Sick Bay   -   Chris Snuggs (Berners/Halls 58-65)

I realize now that I took Sick Bay for granted - as I of course did so many things. I arrived at WHS in September 1958; everything was just extraordinary: buildings, grounds, the river, the sports fields. The Sick Bay was there in the slightly-apart stables area: one just accepted it. We all went there once a term I think it was to be weighed and measured. I can't remember whether we had any medical tests: stethoscopes, prodding, peering into orifices and so on (certainly no blood or urine tests as one might perhaps expect today), but I assume there was a certain amount of that - someone else will remember!

I spent a few days there once during one of the periodic epidemics. I was in an upstairs room with two other boys: Christopher Seeney (Halls 54-59) and Philip Stone (unknown 58-59). Seeney was in the 6th form and Philip and I in year 2. One evening Philip fell quite heavily to the floor after tripping on something, and Seeney said: "There's a heavy Jew on the ground tonight." - which as Philip was both a Jew and somewhat rotund was quite amusing! Funny how that has always stuck in my mind.

But I most remember Sick Bay for the time my right forefinger got infected after I shamefully picked the nail instead of cutting it. I paid no attention to the slight infection that started until it began to spread rapidly with increasing pain and violet colour up my finger. Discretion now being the better part of machismo I took myself off to Sick Bay, where dear Sister Williams took one look at it and - after a sharp intake of breath and an accusing look at my averted eyes - injected penicillin almost directly into it. Off I traipsed, the digit by now throbbing mercilessly. She didn't give me anything to ease the pain - probably using the old-fashioned policy: "That'll teach him a lesson."

I managed to get some sleep that night nevertheless, and the next day the finger was noticeable improved, and entirely healed after two days. That was the best biology lesson I ever had, and from that day onwards I have always felt huge compassion for those born before antibiotics, when the only remedy for me would have been to amputate the finger.

There are few things I am 100% sure about, but my Mother's eternal love for me was certainly one of them. I am sure she must have given me general health advice, but despite her love she did not say this about picking one's nails: "Look, if you pick your nails then one day sure as eggs are eggs you'll get an infection, and if it isn't treated fast and properly it will spread and you will get sepsis. There is NO CURE for that and it will rapidly and unstoppably shut down all your organs and you will die a painful and horrible death." THAT is called "deterrent"!! Well, Sister Williams saved my life - or at least my finger! Interestingly, she did not (have to) get a doctor to look at it first!

I do remember all the SB staff being very patient and kind, but the main conclusion to all this is that WE WERE INCREDIBLY LUCKY to have such a facility onsite. We rather took it for granted I fear, but should not have, and I remain eternally grateful to all those who set it up and the others who served there.

The Sick Bay has lain unused since WHS closed in 1990, reportedly because of the asbestos therein making renovation dangerous and expensive, but we do not have precise details about that at this time. One interesting question is WHEN was the building first used as a Sick Bay? Jonathan the IHS Caretaker has been renovating the old SB sign, and informs us that UNDER that sign is a red CROSS and the words "Sick Bay". I have always assumed it was a Sick Bay from beginning of WHS in 1950, but did the LNS, the military and even the Berners family use it for that purpose before? The Berners had plenty of staff on the estate who would have fallen ill from time to time; perhaps they were treated onsite? Further investigations will follow!

I am 100% sure the first lady is Sister Williams and 90% sure the second is Sister Hamon, but I do not know who the other two are!

Craig Lappin - Johnstons 71-76: “Spent 6 weeks in sick bay with glandular fever quickly followed by scarlet fever. I was 13 so it must have been 1974, but I remember the radio playing Lennon’s “Mind Games” a lot. I really liked the breakfasts, the solitary nature of my stay and being able to read, sleep and do nothing: a magical stasis of laziness and justification.”

The WHS Sick Bay