Edna Henry. Windrush Cymru: Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History 2019

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Summary of oral history interview with Edna Henry, discussing her experience of growing up within a family which migrated from the Caribbean during the 1960s. Edna Henry was born in the Parish of St Catherine, Jamaica, in May 1931. She came straight to Grangetown, Cardiff in 1961.

Date of Interview: 22 August 2019
Length: 24:05

My full name is Edna May Henry, and I was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica on 3rd May 1931.
My mother’s name was Eliza Jones and my father's name was Ebenezer Henry.
My life was not as hard as here, I went to a school named York Street, in the district where I was born, York street school. It was a good school, and I had a good time in school.
I have three brothers, no sisters, Leonard,  Calvin McKenzie and Winston.  I am second to last. Leonard is oldest, then Calvin, then me, then Winston.
We lived in a two-bedroom house with a verandah and a dining room.  We could sit on the verandah in the evenings.  After I left school I went to a private school to further my education, actually it was a church school I went to in a place named Jericho, still in St Catherine, but the place was named Jericho.


It was just like other schools.  When I left school,  I went to a sewing place, to learn to sew. The boys went to a place to learn trade, but my father sent me to a school, to a lady that teaches sewing.
Growing up my father and my mother was hard working.  Well my mother, well I have to say leave me when I was small, she went to town to work, but my father, I always stayed with my father and he was hard working he always was out like farming, with cows, pigs, goats, and I helped him in the morning with the milk. I would take the milk up and then come back.It was a happy time for me.
My decision to come to Britain came about because my brother was in the RAF and after the war he came out and then you know he decide to come back and he sent for me. I was 29 when I came here, 1961, so my brother was in the army, RAF, and when I came here we were living in Grangetown.  I came straight from Jamaica to Grangetown.
I came on the plane, BOAC 1961. We landed at Gatwick, after we got off the plane, then we had a train and my brother met me at the end, and then he drove me to Cardiff.

I had a job when I came to Cardiff, I came straight to a job. When my brother take me over he knew somebody so I had a job to come to. I was in St. Davids hospital but I was working in the laundry part.
Well, it was OK.  Well you know when you’re working with some of the people and they’re asking you stupid questions, if you have a horse and things like that,  and where you come from, but my difficulty now was when I left my brother and when I was in Ely and that was my greatest error ever.
My neighbour, I don't know what's wrong with him but they didn't like blacks, I don’t know what it is about, so we couldn’t be happy.  He used to pick on the children and then they couldn’t go outside and when my friends come over they pick on them, and the wife was horrible and I wake up one morning and when I looked out at the back of my kitchen, and she used one of the buckets to just throw the mess at the back. Excrement, yeah, and when I go to work and come back to all this,  complaining, but then after a while my other brother that was here, his children heard about  it and I, and I didn’t  know what was going on, but then the police came over and asked me to stop him from, stop my nephews from coming because of all the hassle I was having. They were a boxer and everybody knowed them as the boxer, but what I gather he said that they were they were coming to take him out of his house and beat him up, but I didn’t know nothing about it, so well it calm down a bit, but then the council house that I have, everything you know, you want this to be done and you want that to be done and I always pay my money in advance.


I just couldn't take it any more, but then I was short of cash, but  one day I was in the house and a letter come through the door and I think it was rebate of £250, so I took it down to Wilson road and I said I’m going to put this money down.  I was working in the hospital, Ely hospital, I would be nursing - which is in the  70’ s,  so I I said, I'm going to put this cash down.  I didn’t  know what I was going to do with it, but I started, you know when I get my wages and what I have left. I tried to put a couple pounds down and, and we were in work and all the girls were talking and I was like ‘Oh I’m going to buy a house’  and then because I couldn’t get the repair, and that fellow wouldn’t lay off my back. I thought well, when the law came out that you could buy your council house but I didn’t want to live there.
I didn't want to live there because I write to the MP telling the condition of everything. I say to my eldest brother that I’m going  to buy a house and he said yes,  but at that time you could pay the solicitor but I had about a thousand pounds, and he took me and I saw the house in Beda Road. My brother was, I saw one first and he said no, don’t have that one and in his words, I step out in style.  I left the house and I moved to Beda Road, I had the house, at that time, I think that was my happiest time.
Beda road, in Canton, a completely different part.  Yeah, yeah it was lovely. It was nice.  A pre-war house, but a really big family house. It had a conservatory, 4 rooms downstairs, a lounge a dining room and another room downstairs,  and a conservatory.  It was a four bedroom house.
I never saw that guy again. The authorities didn’t do anything about that guy, it was the police who came over in Ely and told us about what was going to happen because I did put in for an exchange but they wouldn't give it to me.
Life in the hospital was alright,  it was okay. So the start off in Wales was mixed, OK in work, but not at home, and then I got this new house and work is okay now and home is OK now.


Then children, she came over, and I had four children over here. They were born from 1962 to1971,  so I was a working mother trying to make ends meet. My husband was a person that work all over the place. He was an engineer, he used to work for Vauxhall, he worked all over, he was hardly in Cardiff.
I didn’t get promoted in work, I spent 23 years in the laundry room.
Sometimes I think about Jamaica, but other times I think I will stay here. I would go back to Jamaica if I won £1 million,  I think I would go back because I would have enough to survive.
I have been back to Jamaica, several times. I think Jamaica is nice if you have money, it's nice if you have money.


I think it was worse then, really bad when I left because you know, people appreciate you more when you was out there than now.
I go to church every week.  I go to the Pentecost. I started going a long time ago, since I was in Ely. When I moved down, it was a bit distant to go and then after I go to the Pentecost and that plays a big part in my life, we go twice a week. Sometimes they want you to say the word exultation and then I don't really want to participate because I'm too old now. Church is a bit like a gathering.
I used to do a lot of sewing but I don't bother with it now that I have bad eyes. I don't now, and the price that I'm going to pay for material and bits
I really don’t know because when I'm working,  I don't go anywhere like straight from work  - seven in the morning till eight in the  night so when I came home… but that’s why I came here as there wasn’t much work in Jamaica.

I tell the young people today most of them my experience of being here.  My best advice, when I was a kid I was more happy in the Caribbean than here.  I always advise them to have talent,  and to do something,  tidy up the place you know, things like that.