Monday, 7 July 2008

Barry Blackburn looks on his time at MHMH (1946-1948) with affection

I was very interested to read your letter in the YEP regarding the Marguerite Hepton Memorial Hospital at Thorpe Arch. I am not a computer man, so I thought I would write my “life story” and post it to you. I come from Bramley in Leeds and was 12 years old when I was admitted to hospital in August 1946 remaining until July 1948.

I often think about those days and how lucky I was (it was only my right ankle that was in plaster) as I could move about quite freely when my friends were restricted on frames etc.

That stay in hospital affected my whole attitude to life as having lived with other boys who were much worse off than me (in fact two died during my stay). I seldom complain about my ‘lot in life’. My medical records came in handy when National Service was due, as I was classed Grade 3 which was a failure in their system but a success for me, as I had just got married, passed my driving test and begun to earn good money. I always believed that my 2 years in hospital was a good training for life.

I have had no contact with anyone associated with the hospital since my best friend Ronnie Smith died in the early 1970s. We were in adjoining beds for 2 years and I was his best man when he got married. He named his son after me. Ronnie and I went to Potternewton School, Leeds, for handicapped children and we were founder members of the 19th North Leeds Handicapped Scout Troup (happy days!).

I did an engineering apprenticeship training as a draftsman before joining ICI and moving to the North East as a project manager.

It may seem strange but I still look upon my time in hospital with affection and it left me with no fear of medical matters or hospitals, even though I had a heart attack in 1990 and a cardiac arrest in the USA in 2006. However, all is well at the moment and my wife Joan and I are celebrating 50 years of ‘wedded bliss’ next month.

I enclose a copy of a letter to the magazine Best of British when they were asking how the 1947 snow affected readers. My mother used to sit with a hot water bottle under her coat whilst begging me to put on a warmer jumper (we were tough!).

The worst thing was having to get washed on a cold morning in a bowl of lukewarm water. (Most of the time we didn’t).

Sorry to go on but I’m enjoying this! I remember the horse chestnut trees down the hospital drive and the tumbler pigeons in the dovecote. Miss Budd the teacher was great! I was given a bottle green cardigan to knit and after a year it was given to the girls’ ward – did you finish it? I do not think I ever saw a girl during the two years, never mind spoke to one.

It has been good to put pen to paper on our (Jane’s and mine) 60th anniversary of leaving Thorpe Arch.

Here are some names I remember

Specialists Mr Broomhead, Mr Payne

Doctor Maloney

Sister Trout

Nurses Hodgson, Moss, Fowler, Natress

Fellow inmates Kenneth Inkpen, Terry Swift, Geoffrey Gresty, Cyril Gamble

Barry’s letter in Best of British

Getting cold feet

When the snow came in 1947, I was 12 and in the Marguerite Hepton Memorial Orthopaedic Hospital for Children at Thorpe Arch, Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, and we were virtually cut off. This did not cause me or my parents much of a problem, because visiting times were only two hours every first and third Saturday in the month.

Other weekends we received food parcels from home containing sweets and Wizard and Hotpure comics. Our teacher, Miss Budd, braved the journey from Walton village in her little Austin car she called Archie. She taught us everything from maths to knitting.

The main treatment in the hospital was ‘fresh air’ and we older boys slept outside the ward between April and October, under a ten-foot reinforced glass canopy. I woke up many times with frost on the foot of my bed.

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