Beryl Agatha Gilroy (nee Alnwich) was born on 30 August, 1924 in Skeldon village, in Berbice County in British Guiana. She grew up in a large, extended family, largely under the influence of her maternal grandmother, Sally Louisa James (1868-1967), a herbalist, manager of the family small-holding, keen reader, imparter to the young Beryl of the stories of 'Long Bubbies', Cabresses and Long Lady and a treasury of colloquial proverbs. Her grandmother also took the view that the child would learn more by being taken all over the county with her, and being given space for wonder and enquiry, than in the regimented system of primary schooling. As a result Beryl Gilroy did not enter full time schooling until she was twelve. It is clear that much of her grandmother's influence persisted in Beryl Gilroy's own philosophy of education (she educated her own children at home) that stressed freedom for discovery within a framework of basic skills. She recalls the importance of the gift her grandfather gave her of a dictionary after suffering the humiliation of laughter over some childish misuse of a word. Her grandmother also taught that people should avoid 'spirit poorness' (victimhood) and this philosophy permeates all Beryl Gilroy's writing. The experiences of this Berbician childhood are told, above all, in Sunlight on Sweet Water (Peepal Tree, 1994).