‘Emily and Judy had lots of time and patience in collating, editing and putting my book together. Thank you again, it’s like a miracle come true.’ — Eleanor Brooks
A tribute to Mama Gatha
Eleanor Brooks came to Story Terrace having already penned her incredible life story. But with her manuscript in a Word document, she wasn’t sure how to capture it in a book for her family. Story Terrace matched her with Judy Brown who provided editorial expertise. Together Eleanor and Judy created a memoir of Eleanor’s life and a moving tribute to her grandmother, Mama Gatha.
Eleanor was born in Jamaica in 1955, and raised by Mama Gatha. She was a very wise lady and a sweet and kind human being. Like Eleanor’s father, she couldn’t read or write but was full of exceptional common sense, wit and intelligence. As a young girl, Eleanor adored her grandmother and accompanied her to church on Sundays and to work peeling ginger in the ginger house.
One day, when Eleanor was six years old, her grandmother sorrowfully dressed her in her best Sunday frock, and escorted her to the airport in Kingston. The plane took Eleanor all the way from Jamaica to join her parents in the UK. Jamaica was still part of the British Empire at that time, and Britain welcomed Caribbean immigrants, as there was plenty of work for them to do. This was an era of teddy boys, winkle pickers, crew cuts and two-tone suits. Long-haired, leather-jacketed greasers roared around on Harley Davidsons, pitting themselves against skinheads wearing Doc Martens. It was a new world for Eleanor, and one that wasn’t always easy to navigate.
The six short years Eleanor spent with Mama Gatha were the happiest days of her life. When she stepped on board the aeroplane at Palisadoes Airport in Kingston in 1961, she was excited, but also sad to leave Mama Gatha. Waving goodbye from the plane, she searched for her face in the crowd but never spotted her. And she never would see her again, the kind sweet old lady with her white shoulder-length hair – the hair you only ever caught a glimpse of when she washed and plaited it, because Christian ladies were expected to cover their head with a band of bleached calico. Mama Gatha died in 1965 without knowing that she held the best memories of Eleanor’s life.
Below you’ll find some excerpts from Eleanor’s book Mama Gatha.