Mixed-Race Couple Share Their 73-Year Story of Love and Prejudice: ‘The Priest Refused to Marry Us’

Trudy Patoir and Barclay Patoir met during WWII, when mixed-race marriages were still frowned upon. Over 70 years later, they share the challenges they overcame to remain together.

Trudy Menard and Barclay Patoir announced to their friends and family that they were getting married because Trudy was white and Barclay was black.

“They thought I was crazy for marrying a black man when I told them at work. “It won’t last, you know.” “Trudy agrees.” Because it was a mixed-race marriage, they all said, “It won’t last, you know.”

Some thought I was marrying beneath my station.

The first time Trudy met the couple, about a year ago, she was nervous.

Photograph of Barclay (bottom right) with fellow West Indian volunteers

Trudy, now 96, worked at Bryant and May’s match factory when it was bombed during the Blitz.

“I needed a new job and heard that Rootes in Speke was looking for girls. Engineers were assigned to us, and they recommended Barclay to me. I told him, ‘I’m not going with a black man.’ I’ve never seen anything like it. But they threatened to fire me if I didn’t, so I did it.”

The 97-year-old was an apprentice engineer from British Guiana, now Guyana, in South America.


He explains that during World War II, Britain was short of engineers, so young men from the Caribbean volunteered to assist the mother country.

As part of a plan to boost war production, 345 Caribbean citizens were sent to Liverpool between 1941 and 1943. Trudy was hired to work as Barclay’s assistant at the plant in Speke, where he worked on Halifax bombers.

“He stood with a drill on one side of the wings, while I stood with the dolly on the other side. Before, I was terrified of him, but I’m no longer scared of him! “Trudy laughs. “He stood with a drill on one side of the wings, while I stood with the dolly on the other side. Before, I was terrified of him, but I’m no longer scared of him! “Trudy laughs. “After a period of silence, he brought me a cup of tea and then sandwiches. “Over time, they became firm friends.

“We used to talk about Liverpool and its history. “According to Barclay, she was also particularly interested in Guiana.

“They’re never going to come down now, they’re chatting too much,” Trudy continues. As soon as factory work stopped and employees had the opportunity to take a break, they went out for the first time.
“I took him by rail to Southport. We got some filthy stares. Several people were talking about us on the train, but we didn’t pay attention, did we, dear?

“We ate when we got there, and on the way back, we stopped at his hostel for a cup of tea.” Trudy recalls, “And all the men were so happy to meet me.”
Even though Liverpool had the country’s oldest black community, racism still prevailed in the 1940s. Despite chatting with black colleagues at work, many white women avoid them in public, according to a study of West Indian employees in Liverpool. Anthony Richmond, the study’s author, said they were concerned about their friends or families’ reactions if they learned she had dated a black man.
Both Trudy and Barclay were aware of the discrimination. “I didn’t inform my mother when I went to see Barclay,” says Trudy. “She assumed that I was going to meet the girls in town.” She saw I was excited, but she had no idea why.
When she found out, she threatened to kick me out of the house. They would go to tea rooms and relax in the park together. We had the pleasure of seeing Austrian tenor Richard Tauber on tour in the country. “We saw him at the Empire Theatre. He sang, “My heart and I.”. “Trudy explains” is our tune.
At the time, I knew I couldn’t live without Barclay, but I didn’t tell anyone for months.

“After approximately one year of dating, Trudy finally told Barclay she wanted to marry him in 1944.It will be very difficult, don’t you know that?’’’ he replied. “I know,’ I replied.

“Trudy wanted a church wedding, but the priest at the local Catholic church in Liverpool refused to perform it.

“There are so many coloured males coming here and leaving the women with their children,” he noted. ‘So I won’t marry you.’ We were irritated by it “Trudy agreed.

Although they were dead set on getting married, they agreed to a quick ceremony at the Liverpool Register Office.

“Only Barclay’s friend and one of my sisters attended. Afterwards, the four of us went out to eat” Trudy recalls.

Trudy and Barclay playing tennis (left) and Trudy's mother Margaret (right)

After that, they decided to leave Liverpool. “Come to Manchester,” said a friend. It’s more welcoming, and there are fewer racial issues,’ “According to Barclay. “However, finding housing was difficult because no one would accept a mixed marriage. “Within a few days, they found a room in Barclay’s friend’s boarding house.

Trudy explains, “The landlady had lodgers staying with her, but she let us in anyhow and offered us her spacious front room.”

“She was a prostitute herself, but she was an amazing woman.

“During the day, Barclay worked in Liverpool and returned to Manchester at night. After the war, he chose to remain in the UK, as promised to volunteers from British territories. It took him some time to adjust to his new surroundings, however.
“To survive, you need a positive outlook. For about ten years, I fantasized about my family. I also struggled with the cold. “I was used to living in a tropical environment,” he says. He had more clothing on in bed than he removed!” Trudy continues. „He couldn’t stay warm in bed.”
As a result, Barclay ended up on the streets of Manchester looking for work. He eventually found work at the Manchester Ship Canal dry dock.

They adjusted to their new surroundings in Manchester. They joined a local sports club and started playing tennis there.
Barclay says they won a set of flatware in the doubles.

The local Catholic priest approved a second marriage ceremony in his church. Jean and Betty were born later, and the young family longed for a home.

“The priest told me that they were building houses in Wythenshawe,” says Barclay.
Manchester had no stores, only fields, and no one wanted to live there.”Trudy toured the new housing development.

“There was thick muck everywhere, and I was holding a baby as I walked around. It was impossible for me to investigate inside, but that didn’t bother me. I couldn’t live in one room anymore.

”As soon as she heard about the new apartments, she went to the Town Hall to inform them.

“We jumped for joy when we received the key,” Trudy says.

The Patoirs were one of the first families to settle in the area.

Trudy recalls, “We were the only mixed-race couple there, but there were no problems.”

“Everyone liked our girls when this restaurant filled up.”

Jean, on the other hand, was bullied on the first day of primary school.

“Her teacher sent her home and asked me to watch over her while she spoke to the class about God’s love for all of his children. After that, Jean had no problems, Trudy says.

Trudy’s mother Margaret also changed her mind about Barclay when her granddaughters were born.

She enjoyed seeing the girls every weekend, says Trudy.

Trudy and Barclay celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in September 2014

Trudy and Barclay believe that perceptions of mixed-race couples have improved significantly over time.”People used to stop and stare at you, or murmur and laugh as you passed, but now they don’t,” Barclay adds.Trudy says, “People no longer stroll on the other side of the street.

“Barclay has been active in the community for many years. He has served on the board of the local hospital and as the president of the local social club. In 1979, he became interested in local politics after leaving the dry dock.

Currently, the couple has two children, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Trudy says, “It’s hard to keep track of them all.”The Queen and the Pope sent them greetings on their 70th wedding anniversary in 2014.When we can’t agree on anything, we talk about it. “We have never had a major disagreement,” Trudy explains.

“We don’t irritate each other because we are so used to each other,” Barclay says.

While Trudy claims she “can’t put her finger on” what she enjoys most about Barclay, her husband is quick to respond.

“Trudy is genuine, she’s a partner.” “I thank the Lord every morning for having such a wonderful wife.”Source: bbc.com

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