Oral History-Tina White, May Wallen, John Hansen, Eugene Sinclair, Vatina, unknown

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Oral History-Tina White, May Wallen, John Hansen, Eugene Sinclair, Vatina, unknown

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Audio recording of an interview with Tina White, May Wallen, John Hansen, Mr. Sinclair and Vatina who were born in various parts of the Caribbean. May moved to the UK in 1956 and the other interviewees moved to the UK at various times. The recording captures a group interview with the participants reminiscing about their experiences of migration to the UK. Topics discussed include childhood in the Caribbean, working in the Caribbean, family life, arriving in the UK, finding employment and adjusting to their new lives in the UK including the weather.


Q. Tina, where in the West Indies did you come from? [0:24]
TW. I am from Jamaica.

Q. Where in Jamaica? [0:28]
TW. Perisha, Birdland (sp?) In the district of Islington.

Q. What school you went to? [0:37]
TW. I went to Fair Prospect School.

Q. Can you remember your teachers’ name? [0:41]
TW. Yes my school teachers name was Barrett and the one from my class her name was Ms Wrangly.

Q. You had any brothers or sisters? [0:53]
TW. Yes. I had two other sisters and five brothers.

Q. And you lived with your mother and your father? [1:09]
TW. No my mother died when I was three years old and were brought up with family friends until I was about 16.

Q. Can you tell me anything about the kind of life you used to live in Jamaica and the thing you enjoyed the most? [1:25]
TW. Yes, I think I should be able to do something on that, because I was brought up with strangers, now that I have grown up and become a woman of my own I can guarantee you that I would not grew anyone’s children the way I was brought up because I weren’t treated as if I was a part of the family. But I must admit that there was nothing that I was short of. That’s one thing. I was severely punished for things that I was guilty of and things that I was not guilty of but I overcome it all. Now that I am an adult I realise what life is like and what it was all about but at the same time I can see where it was not fair for the children.

Q. After you left school what did you do? [2:34]
TW. I went to classes after and after classes I spent five years which is the original way of learning a trade, I went to work as a domestic servant for a woman by the name of Josephine Martin.

Q. At what time of your life did you decided that you were travel to England? [3:09]
TW. I was engaged at the age of 19 and my fiancé came to England. Not really 19, I was at least 22 at that time. I came after him, he came a year and then I was here. But all the time [inaudible]

Q. May you’re from Jamaica right? What part of Jamaica were you born? [3:56]
MW. Portland

Q. What school did you go? [4:04]
MW. [inaudible] elementary school [inaudible] And if the teacher or headmaster [inaudible] I was 15 when I leave school

Q. What did you do after you leave school? [4:49]
MW. My mother sent me to the town of [inaudible] to learn dressmaking.

Q. After you learn dressmaking did you continue in that profession when you came to England? [5:06]
MW. No

Q. What else did you do? [5:22]
MW. [inaudible] housewife and other things did not work out so I left and did my own work. I had a little shop and used to sell things and still it was very very hard, you can hardly get work, If you have a profession it is easier but if you don’t have one it is very difficult, so I decide to come to England

Q. What work did you take up after you came to England? [6:18]
MW. My first when I came to England, I went to the Exchange, I never forget it, I went and sign on. Every Friday I think we had to go sign on. And I was very fortunate when I came here first I was at Mile End I never forget and I got a job on Mile End Road at a press shop and I left from there and went to a toy factory.

Q. What is it like to work in a toy factory? [7:13]
MW. Well they do assembles. All the different things for the toy and they pack them into boxes and send them away.

Q. What relationship between yourself as a new comer to other workers? [7:27]
MW. It was good. It was plenty of us. But my first job, there was only a Jew man, his name was [inaudible] and I was the only black person there. But the second one was a lot of us, black people.

Q. John, we know that the West Indies are comprised of many different islands which one do you come from? [8:08]
JH. Montserrat.

Q. As a youngster in Montserrat who brought you up? [8:19]
JH. A man by the name of Danny Malony (sp?) and his brother Charlie Malony.

Q. What about your parents? [8:40]
JH. Well I don’t know much about my mother, my mother died when I was 5 years old.

Q. With Mr Malony, what school did you go to? [8:53]
JH. Saint Mary’s in Plymouth.

Q. What were your teacher and school master like? [9:15]
JH. My school master was a gentleman from St Barton. The lady there we call her teacher boss she was teaching long before Mr Barton came in the system in the country.

Q. After [inaudible] [9:39]
JH. Well I didn’t get much education really because of the 1928 hurricane and I never going back to school.

Q. What profession did you take up after school? [10:02]
JH. Cabinetry, cabinet maker, shoe repair, decorator and such

Q. What other countries had you been to before coming to England? [10:18]
JH. Been to Dominican Republic, Antigua, United States, back home again [inaudible] 1955 I come here

Q. What made you come here? [10:44]
JH. My sister put my things together, one of her sons was sick [inaudible]

Q. So more or less you was a good doctor? [11:02]
JH. No I was not a good doctor. For me to take care of him

Q. Your inspiration really bring a good life for him? [11:09]
JH. Maybe [inaudible]

Q. What work did you take in England? [11:44]
JH. [Inaudible] decorating, sign writing, inspector [inaudible]

Q2. My name is Eugene [inaudible] going through a few details with each other. The first thing I would like to ask you is your date of birth, name and address at this present time [12:17]
[Mr. Sinclair]. Well my date of birth is the 29th of August 1926. I live in [inaudible]

Q2. Since you have been living there have you been quite comfortable and get on quite well with your neighbours? How do you find the place you are living at? [12:56]
[Mr. Sinclair]. Since I moved there it’s been alright. I used to talk to her a lot.

Q2. Were you working before that address? [13:25]
[Mr. Sinclair]. Yes, I was working

Q2. Are you still working at the moment? [13:31]
[Mr. Sinclair]. No

Q2. At this point I would like to ask you a little bit further what work you have been doing since you moved to this country and since you stopped working was you’re your job enjoyable to you or not? [13:34]
[Mr. Sinclair]. When I finished school I went to learn engineering and then a factory workshop [inaudible] I could play saxophone, and I played in a band, so when I came to England in 1955 I sign on at Hackney Exchange the first job was in [inaudible]
They give me the sack, I stayed there for two weeks and didn’t like the job. I went to a new place and I was there for a few years, it was small [inaudible]
That wasn’t really engineering it was maintenance work in the place when they make the zips [inaudible] I was there 5 years when I was made redundant. The next job I was there for 60 years until they went bust in 1984

Q2. From your jobs so far which would you choose, if you had a choice now to go back to any of them? [15:41]
[Mr. Sinclair]. The last one.

Q2. Which was engineering. That’s nice. Now as a child, Mr. Sinclair, were you happily brought up? Were you brought up with brothers and sisters or friends? How would you put your childhood with your life at this time? [15:53]
[Mr. Sinclair]. I didn’t have a father since 7. I had 5 sisters but only had 2 at first. I had a big cousin but he was the only man around. My aunt as my grandmother. My mother would be gone most of the time selling ice cream. I go to school and come back. I spend most of my time with my grandmother. My mother used to [inaudible]

Q2. So were you more happy with your parents or your grandparents? [17:24]
[Mr. Sinclair]. I was with my grandmother more than my mother. My mother was hard to get through. After my grandmother died after [inaudible]

Q2. Well Mr. Sinclair I think I have asked you enough questions, thank you for your patience. [17:56]

Q3. Vatina, a lot of people come into this country, some say good, some say bad which we know, it’s mixed. Can you give me some experience of things that happen to you since you come to this country? [18:00]
V. When I first came to this country, I landed in South Hampton then toward Liverpool by train. The first bus I rode in this country was the 76 from Waterloo to Stoke Newington and my address there was 69 Walford Rd, the landlord was from Nigeria but a better landlord then him to find from all my years here I would not say I have. He was very nice. And we lived there for a while and we moved from there it another address which is 22 Cursley Rd still Stoke Newington and my boyfriend and I lived there. The landlord there was Jamaican like ourselves but I won’t put my first landlord behind. We lived there for a while but the landlord and myself didn’t get along because he was one of these run-arounds which I just couldn’t take. We leave there, then I lived on my own.

Q3. Tell me something about the living conditions of the place. [19:34]
V. The living condition of the place were very good so far, not that I accepted it at the beginning because it is a different life then what I am used to. Different everything all closed in. Home we are all in the open, you are free, but there was not restrictions naturally apart from our washing facilities, he made sure we washed outside, there was a yard there. Other than that at that time I can’t since then I find life differently because I have to adjust myself to the rules of the country and the rules and regulations of different things. And with that I tried to just do lifethe best I can.

Q3. When you come into this country you used gas? [20:30]
V. Yes, I use gas, I still use it now.

Q3. How was the living conditions with the store and bath? [20:36]
V. I get through them alright, I adjust myself as fast as anything [inaudible] I have been taught as a child if you haven’t got a car or a horse to ride for your journey, you ride a cow. You will get to your same journey only in a shorter time. So coming here enough to adjust myself I adjust as fast as possible, so I never let anything like that get me down. As long as I am happy with people my life is ok.

Q3. How was the shopping, because you couldn’t get a lot of your native food in those days? [21:15]
V. My shopping life is completely different. As I said again I get back to it, what you can afford to get you have to have. You have to eat, you have to drink. You won’t be getting the same things we are accustomed to, they even taste different if they have the same name. But you have to put up with it for survival, which I certainly did. Until this day many things I would like I still can’t afford to have but I make do with that I can afford.

Q3. What was your first job like? [21:58]
V. My first job was in a factory called Covenant and some confectionary. I enjoyed the job very well. The people were quite nice to me, I made my first white friend there by the name of Nora Daily which I haven’t seen in many but I still never forget her. There were 2 foremen one was [inaudible] and the other one was Forster. Mr Forster was like a parent to us, he travelled before and he understand what it’s like for people like us coming from the West Indies and different parts of the world and he tried to make us as cheerful and comfortable as he could. But the other one by the name of [inaudible] he did not like foreigners at all.

Q3. Does anyone remember then kind of weather we had here when they came? [22:54]

MW. I came here September, 1956. The first winter I could remember going out one morning to work and I saw the grass outside and I didn’t want to ask what is wrong with the grass and it seemed as if someone had thrown flour. I asked someone and they say it is frost. I had put some clothes out on the line and the next morning I could not get the off. It was very strange and the house I first went in they showed me everything, the kitchen, different places and I said did we miss the bathroom. They said there is no bathroom, so I had to go to the public bath once a week. Very strange.

?. I can remember when I came here the first place I live was Cooper Rd and the lady who was living there, the council told her we could hang our clothes in the basement but it wasn’t good for living condition but she rented it out to the two of us for 50 shillings a week and I can remember that the toilet was outside so in the winter when you want to do something you got to go outside in the cold air. And they had a fire and I can remember I’d go by the coal yard on Manor Rd and have a chat with the guy and he would give me a bag with coal and at night I would out the coal in the fireplace. [Inaudible] The cooking condition was really bad because there was 1 stove with 2-3 burners and you had to queue to use it.
V. I get your point that you had to queue to use the cooker but I would put a call down to the landlord who was collecting the money. But where I was before the landlord would make sure the facilities there for the tenants were best he could provide for us. For every two tenants there was a cooker so there was no confusion.
?. My first place where I live was not too bad [inaudible] we used to cook together in the same kitchen but the landlord [inaudible] three of us were in the basement, summer was alright but winter was bad 55-56 [inaudible] he went away [inaudible] when you come back to your bed there was lice in it [inaudible]
?. I can remember when the ice was so thick that the bus conductor had to come off and lead the bus, the weather was really bad in those days. A lot of people suffer from bronchitis

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