A Peckham man, who came over from Jamaica in the 1950s and knew Bob Marley, has just celebrated his 100th birthday with a bottle of rum and a song.
Carl Berry, who lives in Jack Jones House, offered a glass of his favourite rum with a beaming smile as he sat with the News and reminisced on the ‘good life’ he’s lived.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1924, Carl has lived in Peckham for over 50 years.
“I didn’t come over with the Windrush – my ship was after that,” he told us. “I wanted to come to England after I saw a photo of a group of women drinking in a pub.”
During the war, he said over in Jamaica they weren’t really involved. “I remember when warplanes were coming over we all used to turn all the lights off and hide – but we didn’t see the war like that.”
One of three brothers, his family ran a commercial print company in Jamaica. “We were comfortable,” he said. “I had a lovely life.
“I started working with my uncle on the printing machine when I was sixteen. I made more money than he did because every night my uncle went home, I used to print the labels for the cigar boxes.
“I was the only guy in Jamaica doing it.
Remembering his youth, he sipped on his Appleton Rum – “We call this ‘bend down rum’ in Jamaica,” he explained. Back then it was illegal to sell rum of a certain proof there so it was kept behind the bar, “so the bartender had to bend down to get it.”
When he came to England he worked at a printer in Birmingham before settling in London, first in Paddington and then Peckham – where he’s been since 1977.
When he got here he worked at the Savoy Hotel, printing their menus. It was London where he met his wife, Peggy, of 34 years – who he sadly lost in 1995. “I still say ‘goodbye Peg’ every time I leave the house,” he said.
Carl worked in printing until he was 82 – “I only stopped because they were packing up themselves – I would have carried on.”
Along with watching snooker, cricket and horse racing, singing is a great hobby of Carl’s that he still does every day.
On the subject of music, he mentioned Bob Marley. “I knew Bob – we weren’t friends like that but I knew him from parties.”
Carl said he remembers watching him perform in his hometown often: “He was always singing – anywhere he sang was always packed.
“Him and the Wailers.”
“Bob used to play football barefoot near where we all were in Kingston. That’s how he hurt his foot and that’s how he got blood poisoning.”
“He was buried in a gold coffin.”
Here in Peckham, Carl said he regularly meets his friends at the Prince Albert pub on Bellenden Road – where he’ll have his birthday party this Friday – for a pint of bitters.
He also heads to the betting shop to put some money on the horses. Although he drinks and gambles from time to time, he draws the line at swearing. “One thing I don’t do is swear – it doesn’t make sense.”
A century-old but only feeling 65, his advice for staying young echoes that of Marley himself – “Don’t worry about anything,” adding: “As soon as you worry, that’s when you get old.”