Famous Patients of Cane Hill

Terry Burns –  David Bowies Step-Brother

Terry Burns was the step-brother of the Popstar David Bowie and was a patient at Cane Hill Hospital during the 1980’s and sadly attempted to commit suicide on a number of occasion and eventually was killed by a train at South Coulsdon station in 1985.  David Bowie had written a number of songs about his step-brother,“All the madmen” (1972) was written about his brother, “Jump they say” (1985) was Bowies first attempt at talking about how he felt about his brothers suicide.  The American release of the 1970 album “The Man Who Sold The World” featured the the Cane Hill administration block.

Micheal Caines Half Brother

Below is a transcript of Michael Caine when he appear on Parkinson in 2002.

Michael Parkinson asks the actor about the recent revelation that he had a half brother which his mother had kept secret from the family for over 50 years.

Michael Caine explains: “[My mother] had an illegitimate child before she married my father. What happened was a newspaper was doing an article on mental health establishments in England. Unbeknown to me, my half brother [who was an inmate there] had a girlfriend who was a bit brighter than him – you couldn’t understand what he said but you could understand what she said.”

He continues: “The newspaper man got together a group of the more lucid, brighter ones – amongst which was my brother’s girlfriend. Unbeknown to me, my mother had visited [my brother] every Monday – with the exception of the war – for 50 years…”

Caine continues: “My mother was dead by the time I found this out, she was gone for two or three years. I asked the matron at the hospital, ‘how did this all keep quiet?’ The matron said ‘your mother used to bring a Bible and every new nurse had to swear on the Bible that this [boy] was not [your] brother.’ She’d given him a picture of me from [the film] Zulu so he knew who I was when [he saw me] on the television. [My brother’s] girlfriend told the reporter that he was [my] brother.”

Caine tells Parkinson how keen he was to meet his brother after all these years. “I wanted to go and see him immediately. I went to see him. Do you know, the odd thing was that the name of the asylum was , on the other side of Streatham, but he’d been moved to another place by the time I found him.”

He continues: “He died about 18 months after I got to know him. I went and saw him and had long conversations with him through the nurse because I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He suffered from epilepsy when he was young and in those days they used to lock him in the cellar, with a stone floor. And of course he’s bouncing about on that, and he was probably quite intelligent, but he’d bashed himself into a bloody brain abnormality. My mother gave him to the Salvation Army to look after him… There was this incredible story.”

Parkinson then asks Caine if his mother had told his dad? Caine replies: “Oh no, he’’d have killed her [laughs]!” Caine continues to say: “I felt absolute amazement, how she’d fooled us all for years, every Monday. She used to come to the country every Sunday and my driver would drive her home the next day in the Rolls Royce. One day the driver said, ‘she always gets out at the bus stop on Streatham High Road’ and the penny never dropped, but she was catching the bus to the asylum round the corner.

“She’d buy and pick up chocolates, candy, cake and ice cream but when I’d go and see her, there was never anything in the fridge and I used to think, ‘where’s she putting all this stuff?’ She was giving it to him. It’s amazing.”

He concludes: “Some of the most successful people I know are bastards! [Laughs – with audience] Hard to get a laugh out of that story isn’t it?!”

Michael Caine, Parkinson: 30th November 2002

Charlie Chaplins Mother, Hannah

Hannah Chaplin gave her address as either the Lambeth Workhouse or Cane Hill asylum in the 1910s. She used to work as a vaudeville artist but her voice gave out. She also suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness.  She was admitted to Cane Hill in May 1903 until September 1912, where she received treatment for her condition, she was then removed from the asylum and admitted into private care at Peckham House.  She was then readmitted to Cane Hill in 1915 after the family defaulted on the 30 shilling care payments.  In 1921 she was taken to California and watched over by the family, she finally passed away in 1928.

Charlie Chaplin, writing about a visit to Cane Hill in 1912.

“It was a depressing day, for she was not well. She had just got over an obstreperous phase of singing hymns, and had been confined to a padded room. The nurse had warned us of this beforehand. Sydney saw her, but I had not the courage, so I waited. He came back upset, and said that she had been given shock treatment of icy cold showers and that her face was quite blue. That made us decide to put her into a private institution – we could afford it now.  The same day Sydney (Charlies’ Brother) went shopping and outfitted me with new clothes, and that night, all dressed up, we sat in the stalls of the South London Music Hall. During the performance Sydney kept repeating: “Just think what tonight would have meant to Mother.  That week we went to Cane Hill to see her. As we sat in the visiting room, the ordeal of waiting became almost unbearable. I remember the keys turning and Mother walking in. She looked pale and her lips were blue, and, although she recognised us, it was without enthusiasm; her old ebullience had gone. She was accompanied by a nurse, an innocuous, glib woman, who stood and wanted to talk. “It’s a pity you came at such a time,” she said, ” for we’re not quite ourselves today, are we, dear? Mother politely glanced at her and half smiled as though waiting for her to leave. You must come again when we’re a little more up to the mark,” added the nurse. Eventually she went, and we were left alone. Although Sydney tried to cheer Mother up, telling her of his good fortune and the money he had made and his reason for having been away so long, she sat listening and nodding, looking vague and preoccupied. I told her that she would soon get well. “Of course,” she said dolefully, ” if only you had given me a cup of tea that afternoon, I would have been alright.” The doctor told Sydney afterwards that her mind was undoubtedly impaired by malnutrition, and that she required proper medical treatment, and although she had lucid moments, it would be months before she completely recovered. But for days I was haunted by her remark: “If only you had given me a cup of tea, I would have been alright.”

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Modified: 23rd May 2022