Lesley Cox



Lesley Cox


Lesley Spoke about her father’s life as a polio survivor.


27 June 2022




Cork Folklore Project


Cork Folklore Project




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35m 24s


5 Elderwood, College Road, Cork City

Time Summary

0.00.50 - 0.02.49

Fathers Background. Patrick Massey. Contracted Polio around 10 years of age. He was a French polisher. Walked with a limp. Spent 4 years in Cappagh hospital.

Born in Clonbrassil Street, father a driver for Massey brother’s funeral home. Moved to Dun Laoghaire. Sickly child, mother doted on him. Youngest of 14 children of which 11 survived.

0.02.49 - 0.04.37

Contracting Polio. Lesley thinks it was 1939. Didn’t talk about time in hospital at all. Did mention his doctor was called to the War. Patrick had 6 operations none of which worked to any great measure. He was left with bad limp, no heel, leg half the width of his other leg, completely distorted, walked on his toes underneath his foot. Big scar on shin. Callipers after hospital. Children jeered him for having limp. Awful stigma.

0.04.38 - 0.08.35

Learning to walk again

Ashamed of Calliper so locked himself in room to teach himself to walk unaided. Used to wrap his foot in “wadding”. Lesley describes the process. Describes how he walked and how painful it was and how he adapted. Used razor blades to manicure his feet.

Did not admit he needed help. Very proud and did not describe himself as disabled. Did not take wheelchair till 73 years old. Died at 76.

Lesley describes how he stood with his leg pointing out, Lesley says that she too walks like him.

Nobody knew he had Polio, everyone thought he had “a bad leg”

Had 6 gins to help him walk Lesley down the aisle on her wedding day.

0.08.35 - 0.10.19

Lesley discovers her father had polio when she was in her 20s. Always understood him to just have a bad leg. Did not find out till she was in hospital with him when he had pneumonia. Doctor asked what was wrong with leg, Patrick said he had had infantile paralysis. Lesley did not know what that was. Wasn’t even that familiar with polio. Didn’t talk about it even talk about after that. Her mother did talk about it a little bit.

Lesley goes on to mention that her father hated nurses, doctors, and the clergy.

Never relied on the medical profession, refused ambulance when he had a heart attack. Had lung cancer, signed himself of hospital 2 days after getting lung removed.

0.10.19- 0.11.20

Cappagh Hospital Finglas.

Patrick did not speak to often about his experience in Cappagh. He did mention the exercises that he had to do like pulling himself with a rope, Physio every day. Didn’t talk of other patients.


0.11.20 - 0.12.34

Stigma and Coping

Lesley mentions that Patrick’s friend La-la (Lawrence) told her after Patrick’s death that Patrick had asked La-la not to tell anyone that why he was in hospital.

Gave no explanation as to why he was away.

Developed bad coping mechanism. Would get physically violent with people that abused or jeered him. Lesley tells of occasion where La-la held a boy and Patrick broke the boy’s hand for calling him “hop a long”. Very strong upper body strength


0.12.34- 0.15.30

Lesley’s understanding of polio.

Lesley had no understanding of Polio until after finding out about her father having it. In her 20s (1990s). But wasn’t until after her father died that she learned more on the subject. Met with other polio survivors. Then realised how hard it was for him. Patrick didn’t complain about it till later in life. Didn’t wear orthopaedic shoes etc

Describes her fathers hip problems and pain. How it was evident that he was in pain. Would pull his toenails out with razor blades.

Didn’t even complain when he had lung cancer.

Lesley’s mother knew everything but also didn’t talk about it.

0.15.30 - 0.17.20

Lesley’s mother

Lesley’s mother knew everything but also didn’t talk about it. Her family were not too happy with her marrying Patrick because of the limp. They did not know it was polio.

Describes how Patrick had trouble getting jobs, He was a French polisher, moved to England in the late 1960s but didn’t stay long, unable to find job. Eventually got job in the Shelbourne Hotel as in-house polisher, had apprentices etc. Patrick’s wife was also a French polisher, they met at PYE radio. He had worked for Massey’s making and polishing coffins but after the “big snow” in Dublin in the late 1940s (1947?) where a lot of children from the tenements died Patrick left the job, couldn’t bear to “coffin” the children so left Massey’s after that.

0.17.20- 0.18.29

Stigma and Abuse as an adult

People would make comments “what’s wrong with your leg?”. Wouldn’t respond to adults but would sit with a child if they asked him and explain that he “hurt it as a baby”.

Might get angry with adults. Patrick drank a lot so would get into scraps. He was very strong in his upper body.

0.18.29 - 0.19.34

Learning to walk again

Lesley describes how her uncle Frank told her how her father learned how to walk again. Threw callipers out the window, lined chairs up in the room and thought himself how to walk over a 2-week period.

0.19.35- 0.20.32

Patricks Family relationships

His mother and siblings very caring to wards him. Father supported doctors wishes to amputate leg. Mother said no. Father dismissed him due to the limp, that there was something wrong with Patrick

0.20.33 - 0.24.38

Distrust of medical profession and Clergy

Had a lot of dealings with medical profession, Pleurisy, cancer etc. Doctors pleaded with him to get physio and help, he refused, didn’t think he could transition to new way of care.

Lesley remembers time when lay Chaplin came to him in hospital and asked if they were “a sky pilot” and told them to go away.

Lesley’s family used to look after her cousin who had heart problems and cleft pallet. Patrick took a shine to him and when he died on the operating table Patrick never went to church again or had any religious inclination.  “no God”. Lesley’s mother very religious.

Lesley mentions that Patrick was overprotective of her and her sister. She suspects some form of abuse happened in Cappagh hospital when he was there. No babysitters etc, very suspicious people.

0.24.39- 0.31.37

Lesley’s Artwork relating to Polio “” The march of the shillings”

Lesley describes her polio focused art. massive research.

Talked to Polio Survivors Ireland. Philip Boxberger and Jenny Richardson form West Cork. Told Lesley of the horrible experiences. Both were sent to posh hospitals in Scotland.

Talks about her research and the art that came from that.

The numbers in the newspaper the only way to find out what condition child was in.

Lesley becomes slightly emotional when she spoke of her work.

How it helped her deal with grief of her father’s passing and helped her understand fathers’ life.


0.31.38 - 0.32.41

Lesley’s Abiding memory of her father

Him standing at the door, arm against door frame holding court, half in kitchen half in the Livingroom. Comfortable to be in his normal position. Very funny

0.32.42 - 0.35.24

Patrick’s brother breaks in to Cappagh Hospital

Patrick’s brother Brian was leaving to join British navy when he was 17. Patrick did not recognise him. Patrick very grateful that he did so. Brian a bit of a rebel. Later in life Brian lived with Lesley’s family

[Interview Ends]


Cork Folklore Project, “Lesley Cox,” accessed May 25, 2024, https://corkfolklore.org/archivecatalolgue/document/500.