Mr Timothy Hope

Timothy Nathaniel Hope was born in St Michael, Barbados in 1945. He came to the UK in 1987 to join his wife-to-be.

He arrived in the UK by plane on a sunny day in the late 1980s.

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A childhood in Barbados


Timothy Hope was born on 8 December1945 and grew up in Bank Hall in St Michael.


The family lived in a small village close to a jungle where all the homes were in close proximity. 


His parents were good, hardworking people who believed in discipline. 


Timothy attended St Giles Boys School until he was sixteen; he enjoyed school, although he did not understand the importance of education at the time.


He remembers how he would swap his lunch of bread and button biscuits with a rich boy named Springer who used to bring the ‘school top lunch’.


Timothy’s father Sonny and Uncle Stanley were street vendors who sold a traditional Bajan drink called ‘mauby’, made from the bitter bark off the trees, sugar and water. There was no running water in either man’s house so Timothy would first have to collect water from the standpipe. 


Timothy remembers pushing the mauby cart into Bridgetown – a distance of around a mile – when he wasn’t at school. There was a 30-40 gallon can with a little tap on the front and twenty glasses hanging from each side of the cart. As a result of his part-time work, Timothy – the spooner’s son – was well-known locally.


Timothy’s mother worked in the sugar cane fields clearing out the weeds between the canes. The hours were long – she worked from seven in the morning to six in the evening.


Once, when he had a wound on his foot and couldn’t walk, Timothy’s mother put him on her back and carried him the half mile or so to the hospital in Martindales Road to have it dressed.


When he wasn’t helping his father, Timothy and up to thirteen friends would head for a nearby gully where there was a cave and plenty of trees. The boys would burn fires and climb the trees, often staying for the whole day and eating nothing but tamarinds from the tree sprinkled with a penny’s worth of sugar. 



Timothy recalls some of his friends’ names – the Mayers, the Callenders, the Joneses, Timothy Roach and a boy with red hair who was nicknamed Tonne Brick.


The boys would often play ‘kneeling down cricket’ using an old crushed milk can as a ball (or a knitted and hand-stitched one) and a stick as a bat. They’d hit the ball from a kneeling position and then scramble to their feet to run. 


Discipline at home


Timothy remembers his father as a loving disciplinarian. If you did something wrong you got the whip, but Sonny could also be extremely kind. Timothy remembers one occasion when a pair of new handmade shoes was hurting his feet and his father cut a hole in the leather with a knife to relieve his pain.


Uncle Stanley was the calmer of the brothers and Timothy spent a lot of time living with his uncle’s family.


One of Timothy’s household chores was filling the water bucket each morning; however, he would sometimes go off with friends and leave the bucket behind the gate, empty, all day. On these occasions, he knew what to expect from his father when he finally got home. 


Timothy’s mother was the real disciplinarian and was not adverse to using the whip herself.  Timothy believes the way he was brought up taught him what was right and wrong – and kept him out of prison. ‘If it’s here and it’s not yours, you don’t touch it, you don’t use it’. 


Back then, the whole community was involved in a young person’s upbringing, with neighbours telling the children not to do certain things and threatening to tell their parents if they did. If Timothy passed someone in the street and he failed to greet them politely, his parents would soon know about it. 


Hurricane memories


On 30 August 1949, a tropical storm killed seven and destroyed 27 homes in Bridgetown.  Timothy’s home in Martindales Road was in a low-lying area and was badly flooded; the family had to scramble into a neighbour’s roof to survive.  


The man – a Mr Lord – put boards up in the gables of his home so both families could escape to safety. Timothy remembers scrambling onto the roof to get away from the water. 


When Hurricane Janet hit Barbados in September 1955, it was the most powerful of the season – and an experience Timothy will never forget.


He remembers there was a radio warning, but when the hurricane actually arrived the wind was unbelievable. Many families ran to the shelter – and lost their properties – but Timothy’s father was determined that his family would stay to look after the house.


Timothy was instructed to hold a door tightly shut while his father tied down the gables with rope to stop the top of the house being blown off. It was scary but his brave actions paid off.


Working in Barbados


Timothy’s first job was in a clothes store. From there, he got a delivery job with an electrical company called Emtage Electric [the company is still trading in 2016] – his mode of transport was a bicycle with a little tray at the front and some trips could take over two hours.


After that, Timothy went to work in the hotel trade. His first job was as a waiter at Gordons, one of the best Bajan hotels at the time. 


Timothy worked at the Barbados Hilton hotel when it first opened in the early 1960s and also worked at the Holiday Inn, first as a bell hop boy [a porter] and later as a night auditor, looking after the guests overnight. 


The Queen’s visit to Barbados


The Queen has visited Barbados several times. Timothy remembers one visit [probably at the end of the Silver Jubilee tour in 1977] when she visited with Prince Philip.


He was one of many who were chosen to perform a play in the Royal couple’s honour at Government House in Bridgetown. The play was called ‘Today he is coming’ and everyone dressed in traditional Bajan costume. 


The performers sang songs with lyrics like:


‘Today, today’s the day he’s coming

Look me snowball car

Gosh she paint up purty

Purty as a lark.’


Errol Walton Barrow 

When Barbados gained independence in 1966, Errol Walton Barrow was appointed as its first prime minister.


Mr Barrow had big ideas for his small island nation and was responsible for bringing in proper sanitation and for the expansion of the airport.


Timothy once encountered Errol Barrow on a beach. There was a man taking sand off the beach and the Prime Minister asked Timothy to tell him to stop.


Early days in Newport


Timothy came to Newport to join his wife-to-be who had already lived here for several years.


Newport was strange at first – Timothy would walk unfamiliar streets full of people he did not know. The George Street Bridge [which crosses the River Usk] was bigger than any bridge he’d seen back home.


It was the Caribbean community in Pill who helped him feel at home. Many of the men would go to a pub called the Alex and it was in that welcoming environment that Timothy met Laceta Reid [another Back-a-Yard interviewee], who is now a long-time friend. 


Unfortunately, like many Caribbean people, Timothy was subjected to some racist name-calling; however, he met any such remarks with dignity and refused to rise to the bait. 


Timothy worked in London at the Holiday Inn in Edgware for several months before coming to Newport. However, despite over 15 years experience in the trade, he struggled to find hotel work in Newport.


In the end he had no choice but to work in a labouring job digging trenches for over two years. 


Eventually, he found work at Tesco warehouse in Magor; he was happy there and stayed for nearly thirteen years. 

Playing dominoes


Timothy is a keen dominoes player and is known as ‘a hard seed’ – someone who is difficult to beat.


He remembers dominoes as being a favourite sport in Barbados. It was governed by an official organisation and teams from across the island would compete for an annual cup. 


Timothy and his friends often played open-air dominoes right through the night and made so much noise that it was amazing that nobody called the law.


In the UK, he played for a Cardiff team and would go to matches in Birmingham, Ipswich and other places. Once the dominoes match was over, the players would dance to calypso and reggae until two in the morning. 


Timothy and his partner Roddy would regularly drop six-love [when you win all six games] and win double points. They won several cups, including ‘best player of the year’. 


Timothy believes dominoes are important to Caribbean people because it brings them together socially and culturally. Players may seem like arch-enemies during a match, but they will be best friends again afterwards. 


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