Joe Bloggs: An Unlikely Hussar Part 2 Why I Came to England

Joe Bloggs: An Unlikely Hussar Part 2. Why I came to England

Edwin's Passport Photo

The papers took a photo of me to put in the newspaper with the story….. It all came about as a bit of a shock. Parson Munroe, an Afro-Guyanese Congregational Church Minister, had died of a stroke, so his wife Amy had to move out of the manse at Rodboro and go to live in rented accommodation in Durban Street, Georgetown. She took me with her because she needed me to look after her. As I was settling into my new school, Smith’s Church, preparing for the matriculation exam to go to one of the better secondary schools in Georgetown, the news came that the Munroe family would be going to England in a few months’ time. My world suddenly went into a state of flux again. Was it true? I asked Mum Munroe. She said that I must wait and see what would happen.

Some time went by and then it was announced that two of the Munroe children who were living in England at the time, Duke and Jimmy, (one in the R.A.F. and the other studying at one of the colleges), had won the football pools and had made provision for mum, Brother Pat, Sister Daphne and Brother Leslie to join them in London.  The elder brothers were thus able to pay for all travelling costs and housing for the rest of the family and me, the son of a former servant, once there. “Do you want to go there with us?” she asked me. “Yes,” I replied, never once believing for a moment that it would really happen. It was all like a foreign language to me. No one explained what the pools were, so I took it to be much like winning a bet on horses. I had no idea of the scale of the sums of money involved, or exactly what they were until years later in England.

When time came for me to be given permission to go to England with the Munroes, it hit home to me that I would not see my family again for good. My school friends in Georgetown were more excited for me than I was. My concern was more with leaving behind the friends I had just got to know, my extended family and friends in my native village community. I was still feeling upset that Parson, the source of my former sense of security, had been suddenly plucked from the earth.

 Marma, Mr Wharton, the minister at Smith’s Church School and others all convinced me that it was a great opportunity to become “somebody”. I could always return when I got bigger, to help my family and play my part to improve the country. This gave me the courage to leave, and motivated me to be the best I could when I got to England. I have my mother and father to thank for agreeing to let me go.

It was a daunting prospect to be leaving behind all that was familiar to me and taking off into another world with the Munroe family, of which the closest to me was “mum” (Amy). I was very confused, scared of the unknown and sceptical of the event ever happening. England was so far away, and it was hard for a ten year old to cope with so many changes so quickly. I never cried, but I internalised the fear and anticipation. The reality became startlingly apparent when the entire Munroe family in Guyana (mum, Daphne, Leslie, Pat) and me, Edwin Joseph, had to go into the studio to have a family photo taken for the front page of the National Newspaper. When this was published, and I saw it in print, then I knew it was no dream. My emotions were a mixture of pride, gratitude and sorrow.

This time there were tears when I went back to Hopetown to say goodbye. My friends and family gave me small presents. My favourite cousin, Alice gave me a comb which I kept for years. My teacher in Georgetown gave me a small address book. I got a fountain pen from the school and the Munroes had a blazer, cap, trousers and other clothing made for me. Passport photos had to be taken, and since as yet I had no birth certificate, this and other documents had to be obtained on my behalf by the Munroe family in order that I could have a passport. While all this was going on, I was still attending school every day so I would miss nothing right up to our day of departure. This was the photo they took of me for the passport.

… To find out what it felt like for me to live in Tooting, London in 1950 and how I integrated into the local community, click on the “Follow” pop-up message at the bottom right hand corner of this screen and sign up to follow this blog over the coming weeks.If you do, you will automatically be sent an email with a direct link each time I add to the blog.

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