Jeffrey’s parents married in St Vincent. His dad moved to England first and his mother followed when Jeffrey was 9. The children stayed with their aunties, uncles and cousins.
We all slept under the same roof we ate the same meals together, we were disciplined by which ever auntie or uncle was home in charge on the day, it didn’t matter whose parent they were.
Jeffrey joined his parents and siblings in England in 1969. The three siblings who came from St Vincent found the three who had been born in England were treated differently by their parents. Jeffrey cooked for the family as his parents both worked long hours. Jeffrey’s mother was forelady at Long and Hambley plastics factory, doing piece work and overseeing her colleagues’ work.
I admired my Dad and I tried to be like him, a provider… Mum was the scholar, the educated one. Mum did accounting for people, wrote letters to send back home, listened to their problems.
Jeffrey with his mother.
Jeffrey found school in England different to the strict discipline and the lash in the Caribbean. He felt the teachers at Mill End School had no expectations of them.
Kids here called us “Black Bastards”. I didn’t mind being called black, but the word bastard is not used in the West Indies a lot, and it is a real insult. The other names were golly wog or just wog or coon or sambo, none of these were as bad as bastard.
Jeffrey’s parents wanted all their children to have a trade. When he left school he started a furniture making apprenticeship at Glenisters. He then worked at Gommes but found his dyslexia held him back. After 15 years in the furniture trade he left and started working with young people.
I was the first black person to work at Glenisters… Before they offered me the apprenticeship, management wrote to all their employees to ask whether they minded them taking on a black apprentice, and they took me on because the majority had no problem with it. I won apprentice of the year for 3 straight years for them.
Cricket was always very important to Jeffrey from his time at school and onwards. Much of his social life followed the cricket circuit – dances, socials and friendly matches with other Vincentian communities in the UK.
Jeffrey and his friends would get stopped in their cars by the police four or five times a week. During the 1980s at a dance at Newlands one of his friend got beaten up by the police.
We had had enough and everyone … headed up the high street. The crowd turned over a van, there was looting of shops and fights with the police… My brother got arrested and was accused of breaking a policeman’s arm.
Jeffrey winning a cricket cup.