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Photograph of Rev Roy Clarke, LSAH customer

Rev Roy Clarke

I was born in 1930, in Spanish Town (the former capital city), in the parish of St. Catherine, Jamaica. I was one of four children, two boys and two girls and I was the third child. My father was a plumber, working for the local water board doing plumbing for homes and the street mains. They were known as the 'town cocks.’ My mother worked as a daily help in the Jamaica archives, it was part of the island record office.

The house we lived in was a cottage style town house, there were no stairs and it was built of brick. On the acre of land that came with the house, there was a kitchen garden and some animals, including chickens, goats and pigs.

Everyone had to help with chores and looking after the animals. At aged five I started school, where my godmother was the Head Teacher, Emma Pratt. The children used to joke about Miss Pratt, who was a well-built lady. They used to sing the rhyme ‘Miss Pratt could eat no fat.’ She was however, a very good teacher. The classroom was not in a building but in a yard. It was called an 'Open Year School'. All the children would sit on the trunk of an old Tamarind tree, which had been worn smooth over the years by the children sitting on it. When 'Mother' Pratt was going to scald the children, she had a leather strap, but it was made out of an old rubber tyre, and you would have to bend over the trunk to receive your lashes.

There was an Almshouse nearby and every year 'Mother' Pratt would make refreshments and the children would go and give them to the residents. It was this that gave me my first taste of social welfare work. I left infant school aged seven and went to a Roman Catholic school, but only for half a day as the children there did not take to me. Instead I went to the Spanish Town Government School until sixth standard.

I walked to school. If it rained we went home and I would also go home for dinner. I played football, cricket, and I was a Cub Scout patrol leader. I went on route marches and camping trips with the scouts. The sea was six miles away, and we would march and camp at Rock Fort Gardens. It is now an upmarket tourist resort, but it used to be barracks for the soldiers. I would also walk to Linstead in the country, where the folk song, "carry me ackee go a Linstead market, not a quote would sell" came from. At Linstead market they had a gala dance and senior scouts would act as bouncers to keep everyone in order and act as chaperones.

I received no pocket money but my mother was liberal. On Friday nights she would go to the market and arrange for me to go to cinema because my father did not like me going to the cinema. But I could not stay until the end of the film, as I had to meet my mother in the market. It was my first bit of fun and I even got a little money for sweets and pop.

In the summer holidays I would go camping with the scouts and also visit relatives. My father was born in St James by Montego Bay, so we would stay with family and be well treated. They would say, "This man is from the asphalt," meaning the city with its proper roads. They would arrange big get-together's and when returning we would be loaded up with goods to take home, yams, bread, fruit, sugar cane etc.

The main shopping day was on a Friday evening. The local market sold garments and produce. People from the country would come on a Friday night to unload for Saturday market, which was very busy.

Every Sunday I would go to church and enjoyed the music, hymns, Baptist and Methodist etc. Gospel music is more modern and from the Pentecostal church in the USA.

My parents wanted me to have an extended education, so at sixteen I went to a private school, Spanish Town Progressive School. The school was based in a residential hall hired by the Headmaster. Here I learnt Latin and Spanish and widened my horizons. I left and got my first job as a solicitor’s clerk at Days, Days and Whitehall, collecting statements and that sort of thing.

I soon became disillusioned with work, as I was already going to church then and I didn't like the language of the clients, as it was not Christian like. I decided to tell my mother, as I was still under her control. Then I got a job as a laboratory technician in a sugar refinery. I had not studied chemistry but this did not hold me back. I had to collect different samples from the refining process and get them analysed. I found this a very interesting job and stayed there about twelve years. Then I went to the USA as a farm labourer for two years. Then when I came home I had a calling to become a Baptist Minister. However, my family couldn't afford to send me to bible school.

I came to this country in the early 1950s and continued as a Baptist. I’ve gone back twice to Jamaica, but it has changed a lot from my childhood days.

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