Castle Craig Hospital celebrated its 25th anniversary last Saturday (23rd June) when 350 people, including many former patients, gathered in a large marquee that had been set up on the front lawn of the rehab clinic.
“We didn’t have much money when we started out in this business” recalled Peter McCann, the chairman and founder of Castle Craig. “I remember clearly that the first beds we bought for the clinic cost us 50p each from a nearby hospital sale.”
Peter McCann reminisced about the early days of Clouds House, the 12 step rehab clinic that he and his wife, Dr Margaret Ann McCann, set up in Wiltshire in the early 1980s. Following their time at Clouds the McCanns set up Castle Craig in 1988 and, since then, over 10,000 patients have been treated there for drug and alcohol addictions.
He went on to describe how he and his wife had brought-up their four children in the hospital grounds, living side by side with the patients in recovery. To show how time had passed he mentioned that his youngest son, also called Peter, was a six month old baby when the family first arrived at Castle Craig. 25 years later, Peter has just qualified as a doctor with a degree in medicine from Kings College London.
The keynote speech was delivered by Liverpool-born therapist Nick Mercer, who described his addiction and subsequent recovery in a way that the audience found moving, interesting and very funny. The applause following his speech was deafening.
Continuing the theme of reminiscence later in the day, Dr. Margaret Ann McCann spoke about how Castle Craig’s first clients were referred through the NHS, and how their first client in 1988 was a businessman who wanted to land on the front lawn in his helicopter. She also thanked all the staff for their dedication, hard work and loyalty.
The sky was dark on the big day and there were occasional showers, but fortunately there was no downpour. The audience didn’t get too wet as they queued up for barbeque lunch ““ all prepared by Castle Craig’s own catering staff — and a big birthday cake. The two hour lunch break is an important part of every reunion, as it is a great opportunity for former patients and staff to see each other again and catch up. For many patients it is a chance to see the friends they made when starting their recovery.
Gordon Hogg, Castle Craig’s head therapist, led the afternoon session with a witty speech about his own recovery. He then introduced four speakers who spoke movingly about their individual struggles with addiction.
“Now we have celebrated Castle Craig’s first 25 years,” said Dominic McCann, Castle Craig’s Development Manager, “I look forward to seeing how things develop in the next 25 years. Addiction isn’t going anywhere ““ it remains a worldwide problem affecting millions of people regardless of their background and upbringing, and our approach to treatment is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.”