Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Caribbean Takeaway Takeover: Identities and Stories
Scope and Content:
Interview with Alton Watkins about his move to England in the 1950s and his life in London and Grays.

[00:00:] His early life in Trinidad; missed out on chance to go to the Olympics as a long-distance runner; time spent in an orphanage; his mother’s struggle to provide for her family; his desire to move to England to improve his education; his work as a printer in Trinidad; ease of finding work in printing shops in England.
[05:05:] Saving up the money for his fare to England by rearing pigs; former head teacher who told him stories about England; his journey to England by ship [in 1956 on the SS Lucania]; what he wore for the journey; getting sea-sick; stop at Genoa, Italy, seeing television for the first time, seeing poor White people for the first time; poor accommodation on the ship.
[11:50:] Train from Genoa to Calais, sleeping on luggage racks; arrival in London, being greeted by a large crowd of West Indians; first impressions of London; sub-letting a room then staying with friends from Trinidad; getting work as a printer at non-union firms; taking evening classes to gain teaching qualification.
[16:00:] Social life in London; going to parties; adapting to life in England, different foods; problems caused by Teddy Boys, attacks on West Indians; further racial disharmony spread by Enoch Powell; story of racial attack on him at work from another printer; other examples of racism directed at him.
[21:15:] Gaining teaching post at Ockendon Courts; move to Grays; next teaching job at Torrells School in Grays; acting as Year Tutor; supply work after his retirement; opportunity to travel on coach tours after his retirement; examples of racism encountered at school from children and parents; supportive head teacher.
[26:55:] Reflections on his life; sense of accomplishment and contentment; his contribution to society as a teacher; satisfaction of seeing former students grown up with jobs; reflects on his original plan to return to Trinidad after five years; now settled in England as his home.
Dates of Creation:
12 February 2018
30 minutes 8 seconds
Creator Name:
Ionie Richards and Everton Wright
Admin History:
Alton Watkins was born in Trinidad in 1929. He worked as a printer, and reared pigs to earn his fare to move to England. He travelled on the SS Lucania in 1956 and worked as a printer in London while studying to gain a teaching qualification.

He then moved to Grays to work as a schoolteacher, until his retirement. He enjoyed his retirement with his wife, travelling on coach tours while also continuing with supply teaching.

(Information from depositor as well as from interview.)
Archivist Note:
SJM 12 October 2018
Custodial History:
Recorded at the interviewee's home. Recording of oral history interview was edited into approximately 30 minutes before deposit.
Copyright Evewright Arts Foundation; ask permission before allowing publication or allowing profit-making organisations to use.
Physical Characteristics:
Digital MP3 file created from original WAV recording
Not Available:
Use digital copy available on Soundcloud

Key terms

TypeKey termsDescription
Subjects Education Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018 Former teacher in Grays
Subjects Printing Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018 Former printer
Subjects Racism Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018 Incidents of racial prejudice experienced in London and Grays
Personal Names Alton
Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018
Place Names America, West Indies, Trinidad Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018 Former resident of Trinidad
Document Types Sound recording Interview with Alton Watkins, 12 February 2018