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  1. #1
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    UK - Life in a 'lunatic asylum': the novelist Patrick McGrath on a Broadmoor boyhood

    Terrific short memoir by Patrick McGrath - whose novels I've read and would recommend: The Grotesque; Spider; Dr Haggard's Disease; and Asylum, a novel which draws on his experience of Broadmoor. Gothic fiction. Several have been made into feature films.

    I grew up in Broadmoor: Psychopaths tending our garden. Christmas with Ronnie Kray. The Teacup
    Poisoner next door. My VERY strange childhood as the son of the doctor in charge of Broadmoor

    (from Intelligent Life magazine, via Daily Mail)
    My father, Dr Pat McGrath, was appointed the tenth and last medical superintendent of what was then called Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum, in 1957.

    The place was in bad shape. It was in many respects obsolete, and chronically overcrowded: 800 mentally ill men and women confined in a top-security institution designed for 500. Patients slept in corridors and day rooms.
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    It was a good place to grow up.
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    It had opened its doors in 1863, during the great progressive era of Victorian social engineering, when the asylum was regarded by many as ‘the most blessed manifestation of true civilisation that the world can present’.
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    I was often inside Broadmoor as a boy, usually when my mother took me to visit Dad. In his office hung drawings and watercolours by the distinguished Victorian artist Richard Dadd, who in 1843 murdered his father, believing him to be the devil. He then fled to France intending to kill the Pope.

    He was captured while trying to cut a man’s throat in a coach. After a spell in Bedlam he was transferred to Broadmoor and there, in tranquil surroundings, he resumed painting, controlled, he believed, by the Egyptian god Osiris. He died of consumption in 1886 and is buried there.
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    Broadmoor celebrates its 150th anniversary next year. It continues to serve society, and its patients, in its ill-matched twin functions as both a custodial and a therapeutic institution. Long may it continue to do so.
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    For all its failings, Broadmoor continues to offer safe harbour to the lost and bewildered psychotic souls who fetch up there.
    ---
    much more at link above, with tales of infamous patients

  2. #2
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    Very good read, thank you for sharing

  3. #3
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    Fascinating, wfgodot. I used to live about 4 miles from Broadmoor, (in Bracknell), and I remember how the Broadmoor siren used to go off at ten am every Monday morning to test that it was working. Then a few minutes later, the all clear siren would be tested.

    I only remember one time that the siren went off for real. A police helicopter landed in our school playground during the search for the escaped prisoner, and none of us were allowed out after school until he was caught a few days later. After the fear of an escaped murderer on the loose was all over, I remember my mother saying she felt a bit sorry for him. I think we all did. Obviously he had to be caught, but there's an instinctive sympathy with a man on the run, there's always part of you that wishes he could get away.

  4. #4
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    Wish you would transfer your suggestions to the Book thread

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by fhc View Post
    Wish you would transfer your suggestions to the Book thread
    Done! I actually thought I'd recommended the McGrath novels on that thread before, but no, I hadn't.

  6. #6
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    A Telegraph look at the artist Richard Dadd, mentioned in the McGrath piece above:

    Richard Dadd: madness and beauty

    Richard Dadd

    10 Notable Residents of Broadmoor (listverse.com)

  7. #7
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    Another snippet from McGrath's piece linked above which, withal, is as much a loving remembrance of a son for a father as it is also a memoir of his Broadmoor boyhood:
    ---
    I remember being with him once, at dusk, crossing a yard inside the hospital. I was eight or nine years old at the time. A scream came from a high window in Block Six where the most disturbed male patients were housed.

    But it wasn’t a scream of demented fury that I heard that evening; it was a scream of the most wretched misery. I turned to my father.

    ‘Poor John,’ he murmured, and I understood that he understood what his patient was suffering; and the fact that he understood it robbed the scream of much of its terror for me.
    ---

  8. #8
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    I read this short book last December. It's a free ebook.

    http://www.smashwords.com/extreader/...lunatic-asylum

    If I remember correctly it was written by an archivist working at Broadmoor? Not the best writing I've read but a couple of interesting stories for historical crime buffs.

    And another (I've posted about other books by this Author before, he's one of my favs for nonfiction and easy but interesting reads)

    http://simonwinchester.com/books/the...nd-the-madman/

  9. #9
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    I think this is the same book mentioned above....I read it and found it very interesting.

    Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum eBook: Mark Stevens: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
    Last edited by KateB; 06-16-2015 at 06:55 PM. Reason: repair url tag.

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