In this interview with Gwynne Brown, Lorna remembers arriving in Gloucester from Jamaica, aged 11. She recalls her early memories of arriving in the City, including her first sight of the family home in Derby Rd, and being assessed for her knowledge of English in the language centre in Widden St. Lorna also reflects on changes in Gloucester over the last 40 years. The factory that she mentions in the final clip will have been William & James, who specialised in the manufacture of air compressors.
The transcripts below were compiled by Charles Waine.
‘Before I moved to Gloucester I lived in Jamaica & I came here at the age of 11 with my 2 siblings. My sister, who’s older then myself, and a brother who’s younger than me, and we came along, I think it was in August. Certainly it was July/August we came, because I can always remember it being very warm, but not warm enough as it was in Jamaica.’
‘Presumably you came with your parents?’
‘I didn’t no. My parents had come beforehand, and they’d been living here for some number of years. They had 7 children, my parents. When I say 7 children, they had 6 children in Jamaica before they actually came over to England to work. They had that calling from the government to say that they needed people to come over and do, you know, to help out because there was a shortage of work manpower, really. And so they took that opportunity to come over, first it was my dad, and then my dad saved up enough money then to send for my mum, and we stayed in Jamaica living with my gran, my grandmother who’s my mum’s mother. And that was 6 of us, and gradually as they saved up they sent for, you know, my eldest brother first came over and then my sister, and then the 3 of us came over altogether.’
‘So did the 3 of you travel alone?’
‘Yes, it was acceptable in those days (laughs).’
‘Because mum and dad sent us letters we knew basically what we were heading for, really. They told us we were heading for a better life and we’d be able to go to school, and so forth.’
‘And so you came straight to Gloucester?’
‘We did, mum and dad, I remember. My mum and dad came and picked us up in a van and it was a hired van. I believe it was my uncle, but my umm…I don’t think it was my uncle driving at the time. We picked up at Gatwick airport, I think it was. And yeah so it was nice to see mum and dad. We hadn’t seen them for obviously years and years, but we obviously had pictures of them. Your picture in your head of what your parents looked like wasn’t, you know, always the same when you do see them in real life.
‘What was your parents first address?’
‘Same. It was the same place where they are at the moment. Well, mum and dad still live there actually. Well, when I say mum and dad, dad died a couple of years ago and mum still lives there, but they took us to Derby Road and umm we saw ….. I don’t know if you know Derby Road, but Derby Road, it’s got houses with semi-detached houses. And my first experience of, you know, the van being opened and I saw these semi-detached, and of course it’s two houses together isn’t it? Only I didn’t realise that. I thought it was just one house. So I thought, oh it’s a bit small isn’t it? (laughs) So that was my first expression, Oh it’s a bit small. I said “We’re all going to live in this house?” and then it came to me that we went in one entrance, and I thought hmm, and I’m looking around now to see the rest of it and said “No, that’s somebody else’s house.” I was like gobsmacked, because we’d left this huge house in Jamaica and we were living in a little, you know, and there were seven of us. I’m thinking oh my goodness. So that’s when it really sort of brought home how fortunate you were when you were back home. But yeah, that was one of my first memories of, you know, having to come into the house, and then realising that both parts aren’t ours, just one bit.’
‘Can you remember your first day at school?’
‘Yeah, it was, well it wasn’t first day at school. Coming over from Jamaica, if you’d lived in Gloucester for a long time you’d know that Widden Street there used to be a language centre there. And whenever you came from Jamaica, apparently, you used to be assessed as to how well you speak. So you had to be assessed in English and whatever. So we …our first visit to a school, and of course Widden was just across from there where the … it’s not the new one now, it’s the… Do you know Gloucester at all? Can you remember where the Widden school was? It’s now… I think it’s a law centre now. And so school was just there, but we had to be assessed first in order to get into school, as to where we were going to go.
‘Yeah so we were assessed there and we were told we could go to whatever school and I went to Hatherly, Hatherly Girls, as it was then, which is on Hatherley Road.
‘Have you seen much change in Gloucester since you’ve been here, obviously almost forty years?’
Oh yeah, a great deal. It’s changing all the time, isn’t it? The roads and the houses and the space being, you know, used for housing, and things like that. I was just looking at Hatherly Road, where I used to go to school. Just across the road from there used to be a very… a factory there where all these new houses are built now on Barton Street. I can’t remember the name of it, it’s just gone out of my head, but there used to be, I mean at the end of the day, the amount of people that used to come out of the factory and then it went down from, you know, from hundreds to just, you know, to like a hundred, and now obviously they closed it down. Now you can see houses built on there, and of course Traingate. I don’t know if you remember, just by GL1 there used to be a train line, used to go right across the road from there, I remember. And also I remember when they started building the park, the park that we’ve got now. Quite a few things being built. And then they built Asda. All that sort of thing.