Launch of ‘The Children of Craig-y-nos’: a tuberculosis history

5 May 2009

The Children of Craig-y-nos: Life in a Welsh Tuberculosis Sanatorium, 1922-1959, co-authored by Dr Carole Reeves of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, was launched on 1 May at Craig-y-nos Castle.

The Children of Craig-y-nos dustjacket

The book, written by Dr Reeves with artist and writer Ann Shaw, is based on a two-year public engagement project comprising oral history and photography, and features on UCL’s World TB Day webpage.

Outreach historian Dr Carole Reeves received a grant of £5,000 from the ‘Awards for All Wales’ National Lottery scheme to create the book based on the experiences of children in a tuberculosis (TB) sanatorium.

Craig-y-nos Castle, set in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, was the estate of the world-famous opera singer Adelina Patti, until her death in 1919. It was then transformed into the Adelina Patti Hospital, and for nearly 40 years served as a TB sanatorium for children and young women in a region where TB incidence was the highest in Britain.

The project was initiated by Ann, who was a patient at the hospital from the ages of 9 to 13. On a return visit to Craig-y-nos in 2006, she was amazed to find some of the wards still intact. The launch of her blog to collect the memories of ex-patients and staff was so successful that within a year over a hundred stories and 1,200 photographs, mostly taken by the children themselves, had been contributed.There followed three photographic exhibitions, radio programmes, a reunion at Craig-y-nos Castle, and a Lottery grant to produce the book.

The print-on-demand book, which will also be made available as a free download from the Centre’s website, will be the first ever collective history of patient and staff experiences in a TB sanatorium. It is reuniting people who shared their formative years in the sanatorium, but also opening a community dialogue about the impact of tuberculosis on families in the Swansea Valley, and establishing an important educational and heritage resource created by the people who experienced it.

Dr Carole Reeves, who applied for the Lottery grant and has worked on the project with Ann Shaw since its inception, said: “The book will be a permanent memorial to ‘The Children of Craig-y-nos’ and an important medical and social history of tuberculosis in the area. Because the sanatorium records have been destroyed, we are re-constructing forty years of missing Welsh history.”

To find out more and to gain a discount on the book available to UCL staff, please follow the links at the top of this article.

 

UCL context

The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL is committed to furthering the knowledge of medicine’s past in order to offer analyses of the complexities and ambiguities, as well as the hard-won knowledge, surrounding health, diseases, and their treatment.

The centre researches and disseminates the history of medicine, both as an academic discipline and as a subject of broader public interest. While primarily devoted to research, the Centre plays a prime role in outreach and in fostering public understanding of the subject.

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