The New Londoners The New Londoners

Rosémia Barbé and her husband Burnett Brown.

“When I came to England in 1972, I just wanted to escape marriage,” explains Seychellois Rosémia Barbé. “I was getting too close to someone who was trying to marry me—so I left.”

Rosémia: I had been working as a nanny for an English couple in the Seychelles, and they arranged for me to move to England as a live-in nanny for a couple they knew. Nobody suspected anything, and then I received a call on the radio: ‘Rosémia Barbé, come and get your passport!’ and suddenly everybody knew. I had to explain to my mother who was pushing for the marriage at the time. She eventually agreed that leaving was the right thing to do, and she had to sign my paper—I wasn’t over the legal age to decide for myself.

“I was born in Jamaica,” says Burnett Brown, “My mum came here in the 50s for work and left the four of us in Jamaica with our grandmother when I was 18 months old. It was funny because, although I didn’t see her physically, I knew everything about her. We’d get a letter from her every fortnight, parcels for Christmas, and my grandmother talked about her every day. She was very much in my life. I was the last of my siblings to come over in 1970. It was funny because, in about 1972, my mother was like ‘oh you're all here now, I’m going to go to America!’ She had been living for London for 18 years and wanted to give herself a new start.”

Burnett and Rosémia met in 1974—it was a friend’s house party. They were the last people standing at the end of the night. The couple got married in 1980 and now have two grown-up children.

“Both Burnett and I know that Seychelles is a beautiful place, but then there are no jobs in the Seychelles. Returning home as a priest—people wouldn’t know who I am anymore. I go home regularly, but visiting the Seychelles is not a holiday for us. I have my family there.” Rosémia’s mother died with the intention of moving to London. Her eldest brother and sister also died.

“London is our home; the children are here, it’s easy for us to see Burnett’s mum in America and it’s easy to go to the Seychelles. When we retire we plan to spend winters there to get away from the cold, and then come back to London in time for spring.”

Other families from Jamaica are the Dudziec Family, the Hall & Green Family, the Rodriquez & Tordecilla Family, the Grandison Family, the McKenzie Family, the Sinclair & Armstrong Family and the Golding Family.