‘Most of us had never seen the sea before’ – Memories of being sent to Rhyl’s convalescent home during the school holidays


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.

David’s letter from the home

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 and 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 15 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 they too could see the sea. However, it was blowing from the sea and the spray was coming over the wall and we all got wet and even colder.

It was quite exciting and 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 – he 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 demanded that I give him the game. I refused and then he just tipped up the board and walked away.

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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 where there were about four bedrooms. 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 checked our hair for lice – if I remember correctly, most of the children had plenty of headlice.

Royal Alexandra Children’s home, Rhyl

Once we had been deloused, we had to go back into the corridor and wait until we were called again.

As the line moved up the corridor we were each 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 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 I entered the bathroom and a nurse was sitting on a chair by the side of the bath. I looked at the water and it was quite dirty and smelled of disinfectant.

I had to get into the bath which was cold and the nurse scrubbed me with a scrubbing brush. It was horrible and embarrassing and I could not wait to get dried and put on my pyjamas. There were a lot of children crying.

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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 on his own. 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 were 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.

Children enjoying donkey rides on Rhyl beach. The pier was demolished in 1973.

After about 10 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 lollipop. 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 didn’t like him at all, he was a bully, but I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know if he had picked on any other children, but he had a problem with me.

However, after a few days my brother and I had settled in and he was not as upset as he was when we first arrived.





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