have never had the pleasure of meeting Joe and Grace,
but an isolated enquiry about one of Elsie’s
recipes some years ago (if you read the write up in
the Guardian Weekend magazine of 16th August 2003,
you will have seen that Joe, at 97, is very much an
accomplished cook) – led to a steady flow of
letters and telephone calls over the years. As Joe
and Grace celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary
at Clevedon in North Somerset on 12th September 2003(the
actual celebrations take place on Sunday 14th September
as the 12th is a Friday), I felt that it was right
that we should record Joe’s own story, which
I have pieced together from various hand written letters
and telephone calls to me over the past 2-3 years.
Here, in his own words, are snippets from that interesting
was born in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan) in 1906; an
elder sister was born two years earlier in 1904, but
sadly she died in 1911 and is buried in Rawalpindi.
I can still recollect her grave. I am the only surviving
member of our family – my other two brothers
having also died (one was Fr. Francis Sequeira who
died at the age of 90).
describes himself as ‘ a rambling lad’
and says,” I
was not fond of school, and was sent from Rawalpindi
to Bombay in 1912. Here, I was under the guidance
of my mother’s uncle Fr. Moniz, whose grandnephew
was Eddie Moniz (late of Nairobi). I had no head for
studies. Next, I was moved to St. Stanislaus School
in Bandra in 1913. Got sick while there and so was
moved to Goa and stayed as a boarder in Parra School.
My other granduncle had built our house in Saligao
in 1912, and I then went to Mater Dei School in that
village, moving later to Arpora under that well-known
Fr. Lyons and staying at school until 1917/18”.
“Later, I joined the British Navy in 1920, working
as a Pantry Boy (washing dishes, cups and saucers
etc). My father had ‘ordered’ his good
friend Mr. Guilhermino Remedios from Saligao (a Ward
Room Steward) to give me this hard job ‘to bring
me to my senses’ at the tender age of 14 years.
You see, I had landed myself in trouble playing truant
at school and falling into bad company – smoking
and drinking. But before leaving home, my dear mother
took me aside and made me kneel before our altar and
promise me two things”(well,
I thought, money and letters home),
in fact, I didn’t even know how to write”
“Joe, never smoke or drink”. That promise
was made in 1920, and to his great credit, Joe has
kept it to this day (congratulations Joe,
a perfect recipe for longevity!).
Later, Joe goes on to pay tribute to his mother, describing
her as a saintly person ‘who always
wanted to help others – she could never say
‘No’ – a trait Joe has
father worked for a Parsee firm who were contractors
to the British forces on the North West Frontier region.
The British officers took a great liking to Joe’s
father, and asked if he could recommend any of his
countrymen back home for the many jobs the army had
(mostly domestic –cooks, waiters etc).
“I can let you have any number of Goans”,
was Mr. Sequeira (Snr.)’s response –
“provided you can guarantee them a job, since
it would be hard for them to travel all the way from
Bombay to Rawalpindi with no firm prospect of a job”.
The British officer gave a written undertaking that
he would personally guarantee employment. Out went
messages to fellow Goans through Mr. Sequeira's Club
of Sangolda in Sonapur. “In the olden
days, friendship was genuine and lasting,”
observes Joe, and ‘My dear mother became
a very good cook learning from the Goan cooks and
landed in Mombasa in 1924 at the age of 18, and one
of his mother’s messages is still fresh in his
mind. “Joe”, she said, ‘Never
believe in the caste system; all of us are created
equal”. How wonderful of this saintly
woman to have imparted this timely advice to her young
son at a time when caste discrimination among Goans
in East Africa was not uncommon. Joe has emulated
this advice to this day, and this no doubt accounts
for his popularity not only among Goans, but also
among people of all races.” I was
always a low earner" notes Joe;
but he eventually went on leave to Goa in 1933, and
that’s when the love of his life, Grace, enters
“Mine was an arranged marriage,”
says Joe. “The proposals I was getting were
up to Rs.50,000(dowry no doubt!). ‘But I told
everyone that I was not even earning that sum and
didn’t want to get married. As
was the custom in those days, Joe’s parents
asked one of their friends to see Grace who often
came to his aunt’s place ‘to
learn to stitch’. And so it was
that the match was finally arranged Listen to what
Joe has to say of Grace, “In her
days, Grace was a very good badminton player; she
was equally in demand on the dance floor as she was
a very good dancer”. Joe and Grace
were finally married in Goa on 12th September 1933
and returned to Mombasa thereafter.
to Joe, “ I worked in Mombasa from
1924 till mid-1974, firstly as a Shipping clerk in
various establishments and latterly as a Shipping
Supervisor for John Findlay & Co (Tea exporters)”.
I had many friends in East Africa and was a keen sportsman
and an active member of the Goan Institute. Because
of my sporting talents, I was very popular with the
Europeans in Mombasa and we often played against them
on their grounds. Because of the colour bar in those
days, we were provided with refreshments in a separate
tent on their grounds!
had another string to his bow – a keen musician
who played in the Goan Institute band under bandmaster
Julian D’Costa Silva whom Joe remembers with
affection. In a recent telephone conversation, Joe
told me how Julian travelled to Mombasa by dhow in
1918(those were true Goan pioneers). Joe has been
blessed with a wonderful memory, and it is my wish
that some of our younger Goans get in touch and obtain
some valuable oral history from this interesting man.
Two years ago, Joe and Grace celebrated their 68th
wedding anniversary, and this year, they will be thanking
God for 70 years of married bliss (a record in today’s
anti-marriage culture). Their daughter, Millie, and
granddaughter have spared no effort in organising
a right royal celebration at Clevedon on Sunday September
14th. Their popularity extends not just within their
parish community but also throughout the neighbourhood
and beyond. They are deservedly a much-loved and respected
couple, a shining example to the community at large.
many of us will not be there to join in the celebrations
of this exceptional couple, we Goans in the U.K.,
and especially those of us with Mombasa connections,
proudly raise our glasses to Joe & Grace and wish
them many, many happy years together. We will be there
in spirit as family, friends and well-wishers join
Indian-born couple Joe and Gracie
Sequeria will be marking 70 years of marriage tomorrow
(Friday). The couple, who now live in Clevedon, will
be having a party for family and friends on Sunday,
September 14 in the Greyfriars Hall, on Marine Hill,
to mark their platinum year together.
aged 96, and 90-year-old Gracie were both born in
the Portuguese colony of Goa, and met when Joe, who
was working in Africa, came back to Goa for a holiday
and they were introduced by mutual friends.
tied the knot in 1933, and Gracie moved with Joe to
the port of Mombasa in Kenya, where he worked as a
clerk for a shipping company.
was a housewife and the couple had one daughter, Milly,
who grew up in Kenya and met her husband Rais in Nairobi
then moved to England in 1970.
Joe retired in 1974, after working in Kenya for 68
years, the pair moved to England and followed their
daughter to North Somerset.
now live on Hill Road, in Clevedon, while Milly and
her family live in Nailsea.
and Gracie have three grandchildren, 31-year-old Neil,
who now lives in Frankfurt, Charlene, 28, and Glyn,
says her parents are still very independent, despite
being in their 90s.
said: "Mum and dad do everything for themselves,
and have lots of interests. They are both devout Catholics
and attend Clevedon Catholic Church and dad started
to learn how to cook when he was 91.
love watching all the soaps, playing cards, and they
follow the tennis and snooker on TV."