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My name is James Alcide. I was born in St Lucia, West Indies, in Dennery.
I lived in St Lucia until I was 19 years old. I came over to England on my own for economic reasons.
I knew about the history of England, and we all thought England was the mother country- where everything is rosy. That was until I got here and found the cold weather, and how it was difficult.
I missed the sunshine. I mean, to start with your fingers would burn, your toes and your eyes. Everything seemed cold.
I arrived here in April 1956. Luckily, when I reached Victoria Station in London a Trinidadian chap was on the platform. We got talking and he asked where I came from. I told him, and he said ‘by the way I know a St Lucian who I am renting to. I’m in charge of the renting.’ So when I asked him who the man was, it happened to be a cousin of mine.
So I was lucky on that score. He took me there and I stayed with that chap in London.
I worked in Lyons Corner House restaurant in Piccadilly. Work was plentiful at that time. I washed dishes. When the dishes came from the restaurant from the kitchen on a conveyor belt, we stacked them in trays and they went through a steam chamber. It wasn’t a highly paid job; it was probably the same amount I would have earned if I was in St Lucia anyway.
In London we found places where it said, ‘No Blacks, No Dogs Allowed’. When I say that to my wife, she thinks I’m making it up but it’s true. Some employers, or people who were responsible for employing people, were very clever about it. We made friends with the Irish a lot quicker than we did with the English. The Irish sympathised; we, as people, had gone through the same thing. The Jews told us the same story; they went through the same problems before they were accepted. So you will soon be forgotten. We accept that as the process of integration.
I was in London for 11 months before I came over to Yorkshire in 1957 with my brother. I first lived up Lockwood in a rented house.
When I first arrived in Huddersfield I did not think I would be here for this length of time. I found the place was dull, I could hardly see daylight because of all the smoke. There were still gas lights about the place.
The neighbours were very nice, a lot nicer than down south. As they say the bigger the city, the thinker the jungle. I think that’s the reason I wouldn’t go back to London, the atmosphere. Financially, I think someone can grow a lot faster down south, but with regards to a friendly atmosphere it’s prevalent in the North. Here somebody will turn around and say ‘hello, how are you doing’, ask questions about where you come from and so forth, and develop a conversation. I’ve only been in Huddersfield, apart from day trips around in Lancashire, so I only know the Huddersfield community.
I can remember one incident. I went to Hopkinsons, and the chap told me point blank, ‘we don’t employ Black people in this department’. You wouldn’t have been able to do that in the 80s or 90s or else you would have been in trouble, but you see that’s the whole thing. He could get away with it, so he said it.
Eventually my lad he served his apprenticeship at Hopkinsons.
I got married in Thornton Lodge and then after the first child (we lost the first one; the second one became the first) we moved down to where I’m living now which is York Avenue. I’ve been there for about 36 years now.
My mother was in favour of me coming to the UK instead of stopping in St Lucia.
I suppose even though she might have felt a little bit unhappy I wouldn’t say extremely. My brother and I have been together since that time, him living in Birkby, I’m in Fartown. So we’ve been in communication, just like home, so there is no problem.
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