Voices of Preston's Windrush generation – when I first arrived, I said: 'Really? I thought there were no slums in this place!'
In 1955, the pages of the Lancashire Evening Post hosted intense debates about whether a “colour bar” existed in the town.
- In 1955, the pages of the Lancashire Evening Post hosted intense debates about whether a “colour bar” existed in the town.
- A great deal has been written about Windrush – but much of the information was southern-based and related to large conurbations.
- This article is part of our Windrush 75 series, which marks the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain.
- Church, carnival and cricket: the three pillars of this vibrant local community – built in Preston by proud members of its Windrush generation.
- My aunt said to me: “Sylius, why don’t you go to England?
- You could work, study and whatever it is.” So I paid my passage and came – and here I’ve been for the last 60-plus years.
- I left Dominica on May 29 and arrived in Barbados the following day.
- So we were sent on an aircraft from Barbados to Bermuda, Bermuda to Newfoundland, then Newfoundland to Ireland.
- My sister lives down in London with her children … and some (not all) of them say:
Uncle Sylius, that’s the best thing you’ve done, sent for my mum, because I’m glad I’m here in England and life is so much better than if it was in the Caribbean.
- Uncle Sylius, that’s the best thing you’ve done, sent for my mum, because I’m glad I’m here in England and life is so much better than if it was in the Caribbean.
- Looking at the houses, I said: “My god, it’s no different.” At that time, we lived in Avenham [in central Preston], the flats.
- When I went in there, [my husband] Joe said: “This is where I’m living – this is the kitchen, this is the bathroom.” I couldn’t believe it.
- Honestly, when my husband said this is where we would be living … I went into the bathroom and I cried, I cried.
- I said: “Why did I leave my house to come here?” When I woke up in the morning, there were hailstones, it was raining.
- They couldn’t join the union and often it was much more physical work, like in the foundry, knocking iron and the engine blocks and the rest of it.
- It was purely nights, and I couldn’t handle the night work.
- So you walk in with a bottle knowing that if you’re attacked, you have something to defend yourself.
- Some people used to have a little piece of iron metal, wrapped up nicely in a newspaper and you carry it under your arm.
- My mum’s husband wasn’t a very nice man, and my mum suffered all the way.
- I’m the oldest of seven children, so my stepdad kind of forced me out to work as soon as he could.
- It was mainly in the cotton mills – that was the main work going in those days.
- You could walk the streets and see little firms here or there.
- You could go in and ask them if there were any jobs going.
- But then again, I never let that spoil our relationship because we were friends, you know.
- I left Jamaica on the July 28th and arrived in Preston on the 30th – a Sunday.
- To me, Preston has come a heck of a long way since the sixties.
- You could get into a fight seven days a week if you wanted, just by walking into town.
- For instance, we have the Jalgos Sports & Social Club – I was the person who dragged 11 fellows together to form a cricket team.
- And if we think that way, I think we will achieve together what is desired by all.
- I mean, I’ve been living here all these years but Jamaica is home.
- Whatever I’ve achieved in life, I’ve achieved here in Britain.
- I go for long walks, tend to the pots, go to church on Sunday in Longton, and read my bible at home.
- If I was a smoker, I would not be going outside to smoke a cigarette – in winter, anyway.
- When I speak nicely to them, they understand that this is a lady, she will respect me.
- For example, in one job I did, a woman said to me: “Bridgette, I don’t understand, why did you leave your nice place and come here?
- Why do you have to come to steal our jobs?” I said: “Steal your jobs?
- Because you’re lazy, that’s why they send for we black people to come to help to work.
- Because you’re lazy!” Then she said: “Why don’t you go and dance with the monkeys in the zoo?” And I said: “What?
- But I won’t go back to live there, because I have become so acquainted with the lifestyle I have in England.
- But even before I married, I’d always said to my wife that I wouldn’t go back to Jamaica.
- Yes, America may be more modern and faster, and you can progress in life there much quicker than you can in England.
- Alan Rice receives funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the EU and the AHRC, and is co-chair of Lancaster Black History Group.
- England is My Home: Windrush Lives in Lancashire is available as an illustrated ebook at prestonblackhistorygroup.org.uk