And now it's the Windrush Garden!

British High Commission names garden in honour of early Jamaican migrants

By Desmond Allen
Executive Editor – special assignment
allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 25, 2018

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It was a nice touch on a pleasant Friday evening as the British High Commission on Trafalgar Road, New Kingston renamed its prized garden — the Windrush Garden — to celebrate the earliest Caribbean migrants, mainly Jamaicans to the United Kingdom.

The event was one of several that would also help to placate the immigrants who left Kingston to make a living and contribute to the building of Britain, but ended up being caught 70 years later in a major government blunder exposed in newspaper reports.

In what has been labelled the Windrush scandal, members of that migrant group called the Windrush generation, who arrived in the UK from 1948 onwards, as well as their children, were wrongly targeted in government policies designed to deter illegal immigrants.

Many of them were forced out of work as a result, in some cases for years, and rendered unable to benefit from welfare support, while some were wrongfully detained or even deported, triggering widespread outrage across Britain and elsewhere.

As part of efforts to right the wrong, the British Government has apologised to the affected migrants, announced a compensation programme and declared June 22 Windrush Day — to be commemorated annually.

“We are deeply sorry for the anxiety that was caused, and I cannot emphasise enough how much we value the enduring contributions of those who came to the UK and made Britain their home. We are determined to put this right,” said Prime Minister Theresa in April at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

And in a statement marking Windrush Day, Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK Minister for the Caribbean, explained: In recent months, the Windrush generation has faced further challenges, with questions raised over their immigration status. It was never the intention that they should be caught up in the measures put in place to tackle illegal migration.

“The UK Government has taken focused action to assist anyone who may be affected to make sure that they have the documentation that they need and are able to formalise their British citizenship should they so choose.”

The ceremony for the renamed Windrush Garden in Kingston, attended by British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad and Jamaica's Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, also marked the 70th anniversary of the historic, if uncertain journey from Kingston to Tilbury near London.

Special guests also included James Crouch, a Royal Air Force (RAF) veteran of World War II who will represent Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) Jamaica (580) Branch at the RAF centenary service scheduled for West Minister Abby, London, on July 10.

On Friday the aging Crouch, who walks with the aid of a stick, received two tickets from British Airways to attend the service, accompanied by his daughter.

The large plaque displaying the newly named Windrush Garden outlines the purpose for which it had come into being, and by which future generations would come to mark the event. It read in part:

“...Today, people of Jamaican heritage are the largest members of the Caribbean community in Britain. West Indians now are a part of Britain's diversity and making an impact in all parts of society and the economy of the country. Windrush Garden, at the British High Commission, commemorates the 70th anniversary of the journey from Kingston to Tilbury.

“Each time we gather in Windrush Garden, we celebrate the bond between Jamaica and the United Kingdom. We remember the people who were a significant part of our shared history and we work towards a better future of our communities.”

According to the historical records, in 1948, Empire Windrush, which was en route from Australia to England via the Atlantic, docked in Kingston, Jamaica, to pick up servicemen who were on leave.

“The ship was far from full, and so an opportunistic advertisement was placed in a Jamaican newspaper offering cheap transport on the ship for anybody who wanted to come and work in the UK.

“Many former servicemen took this opportunity to return to Britain with the hopes of finding better employment, including, in some cases, rejoining the RAF; others decided to make the journey just to see what the 'mother country' was like. One passenger later recalled that demand for tickets far exceeded the supply and there was a long queue to obtain one.

“One of the stowaways was Evelyn Wauchope, a 39-year-old dressmaker. She was discovered seven days out of Kingston. A whip-round was organised on board ship, raising 50 — enough for the fare and 4 pocket money for her. Nancy Cunard, heiress to the Cunard shipping fortune, who was on her way back from Trinidad, 'took a fancy to her' and 'intended looking after her'.”

The Empire Windrush met its tragic end in March 1954 when the vessel caught fire and sank in the Mediterranean Sea with the loss of four crew members.

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