From the age of 17 to my mid 30’s I worked on a part-time basis at what was then the Maghull Homes which was originally set up as an epileptic colony. My job was assisting the disabled residents to participate in social and sporting activities such as snooker (I was taught to play this by residents of the Maghull Homes), cricket and football on the charity’s Liverpool Road South site.
The second site, located off Deyes Lane, was where a school for children with epilepsy was based and which operated until the mid 1980’s, if I recall correctly. The Liverpool Road South site is substantially intact and still serving the needs of those with disabilities but the Deyes Lane site is very much smaller these days with grand houses covering some of what was attractive parkland that the epileptic residents helped to maintain. Indeed, the redevelopment of a large part of the Deyes Lane site, which also had a number architecturally pleasing buildings, was recently approved in extremely controversial circumstances I am sorry to say. I think it is also fair to say that those who fought the redevelopment will never forgive those local socialist politicians who allowed it to happen in the way that it did. We have indeed lost a significant green lung in the Maghull community.
Anyone living in Maghull when I was growing up (1968 onwards for me as I came to live in Maghull then at the age of 10) will have been used to seeing the residents of the colony out and about on Maghull’s streets going to the shops etc. Of course, being epileptics they had attacks and a group of folk surrounding someone on the floor in Maghull inevitably meant one thing – someone was having an epileptic attack.
You can imagine that this was all new to me as a 10 year old lad and not easy to get your head around but I quickly began to resent the remarks and attitude of some of my fellow school children who would make fun of the residents of ‘The Homes’. I appreciate now that the poor taste remarks were little more than fear of the unknown and a childlike reaction to such but never the less those reactions have never left me.
At some point whilst I was a young teenager my Mum started work at the Maghull Homes organising holidays and social activities so I found out more about the charity, its residents and indeed epilepsy. I got to know many of the residents and in due course enjoyed working with and helping them.
Some of them had been put there many years previously as having an epileptic in your family particularly during Victorian and Edwardian times was an embarrassment; hence the setting up of epileptic colonies such as the one in Maghull. There were others and Langho, up Blackburn way, was another that I became aware of. Indeed, when Langho closed some of its long-term residents came to live in Maghull.
The majority of Maghull Homes residents that I knew throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s have now passed on but I like to think of them as my friends who were both unfortunate to have a condition that was hard to control and which in some cases made their families find them to be an embarrassment. Of course some had other disabilities as well but a more cheery group of folk you would look hard to find.
I know that those residents had a profound effect on me and the way I look at the world and I would not have missed the opportunity to work with them for the world. I lost count of the number of huddles of folk on pavements I came across when driving around Maghull. Of course I stopped, had a look and often put the Homes resident in my car to take them home. On the odd occasion the attack would lead to a serious injury as the epilepsy sufferer hit a hard object as they fell and medical attention would be required.
And my reason for relating this? The Maghull Homes, now a social care charity catering for all kinds of disability called the Parkhaven Trust, is 125 years young in 2013 having ben established in 1888.
These days epilepsy is well controlled by medication and we may all know a person well who has epilepsy without ever being aware of their condition. Indeed, I know two people well who take medication for this condition and they have no connection what so ever with the friends I made at the Maghull Homes many years ago.