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Collis Beckford


Farm life in Jamaica, 1930s and 1940s

Colour photograph of Collis Beckford beside her cake mixer.
Collis in her kitchen in Burngreave, 2005. © Nikky Wilson


Collis came from Jamaica to England in 1960. After completing her training as a nursing auxiliary, she worked for 29 years in almost every hospital in Sheffield, until she retired. This extract was taken from an interview with Collis by Nikky Wilson in March 2005.

Home for me is Jamaica. I was born in 1933 in Lower River, Trewlawny and brought up on a farm in the Battersea neighbourhood, in the parish of St Ann. There were fifteen of us including my parents, ten girls and three boys. My parents were farmers. We kept cows, goats, pigs and chickens, these were sold to the butcher. We also grew sugar cane, bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, ginger, coffee and lots of different fruits which were sold to a local company. It was a pretty big farm. They were not wealthy but there was a lot of love and plenty of food to go round. In fact it was a very happy and healthy childhood as we always had our own fresh meat, milk and vegetables on the dinner table and they tasted so good!

My mother taught all us girls to bake and cook from an early age and we all helped at home after school. One of the best times of the day was when we sat down to a meal together, we had a big table at home! Our parents always sat after the meal and talked to us, teaching us to treat everyone the same. School and church were my parents' main priorities for us children and we never missed out on these. Some of us went to secondary school and some to college.