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

During World War II, Trudy Menard and Barclay Patoir met and fell in love. Because Barclay was black and Trudy was white, none of their friends or family members approved their marriage. “They thought I was crazy for marrying a black man when I told them at work.” “They all said, ‘You know, it won’t last,’ since it was a mixed-race marriage,” Trudy explained. “I believe some thought I was marrying beneath my station.” Despite the odds, their love endured, and they continue to tell their story over 70 years later.

At first, Trudy was unsure about their relationship. She was working in a match factory at the time, which was attacked during the Blitz. “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 colored man,’ I declared. ‘This is the first time I’ve seen one.’ But they warned me I’d be fired if I didn’t, so I just did it.”

Barclay was a South African engineer who had immigrated to the United Kingdom from what is now Guyana. “During World War II, Britain had a scarcity of engineer abilities, so young men from the Caribbean volunteered to support the mother country,” he explained.

Trudy Menard and Barclay Patoir

In fact, 345 civilians were relocated from the Caribbean to Liverpool in order to boost war production. Trudy became Barclay’s helper while he worked on Halifax bombs in the factory. Trudy admitted that she was initially afraid of him. “After a while, we didn’t speak, and then he started bringing me a cup of tea, and then he started bringing me sandwiches.”

The two quickly became close friends. When factory output slowed and the staff took some time off, they finally went on their first date.

“I rode the train with him to Southport. Then we got some snide looks. On the train, I could tell some people were talking about us, but we didn’t pay attention, did we, dear?” Trudy remarked. She went to the hostel where he was staying for a cup of tea after getting a bite to eat. “And all the men were overjoyed to finally meet me,” she added.

Despite the fact that Liverpool had a long-standing Black community, racism was pervasive in the 1940s. And Trudy and Barclay were very aware of this obstacle. This is why Trudy kept her relationship a secret from her mother.

“She mistook me for a female who was going into town to meet the girls.” She had seen I was ecstatic, but she had no idea why. She threatened to kick me out of the house if she found out.”

Trudy told Barclay she loved him and wanted to marry him after a year of dating. “He told me, ‘It’s going to be very difficult, don’t you know?’ ‘Yes, I know,’ I replied.

They were soon confronted with difficulties. Trudy wished for a church wedding, but the Catholic priest refused to marry them. “So many brown males coming over here and returning back home abandoning the ladies with children,” he alleged. As a result, I’m not marrying you.”

The pair was heartbroken as a result of the refusal. However, they were adamant about being together and married at the Liverpool Register Office. One of Trudy’s sisters and one of Barclay’s pals were present for the brief ceremony. After that, they went out for a celebratory supper.

Trudy and Barclay decided to relocate from Liverpool to Manchester shortly after. “It’s more hospitable and there aren’t as many racial difficulties,” Barclay’s friend persuaded them. Despite this, they had trouble finding lodging because they were an interracial couple. They eventually found a room in the same boarding house as Barclay’s acquaintance.

Following the war, Barclay chose the option of allowing volunteers to remain in the United Kingdom. However, the change was not without its difficulties. “To survive, you must have a positive mindset.” For over ten years, I yearned for my family; I used to fantasize about them. And I struggled with the bitter cold. He explained, “I was used to a tropical climate.” After considerable difficulty, he was able to get work in the Manchester Ship Canal dry dock.

They adjusted to their new lives, joined a sports club, and married for the second time, this time by a willing Catholic priest. Jean and Betty were their two daughters. They eventually acquired their own home in Wythenshawe, in a freshly created community. “We were the only mixed-race couple there,” Trudy explained, “but we didn’t have any problems in the neighborhood.” “Everyone liked our gals when this restaurant filled up.” Trudy’s mother was among them, having changed her mind about Barclay after the births of her grandchildren.

Trudy and Barclay believe that perceptions about mixed-race marriages 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 added. “People don’t stroll on the other side of the street like they used to,” Trudy remarked.

Two children, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren have been born to the couple. The Pope and the Queen congratulated the couple on their 70th wedding anniversary in 2014. Trudy claimed she “can’t put her finger on” what she likes best about her spouse when asked. Meanwhile, Barclay is prepared with a retort. He said, “Trudy is genuine, she’s a partner.” “Every morning when I wake up, I thank God for blessing me with such a wonderful wife.”

Source: bbc.com


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