Kayden’s Windrush Letter
Year 9 have recently been learning about the Windrush in their lock down history lessons. Kayden Lancaster (9 LJT), with the help of his Granddad, produced this excellent letter, it was one of the best I read out of the three Year 9 classes I teach. Great work Kayden!
The Task was: imagine that the year is 1988 and it is the 40th anniversary of the Windrush arriving in England; write a letter explaining to your grandchildren what life was like before and after you sailed on the Windrush to England.
To my dear Grandchildren
40 years has now passed since I left the Caribbean and I am older and wiser now than I was then. I want to tell you some things about my life that started very much as yours is now. I was adventurous and having joined the British army I had already fought in France and later in Italy. When the war ended I had returned home to Jamaica but still I was adventurous and wanted to experience all the things I was hearing about that was available in other countries but not mine at that time. I was willing and able to do work but it was not easy to find at that time. When I heard about the ship called the Empire Windrush leaving and bound for England it seemed like an opportunity to good to miss.
I was lucky to get a ticket for the trip and was excited to go. I told my parents I was going to get a good job and earn lots of money some of which I planned to bring back home to them when I returned in a couple of years. I was sure I would earn lots of money because I planned to work in the “new” National Health Service that had just been set up and was talked about all over the world. To be part of that would impress everyone at home when they heard about it.
I arrived in London in June 1948. I found some accommodation in an area called Brixton. That was not easy and the place I lived in was alright but not great.
Finding work proved to be equally difficult and it was in July 1948 that I got my first job. The NHS was just being established and there were not as many job opportunities as I had thought there would be. I had to take what I could get and that was as a cleaner in the London underground transport system.
I worked hard as did my friends who all lived in the same area and we hung out together whenever we were not working. We would follow our favourite band that played Jamaican style music which reminded us of home. By 1950 I had saved enough money that with my friends doing the same we were able to buy our own small flat that improved our lives quite a bit.
I was seeing so many things going on in the area that I lived in that I started to think there is a lot of unfairness about the world as I saw it. This had happened slowly over a period of about 8 years and in 1958 I joined a movement called the “black panther movement” which was fighting for better rights for black people.
I had found it difficult for people to accept me completely into their society and although I am sure I was capable of doing a better job I could never get one. So life went on and my dream of returning to Jamaica with lots of money faded away. I spent my time in those days listening to Bob Marley and became a Rastafarian.
Times were changing but not so well for the people like me who had arrived here on board the Empire Windrush. Nevertheless I had become a well known person within the community I lived in and had lived my life to the good standards that my Grandmother had said to me when I left Jamaica I must live by and be proud of myself.
In 1984 I became the first Black Mayor of Haringey. Although I had not achieved what I came here to do I had put down roots, met your grandmother and we had your mother so never returned to Jamaica but I was proud to send pictures back to family there showing me with my Mayors chain.