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Roma Taylor. Windrush Cymru: Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History 2019

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Transcript of oral history interview with Roma Taylor, discussing her experience of growing up within a family which migrated from the Caribbean during the 1950s. Roma Taylor was born in December 1943 in Antigua, Caribbean. She has fond memories of her childhood in Antigua. Towards the late 50s, in October, Roma arrived in London aged 15 to live with her mother and brother in Cardiff.

 
Date of interview: Sept 1st 2019
Length of interview: 40:58
 

Part 1 [00:00:00]


My name is Roma Taylor and I was born in Antigua, in the Caribbean, on 22nd December 1943.

My parents names are John and Georgina. My mum worked in the hospital and my dad, he had a shop and he also had horses. So I grew up riding horses.

Growing up in Antigua was OK, I was only there until I was 15.  My mum and dad they were seperated and my mum went to America, my dad stayed in Antigua. I lived with my gran and my dad, they grew me up, and I was around all my cousins and that, and when my mother came from America to see me, it was just, oh love her, she was just crying all the time and I couldn’t understand why. When I became a mother I understood, why she was crying, because she missed me, and she just hugged me, and kept saying ‘I love you’ , and I know she did, but it was just sad because she had to go again because they weren’t in a relationship any more. So she went back to America.

I did have 3 sisters and one brother.  The sister before me has passed. My brother has passed, and my older sister passed 2 years ago. My other sibling is in America and there’s just the 2 of us, but she’s not responding, because I send her letters and she hasn’t written back to me. I don’t know if she is ill or what has happened to her, I don’t know.

Part 1 [00:03:01]

Growing up in Antigua I was living by the beach, so I was in the water every morning before I go to school, and my grandmother always told me off because she said’ you’re going to have salt in your hair’ and you’ve got to shower out the salt, and wash your hair properly. It was lovely, me and my cousins would always go swimming before we went to school. When I was 12 I went to live in St. Kitts with my mum, and that was lovely, that was really nice having a mum after all these years, living with my mum and my sister. When I came back from St. Kitts, I went to a private school and my dad had to pay for that. When I was 15 my mum wrote to my dad and asked him if he could send me over to Britain, and he said did I want to go, and I said yes, and from the day that I said yes, he was crying until the day I left. Sad.

My mum left when I was little, I think I was about 9 when she went to the States, but she kept coming back to visit me and my other siblings. We weren’t all together, I was in Freetown and they were in Newfield, it’s not far, and I used to go to Newfield to see her, which was good, I loved to seeing her but all she did was cry. I spent a year with her in St.Kitts, I went there when I  was 12 and then back to Antigua when I was 13. A very good year.

My mother moved from the US to Britain. My brother came first, and then I came as I was the youngest, then the others paid their own way but my mum paid for me to come over here.  I had lots of expectations about what I’d do when I saw my mum, I kept asking her ‘have you got trees? have you got a beach, hotels? beaches like ours?’ and she said ‘no not like ours’, they’re not as good as ours but they are nice’. I love Barry and I love Porthcawl, but children imagine so many things. I just wanted to be with my mum and that was all that mattered really. But you know, you get carried away thinking about another country.

Part 1 [00:07:10]
[Hops and dreams]

 

As a child, I wanted to get married and I wanted to have lots of children, and I wanted to be a nurse and I did. Unfortunately we didn’t stay together but it’s alright, I was a nurse, I did get married and I had 7 children so I fulfilled that dream.

Part 1 [00:07:55]
[The journey across]

I was on a boat and my dad had to ask the hostess to look after me, like when I went to St. Kitts on the plane I was on my own. My dad asked the hostess to look after me and they did, and on my way over I knew one girl and I stayed with them, and the hostess looked after me and it was lovely. I think the young lady, we was the same ages so we loved it on the boat and did everything that we could’ve done, and when we got to Britain I went to London to my brother, and my brother sent me on the train - on my own again - to Cardiff Central, Oh my God! I was 15, oh my God Cardiff Central what I beautiful place, I loved it. When I saw my mum she just held me and we both started crying, it was lovely, really nice. My aunty took her to the station, she met a lady, I called the lady aunty, you know, respect and the lady took her to the station, when I went home and saw this fire and I thought what’s that?  All these chimneys, they’re like factories.

All these chimneys in the buildings, that’s what I thought. I came over in October, it wasn’t very cold so my aunty put the electric heater on, so I was alright. Then they bought me a dog, Queenie, aww she was lovely then she died, we had her 3 years, she had something in her ear and when we called the vet it was too late. I don’t know what happened, anyway, but she was lovely.
 

Part 1 [00:10:15]

And Loudon square, the park and the houses and the people that you meet, South Church Street we lived in, beautiful, I met so many people, I met Betty Campbell, Gaynor, all these people, but it was really great, just gorgeous, but I was only there October, November, and it was in November, every night we used to go to the Rainbow club and it was just up by the church and there was a little bridge there, and Mr and Mrs Capenerener who were the managers they said that the royal family is coming to Cardiff, and then she said ‘Oh Roma, would you like to dress up in Welsh Costume and wave to the Royal family’ I was like ewww … so I’d never worn the Welsh costume so I had to go and get the stuff. Well, we had a shawl and I had a skirt and me and the 2 little girls we dressed up, and then went to the Rainbow Club and the Royal family came and the 2 little girls were waving their flags and I was holding their hands and then I had to hold a board that said ‘The Rainbow Club welcomes the Queen’ It should’ve said the Royal Family, but it was lovely.
 


Part 1 [00:12:12]
 
When I came to Britain I couldn’t go to school, that was horrible because I was only 15. It didn’t matter anyway I did go to work in Oram ….. doing musical boxes, then I went to Bath and I did nursing.  Then I came back to Cardiff and I got married. 

So back to the the Rainbow club the photographer took photos of us, and on the Sunday in the News of the World, all the kids were knocking on my door saying ‘Roma you’re in the paper!” I said ‘What for? and burst out laughing. So my Aunty said go and get the paper for Uncle Roy, so I went to the shop and got the paper, and there it was that photograph. Years later, that was 1959, when Mr & Mrs Catener died, and they were cleaning out their house in Ninian Road in Roath, and this gentleman happened to be passing their house and looked into the skip, and saw all these photos of these children. He put them in a shoebox and took them to Butetown museum of History and Art. They took one of the photos and made it into a postcard, loads of postcards flying around Tiger Bay. 2003 Charlotte Williams wrote a book called ‘A Tolerant Nation” and she went to Butetown museum of  History and Art to see some photos and she saw those 2, and the first one was me with the poster, and he showed her the one of me with the 2 little girls, and she took that one and put it in the book. No-one knew who the 3 girls were, but Betty told Glenn as Betty Campbell is there and Betty knew me since I came over when I was 15. Then South Wales Echo got hold of the book and the photograph and they put it in the Echo. They sent a photographer around so they could see me now at 60 and then when I was in 15.

 

Part 1 [00:16:35]

 

I did Flog it. Flog it came to Cardiff and went to Butetown History and Arts, thats where me and Betsy and the box of photographs, we went and talked about it. Paul Martin was asking us questions about the Rainbow Club and how old was i when i came over. And when they put the photograph up with Mr and Mrs Capeman he asked why did you smile so  much, and i said they were really lovely people. Mr. Capman has a travel agents in Albany Road as well.  It was really lovely and I enjoyed being in Tiger Bay until they started moving us out, they moved all the black people out and we was all over the place.
 
We went to Leckwith, I didn’t like it.

 

Part 2 [00:00:00]
 

I didn’t go to school, I went to work. It was alright, but then I left to go nursing because that’s what I wanted to do. The one challenge I had that I didn’t like was going to night-school to do typing, I hated it, but I loved going on the trolley buses. That was the only challenge going to do typing in Grange gardens. I used to like meeting my friends and going on the trolley bus. There was a trolley bus from South Street Gardens on to Grange Gardens and back again.

I only did 2 years of nursing because I wanted to get married and have children. Should have finished my nursing! But yes I met Bert, and I was 19 when I got married, and I had Suzanne when I was 20, my baby. Life was lovely then, really nice. After I got married, a year later when I had my baby daughter Suzanne, there was a Bonnie Baby competition in the Echo, and I entered Suzanne, and my friend entered her son, and Suzanne came third, with Bruce Lewis.  Thank you Bruce for choosing my baby and the other mother said why didn’t you choose mine and I said that the baby was naked, why did you send a picture of the baby naked and my friend said that’s what they look for.

That was lovely having my baby come third, I had to go and meet Bruce Lewis the newscaster, and the other judges, really lovely, and when I was holding my baby and they were playing the music ‘Baby Love’ (she sings) and she started dancing in my arms, I thought ‘Oh my God, are you a dancer?” but no she’s a teacher anyway in Huddersfield, she teaches Secondary.


Part 2 [00:03:20]


I finished nursing, I didn’t bother to finish the full course, but I had my family anyway, I loved having a family, I had my children and then before I had Daniel who is 36, I went in the army, I was in the army for  25 years, and that was just after I had the twins. I enjoyed the army life, it was great, territorial, but it was great. I wish I’d known, I would have joined when I was 16. I must have been 26 when I joined, and if I’d known it was so nice I would have joined the regulars, but then you never know do you? it was great just joining the territorials.
 
I kept contact with my dad until he passed, but we’ve got lots of relatives over there, so we keep in contact, we’ve been over to see them, they come to see us here. They can’t all come over, but we can go over to visit them. I used to go over often but I don’t know because when I go home I just cry. As soon as I see the beach I cry, and that was when we first go to Antigua, and then coming back home, with Antigua disappearing, oh! I bawls, I can’ do it. So if I go home with them in 2021 cos all those who left from Cardiff, they’re all going over in 21, and if I go over it’s going to be sad.

 

Part 2 [00:05:57]
 

I know I’ve spent more time in Britain than I did in Antigua, but it’s just the free-ness that I miss so much. Living by the beach all the time, I think that was the worst part, as look how far I’ve got to go to go to the beach, all the way to Barry. Porthcawl? that’s why I go on holidays to Porthcawl every year. I’ve got to see the beach. I wouldn’t go back home now because my family is here, my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. Last year the Lord bless me with my 15th Great Grandchild, and no.16 is on the way. And this grandchild Jacob was born the day they gave the Windrush celebration, the 22nd June.  I still can’t believe it.

 

Part 2 [00:08:15]

It was easy because this Indian, Mr. Singh, he used to have a shop in the Hayes, and he got all our food, all the foods we had in the Caribbean, he’d get it for us , so that wasn’t too bad. He sent a picture of my baby back to India to say “this baby came 3rd in the bonnie baby competition’ he was so lovely Mr.Singh, he loved Suzanne.

My children went swimming, they went to the gym, they went dancing, they did everything when they were little, none of them were dancers or gymnasts, but it was good for them growing up, children should be doing things, something energetic instead of being home doing nothing. Now they’ve got the Ipads and all that, but years ago they didn’t have that so you had to take swimming and all that.

 

Part 2 [00:10:10]
 
It was different for my mother, because when she came she was on her own, she met friends but she did find at first that she did enjoy the church but it wasn’t so good for her then as it was for me.  She didn’t have her own house and she had to keep moving and renting another place until she settled down. I was 15 but she was a grown woman so it was harder for her.  When I came and my other sister came, we enjoyed being a family. Then my sister before me, she passed and my mother only had me and my brother, but he was in the army and away, and my other sister and she passed 2 years.

 

Part 3 [00:00:00]

Once she could get to to church she was alright. That was all she lived for, work, church, work, church.  And the Church is absolutely gorgeous.

I did regret, a few years ago, I thought I should go back home now as I’ve done enough. I’ve got my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, I’ll go back home now. But cousins are not the same as your family and I thought ‘ no, I can’t leave my children, I love them too much’ and especially grandchildren coming up. My daughter says come to London but I can’t leave CardiffI love Cardiff, my Cardiff, since I came here, I’ve loved Cardiff, never wanted to live anywhere else.  I feel Welsh, all the time. This little Cardiff has done so much for me, and I thank God, because I’ve enjoyed my life in Wales. You find ups and downs in life, but Wales, I love my Cardiff. And I don’t want to go living anywhere else. My son says ‘Mum, come to Manchester’ and I said Urrgh! no thank you. I don’t mind visiting these places, but the only place I would live that I really love is Llandudno. But I’m staying in Cardiff, but I really love Llandudno.

 

Part 3 [00:03:05]

Advice I would give a 15 year old coming over is to have respect. Have respect for the Elders, for anyone older than you, and don’t put people down. Anything you see that is horrible don’t laugh at it and just have respect, that’s what I would have said. Just do good. because when that little girl came over here that’s all she did, she used to take little babies to the park, that’s how I met Marcia. I saw this little girl playing ball on the wall and I said ‘Hiya’ so I said go and ask your mum if you can go to the Rainbow club with me’ so her mum said come on in. Every child I saw I just wanted to take them to the rainbow club, that’s what I did, look after Children.

Thats the advice, just have respect, there’s hardly any in the world today, is there?


Part 3 [00:05:20]

I dealt with negative things by praying and asking the Lord for help. I still go to Church all the time, and I’m always up for prayer, because if anything happens, anything at all, I go up for prayer because I cant deal with things, even now sometimes, I go up for prayer, its worse now than it was before because dealing with things you cannot deal with anything by yourself, you have to trust God, ask him to be with you. Even when I started with Windrush Cymru Elders I had to ask the Lord to be with me and carry it through, because I couldn’t do it, I know, it’s not me, its the Lord who has blessed me with this group.

Some of them are in their homes twiddling their thumbs, they’ve got no-one to come and visit them, they’ve got no-one to come and visit them, they’ve got to rely on the State, but then they still need someone of their own to go and speak to them and help them. If you can get out it’s great, but sitting at home and having nothing else to do but watch that screen its not nice.
I thank the Lord for the people, we go to shows, the castle, we’ve been to the slave museums, we have people come talk to us, it’s really great having the group.

 

Part 3 [00:08:12]

Whoever sees this story, and its good for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, my Godson said to me that he went to the library today and Nanna your photo was on the wall. So that’s really good, its good for schools to visit and hear these stories and know that people have had a good life.

I thank God for my life, the children he’s given me, all the people I’ve met in my life, like Audrey. The Windrush Elders, thank God for them.

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