Mrs Pauline Pingue

Pauline Eureka Pingue was born in Christ Church, Barbados in 1935. She left Barbados for the UK when she was 24, leaving her daughter Eunice behind until she could afford to send for her. Eunice joined her mother when she was ten.

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A childhood in Barbados

Pauline recalls working hard on the family farm in Charnocks, where the children had to look after cows, sheep, pigs, donkeys and chickens as well as carrying out other household chores.

She remembers how the children would ride the donkeys bareback.

Pauline enjoyed gardening from an early age. As well as planting vegetables – sweet potatoes, yam and cucumber – and helping with the weeding, she also grew roses, which she’d cut and put in vases inside the house.

She didn’t have time to go to friends’ houses but they’d come to hers and enjoy playing on the swing her father had put up in a tree. The children would also play hopscotch, marbles and skipping.

Her father had a boat which he used for fishing and the children would help him to push it into the shallow waves – and be there to help him bring it back in later.  Pauline liked eating fresh fish but wasn’t so keen on cleaning and gutting her father’s catch.

Despite living so close to the beach and enjoying splashing around in the sea, Pauline never learned to swim.

On Bank Holidays, there would be a carnival parade where everyone dressed up and wore masks. After the parade, there was a fair.

Pauline enjoyed school but had no books at home – besides, there was no time to read. The teacher would hit children who turned up late for class, but Pauline wasn’t worried – her father would not allow his children to be beaten. 

The airport on Barbados

When Pauline was growing up, the only ‘airport’ on Barbados was a grassy strip used by the mail plane.

Highway 7 had yet to be built and the children could walk freely between their homes and the nearby beach at Long Bay.

The building of Seawell Airport* in 1949 ended all public access across the land and put a stop to whole families from Charnocks heading to the beach on foot for bank holiday picnics.

Pauline’s family were among many people who lost land when Highway 7 was built.

(In 1976, Seawall Airport was dedicated to the first premier of Barbados and renamed Grantley Adams International Airport.)

Travelling to the UK

Pauline had left home and was living in nearby Sea View with her young daughter Eunice when her father became ill.

He was planning to send Pauline to America, but she didn’t want to go. When he died, she saw publicity inviting Bajan people to move to the UK and decided to come here instead.

She had no idea what to expect – or even where her final destination would be. When she first saw smoke coming from the chimneys of houses, she thought they were rows of factories.

Leaving her young daughter Eunice behind, she booked her passage and set sail on an Italian ship the Surriento; unfortunately, the journey was delayed for two weeks due to a strike in Italy.

The British Government paid her £65 fare and Pauline had to pay it back in monthly instalments.

Inside Pauline’s suitcase were several items belonging to a girl she was travelling with – when her own destination was changed to Newport she had no way of letting the other girl know so was unable to return the girl’s belongings – something she has always felt bad about.

Early days in Newport

Pauline arrived in Newport in May 1959. One of the first things she had to get used to was the long hours of daylight – in Barbados the sun rose much later and set much earlier.

She remembers being lonely at first, but she soon met up with a Bajan friend Phyllis (later to become Mrs Linford Isaacs).

Pauline’s first job was at the King’s Head Hotel on High Street where she earned 50 shillings a week plus board and lodgings.

She was happy with her lodgings – a large room to herself – and used to go down to the hotel kitchen to collect her meals.

Pauline left the King’s Head and worked at various other places, including in a brewery, a foundry and the hospital. She eventually found work at Santons.

She met her husband through Phyllis – he is a Jamaican.

Newport’s Caribbean community had very few Bajan nationals – Pauline only remembers one woman apart from herself and Phyllis. Her sister lived in Newport briefly before moving to Bristol.

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