This extract is from The Birmingham Black Oral History Project (BBOHP) which was recorded in 1990s. The project was created to record the stories and lives of people from the Windrush Generation and people who came to Birmingham from South Asia.

A black man looks at the camera, he's smiling. There portrait is closely cropped
Credit: Frank Scantlebury © Kate Green, BBOHP.

Name: Frank Scantlebury

Born: Barbados, Born 30th July 1931.

Education: He completed his Primary and High school education in Barbados.

Job: Frank initially wanted to go into the priesthood as his faith was very important to him. He found it difficult to find work when he left school, prompting his decision to travel to England. He initially joined Westinghouse Brake & Signal, a railway signage company, and later worked for British Rail.

Oral History Interview: 1991 at the age of 60.

Interview Overview:

Frank was raised by his grandparents in Barbados, though his parents and siblings lived close by. His grandparents ran a smallholding and shop, attached to their house, and Frank describes them as being incredibly hard working.

He left Barbados on 16th June 1955 at just 18 years old. He recollects the moment of leaving,

“And it was very sad wishing them goodbye. And I remember when I turned away, you know, tears came to my eyes, you know, because it was the first time in my life that I realised I would have been separated from my grandparents. And it did hurt very much indeed.”

Frank had an adventurous journey, traveling first by plane, then ship and finally a train across Europe,

“It took 17 days altogether, but it was most exciting. Yes, thrilling because it was the first time that I had travelled out of the island.”

He initially lived in Bath and began working for a signage company. He enjoyed the city and his job, though did experience racism in the workplace,

“Some never gave us a chance to settle down. You know, they had these preconceived ideas that we were a lost cause from the beginning. But thankfully, there were those who were just the opposite who did their best to make us feel at home and tried to help us, you know, which was very much appreciated.”

Frank moved to Saltley, Birmingham, in the 1960s and began work for British Rail, first as a signalman and later as a guard. He also spent time working at the BSA factory making motorbikes, a job he really enjoyed. He was married, later divorced, and had a son and a daughter.

Due to ill health Frank found it difficult to return to Barbados and visit family, after leaving he never saw his grandparents again. Despite this he describes his emigration as a positive move,

“I would do the same thing again. Yes, I would! Well, as I said previously, I have never regretted coming to the United Kingdom. It's been a wonderful experience and I've enjoyed living here ever since, so much so that I do feel quite settled here now.”

Frank's Full Interview:

You can listen and download Frank's full oral history on our City Sound Archive website: Listen to Frank's Story.

Warning: These recordings include racially explicit content, including discussions of racism, prejudice and violence; racially explicit language; and language and phrasing that we would not use today. Some of this content might be unsuitable for younger listeners or triggering for People of Colour.

Windrush and The Birmingham Black Oral History Project

Find out more about this project on our Birmingham's Windrush Generation schools resource page.