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

Trudy and Barclay Patoir met during WWII, when mixed-race marriages were still frowned upon. They share the challenges they had to overcome to stay together more than 70 years later.

No one felt it was a good idea when Trudy Menard and Barclay Patoir announced their friends and family they were getting married because Trudy was white and Barclay was black.

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

“I believe some thought I was marrying beneath my station.”

Trudy admits she was nervous when she first met the pair, about a year ago.

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

“I was working at Bryant and May’s match factory when it was bombed during the Blitz,” Trudy, now 96, explains.

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

Barclay, 97, was an apprentice engineer who came to the UK from British Guiana, now Guyana, in South America.


“During World War II, Britain had a scarcity of engineer skills, so young men from the Caribbean volunteered to help the mother country,” he explains.

Between 1941 and 1943, 345 Caribbean citizens were sent to Liverpool as part of a plan to boost war production. Trudy was picked 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, and I stood with the dolly on the other. I was terrified of him before, but I’m no longer afraid of him! “Trudy, laughing, says

“He stood with a drill on one side of the wings, and I stood with the dolly on the other. I was terrified of him before, but I’m no longer afraid of him! “Trudy, laughing, says
“After a period of silence, he began to bring me a cup of tea, and then he began to bring me sandwiches.”
The two became firm friends over time.
“We used to discuss Liverpool and its history. She was also particularly interested in Guiana “According to Barclay.
“They’re never going to come down now, they’re chatting too much,” Trudy continues.
They went out for the first time when factory work halted and employees were given the opportunity to take time off.
“I took him via rail to Southport. Then we got some filthy stares. On the train, I could tell some people were talking about us, but we didn’t pay attention, did we, dear?
“We ate when we got there, and on the way back, we stopped at his home, the hostel, for a cup of tea.” Trudy recounts, “And all the men were so thrilled to meet me.”
Although Liverpool had the country’s longest-established black community, racism was still prevalent in the 1940s. While many white women would chat to black coworkers at work, they would avoid them in public, according to a study of West Indian employees’ experiences in Liverpool. They were afraid of “their friends’ or family’s reaction if they found out she had gone out with a coloured man,” according to Anthony Richmond, the study’s author.
Trudy and Barclay were both well aware of the discrimination.
Trudy states, “I didn’t notify my mother when I was going to see Barclay.”
“She assumed I was going to meet the girls in town.” She had seen I was ecstatic, but she had no idea why.
“She threatened to kick me out of the house when she found out.”
They’d go to tea rooms and relax in the park together. One memorable occasion was to see Austrian tenor Richard Tauber, who was on tour in the country.
“At the Empire Theatre, we saw him. ‘My heart and I,’ he sang. That is our tune “Trudy explains.
“I knew I couldn’t live without Barclay at the time, but I didn’t tell anyone for months.”
Trudy finally decided to take the plunge and tell Barclay she wanted to marry him in 1944, after they had known each other for approximately a year.
“‘It’s going to be very difficult, you know that, don’t you?’ he replied. ‘Yes, I know,’ I replied.”
Trudy desired a church wedding, but the priest at the local Catholic church in Liverpool refused to officiate the ceremony.
“‘There are so many coloured males coming over here and leaving the ladies with children,’ he remarked. So I’m not going to marry you.’ We were irritated by it “Trudy agrees.
They were, however, dead intent on marrying and agreed to a quick ceremony at the Liverpool Register Office.
“Only a friend of Barclay’s and one of my sisters attended. Following that, the four of us went out to eat” Trudy explains.
Trudy and Barclay playing tennis (left) and Trudy's mother Margaret (right)
They chose to leave Liverpool shortly after that.
“‘Come to Manchester,’ a friend said. It’s more welcoming, and there are fewer racial issues,’ “According to Barclay.
“However, it was difficult to locate housing because no one would accept a mixed marriage.”
They soon found a room in Barclay’s friend’s boarding house.
“The landlady had lodgers in,” Trudy explains, “but she let us in anyhow and offered us her spacious front room.”
“She was a prostitute herself, but she was a wonderful woman.”
Barclay continued working in Liverpool during the day and returned to Manchester at night. When the war ended, he chose to stay in the UK, as was promised to volunteers from British territories. However, he required some time to adjust to his new surroundings.
“To survive, you must have a positive mindset. I had been missing my family for about ten years and used to fantasize about them. And I struggled with the bitter cold. I was used to living in a tropical environment “he adds.
“In bed, he had more clothing on than he removed!” Trudy continues. “He couldn’t even get warm in bed.”
Barclay struggled to find new employment and ended up on the streets of Manchester looking for work. The Manchester Ship Canal dry dock eventually employed him.
The pair adjusted to their new surroundings in Manchester. They joined a local sports club and began playing tennis there.
“In the doubles, we won a set of flatware,” Barclay says.
A second wedding ceremony in his church was agreed upon by the local Catholic priest. Jean and Betty were born later, and the young family was yearning for a place to call home.
“The priest indicated that they were constructing houses in Wythenshawe,” adds Barclay.
“There were no stores, only fields, and no one from Manchester wanted to live there.”
Trudy visited the new housing development to take a look around.
“There was thick muck everywhere, and I was holding a baby while I stood there looking about. I couldn’t get inside to investigate, but that didn’t bother me. I could no longer live in a single room.”
She immediately went to the Town Hall to inform them that they would be taking one of the new dwellings.
“When we got the key, we were jumping for joy,” Trudy adds.

One of the first families to settle in the area was the Patoirs.

“We were the only mixed-race couple there,” Trudy recounts, “but we had no problems in the neighborhood.”

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

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

“The teacher sent her home and asked me to look after her while she spoke to the class about how God loves all of his children. After that, Jean had no troubles “Trudy explains.

Margaret, Trudy’s mother, likewise altered her mind about Barclay when her granddaughters were born.

Trudy explains, “She would come every weekend to stay – she enjoyed seeing the girls.”

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

Both Trudy and Barclay believe that perceptions toward mixed-race couples have significantly improved over time.
“People used to stop and stare at you, or mumble and laugh as you passed, but now they don’t,” Barclay adds.
Trudy adds, “People don’t stroll on the other side of the street as they used to.”
Over the years, Barclay has been actively involved in the community. He has served on the board of the local hospital and as president of the local social club. After leaving the dry dock in 1979, he became interested in local politics.
There are currently two children, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren for the couple.
Trudy comments, “It’s difficult to keep track of them all.”
On their 70th wedding anniversary in 2014, they received greetings from the Queen and the Pope.
“If we don’t agree on anything, we talk about it. We never had a major disagreement “Trudy explains.
“We don’t irritate each other because we’re so acclimated to each other,” Barclay agrees.
While Trudy claims she “can’t put her finger on” what she enjoys most about Barclay, her husband is quick to respond.
He says, “Trudy is genuine, she’s a partner.” “I praise the Lord every morning for having such a wonderful wife.”
Source: bbc.com

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