Trudy Patoir and Barclay Patoir were married in WWII when mixed-race marriages still had their stigma. They share their experiences and how they managed to stay together, 70 years later.
Trudy Menard, and Barclay Patoir declared to their family and friends that they were getting married. Trudy was a white woman and Barclay was a black man.
They thought I was crazy for marrying an African man, when I explained it to them at work. “It won’t last, it’s obvious.” “Trudy agrees.” It was a mixed-race marriage and they all agreed that “It won’t last, you see.”
Some people thought I was marrying below my station.
Trudy was nervous when she first met the couple about a year back.
Trudy, now at 96, was employed by Bryant and May’s match manufacturing plant when it was bombed during World War II.
“I was in search of a new job, and I heard Rootes in Speke was seeking girls. We were assigned engineers, and they recommended Barclay. I said to him, “I’m not going along with a black guy.” I have never seen anything like it. They threatened to fire me if they didn’t. So I did it.
The 97-year old was an apprentice engineer from British Guiana.
He explained that the British were short of engineers during World War II so young men from Caribbean offered their services.
345 Caribbean citizens were sent from the Caribbean to Liverpool as part of a plan for increasing war production between 1941 and 1943. Trudy was hired as an assistant to Barclay at Speke’s plant, where he worked with Halifax bombers.
“He stood on one side with a drill, and I was on the other with the dolly. He used to scare me, but now I don’t fear him at all. “Trudy laughs. “Trudy laughs. He stood on one side with the drill, and I was on the other with the doll. He used to scare me, but now I don’t fear him at all. “Trudy laughs. After a while, he offered me tea and sandwiches. “They became close friends over time.
“We used talk about Liverpool’s history. Barclay says that she was also interested in Guiana.
Trudy says, “They’re not going to come down now. They’re too busy chatting.” After factory work was completed and workers had the chance to take a break they were able to go out for the first day.
“I took him by train to Southport. We received some disgusting stares. We were subject to a lot of attention from others on the train.
“We ate once we arrived, and then we stopped at his hostel to have a cup of tea.” Trudy recalled, “And all the guys were so happy that I met them.”
Despite Liverpool being home to the nation’s oldest black community in 1940s, racism was still a major problem. According to a study by West Indian workers in Liverpool, white women often avoid black colleagues at work. Anthony Richmond, who was the study’s author said that they worried about how their families would react if they found out she was dating a black man.
Trudy as well as Barclay knew about the discrimination. Trudy says that she didn’t tell her mother about the discrimination when she went to Barclay. “She assumed I was going to meet with the girls in town,” Trudy says.
She threatened to throw me out of her house if she found out. They would meet up at tea rooms or relax in the park. We were privileged to see Richard Tauber, an Austrian Tenor, on his tour through the country. We saw him at Empire Theatre. He sang “My heart and me.” Our tune is “Trudy explains”.
Barclay was my only hope, and I did not tell anyone about it for several months.
Trudy told Barclay after about a year of being together that she wanted to marry him in 1944. “I know,” I replied.
“Trudy wanted to have a church marriage, but the priest from the Liverpool Catholic Church refused to do it.
He noted that “there are so many coloured men coming here and leaving their wives with their children,” He said, “So I won’t marry you.” Trudy agreed.
They were determined to get married but they decided to have a quick ceremony at Liverpool Register Office.
“Only Barclay’s friend, and one of mine sisters attended. Trudy recalls that the four of them went out for dinner afterward.
They decided to leave Liverpool after that. A friend suggested that they move to Manchester. According to Barclay, it’s more welcoming and there are less racial problems. However, it was hard to find housing because not everyone would accept a mixed marital relationship. “They found a room at Barclay’s friend’s boarding house within a matter of days.
Trudy says, “The landlady had lodgers with her, but she allowed us in anyway and offered her spacious front room.”
“She was a prostitute, but she was an incredible woman.”
Barclay worked during the day in Liverpool, and then returned to Manchester at night. As promised to British volunteers, he decided to stay in the UK after the war. He took some time to adapt to his new environment.
Positive outlook is essential for survival. For approximately ten years I dreamed about my family. I was also prone to the cold. He says, “I was used it living in a tropical area.” Trudy says that he had more clothes on his bed than he took off. He couldn’t keep warm in bed.
Barclay found work on the streets of Manchester as a result. Barclay eventually found employment at the dry dock of Manchester Ship Canal.
They quickly adjusted to their new environment in Manchester. They joined a local tennis club and began playing there.
Barclay claims they won flatware in the doubles.
A second ceremony of marriage was approved by the local Catholic priest. Jean and Betty were later born and the young family wanted a place to call home.
Barclay says, “The priest said to me that they were building houses at Wythenshawe.”
Manchester was a city without stores and fields. Trudy visited the new housing development.
“There was thick muck everywhere and I was holding my baby as I walked. I couldn’t get inside to see what was going on, but it didn’t bother. I could not live in one place anymore.
“Soon after she heard about the new apartments she went to Town Hall to tell them.
Trudy claims, “We leapt for joy when the key was given to us.”
One of the earliest families to settle in the region was the Patoirs.
Trudy recalls that “we were the only mixed-race couple there. But there were no problems.”
“Everyone loved our girls when this place was full.”
Jean was bullied the first day of primary school.
“Her teacher sent her home, and asked me to look after her as she spoke to the class on God’s love for his children. Trudy said that Jean was fine after that.
Trudy’s grandmother Margaret also changed her mind on Barclay after her grandchildren were born.
Trudy says she enjoyed spending weekends with the girls.
Trudy Barclay and Trudy believe perceptions of mixed-race couples has improved over time. “People used to stop and stare, or murmur, and laugh as they passed you by, but now they don’t,” Barclay said.
“Barclay is active in the community for many decades. He was a member of the board of the local hospital as well as the president the local social club. After leaving the dry dock, he began to be interested in politics locally.
The couple currently has two children, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Trudy said, “It is difficult to keep track of them all.” The Queen and Pope sent them greetings in 2014 on their 70th wedding anniversary. We talk about things when we don’t agree. Trudy says, “We have never had major disagreements.”
Barclay states, “We don’t irritate one another because we are so familiar with each other.”
Trudy says she can’t pinpoint what it is that she loves most about Barclay. Her husband, however, responds quickly.