Wednesday, December 08, 2010

BBC TV filming Craigynos

Valerie Brent former nurse from the 1940s tells me she was interviewed last week for the new BBC series which looks at 50 years of the National Health Service.
Also interviewed was Barbara Pye ,one of the first people to receive streptomycin.
" It was snowing when we got to Craig-y-nos - just like old times."

I got the impression Valerie had a ball with the television people and they gave her a bouquet of flowers!

Valerie said:" I really surprised myself too! There were so many stories to tell."

Earlier in the week they interviewed Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine,UCL and co-author of The Children of Craig-y-.nos.

"The Children if Craig-y-nos" by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves, price £9.99, paperback is available from

Enjoyed reading/following your page.Please keep it coming. Cheers!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Craig-y-nos and Sully

Craig-y-nos and Sully – punishment regimes

Craig-y-nos Castle, former children's TB sanatorium and home of opera diva Adelina Patti

Sully hospital

Philip Cox recalls the different punishment regimes he experienced as a child patient in both Craig-y-nos and Sully during the 1950s.

“In Craig-y-nos they tied you to the bed. In Sully if you got out of bed and you weren’t supposed to, then they took your pyjamas trousers off you. I hated that!”

He went into Craig-y-nos in 1953 as a three and a half year old and later transferred to Sully for his lung operation.

He was amazed to discover the blogs the other day while trawling through the internet.

“ I couldn’t believe my eyes. Any minute I expected to come across a photo of myself!”

Now he has sent away for a copy of the book, “The Children of Craig-y-nos” from Amazon.

Despite his poor start in life he went on to become a rugby champion in school and won numerous medals for sport including throwing the javelin.

Philip lives in Pontypool with his family.

Changed times: to-day Craig-y-nos Castle is a hotel specialising in weddings and Sully has been converted into upmarket apartments.

Monday, November 15, 2010

BBC- "The Children of Craig-y-nos"

Barbara as a young woman in Craig-y-nos in 1948. She was one of the first to take part in the trials for streptomycin.

Barbara Pye ( left) with her daughter-in-law

Dr Carole Reeves, medical historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL, co-author of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" arriving for book launch.

Valerie Brent, former nurse ( left) with Beryl Richards ( nee Rowlands) arriving at Craig-y-nos Castle.

The BBC are filming at Craig-y-nos this week as part of their new series on the Changing Face of Britain.

They will be focusing on Barbara Pye who was one of the first to take part in the trials for the life-saving drug streptomycin in 1948, Valerie Brent who worked as a nurse there for two years in the 1940s and Carole Reeves, medical historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL ( and my co-author of "The Children of Craig-y-nos") who will be providing the historical context.

The programme will be shown next Spring.

"The Children of Craig-y-nos" by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves, published in paperback by The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine , UCL, price £9.99p. It can be ordered from all good bookshops or online from

Sunday, November 07, 2010

BBC 1 TV and Craig-y-nos

BBC TV are doing a new series for next Spring on the Changing Face of Britian.

One of the themes is health and they will be featuring Craig-y-nos Castle when they cover TB and the introduction of the life-saving drugs.

Filming will take place shortly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book review- Dr Tony Jewell, Chief Medical Officer for Wales

"The Children of Craig-y-nos"was short listed for the Open Book Awards 2010, organised by the Medical Journalists Association.
( from left to right) The team - designer Marc Riley, Carole Reeves, Ann Shaw and Malcolm Shaw who digitised all the images, at the presentation ceremony in the Wellcome Trust Library.

"The Children of Craig-y-nos"
by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves
published by the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
price £9.99

Book review by Dr Tony Jewell, Chief Medical Officer for Wales

Craig-y-nos (Rock of the night) Castle, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, was the home of the world famous opera singer Adelina Patti.

After her death in 1919 it became a TB Sanatorium, mainly for children and young adults. This is an excellent book – a product of a community oral history.

Ann Shaw launched an internet blog in 2006 to collect stories from ex patients and staff. She spent four years as an inpatient between 9 to 14 years of age and was overwhelmed by the response to her blog.

She was able to collect 100 personal stories and over 1200 photographs within a year. This book is a product of this initiative between Ann and Carole Reeves an outreach historian from the Wellcome Trust.

It recounts the decades from the 1920s through to the 1950s through the eyes of the children, teenagers and staff and is richly illustrated with photographs. It is cleverly set in each historical period with reference to the developing
understanding of tuberculosis, its treatment and the public health impact.

Before the modern period of effective combined drug treatments for TB the prevailing wisdom was to isolate TB patients in sanatoria and expose them to “fresh mountain air”.

The stories recounted of these young and very ill children being made to sleep on the balcony, exposed to wind, cold and sometimes snow is hard to fathom from the comfort of the 21st century and with notions of the UN Rights of a child!

“The snow falls thick and fast, covering the bottom of the beds, then the whole bed and finally the lockers. We put our beds alongside the wall. This gives us some extra protection. Our beds are igloo-like, with bits of old tarpaulin tied with string, which is carefully hoarded for occasions like this”

“Friday morning: I am ill and have been given five big white tablets and told to keep quiet. I think I have a cold in the tummy. Snow covers half my bed and my slippers are soaking from paddling through the wet snow to get inside” ( Ann Shaw as a child on the balcony with Nurse Glenys Davies and again at the Patients Reunion )

Remember that some of these children were confined to the sanatorium from a very young age with very little continuing contact with their families, estranged by the institutional regime there but also the geographical isolation and logistical difficulty and cost to visit.

“I was admitted at nine months of age in 1927, so I grew up in the Glass Conservatory.
My mother used to visit me twice a year, not that I knew her anyway. The family was “on the parish” and that is all they were allowed.

They thought I had TB of the stomach. I was always on the veranda. We would stay there all night with a bit of tarpaulin over the cot. There was no schooling, I can’t remember drawing or writing on paper.

Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and needed only to be on a gluten free
diet. Instead I spent the first five years of my life in a TB sanatorium” (Winnie Gardiner (pictured above left ) as a child in the Glass Conservatory and (right) at the Patients Reunion in Craigynos Castle.)

These harrowing accounts included physical restraint such as tying young children to their cots and beds, physical, emotional and sexual abuse is all recorded in the extracts.

The other side to this book is its insight into tuberculosis as a major public health problem, the various surgical treatments culminating in the discovery of effective drug treatments such as with streptomycin. It also traces the journey of a health system from a TB sanatorium run by the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA) which was established in 1910 with a remit to prevent, treat and eradicate TB in Wales into an NHS hospital and eventual closure in 1986. Local Authorities had a role too as the 1921 Public Health (TB) Act made it obligatory for all County Borough Councils to provide treatment for people with TB. When the WNMA was disbanded in 1948, at the inception of the NHS, it funded 2600 beds, seventy doctors, 580 nurses and 830 domestic staff, a mobile x ray, research laboratory and a Chair of TB at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff. This book is a compelling read from its stories from patients, many of whom remain traumatised by the memories,their social situation and difficult family circumstances; by its insight into TB which remains a global scourge and it’s tracing the creation of the WNMA and development into the new NHS in the late 1940s. However it is the indomitable human spirit which shines through.

The Preface written by Clive Rowlands former Captain and Coach of Welsh Rugby:

Clive at home

“I was admitted as an eight year old, in 1947. That winter was the snowiest since 1814 and among the coldest on record, but our beds were wheeled out onto the balcony so that our lungs would benefit from the sharp, icy mountain air...Although I was one of five children, I don’t think I suffered as much as other youngsters because my sister, in her early twenties, was already in Craig-y-nos and I was allowed to see her every day. I also benefited from her weekly visitors because children’s visiting was normally only once a month. However I wasn’t aware that my sister was terminally ill and she was later sent home to die....My most abiding memory however is of receiving a rugby ball....and being punished for kicking it through a glass door. I was put in a straightjacket for a week.”

"The Children of Craig-y-nos" is available from Amazon Online or ordered from any good bookshop.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Death of Dulcie Oltersdorf

I have just been informed of the death of Dulcie Oltersdorf who went into Craig-y-nos in 1948.

Dulcie Oltersdorf ( centre ) and friends in a rowing boat on the lake at Craig-y-nos. This was strictly against the sanatorium regime but the gardeners colluded with the young women.

Dulcie Oltersdorf (Lewis) – Blood tests and blunt needles

I was on bed rest at home for a year, waiting for a bed in Craig-y-nos. The night before going in I wanted to go to the local dance and my mother let me. She shouldn’t have, but I met my boyfriend that night, a German prisoner-of-war. He used to visit me in Craig-y-nos. I was admitted to the Annexe three days before my twenty-first birthday in 1948.

I had to lie flat on my back and do nothing. That was the treatment. Well, after three months I had an X-ray and they
said, ‘You will have to lie on your back for another three months, maybe six months.’ I was determined that I would get better and if that was the treatment then I would do it! Sister Outram was very strict.

We used to close the windows at night and she would come in first thing in the morning, fling them wide open and we would eat our breakfasts shivering with cold. It was for
our own good. She told my mother that a cure depended on the ability of the patient to settle down and do what they were told.

I was able to settle quickly. We had regular blood tests and we used to hate it when Dr Hubbard did them because she
always used blunt needles. Afterwards, our arms would be covered in bruises.

I was happy and comfortable at Craig-y-nos. It was a good hospital.
When I was discharged I married my boyfriend. We have been together now for fifty-eight years and have never had a cross word!

Extract from The Children of Craig-y-nos by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves, paperback £9.99, available from Amazon online or Waterstones

Monday, October 11, 2010

Valerie Brent- 80th birthday

(from left to right) Valerie Brent, former nurse at Craig-y-nos, Cynthia Mullan, director of Sleeping Giant oral history charity and Ann Shaw , former patient at the first patients reunion.

Valerie, who worked as a nurse in Craig-y-nos during the 1940s, rang to say that she celebrated her 80th birthday last Tuesday with a big party.

In fact she has a month of celebrations coming up culminating in a special dinner with her daughter and son-in-law at Celtic Manor hotel ( of Ryder Cup fame) when they celebrate their Pearl wedding and Valerie her 80th birthday.

Quite a party girl is our Val.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) - sad news

Girls on the balcony of Craig-y-nos Castle. Mari is in the middle of the back row and Ann ( Shaw nee Rumsey) is on the far right.

Many of you will remember Mari Friend ( nee Jenkins) so it was with great sadness that I received this email from her son Chris:

Hi Ann ,
I regret to inform you that my mum, Mari Friend, passed away last Sunday (July 25th). As you know she was suffering from Bronchiolitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis for many years and had fought these two conditions bravely.

Unfortunately in the last few months she was diagnosed with lymphoma and her chest were not able to stand any treatment.

The last two weeks saw a rapid deterioration especially the last three days.
She died peacefully on a hospital ward where she was well known and treated as family.
I'm sorry to pass on this news with an e-mail but we're unable to find a number for you.

And 50 years later.... Ann and Mari on the balcony of Ann's home Bridge of Allan, Scotland overlooking the mountains to the north..

Mari and I shared some time together in Craig-y-nos in the early 1950’s and even after she left we kept in contact for a number of years. She came on holiday to our farm Ty-Llangenny , outside Crickhowell and I stayed in Ynysygwas, Cwmavon.
Later we shared the same hostel accommodation, Bourne and Hollingsworth in Gower St where Mari worked as a sales assistant, and I had a job as a secretary to a publishing house in Russell Square.

After that our paths separated: I went off to work in Switzerland and Iceland and Mari got married.
We met up again a few years ago on the Craig-y-nos project following a request I put in the local paper “ The South Wales Evening Post” asking for the “ lost children of Craig-y-nos”.
Mari came forward and that is when we discovered that Mari had this amazing collection of photographs from her time and her sister’s time in Craig-y-nos .

This collection formed a substantial part of our book “The Children of Craig-y-nos”
which I co-authored with Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine.
I am deeply grateful to Mari for her contribution. She was always such a cheerful character both as a child and in her later years even though suffering from poor health.

Mari will be sadly missed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Petition to save Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL

Carole Reeves, my co-author on "The Children of Craig-y-nos" project without whom there would not have been a printed book now has a new battle on her hands: to save her Department.

Incredible though it seems they are planning to close the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London, where Carol is the Outreach Historian.

She has launched a blog and campaign to save it:

And this is the link to the online petition. Please help her and sign.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Short list- Wellcome library

(Photo: Dan Tsantilis)

Here's a photo of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" team short listed for book award- medical journalist of the year, general category,-at the presentation ceremony in the Wellcome Library at the Wellcome Trust.

They are ( from left to right) book designer Marc Riley, co-authors Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian, and Ann Shaw with Malcolm Shaw who digitised and restored all the photos used in the book.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Death of David Perrott

It is with great sadness I have learnt of the death of David Perrott.
David was a "plaster bed"patient for two years in 1950. He lived out on the balcony and during the summer he was given goggles to protect his eyes and in the winter he had vaseline rubbed on his face for he lived out on the balcony all year round, even in sub-zero temperatures. In addition he was given ear muffs to wear.

He was told that he would never have children and never be able to work. He did both.

David lived in Abercrave, only a few miles from Craig-y-nos Castle.

His son, Ryan Perrott wrote the following comment after the story first appeared on this blog, 14 February 2007.

"This is my father, looking as happy as ever! i'm glad he did have a child and was able to work,as we have had an amazing journey so far and wish it to continue on and on and on!!he is an amazing man,who is a blessing to me and my family!!

Footnote: Ryan was the first person I met when I began this project in January 2007 with a visit to Craig-y-nos Castle. The South Wales Evening Post carried a small feature on my search for the "lost childen of Craig-y-nos" and Ryan was the first person I interviewed on that Saturday afternoon in January sitting in the bar of Craig-y-nos Castle, a world away from the harsh hostile sanatorium regime we both remembered as children.

I shall always remember him, how he pulled out of his wallet this carefully folded photograph of his father, barely a square inch in diameter. He kept it with him all his life because he wanted to tell people of the remarkable story of his father's survival ...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Medical Journalist award- London

Carole and Ann taken in Carole's office at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of medicine, UCL

Well, we didn't win an award for the "Children of Craig-y-nos" but, along with four other runners-up, we received a certificate
commending us "for excellence in communicating medical and health information in a book for the lay reader".

The prize was awarded to "Medic: saving lives - from Dunkirk to Afghanistan by John Nichol and tony Rennell - a very worthy winner.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Children of Craig-y-nos - short list

“ A powerful story told in words and pictures assembled from first-hand accounts…reveals shocking details of children’s lives in a Welsh TB hospital.”

That’s what the judges say about “Children of Craig-y-nos”.

Well, I guess I never thought of it in that light. To me who spent four years in Craig-y-nos as a child it seemed normal. I didn’t know anything else.

It is only now with a distance of more than 50 years I realise in writing this book, along with Carole Reeves, that it was far from normal.

There are five books short-listed for the Open Book Award and the winner will be announced on Tuesday evening at a special presentation to be held at the Wellcome Foundation.

The others on the shortlist ( General readership, category) include “Manufacturing Depression, the secret history of a modern disease” by Gary Greenberg, “An Infinity of things: how Sir Henry Wellcome collected the world” by Frances Larson and “Medic: saving lives – from Dunkirk to Afghanistan” by John Nichol and Tony Rennell.

So you see the field is very strong…the miracle is that we have even got as far as the short-list!

I will be travelling by train from Scotland to London tomorrow…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Children of Craig-y-nos" short list

The short list is out. We are one of five in our category. It looks very strong....fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Short-listed - book award

Just heard that our book, "The Children of Craig-y-nos" has been shortlisted for the annual medical journalists book award.
We will know on April 27th at a reception in London if it has been successful.

Still, I am more than pleased to get on the short-list.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Talk on Craig-y-nos

Dr Carole Reeves of The Wellcome Trust Centre for the Hisotry of Medicine, UCL tells me that her talk yesterday reduced some people to tears!
And she has been asked to do one again at the Royal Free Hospital to the infectious diseases group.

She says: "The hospital sees lots of patients with TB, which as you may know, is a serious problem now in London."

And we all think this is a disease of the past.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World TB Day -"The Children of Craig-y-nos"

Dr Carole Reeves, my co-author of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" will be talking this afternoon at a seminar on World TB Day organised by University College of London.
Carole, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine was instrumental in helping to get the book written and published, the culmination of a two year community based project.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Zealand - and Craig-y-nos

Caroline Boyce , ex child patient and neighbour of mine in Scotland, wrote an article in the Oldie magazine about her childhood experiences in Craig-y-nos and she has just received the following email from Joyce Fleming in New Zealand whose late husband was a patient there in the 1930's.

Joyce says:

"I believe this was the same place in which my late husband spent his childhood from the age of 5 to 12 because of TB hip problems, around 1930-37".

If you were there, or had a relative who was there and would like to contact Joyce then I am sure she would love to hear from you.
Her email addredss is:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scion House exhibition - Stirling

(from left to right) Mary, Ann and Caroline on the balcony of Craig-y-nos Castle

I was surprised at the public interest in the six photos I showed from the "Children of Craig-y-nos" project in my recent exhibition in Scion House- Stirling University Innovation Park. I only put them in as an after thought ( Malcolm's suggestion). I didnt think anybody would be interested because the work is so deeply rooted in Wales and Welsh medical history.

But I was wrong. Everyone I spoke to who looked at them were able to tell me of their own personal stories , dark tales from the past where they had relatives who had this disease that was not spoken about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Oldie" magazine- Caroline Boyce ( nee Havard)

This is a copy of Caroline's article in this month's "Oldie" magazine:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Caroline Boyce- Oldie magazine

(From left to right) Mary , Ann ( in bed) and Caroline on the balcony of Craig-y-nos Castle.

Caroline Boyce ( nee Havard) has her story in this month's
"Oldie" magazine" (Go to the link in the side panel on "Whats in.." the magazine this month.)

She tells me it gave her quite a turn when she picked up the magazine and read it in print.

Well it came as something of a shock to me too when I bought a copy today from WH Smith and opened it to find a photo of Mary, Caroline and myself in Craig-y-nos.

It is as if our history has been finally validated now its out in the common domain.

Caroline has written an excellent account which I shall put up on the blog ( once I have figured out how to put it into the correct file format for the web)

"The Children of Craig-y-nos" by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves ( price £9.99) published by The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Book sales- "Children of Craig-y-nos"

Many folk are asking me how the sales of the book are going.

Well, over 800 copies of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" have been printed.

But there's a problem - neither Borders in Swansea ( yes I know they have now gone defunct but they were still in business when they ordered the books) nor the Welsh Book Council ( naughty! naughty!) have paid a penny.

They owe the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL several hundred pounds.

Dr Carole Reeves tells me she has written to them repeatedly and got no response.

She says Borders was particularly devious.
Clair Robinson, their Sales & Marketing Supervisor of Borders Books, Swansea rang Dr Reeves to say t they'd had 'hundreds of requests' for the book and could she send a batch urgently.

She claimed it would take too long to go through the normal wholesaler channels and she didn't want to disappoint her customers in Swansea.

So books were sent off to Swansea and that is the last that Carole heard from them.

Says Carole:" Despite follow-up e.mails, invoices and telephone calls from our Finance Officer, this amount is still outstanding. Despicable really.

Same goes for the Welsh Book Council. They have never even bothered to acknowledge her correspondence even after she sent them one free book and 20 as requested.

Same goes for Welsh Books Council. Daffyd Jones is the contact there.
" I was promised a contract to supply the Welsh Books Council, which I have never received despite follow-up letters and a phone call from you. They have had one free viewing copy and 20 books, " says Carole.

The book is on their website but I have received no reimbursement for sales. I have asked them to return all unsold books plus money from sales / or send a contact. Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement of my correspondence," says Carole.

I have rung the Welsh Book Council myself on several occasions to try and hurry things along and I have been assured by Daffyd Jones that the matter was in hand.

What I would like to know is :who funds the Welsh Book Council? isn't it time somebody took a close look at this organisation?

I am passing this on to the Western Mail and Evening Post in the hope that they might be able to "name and shame" them into paying up.

If you want to buy a copy of the "The Children of Craig-y-nos" by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves (price £9.99) you can do so through Waterstones or online:

Friday, January 08, 2010

Book launch photos- late photos from last May

Cynthia Mullan of the Sleeping Giant Foundation, introducing the launch of the book" The Children of Craig-y-nos".
This locally based oral history charity provided invaluable support and help throughout the project.

Clive Rowlands, former Welsh rugby star and ex child patient at Craig-y-nos, officially opening "The Children of Craig-y-nos" book launch in the newly refurbished Glass Conservatory of Craig-y-nos Castle.

Most of the people attending the book launch were ex child patients.

Co-authors of the book Ann Shaw ( left) and Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian with The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL, signing copies.

Ann Shaw ( nee Rumsey) left and Caroline Boyce (nee Havard) in Scotland.

Photos supplied by Caroline Boyce.

Caroline was herself a patient in 1949-50 and this was her first return visit to Craig-y-nos. She became a teacher and on retirement moved to Scotland with her husband, Paul, in order to be near their family.
She lives about 15 miles from Ann Shaw though they only discovered they were neighbours as a result of this project.

Copies of "The Children of Craig-y-nos" by Ann Shaw and Carole Reeves,published by The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL, price £9.99 are available from all good bookshops or online from