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A strange and chilling story
Seventeen year old Sandy Bayley embarked on her career in mental health nursing at Parkside Hospital in 1964. Later renamed Glenside Hospital, it was a very different place from today. It was a place of deep division between the sexes. Somewhere that women were incarcerated for infidelity and labelled morally insane - doomed to spend the rest of their lives in the asylum.
Fifty years later Sandy is still working at Glenside Hospital, and has documented the memories of her early years into a new book: If Asylum Walls Could Speak. It's a graphic and moving account of life at Glenside Hospital. recounting "pencil baths", gang showers and group bathing and how a young window cleaner saw more than he expected and fled. The stately matron in her crisply starched whites, and fearsome charge nurses who evoked terror among the junior staff.
Sandy relates hilarious tales of bodies being transported in the dead of night to the hospital mortuary by some very unconventional means.
She tells the story of Herman, the murderer who had been held in Z Ward for 20 years at the Governor's pleasure. Herman's job was to empty the ward's rubbish bins. He carried out this task for so long that the staff became complacent. Eventually, Herman was trusted to go outside of the confines of the ward to complete his chore and ring the bell to come back in. He did this for many months and always returned…until one day when he did not. Red faces and sackings were the result.
This close-knit community of Glenside hospital was home to many and asylum to most. With 1,300 beds and the ridiculous ratio of fifty patients to one nurse on night duty, she still had time to knit between rounds. Sandy rolled up her sleeves and got on with the job and fifty years later, is still rolling with the punches - literally.
Sandy Bayley's book If Asylum Walls Could Speak is being launched at Z Ward on Saturday October 17 at 11am and the guest speaker is former President of the Law Society John Harley. Come along and meet Sandy, learn more about Glenside Hospital, and take the opportunity to visit Z Ward which will be open between 10am and 4pm.