Childcare, School Clinics and Dr Black

Her mission in life was to rid every child of their tonsils...

By Val Newman

Medical provision, childcare and healthcare were provided from a variety of locations across the estate, for example in my early days National Dried Milk and Orange juice were collected from one of the outbuilding attached to the St Helier Arms. 

Babies were weighed either in the back part of Boots the Chemist or at the clinic which in those days was in the  old, black wooden building located where the new doctors surgery stands now.

There were a number of family doctors with whom you registered, indeed the estate was not short of surgeries. My family were with Drs O'Farrell and Navin (or Dr Mary as she was known) and their surgery was located in a house in Green Wrythe Lane opposite the Waltham Road turning.

Dr Ralph O'Farrell was born in County Cork and obviously had kissed the blarney stone at a very early age. He was lovely and had a gentle Irish accent and it would seem that his favourite prescription was that 'cure all' cherry linctus or M & B tablets( the forerunner of today's antibiotics).

He had a young Australian doctor in the practice as I remember whose name was, I think, Dr Quinn - but I stand to be corrected on that one. The wonderful Dr Mary Navin followed Dr Quinn. She smoked like a trooper and used a cigarette holder frequently brushing the dropped ash off of the prescription she had just written. She was beautifully spoken and somewhat daunting but when things were really bad she was amazing.

The most feared phrase for any child was to be told to go to Dr Black's clinic.  This almost certainly meant that something needed to be 'cut off' and as it appeared her mission in life was to rid every child of their tonsils this was frequently the case. Her clinic was located in Rochester Road down near the ponds in Carshalton.

'Nitty Nora' visited the schools regularly in an attempt to control fleas and head lice and infrequently a doctor would arrive at school and shove an enlarged lolly stick down your throat with the accompanying demand of 'say ahhh' and if you managed not to be sick and depending on the noise you made you were either sent back to class or given your marching orders for Rochester Road. The school dentist would also arrive, I think on an annual basis, again poke around your mouth and then, if necessary,refer you to the dental clinic at St Helier's.

For the most part those condemned to having their tonsils and/or adenoids removed were sent to Queen Mary's Hospital, which in those days was located in Fountain Drive, Carshalton Beeches. This was a huge hospital catering for long term sick children, those suffering from TB and the effects of polio, along with those children with birth defects. The 'tonsils' ward was obviously for short term patients and I can remember being admitted on a Sunday and feeling totally abandoned. It had the traditional hospital smell and ruled over by the ward sister and the Matron. I was given the most foul tasting liquid which was apparently designed to dry out the mucous from the back of the throat and something to make me drowsy and then transferred by a sort of 'milk float' where we were loaded on shelves, one on top of the other and taken to the operating theatre. I remember waking up with an atrocious sore throat and eventually was given some ice cream to soothe the pain. I was in there for one week and felt sorry for those who had their adenoids removed as they had to stay for a bit longer as did the children who had had eye operations as they were not allowed to move their heads. However, these were short stay wards and it was in the 'open air TB wards' where patients stayed for months on end and the wards where polio children were maintained on iron lungs.

There was a severe outbreak of polio one summer and several children in Welbeck Road were thought to have caught it - it was frightening- there was a general air of relief when we were called to be given the Salk vaccine - I know it was called vaccine but I seem to recall taking it on a sugar cube - again apologies if the brain is misleading me.

By the time the new clinic opened at the Circle in the late 60's things had certainly moved forward.

Family planning seemed to be administered at a clinic base in Shotfield, Wallington. I remember going there with a friend and we both wore engagement rings - no we weren't engaged but you would not be seen unless you were in a 'firm' relationship. There might have been a few less quick rushes up the aisle in St Peter's if that had not been the case!!!

This page was added by Val Newman on 26/08/2011.
Comments about this page

Hi Val, Your memory is fine - the Salk vaccine was given on a sugar cube very often, especially with young children.

By Ted Blowers
On 09/09/2011

Dr Mary Navin (who used to regale me with her stories of holidays in Jamaica) was succeeded by the excellent caring husband and wife team Dr John and Dr Pamela. They were infinitely patient with the older generation especially my dear, late mother who was visited regularly by Dr. John right into her nineties!

By Yvonne Neblett
On 11/07/2013

What memories do people have of Dr Burns?

By Ray B
On 25/02/2014

In Dr. Burns office the receptionist had a perspex screen. She would drag it over and ask what was wrong. The entire waiting room would know what you were there for. If you were lucky enough to get a seat it was an old broken down car seat most likely. There was a very small electric fire. Dr. Burns was quite handsome and pleasant with a nice Scottish accent..

By Irene Fawsitt
On 03/03/2014

Does anyone remember Dr. Mundle? In the 1940's, 50's he had his practice in I believe in Leonard Avenue which is off The Drive/Lilleshall Road. He later moved to Reigate Avenue.

He was a wonderful doctor nothing was too much trouble for him (as was the case with most doctors in those halcyon days just after the start of the N.H.S. In those days if you had to go to the hospital he would just write a letter and you took it up yourself to St Helier Hospital and got seen right away! As I recall he didn't even have a secretary or if he did she was hidden away somewhere. The waiting rooms then was his own front room and it was first come first served. I can't remember waiting too long for any consultation except one time I have something wrong with my rear end! 

By Tony Rivers
On 19/02/2017

I remember Dr Burns, I'm pretty sure he had prescriptions pre written, he got through patients so quick, My Dad made the sign the lit up Next when he pressed the button in his room, It was probably the first of the systems now used.  

By Carole Ayres
On 03/11/2018

Thanks for jogging my memory.  I remember Dr. O'Farrell and Dr. Mary.  Their surgery was just over the road from where we lived at 271 Green Wrythe Lane.  Dr. O'Farrell had a photo on his window sill showing him and his wife and his sons - he had about ten of them and he used to say to my mother "swap you two of my boys for one of your girls". I don't know how long he had been a doctor there but I know he treated my mother as a child and he was still our doctor when we moved from Carshalton to Beddington in about mid 60s. I also had my tonsils and adenoids out at Queen Mary's but it was Dr. O'Farrell who referred me there - I do remember Dr. Black though.

By Mrs Barbara Clayton
On 26/04/2021

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