Celebrity genealogy series. Actor and film-maker Noel Clarke visits the Caribbean to learn more about his family.
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You never know where filming's going to take you.
This is probably the last place that I ever thought I'd see myself on a
Sunday morning when I was a kid.
You know, in Surrey, with trees and green, but here I am.
Everything good there, mate?
Your crew become your family, you know?
And that's part of the thing. I've not grown up with a family,
so I guess I'm always kind of looking for that, in a weird way.
Award-winning actor Noel Clarke has worked in film and television
for over 20 years.
I'm doing the job that I wanted to do when I was five or six years old.
I'm proud of that.
He's also a force behind the camera,
taking on roles as a writer,
director and producer.
I'm from a single-parent family,
you know, a council estate in West London.
I'm not supposed to be sitting here.
I grew up just alone with my mother.
There wasn't a brother or a sister, or a dad.
So it's just always been myself and her.
I know my dad, but he wasn't really a part of my childhood.
There wasn't really much of a connection to the Caribbean at all.
I don't have a lot of connections and roots,
so I definitely feel like there's something missing.
I want to know about my family, you know?
I want my kids to know about their bloodline.
I want them to know.
Good work, guys.
So it would be good for me to find out.
I grew up in West London.
I never lived out of a sort of three-mile radius.
And when I grew up, it was a pretty rough area.
But when you're growing up there, you're just part of it.
I just felt safe.
Noel is starting his search by visiting his mother Gemma...
-Come up here!
..to see what she can share with him about their family history.
My mum is really important to me.
She had to work really hard.
She was a nurse.
To raise me on her own and have me turn out, I guess,
half decent, I think I'm all right!
-Hi, son, how are you doing?
It was no mean feat.
-Nice to see you.
-Yeah, you too.
Gemma still lives in the flat where Noel grew up.
Are you ready to show me some stuff?
How did we end up stranded on this cold island?
What made you want to leave your home, to leave Trinidad, and
-come to England?
-I have a friend, and she told me, "Oh, Gemma,
"I applied to a hospital to go to England to do nursing."
And I said to her, "Can you give me the address?"
And she gave me the address, and I applied, and I got through,
-and she didn't get through!
-Are you still friends with her?
I came here to better myself, son.
You did a very good job.
That's the nurses. That was our group.
I'm liking that Afro, Mum.
-Was that the style?
I like my Afro, man, too.
-Is that me?
I remember, like, I was going to school on my own from seven years.
And sometimes, if you had to work the late shift,
I'd come home and you would have all of my snacks laid out.
And, "Don't open the door for anyone, put the chain on."
And I would just sort of sit here and play with my toys
or watch television or watch films and stuff like that
until you came home.
But that was what you did back then.
And every weekend we used to have our weekend.
Yeah, you used to take me to theatre shows and cinemas
at a very young age.
So how does my childhood here compare to what it was like
in Trinidad for you?
I didn't... My childhood in Trinidad was better than yours!
We were free.
We used to play hopscotch, play rounders, play cricket.
We used to do lots of things.
Girls used to do what the boys used to do also.
Where exactly did you grow up?
I grew up with my grandmother in Orange Field Road, Carapichaima.
-Carapichaima? In Trinidad?
That's me when I was six months old.
-As a baby, yes.
I grew up with my grandmother.
And I thought she was my mother.
-What was her name?
-Elizabeth Adina Clarke.
OK. So, my great-grandmother?
Why were you living with your grandmother?
I don't know the reason, but I was with my grandmother,
and I know my mother used to come and see me.
So who did you think your mother was?
When my mother used to come around,
we used to say, "Hello, Auntie Edna."
-What was her name?
-Edna Naomi Clarke.
-So...you grew up with your grandmother...
-..and thought your mother was your aunt?
And then Edna told me that she was my mother.
Did she do it like EastEnders, "I'm your mother!"
No, no, no, she came one summer to take me, and she never took me back.
And I stayed with her.
I think I was 11 years.
This is my mother when she was young...
-..and cute. Yes.
-She was Edna Naomi Clarke?
How come I'm only hearing about all this stuff now?
Well, you never asked.
So I'm just telling you about it now.
What was Great-Grandma like?
She was easy-going.
So where did you get the strictness from? From Granny? From Edna?
No, I wasn't strict with you!
You had a lot of leeway.
That's amazing how parents remember it, isn't it!
So, if I want to really know about the family,
I should probably start with Great-Grandma Elizabeth.
Yes, that's a good place to start.
Noel's mother Gemma grew up in Trinidad.
Raised for the first 11 years of her life not by her mother, Edna Naomi,
but by her grandmother, Elizabeth Adina.
Elizabeth's husband, Noel's great-grandfather,
was William Woods Clarke.
To find out more about this line of the family,
Noel has come to Trinidad. His first visit in 25 years.
Trinidad and Tobago is the most southerly country
in the Caribbean island chain,
less than ten miles from the coast of South America.
Elizabeth and William lived in Carapichaima, in central Trinidad.
-This one's nice.
-Yes, sweet, like sugar.
For over 100 years,
the sugar from this area was the mainstay of Trinidad's economy.
Thanks a lot, man.
Mm... It's good.
Local historian Judy Raymond has brought Noel to the road his
great-grandparents lived on.
There's still one house from the period.
So it's the kind of house that your great-grandparents would have lived
in. It's kind of beautiful, in its own way.
-It is, it's amazing.
-And it's a decent size, too.
-So, when it was
Yeah, they would have used candles and pitch oil lamps, kerosene lamps.
And it was built on short columns to dissuade rats
and other creatures. They would have grown a lot of their own food.
This is a breadfruit tree.
So they would probably cook and eat the breadfruit from here.
It sounds strange to think that they may have walked here.
What are you able to tell me about my great-grandma?
Let me show you what I've found.
So, this is a marriage certificate.
Oh, it's the other way around.
Adina Elizabeth John. That's my great-grandmother.
-She was 19 when she got married.
She was a seamstress.
Oh, man, this is unbelievable.
And William Woods Clarke.
Married at 27.
Date of marriage, June 24th, 1906.
My great-grandfather was a...mason.
So, both of them, in other words, had special skills.
Wait a second. St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Mm-hm, not Trinidad at all.
Not Trinidad. There's me shouting, "Trini! Trini!" for all my life,
and actually I'm waving the wrong flag.
Yeah, there's lots of first and second generation Trinis,
and they are just as Trini as anybody else.
Trini to the bone, so...
-You don't have to worry about that.
Were they both born in St Vincent, my great-grandparents?
We don't know, because the records from before that date
from St Vincent were destroyed in a volcanic explosion in 1902.
That would do it, wouldn't it, destroy records!
-And the next thing that happened...
Certified copy of an entry of birth.
15th of June 1913.
They had a child in St Vincent.
I can't see a first name. Am I just not seeing it?
No, in those days they just recorded the gender.
And then the next document for you to look at is this one.
So, OK, Trinidad and Tobago, here we go.
The 3rd of April 1917.
The fact that they had a daughter here suggests that they did
have actually quite a strong bond and they migrated as a family,
rather than him coming here alone in search of work.
And then, if you see, the informant is Robert John.
Adina Clarke's father.
And you also see it, it says, the mark of Robert John, labourer.
-In other words, he was illiterate.
So the family was already moving up in the world,
because his daughter was a seamstress, and she married a mason.
Married a mason, so they're making moves.
When Noel's great-grandparents migrated to Trinidad in 1917,
its economy was booming.
Chocolate was considered a vital morale boost for soldiers
fighting in World War I. So cocoa and sugar were in great demand.
Like William and Elizabeth,
many inhabitants of smaller islands migrated to work on Trinidad's large
and thriving estates.
Each estate would have a mason,
a carpenter and so on, who would carry out the skilled work
that was needed to maintain buildings and the equipment.
With Great-Grandfather doing his masonry,
was Great-Grandma working as well, making clothes?
What do you think she was doing? I mean, obviously...
Well, I can tell you one thing she was doing.
She loved it, didn't she, clearly!
Great-Grandma, I know what you were up to!
This is another daughter, she was born 25th of October, 1919.
That's not my grandmother either.
How many more of these is there?
Wow, 22nd... This is my grandmother.
22nd of June, 1921.
Yeah, this is my grandmother.
-And that's it.
So my grandmother was the youngest of four children.
-I did not know that.
OK, I have one more document.
Passenger list, 1923.
So these are people going to the United States.
-Which would have been...
-After my grandmother, Naomi, was born.
Two years after she was born, Clarke, Elizabeth, 30, female.
Married or single?
-So, my great-grandfather's died?
Name and address of nearest relative,
Mr R John, Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad.
So that's her father.
Final destination, New York. Why is she going to New York?
Were they going to join a relative or friend, if so,
what relative or friend?
So, my great-grandmother, in 1923, has gone to New York
to stay with her sister. What about the kids?
Does it say that the kids went with her?
It doesn't say that.
I can't imagine that she would just leave four children.
Well, I'm sure, if she did, she must have had a very good reason.
To find out whether Elizabeth really did abandon her children,
Noel is meeting Diane Prechad.
-How are you?
-I'm fine, how are you?
-Yeah, good, you must be Diane, yeah?
-Yes, and you must Noel?
Diane is an expert on the history of Caribbean migration.
My great-grandmother, unfortunately, was widowed,
and then seems to have disappeared to New York,
and I think left her kids behind.
So I'd love to know a little bit more about that.
This article would tell you a context
of what were the circumstances in Trinidad at that time.
"The exodus from Trinidad, women leading the way.
"An alarming situation. May 12th, 1923.
"A revision of the passenger list for the last six months
"discloses the alarming fact that, fully, 90%
"of the emigrants leaving Trinidad are women.
"It is noticeable that, when the women go away,
"they earn the money and send back for the men.
"Thus we find the order of things have radically changed."
"It is that the women have been forced to realise
"that there is no living to be made by them locally and so,
"rather than leading questionable lives...
"..they elect to venture forth and eke out an existence."
the only option was for them to either become prostitutes or...
And she decided she was going to leave.
Then, post-World War I,
there were crop failures so drastic that it affected
the most vulnerable in society.
So if men were already finding themselves unemployed,
we could only imagine how it affected women
with little or no opportunity at all.
HE EXHALES HEAVILY
I still couldn't do it, though.
I don't think... I don't think, I don't know.
I mean, it's one of those ones where I completely see why she did it and
why she had to do it,
because had she not been sending money back for them then, you know,
maybe they would have been in a situation where
they might have had to have "questionable lifestyles".
She had four daughters.
Upon that, she had no husband.
So she probably would have only thought about her daughters
-and not herself.
To go work hard and send money back so they would just have
And that their opportunity would have been better than hers.
Now, we have this...
Oh, my gosh. Declaring her intention
to become a citizen of the United States.
My great-grandmother became a naturalised US citizen.
Ah! "I now reside in Brooklyn."
With her sister and her brother-in-law.
And then... "I have four children.
Louise, was born in Saint Vincent.
There's names! Louise! St Vincent, yeah.
Naomi, that's my grandmother.
And all reside in the West Indies.
So, this is now 1926.
So why would she still be there, like?
I mean, she's left her kids. It's, like, three years on.
Who has she left them with is what I'm wondering.
Well, we don't know for sure who she left them with.
On the, er...
..passenger list of the original ship...
..it says...Mr R John.
That was her father. So maybe she left them with her father.
And that's not an uncommon thing in the British West Indies.
-A mother wouldn't leave her children and abandoned them.
-She would have left them in the care of somebody trustworthy.
Well, this would bring a context to her life in Brooklyn at that time.
So, this would have been Brooklyn at the time?
Yeah, that would have been Osborne Street, where she lived.
And it was predominantly a West Indian and Jewish area.
And this was the 1930 census.
Six years without your mother is a long time.
-So it says here that she is a house worker.
What exactly is a house worker?
Because the last time I saw any description of her job,
she was a seamstress.
A house worker would be someone who is like a domestic worker.
Essentially, she would have had to work a 14-hour day.
-She would have to do cooking, cleaning,
taking care of the children.
Her weekly pay would have been three to five US dollars.
So, she could have just been looking after other people's kids
and missing her own and having to send back whatever cents,
peanut money, she'd got back to Trinidad.
The only thing that she probably would have had to communicate
through was letter writing and probably,
if she was very lucky, have a photo.
Yeah? So maybe some of the pictures I saw of my grandmother
were sent to her when she was young.
Wow. For her just to have something tangible like a photo to see
her progress, this would have been really, really big.
Do we know how long she actually stayed in New York?
So, the last record we have of her in New York is 1937.
Wow. I mean, those...
Those daughters would have grown up a lot in that time, obviously.
Yeah. Essentially, she would have missed a big chunk
of their childhood.
By 1937, her oldest would have been 24
and her youngest would have been 15.
..could I miss 15 years of my kids' lives?
My great-grandmother's experience is just...
I mean, it's unimaginable, really.
On the surface, it seems like she left them, but actually,
she had so much love for them that she had to leave.
Being a woman in those times
and not wanting to live a questionable lifestyle,
if you didn't leave, there was no jobs, there was no work.
Your children would starve in front of you.
My initial response of, like, "Well, I couldn't leave my kids..."
But she actually was braver, in a way, to sacrifice being with them.
She didn't get to bring up her own kids,
so she came back and brought up my mother, which is why my mother ended
up growing up with Adina for a period of time.
It wasn't just Noel's mother who came to Britain from Trinidad.
His father Alpheus did too.
But as Noel wasn't brought up by his dad,
he has even less information about this side of his family tree.
I know absolutely nothing about my dad's family.
I must have seen my dad's mother, like, twice in my whole life.
Maybe three times, max.
And so, you know,
I don't feel as connected to them, but that's 50% of my family.
Noel is heading to the south of the island,
the heart of Trinidad's oil industry,
where his paternal grandmother lived.
I remember my grandmother, Minelvia.
She was really funny and strong, like, really strong.
Like, you could picture her carrying boulders and stuff like that,
like a strong, strong, tough woman.
I have got a picture of the last time I saw her, Minelvia.
I've heard people call her Minerva,
but I wasn't around and I don't really know how it was pronounced,
so let's just go with Minelvia.
-We'll go with that.
-What did you call her?
-What did I call her?
I called her Granny. You don't call your elders anything other than what
they are to you. Granny.
Otherwise you got a backhand.
Fyzabad has been at the centre of this oil-producing region since the
early 20th century and makes claim to be the original home
of steel pans.
Now a feature of West Indian carnivals from Trinidad
to Notting Hill, the oil drums turned instruments
were first made by the early oil workers.
In British colonial times,
this area was reserved solely for the oil industry management.
Now, it's a public park created by Arthur Sanderson,
a local politician.
Did you know my grandmother?
-Everybody in Fyzabad knew your grandmother.
She was not only vocal, she was brave.
Your grandmother was a woman amongst women.
I knew, as a young boy going to school, being looked after,
because in those days the village grew the child...
-If you don't go to school, somebody else will say,
-"Get to school!"
-Yes! And she will take the whip.
-Did you ever get licks from her?
-No, I never.
I was a good boy.
Your grandmother was one of the early settlers.
She was not from Trinidad.
Your grandmother was from Grenada.
Bearing in mind I'm always shouting about I'm Trinian,
now it seems like I'm from here, there and everywhere.
I don't know what's going on any more. Why did she come here?
Your grandmother would have been attracted to come to Trinidad,
like many other women and men in Grenada, to find work.
Two world wars and the expanding car industry meant an ever-increasing
demand for Trinidad's rich supply of oil.
British and American companies rushed to exploit the new commodity.
And thousands of Caribbean men migrated to find work
in the oilfields.
I remember your grandmother made a statement to me.
-"While Trinidad was exporting oil, Grenada was exporting people."
Yeah, right, yeah.
The time when your grandmother would have migrated to Trinidad,
they enjoyed what you will call segregation.
This area was where the white management lived.
-There were about 26 houses inside here,
the pharmacist lived here,
the manager of operations lived here, the accountant lived here.
-If you are black, you couldn't live here.
-No. No, no.
-Early settlers, you couldn't live here.
-It was a gated community.
-So your grandmother couldn't come in here, as a maid.
So we're sitting in a place now that actually the black people and the
-workers were not allowed to go.
-No. No, no, no.
There was not an equitable distribution of the wealth
within the community.
The money's not filtering down.
No, no. It does not.
So your grandmother coming to Trinidad fell into that system.
When Menelvia came to Trinidad in the early 1940s,
it was still under British colonial rule and white British expats
ran both the government and the industries.
And profits flowed back into British coffers.
Fyzabad became the centre of an increasing political awareness
and activism against this inequality.
Calls for independence from Britain grew.
Your grandmother, she was one of the early fighters that built this
country. Simple people who were honest and loyal
towards a new Trinidad and Tobago. A new life, a new nation.
And your grandmother was one of those.
-She was a very strong Baptist.
-And she associated her spirituality in a church
that is not too far from here. So you should visit these areas.
-And get a feel of the soul of the community.
SINGING AND CLAPPING
Menelvia worshipped at Egan Baptist Church
as part of the spiritual Baptist tradition,
which has strong connections to African spirituality.
SINGING AND CHANTING
The racial tensions of Trinidad in the early 20th century
led the British colonial authorities to ban this religion,
making its practice illegal until 1951.
The pastor and the ladies of the church still remember Menelvia well.
She was known to them as Mother Bernard.
Sounds like she was a very, very strong woman.
-Yeah, she was very strong.
Very, very strong person.
Youngers having any problem would go to her.
So the people in the district also had that respect for her.
So you guys must miss her a lot.
-I'd like to present you with this.
-This is Mother Bernard here.
-She was very young.
Do you know when this was?
-That is a PNM.
What is the PNM?
It is one of the political parties in Trinidad,
it means the People's National Movement.
-It was the first party established in 1956.
And she was a part of the party?
Yeah, she was the lady vice-chair.
-Wherever she go in the country, she was highly respected.
Menelvia was one of many women
who were part of the People's National Movement,
led by the charismatic Oxford-educated Eric Williams.
It was one of the first parties to give black Trinidadians
a political voice.
A lifelong supporter of the party,
in 1956 Menelvia saw the PNM win the general election.
Six years later, on the 31st of August 1962...
As Prime Minister of the newly-independent state
..Trinidad gained full independence from Britain.
Learning that my grandmother was such a respected member
of her community was amazing.
I'm glad I did come here. I want to bring the kids here one day so they
can know where they're from.
Noel has found out he has roots on more than one Caribbean island.
To find out more about the family history, I need to go to Grenada.
There's more digging to do.
He's going to meet someone who he hopes will be able to tell him more.
Menelvia's son, Telford, a 77-year-old uncle he has never met.
I've heard he's sort of like some sort of Crocodile Dundee type,
Indiana Jones type strange man who roams around the island
and swims everywhere and lives on his own like a hermit.
-Hello, Uncle Telford.
-I'm good! Well, well.
-Are you all right?
Yeah, man, I'm good, I'm good.
It's good to meet you after all these years.
Well, really and truly, I am very delighted to meet you.
You too, man. What was it like growing up here
when you were small?
Well, you see, I had to grow up with my grandmother
and I had a good life because, being the only child in the house,
I was free to do almost anything.
But my thing was the sea.
-So at night, when my grandmother was sleeping,
I could come out of the house and I would go down into the sea and...
Just go on a little journey.
Yeah. When she woke up, I am there.
She doesn't even know that you left.
My mother was from Carriacou.
So my grandmother...
-..is from Carriacou?
She's from Carriacou.
I'm not surprised by that. I thought I was a pure Trini,
but it turned out I'm from every other island except Trinidad really.
Where is Carriacou? Is it part of Granada?
It is about 70 miles away.
-It's over there.
-It is beyond them, yes.
You will see where that haze is.
If the weather was clear, you would see Carriacou.
What do you know about the family that you can tell me?
My mother was a Bedeau.
We pronounce it Bee-doo, b-e-d-e-a-u.
I don't know if you will be going to Carriacou, but that's the
headquarters of the Bedeau family.
Menelvia's father, I was told, was called Maxman.
-So he was your...
Maxman Bedeau. Sounds like a superhero.
Yeah. And his father, I understand, was a sea captain.
So my great-great-grandfather, Cadeau Bedeau.
He was the sea captain that got lost in a hurricane in 1921.
They took cargo in Trinidad for somewhere up the islands,
they stopped in Grenada to do something.
-And they left in the evening and the same night there was this
hurricane, nobody's seen them since 1921.
Most of the Carriacou men used to be shipwrights and sailors.
-Hardly anything else.
Maybe that's where you got it from.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, had it in my blood.
So let me work this out.
-Menelvia's father was Maxman.
-And Maxman's father was Cadeau.
And do you know anything about Cadeau's mother or father?
Does it go further? Do you know further?
Well, I hear about Benjamin.
-If he was Cadeau's father, or what, he was...
So he was a Bedeau, as well.
-He was a senior to them, yeah.
So you think if I want to know more about the family history,
you think I should probably go to Carriacou.
Yeah, you will get some more information
from the other people in Carriacou.
-Shall we swim there?
Younger one has to go first!
Noel is descended from the Bedeau family from the island of Carriacou.
His grandmother, Menelvia's father, was Maxman Bedeau.
His father was the ship's captain Cadeau.
And Noel's great-great-great grandfather
was Benjamin Bedeau.
Noel's leaving the main island of Grenada and travelling north
across the waters that so many generations of the Bedeau family
would have sailed.
He's heading for Carriacou,
a tiny island with a long history of boat building.
It has a population today of just 7,000.
He is meeting a historian from the University of the West Indies,
Nicole Philip Dowell.
So my uncle's told me about Carriacou.
I'll be honest, I never heard of it before.
-And my family comes from here,
so I would love to know a little bit more about the place and what you
-know about my family.
I've managed to find this document, so you can have a look at it.
-Wait a second, let me just...
Oh, my goodness. Benjamin Bedeau.
So this is from here, he's born in Carriacou?
Yes, he's born in Carriacou.
Parents, Mary and Glasgow.
Have a look at this document.
-Oh, my goodness.
-Yes, it's an old one.
The annual return of the increase and decrease of slaves
in Harvey Vale estate in the island of Carriacou in the year 1821.
Oh, I see, yeah, here. Glasgow.
Age, one month. OK, so...
So what is this? This is...?
Four times, this is great-great-great-great-grandfather
Was born into slavery.
Yes, born into slavery in Carriacou.
The planters had to give a record, or a statement,
of the slaves that they owned each year.
-So they had to state how many slaves increased,
whether by birth or whether they bought any slaves.
-So that's why it's written like this in the records.
-And this is 1821.
I mean, you know, the thing is, kind of being...
Well, not kind of. Being black,
I thought that this might end up here at some point.
But it's still crazy to think that it...
-It's still crazy to see it, you know...
-..in real time.
Carriacou became part of the British Empire in 1763
and immediately the British established plantations
and transported Africans by ship to the island
to work the land as slaves.
Within just 60 years of British control,
Carriacou's slave population numbered almost 4,000.
And then, what was that? Mother's...
-That means there was more than one Jenevieve on the plantation,
so she's the second one.
-There was another slave called Jenevieve,
so she was just a second slave called Jenevieve.
So they just called her Jenevieve Two.
-Wow. Why do you think he was called Glasgow?
The slave is property.
-They have absolutely no rights
and because they are seen as property,
the planter could decide, for example, what to name a child.
The agent for this plantation, John Dallas, was actually Scottish.
So a name like Glasgow could have been because of the...
..that Scottish connection.
-Do we know anything about his father?
The slave records don't show fathers' names.
The only thing that goes on the records is the mother's name.
Would you like to see a map of Carriacou in 1832?
-Can you find...?
Ah, you've found Harvey Vale.
The entire island would have been carved up, as you notice,
with different plantations.
Harvey Vale is a cotton estate.
Would you like to know a little bit about
what life would have been like?
I have a pretty good idea, but, yeah, please tell me
what he would have had to endure.
Who was the master? Was it Harvey Vale?
Ah, great question.
The master, or planter, of Harvey Vale estate...
Thomas Davidson would have been the master of Harvey Vale estate.
They were absentee planters, which basically meant that he lived...
-Controlled it from afar.
-Right, he lived in England.
-And they lived in Brunswick Square in London.
Brunswick Square in London.
-Just north of Soho.
I'm around that area all the time.
-I might go look for them.
So they were cowards, basically.
Well, they got their wealth out of the Caribbean,
but didn't necessarily live...
-Didn't want to see the dirty work.
-Didn't necessarily live here, no.
He would have an agent who's working,
doing the day-to-day running.
Who was the agent? John Dallas.
Yeah. We have some very unfortunate stories about John Dallas.
He was one of the bad ones, was he?
This was done by a sociologist and it's oral testimony
of the treatment that slaves received.
"Stories circulate about one particularly cruel master,
"In those days, a white man in the Harvey Vale was beating them
"so much, they used to put a woman that have big belly, dig a hole,
"and put the woman leg down,
"belly inside the hole and then beat them until they make the child."
-They would be beaten so bad they would give birth?
So you had one of the cruellest masters on the island.
And my...my relatives were on that estate.
Do you know anything about Jenevieve, Glasgow's mother?
The last record that I've been able to find of Jenevieve,
this is it, here.
-Is that deceased?
Decreased? What does decreased mean?
Decreased by death or whether they sold, they sold any slaves.
-So she died.
Inflammation of the stomach and bowels at age 31.
And she probably would have been malnourished because of course she's
trying to breast-feed Glasgow,
but the nutrition that she's getting is not sufficient.
Now, we must note that Jenevieve died, so little Glasgow
probably would have had to be...
..he would have been taken in by the other women.
What year is this? 1824.
So he was two.
She died when Glasgow was two.
I almost can see them now, Jenevieve, the kid Glasgow.
I don't think being ridiculously angry about it gets me anywhere.
You know, jeez, America had a black president.
I think that says something about where the world is.
And it's still not perfect, you know?
But to know that five generations back, my immediate,
direct-line family were slaves...
..it's a lot to take in, really.
A lot to process.
I know that without Jenevieve and Glasgow, I wouldn't be here.
But to be on the island where they actually suffered
and were slaves is hard.
To find out more about Glasgow's life on Carriacou,
Noel has arranged to meet local researcher Curtis Jacobs.
So, I'm understanding that my four times great-grandfather
was a slave around here in this area,
his mother was Jenevieve and she died when he was two,
his name was Glasgow.
-Can you tell me a little bit more about him?
-Yes. Yes, well, first
I would like to show you this document.
"Between Adam Read, planter, and his lawful wife Eliza Read,
"of one part of Glasgow Bedeau and John Ovid of the other part
"for the absolute sale thereof at, or for,
"the price or sum of £13 and four shillings."
This is like gibberish, there's no punctuation.
"A certain lot, piece, or parcel of land situated,
"lying and being a part or position of the cotton plantation
"or estate called Endeavour."
It sounds like Glasgow, my four-time great-grandfather was...
..was either being sold to the Endeavour estate,
or actually he was purchasing a piece of land
on the Endeavour estate.
Well, by 1844, the date of which that deed
is executed, slavery was abolished,
so there was no such thing about buying and selling of human beings.
-So they were buying land?
-Yes. They were buying land.
That is something.
Where was the Endeavour estate?
OK. So he lived and worked here at Harvey Vale until the 1840s,
when he purchased a property.
-And Endeavour is up here, this way.
-Oh, yeah, wow. Yeah.
-You'll see it has a border.
-A border with Harvey Vale.
-..where is the land they bought?
-We are on it now.
-This is it?
We are on it.
That is something.
Were these trees here? Did he sit under these trees for shade, like?
You know, suddenly it becomes very...
-..very real, you know?
-Exactly, that's the word, real.
It's a remarkable achievement, £13 and some shillings.
It looks like not much money today.
-But in... But 200 years ago, that was a sizeable...
A lot of money for him to raise.
Yes. Many, many of the formerly-owned slaves
did not manage to purchase land.
-Many did not.
-So he was a hard worker then, must have been.
The average day wage for an agricultural labourer
was one shilling per day.
And he was not an adult as yet, so he was probably getting paid
-as a minor.
-So that's probably why he had to buy it with John Ovid.
Yes. We are not sure who John Ovid was, but this offers a clue.
This is an extract from a marriage register.
Glasgow Bedeau marrying Mary Ovid.
So John Ovid would either be her dad or her brother.
Yes, I would think so.
And so her father or her brother bought the land
with my four times great-grandfather.
-And maybe even Mary saved some of her money, too.
That is quite possible.
That would have taken years of unstinting effort to do.
And his grave is not far from here.
-That's it there.
It's a pretty fancy grave.
In memory of...
Rest in peace.
76 is a good age to live to,
considering what he would have gone through
at the beginning of his life.
His grave is so impressive.
It goes all the way back, doesn't it?
Maxman and Cadeau and Benjamin and getting to Glasgow...
..who clearly worked hard.
And his mother, Jenevieve...
..you know, without that, then...
..there is no us standing here, really.
And the countless lines before that that we can't trace
because they were treated like cattle.
You know, it's always interesting when I see this show and they trace
people back to 1066 or whatever like that.
Well, yeah, of course, you know, that makes sense because, probably,
at no point you were bunched in a ship
and no-one cared if you died or not.
You know, and that's the difference.
So even getting this far back, I think is pretty impressive.
-Hello, good afternoon.
-Hi, good afternoon, how are you?
Noel is not the only Bedeau descendant on the island.
I'm just looking at my four times great-grandfather's grave.
I also come from Glasgow Bedeau's line.
-No, you don't!
-Yes, I am.
-What's your name?
-My name is Elizabeth Bedeau.
-So we're related?
Glasgow Bedeau is my great-great-great-grandfather.
Glasgow had four boys.
-John Bedeau, Maxman Bedeau.
Ange Bedeau, Benjamin Bedeau.
Wow, I'm from Benjamin's line.
I'm also from Benjamin's line.
-Yes, I am.
-It's a pleasure to meet you.
-It's a pleasure to meet you.
Oh, my gosh! Sorry,
I'm looking you up and down because I'm just like, "How tall are you?"
-Like, "We're related."
Wow. So how come he's got a grave like this?
How come his grave's kind of fancy?
Well, it seems to me that Glasgow was a wealthy man.
-So he did all right.
This piece of land, all the way up, that's the Bedeau.
So this here was the Bedeau land.
And so that here and all this here...
So who's putting candles there, do you know?
My bigger brother and some of the other Bedeau who believe in putting
-Yeah, the Bedeaus.
-They're still here.
Yeah. Big family, united.
-Wow. That's amazing.
Elizabeth is just one of Noel's relations on Carriacou.
Many people living on the island still trace their family lines
back to Glasgow and his four sons.
Well, that's a Bedeau here passing.
-That's your first...
-That's a cousin from your side.
-What? Related to me?
Hello! Hello! I think I'm your cousin!
Are you serious?
Yes, she is. She's from Benjamin and Cadeau's line.
-So your father's a Bedeau?
-Yeah, my father's a Bedeau.
-And he's from Cadeau's line?
-Same as me.
That's random, that we're meeting.
-I'm your cousin, basically.
-Amazing. What a pleasure to meet you.
-Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Lincoln, the one with the bus.
-So he's related to me as well?
-Yes, and everybody else around here, no!
He's been driving me around!
Lincoln, I've got a bone to pick with you, man.
-I got a bone to pick with you.
-Pick a nice bone.
Do you know you're my cousin?
-Which line are you?
-I'm Maxman Bedeau.
So you're from Maxman's line?
-And you still have the name, you still have the name?
Yeah, that's amazing. Well, good to meet you.
-Good to meet you again.
-Properly. Instead of just saying morning.
-"Morning. Yeah, morning, Lincoln, how you doing, man?
"Getting in the van now."
Wow, that's amazing.
So that's how it goes, yeah.
-So it seems like there's a lot, yeah?
-A lot of them, yeah.
-A lot of the Bedeaus around.
For hundreds of years,
Carriacou has been home to a music tradition called the big drum.
SINGING AND DRUMMING
It always takes place at a crossroads, and tonight
it's happening on Noel's four times great-grandfather Glasgow's land.
This is the traditional dance and music of Carriacou.
It is normally used during festival as respect to the ancestors and also
-we are doing this to welcome you...
..to the Bedeau family and to Carriacou.
Oh, wow, thank you very much.
I'm honoured by that, that's really nice.
But, yeah, strange, that.
To have family that you don't know you have.
The complete opposite of everything I've ever known.
-Thank you very much.
-Thank you very much indeed.
Noel has been invited to take part in the ritual that opens the dance.
Rum is used to wet the ground as an invitation to ancestors
to join the festivities.
Because Carriacou's population has remained so small and unchanged,
many of its traditions have survived since Africans were first brought to
the island. Historian Nicole Philip Dowell is on hand to explain how,
through the music, Noel can trace his roots back
beyond even Glasgow and Jenevieve.
Through music and dance and song,
the slaves were able to keep that part of their heritage alive.
The planters could not take away that from them.
And that is what has passed from one generation to the other.
-And what they basically did was to keep it in, what we call,
So that a nation is like an ethnic group that comes out of Africa.
-So each nation will have their dance and their way of linking back
-to the past.
-Wow. So is this...?
Is this...? Was this the Bedeau dance?
Yes. So your nation...
-Yes, tell me!
-..would have come from the Coromantee or Akan people,
out of Ghana on the west coast of Africa.
That's your... That's your lineage.
-Yes, it is.
DRUMMING JOINS THE SINGING
-I'm Ghanaian! Wow!
-So you probably need to learn it
and pass it onto your boys.
To my children.
Once my family, you know, gets into slavery,
there's only so far you can go before they're nothing,
they're considered nothing, they were no-one.
Jenevieve, you can't even find her last name.
But this song, it goes all the way back through all the hardship
and the persecution and the disgusting treatment.
This song, through a family line, goes all the way back to Ghana,
before they were enslaved.
Glasgow Bedeau, Jenevieve, would have sung that song...
..in the one hour a day, maybe, they had off.
They would have sung that song and then...
..and then, 200 years later, these guys are singing it for me.
It's like the universe has kind of gone...
"Oh, you didn't have anything or anyone from that family.
"Here you go."
You know, "There's everything you missed for all your life."
Just amazing, really.
Actor and film-maker Noel Clarke grew up in west London with his single-parent mum, and this left one side of his family tree a mystery to him.
His search starts in Trinidad, where both his parents are from, but soon takes him on a trail to other islands, ending on one of the smallest and most beautiful in the Caribbean. There he learns of an extraordinary great-great-great-great-grandfather called Glasgow Bedeau, who was born into slavery. The music Glasgow's enslaved parents and grandparents passed down reveals the part of Africa from which Noel's ancestors were taken.