DURING the last Christmas/New Year period I was very ill and had the good fortune to get a bed at our local hospital.

It was there that I experienced the true significance of Christmas shorn of money-making scams, the shameless indulgence and behaviour dolled up as having a good time.

It was George Bernard Shaw who saw through the whole charade. Christmas he claimed was a conspiracy hatched up by the winemakers of France, the distilleries of Scotland and the capitalist classes. Or words to that effect. The cynical Irishman had hit the nail on the head.

All this of course had nothing to do with the birth of an impoverished Jewish boy in the distant Middle East more than 2,000 years ago.

How ironic that the region has known no peace for centuries though it is said that heavenly angels heralded the child’s birth.

Today few believe in the existence of angels and neither do I.

However, I feel that the idea of angels is an endearing and attractive one and should be enshrined in the history of humanity.

For the record I saw angels at the Llanidloes Hospital during Christmas and the New Year.

They are a cross section hailing from various parts of the planet; from the Philippines, Canada, Europe, India, Thailand, and several counties of the United Kingdom.

Some have far flung interests. A Welsh nurse is a yoga teacher and a devotee of Buddhist principles. An English auxiliary immersed himself in the study of eastern ethics from the time since he was a student.

The medical and nursing staff, the auxiliaries, the kitchen staff and therapists are all current day angels although their colour-coded uniforms were incomprehensible to me. But no matter, an angel is an angel.

Their fame indeed can never fade

For they espouse humanity

And that my friends

Is the ultimate reality

Professionally and patiently they tended to the old and to those in pain, always with a caring smile. 

How fortunate, I thought, were the people of Mid Wales to have such beings living amongst them.

The market town of Llanidloes was granted a charter by Edward I in 1280 and local historians such as Edward Hamer, E Ronald Morris and Brian Owen have documented the town’s history fairly thoroughly.

It appears that the town was a haven of peace though on April 30, 1839, some members of the Chartist movement were involved in a serious outbreak for which heavy criminal sentences were imposed.

Nevertheless, Llani flourished with flannel mills, facilities for carding, slubbing and spinning, no less than three tanneries, many lead mines as well as a successful iron and brass foundry.

At the same time Nonconformity spread in the area. John Wesley visited the town on four occasions.

Much attention was paid to the education of children; congregational singing became popular as did literary writing and publishing.

The well known Young Men’s Debating Society discussed political, social and religious problems.

However, the deaths of so many men in the First World War ignited the true spirit of the people, especially the women.

A movement was started to establish a hospital in honour of the heroes who had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Thus on March 9, 1922, the Llanidloes Hospital was opened with money collected from the well-to-do as well as from what were then called the ‘working classes’.

It was truly a people’s hospital which catered for the medical needs of Llanidloes town and the parishes of Llandinam, Llangurig, Llanidloes, Trefeglwys and Saint Harmons.

The anthem was: “The sick must not suffer for the lack of money to comfort and cure them.”

In 1948 the National Health Service was established and the Llani hospital became part and parcel of the nationwide network.

Most fortunately the angels who work there are still motivated by the principles of the founding pioneers.

Poet and author Reginald Massey and his actress wife Jamila have lived in Llanidloes for more than three decades.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Freeman of the City of London.