Edna Mae

Listen to Edna Mae's story as part of The Making of Black Britain oral history project

By The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae, at home in her garden shed (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae is of Jamaican heritage.
She was born in Jamaica, and came to Britain in 1954.
Edna Mae is the mother of Vanley Burke, the 'Godfather of Black British photography'.

Edna Mae was interviewed for The Making of Black Britain on 2nd September, 2021.  

Edna Mae, at home in her garden shed (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae talks about coming to Britain
00:00

It so happened that I had this wonderful baby in disguise.

Then they decided that they would see if they get me to England. My uncle was over here. So by so doing, we applied to get a nursing post in England. So we sent off the application and it was accepted. But to be here in time, I had to take a flight earlier than the time to go for the job, for the nursing thing. So, while at when I came over, my uncle got me on the buses.

Edna Mae family photo, 1958, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae, at home in her garden shed (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae talks about her parents
00:00

My Dad, you would kill a cow in the district.

At times I would have to go and pick the eggs, which I didn't like because I was scared of going on them because they will go to the closest spot you know the hens to lay the eggs. So at times would have to go. And then for dinner, they would say they are killing chicken or, but I never killed one. Some they would put it thing over the head of it to the neck and then cut it, but I didn't like that part of it at all - I don't think I've ever killed a chicken.

Edna Mae discusses her nationality
00:00

I have not faced any great prejudice.

I get on with most, every nationality. 
I have got friends who would, when they are having their festival, they would bring me things you know, and we share things. I would give them flowers or something.

Edna Mae and her friends when she first arrived in the UK, 1957, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, 1958, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae, at home in her garden shed (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae talks about food and cooking
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In front you would have the ackee tree.

Most people would cook it, cut up the bacon finely and put it in with onions and you know different seasonings, scallion, pepper and things like that. And then you would put your salt fish wherein it will be boiled and become fresh, you know, not too salty. And that will be added to it. And then you will put your ackee in.

Edna Mae talks about her Dutch pot
00:00

And this pot has been through quite a bit

It's a record of what we were, and how we have changed over the years. It's a proof - not just saying it, but it's a proof that you know, our younger generation, grandchildren, great grand. They can see some of these things that we really used, because they wouldn't believe, my mother wouldn't believe that computer and all these things. My, no, they wouldn’t believe.

Edna Mae's Dutch pot, 2021, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae's Dutch pot, 2021, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae, at home in her garden shed (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Edna Mae talks about life with her husband
00:00

I had a husband... he wasn’t very caring.

But it became a strain, because I had to keep the peace. Because I didn't want to tell him, tell Vanley what to call my husband. He wasn't my husband at the time. Was he? Yes. I didn't want to tell him what to say. I thought he would treat him in a way, that he would know wether to say ‘uncle this’ or you know.

Edna Mae and Ronaldo on their wedding day, 1963, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Edna Mae and Ronaldo on their wedding day, 1963, From the collection of: The Making of Black Britain
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Diane and Edna Mae look at photos from Edna Mae's life (2021)The Making of Black Britain

Diane and Edna Mae look at photo albums during her interview, 2021

Now listen to Edna Mae's son, Vanley, tell his story for The Making of Black Britain.

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