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"They would kick me all over the street": 1950s/60s immigrants

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Quite a good and moving article from the Star.. quite eye opening

 

'They would kick me all over the street' - Windrush generation's early struggles in Sheffield

Charles Noel said the biggest shock after arriving in England was earning less than he had in Trinidad

ROBERT CUMBER Published: 21:05 Tuesday 17 October 2017

 

When Caribbeans answered Britain's post-war call for workers to power its economic recovery, many had little idea what awaited them. The reality was very different from the picture they had been painted, explain members of the Windrush generation who arrived in Sheffield during the late 50s and early 60s.

 

Henry McPherson used to face brutal beatings from a gang of Teddy Boys after arriving in Sheffield from Jamaica Looking for work and a place to live, they were confronted with signs saying 'no blacks', subjected to brutal beatings and found the low wages fell well short of the riches they expected. Then there was the culture shock of the climate and geography, with the windswept moors surrounding Sheffield and the smog clogging the inner city air a far cry from the tropical paradise they had left behind.

 

"For a lot of us who came here, Britain was a trap," says Charles Noel, who arrived in the city in August 1961, aged 22, from Trinidad. "Many of us were earning less than we had back home and having to pay for everything which we could get for free before, like milk and fruit. Clinton McKoy says much remains to be done to eradicate racism in the UK "The impression we got was that you could come here, work for a few years and then head back with a lot of savings. "But people found they were earning so little that even after saving for several years, they couldn't even pay for their passage home."

 

After a short spell as a shop assistant, Charles, now aged 78 and living in Grimesthorpe, became a bus driver - a job he would do for the rest of his working life. It was one of numerous roles he explains many native Britons didn't fancy so were instead filled by the new wave of migrants, from bricklayers to hospital porters, nurses and steelworkers.

 

SADACCA's HQ on the Wicker The Windrush generation, named after the ship which landed on these shores in 1948 carrying nearly 500 passengers from the Caribbean, may not be commemorated with a slew of statues or faces on stamps and banknotes. But their contribution to Sheffield, and the UK as a whole, is etched into the fabric of the city: they helped construct its buildings, kept it moving and tended to its ill and injured.

October is Black History Month, which is held to celebrate the culture and achievements of black people throughout the ages and to ensure no one forgets their ongoing struggle for equal rights.

SADACCA (Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association) is staging more than a dozen events at its home on the Wicker to mark the month, from poetry performances and film screenings to a domino tournament pitting Sheffield against Oldham.

 

Clinton McKoy, who is coordinating the celebrations there, believes it is vital to ensure young black people know about their heritage. "I was nine when I came here in 1962 and I knew very little about black history and culture then," he says over the clack of dominoes which punctuates life at the community centre. "I remember someone at school saying to me 'what's a black person ever invented?' I couldn't come up with an answer and that triggered something in me. "Black history didn't start when the Europeans came and invaded our countries, took what they wanted and forced us into slavery.

 

"There's a very rich past which we have to promote to our young people because it gives them a sense of being and pride." For Black History Month, SADACCA has created a 'Hall of Fame' in its foyer heralding the success of black people past and present, many of whom never gained the recognition their achievements deserved. Clinton today has none of the difficulty his nine-year-old self did reeling off examples of black contributions to society.

 

He is determined to ensure young black people appreciate their more recent ancestors' crusade for equality, too, and are aware much work lies ahead. "With all the struggles we've gone through I'm worried some of them think there's nothing left for them to do," he says. "There's still a lot of racism in society, it's just often much more covert these days."

But Black History Month is not just for black people, says Clinton, who wants everyone to be able to enjoy and learn about black culture. "The world's a very large place and we're all human beings with cultural differences. The more we learn about each other's cultures, the better we can get along," he explains.

'No blacks, no Irish' When Charles Noel arrived in 1961 in Sheffield, where his brother and cousins already lived, he was horrified by the prejudice he faced. "If you went for a walk, you would see signs everywhere saying 'no blacks, no Irish'," said the 78-year-old, who now lives in Grimesthorpe. "Many people couldn't even find somewhere to rent because nobody wanted them, but I was lucky that I could share my brother's room."

He quickly found work at a shop on Division Street, where the 22-year-old spent nine weeks before joining British Rail and later Sheffield Transport as a bus driver. But life in England was very different from back in Trinidad, where his family owned a small farm and he had plenty of land to roam and his fill of fruit. "Sheffield's a nice clean city now but it was a black hole when I arrived. You had to be careful wearing a white shirt because of all the smog," he says. "But the biggest shock for me was that I was earning less here than I had in Trinidad, which wasn't what I'd been led to expect. "And I missed the freedom of having all that land to roam and being almost self-sufficient." Many of his friends who came to England from the Caribbean have returned after retiring.

But for Charles, who has two children and three grandchildren, the family ties here are too strong. He is proud of the contribution he and other Caribbean immigrants have made to Sheffield, where he says they did the jobs native Britons didn't want to do at the time, often working in hospitals or the transport sector. And although racism is not as bad as when he arrived, he says it remains very much alive. "My youngest lass who's now a catering manager moved to London for work because she couldn't get that job here due to the prejudice she faced," he explains. 'They never touched me again' Just going to buy a loaf of bread was a terrifying ordeal for Henry McPherson when he came to Sheffield from Jamaica in 1960, because he knew the local Teddy Boys would be waiting to deliver a brutal beating. "They would kick me all over the street, until there was blood everywhere," says the retired builder. "When I called the police I don't know what they said to them but it only got worse so I realised I had to look after myself. "I was working for British Steel at the time so I found a large spring, which must have been about three feet long, and covered it with electric tape.

"One evening five of the Teddy Boys tried to beat me up so I lashed one of them with the spring and he dropped straight to the ground. The others didn't stick around, and from that day on they never touched me again."

 

The Teddy Boys may be long gone but Henry, who is now aged 86 and living in Pitsmoor, says he still encounters racism. "Some places you can't go and have a drink or a meal without people calling you all kinds of names, and there are places they won't even serve you. Things are getting better but only slowly," he says.

 

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/our-towns-and-cities/sheffield/they-would-kick-me-all-over-the-street-windrush-generation-s-early-struggles-in-sheffield-1-8810019

 

---------- Post added 18-10-2017 at 13:57 ----------

 

Why did the admin move this to Sheffield history from the main Sheffield discussion group.(??)

Edited by WestTinsley

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My uncles best mate came from Grenada, he'd volunteered to serve in the RAF which is how they met. They served together from 1941 to 1945 all the way through North Africa and Europe until they were demobbed and George returned to Grenada. They kept in touch and eventually George came to live in the UK in 1957. My uncle got him a job in the same firm as him at Brightside and at the end of George's first week on Saturday afternoon ( five and a half day week then) they went for a drink to celebrate. They walked up Janson Street to Attercliffe Common and were turned out of every pub because of the colour of George's skin, until they reached the Dog and Partridge, opposite Banners. There was no problem there so it became their regular drinking venue. The experience shocked my uncle to his core and demoralised George who had come here in search of a better life, expecting to be treated as he had been when serving in the air force, with respect for his skill and commitment. The situation gradually got better for him and he was well treated by his employers but the casual racism and the obstacles it placed in his way never went away and as a deeply religious man, it remained the thing about his fellow humans that he felt most difficult to recocile with his beliefs.

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Nice story.

Racism is a disgusting disease .. shame some folk are unaware of the effects of it

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Nice story.

Racism is a disgusting disease .. shame some folk are unaware of the effects of it

 

Diseases can be cured, but as for racism...

Edited by stpetre
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I knew and remember some of those so called hard men or Knuckleheads that went around looking for the recent immigrants from the West Indies in the late fifty's.

Some of em had cycle chains in their pockets. A lot of em went on to be so called celebraties around Town .

 

my pal Johny Lee who was a West Indian and worked on the Castle market with me would clock out early in the dark nights because he was scared to go home in the dark . 

The bricklayer I worked with Norman Stacey from Retford was six foot four and built like a out side loo walked around town with Johny one Saturday night  along with Jim Quirke our Irish ganger, they got no offers funny that weren't it .

 

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Racism is a by-product of stupidity, I’m not stupid (despite suggestions to the contrary), so I don’t see why I should apologise for the actions and remarks of stupid people.

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I have two stories, one about racism, and another I tell my sometimes overly sensitive ethnic minority frends.

 

Around 1957 loads of immigrants were (invited?) to come to England from the "colonies". India, Pakistan, Somalia, and the West Indies. A year or so later, the Hungarian refugees came in.

 

There seemed to be no overt racism from the employers, who hired them in great numbers, as laborers, but the working (union?) guys weren't too happy to see them, and they treated them badly. I had one assigned to me as a helper, while I was still an apprentice at Steelos. Frank, a Trinidadian. Big good natured guy. I used to ask him what was that godawfulstuff he ate out of a flask at snap time. He said it was goat, curried goat.  But it wasn't long before I finally tasted it, and actually liked it better than my cheese and tomato sandwiches.So he had his wife make up a little extra for me.

 

Anyway, after the bus ride back to town, I invited him to join me for a pint in Fitzalan Square, at The Elephant, I think it was. But he wouldn't go in. Not a good place for me, he said. Took a while to convince him, but finally we went in. A working man's pub. The place went quiet and some stared at us both, and some looked away. There was a tension in the air, but I ordered 2 pints anyway and we drank them, and left. The not welcome sign was clear.

 

Fast forward a couple of years, to  an open cast mining site that I was working on in Scotland, in East Fife, just north of Edinbro. I was one of the first of our crew to get there and organize digs and stuff. I got the same feeling as I went into the local pub, not welcome, and they were very vocal in their insults, as they shouted to each other. I was undermanned to do anything about it, and  I had to wait for my mates to come up so that we could go in there in numbers. The steelworkers on our job were hard men, so we were able to stake our claim to a regular pint in their local.

 

Had the same problem in Enderby, just outside Leicester on another job.

 

The point is, how much of the prejudice Frank( and me)  faced in Fitzalan Square, was out and out racism, and how much of it was territorial tribalism, like I faced, white on white, in Scotland and Liecester?

 

Edited by trastrick

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On 18/10/2017 at 13:10, WestTinsley said:

Quite a good and moving article from the Star.. quite eye opening

 

 

 

---------- Post added 18-10-2017 at 13:57 ----------

 

Why did the admin move this to Sheffield history from the main Sheffield discussion group.(??)

The idea that the Windrush generation answered the call to power Britains economic recovery  is simply untrue.  Yes, there was a shortage of manpower in the 60's, wage levels began to rise and at last people began to earn a decent wage  - own a car or a house. Having lived through this time, I have always understood that immigration was used to control wage levels - remember Boris's speech last week in which he said  he did not intend use this mechanism to control wages at this time  ?   I  do not believe many of the other statements  made in this article - gangs of Teddy boys, being kicked all over the road, daren't go out to buy a loaf,  places you can't go for a drink without being abused, still places you can't get served - what rubbish.  All part of the anti-British propaganda campaign now being waged.

 

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Just watched Ridley Road on the  BBC , another aspect on the racism in the early sixties .

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Hi you said the guy in the cafe down I think Matilda street was run by a guy called alix th e cafe was called the ahi bar bar is that the same one you are writing about the guy who ran it in 50s I still see and I have always called him Abdul he went on to work a Crain driver at British steel he is still living 91 that is where a array case in Sheffield town centre really all started but Abdul’smate  got the wrong guy some  are still around from the array case 

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Another story from my time at Steelo's in the 50's, with the immigrants. I'd be seventeen, or so. Working as an apprentice electrician for an outside contractor,  F.H. Wheeler.

 

As I said they came to Sheffield in great numbers, and the big employers were good enough to take quotas, similiar to the quotas they would take later after the Hungarian Revolution. Whatever the motivation of the employer, they weren't really needed, so there was a lot of "make work" stuff, an extra hand to carry the tools, and hold the ladder straight.

 

They were a racially mixed lot (by design?) In addition to my assigned mate Frank from Trinidad, who I mentioned above, we had Pakistanis, Hindus, African Muslims, probably around 10 altogether. It was a strange mix of humble and proud attitudes, and languages.

 

We had one guy we called jokingly called the "King" of Africa, who came to work, no kidding, wearing an old pin stripe 3 piece suit, a bowler hat and carying an umbrella. He must have seen an old picture in a magazine  how Englishmen dressed for work, lol. Another, Haj was a tall proud Somalian, who bought a shiny new watch with his first pay.

 

But while we all ate our lunch at snaptime in the cabin next to the foreman's office, these guys would not eat with us ( aside from Frank the curried goat guy) or even with each other and drifted off to the arches at lunch time. It had something to do with religious practices and prohibited certain "unclean" foods.. or the "caste" system. It was the first time I had seen overt racism between the immigrants themselves.

 

Anyway we managed to get along, but some of our guys treated some of the East Asians like dirt, amd though the victims never complained about the treatment, we called them out for it.

 

Haji, the Somalian, later opened up a small cafe on Button Street, one of the first foreign places in town,  and invited us all for free coffee on opening day.

 

I moved on to other job sites and lost touch with them all.

 

Then came the Hungarian Revolution refugees, and a similar story unfolded at Steelo's (I was back there, because it was a default holding tank between jobs, for my contracting company, (a "hospital job", they called it)

 

Everybody in Britain, did their part and took in and hired the Hungarians. My Aunt took in two, and actually brought them down to Steelo's, where  I was working, and got them both jobs with my firm. 

 

Charlie and Imrar, but that's another story.

Edited by trastrick

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On 24/10/2021 at 21:24, Elmambo said:

The idea that the Windrush generation answered the call to power Britains economic recovery  is simply untrue.  Yes, there was a shortage of manpower in the 60's, wage levels began to rise and at last people began to earn a decent wage  - own a car or a house. Having lived through this time, I have always understood that immigration was used to control wage levels - remember Boris's speech last week in which he said  he did not intend use this mechanism to control wages at this time  ?   I  do not believe many of the other statements  made in this article - gangs of Teddy boys, being kicked all over the road, daren't go out to buy a loaf,  places you can't go for a drink without being abused, still places you can't get served - what rubbish.  All part of the anti-British propaganda campaign now being waged.

 

stop trolling please. 

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