Photograph of Joycelyn Melton-Grey

Joycelyn Melton-Grey

Born: not given


Date of interview: 1st June 2006

Map showing where Joycelyn Melton-Grey came from

My name is Joycelyn Melton-Grey

And your date of birth?

Fifteen of December

You have a hyphened name.

Yes I have.

Why is that?

Because I have been married twice.

So, is that your maiden name and your

No, that was my married name


My maiden name is Buchanon, BUCHANAN

Ok, can I ask you firstly, could you tell me something about your parents? (phone rings) And your early life

My parents are both dead now. My mother died at the age of fifty, and that was in the third year of nursing in England. She died of diabetic coma, six years after that my father died.

What did your father do for living?

My father was a saddle-maker. He supplied the plantations.

Where was this?

That was in Jamaica

Where about?

This was in the parish of Saint Mary. They had three children, and I was the eldest girl. My other two sisters had died, so I am the last of that line.

Your father was a saddle-maker

Yes and my mom was a housekeeper part-time and shopkeeper.

She was housekeeper where?

She used to housekeep for the expatriates and professional people when they went away.



Were they diplomats?

No they weren't diplomats.

Were you brought up in the country-side in Jamaica?

Yes, I was brought up in the country-side.

Tell me something about the life in the country there, what was it like?

Country, we grew up in an extended family life and it was ... I remember it was quite good fun, Everyone in the extended family was there, aunties, cousins and grandma. But most of the time I was very close to my grandma, my mother's mother. We lived in a seaport town, Port Maria, the capital of St Mary. So we spent a lot of time sea-bathing because it was thought to be good for your health, and we would buy fresh fish from the fishermen as the boats came in.


The primary school was not far from there by the sea.

What types of boats were these?

They were wooden rowing boats. In those days you didn't have motorboats, and they would cast their nets and drop their fish pots. There was a big variety of fish.

So, life was good, you enjoyed it there?

Life was good as I can remember it. Port Maria was a well known port because ships would come to take bananas and coconuts which were shelled first, then roasted, called coppra. This was shipped abroad to make oil. It was a popular place for children to visit on their way home to get coppra to eat. We used to have regattas there and all the schools competed against each other, and it was a fun day for all the family, but invariably every year of that particular day it would rain. Everywhere was made pretty with buntings around the wharf.Many people from round about came to the regatta - it was a occasion for the whole community including the European community. Everyone attended the same schools, where some of the teachers were also European. Noel Coward and Ian Flemming lived further along the coast road at Galina.

He farmed?

Yes, he farmed, everything really farmer as in ... what would you called it ..

Was there anybody in your extended family that went off to war

My uncle, he went but he did not come back. He married a European in the USA.

Do you know where exactly?

No. He and his wife used to sent lovely packages and lovely clothes for my mum, very fashionable, like we used to see in the films.

You said that you went to Kingston to start your grammar school education

Yes. I went to Kingston to take my entrance exam for a famous girl's school where the selection was very hard with not many places available. I didn't get a place. My mum sent me to be an apprentice with a seamstress who was a dress designer with well-to-do clientele.

So, you left school when you become apprentice, to what company was that?


This was in Kingston?

This was in Kingston

Did you make friends with other people? did you go out much? or did you enjoy the night life or the day life of Kingston?

I didn't make a lot of peer-group friends, because my mother kept a close eye on me. We went out as a family to church and parties. I did not have the chance to network with peers as I had left them behind in the country.

Did you come from a religious background at all?

Religious, yes. We went often to church, it was our life and the centre of our social gathering and worship. Yes, when I was little we would fall asleep at the night service and were put to sleep on the bench.

What denomination was that? was it Baptists?

Yes, Baptists, and there were outings and lots of fun. Being at church, that was your recreation; you looked forward to going.

You enjoy that

Oh yes, yes

That is great

It is amazing, but now I hardly go as often. I am a Christian still, but I now go when I want to. When we were small we had no choice. Now when I go home to Jamaica I fall back into the routine of going to church as if I'd never left.

Going back to the time after you become an apprentice seamstress. How long was it before you decided to come to England? And why?

I started practical nurse training, I always wanted to be a nurse because my grandmother had a great big nursing book at home. And this was a book I used to leaf through. It was kept in the sitting room, where you weren't allowed to play. I remember it very clearly because of the old fashioned uniforms that they wore in the Victorian times. All the pictures that were in the book were of white people and children but I always said when I grow up I'm going to be a nurse. I started my basic nurse training when I came of age that was about eighteen.

Which hospital was that?

This was at nursing school in Kingston. Then as students we were sent to help at Kingston Public Hospital when there was a big railway crash in Kendal. It was a major disaster and many people died. After that, I decided I would like to go to England, to further my studies, to include gynaecology and obstetrics. In those days that would put you up the ladder and you could be made a ward manager ... we used to call them "ward-sister" ... If you didn't have midwifery then the promotion wouldn't be very promising. So, the plan was that I would go to England for five years.

So you were about eighteen at this point.

No I was a bit older.

How did you find-out about England? Was it through friends or through your nursing course?

I think one of the girls on my course, Joyce, she suggested that I complete my application which I'd already started. I can't remember responding to any form of advertisement. She came up in the August, and she said: why don't you just come on up, and finish your application up there? My mum agreed, so she sold the house in the country, which was rented out.

Oh right

So that was sold.

So your mother came to England with you.

No, my mother stayed behind. But she sold the country house to pay my fare.

What date was that?

That was 1960, I think it was the first week of September.

Can you tell me about your journey over there?

Well I flew, BOAC, which is British Overseas Airways. And in those days you were all dressed with glamorous little pill box hats, and your linen dress, and gloves. We heard that it was very cold over here and we shouldn't wear white because the snow would stick to us. There were lots of things like flannelette nighties and panties, warm socks etc brought with us.
The good thing was that I came to stay with my school mate's family from the same district in the country where I came from. It was good to see them in England and be welcomed by them.

At the airport

At the airport, the coach collected us from Heathrow, and brought us to Victoria and then I was met there by friends from my home so I didn't come to an strange place.

And where did they take you?

They took me home, this was in Stoke Newington, Osbaldeston Road. But one of the things was that the hospital that I was going to was in Reading, in Wallingford which is in Berkshire, and they said: oh no you don't want to go to the country, stay in London. So, I started to try to change hospitals in London, and it wasn't possible. While I was there, my friend said I had to be independent here. So they took me to a London transport recruiting office, and I did a test, and there and then they said I could be a catering officer. So I did the training for about a week. And then I was sent to Fify-five Broadway where the main head-office was, and I became the tea-girl.

Did you enjoy that?

Yes, I enjoyed doing that, I was very chatty and friendly. I was very cheerful, and would talk to people. I stayed in London for six months, and the I left and came to Walligford. I travelled on the Oxford coach and I got off at Benson the airbase and then a taxi took me to the hospital, Fairmile Hospital. I remember quite clearly I was met by the assistant matron who was young and thin. I had this great big suitcase, with so many things in it and she helped me to carry the case to the new student quarters.
The principal of the training school was a Scottish gentleman and he came up and he gave me the General Nursing Council Test. It was a written test, which I passed to become a student nurse.
Later on in my career when I became a ward manager they were short of a tutor in the training school and I was asked if I would do a stint down there. So I looked through my records and I saw that I scored quite highly in the intelligence test.

How did you find London when you arrived?

I was disappointed because I was expecting to see bright colours like in the Caribbean where the houses were attractive and when I came there was just grey buildings, it was brick, and it was foggy and it was cold. On the way home they said to me would you like to try the English national dish? So we bought fish and chips and it was served up in newspaper and I was horrified because newspaper is regarded as being dirty. I thought so this is the national dish, it had no flavour and it had no taste and was greasy.
On my first Christmas it snowed. I found it so difficult to walk in the snow that night, my legs hurt. I can remember that very clearly and my fingers got very cold and then they became very hot as if they were going to burst.
That was my first impression.
I found the food very bland when I went to the nursing home in comparison to our spicy cooking. Strangely we only had about five black girls in training there, one was from Africa, one Trinidadian, two from Barbados, another Jamaican and myself. We looked out for each other. The hospital had loads of Spanish and Irish nurses. The matron was Irish and there were a few French and few Italians.

Were you treated with respect by everybody?

I was treated with respect, yes. It was a psychiatric hospital so the older nurses would call you blackly but not in a malicious way it was almost like a curiosity, that is what I experienced. I was very bright and I got through each year's exams. After your first year exam which you had to pass it in a practical and a written way, you got some money from the GNC. And the second year it was the same thing as well, and in the third year that is when you're qualified as a State Registered Nurse. I was the third year nurse with the highest mark, so I got an award on prize giving day that it was presented by some lady, I have forgotten her name. I remember that you would have to wear gloves and there was afternoon tea.hat. It was very exiting and very pleasant to receive this award which you kept for a year, and you had to hand it back to the school.

A wonderful achievement as well, So far from home

Yes, I was very proud

So, you were in Wallingford, you presumably you stayed there and went home on weekend as well?

Oh no, I was full resident

You stayed in a residence

I spent weekends with my friends when we'd go to house parties and in the holidays I went to visit them. So, I wasn't isolated at all. One of the things we used to do, we used to take buses and go into Oxford, and see the Oxford University and spent the day there. It was quite fun doing that, or we would come in to Reading on the bus or we used to thumb lifts on the road, but now you wouldn't do that. We always went in twos, we never thumbed lifts alone. In those days, you know you were almost a novelty,so you would find people pick you up and ask you where you have been, and then you'd get invited in to tea. We used to get invited by the Bensen Royal Air Force when they were having functions. They would send a letter to matron and a bus would come and pick us up, and then we would be escorted, and then brought back to the nursing home and we would be treated quite well.

What sort of functions were there?

There were dinner dances. And obviously they were all men and we're all girls, so there were quite a few girls that went out with some of the airmen, and ended up marrying them. Yes, that was great fun too.

What was your first impression of Reading?

I moved into Reading in 1965. I came to the Royal Berkshire hospital seconded from Fairmile to do my general nursing. I did that for two years. Then I passed that first time as well. And the there was another prize giving. I was living in the nursing home on Craven Road. This is where they have now got the car park. It used to be called the "Virgin's Retreat", because when we went out at night we had to be in by before twelve midnight. And if you weren't, then you would be locked out the main door, and the night-sister on duty would take your name, and in the following morning you were lined up outside Matron's door. The Matron then was called, Miss Aldwinkle. While we were training at Reading Royal Berkshire you would also used to get invited out to does at Ald...


No, not Aldermaston, Arbourfield where the soldiers were as well and we used to laugh because sometimes the letters came it would be addressed to Dear Miss Old Winkle, and I don't know if that was meant to be funny or they just got it wrong.

So this was in 1965

Yes, I think yes.

Ok, so you have got your career in nursing, and you have achieved all that. When did you meet your husband?

Well, I was staying at Fairmile hospital. I met him at the Majestic ballroom. We used to come down in a friend's Mini, and we used, the six of us, to pile in that Mini. We used to pay four shillings each for the petrol, because she was a district mid-wife, and she could use the car outside hours. The men would came to ask for the dance and then my husband was a soldier serving in the army, and he lived at Brock Barracks when we started to court.

Was he English?

Yes he was English he come from Felixstowe where he was recruiting officer at The Butts at the time, so we started see each other so he use to came and visit and I think we got, oh yes we got engaged! No, no, no, I thing we got engaged when I was at the Royal Berks hospital doing my two year training there, and we got married a year after in Wallingford Baptist church.

Did you have children?

No we didn't have any children together because he was a divorcee. We both had children in other relationships. I have a daughter Stephanie and he had a son.

Ok, so how would you sum up your experiences from being younger in Jamaica, come to England, achieved what you've achieve, yes? How would you to sum it up?

I was very ambitious girl and I had a focus when I was younger because of wanting to develop my career. My aim at the time was I wanted to travel, and then I had the idea of training and joining the WRAC the women nursing corps. I had no idea that I would get married. In my third year while I was here sI received a telegram saying that my mum was in a coma. By the time I got the flight which was about three days or so they said she had died. She died from undiagnosed diabetes, and went into a coma, went to the hospital and they couldn't bring her around. It was quite a blow to meat the time.

You been back to see her in the training didn't you?

No I hadn't been back because then you didn't get much money. You are full time and you're living in a nursing home and I think at the end of the month you may get about four pounds, after deductions. I got married in 1967 and my father, I think he died in 68.

Do you travel back and forwards to Jamaica now presumably

Oh yes I do, my family always still there

Are you a British citizen or...

Well I got dual Nationality, I am British citizen because when I came here I had a British passport, Jamaica had not yet got its independence we didn't get our independence until 1961 so we were still under colonial rule.

Can you remember that at all?

Oh yes!

Were there huge celebrations?

There were celebrations more there than here, and we celebrated amongst ourselves.



Just one last question, where was the first house that you bought in Reading and stayed in Reading?

That was in Tilehurst, City Road, that was our first house. We tried to rent an apartment but we didn't like what we saw you know, cause they were like attics room and rooms with not much space so we had enough money saved, well I had more money save than he did, because they tend to spend their money. English men you know they just spend their money at the weekend when they when we get paid. So I put on a deposit on our first house, and then for about four years when he came out of the army he was made redundant. He had a choice of being made redundant in terms of his promotion cause he had a road traffic accident while in the army so he took it. I was then a ward sister, a ward manager at Battle hospital because I went back from Royal Berks to Fairmile then I was made a ward-sister. I still had to get up and catch the six o clock bus to go in to Wallingford to start the seven o clock shift and after a while I applied and got the position as rheumotologist sister at the Prospect Park Hospital, where there used to be the medical ward then that was transferred to the Battle when the maternity unit moved to the Royal Berks

Did you have much to do with the West Indian community in Reading as such?

Interestingly enough not a lot, only the ones that I met in my hospital training. We became friends, and I used to go to their house for weekends or when they had parties they'd invited me, but it was just the people who worked in the hospital environment.

You mean your friends basically

I had a lot of friends from Barbados or from Trinidad it didn't matter what part of the Caribbean you just had something in common. I worked in nursing since 1961. I have just retired, I have achieved quite a lot in my career, after I got my general nursing I did obstetric nursing and I liked that. I left as a ward sister and opened the nursing home at Western Elms Avenue called Courtney House and this was a rest home for the elderly because we thought this was something we can do together with my husband when he left the army. We kept it for about five years and we thought we would look at it again in another five years and we sold it, While we were there we bought this house. I was then only about thirty so they said what this is not normally taken on by a much older person but I saw it as funny because before long we got really established. While I was there I missed the institution and all the people because you got to be isolated and I went and did my midwifery training so I was the oldest one in the midwifery class at the Royal Berks.

How old were you then?

Thirty something, I went to Jamaica for another five years and then I was doing midwifery training out there, then I came back here and then by this time my marriage had broken down. We separated and were getting divorced and I thought what can I do? as you get older you don't know how long you going to be on your own and I started to look at counselling cause it is related to psychiatry in terms of mental health. I got a place at Reading University. I didn't have any A and O levels, in those days my professional training was considered sufficient. I took up counselling and I did a placement and this is how I became introduced to the drug scene. By then I was divorced, so I stayed there after I qualified and I got a job and I stayed in that job until 2003

This was a drug rehabilitation centre?

No it was a drug service where we did treatment

Class A users?

For any type of drug abuse whether they were smoking cannabis or, mostly in those days they were taking heroin and amphetamines.

Where was this?

This was on the Oxford Road, 156 Oxford Road and then we moved to 159 Oxford Road. I was the senior person there and I was the drug specialist nurse practitioner so I had a very wide role because of my nursing background. Then I started to experience racism issues as the staff got bigger then what happened was all the roesponsibilities in my job description, were given by the person in charge to other people so my role was lessened.

This was down to racism you say?

This was down to discriminatory unequal opportunities

Did you deal with it?

Oh yes I delt with it, that was the first time in all the years I've lived in England I've ever...

Is this recent?

It is quite recent and quite raw because as a result of that I took out grievance issue against the Trust and I asked to be moved from there. I was well known because I'd been in the service there since 92. I had developed the service and with my nursing background with my multi skills, my midwifery, general nursing and counselling and psychiatry that made me a rounded person. The new staff came in they did not like.

But this was dealt with and it was resolved amicably?

Well it was resolved yes, I took action about it. It made me ill, I was seeing a psychologist for a year, then I asked to be transferred. For eighteen months I went to Prospect Park as coordinator for the care programme. I was also was a member for the diversity group and launched the Diversity for the Berkshire Health Care Trust. I was lecturing in orientation classes for new staff and doing clinical updating. I acted as operational manager there and I had a very good manager who supervised and worked with me ... good result

A very good your career


Ok, we have 44 min we are nearly out of tape, we will stop the interview, I just want to thank you...

Before I stop I must tell you that when I went I was having psychological support I was doing my MA Masters of Art Research at Reading University and I had to take a year out because I just couldn't cope. The year that I asked to leave I got my Master of Arts degree and I retired the same year, I also went to Saint Georges Medical School to do a Diploma in Addictive Behaviour, psychological medicine and addicted behaviour and I was nominated Woman of the Millenium Year and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts..

So you did your Masters at Reading University?

Yes I have

Did you enjoy that?

I enjoyed it was fun and I enjoyed my graduation and had a ball and I was surrounded by my friends and then I came out and retired from the NHS feeling good about myself and my contribution.

And the fact that you still achieving as you are retired is absolutely wonderful

Yes, and you know although I am retired I am still giving back something to the community in that I am on the panel of the YOT the Youth Offending Team. I am also Director and Trustee for the Princess Royal Trust and a mental health manager at Broadmoor.

So and I glad that you added that I was just about to say that is the end of the interview and you've just added out all this wonderful information.

And of course I remarried again in 1995 to Lloyd and we used to know each other in Jamaica when we were kids, when we were teenagers, and then we met up. We were both here for thirty years, and while we were married to our partners we never met until when I was divorced, and his wife died. And then we get together, and within three months he asked me to marry him, and I then we are married within a year. Since that it is now eleven years plus since we are married, and we share the same friends because we used to move in the same circle.


[Laugh], So you know, there is a lot of history there. I had a lot of positive things, but it was a steep-learning curve, you had your peer groups coming from the same situation to give you support, and then I used to be very outspoken and I used to go to Matron and complain if things weren't going right, you know in those days. I didn't see black and white, because I was that outgoing type of person that when you start to look at things when you think: oh why is that happening to me? Oh because I am different, but I didn't think I was different or that is why it was happening in the first place. I don't know if that... makes sense, If something wasn't going right, I didn't think of going there and picking it because I am black.

No you think that it kept happening because...

I thought, oh I have been treated differently because you started to observe and note just how other people are treated.

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