Friday, May 24, 2019

Goans in the UK, the early days


                 By Mervyn Maciel

(For obvious reasons, this account is written more from a personal angle)

Some years ago, (nearly seven decades ago, the Secretary of the Kenya Administration Club in the U.K. had asked Mervyn Maciel to write an article on what happened to our community who moved to the UK from Kenya. The article is reproduced below:

Most of the Goans who, like me, came to the U.K. after UHURU in the mid and late sixties, encountered no difficulty in finding jobs either in the Civil Service or Private sector. Those from the Provincial Administration like Francis da Lima, M.B.E. worked  for the Customs & Excise, the late Abe Almeida was with the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard, Caje Simoes found a job in that much-hated of government departments – the Income Tax department! Having worked for 20 odd years in the Kenya Civil Service, I didn’t want to go back to a government job, and decided instead to enter the Private sector. After working in central London for a few months, and finding commuting and especially travelling like sardines in the overcrowded Tube cumbersome, I decided to move closer home and joined the South Eastern Gas Board (Segas) in Croydon, Surrey. Latterly, I moved to an International company within the construction industry, again in Surrey. Many other Goans quickly found jobs at the Crown Agents in London, and they must have proved such dependable and honest workers that the Establishment soon became an unofficial “Goan Recruiting Agency”.

The one thing I found very irritating when registering with an Agency was the rather irrelevant question one was always asked, “Have you any London experience”? I had to remind them that I had only just arrived in the country and as such could not be expected to have any London experience. Those Goans who were in the teaching profession, and whose qualifications were recognised, found employment at various schools. Others who were not so lucky had to settle for clerical jobs. While in Colonial Kenya it would be unthinkable for a Goan to have control over European (White) staff, I myself, and no doubt other Goans in a managerial capacity had white employees working under them. Most Goans were quick to secure mortgages and move into their own homes, settling in the London and outer London areas initially, and later moving on to other areas of the country. My own Bank Manager was worried whether Kenyatta would renege on his promises, but when assured that my pension had been guaranteed by the British government, my overdraft was promptly approved! It was for the education of their children that most Goans moved to the U.K., and it is heartening to record that on the whole, the children of Goans who moved here from Kenya, have excelled at British Universities and many are now professionals in their own right. Socialising is very much part of our makeup, and even in those early days, when most of us had never experienced an English winter, we used to organise Christmas and New Year eve dances at various London venues including Alexandra Palace. A clubhouse and grounds which we had bought in 1983 from the Times Group of Newspapers, and where we held many of our sports and social events, was sadly to fall victim to an arson attack, when it was burnt to the ground in 1998. 

A sad blow, but the Goan Association (UK) remains undaunted and continues to flourish. In addition, the Goans are also active in cyberspace; we have our own daily newsletter (Goan Voice UK), ably edited by Eddie Fernandes, while social networking continues via Goanet. All in all, the GOAN DREAM has turned out to be a success story, and we continue to play our part as law-abiding citizens in our adopted homeland.

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