“They were in love, but they couldn’t be together” says Edmond Peters, who has worked at Northern Monk for the past five years, “It was illegal for a nurse and a doctor to have a relationship. It meant my mum brought me up alone, and my father never had a relationship with his son.”
Edmond was born in The Gambia in June 1973. When he moved to the UK thirty years later, Edmond took the decision to start using his real surname; his dad’s surname.
“Some people knew my father had a son, but not who that was. From when I was born, I used my great grandfather’s surname and not my real one, Peters. When I came to the UK, I decided I needed to use my real name.
“I’ve always been quiet about my history and my story but recently something was telling me that I need to tell people.”
Edmond’s mother, Emma, was a nurse who came and studied in England from The Gambia. His father was Lenrie Peters, who studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Dr Lenrie Peters went onto further studies in the UK, also working for the BBC on African programming, before returning to The Gambia. It was there that he met Emma.
“My mother and father both worked at the same hospital, where they met and grew closer together, and fell in love. But the law didn’t allow surgeons and nurses to have relationships. If they were discovered, they would have both lost their jobs. They were two of the best in their fields; my mum was a specialist midwife, and my dad was a surgeon.
“When I came along, they had to make a difficult decision, one where it meant my dad couldn’t be with his son and the woman he loved. I was hidden and given a different surname. If you search my father’s name, you can find his whole biography and history. He was well known. But no one knew who I really was until I came to the UK and started using my real surname.
“I don’t blame my parents. They couldn’t help it. If you have spent your life and education studying to be a nurse or a surgeon and then you lose it, what can you do? You cannot help falling in love and you cannot help the law.
“In those days, a good doctor and a good nurse were very important, it would have been a big blow to lose them and so they had to keep apart, because of an old British colonialist law.
“My father couldn’t be involved in my upbringing, so my mother had to bring up me and my sister Hannah on her own. It was very difficult.
“I am sure I’m not the only one who has this story. There will be others whose parents couldn’t be together due to law and never had the relationship with a parent that they deserved. There will be others like me, with stories like me. This is just the start of the story.”
“But now that both of my parents have passed away, I feel I need to tell my story, and tell their story.
It is likely that if things were different and my father could have been involved in my upbringing that I would have followed in his footsteps.
“I am his legacy. We want his legacy, his name, to go on through me and then through my two kids.”
“Now is the time to share their story. Now they have passed away, they are reunited in heaven, when it couldn’t happen on Earth.
“This is their story. I’m just telling it.”
Edmond wanted to dedicate this story to all Gambians, and the medical professionals who couldn’t be together.
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