Judith
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Judith dressed to go to a wedding, Morbant, Trinidad, 1957

Coming to England

"It was a warm and sunny evening in September, that I left the sunny shores of Trinidad for England. I stood on the deck of the large French liner and waved goodbye to my friends and relatives. I was about 23 years old and very inexperienced. I did have a boyfriend and I was hoping to return in three years time after I had finished my nursing training, I promised him I would. We spent twelve dreadful days on the ship being sick. I did not travel well, hating the food and wishing I was back on terra firma! We stopped off sometime in a lovely place, Tenerife I think, and that was nice.

Then came the day of our arrival in England. We said goodbye to the friends we had made on board, promising to visit, and thinking by looking at the maps, that Birmingham was close to London, and that Middlesex was just a few minutes from Essex and Wessex. We were all going to different places, lots of us were coming to England to become nurses. Girls from all the islands of the West Indies. So on that dark September morning we were about to disembark at Southampton, and we were excited to say the least. Some of us had no idea what to expect, we knew it was going to be a different world to us.

Some official looking people from the General Nursing Council came on board and took us off in different groups and put us on the train for Waterloo. What excitement to identify buildings. I thought that the great black buildings with smoke coming out of the chimneys were factories, until someone said they were houses! Arriving at Waterloo station, I had never seen so many people pouring out of the trains and everyone in such a hurry!."

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Judith in St James's Park, Westminster, 1965

Daily life

"When I arrived in England, in the winter of 1964, I had no known relatives here, only acquaintances, unlike others who had friends and relatives. The first few weeks and months after arrival were exciting and different.

I looked forward to winter in that first year. I thought it was going to snow every time it looked dark or foggy! I feared the fog, for I was told dreadful stories of the previous year's fog, of people getting lost and buses being led by someone, all sorts of stories. But the first time I saw snow, I was really enchanted. After it snowed, a few of us were like kids playing in the snow, making snowballs and snowmen. We enjoyed the snow. I also enjoyed shopping for my first winter coat and long boots.

Back then, the white people were intrigued by our brightly coloured clothes. We could not understand why they wore greys and blacks. Some stared curiously when I wore my white shoes. Luckily there were people at the hospital where I worked who were there for a while to guide you. They showed you where to shop, and took you to places where you could get a few West Indian foods. They would take you to the few West Indian hairdressers, who at the time worked from their homes, which was not at all convenient, but they managed."

Free time

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Judith on holiday at the YMCA, Bayswater, 1965

"When I had my first holiday, I just stayed in the hospital where I worked because I was not brave enough to go away alone, and I had no relatives to visit. By the time the next holidays came, I had trusted friends in the hospital and spent my holiday away by the coast. This holiday was with two other nurses in Eastbourne, in a three-birth caravan, we'd seen it advertised in a paper. We were stared at as if we were from Mars! A few managed to say a few words, but we explored places of interest and had a good time.

The owner of the caravan was blind, and it appears she was told that three black girls had rented the caravan, so from stereotype maybe she thought she would have a dirty caravan when we left. A week after we left however, there was a lovely letter from her saying how this was the first time that she'd had the caravan so neat and tidy after someone had used it for two weeks! We were happy that at least one white person's image of us was shattered."

Work

"The South Middlesex Hospital had a very large supply of nurses from the Commonwealth countries and islands of the West Indies, so it was not so scary.

I remember the day that someone took me to be measured for uniforms and aprons. It took me a long time to get the knack of doing the caps, and when I did, the aim was to get it as small as possible. One sister who I taunted with the size, said it was like a pimple on a backside! I enjoyed myself most of the time at this hospital. My first monthly salary was £11 after board and lodging was taken. I was happy and content and I had all that I wanted, and I started to save. I sent money home to my family, and I didn't go out much.

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Judith and colleagues in their first year of training at South Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex, 1964

There was one tutor there however, who I thought did not think we should be taught more than the bare basics, and instead of teaching on the days she had us, she would waste time just talking about irrelevant things. When the exams came, there were many failures and many people left to go to work on the buses and trains. When I saw what was happening I got together with some girls in my class who I really thought wanted to get on, and we discussed it. We decided to go to see the Matron and told her what was happening. The tutor was soon fired and the hospital began to have good results."

"My aim was to become a State Registered Nurse, and no one was going to stop me! After my first training, I had to complete another two and a half years to become a State Registered Nurse.
This time I choose Greenwich. Studying at Greenwich and working and enjoying historic Greenwich was good. After a while I learnt almost all the important places in the area, north and south of the river, travelling to Harlesdon, Essex, Hampton Court, London Bridge, the Tower of London and the museums. All these things were achieved whilst studying.

I qualified as a State Registered Nurse, and then a State Certified Midwife working in several hospitals in London. I loved my work, I was moving to different hospitals.

Family life

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Judith at South Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex, 1965

"In one of the hospitals where I worked, I noticed a doctor looking at me, but never took much interest. I spoke to this doctor for a few months not knowing how he felt. Then Christmas came, with mistletoe over the sluice-room door I was kissed, and I was shocked to be invited to the dance for New Year's Eve, from which developed a great friendship. I kept talking to him of my imminent return to Trinidad, but he thought I should go and see if everything was as I imagined it, before deciding. Luckily for me, I did not have to go home as my sister told me that my sweetheart was getting married the next week.

At the time this picture was taken, I had my own home and had married my doctor and we were very happy."

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