Monday, 1 July 2013

In praise of Caerphilly Miners' Hospital.

The familiar façade of the Miners' Hospital.
Although I don't think it was a unique occurrence in national terms, the early 1920s saw a remarkable act of self reliance in the coalfields around Caerphilly in South Wales. Remember this was pre-NHS and a time when the healthcare available to ordinary working people was pretty basic. The miners wanted better for themselves and their families and those from 29 local pits arranged to buy a mansion, the Beeches, owned by a wealthy mining contractor. The money was collected via weekly contributions from their wages - my grandfather, Norman Bowyer, was one who contributed and a wage slip of his is to the left. You can make out
the deduction to the 'Cottage Hospital'. By 1923 sufficient funds had been raised to convert the mansion into a hospital and ‘The Miners’, as it was always known as, went on to serve the healthcare needs of local people for nearly 90 years.

As did many others in our village, I have always regarded the Miners' as 'my' hospital and over the years it has featured frequently in my family's story. Births, deaths, accidents, diagnoses, treatments: we've been there, done that - at the Miners'. Sadly, it has now been de-commissioned (a new, and controversial, hospital has been built not that far away at Ystrad Mynach. The Miners' was always going to be a hard act to follow and the new one clearly isn't on the same stage. I doubt that it ever will be.) and the rest of the site has been cleared for housing (what else?), but the original building, the Beeches, remains. What will happen next?

Logically, as the Miners' came from the community, it should go back to the community. And this is exactly what a group is campaigning for. They (Caerphilly Miners' Centre for the Community) say: "We want to return it to community ownership and use. Our vision is of a place where local people of all ages can come together, feel part of our community, learn from each other and celebrate our remarkable heritage. We want to give the Caerphilly Miners' back to the community!" The total cost of refurbishment is £1M. Fund raising is well underway but there's a long way to go. If you feel like contributing to the pot, just click on the 'Donate with JustGiving' button below and your money will be painlessly extracted from you!
There is one aspect of the fund raising strategy that I particularly like. It's the ‘Caerphilly Miners 8’ Campaign which echoes the donations made by miners in the establishment of the hospital in 1923. They put aside 6d (6 old pence) of their weekly wages for the hospital fund. Today’s monetary equivalent of this is £8. If all living relatives of the original miners gave this amount, I'm sure this would make a significant contribution to the target.

Sadly my grandfather died in 1947 just before I, and the NHS, were born. He died of dust on the lung which, had the NHS been in existence at the right time, might have been treated better than it was. I think he must be turning in his grave now at the thought of us sleepwalking into the loss of the NHS as we know and love it. I just find it astounding that the Great British Public seem to be so complacent about what is going on.

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