ROCKING CHAIR STORIES: From Barbados to Britain
IN KEEPING with his desire to move on he would closely follow the movement in the job market. One day in the early sixties Reuben Rollock, with four years experience at Sandy Lane [Hotel] got wind of a Government scheme to help hotel workers find jobs in Britain.
He recalled: “When I left in 1965 I was advanced $336 [about 80 pounds sterling]. That included two weeks pay for my accommodation. The scheme was very good. There was a group of us and when we got to London we were picked up by a coach from the Barbados High Commission’s office.
“We were welcomed by two officials, Pickwoad, an Englishman, and Harold Brewster, a Barbadian and driven to Brixton where we occupied an African house. We were shown by the proprietor how to use the various utilities.
“Although I got into London on the Sunday morning I did not reach my room until six o’clock the Sunday night. The first thing I did was place my chicken in the garbage after it had succumbed to the heat.
“I didn’t stay there too long. I met a Bajan who directed me to a better place for which I paid two pounds a week.”
Reuben went to work at the Washington Hotel in Piccadilly, just beyond Hyde Park . He said: “They put me to work in a storeroom of the housekeeping department.
“It was cold and I wore a nylon shirt but the manageress said: ‘No you can’t wear that; you will freeze’. So they sort me out; they made me a loan of 20 pounds to be repaid a pound a week. I bought a winter coat, a pair of boots and things like that.”
But the ‘moving itch’ once again hit Reuben. After a year he went to work with the London Transport and it was there that he found his niche.
He recalled: “I started as a porter at 55 Broadway and after completing a year I went on to train as a qualified technician, having successfully completed the programme at White City in North London.
“At that time the London Transport was full of Bajans. I had a little house on the platform and my job was to see that the train was fit for service; everything on it. If the driver [or the guard] at that time had a problem before he took that train out he would have to call me. I would advise him on whether it can stay in service or whether I will take it out.”
He explained: “I was not a full engineer at the time because I didn’t have the qualification.
“On leaving White City I had a clear idea; what the requirements would be in case of emergency. Then I would work along with a senior person to learn more about the practical side.”
When Reuben decided to return to Barbados it was due to sinus problems.
“I decided it was time to get out of the English weather and here I am.”
But he is not wasting his time.
Ben Rollock is president of the northern branch of the Returning Nationals Organisation which is regularly receiving kudos for leadership.