LISTEN TO DON SYDNEY INTERVIEW HERE:
Don Sydney was born in Trinidad in 1940. He arrived in Plymouth England on SS Prins der Nederlanden Ship in January 1961.
He worked as a mental health nurse in Trinidad but he wanted to gain more experience in the UK. He applied for jobs from Trinidad and got a nursing post as the only black man in South Okendon Hospital in Essex where he lived in the nursing home. He had no direct experience of having to rent in the private sector. Yet he was not immune from the racism from some patients and members of the public and tells stories of incidents when this happened. He describes his attitude to not let prejudice and ignorance bother him as he focused on achieving his goals.
He met and married his wife Carol Sydney, a midwife in 1966 and bought their home in Grays in Essex where he raised his family who have all grown and moved to London.
Don was a military Cadet in Trinidad and joined the army reserve in the UK in 1962. He eventually rose to the rank of Major which he regards as a significant achievement.
He sees the changes in the area with new migrants having come to Grays and feels there is a lack of unity between African and Caribbean communities.
Since he came to England in 1961 Don has not returned to Trinidad and explains why he doesn’t plan to return. He still has his original passenger ticket issued in 1961 which is now on display in Thurrock Museum in Grays Essex.
Now retired, Don offers his services to schools as a mentor, having previously qualified as a Teacher.