Baby isolated at East Glamorgan Hospital

Alan Bennett contacted Smallpox1962 with this moving report of the impact of the outbreak on his family, 51 years ago.

On 7 February 1962 my second daughter was born at East Glamorgan Hospital. Mother and daughter were released a week later. A midwife visited the baby for the next ten working days. My wife Joan became anxious towards the ends of the midwife’s visits she felt that there was something wrong with the baby. On the last day, expressing her concerns to the midwife, the midwife asked if the baby was feeding and sleeping normally. Yes. No problem then! As she was leaving, my wife still expressing her concern, the midwife decided to return to the baby to check her temperature. 103 and the baby was collected and returned to East Glamorgan Hospital alone. Continue reading

Fighting smallpox in the laboratory

A vivid account of the work of scientists in combating the smallpox outbreak in 1962 has been sent to the site by Edward Meyrick, who went on to be Principal Scientific Officer at the Public Health Laboratory Service, Colindale.

He describes how – 50 years ago – the small team, based at Cardiff Royal Infirmary, used the only open-fronted safety cabinet in Wales to deal with potentially lethal samples. He also recalls the primitive protection and safety measures available when he had to visit smallpox patients in isolation.

See Laboratory in the front line.

‘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.