The White Knight was Peter Coia!!!

On the 2nd of November, we wrote about the White Knight, who was a mysterious man who paid for a sick child to go to Switzerland to get treatment for a lung problem.

The identity of the White Knight was unknown, however, after publishing our story on the second of November some family members of Rose Whalen (Who was the sick child) sent us some pictures of Rose and also told us about Rose in later life. Thomas Whalen who is Rose’s Brother told us:

“Rose is my sister. She was sent away, ended up for a year, to Switzerland. The ‘white knight’ was peter, Coia. after her cure in Switzerland she was ok but then in 1956 she ended up in shotts sanitarium because she had a shadow in her lung. she married Alex in 1957 and they had boy and 2 girls or a family (twins). Both are still alive and well. I hope this helps and clarifies any info you needed.”

Thank you, peter for sending us this info! Peter Coia owned the cross cafe in Hamilton and he must have been a true gentleman and I can only hope that everyone knew the good deed that he did for little Rose Whalen and her family.

Liz Glancy Clarke who’s mum was also sent to Switzerland wrote to us and she told us her mum’s story, Liz Wrote:

” My mum Emily Green was sent here when she was young for TB. She told me about 10/15 people all with different stages of TB were picked from the area by Hairmyres Hospital for trials for different types of treatments for the disease in Switzerland and she was one of the lucky ones.

Fortunately, although my mum was very ill the only treatment she received was the mountain air which miraculously cured her. Some of the others were hooked up to drips for hours at a time. She used to tell me how when she started feeling better she was allowed out of the sanatorium and she got a wee secret job selling watches to the soldiers.

I have some stunning photos of her with the group from Lanarkshire area that were picked to go so will look them out. When she would tell the stories here eyes would light up. I remember her talking about a tall dark haired handsome man in the photos called Robert Mitchell (I think that’s his name) and a woman called Roseanna McGhee from Motherwell who sadly had a child back home who died while they were in Switzerland.

My mum used to cry her eyes out every time she told how she found Roseanna crying on a bench in the town not knowing what to do but in the end, Roseanna went home early. My mum lived to the ripe old age of 88 and her famous saying used to be ” Did you know I was dying with TB when I was young and I got sent to Switzerland to cure me? … best year of my life” x

Once again, Thank you, Liz, for sharing your memories. The pictures below are of Rose Whalen and Liz’s mum Emily.



Rose Whalen was a romping 13-year-old schoolgirl. But last September she fell ill with lung trouble. Immediately her family applied for bed for her in a sanatorium. They were told there was a two years’ waiting list. They asked if she could be sent to Switzerland under the school scheme. The answer was she was a year too old.
It seemed Rose would have to stay at home at 2 Backmuir Crescent, Whitehill, Hamilton. Her parents did what little they could to make her happy. But the outlook for Rose was poor. Then one day a man knocked at the door. He said he’d heard about Rose. He asked whether Mr and Mrs Whalen could help to send her to Davos Sanatorium, in Switzerland, if a bed could be obtained. They said they could, but wouldn’t be able to pay the whole cost.
Mr Whalen, a miner, has been ill for some time and unable to work. The man who called was a Hamilton man who is known as the ” White Knight ” because of the good he does in a quiet way. On behalf of Rose, he wrote to London and Switzerland. He brought back news that a bed was available. It would cost, £104 to send Rose to Switzerland for three months.
Rose’s grandfather, uncles, and aunts rallied around and they helped the family to gather £50. When the “White Knight ” heard this, he said, ” Friends of mine will see to the rest.” And they did.
Within a fortnight the sum was complete, and a passage had been booked for Rose on plane from Prestwick.
Now Rose has had three glorious months Switzerland. Her latest letter- home says she’s tiptop and roaming the mountainsides. ” I’ll never forget the people who sent me here,” she writes.
Rose returns home tomorrow, great preparations are being made in the Whalen house for the homecoming. And one person will be in everyone’s mind —the ” White Knight,” who came knocking at the door when everything seemed black.
Rose later married Alexander McLaughlin in Hamilton in 1957. Did you know the Whalen family, or Did you know Rose & Alexander? It would be really good to know the identity of the “White Knight”, that helped little Rose.