Monday, June 30, 2008

Mounting Swansea exhibition

Dr Carole Reeves helped by Roy Harry and Valerie Filby mounting the exhibition, Children of Craig-y-nos, in the two corridors of the Swansea museum.

They tell me that the museum has already received lots of phone calls requesting information about this exhibition and many people stopped to talk to them while they were putting it up.

Incidentally, did you know this is the oldest museum in Wales?

There will be an official opening tomorrow morning when Roy Harry, one of the former Children of Craig-y-nos will cut the ribbon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swansea museum exhibition- July/August 2008

Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London

And the next Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition will take place...

Dr Carole Reeves with the help of Roy and Valerie Harry began work yesterday afternoon setting up the exhibition in Swansea museum.

Carole tells me ( I am down with shingles in Scotland!) that they will be using two corridors. While the space is not ideal it should be possible to put up the whole of the photographic exhibition.

As the museum is in the centre of Swansea and it should attract a lot of visitors, including many ex-patients and those with connections with Craig-y-nos, over the course of the next two months.

It will open on Tuesday morning, July 1st.

Having dismantled the exhibition in Brecon we took it to Swansea museum in March. This photo was taken outside the museum ( from left to right) Valerie Brent , ex nurse, Roy Harry( ex-patient), Ann Shaw ( ex-patient) and Valerie, Roy's partner.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Morgan family -Gaynor (1954)

“ A family in Craig-y-nos”

The Morgan family, mother and five children, Ann, Allan, Gaynor, Janice and Margaret were all in Craig-y-nos at the same time. When the youngest, Margaret, aged 11 months, died of TB meningitis the mother was allowed out for one day to go to the funeral.

This is Gaynor’s account:

“I was five year old when I went into hospital in 1954 for two and a half years.

“I was in the Babies Ward (Glass Conservatory) and I remember being in a cot there and having rice pudding out of a tin basin.

Later I was taken up to Ward 2, the top ward. The ward below was known as “Big Ward 2” for teenagers.

I would say there were about at least 20 girls in my ward.

Something that occurred to me recently, I don’t know why, but I had no idea what I looked like all the time I was in Craig-y-nos.
We never had mirrors.
We had a washroom outside the ward where we would go every morning to wash and clean our teeth but I cant ever remember seeing a mirror.

I didn't know what my hair was like because that was all done for us. I remember a tin of ribbons and we could choose a ribbon for our hair.

All of the nurses were stern not nasty, but stern. I realise now I work with children that you have to be. You have got to have discipline.

I was in restrainers twice.
I can’t remember why the first time. But I do remember it being tight. Other girls would get out of bed all the time but I had been quite ill and being rather timid and wanting to please people I stuck by the rules.
One girl had fluffy slippers and I wanted to try them on. Well, I literally put a toe on the floor and I was caught.
And I was put in restrainers for the second time. I had to sleep in it too. I don’t know for how long.

It had straps that were tied to the back of the bed and straps that were tied to the side of the bed. It was a punishment and I didn't really resent it cause I knew I had done wrong.

Now when you think about it though it would be child abuse.

Looking back
I remember my bed being put up by the fireplace and I got upset because if your bed was there it was because you were really naughty and I hadn't been naughty.
I can’t honestly say I had a bad bad time there and when I came home I remember crying because I wanted to go back.

Mother in Craig-y-nos
I used to see my father at visiting time. He was the only one left at home cause my mother was in Craig-y-nos too but we weren’t allow to see her.
She was there for 9 months and we never saw her.

At my last Christmas there both my parents came to see me so mother was home by that time. I remember they were allowed to come because it had started snowing so they made an arrangement to come and see me in case they got snowed in.

I know that I had visitors on a non-visiting day and that was quite special.

I remember having streptomycin but I don't know why. I had a fear of needles then and I still have. We used to have gastric lavages and whatever they put on the end of that tube I can still taste it now.

Dr Huppert

I was good at mimicking.
I used to imitate Dr Huppert and the nurses would put me on a chair to do it.

“You Muz not do zat” “You Muz not do zat!”
Of course if the nurses said I could do it then it was all right.

(Gaynor’s excellent imitation of Dr Huppert was one of the weirdest experiences I had during research for this book - hearing the voice of Dr Huppert come down the telephone line after 55 years!)


In winter we would have pieces of Welsh flannel to wrap our feet up. Nurses would do that for us. So our feet were warm. I was never cold.

Evening singsongs
Something else we had was singsongs, not religious songs but one song before bed would be:” Now the day is over.” I was trying to sing it last night and I had forgotten.
The nurses would lead the singing and I remember Glenys Davies saying “Softly softly, “ and I piped up and said:” Turn the key.” Little things like that silly little things like that I remember.


There was a big storeroom where they kept all our sweets. Whatever was brought in to you would be taken from you as soon as visitors went.
I loved raspberry ruffles and my father would bring them to me and I used to eat them while he was there because if I didn't I wouldn't see them again.

If we went to the theatre they would give us some sweets then.
I saw “The Student Prince” there with Mario Lanzio, very rarely did we have live performances.

Once there was a live play on and my mother couldn't go to it cause she was in bed, and I wasn't allowed to go because I was too young but Ann was allowed.

She has got a very vivid imagination. Well, my mother was listening to this play on her headphones over the hospital radio and there was a scene where an old lady is sitting in this chair and somebody comes up behind her with a knife and Ann starts screaming: “ Don't kill her! don’t kill her!”

My mother who was listening to it on the hospital headphones and heard her. ( the mother was not allowed any contact with her children except to write letters).

Boiled onions and lumpy porridge but it was not always lumpy. Sometimes we would have a good cook.
In summer we had cold milk on our cornflakes and in winter we had hot milk .

There was not a great deal of what we call luxury food more substantial food and quite a lot of it.
I never remember being hungry or cold, it was just the fact somewhere in my mind I knew it wasn't my home.

Lessons with Miss Thomas

I remember Miss Thomas, the teacher, tall, thin with a bun, and if someone would say:” where is it to?” she would correct us and say: “ where is it?”

I only remember doing arithmetic with her and doing reading and writing. I have always loved books. If I had been at home I wouldn't have had so many books because there wouldn't have been the money.
I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles too,

I can’t honestly say I had a bad time there and when I came home I remember crying cause I wanted to go back.

I remember Sister Morgan coming around with Dr Williams and Dr Munhall and Dr Williams wanted her to write something down so she turned up her apron and it was so starched she could write on the hem of her pinafore.

The Patti ghost
I do believe I saw Adelina Patti. It was night and I was in bed and I remember looking down over the terraced lawns and I saw three ladies in what looked like crinoline with bustles. I knew there was a ghost in the castle and I take it that’s who it was.
I was not frightened or anything . In fact I went to sleep. ( Her sister, Ann, recalls the incident and says this was the time that Gaynor was serioulsy ill and not expected to pull through. But the night she saw the Patti ghost was a turning point though Ann says Gaynor told her the next day that Adelina Patti and the two women were around her bed , not in the grounds.)

Welsh flannel
I never felt cold. In the winter we would have pieces of Welsh flannel to wrap our feet up. the nurses would do that.
We used to sing before bedtime. In of the songs was “Now the day is over”. the nurses led a sing song and I remember Glenys Davies saying:” softly now, softly”.

Parents protected us
I remember my father visiting me once and he had black bits sticking out of his side and I asked what had happened and he said:”Oh the cat scrammed me”
I always believed that only later did I learn that he had an accident down he pit and those were stitches sticking out of his face.

Children today are told so much that it is not always good.

Not a normal childhood.
I didn't know my father very well, because he only came at weekends and he was killed down the pit when I was 13.
Six years later my mother died.
In that respect it was not a normal childhood.

I hospital I was such a “goody-two shoes” because I have always been a bit gullible as well and always believed what people told me. I believed that God had this big book and he was up there keeping track of us.
We always went to chapel, God fearing I suppose. My mother was a believer. Janice my sister used to say she was afraid of the dark and my mother would say to her:
“when you are afraid hold God’s hand”.
I used to think that if I was naughty I would get caught out. Being in hospital you were very, very sheltered, you never saw the outside world.

Going home
“ By the time I came out we had a council house. I remember coming through the front door and there was a passageway to go into the living room and I remember feeling it was all coming in on me because I had been used to such a large area before that.

I remember going to bed that night and having a cry and my mother called in to the bedroom:”Gaynor go to sleep now please, that’s a good girl.”
And I did as I was told. I didn't cry again.

Discovering I had TB
My mother always told me I had been in hospital for observation . I got married when I was nearly 26. I had central heating in the new house which we had never had before and I started having problems with my chest so the doctor sent time to the chest clinic I must have been 27.
The doctor looked at my x-rays he said:”Oh you have had TB.”
So I said :”no.”

He said: “Yes “and he was quite firm and he said:” I am telling you that you have had TB” and he showed me the x-rays with the scars.

I remember thinking that my mother told me that I was only in under observation because
she was protecting me from the truth.

Life after Craig-y-nos
I have only been back once .
Janice , my younger sister, doesn't remember much about her time there apparently when she came home from hospital if there was anything she didn't want to do she would say:” Nurse Taylor says I am not supposed to do that.”
or if she wanted to so something then it would be:” Nurse Taylor says I can do that.”

I married a widow and he had two children then we decided to start a family again and we had two more children.

But I am now separated . I have to work and I have a job in a school.

I am a bit of a disciplinarian, so they give me the troublesome children on a “one- to- one” basis something called social inclusion, children with problems.
I am 58 years of age and I love working with children. I am in the school from 8.30 in the morning.
I work in the classroom during the morning then I am a dinner lady for an hour and half then I am back in the classroom with older children until 3.30 pm.
Then I help run help the “ after school club”.

I always said I didn't want to retire but now I find it tiring .

I live in Gilfach, Bargoed.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Catherine Ann Creighton ( nee Morgan) - 1954

Sometimes whole families were in Craig-y-nos. The Morgans were one such family in the 1950s when all five were in at the same time including the mother who was given special leave for one day to go home to bury her youngest child.

Alan, one of the Morgan family, in the Glass Conservatory.
This is his sister, Catherine's, story:

“ I have no happy memories of my time there” says Catherine Creighton ( nee Morgan) from Tredegar.

“I was 6 in 1954 and I went into Craig-y-nos for one year and ten months.

“My sister Gaynor was with me in this big van, I think it was an ambulance, and I was singing “Take me back to the Black Hills”.
I didn't want to go to the hospital.

I didn't like it when I got there.
Some of the nurses, one in particular Nurse Taylor, was horrid.
She would pull me by the arm and threaten me if I didn't behave.
She put me in this room, which to me seemed like a dungeon, it was where they chucked old toys and she used to say that if I didn't behave myself she would lock me in there, and as a child you do get frightened.
Yes, I have to say I was wicked, not evil, just wicked in my own way.

I couldn't see my Mam and my Dad except once a month and I missed them.

They used to restrain me for days. I can remember my father coming one day and I was restrained and he played hell with the nurse’s cause I was tied down to the bed.

There was a time when they would come around with tomato soup and if you didn't eat it they would pour it down your throat.
They would say to me:” If you don't eat it you will get it later” and I have never liked tomato soup since.

They used to threaten me terrible with the food. I can’t remember whether it ever came back for the next meal or not only that they did threaten us all the time that it would.

I had no appetite. I can’t remember being happy in there.

I used to think that I only lived over those mountains. .

The older girls used to take me out on the lake and I am afraid of water. A swan pecked me and I have been terrified of the water ever since.

Dr Huppert with Sister Powell in the Glass conservatory. (child unknown.)

Dr Huppert? She was German. She was a cruel bugger. She was another who used to threaten me.

I didn't like her at all. She used to frighten me.

(I tell her about a woman who had a home visit from Dr Huppert to see her sick child and the child curled up in bed in fright when she saw her and Dr Huppert pulled the clothes back and grabbed her and said:” You are a spoilt child!”)

Nurse Glenys Davies

“There was one nice nurse and I really loved her.
Her name was Glenys Davies.

I had injections. I was bad. I used to roll up in a ball and bite my toenails. I remember I ripped my toe and I had a cradle over it.

My sister Gaynor had pneumonia in there. We were in bed next to each other.
She was very ill and I kept saying:”Our Gaynor will pull through.”

She said to me one day:” Guess who came to see me last night?

Adelina Patti portrait in Brecon Town Hall

“Who?” says I
“Adelina Patti and her ladies in waiting!”

She told me at the time that they were around her bed but she can’t remember that. What she remembers now is seeing them walking around the grounds.

But she got better after that.


I remember them saying I had to have my tonsils out but they took Gaynor’s out by mistake.

My bother, Allan was already in and my youngest sister Margaret died in there of TB meningitis. My mother was admitted too.
I never had any contact with my mother not that I can remember; now I think it was a rotten thing to do to children.
Once we were up and going out into the grounds we could wave to her.

The doctors told her she had only six weeks to live and she said “No way. I have got five children and I have got to live to look after them.”
She told me this later.

My Dad was a good man. He came down every month to see us.

I wanted to see my mother more than anything but the only way I could see her was through that glass window (her mother was in the Annexe).

They were cruel. I can remember my Dad saying that the Red Cross were sending parcels in for us but I can never remember receiving any. They used to open everything.

I used to cry every time he came in:” Daddy take me home!”


Death of youngest sister
I can remember them letting my mother out for one day to bury my sister Margaret.

The undertaker said to my mother:” She is too pretty to live.”
She had a pink bonnet on. She had TB meningitis.

Life after Craig-y-nos.
Eventually Ann did go home, back to a house that was condemned:
“It was in a bad way and we did eventually move into a council house. But I was happy there.
Those were the happiest time in my memories because we were all together again as a family even though we had no electricity, only paraffin lamps, cold water and ordinary tin baths and a toilet out of the back in the garden and we loved it.”

Her father was killed in a pit accident when she was a teenager and her mother died five years later. Her uncle sexually abused her.
“ I did not have a normal childhood.”

“When I was 13 I was dragged in to a car. I don't know where I was taken. This man was asking the way and he pulled me in the car and he abused me. I never told anyone. I kept it all bottled up and I think that was the start of the nerves, and loosing the baby, I never grieved.

“I have been living on my nerves all my life. I was on antidepressants for 10 years. Then they took me off them and I went ‘cold turkey’ and had a complete breakdown. I couldn’t go out of the door for 18 months. I am still on valium.
I never had a child and I wish I had. Now it’s all gone, water under the bridge.

She worked in a number of factories locally. However, since she met her second husband she says::
“At last I think my life is coming together.”

As for Craig-y-nos, the legacy from her stay there is that she craves:” fresh air...I always feel I want the fresh air.”
But I don’t think about my time there ‘cause I have no happy memories.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rats in Craig-y-nos castle

As you would expect rats and mice were a problem in Craig-y-nos castle though I must confess I was never aware of this during my four year stay.

However, other children did see them.

As far back as 1928 Ted Ellis, aged seven years, recalls how they used to wet pieces of paper and push them through the iron gratings in the floor in order to hear the rats and mice scamper around in the Glass Conservatory.

Rosie Hunt once saw a rat jump off a table on to a bed ( top Ward 2).
Eileen Gibbons, young adult on the ground floor, remembers being warned not to let food drop on the floor because of the rats.

But the most horrific story though comes from Pam Hamer ( late 1940s) who was encased in an iron frame on the balcony of Ward 2 and she woke up one night to find a rat in her bed.

The night nurse tried to calm her down by telling her it was their pet rat "Joey" who had come to say good -night to her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Barbara O’Connell (nee Paines): Return to Craig-y-nos - 2008

Barbara ( 1952-53) returns to Craig-y-nos for the first time a few weeks ago.
"I was shaking when I got there. I had to have a cigarette to calm myself down before going inside"

Craig-y-nos Castle today

Part of the grand staircase to the top floor.

Inside Adelina Patti's bedroom, known as the "Six-Bedder" and today used for seances.

Inside Ward 2. The spot where Barbara's had her bed over 50 years ago.

Some of the ghost testing equipment used to monitor supernatural activity in the castle ( top floor- childrens ward)

Barbara descending the staircase.

Skeleton used for "ghost events". Remember the original real one, used for nursing purposes, kept in a basement cupboard, and how we used to open the door and play, or rather frighten ourselves with it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Swansea museum exhibition- July/August 2008

A small exhibition of photographs from The Children of Craig-y-nos project will open in Swansea museum on Tuesday July 1st.

Outreach Historian Dr Carole Reeves from The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, will be going to Swansea to set it up with help from ex-patient Roy Harry .

BBC Radio Wales will be there to interview people too for the programme they are making on a history of TB in Wales.

Unfortunately I will not be there - having just gone down with shingles!...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pamela Hamer( nee Osmond) 1947-1950

Does anyone remember Pamela Hamer( nee Osmond)?

I have just had an email from her and she would dearly love to know if there are any photos in existence of her time in Craig-y-nos or if anyone remembers her.

She's was on a frame on the balcony and she woke one night to find a rat in the bed with her.

She says:
"Being in that hospital as a child I am sure it has made me the person I am today.
My life was so boring I used to say to the cleaner I wish I could sweep the floor, and she would smile and say:' come on then.'

But I could`nt move at all. I developed a lot of patience by waiting to get well. I play games with my children for hours and I will have a go at anything. I have all the patience in the world.

I remember a little girl I thought her name was Joan Hubbard, but you said that the Joan you knew was Joan Powell, maybe I am wrong, the Joan I knew was from Cardigan in Wales she was a lovely little girl, she came into hospital in 1950 she was in the corner on the right hand side there was a door between us, she was on a plaster bed just like the one I had just came off.

I remember you, I wish I had a photo of myself as a child or if someone could remember me."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The origin of the Craig-y-nos song

Maureen ( " I am known as Mary") Powell from Hay-on-Wye says she composed the original hospital song while she was in Craig-y-nos in 1942 as a 10 year old.

It goes like this:

" I had the scarlet fever
I had it very bad
They wrapped me up in a blanket
And put me in a van
The van was very shaky
I nearly did fall out
And when I reached the hospital
I heard a patient shout

“Mammy, Daddy take me home
from this hospital
I want to be home with you

Here comes the nurse
With a red hot poker
Drops it down
And takes no notice

"Oh" said the patient
"thats too hot!"
"Oh" said the nurse
"I am sure its not!"

They tied you to a cabbage store
And cut me up with a knife and fork."

Mary taught her children , and now her grandchildren, to sing the song.

There is no reference to TB because Mary didn't know until she was grown up that is what she was suffering from. She spent five years in hospital - one in Craig-y-nos and four in Kensington hospital, St Brides.

Her parents took her to Haverfordwest on her first day out and she fainted from shock.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Auntie Maggie with children ( circa 1953)

Do you recognize anyone in this photo apart from Auntie Maggie?
I am not able to put a date on it except to hazard a guess that it is sometime in the mid- 1950s.
If you know any names please let me

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ann- one of the "snow girls"

Ann eating an apple -
from the collection of Barbara O'Connell (nee Pearce), 1953

Chatting to Barbara about our time together in Craig-y-nos we tried to locate where our respective beds were.

I told her I was out on the balcony.

She replied:" Oh, you were one of the "snow girls"."

One curious thing about this photo: although I have received over 1,200 photos for this project this is the only one that shows a patient ( and it so happens to be myself) eating.

(What criteria did the doctors use in deciding who got the full blown fresh air and snow treatment? After all there were over 20 in Ward 2 and only 6-8 beds on the balcony.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Swansea museum exhibition

Looks like Roger Gale, exhibitions organiser, in Swansea museum, has gone off on a three week holiday and nobody knows anything about our forthcoming Children in Craig-y-nos exhibition!.....grrrr.

Fortuantely Valerie Brent and Dr Carole Reeves have both been in contact with the museum who are very apologetic and yes they promise us that a small exhibition will take place after all. It will be in the corridor.

Roger had promised us the Resource Room but that's another story.


Following the Heritage Lottery grant to publish the book, "The Children of Craig-y-nos", Dr Reeves had put out a massive amount of publicity which mentions this forthcoming exhibition and BBC Radio Wales are doing a programme which will be broadcast in August and this is sure to attract a lot of people to the museum.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BBC Radio Wales

Dr Geoff Ballinger, a producer with Radio Wales, is doing a programme on the history of TB in Wales. I have put him in touch with Dr Carole Reeves.

Dr Ivor Williams - medical superintendent, Craig-y-nos

Dr Ivor Williams

Dr Carole Reeves of The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London has just pointed out that Dr Williams was a physician at Kensington, St Brides, before going to Craig-y-nos in 1947.

He went there as a TB specialist but was also an orthopaedic (bone) surgeon at that stage because many of the patients there had TB bones.

He was also in the Home Guard in Pembrokeshire during the War.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kensington TB hospital, St. Brides, Pemb.coast

Other people stories of TB in childhood are beginning to emerge.

Natasha de Chroustchoff ( whom I knew many years ago in Wales) has just pointed out this web-site to me:

She says in her email:
"Today, a woman arrived here to stay in our holiday cottage for the next 2 weeks, from the Midlands. No sooner had we got talking that she mentioned that her mother (who came from Ebbw Vale or Cwmbran, I forget which) had been sent Kensington Hospital as a child in the 1930's, with a TB knee. It was so far from her home that she saw her family only once in 4 years and that was when amputation of her leg was recommended. Her grandfather refused to give permission and she made a complete recovery!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Valerie Brent, ex-nurse Craig-y-nos,- talk

An “amazing talk...tinged with happiness and sadness” was how the local parish magazine in Mumbles described Valerie Brent talk on “The Children of Craig-y-nos”.

Valerie said :”They had no idea how children with TB were nursed in those days and they were very surprised to learn that they only had visitors once a month.”

Retired nurse Valerie Brent , who was at Craig-y-nos from 1946-48 was talking to MEG ( Monday Evening Group) of the All Saints Parish church in Mumbles.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Valerie Brent, ex-nurse Craig-y-nos 1946-48

Valerie Brent, former childrens nurse at Craig-y-nos

Rules and regulations

We were not allowed to ask for any time off. You had to accept everything you were given. You had one day off a week and to have a weekend off was very rare.

If you ever did get a weekend off you would have to have a very special reason then you would have to work a good ten days before you got another day off.

You could go out on you one day off.
Nurses were not allowed out in their uniform, you were not allowed to get married during your training. I had to wait until 1952 until I could get married.
Then I had to leave Morriston hospital because they were still not employing married women.

But I had completed my training.

Group portrait of all the staff before closure in the early 1960s

At the end of the working day

“In the nights we had a big log fire in the nurses home and a piano. Sister Jenkins used to play the piano. We had no radio or entertainment so we had to make our own. We had to be in bed by 10 o clock.”

We were “Marching through Georgia” every night and I thought OK I was quite young but some of the older ones used to say: “please can we go to bed now?” but she would insist on yet another song.
“Once more, once more” she would say.
Because of course she thought the evenings were long.

Post-war scarcity

Personal things were scarce in the post war period so matron used to insist that you bought your toiletries and things on the day of pay so that you wouldn’t take anything, not even a bar of soap, from the patients.”

TB patients and sex
Valerie left to go and nurse in Morristown hospital and it was there that she learnt about another side to TB, not one that she saw any evidence of in Craig-y-nos.

“TB patients were more inclined to be sexually active. Yes it is true, definitely true, it was never something we talked about because it was not the done thing but believe me you had to be very careful with the young men who had TB.”

Later life
Valerie went on to pursue a highly successful career in nursing before getting married and having children. She has written a book on her experiences called: “Life isn’t all kiwi and oranges”. (Published by Life story Services, price £9.99)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Valerie Brent, ex-nurse Craig-y-nos 1946-48

Inside the Glass Conservatory

Winter of 1947

During the 1947 snow the hospital was snowed in for two whole weeks.
“So it was - bed to work, bed to work.”

“I used to go and help them fill up the hot water bottles on the boys balcony.

You would hear the little boys saying” my hot water bottle is cold” and they would be snuggled down the bottom of the bed when they were supposed to be up the top having fresh air.
And I would have to tell them:” Come on back out!” I used to think they would smother but they never did.

“The children would be like little balls of fire buried at the bottom of their beds. We had to pull them up for the fresh air. It seemed to me that it was so cruel. But I was very young and didn’t understand that was the treatment.”

In the mornings it would take two nurses to lift the snow covered tarpaulins off the bed and throw it over the balcony.

The sweetie tins
Nothing had to be kept in the lockers, which would deter children from eating their proper food.
After each meal they would get treats and the “sweetie tin” would be passed around.

The nurses needed to supervise the patient eating, supposing a mother brought a bar of chocolate in and gave it to the young boy then perhaps he wouldn't feel like his lunch so I think that was the reason behind all that to make sure they had nothing in their lockers that would deter them from eating their proper food.

The children would have their meal, then bed pans and we would wash them, then we would go round with the chocolate in a big tin and we would cut up the bars of chocolate into pieces. this would be done after breakfast.
The reason behind that this was to give them the chocolate or sweeties after every meal as a treat so that they would be quite hungry and ready for the next meal.

So it was no good feeding them in the middle of the afternoon otherwise they wouldn't be hungry for their next meal. They were given this every day three times a day we used to go around with the sweetie tin and the chocolate. This was in the Conservatory.

Visiting time
Visiting was only once a month and that was petty traumatic. It was like Christmas day every month with the things that used to be brought in.

“The children would go crazy with excitement.”
Absolutely crazy.”
A couple of the older ones 6-9 years of age would know the weekend in the month that visitors were due would be crazy for two or three days before.
It was like Christmas.
Whatever they brought in could not go back out. It had to stay there forever.

It would become their personal toys while they were there.
But they wouldn't be allowed to take them home. Nothing was allowed out.

There was a certain part of the corridor near the entrance to the Conservatory where we used to accept all these things and once they were over that line they could not go back out.

Relatives used to come with hot water bottles because it was so cold and they would have them under their coat, that’s people who couldn't suffer the cold very much because doors and windows were open in the Conservatory.

I can recall being at the door when the relatives were coming in and they would hand over a cake or whatever anything they had brought they would hand over, hand over everything chocolates and sweets.

They would hand it over at the door and we would stack it up until we had got all the visitors in then we would take it to the main pantry and store them there so that every child, irrespective of who brought what in every child had the same, some most probably couldn't afford much. Whatever came in was stored then distributed around the whole ward.


We used to have sing songs for the children:” It is a happy, happy day the sun has got his hat on”.
We started singing if we saw the little ones were crying to try and keep them happy.

Yes, children were in restrainers during the day otherwise they would get out of bed.
If nurses had time they would untie maybe one or two and play with them but you were never allowed to leave them untied. Maybe this would be untied for half an hour, if we had time.


“We tried to make this a special occasion. We would dress the girls in pretty dresses and they would walk in a crocodile to the theatre with their little bag of sweeties.”

(The final part of this interview will appear tomorrow).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nurse Valerie Brent - 1946-48

Interview with Valerie Brent who joined the staff as a trainee nurse in 1946 as a 15 year old, and worked in Craig-y-nos for two years.

“I was an orphan, the youngest of 12 children.
My father died when I was a baby and my mother died when I was 15.

I had always wanted to be a nurse so after my mother passed away I came out of grammar school.
Craig-y-nos was my first choice and Matron Knox-Thomas took me in because of my circumstances even though I was too young.

I lived in at the hospital. I think my little room is still there even though it is now a hotel.

”I got paid £3.10 shillings a month plus board and keep and I had one day a week off.”

Nursing was in a three-shift system:

7.30 -4.30; 1.30- 8.30 and 8.30-8am.

“Because I was so young I was put to work with the very young children in the Glass Conservatory.

Here the children were between six months to 9 years of age.

“Part of me was still a schoolgirl. I threw myself completely into nursing and I think I appeared a bit older than my age.

Dr Huppert

It was Dr Huppert who took her aside one day and said:
“You must not stay here. You must go on and do better things.”

Yes the small children were frightened of Dr Huppert.
“It was her accent and she had such a deep voice. I can see her now coming down the stone steps into the Glass conservatory. She would say:

”Hullo my little children” some of them were frightened of her but she loved them all. She would go around each one saying:” Hullo my children...” I can hear her voice now...

Negative and positive
She recalls on one occasion being reprimanded by
Sister Williams, who for reasons unknown, was called “Boogie” for washing negative and positive toothbrushes in the same bowl.
“I had no idea what she meant so she explained to me that some children were positive with TB and others were negative.”

Night duty
As a teenager she would often be left in charge on night shifts with 20 or more babies and toddlers in the Glass Conservatory.
It was, Valerie says, a “skeletal staff”. She could if a crisis arise call on the night sister.

Death of a teenager
One night though Sister Williams called on her to help.
She asked her to go to Ward 4. It was full of teenagers and young women, and Sister Williams kept warning her not to be afraid.

She kept telling me on my way down:”I don't want you to be afraid of anything nurse” she didn't explain what it was all about.

“She told me to put on wellingtons, a long gown, mask and gloves then took me into this side ward.

There was this young girl. She was beautiful, like a Madonna. Only 16. I had to help lay her out.
The tears were running down my face. All you could see of me was my eyes

I think Sister knew I was crying. The girl was only a year older than myself.”

Yes there were a lot of deaths in Craig-y-nos in though not as many as some people used to think.

Some stand out in your mind even after all these years. I shall always remember Lorraine, a really beautiful young woman. One day she came to the Patti theatre very proud she was in her new blue suit.
Soon after that she died and the nurse who had looked after her had taken quite a shine to her. You were not supposed to get emotionally involved but sometimes you just can’t help it.
Well, this nurse asked me to help lay Lorraine out and she said:” I am going to bury her in her blue suit.”
And that’s what she did, instead of the usual hospital gown.
I shall always remember Lorraine in her blue suit...

There was one little girl; she would have been about three years of age, very, very blonde and quite plump. She didn’t look ill at all. She had a very straight fringe and she never smiled. Quite a surly little girl really. And I remember being told that she was a terminal case and not quite believing it and they said:”look at her nails and feet”.
I did . They were very, very clubbed and that’s a sign of advanced TB. I used to bath and wash her little feet. She had such a beautiful complexion. I can see her now in her cot...

Placards “silence”.

Some young people used to walk around the grounds with their little cardboard signs in front saying:” Silence no talking.”

I can recall the first time I saw this.
I said:” what on earth is that all about?”
I could see them from the Conservatory walking around the grounds and they were walking around the grounds for hours.

I was told it was so that nobody would stop them to talk to them.
“It was all part of the treatment. It was to rest their lungs.”

The Glass Conservatory - children were wheeled out during the day for the fresh air

The sanatorium regime
My diet was 4,500 calories a day. They were
very strict because of the nature of the disease.
Nurses had to eat 4,500 calories a day.

There were days when you thought:” oh gosh I don't really want that, but the one in charge Sister Williams would come in and says” no food, no ward”.

Because the nature of the disease you were putting yourself into a vulnerable position.
We weren't allowed to touch a thing on the ward, nothing to eat, that’s why our diet in the dining room as very high and nutritional, even though it was Post war there was no rationing there We had plenty of everything.

We had very good food. Before drugs came in the main cure for TB was rest, good food and fresh air.

We used to have Tonsil Day when the ENT surgeons would come up from Swansea Mr Crowther and Mr Robinson. That was a big day really, a big day for our ward.
They removed the tonsils because they thought that would stop infection and stop them getting better. But they didn’t know at the time that they were there for a purpose.

Another big day was gastric lavage day.
“It was horrible, a horrible procedure. But you had to do it.”
Children as young as two years of age had “gastrics”.

Sister Powell did them. She was “very firm” and one nurse would have to hold the child tight.
“You had to watch your fingers cause the children would bite you.” (With the small children a nurse would have to put her fingers in to the child’s mouth to hold it open while Sister Powell pushed the tube down.)

Valerie has written a book on her nursing career called: “Life isn’t all kiwi and oranges”. (Published by Life story Services, price £9.99) which includes a small section on Craig-y-nos.

(The second part of this interview will be published tomorow).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The "Box room" - 1950

Sister Winnie Morgan

Does anyone remember the “Box Room”? the place so called because it was like a box and didn't have any windows. That’s where the very sick children and the naughty were put.

Well, that’s what I was told shortly after arriving in Craig-y-nos.

I had only been there a few days when something happened that was to make a lasting impression on my life. And it centred on the “ `Box Room”

Many “children of Craig-y-nos” have mentioned how they in hospital to become watchful. I know I did.

And I can trace the start of it back to an evening when something happened, an incident that would remain with me for the rest of my life, perhaps because of the injustice of it all .

It was early evening, and we were waiting for supper. Trays and cutlery had been handed out. ( All with bits of coloured wool attached so that you got the same one at each meal time).

Mid-March, a day in which it had never got really light and now the wind howled through the ward in the castle for all the windows and French doors on to the balcony were open : day and night.

Dorothy with nurse

Boredom hung in the air.

Dorothy my new friend, in the bed next to me, several years older than me, aged 9, started to taunt Marion in the bed opposite.

Even I knew within a few days of being in Craig-y-nos that Marion had a temper. It took little to make her angry.

Marion start to shout. She became angry. Delighted Dorothy goaded her even more.

Marion had her knife and fork in her hand and started waving them about.

“I will throw them at you,” she said. “ If you don’t shut up!”

“Go on,” challenged Dorothy.

And Marion threw the knife across the ward at Dorothy. It landed on the floor.

Suddenly there was a tremendous commotion the ward and girls started screaming:”Marion is throwing knives! Marion is throwing knives!”.

Sister Morgan rushed in.

“What’s going on here?”

All the girls started shouting at once.
“I have had enough of this,” said Sister Morgan.
She took hold of Marion’s bed and pulled it out.

She called for assistance. Other staff rushed in and those girls who were up joined in too and pushed Marion’s bed out of the ward.

She was taken to “The Box Room”, never to be seen again.

On revisiting Craig-y-nos 50 years later I looked for the “Box Room” and I could not find it, except the Day Room on the top floor, never used as a Day Room for it was always stuffed with junk, and a couple of other mysterious attic rooms which we, as children, never knew existed.

So what did happen to Marion?...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Peggy Tizzard 1939-41

Peggy Tizzard

Peggy (right) 1939

I have just received these photos from The Sleeping Giant Foundation which Peggy Tizzard had left with them, so I thought I would include a little bit of Peggy's story again since she is one of the few people who was in Craig-y-nos as a child during the last war. ( you can find the full version by typing her name into the search section).

She went in as a three year old:

“I was told I was going on holiday and wore a red coat and a red beret. Then they left me in a cot in this big ward with lots of other children.

They tell me I cried a lot but I don't remember it. We were not allowed any toys so my teacher sent in a slate with a piece of chalk and a box of wooden blocks with faces on them. I spent hours playing with that.

After a while they put me upstairs in the women's ward. I was the only child there.

I never saw another child for years except once when Dr Jarman brought his son in who was the same age as myself and we spent time rolling this thing down the stairs. We didn't know what it was. Eventually Dr Jarman came back and he picked it up . He said it was an orange and he peeled it and we ate it.
This was the first orange I had ever seen."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Heulwen Chemist - (circa) 1953- inside Ward 2

Heulwen Chemist

It’s strange how a photo can reactivate a memory, even one as far back as 55 years.

So it was when I looked at this photo of Heulwen Chemist which arrived on e-mail.

Heulwen was in the right hand corner of the balcony. She was very quiet. Nobody bothered with her and she bothered nobody.

I forget how long she had been in, but suspect it was a long time. She had TB meningitis and it had affected her brain. She was regarded as “ a bit simple” and her parents from Ystradagynlais would visit her from time to time.
One day she took to “playing with herself”. This annoyed the staff, particularly Staff Nurse G. who was much sterner than the rest.

She would shout at Heulwen:
“ If I catch you doing that again I will tie your hands to the side of the bed.”

But Heulwen couldn't stop herself no matter how much Staff Nurse G screamed at her.

So they wheeled her back inside so the staff could keep an eye on her.

That’s what this photo shows: Heulwen inside Ward 2.

(I have just had a phone call from Margaret Howells who remembers Heulwen. She says she is still haunted by the memory of her and often wonders what did happen. And she remembers the bandages dangling beside her bed."I thought it was to stop her scratching herself.")

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Auntie Maggie with some of the balcony girls ( circa 1953)

This photo is from Barbara O'Connell's ( nee Paines) collection
The girl in the front is Joan Powell, she was a plaster bed patient and she was in the next bed to me for a while on the balcony. We were very close friends.

Joan Powell having her hair washed - Ann is in the next bed (circa 1950)
But who are the other girls? and what happened to them?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Return visit to Craig-y-nos- Barbara O'Connell- 2008

(from left to right) Jean Griffiths, Barbara Paines and Jean Shakeshaft in the grounds of Craig-y-nos Castle, 1953.

Yesterday Barbara O’Connell ( nee Paines) returned to Craig-y-nos for the first time for over 50 years.

Barbara went with a friend and she was glad of her emotional support.
“I started shaking when I got here.”

She had to allow herself some minutes to compose herself before walking into the courtyard.

As she did the clock struck 10 o’clock.

Her day had begun early with catching the 6 am bus from Ely to Cardiff railway station, then taking the train to Neath and the bus up the Swansea Valley to Craig-y-nos.

“It was a journey my mother would have made every month for over a year. It really hit home how hard it must have been for her and also at the same time visiting my three sisters who were in a sanatorium in North Wales.”

Gareth from the castle took her around the wards.

He told her there were 10 beds in Ward 2 and she was able to correct him: "More like 18-20”.

She added:“There were seven beds in my corner of the ward,” and she was able to list the names of all the girls in that corner.

(I know it seems incredible now when you see the size of the ward to think they had 18-20 beds in there but that is what I remembered and when I checked my diaries that is the number I had written down. Since then other girls have confirmed it. However, when you see the size of the ward it seems very difficult to imagine how they squeezed 18-20 beds in there.)

The arrival of the black and white television for the Coronation in 1953 meant that one bed had to be removed, says Barbara. I remind her that the gift of an aquarium from “Friends of the Hospital” meant that another bed had to be removed to make way for that too.

Barbara found the grounds “ overgrown....they used to be immaculate when we were there.”

She spent some time alone sitting by the lake and this helped to put the past into perspective.

They had just completed their tour when there was a big thunderstorm .

“We sat in the marquee outside until it passed then we got the 2.15 bus home. I had seen what I wanted to see. I had had enough.”

Barbara is glad she made that return visit though it turned out to be more emotional than she had expected.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Barbara O’Connell (nee Paines): Return to Craig-y-nos - 2008

Craig-y-nos - view from the lake

Today is a very special day for Barbara O'Connell.
She is returning to Craig-y-nos for the first time after 55 years.

She thinks it will be quite emotional and will be taking along a friend for moral support.

Barbara told me about this in a recent letter. She also added:

"There was a rug which patients were allowed to work on, and I really enjoyed doing that. What happened to it? Did it get finished?

I also remember the box with the picture slides, we used to be able to look at it, don't ask me what the pictures were of but they did pass the time away when you were a bed patient.

"Looking through the information I've printed off your blog this morning, I notice the dresses we were wearing with the flowers on all look alike. They were made of the same roll of material. Were the hospital property?

Also I can remember going for a walk towads the lake and saw this funny looking bird. I told Edgar about it and he said it was a pelican. Can anyone else remember seeing it? " ( (More likely a heron - Ann.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Barbara O’Connell (nee Paines): "Going home"- 1953

Teenager Barbara O’Connell (nee Paines) was in Ward 2 for a year.

Barbara remembers the ghost stories.
" I was told it was a nurse struck by lightening who now wandered the wards."

She remembers Matron Knox-Thomas going around the wards in the evening with her Irish red setter, Paddy, but she never went out on to the balcony.
"Sometimes she would stand at the door and shine her torch around the ward."

Her memory is that there were 26 girls in the ward and on the balcony. Despite these cramped conditions she says:
"I did enjoy my stay in the hospital because our ward was one big happy family."

This is Barbara's account of her early days back home:

"The day I came home was a bad experience, at first I was alright until I turned into my street. Then the fear started it seemed as if the houses had been moved.

It was like walking down a very narrow alleyway. When I reached my house and I walked through the door I ducked down, it seemed as if the ceiling was on top of me. As I got further into the house it got worse, as we had two passage ways until we got to the back room that we lived in, once I was in the back room I felt as if I was being closed in, it was so claustrophobic.

It was a horrible feeing.

After the hugs and kisses from my father and younger sister, I felt really strange because when I left home there was seen of us, now there were only four of us. As my three older sisters were still in h hospital.

At bedtime I did have mixed feelings, I laid in a bed on my own. It was something I never done before as I always had my sister to talk to. That was when I started thinking I did miss my sisters and the company of the girls on the ward.

But I was home now although it was like being shut into a cupboard because my bedroom was so small.

The following day I couldn't wait to go out, so after breakfast my mother took me to town and bought me some new clothes, which was really nice as I had not had anything new for a long time.

We met a few people that were surprised to see how I had grown and how well I looked, as I was quite small when I left home.

I also met a few friends that I was in school with, but they didn’t seem to want to know me because I’d had TB.

Even my best friend who lived two doors away didn’t want to know me, I saw her coming out of the shop, spoke to her and she totally ignored me."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Haydn Harris -Craig-y-nos- 1937-38

Haydn Harris shortly after laving Craig-y-nos

I've just come back from the Hay Book Festival to find yet another letter, this time from Haydn Harris, asking where the book:" The Children of Craig-y-nos" can be purchased.

Sorry Haydn but Dr Reeves and I are still working on it. Around 150 people have contacted us and that is an awful lot of interviewing and telephoning to do though only about half that number have gone on to an in-depth interview.

Haydn tells me though that he has written an account of his time in Craig-y-nos for the B.P. Pensioners magazine and it has been published.

Well done!

(Haydn was in Craig-y-nos as a four year old for 11 months in 1936. You can read his account by typing in his name in the "search"section - top left hand corner - of this blog).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Helen Maine ( circa 1952)

Toddler with balloon.
Helen Maine (above) was in the top childrens ward. I wonder where she is now?...

The photo comes from the collection of Barbara O'Connell ( nee Paines). She never had a camera herself but borrowed negatives.

Barbara says:" I was very friendly with Joyce Rees in the Six-Bedder and her husband, Ken, used to sneak into Ward 2 to see me. I didn't have a camera myself so I borrowed negatives from the other girls and he had them copied for me."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hot water bottles - 1953

How did we keep warm on the balcony? here's the answer: hot water-bottles.

This is a photo of three of us clutching our bottles ( I am in the middle and Rose Ryan is on my right, don't know the name of the girl on the left).