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Dr Guy Hamilton

"…in England… on September 3rd 1939, when war was declared, about 55,000 people with intellectual disability and some mental illnesses were released from mental institutions because we expected to have vast casualties and we had to have hospital beds for them. Lots of these people got jobs during the war, in factories and managed all sorts of things. And at the end of the war, some of them obviously had to go back to institutions, they started looking for these people to send them back; and they found they were doing all sorts of things. I remember one was found to be a manager of a Woolworths store…..he was doing very well. Lots of them were found to be doing very well and didn't need to go back. …so I began to get the idea that people could do things.

Mental disability was always at the bottom - medically - because there was nothing you could do for them. There was no treatment; you couldn't operate; it wasn't like psychiatry where there were drugs like that, there was nothing you could do for them - so let them be. (At Claremont) both mentally retarded and mentally ill people were put in together - they weren't separated. But it was interesting in that some years later, when we were doing some renovations in the children's-boys' ward, we found there were blackboards on the walls - they'd been painted over. And I looked into that and found that way back in the 1920s …there was a psychologist who thought that people with intellectual disability could learn and so she had set up these blackboards to teach these children. But it had apparently all closed down - the school had closed down during the Depression. But in the 1920s, there was someone who was way ahead of everybody else.

So we produced what was eventually called "Pyrton"…it was called Pyrton because that was the name somebody had given to that area - and it was sheer coincidence because Pyrton is a little place in Oxfordshire which has a large 600 bed mental institution for intellectually handicapped people which I visited many years later. There's a lovely pub called 'The Plough'…………and having decided that really it wasn't a nursing sort of situation that people with intellectual disability wanted, I and the psychiatrist dreamed up a scheme of getting ordinary people to look after people with disability - the little nursing knowledge they had to have we could easily give them - but to teach them to be people who looked after people……so we went on and we recruited these people…………we recruited people who were nice mothers, could care for children and who wanted to work in this field and were not nurses…and this is how we formed what are now called Social Trainers………"