Many Jamaicans who went to the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s did so with a five-year plan. They would work enough money, return to their homeland, buy a home, and open a business.
Herman Noel Richards, born in Troja, St Catherine, bought into that plan. In 1954, he settled in Ladbroke Grove, west London, and after seven years in the UK went back to Jamaica which was on the verge of Independence from England.
It would be the first of three such trips for Richards, who grew up in Central Kingston.
Many members of the Windrush Generation have similar stories.
According to Donna Yee, the youngest of Richards’ six children, her father found the going rough the first time he went back home.
“He had bought a house in Kingston and tried to settle back into Jamaican life, but life was not easy. There were many struggles and he soon found himself returning to England, this time he was living in Birmingham as a single parent,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
The Windrush Generation are West Indians who were encouraged by the British Government to come to the UK and help restore an economy destroyed by World War II. The famous first wave arrived on the Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Dock in April 1948.
Richards married shortly after going back to the UK in June 1962. He had two children with his wife, Ruby, whom he met through a Lonely Hearts newspaper ad.
He moved his family to Jamaica in 1971 to start a tailoring business, but that venture was unsuccessful.
He returned to England in 1973.
Ruby Richards died from cancer in 1986 at age 48. Herman — who once operated an ice cream business — returned to Jamaica permanently in the late 1990s and lived in Pembroke Hall, St Andrew.
He died there in November 2011 at age 85.
During his time in the UK, Richards also worked as a chimney sweep and in several factories across Birmingham, a West Indian stronghold in the Midlands.
Yee said he never lost faith in Jamaica and encouraged many of his compatriots and West Indian friends to return home and invest in their countries.
That resilience, she noted, makes West Indian pioneers heroes who should be respected.
“I have great admiration for the Windrush Generation. Through their sacrifices and struggles they paved the way for the generations that followed. The opportunities and freedom that black people in Britain have today are a result of the hard work of those early pioneers,” said Yee. “I am particularly proud that 75 years on from the first arrival the culture, traditions, music, fashion, food, and language that the Windrush Generation brought remain a major influence on British culture today.”
Yee was born and raised in Birmingham. She trained in youth and community work at University of Durham, which prepared her for providing welfare support to members of the Armed Forces, many of whom have Caribbean heritage.
The mother of three children, she last visited Jamaica in 2011 for her father’s funeral.