Patient George Brogan, 1964

You also had workshops there that you used as part of OT (Occupational Therapy).  I made a shoulder bag for my wife from real leather in one of the workshops. I think the making of things was just to keep you busy; you started at 9am and finished about 4pm each day and you were expected to take part just as an exercise in keeping you going all the time you were in hospital.

A leather bag made by George Brogan in 1964

A leather bag made by George Brogan in 1964.©George Brogan

One of the other things I helped with was to make the medals for the disabled games. They were cut out of a big round bar of brass. They would cut these slices off the bar and then I would put them into a lathe and then turn the handle to mill the rim of the medal and create the indent. This was prior to the engraving that someone else did. I think these were the medals they gave out at the National Wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville.

I didn’t mind making things; I have never been one to sit still and watch the grass grow, so doing things like making the bag and medals and some engraving was fine by me.

Discovering archery

George Brogan, Archer, at the games in Blair Castle 1965

George Brogan, archer, at Blair Castle in 1965

At Stoke Mandeville one part of the occupational therapy was archery; it had taken place in the main hall. You had to attend there as well as part of your task. I think it was to help to build up your arms pulling the string back. But it also got me interested in archery and when I got home I joined a disabled club and did archery there, and travelled all over the country to different disabled clubs, and became friends with people all over the country. So the archery was a big help to me; it gave me a new lease of life when I left hospital.

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Physiotherapist Ebba

Occupational therapists still do kitchen practice; we had an adapted kitchen with a pull-out work face and a hole for bowls used in the 1950s. It was part of teaching life skills, reintroducing patients to household work. This particular system is not used now, although they still do use adapted kitchens. It was a good technique that should be re-introduced.

Patient Sally Haynes

I absolutely hated Occupational Therapy and making things. I used to avoid doing it whenever possible. There was a basket at the end of my hospital bed that I never finished. I couldn’t bear it . . . All patients had this card which was marked off when you went to different activities and my card showed I never turned up for Occupational Therapy. I remember Guttmann once giving me a long lecture on this. . . I had decided that if I was going to do anything at all then I wasn't going to make a basket or a leather purse. Instead I was going to make a bridle for my horse. My ambition was to ride again.

Occupational therapist Dr. John Silver

Guttmann favoured physiotherapy over occupational therapy and the latter service was very under resourced at Stoke Mandeville. This was largely his personal belief; other hospitals took Occupational Therapy a lot more seriously. Part of the problem was what was on offer: basketry! If you give people useful things to do then they will enjoy it. When I subsequently became director I introduced the first computer room as part of OT and it was extremely popular.

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Occupational therapist Jean Stone

Jean Stone worked as an occupational therapist in Scotland and worked with the GB and Scottish teams at the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games and helped to organise the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games.

In the various Scottish hospitals in which I worked it was always the Occupational Therapy staff who had responsibility for doing sports with the patients. The other difference was that lots of the OT departments would have men on the staff who used to get involved in the different sports. For example at Eaton Hall one of the remedial gymnasts there just happened to be a fencer, so as a result all the patients going through rehab there got to do fencing.  Physiotherapy was still largely a woman’s profession. I think Guttmann’s model at Stoke Mandeville where the physiotherapy department – rather than the Occupational Therapy – was responsible for all the sports rehabilitation was quite unusual at the time. But then Guttmann could never see the point of Occupational Therapy and didn’t invest in it in the same way at Stoke Mandeville.

A patient making a basket in occupational therapy

A patient at the hospital making a basket as part of their occupational therapy.©NSIC

Read more about Jean Stone