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Fever Hospital

I was released from Scaffold Hill isolation hospital, with the hope of never returning to what seemed more like a prison than a hospital.

An epidemic of scarlet fever and diphtheria hit Whitley Bay.  I was about five and a half years old and my younger brother was only two when we went to the isolation hospital at Scaffold Hill known to all as the “fever hospital”.

On arrival I was put into the female ward and didn’t see my brother until we were both sent home some weeks later.  I was put into bed and held down by two nurses while a third held my nose and administered a dose of Gregory powder and castor oil, which I had refused to take on account of the reaction of the other children having tasted the mixture. In those days, in 1934, the belief that you had to be “cleaned out” was part of the cure. They were sorry a few hours later as the result was devastating!  After three weeks I was moved into another building.  It was still a large plain ward with white-washed walls and full of beds, but we were allowed to get dressed and to take short walks outside in the afternoons.

Fathers took a thick piece of wood, approximately 2ft x 1 ft, and bored two holes in each end. Rope was threaded through the holes of the wood, so as to make loops at either end, which were then hung over the palings of the fence. This enabled the parents to stand on the wood so they could wave to their children. The children could not distinguish at that distance who the couples were. All the children were convinced it was their parents at the fence waving to them, which of course kept them from feeling forgotten in their time of isolation.

I had scarlet fever, whereas my close friend had diphtheria, so we never met as we were kept apart for fear of cross infection. In fact, we didn’t know until later that we had both been in the “fever hospital” at the same time. After six weeks (which seemed longer) I was released from Scaffold Hill Isolation Hospital with the hope of never returning to what seemed more like a prison than a hospital.

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