovala reklamu v médiách a do?kala sa odpovedí. Kontaktovali ju b?valí pacienti, dnes ?ijúci na Novom Zélande, v Austrálii, Kanade ?i Ve?kej Británii.
"Roky 1920 a? 1950 boli rozhodujúce aj pre neutíchajúcu aktivitu lekárov a vedcov ?i in?ch skupín pochopi? podstatu TBC," povedala histori?ka ?pecializujúca sa na dejiny medicíny Carole Reeves z University College of London. Skuto?n? prelom nastal v roku 1947, ke? sa vo Ve?kej Británii objavila prvá skuto?ne ú?inná lie?ba - antibiotikum streptomycín. "Deti v Craig-y-nos boli medzi prv?mi, ktoré dostávali zázra?n? liek", povedala Reeves.

You can, of course, click on the following sites I have put up:
online photographic exhibition:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Our memories

A recurring theme from so many children at Craig-y-nos, and I include myself in this category, is that we can remember little about our time there.

What we remember is a feeling of loss, of a sense of being different from other children on our return to the outside world.

I have been reminded of this while sifting through all the emails and interviews for this book.

While the highy traumatic experiences are remembered vividly, such as being admitted to Craig-y-nos, so many of the mundane experiences of sanatorium life- what was the food like? how often did we get a bath? who cut our hair? did we have any heating in the ward? who washed our clothes? was our birthdays celebrated? are forgotten in the “sands of time”.

It is as if we have erased years of our childhood except for certain disturbing events, which the mind has failed to bury.

Philip Larkin put it aptly in his poem, the Winter Palace:

“ blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.”

Who are they?

Sifting through my 1,000 plus photographs in preparation for the book I came across these two photos. I have no information about them though they look as if they were taken late 1950s because the balcony on Ward 2 is closed in. Apart from that I have no clue.
Does anyone recognize these children and the nurse?
If so, please email

Monday, February 04, 2008

Mr Christie - porter and barber

Roy Harry offers another story from his time at Craig-y-nos:

"Another name I remember is Mr Christie. He used to cut our hair.
He would always put a chair near where today there is a fireplace.

Then he would call us across if we could get out of bed one at a time and we'd have our hair cut. He tugged at my hair and it was hurting and I was crying.
Mr Christie took a pocket type watch from a bag, which he carried his, few bits of hair cutting equipment in. It wasn’t his everyday watch but probably an old one, which he used to distract
children when they were nervous or crying in my case.

When he had completed my short back and sides I walked back to my bed and he called the next boy over. I continued to hold the watch.

Before long Mr Christie left the ward. I was surprised he had not rembered to ask for the watch back. As a timepiece the watch was pretty useless it kept stopping after about 10 minutes or so.

But I discovered after much trying that if I shook it to start and placed it face down on a flat surface it would tick away for several hours. Goodness knows what I would have to do now to get it going after 60 years. It now lives in a wooden box on the Welsh dresser.

Mr Christie, serial killer of 10 Rillington Place
Len Ley the local historian, noticed I had mentioned Mr Christie in my memories that I was writing down for him. He asked what happened after I had left hospital. Was there anything else to the Christie story and I said that when I left and started school I saw the picture of Mr Christie in the newspaper and I ran to my mother and said that's Mr Christie and she didn't know whom I was talking about. I said that's the man who cut our hair. But of course this was a picture of Mr Christie the murderer and I said it is him, honestly. My mother told me not to be silly and started reading the article. This man lives in London and he might have killed some people so he can't be your Mr Christie so I was really frustrated. I knew that it was the man. When we read the article it was obviously about a Mr Christie and it
was the face I recognised. She told me not to tell anyone that story – they would think it was stupid.

I just accepted that but I've always been convinced that it was Mr Christie.

Return to Craig-y-nos
A long time afterwards when I did go back to Craig-y-Nos I met through asking questions one member of staff that used to be there when I was – a nurse Glenys Davies.

I had been to Cardiff library for the copy of the Echo newspaper, which carried the story of Christie and managed to find the front page with the picture I had recognized all those years ago.
I decided to show Glenys. I reminded her of my question about the man who cut our hair in the hospital and said I think his name was Mr Christie. Yes that quite right of course it was she said.

I passed the picture over and asked if that was he.

Glenys studied it for a while and said: “ This looks like the murderer!” and I said : “Yes it is.”
“Well, I don’t think this is our Mr Christie!” and she seemed shocked at the suggestion.

"Our Mr Christie wasn’t a local man", she said "he was English."
Then Len asked if his accent was Cockney, a Londoner. Glenys replied no not Cockney from further north, yes more north of England.
But she added:” I must admit it does look a bit like Mr Christie.”
I have to admit I felt a little disappointed but we went on to other subjects.
On my way home from that meeting I was going through the conversation in my head and thought well at least Glenys did admit it looked a bit like Mr Christie but he wasn’t from London.

Then I suddenly realised that Christie the murderer wasn’t from London but Halifax! (spooky or what)."

Outreach historian Dr Carole Reeves says her research in the National Archives shows no evidence that Christie the serial killer of 10 Rillington Place, London ever visited Wales let alone worked there.

So, who was the Mr Christie who worked at Craig-y-nos in the mid 1940’s?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Roy Harry , age three and a half years (1945-1946)

Arriving in Craig-y-nos
I can remember little bits of the long journey. It seemed as though we were out all day travelling and I wasn't sure what was going to happen when we got there. My mother had to leave and that was the first awful memory.

Strapped to the bed
I can remember making an awful fuss, crying and screaming and I actually climbed out of the bed and ran after her. How they got over that, they strapped me with a harness, into the bed and I was trying to undo it. Not a very pleasant memory. It still upsets me a lot.

Settling in
It's surprising though, kids get over these things quite quickly and I do remember settling down and feeling quite all right. I made lots of friends with fellow patients.

Gastric lavages
Another awful thing that I really didn't like was the gastric lavages, the tube down the throat. I would always struggle and try to stop the tube going down my throat. Of course I knew I was on my own and my mother was nowhere near and it was awful. I didn't know why they were doing it. I can't remember how often but I think they would do it every so often to test the juices or whatever it was you were coughing up so they could check on how you were progressing.

Sister Outram (left) and Sister Powell

My first experience of meeting Sister Powell who is the only member of staff I can remember actually by name was at one of the gastric lavages processes and they just couldn't get the tube down my throat and I heard one of the nurses say 'Oh well send for Sister Powell and she'll be able to do it' and I didn't know what to expect. She was a bit firmer than the nurses and she said 'C'mon Roy you've got to take this down now. No messing about ' and down it went. I was afraid of Sister Powell and that's perhaps why I can't remember any of the other nurses. If I were naughty they would say 'Oh we’ll send for Sister Powell' and I would jump to it.

Never went outside
I don't really have any memories of leaving the ward to go outside because I've read accounts of patients going out into the gardens and I don't remember ever doing that. I only went out on to the balcony and sometimes I would come back in from the balcony via the Day room which these days is a bar but then it was called the Day room and from Ward 1A I couldn't go directly out from the window I had to go down to the next little ward attached to 1A which probably was 1B and there was a door out and I could then talk to all the lads who were out in the outside and I made friends with one who was called Peter and funny enough Sister Powell is the only staff name I can remember and Peter is the only patient name I can remember - although I do remember having lots of friends and playing a lot.

Christmas concert
The only time I ever went downstairs was to a concert – I think it was Christmas time. It was a great concert, lots of acts and the one that sticks in my mind was a magician who appeared to swallow lots of razor blades and then he put a bit of string in his mouth and then he pulled them all out and I was amazed. When I was there I wanted to go to the toilet but I didn't want to miss the acts and I was stamping my feet up and down and I said to the nurse would she take me to the toilet and she said 'oh can't you go on your own?' She didn't want to miss it either.

Thunderbolt and matron plays the piano
Another memory that sticks in my mind happened after they moved me from the big ward 1A into one of the little wards alongside it and it only had 3 beds.

One day there was a huge explosion and we both jumped and the windows shook and then we could hear people crying and screaming and I honestly thought a bomb had dropped on the hospital and a nurse came running down the corridor and she came into our room and asked if we were alright. I asked her if it was a bomb and she said she thought it might have been and we were looking out of the window and I looked up at the hill at the back of the hospital and there was a sort of jagged shape on the top of the hill. It looked like the top of the hill was missing.
I didn't know what it was until later on when I met a nurse about a year ago who used to work there and she described it like a thunderbolt and she said she had been out on the balcony above attending some girls and she said it had frightened the life out of them and she could see two large trees falling, so it had actually struck the trees. She said lots of people were crying because they were so frightened. She explained that the matron, Knox-Thomas, came running round trying to calm the patients down and she sat down at the piano and started playing popular music and got everyone to sing along.

I don't remember much about food in general but I know they brought tomatoes around every now and again. They must have grown them in the garden. I didn't dislike the food there. I was always keen and happy when the food came in and there was a kind of table or a chest of drawers thing in the centre of the ward and I think they used to put plates of food down there and if you were up on your feet you could stand by the table and eat your food or you could take it back to the bed. I don't remember ever thinking the food was awful and not eating it. In fact there was a sweet they used to bring round every now and again – I don't know what it was – but it was kind of semolina in texture but it had a chocolate flavour. Whether they put cocoa powder in it I don't know but it was really nice. We always used to ask the nurse if we were having that for sweet.

Occupational therapy
When I went back into the main ward another thing I remember is a young lady coming round on a fairly regular basis. She wasn't in uniform and she used to bring things to teach us like occupational therapy, like straw things, weaving and one thing I do clearly remember is it was like the top part of a boot with holes and she asked us to lace it up as if you were going to do your boot up and I learnt how to lace them up criss-crossing until it was right and she taught me how to tie the knot. She was great fun.

I don't remember having many sort of toys to play with but I did have a kaleidoscope which was like a long triangular tube and you could shake it and the patterns would change in the bottom and I spent a lot of time playing with that, getting a pattern and trying to slowly pass it to somebody else without disturbing it. I don't know where that came from but that was the only sort of personal toy that I had. (Roy – I had one too- Ann)

Mentioning the kaleidoscope reminded me of a young boy who was put in the bed next to mine in 1A. I wasn’t his first day in hospital or he would have been in floods of tears, probably moved from the conservatory or somewhere.

Sister Powell was there with another nurse to tuck him in and Sister Powell said:” Look this is Roy. He will look after you won’t you Roy?”
That was the only time I thought Sister Powell might have a pleasant side to her.
I did as she said and showed my new friend how to use the kaleidoscope.

Singing in Welsh

In the following days I taught him the words to a song called ‘Down in the Valley” which was popular around that time, and before long we would sing it together.
Some of the nurses taught us some Welsh songs. My mother was quite amused when I eventually arrived home to hear me sing songs in Welsh, and of course speaking with a Welsh accent, which didn’t happen inn Cardiff.

I didn't realise at the time but my parents weren't able to visit all that often.
The rule was only once a month but I didn't know that at the time. I think it shows that I had settled in and I wasn't pining and I was pleased to see them of course but I wasn't aware that several weeks had gone by.

Father in RAF
My dad was in the RAF, certainly initially when I was in, and it was very difficult for him to get down and he had a tiny little motorbike called a Francis Barnett and it was only a 125, which is the smallest sort of form of bike you could have. If he could get petrol from somebody and could get leave on the right day he would come down with my mother from Cardiff. It must have been a horrendous journey.

The birthday present
On one of those visits I remember my dad saying it would be my birthday soon and what would I like. I don't know why but I wanted a little lorry with an aeroplane on the back, something I think I invented in my head. I think I got the idea because during that time lots of aeroplanes were being ferried back and forward by road and they would plonk them on the back of a lorry and the wings would be tucked up alongside it. When my birthday came round I was telling my friends I was going to have a lorry with a plane on the back but when I opened the parcel it was just a lorry, not a very realistic one, and no plane on the back and I was really disappointed.

The painter and Sister Powell
Somebody came round doing maintenance work – a painter. He wasn't painting the ward; he was just painting the doors. Swing double doors at the entrance to the ward, plywood or something like that and he was having a bit of a laugh with us and chatting to us. He said he would have to get on with his work and he painted a face on the door. He said it was Sister Powell, and then he painted it all over. We kept asking him to do the face again so he painted another funny face on another door. We could hear someone coming down the corridor and said it was Sister Powell. He hurried up to paint over the face and we were screaming with laughter.

Strange movements on the pillow
I can remember waking up one night. It was light. I don't know if there was a light on or if it was summertime but the light was coming through the window. I noticed a movement on the pillow just in front of my eyes and I jumped up and put my hand down. There were two little things and I didn't know what to do so I folded the pillow over and pressed down and I though now what am I going to do. So I turned the pillow over and pressed down and put my head on it and pressed down again and fell asleep. In the morning when I woke up I wondered if they were still there and I got up and unfolded the pillow and of course they had gone so I don't know if they were bed bugs or not.

Watching the workmen
Another thing I remember about that time there were workmen outside my window when I was in Ward 1A, which is now the function room, the far end looking north towards Brecon and I was looking out and the men were excavating, levelling something with shovels and they were working hard shovelling, throwing stuff on to a lorry and I can remember standing there for hours watching them. I though it was really interesting having something different to look at.

Leaving Craig-y-nos
I can remember getting dressed and my mother saying we were going home but I can't remember how we got home and I wanted to run down the corridor and get outside and my mother telling me to hang on because we had to go see Sister Powell and I'm not sure if it was Sister Powell but somebody came out of the sister's office and she was giving my mother some advice about dietary needs and things like this and I think things were still quite scarce then, fruit and stuff.

Boiled milk
She said give him plenty of tomatoes. Don't give him fresh milk, always boil it and when I did start school they used to give you a little bottle of milk and my mum said you mustn't drink it you must bring it home and I'll boil it and you can take it next day.

Peter Wagstaff
I've always tried to get in touch with a young man I knew at the time, Peter, who was out on the balcony. I used to go out regularly to see him and I couldn't understand why he didn't get out of bed but he was so ill.

Well, I have met up with him again after 60 years. He is Peter Wagstaff!

He didn’t remember me, which is not surprising there were quite a few of us wandering back and forth from Ward 1A. But the Peter I used to speak to was in the first bed next to the door as I emerged on to the balcony. He agreed that is where his bed was.

We met up at the big reunion at Craig-y-nos in September 2007. You may find this hard to believe. I saw Glenys Davies walk up to him and say, “Hello it’s Peter isn’t it?” What an amazing memory Glenys has.

Learnt to accept the regime
It wasn't all doom and gloom. There were some things we were afraid of but I think my experience there wasn't too bad. I think once a child gets used to a new situation they can accept it provided they're not suffering cruelty obviously. I accepted it.

I think the rules were strict. They wouldn't let us wander round wherever we wanted to go.

I do remember people disappearing from the room but they wouldn't have told me that they had died.

Sometimes there would be a fire in the Day room
I probably was cold but I must admit I didn't feel it. Probably out on the balcony it was cold but I must have enjoyed going out there and sometimes if I came back in through the far door which came back in through the day room sometimes there was a fire there.

There was a steel radiator by my bed but I don't know if it was ever on. I can't remember because you would naturally remember standing there but I don't remember doing it so maybe the heating wasn't on but I'm not sure.

Settling back home
I don't think it was difficult to settle in when I went back home. I was looking forward to seeing my younger brother who I remember being born and not long after that going into hospital so I didn't see him. I remember my father brining in a photograph and telling me it was Paul. I think I was glad to be home but what I do remember was my elder brother looking after me like taking me to school and I was scared of the snow because I hadn't been outside for such a long time.

1947 snow
This was of course the very heavy snow of 1947. I remember asking my mother if she thought the boys on the balcony would be allowed into the ward

(No they were not taken indoors. Valerie Brent, a nurse there at the time, remembers filling up their hot water bottles.
She says she had to pull the boys from the bottom of their beds where they were “rolled up like little balls of fire” and expose them to the night air, and yes their beds were heavily covered in snow -Ann)

Nurse Valerie Brent

On reflection
When you're mature and you're looking back, and you've got your own children, you think if my son Peter or my son Robert was in that position when they were that age, I would be so worried about them being so far from home. I think it’s when you're more mature it then chokes you up more thinking about it. I think we coped quite well in the actual hospital. Certainly I've heard patients say it was awful and they were cruel but I don't remember anyone being cruel to me. There were things I didn't like but there were lots of things I did like and I was running around quite happy and I was no worse off than kids who had been evacuated. In fact I was probably better off than a lot of them.

Certain things are like a hangover from my hospital days. If somebody coughs over you turn away or step back. I still do that now. If somebody ahead of me in a shop is coughing I'll wait.

When I left the hospital, I used to leave the bedroom window open. I don't do it now, it's too cold.

(Roy – I still sleep with the window open even in the depths of a Scottish winter much to my husband’s chagrin- Ann)

Some people ask how I can remember these things because I was only a little kid. I think if I'd been home with my mother and father I wouldn't remember anything from those years unless it was something special or traumatic and I think it was only because I was away from home and I was on my own, I think it stuck in my mind.