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Photograph of Rosalind Edwards, LSAH customer

Rosalind Edwards

I was born in 1945, in Clarendon, which is between Frankfield and Chapeltown. I was the sixth child in a family of twelve children altogether, eight girls and four boys. My father was a butcher, the district policeman, and he was on the committee of the bank. We lived in a village with about one hundred and fifty residents. The houses were all spaced out, being about a five minute walk between each. My mother was a housewife and also ran a grocery store and a bakery. She was a school /parent teacher and she taught the organ. She was a very busy lady! Mother's pots were never off the fire, when making tea she would always put in extra water in case someone turned up. We also kept domestic animals and grew fruit and vegetables.

The house we lived in was a big wooden farmhouse. It was like a community centre, as my father would send people around to the house if they were homeless, hungry or in need. Some would stay on for a few weeks or months before moving on. My mother was the only person in the area to have a proper bakery. In the morning before going to school we would have to grease cake tins and fetch firewood to heat the oven for baking. At the end of the day when the cakes were cut, we left the ends for the children to eat. We loved it, never a dull moment. Some of the other chores we did included sweeping the kitchen, fetching firewood, polishing the floor and changing the beds.

I started school aged seven. The school was quite big as a lot of children from outside the village attended it as well. School dinners were available for some of the pupils, but I used to go to my grandparents for lunch. Sometimes I would take a few friends, as my franddad had a lot of fruit trees and they could pick the fruit. At school I played 'Jacks,’ where the marbles are on the floor and you throw one up in the air and grab as many as possible off the floor before you catch the one in the air. There was also skipping, cricket, baseball, and swimming when my brothers went fishing at the river.

Travelling home from school in the evening, I could see if dinner was nearly ready by the smoke coming from chimney at home. If it was not ready I would hang-back and pick mangoes in the road and linger until dinner was ready. After dinner we would have to sweep the kitchen, wash-up and generally get it ready for the next day. It wasn't too hard as there were plenty of children to share duties. Also the people who stayed with the family (lodgers and children they helped raise) all shared in the chores.

The river was just below our house and on Sundays the church used to have Baptisms in it. So on Sundays the house was quite busy, filled with all the ladies changing into their white gowns.

The family had all sorts of domestic animals, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, horses, pigs and goats. My sister had a pet dog and my brothers had rabbits. My little pet pig was called 'Effy.' It used to follow me to school and I had to chase it back. In the evening it used to come and meet me. One Christmas my dad wanted to kill Effy for dinner. So I took Effy out the back and hid him in the bushes. In the end I had to fetch the pig out and my dad killed and cooked him, but the children never ate any. I sobbed for days afterwards. They also had a big turkey called 'Gobbler,' which was very aggressive and the children would provoke him. He would drop his wings and chase us, just like a guard dog. We would have to run for our lives, and indeed we thought it good fun.

The boys got pocket money to go into the town; the girls had treats but couldn't go out. Saturday was a favourite for all the family. My mother would cook all sorts of puddings and treats and we would feast ourselves and sit on the veranda in the moonlight. Occasionally I sneaked off with my cousin and got dressed up in the bushes. We went to meet our brothers and friends and would go to a party. One time we got caught, a man saw us and told my dad. He gave us a whipping that Sunday morning.

Girls went to college. One of my sisters trained as a midwife. Others were prepared for motherhood, learning sewing, washing etc. until the age of twenty one. They would have to stay at home until married. Girls were expected to behave like ladies when adults were about. Furthermore, everyone, boy or girl, woman or man, had to respect their elders.

In the summer holidays, mother would take us to the beach and to 'Milk River Baths'. It is similar to Lourdes in France; people would go for healing. We also visited Kingston to see our Uncle, but we didn't really like the city life. We also visited our grandmother. She would spoil us as our dad was her first child and she had a soft spot for him. She had eighteen children, some of which were twins. If we got in trouble at her home we would run to her. If our dad came to fetch us, she would chase him off and we would hide under her big Victorian skirts. She would cook for us and had lots of fruit trees.

I went to the Baptist church and Sunday school. We would wear our best clothes, which were kept especially for church and special occasions. My grandfather was a very devout religious man along with my great uncle, who had a massive house with a big veranda. On Sunday evenings he would sit in a rocking chair and all the local kids would circle around him. He would tell bible stories and give us oranges and little picture books if we could recite them. I still go to church regularly.

The local market was May Pen, which is a big market. My mother would go on the bus and sell cakes and groceries. She would bring back warm patties and bread from 'Four Parks' bakery, all the buses stopped there and it was somewhat famous. My mother supplied fruit and vegetables to a restaurant in May Pen. We grew a lot of produce on the farm and my father had men working in the fields for him. Both my parents were very busy but seemed happy, and the children had a happy carefree life.

There was no electricity back then, so no TV. Mother had a windup gramophone and radio. We made up our own games for fun. Dad would tell ghost stories, put a sheet over his head and chase us. Although we knew it was him we were still scared. Mother would shout "leave the kids alone."

I was seventeen when I came to England. I’ve been back to Jamaica to visit, and the family house is now lived in by my brother and it is still a working farm. I have three children and two grandchildren, all in England.

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