Monday, July 11, 2011

Iris Jones - 1938-1942-Glass Conservatory

Today it sounds positively medieval that a child could be "put away" for six years for a disease they never had and for two of those years to be strapped to a metal frame.

Yet that is what happened to Iris Jones. Her husband David rang to tell me a little of her story and he did so without anger or bitterness, simply to say "that was the way it was in those days."

For Iris, now 79 year of age and living in Cimla, Neath was admitted to the Glass Conservatory in Craig-y-nos, the ward for babies and small children, at seven years of age in 1938.

She was to remain there for four years. She does not recall it as being a sad time." I was only a child."

Her memories are of being wheeled out on to the veranda for the "fresh air" treatment and of singing in the Adelina Patti theatre. These were happy memories for her.

She was transferred to Kensington hospital, St Brides and put into a metal frame for two years only later to be discharged when they decided she did not have TB after all.

She recalls having to learn to walk again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Early etching of Craig-y-nos castle

( courtesy Phil Lewis)

The announcement that Craig-y-nos Castle is on the market again has caused me to re-visit my archive of 1,200 photographs sent in during research for the book "The Children of Craig-y-nos".

Only about 200 of those photographs made it into print so I have decided to publish more of them on this blog.

Here is one sent in by Phil Lewis from Gerrads Cross, Buckinghamshire whose mother, Sister Margaret Philips, was one of the first nurses to be appointed in the early 1920's.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Craig-y-nos Castle for sale

Yet again Craig-y-nos Castle is about to change hands. It is on the market for £1.5million. The present owner is reputed to have bought it some ten years or more ago for £half a million. He has spent an enormous sum restoring it though it still has some way to go. The big problem I understand is the cost of the roof repairs on the main building. This is where the children's wards were and as a result they are virtually untouched from the days when it was first a children's TB hospital then a geriatric hospital. It was subsequently used as a base for ghost tours.

Now it looks as if it is all change again....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Margaret Morth - New Zealand

I have had a query from New Zealand from a descendant of Margaret Morth who died in Craig-y-nos in 1937 asking for information.

Well, as you know there are no official records and all we have is anecdotal evidence and this for the 1930s is very sparse. However, on the off-chance that someone may have some knowledge I am quoting this email:

"I write from New Zealand in the hope that you may be able to help.
Today I received my children's Great Grandmothers death Certificate that states she died in the above when it was a Sanatorium.

Her name was - Margaret Elaine Morth
Death - 5 Dec 1937 in Adelina Patti Hospital.
I would like to know if possible when she was admitted and for how long she was a patient and/or any other information that is held that can be released to the public. Are there any photos of her available.?

I hope you can be of assistance and look for ward to hearing from you.

Yours truly

Christine Walton
6 Ashmore Court
Hamilton 3210
New Zealand"

If you do have some information then Christine would love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joan Powell and Nurse Glenys Davies

I had a hunch that Nurse Glen might remember Joan Powell so I rang up Roy Harry and asked him if he would give her a call ( she is a very private person).
He agreed and within half an hour I get a call back to say yes of course she remembers Joan. She was one of the first to undergo an experimental operation on her spine by the surgeon Mr Rocking-Jones.

It worked and Joan was able to walk again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Craig-y-nos and Joan Powell

Children on the balcony ( from left to right) Ann in bed on the left with Joan on the right. The girl in the middle is unknown.

Easter Sunday morning and I check my email. Surely not?.....I blink and stare at the name in the header field: Joan Powell.

I read the email with increasing incredulity. It's from Dean, Joan's son. Did I know her? he is trying to find out something of his mother's early history in a Welsh TB hospital. She died 10 years ago. She never talked about her childhood.

Joan and I were in beds next to each other on the balcony. Joan was a plaster patient and I had to lie on my left side. We were the youngest and the most seriously ill.

We became close friends.

Dean explains:"
My mother died 10 years ago and my father last month but whilst going through some papers I found a postcard from Craig-y-nos.

I mum never said anything about her time there but was she the girl in your photos? She was from just outside Neath.

.....She was born in November 1941so I do not know if that ties in with that girl.

The post card I have shows the hospital and the mountains behind. It is to her mum and aunt ivy at 5 grove lane, pennhiewtynol In Neath.

I know she did have a back operation and was in plaster.

The only photos I have are from when she was 19."

I assure him that it his his mother. He rings his brother, Simon, in Australia.

Within an hour an email comes winging in from half way around the world. n:

"I am the youngest child of Joan Powell (Oldham) and understand that you have been communicating with my brother, Dean.

My mothers life before she met my father has always been a closed book, although I do recall visiting the castle when I was young on the way to a holiday in Pembroke (we always went there despite living in Leicester). Having just seen the first photo of my mother as a child on the internet, it has opened a bit of a window. I was always afraid that my mothers childhood was filled with pain and sadness as she never talked about it (although she did mention that she had a friend called Ann). From the pictures, it looks like she had people around her and some degree of a childhood in a beautiful place.

Sadly, the effects of her childhood illness were a factor in her early passing but not before she had 40 years of happy married life and 2 sons who loved her very much. I do not know how mum was as a child, but as a mother, she was simply the best."

And a second email from Simon adds:

"I think that mum was affected a number of ways by her stay at the sanatorium. She was always very concerned with cleanliness and I know that this came from her being ill and I guess the environment she lived in. She obviously had a big operation and there was a scar running the length of her back (dad told me this and I could only see the bit at the top). Mum was tiny throughout her life and I guess little more than 5 foot tall (I am 6 foot 2 inches). Her loss of natural height caused her problems when her body began its normal shrinking process through age. I remember mum being emotional when we visited the castle. It was a beautiful sunny day and I remember mum saying that it used to belong to an opera singer (did it have a stage?).

When she left, I presume that she went to Leicester to be with her dad, Joseph. Joe had already remarried by this time (also to a lady called Joan) and produced a daughter (Glenys). Glen is still living near to Leicester and, as she has gotten older, is the spitting image."

I ring Dean. He wants to know what I can remember about Joan. I tell him Joan and I were best friends, that she helped me settle for the long haul - four years- in Craig-y-nos, that she went on to have a major operation on her back with a long and difficult recovery time and our ways parted because she was in a different section of Ward 2.

Joan gets a monthly hair wash.

It is just possible that Nurse Glenys Davies will remember Joan and I have promised Dean to contact her.

It makes me sad to think that Joan never talked about her experiences as a child but as I explained to Dean this was the case with the majority of us for it was such a strange world that we lived in, a cross between a boarding school, orphanage and prison for we were incarcerated in a remote Welsh castle for years on end with no contact with the outside world apart from visitors once a month.
How could anyone who had not been through that experience understand what we went through? and would they have been interested anyway ? I doubt it because it would have been so foreign to anything that they would ever have even read about.
So better to say nothing.
Also there was the taboo of TB, the most feared disease in Wales that you only spoke about in hushed whispers as if even talking about it might inflict the white plague on your family.

So I can understand Joan not wanting to talk about her Craig-y-nos experience.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

BBC- dumbing down daytime TV?

Was the story of TB accurately portrayed in the BBC 1 TV programme A Hundred Years of Us?

Dr Carole Reeves, my co-author on the book" The Children of Craig-y-nos" and a medical historian with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine UCL voices her concern.

A Hundred Years of Us
Broadcast on BBC 1, 22 March 2011, 9.15 am

Dr Reeves writes:
"This 45-minute programme, produced by Twenty Twenty Television for BBC1 to coincide with the census, is described as showing how Britain has changed in the past 100 years. A 10-minute feature on Craig-y-nos and tuberculosis right at the beginning of the programme ‘starred’ ex-patient, Barbara Pye, and ex-nurse, Valerie Brent. Both were excellent and it’s great that we were given the opportunity to contribute to this programme.

Both Ann and I spoke to the programme producers right at the beginning of the project and worked with them to give the historical background to tuberculosis and the Craig-y-nos story. We knew that the producers wanted to adopt a ‘positive’ slant on the issue of tuberculosis but weren’t prepared for the story to be whitewashed and spun to such an extent that it is simply untruthful. Viewers were told that tuberculosis in Britain has been almost totally eradicated due to the advent of the NHS in 1948 and the development of streptomycin. This was certainly not the information given to the programme producers but they chose to ignore it.

TB in Britain has NOT been eradicated. Indeed, it is on the increase. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a worldwide increase in TB of about 1 per cent. In Britain, the increase has been nearer to 2 per cent, and about 400 British people die of the infection every year. In 2009, 9040 cases of TB in Britain were diagnosed, up from 8621 in 2008. In some parts of London, the incidence of TB is equal to that in developing countries. Furthermore, there is a seriously scary increase of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The producers said that the programme needed to be positive and fairly simply presented for daytime BBC1 television viewers. Who do they think these simpletons are that they can’t cope with a factual history of TB over the last century? Of course TB is not the scourge that it was in 1911 when 1 death in every 8 was a TB death but presenting it untruthfully as a ‘problem gone away’, does a disservice to the BBC and emphasises what many people regretfully realise is an escalating devaluation of its independence and integrity."

I share Dr Reeves concern with the dumbing down of the BBC in order to obtain good daytime television ratings especially within a programme that is of such potential historical significance.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Craig-y-nos on BBC morning television

Well, did you see it? Our story was on telly. Well part of the story.....

This morning at 9.15am BBC TV launched new series on a Hundred Years of Britain - and we were there! I saw a photo of myself on the balcony with Miss White the teacher and so many of those that were in our book.

The star of this section, which lasted about ten minutes, was Barbara Pye one of the first people ever to be given stretomycin . She made a miracle cure and was home within 12 weeks.

Why Barbara? well this is how history is made: the researcher Nick Adey rang me and we talked at length about the subject. It was clear he was looking for a "happy angle". When I mentioned that there was an awful lot of dark stuff he said that it was daytime television and they didnt want to upset the viewers.

I mentioned Barbara Pye knowing she ticked all the tv boxes : glamorous, articulate, confident and with a good story and a happy ending.

And Barbara performed brilliantly sitting there between Michael Aspinall and Robert Winston in the BBC TV London studios.
I loved the way the BBC had reconstructed Dr Hubbard giving injections.

Valerie Brent also featured in the programme as one of only a couple of nurses still be alive who had worked at Craig-y-nos.

Nurse Glen is publicity shy or she would have been the ideal candidate having worked there for over 30 years.

Friday, March 04, 2011

BBC tv programme

I understand from Valerie Brent, retired Craig-y-nos nurse, that the BBC TV will be launching their new series on 50 years of the National Health Service on Monday March 28 at 9 am ( that's right! daytime television) .
Have yet to confirm with the producer and will post nearer the time with a reminder.

Barbara Pye had to go to London to do her interview and it must have been a very long and tiring day for her especially as she had recently come out of hospital. However Barbara is a key figure in the piece on TB because she took part in the original drug trial of streptomycin and was one of the few women in Craig-y-nos to receive the drug in 1948.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Comments- Craig-y-nos

Just checking out some of the comments and I have noticed that amongst all the spam I am getting stuff from young people who are using the blog as a resource for their assignments.
That's good.