My family didn’t want me to come to London, they thought I was too young to be travelling to such an unknown place despite so many of my friends leaving. I was the eldest of ten children and had already trained as a nurse in Guyana. We lived in West Ruimveldt on a housing scheme next door to the Houston Sugar Plantation.

I finally persuaded my family to let me leave after my 21st birthday. I was getting a lot of marriage proposals in those days. Every Sunday women used to come to my parents house with gold bangles and necklaces, rings and other things to persuade my Mum and Dad to make a match with their sons. I was a good catch because I was a qualified nurse but they used to say no. They were fun times though.

 Arlene on her 21st birthday

Arlene on her 21st birthday

 Leonard Campbell, Arlene’s father

Leonard Campbell, Arlene’s father

I have a rich heritage with Portuguese, Indian, Dutch, Amerindian, Scottish, Chinese and Spanish family. My heritage is like the history of Guyana which was colonised by so many people.

My Dad, Leonard worked for the Transport and Harbours Department, as a clerk in charge of the staging post where the Pork Knockers, the men who panned for gold in the interior used to start their journey down the Potaro River. They used to buy a ‘claim’ from him to have permission to mine for gold. My mother, Carmen, used to bake bread to sell it to the Pork Knockers. Everyone had an idea of how to make money in those days. 

 Arlene and her sister Jackie as toddlers with their father Leonard

Arlene and her sister Jackie as toddlers with their father Leonard

I came to England in 1972, on Boxing Day. Most people travelled to London by boat, but I was lucky and came over by plane. I arrived at Heathrow and was met by a family who lived in Putney. They were very kind to me and helped me settle in. I eventually got a job as a nurse in the Royal Marsden Hospital and then at the Brompton Hospital. I have never left South London, I love it here and although I’ve retired I still keep myself active, when I can.

We have always remained close to my relatives in Guyana. My daughter, Carmen, named after my mother makes regular trips there and keeps me in touch with what’s going on.