It was coming up to midnight on Sunday 4 July 1948 and my mother, who had been in labour for 18 hours, was just about ready to give birth to me. She wanted to start pushing. But the doctors and midwives looked up at the clock on the wall and said, “Stop. Hold on, Edna, hold on.” They knew they were moments away from the start of the National Health Service and wanted me to be the first baby born into this new service. So my mother took a deep breath and held on. That’s how I was born at one minute past midnight on Monday 5 July 1948 – the first NHS baby.
That was in a cottage hospital in a little corner of west Wales called Glanamman. It was the staff there who told my mother, “You must call her Aneira,” the female form of Aneurin, after Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the NHS. They knew it was significant that Bevan’s dream of a health service that was free for everyone to use had come to fruition that day.
A quite wondrous reminder that those cottage hospitals existed before the NHS did. And the hospital bed, the doctors, nurses and so on. Even, maternity services.
As all should know but too few do the first NHS built hospital opened in 1963.
And that cottage hospital she was born in?
The Amman Valley Hospital was once a private house named “Frondeg” and home to the family of William (Gwylim) Rees; manager of Amman Tinplate works at Garnant. Sometime later it became the home of the Folland family. Henry Folland made his fortune in the tinplate industry and the family moved to Black Pill in Swansea in the first half of the 1920’s. More information on the Folland Family can be found on the “Mr and Mrs Henry Folland” page on this site.
Before Henry Folland ventured on holiday to Egypt in the spring of 1926, he informed his wife that on his return, he wished to donate their former home on what was then Horny Road, Glanamman, to the community, in order that it be used as a much needed hospital. The family’s intention had already been announced by the wife of county councillor John Phillips at a concert two years previously in February of 1924. Unfortunately, Henry Folland died in Egypt and it was left to his wife, Lilly Folland, to carry out his wishes.
While the various committees in the area were still trying to decide which sort of service the new hospital should provide, Mrs Folland was more focused. Her vision was that of her former home acting as a fully equipped cottage hospital, providing as many services as possible to the sick and injured of the area. Swansea General Hospital at the time, was overcrowded. At her own expense, Mrs Folland, by 1929, had proceeded to turn Frondeg into a twelve bed self contained hospital.
Fundraising continued through the efforts of various committees in the locality and the hospital was able to start its life with a credit balance of £12,000, including the donations by the Folland family.
That’s how the NHS was founded. By nationalising previously extant medical infrastructure, in this instance charitably funded such. Well done to Nye Bevan of course, just abstracting into the State what already existed.