Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jonathain Aitken and TB

I was surprised to hear former MP Jonathan Aitken talking on Radio 4 this morning ( "The House I Grew Up in") about his time as a three year old in hospital with TB.

The son of a wealthy, powerful Dublin family he caught TB from his Irish nanny and spent four years encased in plaster in the Cuppae hospital run by nuns.

He said his four years lying motionless on an iron frame taught him to be stoical, and time spent in this TB hospital proved useful training for his seven months in prison in adult life after being caught lying to the court.

He says he was happy there. He had become institutionalised and accepted that was the way life was. He remembers being wheeled outdoor for fresh air and how Sister Mary Finbar would order them to breathe deeply for the "fresh air treatment".

"It was all very theatrical. It was as if she was conducting an orchestra."

Life in the Dublin hospital though seems far less austere then in Craig-y-nos as our stories reveal in"The Children of Craig-y-nos". ( available from Amazon and a number of good bookshops.

Those of us in Craig-y-nos, including myself, lived out on the balconies all year round including in the snow - not wheeled out for a brief period each day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Benefits of the "Children of Craig-y-nos" project

Just heard of another instance where an ex child patient said how much he had benefited from being able to talk about his early traumatic days as a child in Craig-y-nos as a result of this project.

"For years something that had been hidden is now out in the open. And that must be a good thing," said Terry Hunt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Balcony boys - reunited

Roy Harry and Gerwyn Davies were both "balcony boys" in the 1940s and they have just discovered they live less than a quarter of a mile from each other in Cwmavon.

"We have never met since those days in Craig-y-nos but we plan to do so now," says Roy.

They have been in telephone contact after discovering through photographs on the blog that they were there together.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

History of TB hospitals- Abergele and Craig-y-nos

Valerie Brent rang to say she is reading a book on "The History of Abergele hospital - confronting the white plague". From her description it would appear to be similar to "The Children of Craig-y-nos" but a search on the internet reveals it is out of print and neither are there any second-hand copies available.

I wonder if anyone knows of a copy? It was published in 1999 by Gee and Son, Denbeigh Printers. ISBN -0707403316.

Meanwhile I have heard from a university friend at Swansea University that Waterstones are now stocking "The Children of Craig-y-nos".

And Pamela Hamer tells me ( on Facebook) that all her friends and relatives are queueing up to borrow her copy!....

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Girl Guides-Children of Craig-y-nos

This month the Girl Guides movement begins celebrating its centenary and there will be many stories of the ways it has benefited the community.

Mair Harris ( nee Edwards) centre with some of the Girl Guides on Ward 2 balcony

But there is one story that stands out, at least in the memories of girls who were living in an isolated TB sanatorium in a remote Welsh castle.

For Craig-y-nos had its own group, formed by an ex-patient, Ina Hopkins who returned as a medical secretary.( She was the captain of her local troop.)

I was one of those girls. It was our first link with the outside world , apart from monthly visitors. It gave us hope.

I remember how we used to cook sausages on an open fire on the balcony- something I suspect that would contravene today's Health and Safety regulations!

Christine Perry ( nee Bennett) is another. Christine excelled as a Girl Guider and became a leader, even representing the troop at a local event, the first occasion for anyone from the TB sanatorium taking part in an outside community event.

Nurse Glenys Davies recalls the occacion that Christine had their flag blessed in Abercrave church:

"I always remember that she was carrying the standard and Sister Morgan was always worried about the clock outside the door. ‘Watch that clock, watch that clock!’ Poor Christine was worked up and down it comes, oh dear, dear. The end of the world! It was only a clock anyway."

Girl Guides on Ward 2 balcony. Christine is on the far left back row.

Those of us who were Girl Guiders in Craig-y-nos have very fond memories of the organisation for it brought a bit of the outside world into our isolated lives.

The Girl Guide troop in Craig-y-nos is remembered with very fond memories for it was the first positive step by an outside organisation to introduce a sense of normality into lives of children removed from the outside world.

Photos from the collection of Ann Shaw ( nee Rumsey) and Christine Perry ( nee Bennett).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Children return to Craig-y-nos

Ann Shaw ( nee Rumsey) and Roy Harry beside the lake in Craig-y-nos during recent return visit.

Ann on the balcony of Ward 2, 1951

Roy on the balcony of Ward 1 (far right), 1945

Now that we have "discovered" Craig-y-nos after more than half a century some of us keep returning to renew friendships and memories of past times. I was in Wales recently for research on Sully and took the opportunity to call in at Craig-y-nos to meet up with Roy and his family for lunch.