Archive for the ‘News’ category

The Lobotomists

November 8th, 2011

From BBC i player –

2011 marks a 75th anniversary that many would prefer to forget: of the first lobotomy in the US. It was performed by an ambitious young American neurologist called Walter Freeman. Over his career, Freeman went on to perform perhaps 3,000 lobotomies, on both adults and later on children. He often performed 10 procedures or more a day. Perhaps 40,000 patients in the US were lobotomised during the heyday of the operation – and an estimated 17,000 more in the UK.

This programme tells the story of three key figures in the strange history of lobotomy – and for the first time explores the popularity of lobotomy in the UK in detail.

The story starts in 1935 with a Portuguese doctor called Egas Moniz, who pioneered a radical surgical procedure on the brain. Moniz was a remarkably distinguished figure, a diplomat as well as a doctor, who had invented the technique of cerebral angiography which is still used today. With very little evidence, he speculated that cutting the links between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain would relieve symptoms of mental disorder. His results were seized on with enthusiasm the following year by Freeman, the grandson of one of the US’s most famous surgeons. Freeman was a relentless self-publicist and managed to convince many of the efficacy of his procedure. Freeman’s promotion of lobotomy as a cure for mental illness was instrumental in Moniz receiving the Nobel Prize for medicine. The operation was also taken up by the most celebrated British neurosurgeon of the time, Sir Wylie McKissock. Like Freeman, he travelled the country, performing numerous lobotomies in single sessions. For this programme, Hugh Levinson interviews McKissock’s former colleagues and hears in detail about how he performed several thousand lobotomies, or leucotomies as they were known in the UK.

The operations were successful in subduing disturbed patients, usually with immediate positive results, which sometimes persisted. Freeman argued that this was better than letting mentally ill patients rot away for decades in squalid institutions, untreated and unattended. However, further monitoring showed very mixed results. While a significant number of patients with affective disorders seemed to become better, a large proportion were unaffected or got worse. Many patients reverted to a child-like state. A significant proportion died as a direct result of the procedure.

In the 1940s, Freeman pushed on, devising a faster and cheaper procedure. He hammered an icepick (originally taken from his home fridge) through the top of each eye socket, directly into the skull. He then swept the icepick from side to side, destroying the connections to the frontal lobes. Other surgeons were horrified by the random nature of the operation. He recorded with satisfaction in his diary when attending doctors ended up vomiting or fainting. His closest aide refused to participate. By the late 1950s the lobotomy craze was over, and only a very few continued to be performed in special cases. In the late 1960s, Freeman was banned from operating.

The stories of Moniz, Freeman and McKissock – all commanding and dynamic figures – raise profound questions about our ideas both of mental health and science. Is a patient “cured” just because he becomes subdued? And how come the lobotomy became so popular despite the lack of evidence of its efficacy – and the rapid dissemination of evidence of its potential for harm? To what extent is science independent of powerful personalities, economic considerations and media pressure?

Thanks to Eve Evans for this post

Book sale will aid patients’ comfort

October 14th, 2011

WHITCHURCH Hospital League of Friends will be holding a booksale on October 28 and 29.

It will open at 10.30am and close at 4pm at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Road, Whitchurch. There will be a range of fiction and non-fiction in hard and paperbacks. All proceeds will go towards patients’ comfort and well-being in both the hospital and community.

Ladies in the Dispensary…

October 4th, 2011

This photo I believe was taken around about 1983 for the 75th Anniversary of the hospital.

The lady on the left is Mrs Audrey Lewis who worked in the pharmacy from the early 1970ies until the mid eighties – thanks to David Lewis, Audrey’s son for the information.

The lady on the left is Mrs Helen Hilling who worked in the pharmacy until the 1990ies when she retired.

Mystery Photo

National Treasures Live BBC 1

September 2nd, 2011

As part of the National Treasures Live series there is an interesting part of episode 3 where “Ruby Wax takes a look at some of the grisly techniques that were used on patients inside Victorian asylums.”

Find it on the BBC i player under National Treasures Live – Shakespeare Dig Stratford.It is about 20minutes into the programme and Ruby visits the Glenside Hospital Museum in Bristol

Available to watch until the 14/09/11

Thanks to Tim Goosey for recommending this programme.

Dr Dafydd Huws (1936 – 2011)

August 3rd, 2011
Dr Dafydd Huws

Dr Dafydd Huws

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Dr Dafydd Huws at the age of 75.
Dafydd was appointed Consultant Psychiatrist at Whitchurch Hospital in 1971 and retired in 1996. He had been a medical student in Cardiff and also undertaken his post graduate training in the Cardiff area.
His consultant responsibilities including looking after the day hospital at Tegfan, as well as providing general psychiatric care to an adult population. Prior to retirement he had been clinical director and subsequently medical director to the Cardiff Community NHS Trust.
It is almost impossible to condense into a few paragraphs his life and work as a psychiatrist, as well as conveying something of the person and character that he was. His energy and enthusiasm permeated everything that he did. Dafydd had a special interest in eating disorders and psychosomatic illness. He never failed to be intrigued by the different ways people and personalities presented their illness. He was genuinely interested in the human condition and how we cope with stress and adversity. His approach was not always conventional, but he was usually successful, I think its fair to say that he would not have felt comfortable working in today’s managed care system.
One of his strengths was as a communicator; He often used analogy to explain concepts. One of the more enduring in explaining psychosomatic illness  being the overfull suitcase, which if the contents were not allowed to bulge out of the front, would manifest as pressure in a different part of the container. He was in demand as a lecturer and speaker, but also by the media who sought his view when any story of a psychiatric relevance broke.
He was a great mentor for any young psychiatrist, and always ready with good advice, one of his favourites was the assertion that the secret of a long career in psychiatry was to do something completely different – and he did that with gusto.  He was an active member of Plaid Cymru, their first councilor in Cardiff, and one time party chairman. He ran several farms, and enjoyed relating the story and how he used to bring back orphaned lambs from his farm near Aberystwyth and keep them in the residency in medical quarters during the working week, and the great lengths he would go to in order to dodge the cleaner. His interest in renewable  energy he later turned into a business, owning and running one of the first wind farms in Wales.
Dafydd perhaps more than anything else was a proud Welshman, and was unflinching in his support of the language and culture, this naturally extended to his patronage of the Welsh Psychiatric Society and y Gyndeithas Feddygol. He had a keen intellect and wrote Welsh poetry and enjoyed nothing better during work breaks than discussing philosophy and theology with his colleagues.
During his final illness he did a radio programme. Interviewed in Welsh he talked about his life and career. He talked very openly about his cancer and how it had affected him, but commented that he would not have wished to have lived without it. He felt that the experience had in many ways changed him and enriched his being – a comment typical of the man who could see the positive and value in most things.
His funeral took place in Bow Street, Aberystwyth on the 9th of July. He leaves a widow Rhian, and five children, two of whom have followed him into the medical profession.

Thanks to Dr John Lewis for this post

Visit of 3rd Year Medical Students to the Hospital

June 28th, 2011

Last Thursday the 23rd of June a group of 3rd year medical students visited Whitchurch Hospital as part of a History of Medicine SSC (Student Selected Components) course. We had an interesting morning starting off with a talk from Tim Goosey looking at the history of the Hospital, followed by some information on medication over the years by Gwawr Faulconbridge. We moved to the boardroom for coffee and a look at the artifacts there. Next in the plan was a tour of the grounds but the rain put a temporary stop to that so we made our way to the main hall. The rain had stopped for a moment so we made the most of it and had a brief tour of the East side of the Hospital. We then had a tour of the ECT department where Dr Maria Atkins gave a talk on this treatment. The morning was nicely finished with a talk on the history of ECT by Dr Maria Atkins.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising this event, Dr Katie Phillips, Dr Maria Atkins and Tim Goosey.

Tim's talk

Tim's talk

The Display

The Display

The Water Tower

The Water Tower

The East Side Of The Hospital

The East Side Of The Hospital

Dr Maria Atkins talk

Dr Maria Atkins talk

The Tour

The Tour

Article from the South Wales Echo – June 10th 2011

June 28th, 2011

Celebration: Ex-nurse celebrates 100th birthday

Ex-nurse Myfanwy Lewis has spent a lifetime looking after others but was on the receiving end of some love, care and attention when she turned 100.

Myfanwy, from Rhiwbina, Cardiff, celebrated with friends at the Gabalfa Day Centre, which she has visited three times a week for the past six years.

As well as a celebration with her family, the staff at the centre – where Myfanwy enjoys bingo and quizzes – had organised a buffet and flowers for her.

Myfanwy was born in Willesden Green, London, but moved to Welshpool in Powys when she was seven.

She later came to Cardiff when she began training and working as a psychiatric nurse at Whitchurch Hospital. During World War II, she played a vital role serving her country after psychiatric patients were moved out and injured servicemen from the Battle of Dunkirk were treated there.

But fun-loving Myfanwy said they still managed to have a good time, despite the ongoing war effort. She said: “Some of them were upset and distressed.

“But some of them were quite funny – and well enough to go to the Hollybush pub. “We looked after them and used to take them over the Hollybush for a drink.”

At the end of the war, Myfanwy was wed to husband Roy and they set up home on College Road, Whitchurch. Myfanwy briefly gave up nursing after having two sons, David, 64, and Richard, 61.

But in 1957 the family moved to Llanishen and Myfanwy resumed her career, becoming a private night nurse in Cyncoed.

Later, she worked as a sales assistant in Howells department store until she retired. In 1997, Roy passed away and Myfanwy now lives with son David in Rhiwbina.

She says turning 100 “doesn’t feel any different”. “I very much enjoyed the celebration they put on for me at the day centre,” she said.

“But turning 100 doesn’t feel any different. I don’t feel any different at all.”

Thanks to Julia Harper for spotting this article in the Echo.

City of Cardiff. The Mental Hospital. First Annual Report for the Year 1908

April 16th, 2011
First Annual Report

First Annual Report

First Page

First Page

List of Officers

List of Officers

Annual Report of the Committee of Visitors

At the Meeting of the Committee of Visitors, held at the Mental Hospital on the 27th May, 1909, the following Annual Report to the City Council was drawn up in accordance with Section 190 of the Lunacy Act, 1890.

State and Condition of the Institution

At the date of this report the Mental Hospital has been in working for a little over one year. The building contractors (Messrs. William King and Son, Westminster) removed from the premises about two months ago, but the committee is in communication with the Architects as to the completion and making good of certain defects.


It has, however, been found that in order efficiently to heat at any time certain of the Male Wards which face eastwards, and to heat any of the wards on the first floor during the prevalence of sharp east winds, a very large consumption of steam coal, with continuous day and night stoking, is necessary if the hot-water pipes are to be relied upon.


Regard has been had to the important consideration that the primary aim of the Institution is the cure of the patients, and every endeavour has been made, and will be maintained, to furnish all available means for bringing about cure in recoverable cases. In this way it is believed that the confidence of the public will be promoted, and patients sent for treatment on the first manifestations of symptoms of mental disease.


The committee has also pleasure in reporting that the conduct of the subordinate staff has been in general very satisfactory.

Whitchurch Hospital Chapel

March 21st, 2011
Whitchurch Hospital Chapel

Whitchurch Hospital Chapel

The notes below lifted from the Listed Building database. It was designated a Grade II listed building on 15th April 1994:
‘This is the chapel to Whitchurch Hospital, originally the Cardiff Lunatic Asylum (NPRN 31924), and was built in the period 1902-1908. It is detached from the main hospital building and faces the ornate entrance block across a tree-lined forecourt or garden. The chapel is now disused and was used as a store in 2002.
This is a loosely Gothick red brick building with bathstone detail under deep slate roofs. It consists of an aisled nave and a chancel, and features a castellated chimney tower. It was built to accommodate all 750 patients and 150 staff.’
Thanks to Sian Thomas for this post
Does anyone remember attending any services at the Chapel? If so please get in touch…

Who lived where in the Hospital accommodation in 1911?

December 25th, 2010

Western Mail Cardiff Directory for 1911

Lodge – David E Turner

Steward’s House T. Morgan (Head Steward)

Houses on Park road

Gordon Holmes (Chief Engineer)

George Davies (Head Gardener)

S C Humber (Inspector)

Charles Hayman (Attendant)

William Wright (Attendant)

Charles Peters (Attendant)

William Woodland (Attendant)

J Flock (Attendant)

George Woolford (Night Inspector)

Thanks to Ian Beech for this post.