Diary of a teenage TB patient


Black Notley Blues by Chris Dell

Chris Dell engagingly recounts many humorous moments in this, his autobiography spanning a year as "a mischievous teenager" and patient in a tuberculosis hospital and convalescent home.

He assiduously made daily diary entries of his time while under medical treatment among many other individuals with TB, all cooped up and restricted in a caring but disciplined environment.

Black Notley Blues has been described by a medical historian at University College London as:

"A surprisingly entertaining read with all the ingredients of a 'Carry On' comedy involving nurse chasing, illicit pub crawls and regular carpeting by the hospital authorities. Yet accompanying the fun and games it is an important medical, social and personal record of the 1950s sanatorium experience."

Touching and often laughter-filled memories abound in this book, and he particularly remembers with affection many of the friendly helpful nursing staff. He and his gathering of 'mates' and 'characters' were under the ever-watchful eyes of Ward Sister, Matron and Medical Superintendent whose patience were often tested to the limit by their activities.

About the author

After recovering from his treatment at Black Notley Hospital in Essex followed by a period of convalescence at the Caxton Memorial Home in Kent, Chris Dell eventually studied and progressed into a successful career in the computer industry. However he maintained his interest in music by learning to play the classical guitar and teaching the instrument after-hours in schools for over ten years. In his spare time he also organised concerts for local music societies.

In the Spring of 2013 he, by serendipity, happened to watch a television programme about a tuberculosis sanatorium at Craig-y-nos Castle in Wales where, until the discovery of the drug streptomycin, many children were confined for long-term treatment, often for several years. Chris was blissfully unaware just how lethal the disease had been before the drug was discovered and was very fortunate that it was available when he was admitted in 1958.

Inspired by reading the featured book The Children of Craig-y-nos, Chris decided to release for publication his own book Black Notley Blues that had remained in the private domain of close friends and family for several years. His informative and amusing book is well illustrated with over 100 photographs, mostly taken by the author at the time - here are three of them.

Primary source material

Black Notley Blues was drawn from primary source material from the period including daily diary entries, photographs, letters and memories. Below is an illustration that appears in the book showing some of them.

Black Notley Blues, primary source material

Ordering details

Black Notley Blues contains 150 pages and is offered as paperback or hardback editions. It is available from Amazon or can be ordered from Waterstones, local bookshops or from the Braintree Museum (see the link below).

A Kindle edition at a reduced price may be downloaded from Amazon

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Black Notley Blues


The author, Chris Dell, may be contacted via the publisher.