Sam Selvon
Radio Plays & Short Stories

Sam Selvon (1923 – 1994)[1] was a Trinidad-born writer. He was born in San Fernando in the south of Trinidad, the sixth of seven children. His parents were Indian. He was educated at Naparima College, San Fernando, before leaving at the age of 15 to work. He was a wireless operator with the local branch of the Royal Naval Reserve from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War. Then he moved north to Port of Spain, and from 1945 to 1950, he worked for the Trinidad Guardian as a reporter and for a time on its literary page. In this period, he began writing stories and descriptive pieces.

Sam moved to London in the 1950s, where he worked as a clerk for the Indian Embassy, while writing in his spare time. His short stories and poetry appeared in the London Magazine, New Statesman, and The Nation. He also worked with the BBC.

He is best known for his novels The Lonely Londoners (1956) and Moses Ascending (1975). His novel A Brighter Sun (1952), about the construction of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in Trinidad, seen through the eyes of young Indian worker, was a popular choice on the CXC English Literature syllabus for many years. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Sam converted several of his novels and stories into radio scripts, broadcast by the BBC, which were collected in Eldorado West One (Peepal Tree Press, 1988) and Highway in the Sun (Peepal Tree Press, 1991). Betty Davies (q.v.) produced most of his radio plays.

The Lonely Londoners, like most of his later work, focuses on the migration of West Indians to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, and tells, mostly in anecdotal form, the daily experience of settlers from Africa and the Caribbean.

1965 Lost Property
1965 A House for Teena
1966 Perchance to Dream
1966 For Schools North Atlantic, 4, Volcanoes and coral islands
1967 Rain Stop Play
1967 Highway in the Sun
1968 You Right in the Smoke
1968 Gussy and the Boss, short story
1968 Of Men and Beasts: Worse Than Their Bite
1969 El Dorado West 1, series of 7 plays
1969 Bringing in the Sheaves
1969 Four from the Commonwealth 2: Perchance to Dream
1970 Mary, Mary, Shut your Gate
1970 Turn Again, Tiger
1970 You Right in the Smoke
1970 Home Sweet India
1971 The Harvest in Wilderness
1971 Voyage to Trinidad
1971 The Magic Stick
1971 Those Who Eat the Cascadura
1972 Water for Veronica
1972 Cry Baby Brackley
1972 The Harvest in Wilderness (Mon play)
1975 Milk in the Coffee
1977 Zeppi's Machine (TMT)
1980 The English Novel Abroad; Sam Selvon as guest.
1994 Short Story, The Cricket Match
1997 Reading: The Lonely Londoners, adap.


10 Mar 97 Book at Bedtime: The Lonely Londoners:
Ep1: The Arrival of Sir Galahad. Rudolph Walker reads Trinidadian writer Sam Selvon's classic account of the first West Indians to come to Britain in the fifties, abridged in five parts by Margaret Busby. Moses Aloetta, a Trinidadian in London, goes to meet Henry Oliver, alias Sir Galahad, at the boat-train.

    Ep2: The Love Lives of Cap and Bart
    11 Mar 97. Cap has no place to live, no work and no money, but marries a French girl regardless; and Bart gets friendly with an English girl - until her father intervenes. Production details - see yesterday.

1994-08-01 16-45 Short Story - The Cricket Match
By Sam Selvon, who died recently. Read by Laurence Scott. "Man, cricket is breakfast and dinner where I come from." Algernon has to get a team together quickly. And chaos follows. Producer .......... Duncan Minshull

1980-08-31 The English Novel Abroad - 3: Sam Selvon
Gerald Moore introduces the West Indian author, who talks about and reads from his novel The Lonely Londoners.

1977-02-26 15-05 Zeppi's Machine
Thirty-Minute Theatre, by Sam Selvon. The great Zeppi was a powerful obeah man in Trinidad, and the villagers of Tacarigua brought him all their problems. Bit by bit the modern world was changing their way of life - and one day Zeppi found that mechanisation was putting him out of business. But he was a resourceful old rogue, and he dealt with the situation in his own way. Meena: Nadia Cattouse, JaldO: Gordon Woolford, Lutchman: Frank Singuineau, Zeppi: Tommy Eytle, Rosa: Valerie Murray, Felix: Clifton Jones, Salesman: Walter Hall. Produced and directed by Betty Davies.

1975-06-18 15-05 Milk in the Coffee
MELDA: Andrew born here... don't forget that. He English!
RALPH: And you think English is any abra-ca-dabra word what will make him turn white? You wait and see if he don't end up in a bus or a factory, education or no education... Ralph: Tommy Eytle, Melda: Nadia Cattouse, Andrew, their son: Christopher Gilbert, Florence, their daughter: Valerie Murray, Gran, Melda's mother: Mercia Mansfield, Brenda: Emily Richard, Charlo: Loftus Burton, Gloria: Angela Bruce, Adviser: Gordon Woolford, Mr Anderson: Clifford Norgate, Police Officers: Nigel Lambert and Clifford Norgate Producer: Betty Davies.

1972-07-24 20-30 The Harvest in Wilderness
Monday Play. At one time the village of Wilderness in Trinidad was a collection of mud huts housing the Indian labourers who worked on the sugar plantation. Now there are streets; there is electricity and running water and many workers have come into money and own large houses and smart cars. Like Harrilal and his wife Seeta ... Harrilal: Frank Singulneau, Seeta: Mona Hammond, Their sons:Teeka: Cedric Scott, Romesh: Gordon Woolford, PopO: M Robinson, Petra: Jan Edwards, Balgobin, Harrilal's brother: Horace James, Pusher: Charles Hyatt, Forbes: William Fox, Company man: Douglas Blackwell, Producer: Betty Davies.

1972-03-27 Four Morning Plays, 1: Cry Baby Brackley
If Brackley and his wife lived somewhere else, things would be fine, and the expected baby a joy. But they don't live somewhere else, and Baby Brackley's quite a problem. Brackley .......... Clifton Jones, B erta .......... Jumoke Debayo, Winston .......... Kenneth Gardnier, Ali ce .......... Betty Baskcomb, Martha .......... Sheelah Wilcocks, Hannah .......... Lorna Rosslyn,, Charles .......... Martin Friend Policeman .......... Douglas Blackwell, Producer .......... Gerry Jones.

1972-02-16 Midweek Theatre - Water for Veronica
In the village of Veronica in Trinidad an unusually long drought is causing great hardship. People are ill, livestock are dying and the river is a small trickle of mud.... Boodoo .......... Gordon Woolford, Rannie his wife .......... Valerie Murray, Popo, his son .......... Nigel Anthony, Rampersad .......... Frank Singuineau, Seeta, his wife .......... Nadia Cattouse, Motilal .......... Charles Hyatt, Raja .......... Tommy Eytle, Woman .......... Myrtle Robinson, Producer .......... Betty Davies.

BBC Radio 4 - 1972-02-02 21-00 Now Read On
Arts programme: Richard Mayne looks at the adventures of One of the Few (Grp-Capt Johnny Kent ) and The Diary of a Desert Rat (R. L. Crimp). Lord Chalfont reviews two new biographies, Barnes Wallis by J. E. Morpurgo and Man of Valour - Field-Marshal Lord Gort, VC, by J. R. Colville. Ronald Bryden talks to the West Indian novelist-playwright Sam Selvon about his new book Those Who Eat the Cascadura; and reviews Water with Berries, a novel of a West Indian in exile by George Lamming. A new biography by Basil Willey sends David Daiches back to the poems of Coleridge. Producer .......... Dan Zerdin

1971-07-28 Midweek Theatre - Voyage to Trinidad
Mrs Procap .......... Betty Baskcomb, Lincoln .......... Rudolph Walker, Hazel .......... Jan Edwards, Mona .......... Myrtle Robinson, James .......... Horace James, Porter .......... Edward Kelsey, Waiter .......... Frank Singuineau, Head Waiter .......... George Brown, Producer .......... Betty Davies.

1971-07-24 Those Who Eat the Cascadura
Those who eat the Cascadura will, the native legend says,
Wheresoever they may wander, end in Trinidad their days Roger ... Martin Friend, Prekash .... Gordon Woolford, Sarojini ... Yolande Firmin, Manko ... Horace James, Garry .. Gary Watson, EloiSa ... Nadi Cattouse, Ramdeen .. Frank Singuineau, Producer... Betty Davies.

1971-06-19 The Magic Stick
By Sam Selvon. Afternoon Theatre, freely adapted from the novel The Obeahman by Asmit (sp?) Khan. A story of love and magic in Trinidad at carnival-time. Hop and Drop: Charles Hyatt, Zumpi: Gordon Woolford, Zolda: Valerie Murray, Massahood: Tommy Eytle, Joseph: Cedric Scott. Music by Russell Henderson. Other parts:Frank Singuineau, Mona hammond, Ken Gajadhar. Music: Russell Henderson Band. Produced by Betty Davies.

1970-01-08 You Right in the Smoke
BBC notes are somewhat uninformative...."'You hide something and everybody looking for it, and they get nearer - " You smoking a little? " They get nearer still and " You right in the smoke "... And when they get the spot where you hide the thing- " You right in the fire." " Orig. broadcast 1968-04-18. Also rpt. 1971-01-08. Produced by Betty Davies.

Home Sweet India....1970
7 Nov 70. A story of the Indians of Trinidad. 'I don' want no white man for my daughter. I don' care if he is the King of England. When she married she got to married Indian like sheself '. Johnny: Horace James, Lalla: Tommy Eytle, Gopaul: Frank Singuineau, Jean: Mona Hammond, Taj: Gordon Woolford, Mary: Nadia Cattouse, Julia: Yolande Fermin, Govind: Rudolph Walker, Dr Wilkins: Sean Barrett. Producer: Betty Davies.

1970-01-19 Turn Again Tiger
A story from Trinidad. Tiger: Gordon Woolford, Oho: Burt Kwouk, Urmilla: Yolande Fermin, Babolal: George Webb, Singh: Frank Singuineau, Mr Robinson: Frederick Treves, Doreen Robinson: Jan Edwards, SoyOO: Rudolph Walker, Berta: Celia Robinson, West Indian woman: Myrtle Robinson, Music: Fitzroy Coleman, Producer: Betty Davies.

1970-01-06 11-30 Mary, Mary, Shut Your Gate
In Trinidad the children play a game. There's a sensitive plant-they touch the leaves and chant Mary, Mary shut your gate" and the leaves close. Rpt. 6 Jan 71. Ivy: Pamela Dellar, Arthur: Geoffrey Banks, Terry: Brian Peck, Colin: Derrick Gilbert, Brian: Brian Miller. Produced by Betty Davies.

A series of seven half-hour plavs by Sam Selvon, ad. from his book The Lonely Londoners. It's about a Trinidadian, Moses Aloetta, who after living in London for many years, decides he wants to go home again to the sun. He is surrounded by a group of fellow-immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and Nigeria who constantly frustrate his plans.

    1969-09-11 Ep.1: Sir Galahad Arrives
    Moses - Horace James, Big City - Nicholas Edmett, Harris - Kenneth Gardnier Tolroy - Keefe West Reporter - Haydn Jones Ma - Mona Hammond Tanty - Myrtle Robinson Galahad - Rudolph Walker. Other parts - David Brierley and Keefe West. Producer: Keith Williams.

    1969-09-12 Ep.2: Moses Gears for the Tropics
    Shopkeeper - Frederick Treves. Bob - John Baddeley.

    1969-09-15 Ep.3: Moses Risks an Investment

    1969-09-15 Ep.4: Harris Springs a Fete

    1969-09-15 Ep.5: Cap Captures a Bird

    1969-09-15 Ep.6: Tanty has a Housing Problem

    1969-09-15 Ep.7: Moses Books a Passage
    Cast for the week, as published in RT (not very accurately): Rudolph Walker, John Baddeley, Lisa Harrow, Femi Euba, Frank Cousins, Kenneth Gardnier, Keefe West, Myrtle Robinson, Mona Hammond, Wilfrid Carter, Kathleen Helme, Madi Hedd, John Bryning, Michael Spice, Peter Baldwin. Producer - Keith Williams.

      Ex-SM Carol McShane:
      I remember one occasion when we were recording El Dorado West One by the West Indian writer Sam Selvon. The studio was full of West Indian actors having a lot of fun, and the series was a hoot; very funny. Then three time-and-motion men came into the studio (we were in B10) and they sat in the cubicle to see what everyone did, and to work out much time should be allocated for various kinds of production. They had suits and clipboards, and they sat po-faced through the whole hilarious production, never cracking a smile. I remember thinking 'how on earth can they not find this funny?'

      Eventually their verdict was: half-hour broadcasts would have one day of studio time, one-hour recording would have a day, and 90-minute plays would have three days.

FOUR FROM THE COMMONWEALTH 2: Perchance to Dream ....1969
2 Jul 1969, R4, 11.30am. A West Indian fable by Samuel Selvon with Andrew Salkey as Brackley, Barbara Assoon as Eloisa and Gordon Woolford as Fenno. ' I really have to offer my sympathy to you fellars who have wife and family. You can't make a note unless you get permission. Why can't you be like me, living happy in a little " batchee," with no worries in the world ..?' Produced by Betty Davies. First broadcast 1966.

1969-01-22 15-00 Bringing in the Sheaves
By Samuel Selvon. ' I thought maybe I could make a lot of things for the church bazaar what English people don' know about. These days you could get so many things from the West Indies-yams and plantains. I could make some preserves and decorate the stall with bunches of bananas..... You don' think it's a good idea? ' Florence Rogers: Pauline Letts, Fred Rogers: Antony Viccars, Verna Trevor: Joy Osborne, Jean Ashley: Carmen Monroe, Roy Ashley: Gordon Woolford, The Rev John Richley: John Forrest, Harry Trevor: Wilfrid Carter, The Dean: Godfrey Kenton. Produced by Betty Davies.

1968-08-01 OF MEN AND BEASTS - 4:Worse Than Their Bite
Comedy. Love me, love my dog! Jackson: Horace James, Matilda: Myrtle Robinson, Mrs Briggs: Marjorie Westbury, Bill: Wilfrid Carter, Percy Edwards as Rover. Producer: Betty Davies.

Short story read by Keith Alexander. Gussy was a humble caretaker at ten dollars a week. He would work for less. He aspired to nothing higher. Was it possible that life could disappoint such a man as this?

By Samuel Selvon, ad. from his novel A Brighter Sun, set in Trinidad during the war years. Rita Martin: Nadia Cattouse, Sookdeo: Andrew Salkey, Tall Boy: Burt Kwouk, Tiger: Gordon Woolford, Urmilla: Barbara Assoon, Boysie: Horace James, Joe Martin: Frank Singuineau, Dr Wentworth: Harold Kasket, Indian doctor: Rudolph Walker, Creole doctor: Kenneth Herbert, John: Leroy Lingwood, Larry: Christopher Bidmead, Producer: Betty Davies.

1967-07-04 Rain Stop Play
By Samuel Selvon. Home Service. Winky had a passion for cricket and according to him, no finer cricketer ever came out of Trinidad, but he hadn'reckoned on having to prove it. Winky: Andrew Salkey, Frank: Gordon Woolford, John: Anthony Jackson, Charles: Wilfred Babbage, Henry: Edward Braithwaite, Emmanuel: Frank Cousins, Cricket Commentator: Ronald Herdman, Producer: Betty Davies.

1966-12-07 FOR SCHOOLS NORTH ATLANTIC, 4: Volcanoes and coral islands
By Sam Selvon. Home Service. Life on two of the islands In the West Indies—St. Vincent, the volcanic island, and Barbados, the coral island.

Home Service - 1966-04-15 PERCHANCE TO DREAM
A West Indian fable by Samuel Selvon with Andrew Salkey as Brackley, Barbara Assoon as Eloisa and Gordon Woolford as Fenno. 'I really have to offer my sympathy to you fellars who have wife and family. You can' make a note unless you get permission. Why you can' be like me, living happy in a little "batchee" with no worries in the world. Producer .. Betty Davies.

Home Service - 1965-10-30 AFT THEATRE - A House for Teena
By Samuel Selvon. A stolen fiver, a wrongful arrest and a marriage that depends on finding a house give the members of a steel band plenty to worry about. Cast in order of speaking: Teena: Barbara Assoon, Humming Bird: Tommy Eytle, Battersby: Frank Singuineau, Tom: Anthony Hall, Poor: Charles Hyatt, Gallows: Brian Hewlett, Nobby: George Webs, Fitz: George Saunders, Derek: John Dearth, Jack: Brian Hewlett, Fred: Colin Campbell, Producer: R. D. Smith.

Home Service - 1965-06-08 LOST PROPERTY
John had brought some of the sunshine of his native West Indies to the London buses. But Ken, his fellow-countryman, warned: 'You always want to play like some Sir Galahad and doing favours for people, but you better watch out you don' land in big trouble.' John: Lloyd Reckord, Ken: Frank Singuineau, Mrs Betlnent: Mary O'Farrell. Other parts played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company. Producer: Betty Davies.

compiled by Nigel Deacon, Diversity website, with help from Norman Milburn

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