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Joe & Grace Sequeira (ex Mombasa)
celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary
Grace, Joe and daughter Millu.
An Appreciation By Mervyn Maciel.
I 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 story:

“I 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).

Joe 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 said,
“Joe, 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 inherited.

Joe’s 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 butlers.”

Joe 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 the scene.
“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.

According 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!

Joe 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.

While 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 in singing


Those wanting to contact the couple can do so by
Writing to them at: Flat 3,
4 Hill Road, Clevedon,
North Somerset, BS21 7NE

Tel: 01275-343977


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