24 May 2019

24th May 1920, Joseph Deacon was born


"May the twenty-fourth, nineteen twenty, Ottington Street, Wolling Road, Camberwell. This is where my life began..."

The beginning of Tongue Tied by Joseph Deacon, an autobiography that looks at living in an old style mental hospital from a patient's point of view.

Joseph Deacon was a resident in St Lawrence's Hospital in Caterham in Surrey. Its catchment area was London so patients came a long way from their homes to be there. Joseph lived there from 1928 until 1981.

Joseph had cerebral palsy, affecting all four limbs and his speech and was unintelligible to most people apart from his closest friends. With the encouragement of his Charge Nurse in Male C1 ward, Joseph began to dictate his autobiography. He was helped by his friends Ernie Roberts (also a cerebral palsy sufferer), Tom Blackburn and others. It took about fourteen months to dictate, and type. His autobiography was published in 1970 under the title 'Tongue Tied' by the National Society for the Mentally Handicapped as part of the 'Subnormality in the Seventies' series..

He later appeared on television programmes such as Horizon and children's programme Blue Peter to raise awareness of cerebral palsy.

Here is just one short paragraph from the book... "We had a new nurse called Violet Morley in our ward. She fed me with rhubarb pudding and all the boys made me laugh. And when I laughed I spat all the rhubarb over Vie's apron, but she wasn't cross with me. I would not have blamed her if she was cross with me, she only put on a new apron. I could not apologise to her as I cannot talk. Nurse Violet is still working in the card factory."

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