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Truthfulness History Story: Sir Truby King          © Jenny Jenkins 2015         https://sites.google.com/site/valueslessons   

With a blast of its whistle and a loud hiss of steam, the train pulled out of the station, leaving Truby and his wife Bella standing alone on the platform.
“This place could do with a lick of paint,” Truby observed. “And a few trees or shrubs to brighten it up. It doesn't feel very welcoming here for our new patients. Ah, that sounds like our ride.” He gathered together their lighter luggage and strode towards the end of the platform.
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Two horses pulling a buggy ambled to a halt, and a dark haired man with a droopy moustache jumped sprightly to the ground.
“Sorry to keep you waiting Sir. Vickers at your service. And you must be the new master. Doctor…”
“King.”
“Welcome to Seacliff Mental Hospital, Doctor King. I’ll look after the luggage.”
 
Truby and Bella gazed curiously around them as the buggy rattled along the dusty road. A rusty shed, abandoned in a paddock, made the area seem run down. “I’ll have to do something about that shed,” Truby said. “It’s a real eyesore.”
“That’s not on our land, Sir,” Vickers informed him.
“Give me the impossible, Vickers, and I'm always at my best,” Truby answered.
It was 1889, and Truby’s first visit to Otago, New Zealand. Bella, fresh from her home in Scotland, had not been to the South Island at all.
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“Here we are Doctor, Seacliff Hospital.” Vickers said, reining the horses in before a tall barred gate. He unclipped a large key from his belt, unlocked the gate and pushed it open.
“Is it always locked?” Truby enquired.
“Of course, sir. To stop the loonies from escaping.”
“Vickers! You are never to use that word again. They are to be called patients. They are human beings and must always be treated with respect.”
“Beg pardon sir.”
Just inside the entrance was a large sign, warning, ‘Beware of the Bull.’ Truby studied it and frowned. “Please have that sign taken down, Vickers. It’s not our intention to scare our new patients. This entrance must be welcoming”
“I’ll see to it right away, sir,” Vickers replied, drawing the buggy to a halt in front of a huge stone building. Well, here we are, Doctor.”  
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Truby looked at the place that was to be his home for the next 30 years. It looked more like a prison than a hospital. And, as he was to discover, it was.
Truby was born in New Plymouth in 1858. His father had hoped he would be a banker like himself, but Truby dreamed of being a doctor. At the age of 22 he sailed for Edinburgh, Scotland. Over the next eight years he excelled in his medical studies, and also learned all he could about mental illnesses. He married a small, lively Scottish lass called Bella, and returned home to New Zealand.
After a year as Medical Superintendent of Wellington Hospital he was offered the job of Superintendent of Seacliff Mental Hospital, or lunatic asylum, as it was called in those days, near Dunedin. This was a position of great responsibility for a man in his early thirties. There were over a hundred patients to try to cure, and a thousand acre farm to run, plus a large staff to manage. And one of the first things Truby did made many of them his enemies.
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Truby called a staff meeting one day, after noticing some of the patients had bruises. 
 “No patient is to be hurt by a staff member,” he told them, “no matter how troublesome they are. This is to be a safe place for them. You must treat all patients gently and with respect. If we are to help them, they must learn to trust us.”
The staff murmured amongst themselves after he left the room.
“That’s okay for him,” one man grumbled. “He doesn't have to try to get Crazy Jake out of bed every morning.”
“Better not call him that when the doctor’s around,” muttered Vickers.
A few days later, as Truby walked past a room, he glanced through the doorway just as a male attendant slapped a patient’s face. He strode into the room, furious. “You’re fired! Pack your things and leave,” he said grimly.
This attendant was popular with the staff, and many of them turned against Truby and tried to make his job more difficult. But Truby always put the needs of his patients first. His job was to help cure them, and he had quite different ideas from others on how best to do that.
First, he made the grounds as beautiful as possible. Under his direction, the gardeners created areas of native bush, pine forest walks, rose gardens and orchards. Each patient was encouraged to go for a morning walk. Truby would often meet them outdoors and point out some spring flowers or a new bush blooming.  
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Next, Truby made a cricket pitch, bowling green and croquet lawn, and encouraged the patients to play sports and games.
Truby spent a lot of time listening to his patients and knew them all well, encouraging them in their hobbies and talents. He provided timber for one patient to build a garden pagoda, supplied paint for the artistic, and fabric for the ladies to sew into pretty dresses, instead of the ugly grey uniforms they used to wear.
One patient, Frank, sat for many months with no wish to do anything. Finally Truby heard him mention that what he’d really like to do would be to build a stone fountain. Truby immediately ordered the materials, and for a whole year, Frank carved figures and bowls from stone. The day came when it was all finished and ready to be assembled. Frank supervised, from the top of the bamboo scaffolding, while each piece was carefully lowered into position with ropes and fixed into place. When all was in position except the final stone, the rope, held by two staff attendants, broke. The stone crashed onto the bowl beneath it, breaking a piece off the side. Frank groaned, pointed to the attendants and said, “Who are the lunatics around here? Me or them?” After a few more months the fountain was once more completed, and remained in the Seacliff gardens for over fifty years.
New patients arriving at Seacliff Station now found it brightly painted and surrounded by trees and flowering shrubs. They were met by a cheerful staff member with a horse drawn buggy. 
The rusty shed halfway to the Seacliff Mental Hospital had been repainted and trees were planted in front to screen it. The Seacliff gates stood invitingly open, with a welcome sign nearby.
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Doctor Truby King had observed that new patients were often terrified when arriving at the large main hospital, so he arranged for patients to firstly be taken to a house set amidst the beautiful hospital gardens. They stayed there while it was decided whether they would be better living in a cottage than in the hospital with the permanently insane. 
With his own money, Truby had built four cottages away from the main hospital, so that the female patients could live in a homelike environment and help care for themselves. There they cooked and baked, knitted, read, painted pictures, and did their hobbies. They also helped in the flower and vegetable gardens.
Truby would drop in on a cottage with a cheery “Good morning everyone,” sniff the air and say, “My goodness, those scones smell good. Mind if I stay for lunch?” Another day he might stop to admire a patient’s flower arrangement, saying with enthusiasm, “By jove, you've achieved a masterpiece today!” He was always lavish with praise for anything well done, and his keen eyes missed nothing.
Once a week a dance or a show was put on for the patients in the main hall, and they were encouraged to dress up for it. Many were allowed to go into Dunedin on the train each week to shop, accompanied by a staff member.
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A men’s ward was built two kilometres away from the main buildings. The 85 men who lived there were encouraged to work on the farm and were trusted not to escape. Truby believed that if his patients worked hard in the fresh air and sunshine, they would sleep soundly and this would aid their healing.
A male attendant couldn't believe the change in some of the patients. “Now Crazy Jake is the first out of bed every morning,” he told Vickers. “His job is bringing in the cows for milking, and he loves it.”
Truby focused intently on his patients. They trusted him, pouring out their worries and fears to him and he listened carefully and sympathetically. He treated everyone equally, from royalty to laundry maids.
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He would get out of bed, even on freezing winter nights, to care for the sick children of his staff, always for free. He won their hearts. 
Truby used his own salary to build eight new homes for his staff in the nearby village, to house families who had been living in shacks. Whatever promise Truby made, he kept. He became known as a man of his word.
Saturdays became Seacliff’s picnic day. Staff and patients packed a lunch and walked the 5 kilometres to the beach. There they swam in the surf or the river and picnicked on the lawn of the beach cottage Truby had built on the beautiful Karitane Peninsular.  For a month of each year, he’d fill this cottage with patients almost well enough to be sent back home. There they’d have a relaxing holiday and return to normal life refreshed and ready.
Every year Truby and Bella would invite the whole hospital to their beach cottage for the Seacliff annual picnic. They’d feast on the lawn under the flagpole, have boat races on the river, and games and sports on the sandy beach.
Seacliff became the most successful mental hospital in the Southern Hemisphere, curing more patients than any other. In 1925 Truby was knighted by the Governor General, but of far more importance to Sir Truby King was the love and trust given to him by the patients of the Seacrest Mental Hospital.

© Jenny Jenkins 2015     Resource: Truby King – the Man, by Mary King.

Discussion Questions

1. What were some of the keys to Truby's success in curing the mental patients?
2. Was it wise for Truby to fire the staff member who slapped a patient? Why?
3. Sir Truby King was called, 'A Man of his Word.' What does this expression mean? (Truby always kept his word: what he said he would do.)
4. What are some of the things in the story that Truby said he would do that he made happen?
5. What can we learn from Sir Truby King about the words we say?

Visual Aid 
Print out the images or make a Powerpoint presentation with them, to help your students to visualise the story.
1. horses: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/vector-image-two-horses-harnessed-carriage-29931324.jpg
2. Seacliff Entrance: http://archives.govt.nz/gallery2/gallery/d/710-2/seacliff+no+3.jpg
3. Seacliff: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Seacliff_asylum_1884.jpg
4. Truby King https://www.plunket.org.nz/assets/What-we-do/Who-we-are/Our-history.jpg
5. Cricket: http://png.clipart.me/previews/752/cricket-game-clip-art-43381.jpg
6. Welcome: https://img0.etsystatic.com/066/0/5219251/il_570xN.763359770_cs6n.jpg
7. Cows: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/resources/images/1492821.jpg?display=1&htype=100000&type=mc2
8. Sir Truby King: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/files/styles/fullsize/public/frederick-truby-king.jpg?itok=dol7tmuB