Thursday, July 31, 2008

The visitor wrapped in newspapers

Here's a story told me by Pamela Hamer which encapsulates just what it must have been like for so many parents struggling to visit their children in Craig-y-nos during the winter.

"My friend had a sister in Craig- y- nos. Her Name was Phyillis Anne Smith. She went in as a 2 year old and came out when she was 8 it was in the late 1930s.

One cold winters day her mother was on the bus and she could hear rustling.
After a while she was wondering where the rustling was coming from, and a man on the bus saw her looking around and he said:

"I'm sorry the sound is coming from me, I have had to line my body with news papers to keep me warm as I am going to visit someone in Craig-y-nos."

Pamela Hamer( nee Osmond) -exhibition

Pamela Hamer with her husband at the Swansea museum exhibition:"Children of Craig-y-nos"

Pamela tells me that she is going to invigilate the exhibition today.

"I will make sure everyone signs the Visitors Book."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shingles! and Children of Craig-y-nos project

Thank- you to all who have enquired about my welfare after hearing I had shingles. Well, six weeks later I am hopefully cured though a bit of pain still lingers on.

It came as something of a surprise because I consider myself to be very healthy. However, it was also something of a wake-up call when I discovered that there is a stress element to shingles and I realise that the time has come to begin closure for the" Children of Craig-y-nos" project. During the past two years I reckon I have either interviewed, spoken to, emailed 150 people mainly ex-patients.

Their stories have often been harrowing, far worse than anything that I had anticipated from even my own experiences though I was in Craig-y-nos for four years.

Digging up the past is bound to be painful. Perhaps I was naive in not anticipating this. But I am not alone.
Journalist John Sutherland who wrote his own childhood memoir, The Boy Who Loved Books, described the experience :
" I had, it seemed, stirred up a lot of mud writing the book - woken a whole pack of sleeping dogs."

For me it has been as if I had opened a door into a ward full of screaming children:"take me home!" Fifty, sixty even seventy years after leaving Craig-y-nos those early traumatic memories for some people still remain fresh, as if it happened yesterday, in their minds.

That was a shock.

On the positive side though it has put me in touch again with my Welsh roots and I have met some lovely people.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Swansea exhibition

Valerie Brent, author and ex-nurse , who is invigilating the exhibition every Friday and Saturday tells me that the museum gets a lot of foreign visitors.

So far over 200 people have signed the Visitors book and many of them are from overseas. Valerie says the latest entries include people from Spain, Australia, Poland and America.

She says what amazes them most is the length of time the children had to stay in bed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Margaret Davies:"“Lighting struck the iron bedstead"

(right) Margaret Davies (nee Maddock) from Penclawdd, Swansea with the teddy-bear she had with her all the time she was in Craig-y-nos from December 1951-January 1953, age 5, for 13 months before transferring to Sully for half her lung to be removed.

Monday morning. Phone rings.
A lilting Welsh voice asks:”Are you still wanting ex- patients from Craig-y-nos?”

“Of course!”

“I was in from December 1951-January 53. I was five years old at the time.”
We have a chat.

(right) Auntie Maggie

What do you remember about Craig-y-nos?

“It was a terrifying place. I was totally Welsh speaking and the youngest in the ward. No one could understand what I was saying except for one nurse, Auntie Maggie, who spoke Welsh. I do not recall any of the doctors being Welsh.”

Eventually she did learn English.
That's when the older girls told her about the existence of the White Lady. If there were noises in the night they would say it was Adelina Patti.

“I was petrified by these stories. My treatment was such that I spent the whole time at Craig-y-nos lying on my stomach. To enable my seeing around the ward my head was at the foot of the bed therefore, the nights seemed scarier and I used to sleep with the sheet wrapped around my head. Something I did for years afterwards.”

(We share memories. I tell her: “I still sleep with a sheet around my head unless I am with my husband.”)

“I don’t recall it being dreadfully horrible, I have just patchy memories, probably because I was quite young.”

“You don't look back on it with affection?
She laughs at the idea:
“Oh no! It always seemed so grey and so cold with the mountains towering over us, and when it snowed, it really snowed.
I can remember the cold and wind. I don’t ever remember it being warm, or that there was any heating.”

Harry Secombe

Do you have any good memories? “
“ Not really. The only food I can remember is semolina, which I have not eaten since! I don’t remember birthdays or Christmas, though I do remember going to see Harry Secombe in the theatre. My bed was wheeled down: this was the only time, apart from x-rays, that I ever left the ward in the 13 months I was there.”

What was the most frightening time?
“That would be at night when it was dark, and creaks and noises would really frighten me.”

Margaret was eventually transferred to Sully where she had half her lung removed and she was to remain there for a further five months.

But how did she become ill in the first place?

“ I was the only child of relatively elderly, very caring, loving parents, both in their forties when I was born. I had been unwell for a long time, with childhood illnesses one after the other, eventually losing weight, coughing, very weak and lethargic. My mother was probably fobbed off by the doctor as an overprotective parent, but she persisted that there was something seriously wrong and insisted on my having a chest x-ray. According to my mother, when the results showed I had TB the family doctor came to the house and was genuinely upset and sorry for his misjudgement.”

“When I was admitted to Craig-y-nos I recall my mother saying that she was horrified when they took off my vest and liberty bodice and just put me in a pair of thin cotton pyjamas, at a time when the wind and snow were blowing outside!”

“I cried and cried after my parents left. I had a teddy bear, which was the only toy I took in with me. When I eventually left the hospital I was allowed to take it with me on the condition that my mother washed and disinfected it. I still have it in our bedroom today.”

A month went by before her parents were allowed top visit, and when they arrived to see her she “was not quite sure who they were.”

Visiting was only one weekend a month.
" Looking back now I realise how distressing this must have been for all the children and their parents.”

I tell her women in the Six-Bedder had visiting every week.
”Good grief! I never knew that! “ she says.
(It was news to me too, something I discovered during research for this book, for even though I was in for four years and the Six-Bedder was only yards away from Ward 2 - I knew nothing about life inside other wards, maybe because I was one of the "snow girls" - those out on the balcony).

Margaret was in Ward 2 ( top floor)

Life inside Ward 2
“ I used to write home asking for little knitting needles, wool, pencils and books. Often these letters were written when we had our lessons. How I managed to do all this while lying on my stomach I do not know, but I did! I remember the long room with 19 beds. The beds were very close together.

One big memory I have is the day lighting struck a bed. All the bedsteads were iron and the windows, as usual were wide open. During a thunderstorm lighting struck one bed. Fortunately, it was empty at the time.”

“I had started on streptomycin and PAS before I went in to Craig-y-nos, but obviously the treatment had not worked. Despite the continued medication and total bed rest in hospital for thirteen months there was no improvement in my condition. Added to this, the enforced bed rest result in my inability to walk.

Therefore it was decided that part of my lung would have to be removed and `I was sent to Sully hospital. Sully was lovely. It was light, warm and by the sea. What a contrast to the dark, dreary, misty Craig-y-nos with the over-powering mountains.”

“Looking back I do remember, when I was very ill, before admission to Craig-y-nos, my best friend, who lived nearby, was allowed, by her mother to come and play with me regularly despite the fact that TB was known to be such a devastating and contagious illness. I was so grateful for this friendship which has continued to this day.”

“Going home from hospital felt very strange, I was afraid of being left on my own.”

When she came out of Sully in June 1953, (the day before the Queen’s coronation) she was crowned Queen in her local street party.

Back to school
Despite having lost three and a half years schooling Margaret passed the eleven-plus and went to Grammar school, leaving after her O Levels to take a secretarial course. She worked as a school secretary until her daughter was born.

Later she returned to work as a practice manager for her local health centre in Penclawdd for twenty-three years.

Her one regret is that she never discussed her experiences with her mother.

“My mother lived with us for thirteen years prior to her death. It is a shame I did not ask her more questions about my illness. I could have found out so much more.”

Life today
Some time ago she had to see a chest consultant who was most interested to hear about her time in Craig-y-nos as a child. He advised her to write about it saying that doctors today have no idea what it must have been life for a child to be put into a place like that for years on end.

Talking about her health today she says:

“I have got bronchietatis in the left lung and I have had rheumatoid arthritis for over thirty years.”

“Craig-y-nos definitely had a psychological effect on me. It was bound to. How could it not?
It probably made me, on occasions, more defensive, and sometimes more detached.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Longest time in CYN

One man who called in to see the Swansea exhibition today told Valerie Brent that he had a relative who had been in Craig-y-nos for seven years.

This is the longest period we have known anyone being there though a few ex-patients have come forward who were in for five years.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Looking for her past

Still at the exhibition... Barbara saw another woman clutching a tiny photograph of herself as a child while looking at the photos. She was trying to find herself.

She had been in Craig-y-nos as a five year old some time around 1945-48 in the Glass Conservatory and all she could remember of the experience was “the lumpy porridge”.

She had no other memory at all. Barbara helped her look through the exhibition but they failed to find a photo of her there.

So she is still looking for her missing past.

Barbara O'Connell (nee Paines) 1952-53-Swansea exhibition

“Let me shake your hand!”

Barbara visited the exhibition in Swansea museum and seeing a woman looking at one of the photographs she said:
“That’s me in the photo”.

The woman turned to Barbara and said:
"Let me shake your hand!”

Barbarba says she was quite touched by the gesture.
It turned out that this woman's husband had TB as a child though he was not in Craig-y-nos. He didn't want to talk about it and tried to hurry his wife away from the exhibition.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mary-Sutton-Coulson, Dr Williams' daughter

Edgar, head gardener with Mary, Ruth and pet badger, Bonzo

Mary Sutton-Coulson in conversation with Dr Carole Reeves:

"What was very interesting was the station at Craig-y-nos (Penwyllt), I gather it was built by Adelina Patti for Edward VII to visit. During the petrol crisis in the 1950s – the Suez Crisis (1956) – my parents didn’t have enough petrol to drive us to Staffordshire so we used to have to go by train from Craig-y-nos Station, and it was five changes. It used to take us all day.

(right) Nurse Glenys Davies

I remember Glenys Davies, Euryl (Thomas) and Ina (Hopkins) in the office. I knew them really well because I was in and out of the office.

Euryl and Ina tried to teach me shorthand-typing when I was home for six months after I left school, when I was learning to drive. I got to know them, and Glenys Davies and the people who played badminton with us. I can’t remember whether the dentist (Jenkin Evans) used to play badminton. I think he used to play tennis. Certainly, a number of the miners used to come up and play tennis and badminton with daddy.

My parents left Craig-y-nos the year I went to university in London when I was eighteen and that was 1962.

Father Christmas (dentist, Jenkin Evans) holding a child patient watched by Mary and Ruth in the background and Matron Knox-Thomas

Christmas at Craig-y-nos
Ruth and I used to sing Christmas carols on the hospital radio on Christmas Day to the patients. I don’t know whether anybody remembers it.

We always had to have our Christmas on Christmas Eve so we always had duck on Christmas Eve because Daddy had to carve the turkey on Christmas Day. So we always had to be good little girls and go and have Christmas lunch with all the sisters and Dr Huppert in the room opposite the front door of the main building.

We used to go in and up into this room and that was the main, formal doctors’ dining-room. On Christmas Day the senior sisters were invited for Christmas lunch there as well. We used to go and have our turkey lunch there after daddy had carved the turkey for all the wards. So we always had to behave ourselves with Dr Hubbard there.

Dr Huppert ( left)

What do you remember about Dr Huppert?
You did what you were told. If it was bed-rest to get you better then you jolly well bed-rested! And you got punished if you didn’t.

We used to have a laugh with her, I seem to remember. She was there always in the background. Other than that, I can’t remember much about her other than these formal Christmas lunches.

Sister Outram and Sister Powell

Sister Powell
The person I remember most and with great fondness is Sister Powell.
Sister Bessie Powell retired to live in Mountain Ash in one of the vertical little narrow roads.
She bought a house there. She loved Craig-y-nos. She was very, very sad to have to go back to Mountain Ash but her family were there. Well, her sister was there, so she bought a little terraced house there. We continued visiting her until she died. I can’t remember what year she died.

A lonely life
To me, in a way, it was a bit of a lonely life. Our friends were all the local farmers and there were only three farms -- one either side opposite the hospital and Dan-yr-Ogof where the caves are now. I used to spend my holidays up there sheep-shearing and feeding the baby lambs, so we were quite limited in our local friends really when we were at Pen-y-cae (school); until we went to Ystradgynlais and even then most of our friends were Abercraf and Ystradgynlais. That was still seven miles to get to. They used to come up to us and we used to hold these amazing Guy Fawke’s parties every year.

That was the one time we used to invite our friends from Abercraf and Ystradgynlais to have a party with us. Because of transport and that we didn’t bike down to Abercraf or anything.

Playing in the grounds of Craig-y-nos
Edgar lived just a very few miles down towards Abercraf. We used to spend a lot of time crossing that river (in the grounds of Craig-y-nos) to the far lake and messing about in the river. I had a lovely grandfather. My mother’s parents were from Liverpool and they spoke Welsh, and my mother spoke fluent Welsh. My father spoke a little bit of Welsh although he was much more anglicised. He was born in Wrexham but their home was Machynlleth (Powys) but we always used to laugh that he was the one who didn’t really speak Welsh. My maternal grandparents used to come down, and after my grandmother died, my grandfather came and he used to fish trout in the two lakes and in the river, even when he was nearly blind. We used to have a croquet lawn where they now have the marquees. That was all our garden.

We used to have these awful peacocks that used to come and preen themselves in the two French windows and make such a noise in the morning.

Bonzo the badger
One day Edgar’s dog brought in these two badgers. The mother must have been killed and one of the little babies was dead and the other one was alive and so we looked after him. He lived in our stable. That was Bonzo.
Daddy didn’t like him because he used to bite daddy.
He had a dog collar. We used to take him for walks on a lead. I think my sister must have been at boarding school by then and I was there on my own.

Mrs Williams with daughters,Mary and Ruth

My mother
My mother didn’t really want me to go to boarding school because in a way, she was a very intelligent woman and she didn’t have a job or anything at that stage.

There wasn’t a school where she felt she could go and teach her biology and botany, so she became very involved with various charities and Chairman of the Court down in Ystradgynlais. Quite amusing because she did understand Welsh although North Wales Welsh is quite different from the South Wales, you still could understand quite a lot. There would be a lot of these people swearing and cursing in Welsh and of course they had no idea she could speak Welsh, and then she’d sum up in Welsh and that would put them off a bit. They just loved living in Craig-y-nos and the countryside. They were very enthusiastic naturalists. I think they were early members of the conservation societies. They used to have us walking the Brecon Beacons and all around the Cray reservoir and all of the valley reservoirs. Every Sunday we used to go for walks.

We used to scramble up Craig-y-nos itself, that Rock of the Night, and there were lovely wild strawberries up there and blueberries, we used to go and pick.
It was a very interesting childhood but because we both went to boarding school, we met up with people who lived in Leicestershire and Nottingham and Rugeley, who had a totally different sort of social childhood with all their parties and tennis clubs, etc. We used to spend quite a bit of time with them at weekends and holidays because by then I wasn’t really keeping up with any friends down in Craig-y-nos.

The last years of Dr Williams
Daddy liked being in charge of it all, just making things happen and run. And of course he got terribly involved with the restoration of the theatre, and got the people down from St Paul’s Cathedral to do all the gold leaf, all that restoration of all the composers around the top of the theatre.

And again, he was very involved with the television programme, the life of Adelina Patti, starring Joan Sutherland and Paul Schofield. There was also a short TV programme made in the late 1950s showing Glenys Davies walking around the wards at night with a candle against the background of Patti singing ‘There’s no place like home’.

I had an LP of Adelina Patti. You wouldn’t believe it but it was the one LP that was cracked right across the middle after I had my house fire and they moved all my LPs into my garage.

Daddy left Craig-y-nos in 1962. He died in 1995. In the end, Daddy unfortunately did have a few minor strokes so he became aphasic (loss of speech), which was very, very frustrating for him. It was dreadful because he was such a sociable person. But he continued playing tennis until he was over seventy-five in a lovely house overlooking Llangorse Lake.
They built a bungalow in Bronllys village itself overlooking the Black Mountains and spent their retirement there, which they absolutely loved. He became passionate about his garden and his vegetables, but always continued with the conservation of Wales.

Dr Carole Reeves (right)
"The kids who left Craig-y-nos remember going to his clinic in Brecon and Bronllys. One lady (Eileen Gibbons) told us a sad story about how she ran away from Craig-y-nos at the age of about twenty. She was one of the only people who did. She literally walked out one Saturday with the visitors and made her way back to her home in Hay-on-Wye. Her father had just died and she couldn’t bear being away from home. She’d always been told that if you discharged yourself from a sanatorium, no doctor would have anything to do with you or treat you. But your father continued to treat her as an outpatient. He knew the circumstances. She never, ever forgot it.

This whole project has been very, very important for the ex-patients because a lot of them were badly traumatised by being in Craig-y-nos because they were separated from their family and friends, often as very tiny children. It’s had a complex effect on some of them in ways that probably people at the time didn’t realise would happen. There was no particular concept of children’s emotional needs as well as their physical needs."

Mary went on to become a physiotherapist and her sister, Ruth, a dentist.

Extract from interview given by Mary Sutton-Coulson to Dr Carole Reeves Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, London.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mary-Sutton-Coulson, Dr Williams' daughter

Mary and Ruth with "Father Christmas" aka Jenkin Evans, the dentist

"We were aged from four to fifteen and we weren’t really allowed anywhere near the children because of the chance of catching TB. But we were allowed to go into the babies’ ward.

I used to go and find my lovely friend, Sister Bessie Powell. After my sister went to school she was such a lovely lady and she used to look after me if Mummy and Daddy went away. We used to go and pick mushrooms at six o’clock in the morning before I went to school. She was absolutely lovely. My father used to call her “the menace”. He’d say, “You two. Have you and the menace been doing things again?”

He had a very, very healthy respect for Bessie Powell. She was like his right-hand-man, really. She was just fantastic. She lived in the ‘Annexe’ at the top of the walled vegetable garden with the other ward sisters.
She was in charge of the babies’ ward

She had lost her fiancé in the First World War and never married.
(As did the matron Mary Knox-Thomas).

(Right) Mary and Ruth watch the Christmas festivities in the Patti theatre with Matron Knox Thomas on the right.

We spent a lot of time in Matron Knox-Thomas little flat if Mummy and Daddy were away.

Then we had this situation where Harry Secombe came to do a pantomime, and I went and had tea with him and sat on his lap and had chocolate biscuits in matron’s flat. If we weren’t allowed to go to the performances we’d be watching them from our attic view.

Yes, I went to the school in Pen-y-cae a mile up the road. There are two pubs up there (I can’t remember their names now) and I remember I used to call into one of them and have lemonade on my way back home. We used to walk up to that little school most of the time and then my sister went to the grammar school in Ystradgynlais. When it was my turn to go to the grammar school when I was ten, it because Ystradgynlais Comprehensive. It was one of the first in the country, I think, and so it was a huge school.

I was there two years and went to boarding school when I was twelve, mainly I think because my parents were quite interested in us going to a smaller school, as much as anything, but we would have to travel either down to Cardiff or Brecon or North Wales, which were an awful long way. We couldn’t do it really on a daily basis so they thought they might as well send us to a school where one of the teachers, who my mother had taught, was a house mistress. My mother had kept in contact with this particular lady who was lovely and we both moved into her house at Abbots Bromley School, Staffordshire.

What was very interesting was the station at Craig-y-nos (Penwyllt), I gather was built by Adelina Patti for Edward VII to visit. During the petrol crisis in the 1950s – the Suez Crisis (1956) – my parents didn’t have enough petrol to drive us to Staffordshire so we used to have to go by train from Craig-y-nos Station, and it was five changes. It used to take us all day."

Extract from interview given by Mary Sutton-Coulson, daughter of Dr Ivor Williams, to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mary and Ruth , daughters of Dr and Mrs Ivor Williams, enjoyed an idyllic childhood at Craig-y-nos. Here they are with one of their ponies and Paddy, the Irish setter, belonging to Matron Knox-Thomas

Mary became a physiotherapist, married and moved to Hampshire and her sister, Ruth, trained as a dentist and lives near Hereford.

This is Part One from an extract of an interview Mary Sutton-Coulson gave to Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, London.

"My sister must have been six or seven when we got to Craig-y-nos. I was three and a half in 1947.

Dr and Mrs Williams

Mummy and Daddy met at Liverpool University and they both played hockey for Wales. They married in 1936.
They were very keen sportsmen/ women, and that’s I think why, when he was at Craig-y-nos, he encouraged the staff so much and he arranged this badminton club for them and the tennis club. After badminton we used to go and toboggan on that hill opposite Craig-y-nos.

Well, some of the staff – I don’t know whether any of them are alive now – after playing badminton, we used to go in the moonlight on an army sledge up to the top of that hill and come down. And one of the staff broke her leg one day by putting it out as we went over a bump.

The Adelina Patti’s theatre was fantastic because it could be made a badminton court as well as a ballroom.

I think we played badminton twice a week – we certainly played every week anyway. He had the tennis club as well that he organized at the hospital for anybody to join in. That was very much his sporting side.

But Myra came into our lives when she was sent to Pembrokshire from Penhesgyn as a little girl – well, she was fifteen by then – and had had next to no education or training but she obviously could sew. So she was sent to the sewing room at St Brides and was there for two years before they sent her back to Penhesgyn to sew. Daddy saw her sitting alone in one of the mini-buses one night and said, “Whatever’s going on? Where are you from?” He then invited her to go for tea with him and Mummy, with the two teachers, Miss Jones and Miss Hall, and my sister was two-years-old.

From then on, Myra used to go and spend every Saturday with them, and look after Ruth, and so she was still there when I was born, I think. Then she went back to Penhesgyn into the sewing-room, and eventually when that closed in 1959 … she said that she changed from being in the sewing-room … they were short of nurses or something, and she said, “I can nurse. I’d like to nurse even though I’ve got a stiff hip.” She’s got a four-inch raise on her leg. So she started nursing.

When Penhesgyn closed in 1959, she lived at Craig-y-nos with mummy and daddy for seven months. They kept in very close contact with her because her parents didn’t want to know anything about her really. So she became very much an adopted sister. She’s twelve years older than us. Her story is quite interesting although it’s not obviously Craig-y-nos, as a TB patient.

She used to make all our clothes – beautiful clothes and the smocking she did was quite amazing.

I suppose, living at Craig-y-nos, was just the most amazing place for a child to live.

It was a dreadful house for my mother because the kitchen was at the nearest end to the courtyard (right near the new wrought iron gates that go through to the marquee), so you had to walk the full length of that and then down to the right. Our dining-room was half-way down that corridor and the funny square yellow block at the end was our lounge. Then we had three storeys up to our attic bedroom. Our attic bedroom was fantastic because we had a little link door into the theatre up in the eves. So we used to watch all the performances. We’d creep in there at night and watch any performances they had for the patients. Of course, if they were magic shows, we could see what was going on behind!

Mary and Ruth with their mother, Mrs Williams

We used to look between the big, tall curtains down on the stage.

I remember as a little girl finding my father’s medical skeleton in a box and making up horrendous stories about it .

I’ve still got it, the little wooden box with daddy’s medical skeleton.

Also, under the stage, linked to our basement, we had a table tennis table. It was mainly used by the family and daddy was a very keen table tennis player as well. We used to go and play underneath the stage. It was fascinating this arrangement that that theatre has of being able able to jack the floor up and down, and make a little orchestra pit and put the stage lights on and then have that amazing fire screen of Madame Patti with her chariot
We had that amazing area to play in and in fact we even used to roller skate in that theatre when the floor was flat – on the beautiful wooden floor!

Edgar, the head gardener

And then of course we had this amazing area and life, and Edgar (the head gardener) played a big, big, big part helping us look after our ponies and matron’s dog, Paddy, the Irish setter, the boats – we were always out in the boats on the lake.

Of course, that car park (Craig-y-nos Country Park car park) now was the most beautiful big vegetable area. It was all vegetables. At the bottom right hand corner was where we had our stables and our haystack. There were two big Victorian glass houses against the wall to the near lake, which Edgar was in charge of. They grew peaches and lots of tomatoes. We were self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables.

Then in the corner where our ponies (Lady and Tosca) were, we had a whole area where we used to have chickens and ducks. We used to have about two dozen eggs a week, so when there were spare eggs, my mother would be giving those to matron and that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Photos from official opening of Swansea exhibition

Swansea marina

Swansea museum

Valerie Brent, author and ex-nurse invigilating "The Children of Craig-y-nos" exhibition

Valerie Blewett, ex-patient with Valerie Filby

Cynthia Mullan, director Sleeping Giant Foundation (oral history charity), and Roy Harry, ex-patient.

(From left to right), Betty Thomas, ex patient, with niece Gaynor and Valerie Brent

Betty Thomas ( left) with Valerie Brent

Alcywn Davies, former porter at Craig-y-nos, with his wife.

(Photos taken by Dr Carole Reeves at the official opening of the exhibition)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Swansea museum exhibition- July/August 2008

Last Friday morning a group of us met up at Swansea museum - before diving into Morgans for lunch! It was the first time I had seen the exhibition, and given the limitations of the space, I think an excellent job has been done in the circumstances.

(From left to right): Pamela Hamer, (ex-patient) Valerie Brent ( ex-nurse), Ann shaw ( ex-patient), Valerie Filby and Roy Harry ( ex patient), Mr Hamer (husband) and Malcolm Shaw ( husband)

Roy Harry takes a close look at some of the exhibits in the glass case which include Auntie Maggie's photos and the original letter from Dr Williams giving the departure date for Marlene Hopkins from Craig-y-nos. Marlene now lives in California and she also sent a photo of herself with her American family.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Off to Wales

I am leaving this afternoon for my niece's wedding in Wales - flying from Edinburgh to Cardiff. This time I hope the airline does not loose my luggage.

Tomorrow I hope to pop down to Swansea museum. However, there is likely to be a gap in blog postings over the next couple of days because( yes you've guessed!) internet access will be unavailable, or sporadic at the best.

Visitors Book, Swansea museum

How do you judge whether an exhibition is successful?

Well, one criteria is to look at the Visitors Book. How many people have signed it?

In less than a week over 100 people have written in the one for the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition in Swansea museum.

This is yet more evidence, if it was still needed, that the project has touched the heart of the community, for it has opened up a subject, once taboo, dealing with nearly 40 years of lost Welsh history.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Craig-y-nos - Oral History conference

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

Oral History Society Annual Conference

No sooner had I returned to London from Swansea when it was back on the train to Birmingham for the Oral History Society’s Annual Conference 2008. It was held at Birmingham University Medical School on 4th – 5th July, and the title was ‘Who Cared? Oral History, Caring, Health and Illness: Marking 60 Years of the National Health Service.’

There were 44 papers presented and these were run in parallel sessions, which meant that delegates had to choose themed presentations rather than try to get to everything. My presentation, entitled ‘Finding the Lost Children of Craig-y-nos’ was in the last session on Saturday afternoon although, for some unknown reason, I wasn’t themed with the two other speakers who’d also done oral history interviews with people who’d been in TB sanatoriums as children. Susan Kelly at the Centre for History of Medicine Ireland, University of Ulster, had interviewed 53 people who’d had childhood TB in Northern Ireland between 1926 and 1963.

Many of their experiences were similar to the Children of Craig-y-nos, particularly with regard to emotional trauma (more marked in the youngest children) and stigma. The other speaker was Malin Arvidsson, a student at Malmö University, Sweden, who spoke about Marklunda, a ‘preventorium’ – in other words an institution for children who tested positive for TB but didn’t actually have it. The institution acted as an orphanage by taking urban children from the poorest homes and giving them an open-air life. Malin found that most of the people she interviewed had a good life at Marklunda but then they weren’t confined to bed and they took part in many outdoor activities. Even so, they were still separated from their families with all the long-term effects that this produces.

Until I met Susan and Malin, I had no idea that other people were working on similar projects to ours so it was great to meet up and compare notes. About 120 people attended the conference, mostly from the UK but there was a contingent from the US and Scandinavia. Many European countries don’t do oral history so it wasn’t surprising to find no delegates from across the Channel.

After my talk, a lady approached who seemed rather tearful and thanked me profusely for my presentation. She explained that she’d been born in Morriston and had no idea that Craig-y-nos had ever been a sanatorium. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised but it reinforced the conviction that we really are reconstructing 40 years of missing Welsh history.

The lady has since contacted me. Her name is Trish Thomas and she works as an Occupational Therapist at Working Age Mental Health Services in the community, for Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, based at Bognor Regis. She’s asked if I could advise on setting up a project to record the memories of people who’d been locked away in mental hospitals for 20 years or more, in the days when we did that sort of thing.

Well, we did that sort of thing at Craig-y-nos, didn’t we?

trish thomas said...
I am really glad to have made this connection, and I must say that one of the things that most moved me in the recordings from Craig-y-nos played at this conference was the account of a child's mother who tried to bring to her - the smell of the sea, and the touch of her pet dog. That made it easy to understand that your project is as much about the warmth, invention, and strength of human relationships as it is about pain and separation. I hope that something comparable will emerge if we succeed in recording the oral histories of some of the people I work with.
Very best wishes,
Trish Thomas

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Former nurse and ex-patient meet up

A former nurse at Craig-y-nos and an ex-child patient met up for the first time this week at the opening of the exhibition in the Swansea museum.

Says ex-patient Pamela Hamer:
"I met Valerie Brent who nursed me during my first two years in Craig-y-nos in the 1940s."

Valerie Brent will be invigilating the exhibition most days during the next two months. If anyone would like to share this task with her , or take over some days, then please speak to her when you go in.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Notes from Swansea exhibition

Valerie Brent, our roving reporter, currently iinvigilating the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition in Swansea museum reports the following comments from visitors:

Greek visitors to Swansea express surprise that children were sent away for years to hospital.

Three “wee toughies” boys around 12 years of age tell Valerie they can’t believe that children had to stay in bed for years.

“Anne on Blocks” calls in and says about her time as a teenager in Craig-y-nos during the mid 1950’:”I really enjoyed it there.”

Dentist Jenkins Evans ( aka “Father Christmas”) daughter, Margaret, called in . Now aged 74 she was herself a patient in Craig-y-nos as a 20 year old.

Valerie describes her as a”drama queen”. She had her second husband, a toy boy in his early 50s with her. They now live in Essex and had come back to Swansea on holiday.

It was Dr Ivor Williams who diagnosed Margaret as having TB.

He called around to their house after one social function and remarked how pale and thin she was and advised her father to take her to be x-rayed.
that's when they discovered she had a shadow on her lung. She was put into private room on her own in Craig-y-nos
so that she wouldn't have to share with the other young women.

One nurse who recalls her being there says she was notoriously “difficult”.

my amanda known as mandy and son in law phillip paid a visit to the exhibition in swansea museum on the 5th of july they said they spoke to a lady who was a nurse at craig y nos about my stay there they enjoyed the exhibition i hope to visit there myself in a few days
carole hughes nee davies

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Jean Clements - 1948- "father electrocuted"

Craig-y-nos Castle

Octogenarian Jean Clements from Clydach, rings wanting to talk about Craig-y-nos.

It was as if it was yesterday, so fresh in her mind is that memory of her ten weeks there in 1948.

She had lost weight, she had started to fade away. They thought she had TB. She was only 19 years of age and had just got married. So they sent her to Craig-y-nos.

But she was suffering from shock.

“My dad was electrocuted.
I went into total shock for my Dad was my life. I stopped eating,” says Jean.
Her father was an electrician’s mate in the local power station and he was only 42 years of age.

Barbara Pye, one of the first to receive the trial drug streptomycin in Craig-y-nos

Jean was put into the Annexe with other young women and she remembers Barbara Pye (“a very glamourous young woman with long red hair”).

In fact she still has a drawing Barbara did of her leg!

Jean remembers the night prowler who threw stones at the Annexe windows, and how frightened the women were and Barbara Pye’s husband, a policeman, organised night watches though they never did discover the culprit.

(left) Sister Outram with Dr Huppert

But her one big memory of her ten weeks there is of Sister Outram.

“She caught me knitting on a Sunday. She gave me the most terrible row. ‘Sunday is God’s day. You must do nothing’.

“ I was stopped straightaway.”

Sister Outram also forbade nails to be cut, or filed though she did allow those who were up to go for little walks in the grounds.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Oral History conference

"Who Cared?" is the subject of this year's annual conference of the Oral History Society taking place tomorrow in Birmingham.

Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London will be giving a paper tomorrow on "The Children of Craig-y-nos".

This will be the first time that our stories have been told before an international academic audience.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Opening of exhibition- Swansea museum

(From left to right) Cynthia Mullan, of The Sleeping Giant Foundation, Roy Harry , ex-patient and Dr Carole Reeves of The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, London.

( From left to right)Ex-patients Vera Blewett, Pamela Hamer, Sylvia Cottle, Pamela Hamer's husband and Pat Mogridge.

(From left to right) Alcwyn Davies, former porter at Craig-y-nos during the 1940s with his wife and Len Ley, the local historian specialising in tours of Craig-y-nos Castle

Valerie Brent, (left) a nurse in Craig-y-nos for two years in the 1940s with Dr Carole Reeves

Valerie Filby with Roy Harry, ex-patient in Craig-y-nos during the 1940s.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Swansea museum exhibition- July/August 2008

Young visitor at the Children of Craig-y-nos exhibition, Swansea museum

Several people have rung/emailed me to say how much they enjoyed the opening of the Swansea exhibition.
From all accounts it was a highly successful event. As soon as I receive photos taken there I shall put them up.

Meanwhile a special "thank-you" to Roy Harry, Valerie Filby and Dr Carole Reeves for all their hard work in getting the exhibition up.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Swansea exhibition opens

Roy cuts the ribbon.

Roy Harry, one of the Children of Craig-y-nos, formally opened the exhibition in Swansea museum this morning.

After cutting the white ribbon he spoke movingly about the project and dedicated the exhibition to:

"the Children of Craig-y-nos who never came out of the hospital."