THE recent stories on the Peeps page about Pyrford’s Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital has resulted in readers getting in contact with their memories.

When he was a schoolboy, Alan Fairlie injured his back playing cricket on a Wednesday. The following, Sunday, he was examined by a doctor and admitted to the Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital.

He recalls: “The injury didn’t seem that bad, but the worst thing was I was due to take my O-levels the next day. We lived near West Weybridge station, now called Byfleet and New Haw, and I went by train to the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. If I missed taking my exams I would have had to stay on for a further year, which I didn’t want to do.”

It was arranged that Alan could take his exams during his stay in hospital. Therefore, on the first day his father was actually allowed to collect that day’s exam papers from the Royal Grammar School and took them to Rudolph ward at the hospital, which Alan was staying on. That would certainly not be allowed today.

Alan says he was transferred to a private room in the hospital – which the champion jockey Gordon Richards had recently occupied after a fall from his horse – and where Alan sat up in bed and took the exams, with the headmistress of the hospital’s school acting as his invigilator. On the following days the exam papers were sent direct to the hospital from his school.

Alan recalls that some of the nurses were trainees in their first year – and were only a year older than he was at the time.

He met another patient who had the same name as him and the same birth date. This patient, in his mid-20s, had just had a leg amputated and was about to lose the remaining one. There was another man in his late 20s who had polio, and who had spent much of his life in hospital.

Alan says: “It certainly made me count my blessings and made my pain threshold greater. During my stay I spent three weeks lying on my back and when I was finally allowed to get out of bed I couldn’t walk properly.”

He then had to spend some of his remaining two weeks at the hospital in a wheelchair. Alan passed two of his O-levels and, in the August, he started work in a bank in London. Later, at night school, he retook the O-levels he had originally failed.

In 1965, Jan Wiley was injured while riding pillion on a motorbike when it was in collision with a car on Shore’s Road by Horsell Common.

Thrown from the motorbike, she says she landed with her “foot behind her shoulder”. She spent three months in traction at Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital and was treated by the pioneering surgeon Gordon Hadfield.

Jan recalls that he was a lovely man. And due to the severity of her injuries, she had much attention from the other surgeons and health professionals.

As the traction treatment was not successful, Jan was operated on by Mr Hadfield with a bone graft and a metal pin (she says Hadfield called it a nail) inserted from her hip to her knee.

She recalls spending time outside on a verandah and a nurse called Jackie Clooney, who she is sure was related to the actor George Clooney!

Jan then spent four weeks in St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, taken there from Rowley Bristow in a special adapted ambulance. However, the metal pin was not a success and Jan says it was removed a year later.

There will be more memories, details and photos of Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital in a future issue.

If  you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call me, David Rose, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: [email protected]