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Laceta Reid. Windrush Cymru: Our Voices, Our Stories, Our History 2021

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Transcript of oral history interview with Laceta Reid, discussing her experience of growing up within a family which migrated from the Caribbean during the 1950s. Laceta Reid was born in Manchester in Jamaica in May of 1931.
 
Laceta Reid
August 19th 2021
Interview Length: 29:58
 
Interviewer: My name is Carl. The date today is the 19th of August and we’re conducting an interview with Mr Laceta Reid. Mr Reid could you state your full name, place and year of birth.
 
Laceta: Laceta Reid. I was born in Manchester, Jamaica, date of birth 20th of the 5th 1931.
 
Interviewer: Can you tell me what was your childhood like? When you were born in Jamaica what was it like?
 
Laceta: That’s a big question that, but I'll do my best with it. It was so poor, it was so poor. It was eleven of us kids and it’s just a two apartment house with my parents. So it was a very, I would say a rough life to begin with and I grew up like that all through. That was in Mile Gully in Manchester. 
 
Interviewer: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
 
Laceta: Yeah.
 
Interviewer: Who were they?
 
Laceta: There’s two older brothers, do you want their names?
 
Interviewer: Yeah.
 
Laceta: Glendale, Alderman, I’m the third Laceta, then Stanley, then Kanetan, then Mavis the first sister, then Sigisfan, then Ernis and Ridcliffe, Deloris and Peter the baby one. 
 
Interviewer: That’s 11?
 
Laceta: Yes.
 
Interviewer: Wow, and you lived in a little...
 
Laceta: Two apartment house.
 
Interviewer: How did you all fit in?
 
Laceta: Well I don’t know that we fit in… we don’t fit in.
 
Interviewer: What were your parents' names?
 
Laceta: William Reid and Inis.
 
Interviewer: Can you remember what school was like?

 
Laceta: Yes. At first when I started school it was a little school in our district, just any other school and then by the time I reached first class, that school closed and they built one in Mile Gully, a closed tree school and we all go to Mile Gully elementary. That’s where I schooled and finished schooling.
 
Interviewer: Once school finished what did you do after school, once you’d reached working age?
 
Laceta: Oh after school, well I just went to the public works, on Mondays it’s public works day, next Monday it’s railway and in between I go to the agricultural place and you get a lot of people going there but there was no other work around, nothing to do around. 
 
[00:04:00]

Interviewer: Can you remember anything of Jamaica that really stands out in your memory? I know there was something about a train, what happened?
 
Laceta: Yes, it was an excursion from Kingston to Montego Bay, when they go down there was two engines, it was a lot of coaches, I don’t remember how many coaches it was but when they go down, a lot of the journey is downhill so the two engines was at the front, so coming back, one of the engines pull and one push and that’s how they come up the hill and when they reached Greenfield in Mile Gully, it’s all flat, there was no more hill to climb and then that’s how the accident happened, when they reached Kendall, the engine at the back- well the one at front push, but they reach the bend and the bend was in a cut in, a deep cut in and he eased down and the one at the back kept pushing and the coaches kept climbing on each other in the cut in, so they couldn’t turn over either side so they just kept climbing over each other until I think it was five or seven of them climbed on eachother.
 
Interviewer: Was there a lot of people injured?
 
Laceta: A lot of people dead, not injured! Lot of people dead. Lots!
 
Interviewer: It was big news wasn’t it?
 
Laceta: Yeah it was.
 
Interviewer: What year was that?
 
Laceta: 1957. It was a bank holiday. August bank holiday.
 
Interviewer: Did lots of people come to help?
 
Laceta: Yes! Yes, a lot of people come to help. 
 
Interviewer: How old were you then?
 

Laceta: 26, just before I come away, I left in September and it happened in August. The backside was nearby so they sent over a lot of air equipment to help. Oh it was a sight. It was and I can see it now, there was a big cotton tree out in that open spot there and so they got the dead people, dug them up and laid them over there so anyone that came down could identify them. Oh, it was terrible.  
 
Interviewer: When you left Jamaica now, why did you decide to come to the UK?
 
Laceta: Well there was nothing to do over there. There was no work and one of my brothers came over in 1955 and I was trying my best to come over, but I couldn’t make it up, so I wrote to him and asked him to help me and that’s how I came. 
 
[00:07:30]


Interviewer: What do you remember about the journey? Was it ship? Plane?
 
Laceta: A ship yes, I came over on a ship.
 
Interviewer: How long did that take?
 
Laceta: 23 days, it took the long route. We went, 3 days after we left Jamaica, we stopped in Venezuela and they picked up a load of timber and then the next stop was Spain, they said they had to deliver on route. I was sick on the ship, I had a boil burst in my ears, I don’t know how that happened and I spent a lot of time going in the hospital so they cleaned it up, they done a good job on it, they cleaned it up properly and every day I go and they’d look at it and do what they had to do. When I come off I was alright and that was a Thursday, I came on a Thursday and the Friday yes I was there on the Friday… okay and the Saturday morning, somebody told my brother to take me to this hospital, Lambeth hospital and see somebody there to get a job, but when I go the person wasn’t there. And leaving out the hospital, I come out the street and I wanted to go to the toilet and being Saturday a lot of the places had closed, there was no toilet so I start to twitch and anyway we catched the bus back to Brickston and I rush in and went to the toilet and I was in there longer than normal since I’d come here and it can’t come out. Diarrhea. I got it on the boat. That’s what they said I picked up on the boat and that was a Saturday. The Sunday morning, I didn’t feel any better, I sleep sitting on my sister in Law, pale with my head on the bed. On the Sunday morning, my brother took me back to the same Lambeth hospital and they admitted me, they said I got Diarrhea on the boat.
 

[00:10:34]
 
Interviewer: Right, so your first view of Brixton really was at Lambeth hospital. My next question was going to be what was your first impression of Britain...

 
Laceta: I don’t remember but I spent about 18 days in the hospital. They separated me, I was in a room to myself until they take me back in the ward and they said they have to build me up now so I spent about 18 days there.
 
Interviewer: Besides the hospital, how did you find Britain? What did you think of it when you first got a real good look at Britain?
 
Laceta: It looked so much different from Jamaica. Cars and everything running about, although there was not a lot of cars but the housing and houses they were joined together and we’d never seen that at home but it was alright.
 
Interviewer: How did the people receive you? Because what sort of job were you going to do?
 
Laceta: Honestly I never drew up anything that I was going to do. I didn’t know what I’d come into. I was just looking for work, that’s what I come here for.
 
Interviewer: When you first started looking around for jobs now, how did you find the people?
 
Laceta: Some was okay and some wasn’t… I remember one advert that they advertised in the paper that the South London press I think it was, they advertised that they needed some strong young men at this brewery, so I told my friend and he came up just a few days after me and we went there but before we reached there he said to me, they don’t employ blacks there, he heard they don’t employ blacks there. But he said if I want to go, let's go. So we go there and sit there, there was quite a few white guys in there and then I think it was about four or five Pakistan, so we sit and wait there and then the manager came in, ‘good morning gentlemen, good morning’ and he went into his office and he came back with his white coat on, ‘good morning again gentlemen, good morning again, I suppose you all see that we need some strong young men working here and which I see in here now, but I must inform you that we don’t employ blacks’ that was one of the first shock I had. So my friend nudged me and we get up and go out and the Pakistani they sit there like they wasn’t blacks and when we reached the door I heard him repeat it again.
 
Interviewer: Almost like reinforcing that to those who remained.
 

Laceta: Yes, so we went out and we went across the road and stand up over there and said we’ll wait and see what they are going to do if they aren’t coming out and it was a good while after before they came out so I suppose they had to push them out.
 
Interviewer: Wow and that’s 1957. In London?
 
Laceta: London yes.
 
Interviewer: Well that’s a big heavy that. But anyway, you worked in London for a good while?
 
Laceta: Yes, three and a half, roughly four years.
 
Interviewer: Did you pick up a trade there or did you find anything?
 
Laceta: No I didn’t pick up a trade, the first job was at the candle factory in Battersea and I worked there and I forgot the department I worked in but we stuck up the candles and sent them out and then I left that because the wages was very small. I left that and I go to Greenford in Middlesex at Aladdin industries, they made oil heaters. Like paraffin heaters. I worked on that job, it was strictly nights, that was the section I got pushed into, strictly nights. But it was alright, we enjoyed, there was quite a bit of West Indian, Jamaican, Trinidadian, Grenadian. Quite a few West Indian.
 
Interviewer: Okay so it was a nice atmosphere then?
 
Laceta: Yeah it was brilliant, the best place I ever worked. Honest. Although it was night I never felt it and I never used to work nights before.
 
Interviewer: Did you used to look forward to going into work?
 
Laceta: Yeah and I was and funnily enough it was a very long distance to work from Battersea to Greenford, it was a long distance, I used to catch one bus from Battersea to Shepherds Bush and then I catch a transport, one of the workers, their little minibus and they took as much of us that could go in it. Yeah it was fun.

[00:16:23]

Interviewer: Then you came to Wales?
 
Laceta: Yes Wales. I got redundant at that job. It didn’t close down, it’s just that the inspector they employed to inspect the job on nights and he didn’t know anything about it and he said, no it was a bad job and it caused them to sack the inspector and then they said they shouldn’t sack him like that, the union, so they called strike. So, last in first out I was in that badge. Man, it hurt me. It was good wages, it was really good wages at that time. I could go home with £18 a week!
 
Interviewer: Because wages in those days were about £10.
 
Laceta: Yeah because the one I left was £7 or something a week and I could go home with £18.
 
Interviewer: So you almost tripled your money?
 
Laceta: Yeah! My god I tell you. It was a shock man after I left that job.
 
Interviewer: What made you come to Wales then?
 
Laceta: Well alright in between there I get married and then I had two kids, that was by 1961, 62 and I could pay down a house in London, but in Battersea this solicitor people go to he’s telling us they had to buy the houses around us or they’re going to knock them down. He said not to buy them, they're going to knock them down and that house is there right now, it’s between Latchmere and Princes Inn, right by near to a bridge. So I looked for a place and the trouble was, you couldn’t get anywhere with kids, nobody wanted to rent you when you are with kids. So that was it, I tried and couldn’t find anywhere. So Clive came up to see me sometime and I said, I write him and tell him I come and see him and I come down and he told me yeah if you come down you will get a job and the Llanwern was just starting up.
 
Interviewer: Yeah they opened in 1962 didn’t they?
 
Laceta: Right and it’s then when I came down. Clive was working over there at the time and the Monday I went over to Winston, Melvin took me there and another place I don’t remember… Nothing. So when I come back down that’s when it stopped. His wife told me to go over the bridge and this place over there they might want people. So I go over to the factory, I get interviewed that day and they said I could have the job and I started Tuesday.
 
Interviewer: So they interviewed you on the Monday...
 
Laceta: And it was at about 2 o’clock, on the Monday when I reached out there and they asked me when I wanted to start. I said anytime you’re ready, so they said start tomorrow! That’s how I worked there.
 
Interviewer: So did the wife and kids join you after?
 
Laceta: Yes they were still in London, they joined me after.
 
[00:20:47]

Interviewer: Where did you live?
 
Laceta: I lived around Basset.
 
Interviewer: To begin with?
 
Laceta: Yes and then I moved to- Ivan Hughes, he had a house on Alexander Road here, by the bakery shop and it was empty, there was only two people in there but it was a big place so he rented me a room, a big room which was really nice and I had my own kitchen and the downstairs was mine, so I lived there but he wouldn’t furnish the place! No dressing table, no wardrobe! It’s a good job I had a trunk, being in London I had a trunk you know moving from one place to another instead of moving boxes around I bought that trunk and my clothes had to be in it and my bedclothes and you have to go in there to take out the clothes! He wouldn’t furnish it so I just… My wife was talking to Ivan one day, he was living in Birmingham, and he said to her, ‘oh if you can’t wait until I furnish it, you can find somewhere and go’. He said to the wife he had a room I can come and look at it, but when I went to see it, the room was like a backroom, small and I had a cot, a pram, a radiogram and the rest. So, I told him thanks but it’s so small. So he said, hang on man, I will like to help you.
 
Interviewer: People did that in those days didn’t they? They went out of their way to help people, it was a real community spirit wasn’t it?
 

Laceta: Oh yes and he said wait a minute, he said the front room is bigger and there’s 3 single men living in it, so if they’ll swap over with you, you can have it. So he called them, it was Ernist, which died and Pinchy his name is Edrick, he lives up the road here and the other chap was Winston, he went back to Birmingham and the three of them said yes, I could have the room so I moved there.
 
Interviewer: And you’ve been here ever since.
 
Laceta: I put a deposit on the house.
 
Interviewer: That was your start really?
 
Laceta: Yes until they demolished that.

 

[00:24:10]
 
Interviewer: What where your long term job?
 
Laceta: Crompton batteries. I worked there, it was the only place I worked in Newport. I worked there 3 months short of 27 years. That is quite a few years to work there. Miriad worked there and her sister in law and her husband and a good friend of mine Billy.
 
Interviewer: Did Sonny used to work there as well?
 
Laceta: Yes Sonny, he died and Ronny White he went back to London, he was working at Dangnam. Bennet which died was working in there, Wesley worked there, quite a few.
 

[00:25:00]

Interviewer: What would you say life has been like for you in Wales in terms of any other activities like leisure time?
 
Laceta: It’s alright, I never really fault it. You know when you’re young and you can go about, it was okay, I didn’t find anything to complain about. [Wales better than London?] Better than London. The reason why is London was getting a bit combustible and I’m from the country in Jamaica, I’m really down in the country and I didn’t dig it. I didn’t dig the city life. Newport was so comfortable, easy going and that’s what I did want and so I stick to it.
 
Interviewer: Do you think being from another country affected your journey and the choices you made whilst here?
 
Laceta: No, none at all.
 
Interviewer: Do you think you are a British citizen or not? Because a lot of people, after World War II came to Britain and became British citizens but some people don’t feel British, some people feel more British than others, how do you feel? Do you think you’re more British?
 
Laceta: I would say yes. Yes. But, in everything there are itches.
 
Interviewer: If it was 50/50, are you Jamaican or British? Or British Jamaican?
 
Laceta: Look at it this way, I lived here longer than I lived in Jamaica. A lot lot longer. I left Jamaica when I was 26 and I’m now 88, so I’m happy enough and in anything you do or go you’ll find itches.
 
Interviewer: Have you been back to Jamaica? 
 
Laceta: Yes. Several times.
 
Interviewer: When you go back, do you get home sick for Britain or are you comfortable in Jamaica?
 
Laceta: No I’m more comfortable here.

[00:27:37]
 
Interviewer: So when you go to Jamaica, do you think to yourself, well I enjoyed my time but I want to go home now?
 
Laceta: Yes, yes. 
 
Interviewer: What other things do you enjoy doing that keeps you connected in Newport here? What makes you sort of, connected? Do you go anywhere to be with other people?
 
Laceta: Yeah, there was so many others of us around and it was fun, going to work, going out in the evening, it was fun! 
 
Interviewer: Where did you go in the evenings?
 
Laceta: We used to go to the Waterloo. That was one and then we’d go to Danny Newhall's pub.
 
Interviewer: Danny Newhall's pub which was the Windsor Castle right on the corner of Bolt Street. 
 
Laceta: Right, it was fun and there was quite a badge of us. It was nice.

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