Memories of fireworks, church and the kindness of one nurse at Rhyl’s convalescent home


I had been to our local church before so I thought that it would be the same. However, it was completely different.

Sunday came and after breakfast we were all told to make sure we wrapped up as we were all going to church.

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.

Picture of how staff at the homes such as in Rhyl were turned out

But this church was 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. It made me and my brother feel much better.

In a couple of days it would be November 5 , and we were told that we would have a small bonfire and a few fireworks, we were all very excited.

Preparations on the day 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.

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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 or 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. We played games and we did some schoolwork – sums and writing. We did not see the bully all day.

As I said when we caught the coach from home I’d recognised a couple of lads that lived near us. I did not know them very well, but one of them said hello.

A scene at a children’s convalescent home, April 1953, which would have been not to disimilar from what David encountered

During the day that boy came over to me and 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 the home. We were due to return to our own 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.

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That night we heard screaming again from the annexe, it was a boy who 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 to 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.

It was great to see my brothers and my sister and it did not take long to get back to normal living.

Royal Alexandra Hospital Rhyl, 1925, the year before it opened as a convalescent home welcoming children

It is strange now when I look back some 55 years later to my time at the home.

I have some bad memories of it, yet 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 who 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.

Do you or a member of your family have memories of Stoke-on-Trent Convalescent and Holiday Home or of Rhyl and trips to the coast? If so please get in touch with Adam Gratton at The Way We Were, Sentinel House, Bethesda Street, Hanley, ST1 3GN or call 01782 864255 or email: adam.gratton@reachplc.com





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