‘All clear’ – end of smallpox outbreak – 21 May 1962

Fifty years ago today, the South Wales Echo carried the front page news that the third and final phase of the Welsh smallpox outbreak was over.

Six weeks after the unexplained infection of patients at Glanrhyd Hospital in Bridgend, the ‘all clear’ was given.

It had been four months since the start of the crisis, when a traveller from Pakistan arrived in Cardiff and was diagnosed with the disease. Shuka Mia survived, but 19 people died – six in the Llantrisant and Rhondda areas and 13 in Bridgend.

During that period, 900,000 people in south Wales were vaccinated and a huge operation was mounted to trace contacts and contain the outbreak.

This site has tracked the story day by day, 50 years later. Over the past four months, it has registered more than 11,000 page hits and more than 50 people have contacted us with their personal recollections. You can read their stories and listen to audio recordings of some of them.

Smallpox1962 will continue as an online archive of an event which touched the lives of everyone in south Wales 50 years ago.

Keep on bowling – new audio

Photo: Smallpox 1962

In 1962 Jim Morgan was assistant secretary of the Welsh Indoor Bowls Association. One of his jobs was to assist in the staging of the Home International matches between Wales, England and Scotland. He recalls how the smallpox outbreak impacted on sporting and social arrangements at the time.

Listen to his memories.

A victim of vaccination – audio

Almost a million people in south Wales were vaccinated during the smallpox outbreak 50 years ago.

Photo: Smallpox 1962

Davyna Anne Williams was 17 at the time of the outbreak in 1962, but it had a long-lasting and very significant effect on her family.

Her father, Ben Davies, was Headmaster at Ferndale Secondary Modern School For Boys and one of the very first people to be vaccinated in the Rhondda Valley. She believes it was this early inoculation that led to his death.

You can hear her story here.

Life at Penrhys smallpox hospital – new audio

Mr Bowden at Penrhys Smallpox Hospital (Photo: ITV Wales)

The isolation hospital at Penrhys above the Rhondda valleys was at the centre of the 1962 smallpox outbreak in Wales. The caretaker was Donald Tudor Bowen, who lived on the site with his wife Sheila and daughter Dawn.

Fifty years after the outbreak, Sheila and Dawn spoke to David Williams about life before, during and after the smallpox outbreak.

Listen to their story.