Story: Jenson Grant
Collis Icylyn Beckford is a sprightly 73 year old mother of six from Burngreave. Destinations Arts managed to catch up with her and recorded her life story as part of our Oral History and Arts Project, Digital Journeys. These are extracts from Collis's rich and fascinating life!
Life in Jamaica
I was born in Trelawney, Jamaica on 19th June 1933. I'm one of 13 children that are ten girls and three boys. We all lived on a farm and my parents had acres of coffee plants, fruit, vegetables and banana trees. We had fresh food and never needed to go to the markets.
Life in England
When I moved to England, I didn't have much problems with fitting in because I applied for a job in the hospital that my sister was working in. One month after I came I got a job as a psychiatric nurse at Middlewood Hospital. I came to Sheffield on the 22nd October 1960 and got a job on the 23rd of November!
Three Years Turned Into 10 Years!
My other sisters were in New York looking after my sick dad. When he died, I went to America to bury him. This event was a very memorable chapter in my life! After the funeral, it took a long time to sort out his affairs, and because I was grieving, I did not realise that my visa had run out. I was trapped in America for ten years! I had to work as a child minder for a rich accountant’s family before my visa was renewed. A three month trip took up ten years of my life!
I had a Dream
I remember the last thing my mother said to me when she took me to the airport. She said, "Collis, when you go to England and you get a job, save don't squander your money. You just save it for a good life with your family”. That was the last time I saw her.
I had a dream that I came home from work one night and I sat down on my bed.
Someone knocked on the door and when I opened it, my mother came in with my children as bright as anything, smiling just as usual with the baby in her arms. She sat down next to me and put her hand on my knee and she turned around so I couldn't see her face. I called her but she didn't turn back.
That very weekend I got a call from my sister. My mother had collapsed at my sister’s wedding and had died a few days later. I think that was a special dream telling me to look after my family.
I've lost three sisters and a brother so there's still nine of us. I'm the sixth to last right in the middle and at 73 years old, I'm feeling strong!
Destinations Arts has spent the last 18 months collecting and celebrating the memories of people from the Caribbean. You can see our videos and listen to songs and memories from Sheffield's African Caribbean community by visiting us at www.bohp.org.