LISTEN TO CAROL SYDNEY INTERVIEW HERE:
Carol Sydney was an only child born in Westmorland Jamaica on 31 January 1943. Her mother Edna Ulett left the island in 1952 when Carol was 9 years old to go to England to train to become a nurse. Carol stayed with her grandmother until her mother, Edna sent for her daughter to join her in 1960. Carol spoke about the journey to the airport and travelling by train to Kingston from Westmorland describing what she wore. She had understood that her mother was looking for a better life for both of them. Her mother became a midwife and lived in nurse’s accommodation until she was given a 3-bedroom house in Grays then sent for Carol who arrived in Grays when she was 16 years old and lived at home with her mum and became a nursing Cadet before training to be a midwife. She described her first experience of snow & fog in the winter of 1962/1963.
The reactions of white neigbours and the local community to her being black she regarded as being positive due to her and her mother’s role as district midwives. Her mother was the first black midwife in area. Tottenham in London was where she went to get Caribbean foods. She told stories of her mother and friend Sybil inviting other Caribbean people to share meals as a way to network and meet other newcomers from the Caribbean. She talked of going to house parties in London with other nurses, the fashion, hairstyles, hot combs, & SKA music.
Unlike London during the 1960’s and 1970’s she felt there were no tensions on the streets in Grays. Although more recently there has been tensions in Tilbury with the influx of newer communities arriving in the area.
Carol married Don Sydney on 12 August 1967 He was a nurse in Okendon Essex and they bought their home in 1966 near to where her mum lived in Grays. She talked of changes in the area and the decline of Thurrock’s main shopping centre She reflects on what it means to be British and her identity as a Jamaican, her achievements and her contribution to society. She and Don have two daughters and bi-racial grandchildren who she considers would regard themselves as British.