Rose Cam

Born: Not given

Natal, South Africa

Date of interview: 20th July 2006

Map showing where Rose Cam came from

So you said something about nursing. You came here to do nursing. So did you start your nursing in South Africa?

Yes, I did do auxiliary nursing because I really did want to do medicine. But because being orphaned in South Africa, there were no grants. You had to take a loan bursary and, if I took a loan bursary I would've had to take a big enough loan to support my brother and my sister while I was at the university and then I would've just spent the rest of my life paying the government back and it was impossible.

But, when I worked as an auxiliary nurse, I worked in a hospital which was a white hospital. I couldn't train there but I could work there as an auxiliary nurse and it also had a coloured wing. When I say coloured, it's difficult to explain to somebody. In South Africa, 'coloured', when they refer to people as 'coloured', it's people of mixed race. So there was, there was a coloured wing in the white hospital, but they couldn't mix in the same ward and so I used to work between the white wards and the coloured wards, at the same time I was studying because I did really want to do, go to the university and do medicine.

It was a very big hospital. In fact they used to say it was the biggest in the southern hemisphere - a place called Addington Hospital and there were nurses from all over the world; mainly Europe, France, Scandinavia and because they could see me studying, they used to help me.

They said to me, 'Look, the way you are studying', I was doing two subjects a year, but they said, 'By the time you've finished training to get your matriculation you'll be tired of studying and then go and do nursing. Why don't you go to England?' And they used to receive Nursing Times. Then, I think there was another magazine called Nursing Mirror and they used to receive those and so they used to pass them on to me.

And so I started applying, they encouraged me to apply. I applied at St. Thomas' and St. Bartholomew's. St. Bart's said they would love to have me from what they were hearing, well we didn't call it CV then, it was just the background of my training and they felt they would really have liked to have taken me, but I didn't have enough qualifications. So, but they forwarded my application form to Maidenhead Hospital, St. Luke's.

The next thing I heard from St. Luke's giving me directions to go to the British Consul in Durban to get a work permit because, by that time, South Africa, although we were in the Commonwealth and we were part of the British Commonwealth, we were no longer allowed to be in the Commonwealth because of Apartheid. South Africa was kicked out in 1961 so we'd become a Republic and therefore I had to have a permit to come here, whereas before we were British Protectorate and in the Commonwealth. So I went to the British Embassy to get the, well we call them British Consul and I got my permit to work, permit to come to England and eventually came to Maidenhead.

And then I was very disappointed because when I came there were so many black people in Maidenhead. I'd been told that there would be nobody and I was really pleased to see black people and a lot of Asians as well from East Africa. But nobody from South Africa. I was just the misnomer - everybody used to say 'How did you get out of South Africa?' And I don't know how I got out. I think somebody up there was with me because I had known men who had applied, black men applied for passports to go away from South Africa and they were promptly arrested, because if you indicated at that time you want to leave South Africa, you were immediately called a communist and against the Government. I think what helped me was because when I did apply for a passport I already had a work permit, I already had a job going to ...

I had to go to a place where the immigration people to give me permit to
go and they still grilled me. 'What are you going to England for?' In fact, one of the Africana women was so horrible. 'Are you going there for the process of, for the ...' what did she call it? 'with the view to be a prostitute?' which was really infuriating. I just chose not to answer that because I'm not going to go down to her level. But, and also, you had to just be grin and bear it, otherwise they wouldn't give you the permit. But I got it within six months.