EVACUATED FROM THE COAST—IT NEEDS A COUNTRY HOUSE
How St. Michael's Was First Established
From a Special Correspondent
WHAT IS ST. MICHAEL'S? No one at Clacton asks this question. There, not only every taxidriver at the railway station, but every inhabitant recognises at once the irregu
lar group of buildings on the Marine Parade East where some 50 crippled chil
dren used to be seen lying in the sunshine on the balcony or amusing themselves in the school playground beneath. Even holiday visitors knew that the nun who wheeled the babies—half-a-dozen at a time alongthe sea-front, came from St. Michael's. And so, in one way or another, the name has been carried far and wide until people are beginning to speak of " St. Michael's " as familiarly as they speak of " St. Bartholomew's " or " St. Thomas's."
Not, of course, that St. Michael's is in any degree comparable to those pretentious institutions, but that St. Michael's is what they and seven or eight hundred of their kind were once, before Henry VIII carried out his
" pious " design of suppressing the
spitals as he suppressed the monasteries; St. Michael's is pre-eminently
a " voluntary" hospital, and St.
Michael's moreover, has a distinction of its own. It is, in fact. unique among the few Catholic hospitals engaged in orthopaedic work in being entirely the foundation and achievement of a few hard-working nuns, unassisted by ecclesiastical endowment, or indeed diocesan support of any kind.
TO this circumstance of isolated and heroic endeavour must be attributed the hold it has had on the popular imagination. When, about thirty years ago, a few Sisters of Mercy acquired two small villas as a house for crippled girls deemed incurable, no one could foresee the present establishment with its up-to-date equipment for every branch of orthopaedic surgery.
The two villas, merged in the general patch-work of the building, still bear witness to the precarious financial history of the place. Here is no uniformity of design or grandeur of architecture to tell of government provision or munificent patronage. Schoolrooms, open-air wards, surgical ward, operating theatre have all been added haphazard as Providence supplied the means. Generous benefactors there have been at times, but, in the main, funds 'have had to be raised by all the ingenious and laborious devices known to every struggling Catholic charity.
There was a touch of the heroic; consequently. when thirteen years ago the Sisters ventured upon the project of an Orthopaedic Hospital in the completes,. sense of the word—an instindion where diseased and deformed children would ,rot only be tenderly cared for but where they should have the succour of the most approved surgical science.
ONLY those who know the difficulty of maintaining a voluntary hospital of the simplest and most general kind can appreciate the courage implied in undertaking highly specialised work in the advanced stage of modern surgery. Only the latest appliances and methods can he contemplated, and only the most skilful medical attendance and specially trained nursing. All that, of course, entails not only a great initial expenditure, but a constant outlay, if he hospital is to be maintained on the same level of efficiency as the richly provided state and municipal institutions.
But how well the nuns of St. Michael's have risen to the exigencies of their new situation, appears from the lengthy technical list of operations successfully performed, and more especially from the hundreds of patients who, thanks to this enterprise, have been enabled to undertake the duties of life with little or no disadvantage from physical handicap.
For the Sisters have seen to it, that the children are not only taken through the ordinary elementary school curriculum, but that they are instructed In needlework and other crafts to fit them for their place as useful and efficient members of society.
GIRLS and boys of all ages requiring treatment for any kind of physical defect are eligible for admission, regardless of religious denomination. Special wards are also reserved for adults, both male and female; and there is an adjoining nursing home with rooms for over twenty private patients who need medical or surgical attendance of any description.
Originally the nursing home was meant merely as a financial assistance to the Orthopaedic Hospital; but the charges have proved so moderate, and the accommodation and situation so acceptable that it has attained an independent importance, and the nursing staff has had to be increased to meet the constant demand of patients who prefer the pleasant prospect of an apartment on the sea-front to the close atmosphere and restricted view even of some of the more expensive nursing institutions in the West End.
Moreover, a beautiful and commodious chapel has been erected within the past few years where priest patients especially have unusual facilities for celebrating Holy Mass.