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Mr William Greenaway

William Greenaway – known to everyone as Wana – was only ten years old when he left Montserrat so the decision to come to the UK was made by his family.

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Crossing the Atlantic

Wana travelled to the UK by sea with his grandmother, sister, younger brother Royston and a family friend.

Their ship – the Begonia – left from Barbados, stopped off in Porto Spain in Trinidad and arrived in Southampton on August 30, 1965.

For Wana, the passage was great fun despite the inevitable seasickness. The ship was large, there was a swimming pool on board and it stopped off in Spain.

The only downside of the journey was the cold and foggy weather that greeted Wana in Southampton – and this was August.

Growing up in Montserrat

The Greenaway family were settled in the Newport after a short stint in London and so Wana came straight to the town. 

He had only been here four days when schools reopened after the summer holiday.

School was very different in Montserrat – children were put into classes according to their academic ability and not age.  Wana wasn’t used to being in a class of children the same age as he was.

Children had to be on time, look tidy and have their hair combed – a pencil would be run through each child’s hair to check this had been done – otherwise, the head teacher would lash them with a cane.

At home, the children were taught to cook for the whole family – although tasting the food before it was served up was definitely not allowed.

The changing landscape of Pill

Wana has seen many changes in Pill in half a decade.

He remembers a close, friendly Caribbean community, where people lived in terraced housing, left their doors open and got together for blues and reggae parties.

Then, in the seventies, many of the Victorian terraces were demolished and what Wana describes as ‘a concrete jungle’ was built. Many Caribbean families were rehoused in other parts of Newport and nearby Cwmbran, breaking up the strong community.

The Montserrat eruption

Life for Wana’s family on Montserrat changed forever in 1995, when a dormant volcano called Chances Peak erupted for the first time in over 300 years.

The eruptions continued until 1997, destroying the capital city of Plymouth, the airport and hospital, making the south of the island uninhabitable.

Nineteen died and many Montserrat people, including some of Wana’s family, were evacuated to neighbouring islands like St Kitts and to the UK.

Starting work

Wana left school at 15 and quickly found a job at the Heeley and Peart iron foundry on Collingwood Road where his father was working.

He left the foundry to study building trades at college and has worked in the building trade ever since as what he terms ‘a Jack of all trades’.

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