When Trudy Menard and Barclay Patoir first met, no one, not even Trudy would have believed the two would eventually become a couple. And one that would celebrate more than seven decades together at that!
As they slowly grew to like each other, those around them grew less fond of their relationship because Trudy was white and Barclay was Black. They even had an issue with the priest who was going to marry them.
But their love prevailed, and they stayed together until the very end when in 2020 they both died within hours of each other.
Trudy had been working at Bryant and May’s match factory in Great Britain, but when it suffered damaged during the Blitz, she needed a new job.
“I needed a new job and was told they wanted girls at the Rootes aircraft factory in Speke. We were paired up with engineers and they told me to go with Barclay. I said, ‘I’m not going with a colored man. I’ve never seen one before.’ But they told me if I didn’t I’d be sacked so I just got on with it,” she told BBC News in 2017.
Meanwhile, Barclay had recently traveled to the United Kingdom from British Guiana, now known as Guyana, to find work as an engineer.
“There was a shortage of engineer skills in Britain in World War Two so young men from the Caribbean volunteered to help the mother country,” he said.
According to the BBC, between 1941 and 1943, 345 civilians traveled to Liverpool to increase war production. Barclay was one of them.
When he arrived, he was assigned to work on Halifax bombers at the factory in Speke.
Trudy was his assistant.
Trudy admitted that at the time she was “frightened to death of him.”
“We didn’t speak for a while and then he started to bring me a cup of tea, and then he started bringing me sandwiches.”
Although it took them awhile to warm up to each other, eventually they couldn’t stop talking to each other.
“The others at work used to say, ‘They’re never going to come down now, they’re talking too much.’”
When there was a break in production the two went out on their first date.
They took the train to Southport, and along the way they received dirty looks, but they still carried on with their date.
Despite Liverpool having one of the first established Black settlements in the country, racism was very much alive.
I didn’t tell my mother when I was going to see Barclay,” Trudy said. “She thought I was going in to town to meet the girls. She had noticed I was very happy but she didn’t know why. When she did find out she threatened to throw me out the house.”
Even though society told them they shouldn’t be together, Trudy and Barclay strengthened their relationship by continuing to openly date in public.
About a year into their relationship in 1944, they decided they wanted to take the next step even though Barclay said, “It’s going to be very hard.”
Trudy didn’t care.
She knew she wanted to live with Barclay forever.
But marrying him proved to be an issue. When they went to a local Catholic church the priest refused to marry them.
“He said, ‘There’s so many colored men coming over here and going back home leaving the women with children. So I’m not marrying you.’ We were upset about that.”
So instead of a church wedding, like Trudy wanted, the couple settled for a a small ceremony at the Liverpool Register Office. Barclay’s friend and one of Trudy’s sisters attended, and then the four of them went out for a meal.
They eventually left Liverpool and settled in Manchester, however finding a place to live proved to be difficult.
“But it was difficult to find accommodation because nobody would have you if you were a mixed marriage,” Barclay said.
They found a room in a boarding house and eventually started a new life for themselves in Manchester. The couple even had a second wedding ceremony where they were married by a Catholic priest.
The couple, who were blessed with two daughters, began seeing society’s viewpoint change on mixed race couples.
Not only did Trudy’s mother change her opinion, but so did others.
“Before people would stop and watch you, or whisper and laugh as you passed and now they’re not bothered,” Barclay said.
“People don’t walk on the other side of the street like they used to,” Trudy commented.
Trudy and Barclay celebrated 76 years together before they died in May 2020. Barclay was 100 years old and Trudy was 99 years old when they died within hours of each other.
Although their initial meeting started off rocky, they were with each other until the very end.
I’m so glad Barclay and Trudy didn’t listen to those who said they shouldn’t be together. It’s no one else’s business who you love.
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