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Mrs Ena Radway

Ena Radway was born in St Elizabeth, Jamaica in 1936. She was 24 when she flew to the UK to join her husband Gerald in March 1963.

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Growing up in Jamaica

Ena was the middle child of three – she had an older sister and a younger brother. She enjoyed her childhood in Thornton and there were plenty of places for the children to play.

Her father Wilbert Salmon worked on a plantation and when it was time to reap the crops, the children would go and help.

At home, he planted food for his family – oranges, tangerines, pineapples, bananas and sugar cane – so that the family didn’t have to go to the market to buy food.

Ena remembers her father being a kind man, who was concerned about his children and expected them to grow up with manners.  As a result he was strict with them; they were not expected to answer back or give their parents backchat.

Her mother Beatrice was also very kind and would go without food herself rather than see her children go hungry. 

The three children had household chores to do, including helping with the cleaning.

Ena’s father was a Christian and the children went to Sunday school every week.

As a child, she would read to her father from the Bible.

At Thornton Primary School, Ena learned about British history and King George VI. She even remembers learning British nursery rhymes. She later attended Thornton High School where her favourite subject was English.

Coming to the UK

When she was 18, Ena married a local boy called Gerald in New Testament Church.

She recalls how Queen Elizabeth II invited Jamaican people to go to the UK to live and work.

Gerald decided to seize the opportunity and he flew to the UK in September 1962, leaving his young bride behind.

Fortunately, he was soon able to send for Ena and she arrived by plane in March 1963 – her flight cost £85.

Her first day in the UK was memorable for the wrong reasons. As she put her suitcase down on that Friday night, she heard on the radio that President Kennedy has been assassinated.

Early days in Newport

The warm Caribbean climate meant that most things in Jamaica took place outdoors – or at least businesses kept their doors open.

The opposite was true in Newport – shops kept their doors shut and everything was closed in.

Ena was accustomed to Jamaica’s friendliness; people would greet each other in the street, whether they knew one another or not. This didn’t happen in Newport.

After growing up in a hot country, it was strange to see snow for the first time.

Things were different in the UK, but Ena had been taught to respect people for who they were. It was hard, but she gradually settled down to her new life.

In those days, wages were low and young couples didn’t expect to rent a whole house. Instead, they had to settle for one rented room in Pill and a shared kitchen.

Working in Newport

Ena had never had a job in Jamaica but in the 1960s there were lots of factories in Newport and she soon found work in one which made bricks.

Many of her fellow workers were from the Caribbean; however, the work was physically hard and Ena didn’t stay there long.

Gerald had found work at RTBs (later Llanwern steelworks) were he drove a crane. It was dirty work but permanent and he worked there for many years.

Ena and Gerald’s first child was born in the newly-opened maternity wing of the Royal Gwent Hospital in 1966.

Ena had always wanted to work in a hospital and her dream finally came true when in 1972 she found a full-time job as a nursing auxiliary on B5 – the maternity ward. 

She worked alongside Vernester Cyril OBE [a Back-a-Yard interviewee from St Lucia] and enjoyed her work very much. She remained at the Royal Gwent Hospital for 22 years, until her retirement.

Jamaican culture

Ena has always been hard-working, something she believes is part of the Jamaican culture.

She will never forget her Jamaican roots and culture – and has a deep respect for its people; however, Ena is pragmatic and believes that you must adapt to the culture of the country in which you live.

Her Christianity has always been important to her and Ena attended prayer meetings in people’s homes before her church – New Testament – brought its present building on Commercial Road.

She remembers how the Sunday service would be full in the 1960s – with a mixed Caribbean and White congregation.

Ena believes in serving the community and over the decades, she has been actively involved in church matters, including working with younger people. She has been running the weekly luncheon club for over ten years and is also Sunday school superintendent. 

She explains, ‘There was a calling on my life from God and I knew what he would want me to do, so that’s why I still continue. I can’t just sit back. I always have to do something else of the Lord or help in whatever way I can. I will do it in my dying days because that's my life.’

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