Childhood memories from around the world

Black and minority ethnic elders reminiscence group

By Roslyn Cook

Photo:Ahmed and Maria

Ahmed and Maria

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive



Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Photo:The 'Crossing Continents' memories group

The 'Crossing Continents' memories group

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Childhood memories from around the world' page
Photo:The group meeting to reminisce

The group meeting to reminisce

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Childhood memories from around the world' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus archive

Photo:Ted and Tara

Ted and Tara

Photo from the WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:The Gujarati ladies

The Gujarati ladies

Photo from the WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

This group met once a week at Evelyn Glennie Court sheltered home to talk about their lives and how they came to live in Brighton. The group was facilitated by WRVS volunteers Imogen Lycett Green and Gemma Crowther and run in connection with the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership based in Brighton. A book, Crossing Continents, has been published from these memories and can be found in the Products section of the website here.

Session 1: Hometown



"I was born in Kings Town in St. Vincent, a small island in the West Indies. The island is scarcely populated, very attractive and has lovely beaches. I grew up with five sisters. I was in third position.
My mother was at home; my father ran a dry goods and alcohol shop. I grew up in the shop helping my father, from age five plus. I used to sell behind the counter. People used to think I couldn't count the money because I was so young, but I was quite capable.
I attended local schools, schools open to the public. I was helping my father so was unable to go to the cinema like my friends. I was able to have enough time to enjoy myself as a child though, playing games etc. Then I went from primary to secondary school. At that time, education was high quality. I learnt English, Latin, French and Geography. At Sixth Form I took all the above as well as History, and left after three years. I came to the U.K. in 1960. I studied at the University of Wales in Bangor."


"I was the last of four. My mum and dad and mum's mum, my sister who was seven years older than me, my eldest brother who was five years older than me and my youngest brother who was two and a half years younger than me; we all lived together in the same house.
We lived on a lovely wide road. You could play out in the street in those days as there was no traffic. Often there were horses and carts. Trees lined the pavement and we had a small garden at the front of our house.
My mum played piano and dad used to have a sing-a-long. Under the stairs we stacked coal. In the kitchen you had a fire was lovely and warm in there, beautiful.
We had a bath on Friday nights. The tin bath used to come in from the garden. I was lucky, I was the first because I was the youngest - it was nice, hot soapy water- and everyone else went in after. Yes, I was the lucky one!
I had a lovely life as a child. We grew up all friends, not like today when they go around with knives and guns in their pockets. We used to go to St. James' Park and play in the churchyard in the breaks. I was brought up on shredded wheat. I still love it."


"I'm from Ceylon (Sri Lanka now). I was born in 1944. I have five brothers. I had to play boys' games most of the time - cowboys' games.
When I was a child I had a lovely life because of all the facilities available. We had a house by the seaside. I wasn't allowed to swim in the sea, but my brothers were in the Ceylon swimming team. I had a lot of younger brothers and sisters; a lot of babies to look after.
I went to normal school. I didn't like it. My brothers went to a top private school. At secondary school I went to a top convent school seven miles away. I had to take two buses to get there. My brothers were jealous that I could travel that way."


"I was born in the hills. Where I came from, runaway slaves would have been. My father was a farmer. We all worked in the fields (the boys). My mother was a post mistress in the post office... I lived there until I was sixteen.
When I lived in the bush, there were no nearby roads or people. There was family nearby though. Us children went around with catapults. We shot birds and cooked them. My father grew bananas. We had goats, cows and donkeys. There were lots of wild animals around, such as small rodents and bats. There were mongeese who got rid of the snakes. They fed on the chickens instead.
The girls didn't work on the farm. They didn't do anything in the fields. All the boys worked in the fields - you'd be given a calf each to take care of and to feed and when it got big, our father would sell it and give you a share of the money. My sisters would sweep up and help mum. In harvest time, boys wouldn't go to school.
The more sons a man had, the wealthier his father would become because it meant more labourers. I was fortunate to be the youngest. My brothers had a harder time with all their work, but I had to do that later on of course. The girls ended up with a better education than the boys because they went to school regularly, whereas the boys had to work a lot in the fields.
We always had stuff smoking on the fire, like meat or root vegetables. I hated breakfast: cornmeal and banana porridge. We had it every day. On Sunday we had rice and peas for lunch."


My dad was an army officer and was often in training. Mum didn't work. I was born April 1st. We lived under the Shah. Dad moved from Tehran to the North. We went to school like normal kids. I had one sister and six brothers.
I looked after my brothers. My mother had problems with her hands so I washed the dishes for her. My sister swept. My brothers helped with cleaning.
We didn't have T.V. so we went to watch T.V. in a coffee shop (when T.V. first came to Tehran). Every Friday, mum would take us to see movies. We used to watch 'Days of Our Lives' and 'Gilligan Island' on black and white T.V. In the summer we slept in the roof and we used to try to watch our neighbour's T.V.
We always had a lot of guests. Cousins would travel to see one another at New Year. We would never allow our guests to go to a hotel; that's not our culture."


My city has had lots of poets. It was the centre of Iranian culture when Mongolia attacked it. It has a long history linked to Persia.
In total, there were three girls and four boys in my family.
There were lots of parks and gardens in Neishaboor and lots of horses and carriages. But now there are many taxis and buses. Now everything's been modernised.
We lived in a big house with a fountain and gold fishes, plenty of fruit such as apples and grapes; and we had beautiful roses.
I started school at six. For six years I was at Junior school and for three years I was at Intermediate school. I went to university after passing my high school exams.
I joined the Navy and trained in Italy for three years. I qualified as an electro mechanic and back in Iran I taught all the things that I learnt in the Navy to students."




Photo from the WRVS Heritage Plus Archive


"I grew up in a family of twelve: six sisters and five brothers. I was number seven. As children, we all wanted to play. We played outside. When the whole family came, we took the opportunity to play. Neighbours kept an eye out on the neighbourhood's kids.
Guyana's a country of many rivers. We had many opportunities to play in water. I couldn't swim. I was scared of water. I still can't swim.
My father wasn't around much. He was an engineer for the Singer company. We saw him once a year. We were close to grandma. We always knew we could run to grandma and get her favour when mum was ready to give us a good thump!
We grew flowers in our front garden and kept provisions such as sweet potatoes and yams at the back. We ate lots of fish, sweet potatoes and yams. Our grandmother was the greatest person for planting - she used to plant nuts and seeds from fruits we'd eaten: star apple, sapodilla and Chap fruit."




Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive


I was born in my grandmother's house in the country. The grandparents on my mother's side were rice farmers. They sold rice, fruit and supplied milk to locals. Everyone knew everyone else. I was in a family of three - I had one sister and one brother. Mum was one of ten and so was dad.
On my father's side, the dad, my grandfather, was a tailor. I remember him teaching my dad how to measure and sew a shirt. Mother was an excellent seamstress. Every single girl in my grandparents' families learnt to sew and cook. Mum made our clothes: mainly dresses for me and trousers and shirts for my brothers. Everything was made by my mother on a Singer machine.
As children, we didn't pay much attention to war. Mother listened to the BBC World Service. Mum and dad liked listening to the news. My grandparents had no electricity so they didn't have what you call blackouts. They had oil lamps.
In my early childhood I kept moving because of my father's profession as a pharmacist. From one to five I was at my father's post in a prison. I grew up being looked after by prisoners - all my siblings too. We would be rocked to sleep on hammocks."


"My earliest memory was sitting in an air raid shelter, with all the bangs and booms. Mum and dad used to say it was uncle Sam tipping the coal! I didn't have a life of beaches in the tropics. We were certainly deprived of fruits! We lived in a Victorian railway house in the country. It was cold in winter. My father used to collect coal from the railway for the house fire. There was no electricity in those days, just gas. Mum washed clothes from the gas boiler.
In the evenings my father was an air raid warden. We really got hit hard by the war. I didn't have any toys to play with as all the metal was used for weapons. Even the metal was taken from the houses to make weapons.
Then we moved to Manchester. I went to Grammar School for five to six years. I wasn't given a job at sixteen to eighteen as I had to go into the national service. I was resilient, I got on with things; children always do.
I eventually joined the forces, getting a lieutenent position in the parachute regiment. I qualified in things such as first aid, field craft, snipers, and did one hundred and forty eight day jumps and twenty night jumps."

This page was added by Roslyn Cook on 21/09/2009.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.