To this day, I’ll never understand why Tom sent for me. The wedding was planned to the tiniest detail long before I ever arrived in England. The fares had already been paid months in advance for me to travel by Royal Mail Lines, but since I had no wish to leave from Jamaica to England by sea, I paid the difference myself and flew with British West Indian Airways (BWIA). If I had boarded that ship, I might have had more time to reconsider my choices in life.
On first December 1934, Keliah Hall-Williamson had her last child. The day was a Saturday and “Kizzie” was a widow. Her husband having died three years before, Kizzie was then a single mother with five hungry mouths to feed. Life had suddenly become dramatically more difficult for Mrs Williamson. She was only thirty-six and had been thirty-two when her young husband died, leaving her with a large house in the parish of Saint Mary and East Indian servants she could no longer afford.
I am stuck in one room of somebody’s house in Catford. The funny thing is that my husband and I used to offer lodgings to the parents of this woman in whose house I’m living. There was a time, not too long ago, when nobody wanted to live in Catford. Catford was a place you passed through on your way to somewhere better. Dulwich, Thornton Heath or Forest Hill were the places of choice, then. Now you can barely walk through Catford without bumping into a new estate agency set in between the £1 stores.
I had been out all day. My feet were swollen. My briefcase and handbag had suddenly become like lead bricks in my hands. I was glad to spot a number 199 bus at a stop up ahead, going from Lewisham to Rushey Green. I ran towards the bus stop as fast as my tired legs would carry me, but with little hope of catching the bus, it seemed as if the driver was holding on for me.
He never said it was love. It may have been the name Veronica Pettigrew—a Catholic—that clinched it. Most Jamaican Pettigrews are Roman Catholics, and my husband’s sister Veronica Pettigrew-East (mother of Ermin Goode, Teresa East-Headley and Howard East) died in the Kendal Train Crash on September 1st, 1957, together with her husband, two brothers-in-law, and the beautiful daughter of Mrs Clark. Only the presence of the good Lord saved Mrs Clark’s only son, Earl, who had bawled so hard and refused to board the train that they eventually left him indoors.