Shirley Graham-Paul

Born: Not given

Kingston, Jamaica

Date of interview: 6th June 2006

Map showing where Shirley Graham-Paul came from

Tell us about that.

Mary Seacole is [pause] she's a lady of colour. She was mixed race. Her father was Scottish, her mother was Jamaican and ... her mother was also a ... nurse looking after the soldiers. And she ... wanted ... she helped her mother so she wanted to do this in the Crimean War. And I've got the book actually and I'll give you the book so you could well, let you have a read so you see the history of it. Yes, she ... funded herself and went off to the Crimean War. She was in the front line nursing all these soldiers and ... mixing up her potions from what her mother taught her and helping the soldiers. And then being ... the person, the business person her mother was, she set up her own little things of buying things and selling the soldiers to make them comfortable and what have you. And ... in that time ... she ... doing everything she got broke. No money. So she came back to England and tried to get some more money and when she went back ... by then Florence Nightingale was the known the person, but she was in the ... background you see. Mary Seacole was in the front line. And she applied to ... be trained with Florence Nightingale which wouldn't even give her an audience. And ... they refused because she was of colour, but that didn't stop her.

Can you imagine in those days somebody being so strong? So ... she came back again and it's a very long story. But ... she died here ... and actually they did a bust commissioned by one of the royal family's cousin. And that's in the book as well. She ... Well two ladies were doing their PhD in black history and they started researching Mary Seacole and they found her grave in Kensal Rise Cemetery. So ... they did a book similar to her own book Many Lands of Mary Seacole. We used go every year to the service and once we've found the grave. Now this grave was really ... was ... not cared for. And ... Connie Mark, myself and Val Laurence and we looked at each other and we said 'You know something? Something's got to be done here. Now that we know we've got to do. Bring her name forward'. So that's how we started. We started off as the Friends of Mary Seacole. Then this year, at the service it was our twenty fifth anniversary of forming, we've changed the name now to Mary Seacole Memorial Association.

Well, that's going on still. Having done all that ... Shirley couldn't stop. So Shirley ... decided [pause] she's going to [pause] she's going to do ... some other type of counselling. Cause I feel that's one of my gifts. So I was the first black counsellor in Reading again for doing ... Relate training. Marital counselling and couple counselling and so on.