Sent Away
David William's memories of being sent from Stokeon Trent to a convalescent home in Rhyl


Skip straight to convalescent homes in Rhyl


Chapter One

 Leaving home


My name is David and I was born in 1952, I had three older brothers, an older sister and two younger brothers.


Our house was built in about 1950. It was a council house on a large estate, a half metal clad three bedroom house. They were built after the war as cheap housing, most of the families were not very well off. 

My father was a self-employed painter, decorator / builder. My mother was a housewife, she looked after us all with some amazing baking, and cooking and love. 


Life in the 50s/60s was hard for our parents, however, for the children it was a great time to grow up, we had fields and plenty of places that we could play. 


We had a TV set in the mid fifties and I can remember watching the children's programmes of the early years of the BBC, programs like watch with mother, Twizel, Torchy the battery boy etc. We were like most families on our estate, everyone looked after each other. 


It was the year of 1963 when my mother received a letter from the council saying that they were sending me and one of my younger brothers to a respite home in north Wales, in November.

I was just eleven years old and my brother was nine years old.



At first it was quite exciting to be going on a two week holiday by the seaside, however, when the actual day arrived, I was quite upset about having to leave my family behind.


The day arrived and our Mam and Dad took us to the bus, we loaded up our little bags onto the bus, we kissed our parents goodbye and we sat in our seats.


As the bus pulled away, I can remember feeling very strange waving to our parents, it was as if I would never see them again, my brother was in floods of tears.


I knew two other children on the bus so that made me feel a little better. The bus trip was quite a long one as the buses in those days were very slow and most of the journey was through the countryside which helped a little because me and my brother started to count all the haystacks that we saw and it took our minds off everything else for a while.


We eventually arrived at the Home. It was situated close to the sea. It was an imposing looking red brick building in its own grounds, I could see the front door and as I looked up, I saw about ten windows at the front and opposite the home was another smaller building which was only two storeys high and it only had two windows that I could see.

We all got off the bus and were shown into the reception area, I thought that it was strange because there were a couple of ladies and they were dressed in nurses' uniforms and this was not a hospital.


We were all checked in and all the boys had to follow one of the nurses up some stairs, along a corridor and into a very large room with about twenty single beds in it. The girls were led away to another part of the home. We were all told to unpack our clothes and then make our way back downstairs for tea.


The dormitory was quite a noisy place with about 20 boys in it. Some were very noisy while some were very quiet and you could see that they were upset. 






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Chapter Two

Maggots and Matron.


My brother was still very upset, he had been crying for most of the day, I did my best to console him, however, I was upset but I did not want him to know, so I tried to hide it.

I took my brothers hand and we went downstairs, we were shown into the dining room, where we all sat on benches with the other children and waited for others to arrive, when everyone was seated one of the nurses banged on a gong and she said, “Repeat after me, for what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful” which we did, then we were given a plate of sausages and tinned tomatoes and a round of bread.


As I was eating my meal I noticed something moving on my plate, and as I looked closer I saw that it was a maggot wriggling about in my tomatoes. I felt quite sick when I saw it, so I left the rest of my meal and put my knife and fork down.


When a nurse came over to me she said. ”eat up your tomatoes” 

“There is a maggot in them” I said.

“It won’t kill you” she said and she proceeded to remove the maggot off my tomatoes and put it onto my side plate.

“Come on now, eat them up,” she said. But I couldn’t eat them as the thought of it makes me feel ill. 

“You must eat them up or you will have to sit here until you do”

And she proceeded to put the tomatoes onto a spoon and force feed them to me, and I ended up being sick. My brother was now crying again as he saw me feeling ill.

He then turned to me and he said.”I want to go home now please”  he held my hand and looked at me with very sad eyes.

“Come on then, we will go to see the nurse,” I said.

I asked a nurse who do I have to see about going home and she took us to an office door that said matron on it.

The nurse knocked on the door and a voice called, “Enter”

We all went in and there was a lady sitting behind a desk, I think she was a matron, and she had a pair of glasses perched on the end of her nose and she looked up and said..

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“We want to go home now please” I said.

“You want to go home? You have only been here for one day, why do you want to go home?”

“We don’t like it here, and my brother is missing our Mam and Dad, he keeps crying for them”

“Well I am sorry about that, however, you are going to have to stay here for two weeks as there is no way of getting you home, you will be ok tomorrow, you will see.


We are taking you all out to the seaside tomorrow, now off you go up to your room and the nurse here will help you”


So reluctantly, we followed the nurse who I found out was named nurse Olwyn, she was lovely, she took us up to our dormitory and she told us to have a wash and then get into our pajamas. When we had done so and everyone else was ready for bed, two nurses came into the room one with a tray of bread and butter and one with a white enamel bucket full of milk, so we each had a cup of milk and a piece of bread and butter, which I really enjoyed.


Once we had eaten the bread and butter and drank our milk, we were told to get into bed and go to sleep as we have a busy day tomorrow.

When the nurses left the room they turned off the lights  it was very dark as it was November. Once the bedroom door clicked shut, all you could hear was children crying and whimpering.

It was very strange being in a room with children that you did not know, and our parents were not there but we were all in the same situation, although I think that some of the boys were glad to be away from their parents.

Chapter Three

Sea, screaming, and a bully.


I eventually managed to get some sleep although it was very cold and I could not chuck another coat on the bed like at home.


The next morning we were woken by a nurse who told us all to clean our teeth and have a wash and then go downstairs for breakfast. Once downstairs everywhere looked a bit different somehow and we had some porridge and a drink and afterwards we had to put on our coats and scarves as we were going to see the sea, most of us had never seen the sea before.


When we were all lined up there was a nurse at the front of the line and a nurse at the back of the line, we set off on foot as the sea was not far away. I can remember that it was a very cold morning and the wind was blowing very hard.

We reached the sea wall about fifteen minutes later, the wall was about four feet high so some of us could just about see the sea but the smaller children could not. So the bigger children had to lift up the smaller children so the to could see the sea, however, it was blowing from the sea and the spray would come over the wall and we all got wet and even colder.


It was quite exciting even though we were all cold and wet we were enjoying it.

After about an hour's walking along the sea wall we went back to the Home. Once we had all washed and dried ourselves we had some time to play games, my brother and I played snakes and ladders (my brother was still upset, as was I, however, I wanted to take his mind off things). We were enjoying the game when a lad who was bigger than me came over and he demanded that I give him the game, I refused as we were enjoying playing, then he just tipped up the board and walked away.

I felt like saying something to him but I was a bit scared of him and I did not know how he would react.

Teatime was better than the first night and after tea we were all asked to collect our pyjamas and line up in the hallway. When we were lined up one of the nurses opened the front door and we had to follow her across the driveway to the other building that we saw when we arrived, it was known as “The Annex”, once inside we were taken upstairs, there was about four bedrooms and we had to stand in line in the corridor and wait for instructions.

After a while one by one we had to go into one of the cold bedrooms where a nurse would check your hair for lice, and if I can remember correctly most of the children had plenty of head lice.

Once we you had been deloused, you had to go back into the corridor and wait until you were called again. As the line moved up the corridor we were given a towel and children were coming out of the bathroom shivering and wet, some were not even wrapped in a towel, then you had to be dried and then put on your pajamas.

At this point I had been separated from my brother and my thoughts were of him and if he was alright.

When it was my turn for the bath I entered the bathroom and a nurse was sitting on a chair by the side of the bath and I looked at the water and it was quite dirty and it smelled of dettol bleach. Then I had to get into the bath which was cold and the nurse scrubbed me with a scrubbing brush, it was horrible and embarrassing, I could not wait to get dried and put on my pyjamas. There were a lot of children crying.

Afterwards, back at the main house I met up with my brother and he too had hated the whole experience. We had our milk and bread and butter and then we had to sleep, if we could.

During the night I woke up and I could hear someone screaming, it sounded like it was coming from the annex, I was too scared to look out of the window so I curled up and put my head under the blanket and tried to go to sleep, which I eventually did.

The next morning when we were at the breakfast table I heard someone talking about the screaming and they were saying that a boy had been very naughty and the nurses made him sleep in the annex alone, I could not stop thinking about him and how terrified he must have been.

After breakfast we could go outside into the garden where there was a couple of swings, I managed to put my Brother on one and I started to push him, he was enjoying it as I think it took his mind off home for a while.


After about ten minutes or so the same big lad that had spoilt our game of snakes and ladders, came over to us and he told my brother to get off the swing as he wanted a go, I objected but he just pushed me away and tipped my brother off the swing, I felt like hitting him but he was a lot bigger than me.

Soon after nurse Olwyn came out and asked us to get ready for a trip to the pictures, we were very excited and off we went on a bus into town and to the pictures, we each were given a lolly pop, I think we saw a Laurel and Hardy film and a cartoon, it was great and it made us all feel better. Then it was back to the home and tea.

As I was eating my tea the big boy knocked me as he walked past me and he sniggered, I did not like him at all, he was a bully. I did not know what to do.

I don’t know if he had picked on any other children, but he had a problem with me.

We had settled in after a few days and my brother was not as upset as he was at first.

Chapter Four

Church and Fireworks


Sunday came and after breakfast we were all told to make sure we wrapped up as we were all going to church, I had been to our local church before so I thought that it would be the same, however, it was completely different. At our church we would listen to someone telling us stories about Jesus and things like that, then we would play games or do a drawing or something, but this church as dull and we had to sit and be very quiet, it seemed to last all day, plus it was very cold there.


The church service eventually finished and we set off back to the home, it was quite a nice day but cold, we walked by the sea wall and it was much nicer than the last time we saw it and it made me and my brother feel much better.

In a couple of days it would be November the 5th, and we were told that we would have a small bonfire and a few fireworks, we were all very excited. Preparations were made by a man who must have been a caretaker and he spent most of the day collecting wood and building a small bonfire, after tea we had to put on our warm clothes and we were taken out to the garden.

My brother went over to the swing and he sat on it and I gave him a little push, then the bully came over and he pushed my brother off the swing, I went to see if he was alright and then I went to the bully and I told him to leave him alone, he then pushed me over, but nurse Olwyn saw him and she took him inside and told him to go to bed with no milk and bread and butter. Then nurse Olwyn came over to me and my brother, she said that we could sit with her to watch the bonfire and fireworks, she even gave us some treacle toffee, she was like a mother to me and my brother.

It was a great night but I wondered what the bully would do to me next.


We spent the next day inside the Home and we played games and we did some school work, sums and writing We did not see the bully all day.

As I said when we caught the coach from home I recognised a couple of lads that lived near us, I did not know them very well but one of them said hello. During the day he came over to me and he asked if I was ok, I said we wanted to go home as we were being bullied, he asked me who it was and when I told him he said he knew who he was and he would make sure that he did not bully us again, and we weren't. (I met him a few years later and I thanked him, but he could not remember).

Now that the bullying had stopped, my brother and I were enjoying our time a little more at home, we were due to return home in a couple of days. I can just remember one time when two policemen came to the Home as something had happened, I think that one of the girls had run away and the police had found her safe and well.


That night we heard screaming again from the annex, it was a boy as he had been naughty I think he had been caught stealing something and the next day someone came to take him back home.

The day came for us all to return home, as we were boarding the coach, another coach pulled up and it was full of children, I sort of felt sorry for them, they all looked frightened, just then nurse Olwyn came out and she came over to me and my brother to say goodbye.


I was sad to leave nurse Olwyn, she was like a mother to me and my brother, and probably a few other children, if it was not for her our visit to the Home would have been a lot worse.

Our trip back home seemed to take forever, when we arrived at the place from where we had left I saw my Mam and Dad waiting and me and my brother started to cry.

They hugged us and told us how much they had missed us and we set off home.

When we returned home, it was great to see my Brothers and my Sister and it did not take long to get back to normal living at home.

It is strange now when I look back some 55 years later to my time at the Home, because I have some bad memories of it yet also some nice memories too, I have often thought about the lovely nurse Olwyn and how kind she was to us, I also remember the bully and I often wished that I could have met him again when I was older, however, I am not sure what I would have done, so perhaps it is best that I never did.


I have talked to many people over the years that had stayed at the Home and they mostly had mixed feelings about it, but I have come to the conclusion that we went to give our parents a little bit of respite, so that is good enough for me.

(This is a true story, however, some things may have not happened exactly as stated )


Convalescent homes in Rhyl


The Stoke on Trent Convalescent Home and Holiday Home was started in 1926 and provided short breaks for Stoke on Trent children until it was sold in the 1980s. This the home to which David Williams was sent as a child.




















A Rhyl convalescent home in around 1875



Morfa Hall Women’s Convalescent Home This was establishedin 1874.


The Miners' Convalescent Home.This was established by John Jones in the Claremont Hydro and become the Y Gorlan. There is some evidence that children stayed in the John Jones' Miners' Convalescent Home.


Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and Convalescent Home. This was initiallyestablished in 1872. It was purpose-built on its current site (pictured below) in 1902 with open balconies and verandahs following the belief at time time in the importance of fresh air to cure ills.


















Phot by Eirian Evans




St Winifred's, Brighton Road. Demolished in around 2012 to make space for a car park.


For more on convalescent homes