Poems

Published on April 8th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington

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‘The Aviary’ by Roger Bruton & David McKendrick

‘The Aviary’, subtitled ‘Winwick Zoological Gardens’ was written in the 1970s by Roger Bruton (1937-2000) and David McKendrick (1942-2009) who worked at Winwick Hospital, one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in Europe. They were inspired to write the piece following a Hospital Advisory Service initiative to convert a bandstand in the hospital’s gardens into an aviary. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the ode reflects the pair’s frustration at the changes taking place at the institution as it attempted to move towards more person-based care. Although some of the changes were positive and necessary, David and Roger felt others, such as the aviary, were too gimmicky when there was more important work to be done.

Now Winwick Zoological Gardens
Will shortly be open to view
Sans lions, sans tigers, sans elephants
Sans even a monkey or two.
And the rumour is going round strongly
That if birds don’t arrive tout de suite,
There’ll be nurses decked out in fine feathers
Sat on a perch going, “Tweet”.

It seems our nurse training’s outmoded;
A syllabus new we shall see
With resocialisation of starlings
And the treatment of lovebird’s VD.
We’ll have community nursing in birdland
With nurses all climbing the trees
To psychoanalyse sparrows
And learning to put owls at ease.

Catheterising recalcitrant eagles
Will probably prove quite a chore;
Whilst agoraphobic seagulls
Tax the skills of the nurse even more –
Treating manic-depression in herons
And pseudocyesis in storks;
Writing with pride to our Journal
Of our cures for incontinent hawks.

Treating hens for pre-menstrual tension,
Comforting finches in fits,
Observing the brainwaves of buntings,
Studying depressions in tits:
Yes, we’ll all pull together,
And our future at Winwick’s assured –
We can all start work in the birdhouse
When we’ve finished our work on the ward.

Commentary

Many thanks to Glynis Bruton and Sue McKendrick for allowing their husbands’ work to be published here. At the time it was written, the poem was submitted by Roger and David for publication in the hospital’s newsletter, ‘The Standard’, which as well being a vehicle for updating staff on imminent changes, was billed as a channel through which they could convey their own ideas and frustrations. Amazingly ‘The Aviary’ was refused publication. All Things Warrington is happy to finally correct this injustice. Before he passed away in 2009, David McKendrick launched a website called Winwick Hospital Remembereddedicated to recording the history of this once famous institution. The website is still online and is essential reading for anyone wishing to find out more about the 207 acre asylum which, at its peak, could provide care for over 2,100 patients.


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