Oral History Interview - May, Matilda

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Oral History Interview - May, Matilda

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Audio recording of an interview with Matilda and May, who were born in St Lucia in 1927 and 1913 respectively. They both moved to the UK in the 1960s to the Hackney area. Topics discussed include their Caribbean background, decision to come to London and how life compared with St Lucia. Note: Quality of recording is compromised and can be difficult to hear.



Q. Where was that? [0:39]
Matilda. The flat was in Aquila Street.(?) Three bedroom in Aquila Street. [Inaudible] And when I stayed there with my daughter they asked me if I want to move to another flat [inaudible]

Q. Whereabouts is that? [1:20]
Matilda. That’s Stoke Newington.

Q. So did you get remarried over in this country? [1:27]
Matilda. No. no. No married again.

Q. Since you have been in this country have you ever come across any problems directly with racism? [1:41]
Matilda. Oh yea, my neighbor. He was a [inaudible]. We didn’t know he was a [inaudible]. I went to court with him. I was in there one day and my boy was there [inaudible] he break the glass.

Q. So what happened? Did he go to court? [2:35]
Matilda. Well they charged him [inaudible] he was a national front.

Q. How about [inaudible], any problems? [3:00]
May. [Inaudible]
[Phone rings]

Q. Do you think your children have been brought up differently by being in this country, to you? [4:03]
May. [Inaudible] sometimes it is very difficult when it is rain and cold
Matilda. [Inaudible]
May. [Inaudible]

Q. Have you been back often to St Lucia? Did you feel at home there or was it hard getting used to this country? [5:58]
Matilda. When you go home on holiday you enjoy your time. If I go there now I will enjoy it [inaudible]
[Drilling in the background]

Q. Do you think you would feel more at home here? [6:46]
Matilda. [Inaudible]
[Drilling noise]

Q. When you took copies of old photographs? [8:03]
May. [Inaudible]
[Drilling noise]

Q. When was that one taken, can you remember? [8:24]
May. ‘58 or ‘56

Q. Do you remember that being taken? Who took it? [8:36]
May. [Inaudible]
[Drilling noise]
Matilda. [Inaudible]
[Drilling noise]
Matilda. I went to a hair dresser in Clapton. Years ago they used to back comb your hair.
May. [Inaudible]
[Drilling noise]

Q. So … [Inaudible] [Drilling noise] [10:30]
[phone rings]

Q. Where and when you were born? [10:48]
Matilda. Well I was born in St Lucia on the 2 October 1927.

Q. And how about you May? [11:01]
May. [Inaudible]

Q. So before the First World War? So you spent your childhood in St Lucia, whereabouts? [11:17]
May. [Inaudible] Secrid.

Q. Is that a small place? [11:30]
May. Yeah

Q. Can you remember what your first home was like? [11:32]
Matilda. It’s a house with four bedroom and a sitting room.

Q. Did it have a yard? [11:48]
Matilda. Oh yea. My grandfather not my father. I was brought up with my grandparents because my mother died when I was a baby and I was adopted by the grandparents and they have a lot of land.

Q. So they grow what kind of things? [12:10]
Matilda. All kind of things.

Q. How about livestock, were there any animals? [12:17]
Matilda. Yes they have cows, chickens.

Q. Did they hard for a living? [12:30]
Matilda. They selling all the fruits and things. My father used to have lots of orange and people used to come in and buy baskets and baskets of orange. You know the coco tree, my father used to have that [inaudible]

Q. How about you May? Can you remember your first house where you grew up? Is that similar to Matilda? [13:06]
May. Yes [inaudible]

Q. So what did your parents do for a living? [15:02]
May. They are [Inaudible]

Q. So what did they grow? [15:08]
May. They grow banana, plantain, yam, cassava, peas … [inaudible]

Q. So what is sweet cassava used for? [15:21]
May. We use cassava [inaudible]
Matilda. They got two cassava, one is a sweet one and one is a starch one. My grandfather used to have the sweet one, both, both.
May. [Inaudible]

Q. Can you remember any toys you used to play with or games? [17:21]
Matilda. [Inaudible] Parents can’t afford to buy it

Q. What can you remember about school? [18:05]
May. [Inaudible]
Matilda. Very strict. Beating you, slap you [inaudible]
Walk to school. 9 o’clock.
When you heard your name called and when he finished roll card [inaudible]

Q. So if it’s not your hand it’s your back? [19:53]
Matilda. If you refuse, then your back get it. Especially my mother [inaudible] sometimes for a month [inaudible] very, very strict [inaudible] I wear shoes to church [inaudible] the dress that I wear to school I wear to church [inaudible]

Q. So what age were you when you left school? [22:24]
May. 15

Q. So what job did you do when you left school? [22:33]
Matilda and May. Nothing. I stay home. [Inaudible] I get everything I want, like a spoiled brat. And my brother was abroad and sending money for me every month. Sometimes I didn’t even know what to do with the money, I buy a lot of rubbish. Now I wish I had that money.

Q. Did you just help in the house? [22:30]
Matilda. Yes just help in the house. I spend all the money because [inaudible] polish the floor [inaudible] to let it shine we had to wax [inaudible] in my days slavery [inaudible] we didn’t have so many things like that

Q. What kind of stove did you have? [25:06]
Matilda. [Inaudible] with some who could afford it they put wood in it [inaudible] but we could not afford it [inaudible] there burning coal [inaudible]
May. We did not have electric iron [inaudible]

Q. So what age were you when you decided to leave? Or why did you decide to leave? [27:57]
Matilda. [Inaudible] Everybody talking about England, England, everyone talking about things so cheap, meat 3 pence a pound, 6 pence a pound [inaudible]

Q. Who did you know that was in England? Was it family? [28:30]
Matilda. Family, yeah [inaudible] I paid 70 pounds to come here
May. [Inaudible] it was a lot of money in those days
Matilda. [Inaudible]
May. When I came here I could not afford to buy the roast, they were expensive [inaudible]

Q. So how did you get the money to come over? Was that money from family? [30:04]
Matilda. I was saving the money.

Q. Were you single when you came over or married? [30:10]
Matilda. I was married already and saving the money.

Q. So did your husband go with you, or did he go first? [30:20]
Matilda. Things were not working right with me [inaudible] I had my auntie at that time living with me [inaudible]

Q. So did you know anybody in England? [31:08]
Matilda. Oh yes, I have a friend and I write to her first and I asked things not working very well with me, if I come can I get [inaudible] So she write me and I come. I come when I come. I said I will spend 12 years in this country and then I will go back [inaudible] and up until now I have spent 30 years

Q. And it’s the same for you May, you came over on your own? [31:47]
May. Yes
Matilda. And I have my daughter already, a little girl

Q. How old was she? [31:58]
Matilda. About 5, no 6 [inaudible] Old Street making radios [inaudible] so I went there and get a job they give me 5 pounds and three pence [inaudible] that’s to pay my daughters passage [inaudible] she was alright because anything I had I send and after a year she already here

Q. So how about May, did you have children? [33:37]
May. Yes [inaudible]

Q. So did she stay in Jamaica? [33:55]
May. Yes [inaudible]

Q. How long after did she come over? [34:06]
May. [Inaudible]

Q. And when did you come? [34:13]
May. [Inaudible]

Q. So why did you choose England rather than America? [34:22]
Matilda. Because everyone could come in at that time, don’t forget
May. America, I think it was very hard at that time, but now it is much easier
Matilda. And I didn’t plan to come here I plan to go to Fiji, no Guayana but the person was taking too long to write me back, so I say I am coming to England

Q. So where did you stay when you first came to the UK? [35:10]
Matilda. I have a friend

Q. Where was that? [35:15]
Matilda. In Stepney [inaudible]

Q. She rented rooms? [35:30]
Matilda. Yes because she had a flat up stairs [inaudible]

Q. How about you May, how did you find somewhere to live? [35:42]
May. Well, I have a friend and we both were sharing together, it was a house [inaudible]

Q. Whereabouts was that? [36:02]
May. [Inaudible]

Q. Was it a shock when you first saw English flats and houses? [36:16]
Matilda. Yeah [inaudible] when you come into Victoria into London and I see all the houses on top the chimney and I say to the lady
[end of tape]

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