Florence Gibson Ward - a Memory of Heswall.

Hi all, I was there about 1961, I think it was late summer, I'd just got out of Myrtle Street Hospital in Liverpool, and instead of going home to terrible accommodation in Liverpool 8, they (whoever "they" were) sent me to Heswall to convalesce, from a gut operation which they recognized much later as Crohns. To convalesce is not a word used much now. I'ts now almost unused completely. I landed in the Florence Gibson Ward, and was there about 6 months. The ward had about 30 beds? it was a very bright (with daylight) ward, very clean, lots of glass, bit like living in a glasshouse in a garden. The meals were not too hot, I remember I was on a light diet for all the time I was there. No fried food, nothing rich, lots of boiled ham and potatoes for me. We had a mixed bunch of boys all about the same age. I was just under 11 years old, there were some great friends I made there, there was a John Bliss, and a Ray Owen (whose hobby was bird watching) and football. We had a great teacher who started off a venture for us, called the "Florence Gibson House Plant Company" which gave all of us something to do, as I think with all hospital stays for a long term, the problem is how to amuse yourself. So, we all grew house plants and sold them to our visitors, and the money went towards what? I can't recall. I remember one period it rained for about a week solid, day after day. We couldn't get out of the ward, for a whole week this bunch of kids was kept inside, then the weather broke and we all raced out to the pathways and grassed areas at the foot of the slope on the south side of the building. It was a great release to be outside again.
I recall there was a flat area just in front of the building, about the size of say 5 tennis courts placed side by side, fenced off by chain link fencing so that it was a secure area. Inside the compound lived a donkey in a small wooden hut about 15ft long by 10ft wide in the middle. This donkey was not a friendly easy going type, especially when we used to enter its territory, and before it sensed there was someone around, the object was to get to the hut, on the blind side of the open door it came out of. We woke it up, teased it out, then had it chase us around the hut, one way, then when we had got far enough ahead we were catching up to it, then the donkey on realizing this, stopped dead and turned sharply around and chased us the other way. It caught up to one of us once and bit someone on the shoulder. The part dread and part high excitement of being chased by this thing made all of us pretty fit in sprinting away to get to the gate faster than the donkey.
The nurses were so good to us, we didn't miss home or our parents at all. They were always cheerful. We watched test matches that summer on a black and white tv in the ward. When I left there I still didn't return home, I was then sent to Abbots Lea school in Woolton, Liverpool, in Beaconsfield road, the same road that had Strawberry Fields. I think that was in the fall of 1962. I was 12 and a couple of weeks by that time. I actually didn't live at home again until I was about almost 16. I see that the Heswall hospital was knocked down in the early 2000's
I never went back. Oh, one special thing for me was that in the grounds I found a sliver of flint, which to me looked very unusual. I sent it to Liverpool Museums, they sent it back and said it was probably a neolithic stone scraper tool, most probably crafted by man several thousand years ago. I wrote of it in the Ward newspaper, which we produced, by Roneo copies. I still have the copies and a newspaper report of what we did. They were very formative years, I learned how to live away from home and fend for myself, and it was the beginning of independence.


A memory shared by Frederick Johnson on Sep 9th, 2020. Send Frederick Johnson a message

 Comments & Feedback

Mon Jun 21st 2021, at 4:03 am
tobypaws2002 commented:
Hello, Frederick. Enjoyed reading your memory. Did they manage to help fix your Crohn's ? A neighbour here had it, and had to keep away from Gluten in bread.
Did you find any special foods that helped ?
Best Wishes, Stay safe.....Rosemarie Mann, near Southampton.
21 June, 2021

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