A Journey From Jamaica to the UK
Coming from Jamaica in the early 60’s was a frightening experience for many West Indian children coming to the UK for the first time. Life was different back then and people were not always welcoming to all these foreign people coming to their country. I guest the story began back in the late 50’s and early 60’s when West Indian families were encouraged to visit the “Mother land” were the streets were paved with gold and honey. They were promised work and the opportunity of a better lifestyle, so they left home and family to start a new life in the UK. One of the first shock was seeing these rows of terrace houses with smoke coming out of the chimneys and dark grey looking sky every day. It was winter then and I can still remember how cold and unhappy I felt. Life back in Jamaica in the 60’s was basic but happy. My father was a butcher and had his own butcher shop, house and land in Kingston. He was ambitious and adventurous, so when the chance to travel was offered he took it. My brother Frank and I went to live with our grand parents while our parents came to the UK to find work and set up home. In those times, work opportunities were limited to transport, manufacturing or the National Health Service. If you were a man you would most likely to be driving a bus, working in a factory or as a mechanic. Ladies could always become nurses, cooks, or work in a factory.
Many Jamaicans at the time felt like outcasts … caught between the devil and the deep blue sea….too poor to turn back and too proud to give up. Some had sold up land and house to find the money required to setup aboard, so they took whatever work they could find and as much overtime as was available and started to build a new life…the journey was hard but not impossible.
By the time I joined them 5 years later, they had worked, saved and bought their first house. My first experiences of life in the UK were harsh. I mean imagine what it was like being the only black boy in a school with over 800 children. The first few weeks was like living in hell….learning everything new, feeling really cold for the first time in my life, taunts and names from the other children and fights.
I really thought this hell was going to last for ever….but one day….suddenly things changed…..I had a big fight with the school bully, by then my anger was too big and too much to carry so I let him have it all. The result of that fight changed my life at school and taught me a valuable life long lesson…..some time you have to fight for want you want in order to gain respect and opportunities. What I mean by fighting for what you want is not the use of violence as a means for gain…..it is more the use of focused energy, study and commitment to what you want to achieve in live, even when the going get tough and you stand alone against the odds.