Inspiring journeys of first generation Jamaicans who settled in Leeds feature in new book

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A rising interest in the inspiring journeys made by first generation Jamaicans who settled in Leeds, has resulted in a new book, which goes on sale today. (December 4, 2019)

The book simply titled ‘Eulogy’ offers an important slice of the history of Leeds and is part of the successful Eulogy Project, organised by the Jamaica Society Leeds, to commemorate the lives, journeys and heritage of Jamaican people and their valuable contribution to the city.

Alford Gardner, 93 and Lionel Roper, 96, volunteered to serve in the RAF in 1944. After WW2, Mr Gardner settled in Leeds and Mr Roper went back to Jamaica before returning to Britain in 1956. They are thought to be the last surviving Jamaican ex RAF servicemen in Leeds. . They will present a copy of the  Eulogy book to Council leader Councillor Judith Blake on behalf of the city.  'Photograph by: Joanne Crawford

Alford Gardner, 93 and Lionel Roper, 96, volunteered to serve in the RAF in 1944. After WW2, Mr Gardner settled in Leeds and Mr Roper went back to Jamaica before returning to Britain in 1956. They are thought to be the last surviving Jamaican ex RAF servicemen in Leeds. . They will present a copy of the Eulogy book to Council leader Councillor Judith Blake on behalf of the city. 'Photograph by: Joanne Crawford

It documents the lives of people who travelled to the UK from the Caribbean during the 1940s up until the 1960s and the lasting legacy they have brought.

The book features just some of the hundreds of eulogies, old files and photographs collated for an exhibition, which was shown at Leeds central library this summer and seen by more than 18,000 visitors - the most popular exhibition in the library’s history.

The chairwoman of Jamaica Society Leeds, the Reverend Dorothy Stewart, said: “The powerful images and real-life stories in the Eulogy book are preserving for posterity the lives and contributions of ordinary and extraordinary Jamaicans in Leeds.”

The Eulogy book has been written and edited by Susan Pitter, who also curated the exhibition.

Front cover of the Eulogy Book, published on 4 December 2019, commemorating the lives, journeys and heritage of Jamaican people and their valuable contribution to the city.

Front cover of the Eulogy Book, published on 4 December 2019, commemorating the lives, journeys and heritage of Jamaican people and their valuable contribution to the city.

Ms Pitter, whose parents came from Jamaica in the early 60’s, and are included in the book said: “The book is a fitting culmination of a wider project which has helped to ensure that the history of Leeds includes the story of my parents’ generation of Jamaicans who helped to make it the great city it is today.

“It is more important than ever, that their story continues to be visible and representative of their lives, legacies and contributions.

“Eulogy is a touching, uplifting tribute to a generation who left everything and everyone 5,000 miles behind to answer Britain’s call to its Commonwealth citizens.

"What is great about Eulogy is that it crosses generations, tells stories that anyone can relate to and reflects not only the DNA of the Jamaican community - but of the city too and I am honoured to help protect and share their inspirational stories.”

Early members of the Caribbean Cricket Club founded by Jamaican RAF servicemen in 1948, with their families on the way to watch a cricket match in 1953. Back row L-R: Errol James, Bill Campbell, Warren Lawson. First row from back: Vince Stewart, Mr Morant (partly hidden), Mac McCarthy. Second row from back: Unidentified couple, Cynthia Lawson, Mary Lawson, Howard Gardner, Margaret Thomas, Barbara Thomas, Astley Thomas. Front, on guitar, Alford Gardner.  Photo: Yorkshire Evening News

Early members of the Caribbean Cricket Club founded by Jamaican RAF servicemen in 1948, with their families on the way to watch a cricket match in 1953. Back row L-R: Errol James, Bill Campbell, Warren Lawson. First row from back: Vince Stewart, Mr Morant (partly hidden), Mac McCarthy. Second row from back: Unidentified couple, Cynthia Lawson, Mary Lawson, Howard Gardner, Margaret Thomas, Barbara Thomas, Astley Thomas. Front, on guitar, Alford Gardner. Photo: Yorkshire Evening News

The hardback A4 book features many stunning images including one of friends Alford Gardner, now 93, who lives in Bramley, Leeds and Lionel Roper, 96, from Stourton, Leeds who volunteered to serve in the RAF in 1944.

After the Second World War, Mr Gardner settled in Leeds and Mr Roper went back to Jamaica before returning to Britain in 1956.

They are thought to be the last surviving Jamaican ex RAF servicemen in Leeds.

The pair, who are delighted with their new found fame, will present a copy of the Eulogy book to Councillor Judith Blake, the Leader of Leeds City Council on behalf of the city.

A launch event is to be held tonight with families of the people featured in the book as special guests at the Tiled Cafe, at Leeds Art Gallery.

Other guest speakers at the launch event are Jamaica’s Honorary Consul Mr Wade Lyn CBE, who will receive a book on behalf of Jamaica and David Renwick, Area Director (North) for National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project’s lead funder.

Eulogy is out on 4 December and available at two independent Leeds bookshops, online and in store at Colours May Vary in city centre Leeds and also at Petals and Stitches at Chapeltown Road, LS7. It is also available online at www.coloursmayvary.com

FACTFILE

The Eulogy Project was launched in February 2019 by the Jamaica Society Leeds after receiving funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Leeds Inspired and Windrush 2019.

Tireless research has gone into the experiences and stories of people who came to Leeds from Jamaica in the 1940s to the 1960s.

The project is celebrating the lives, heritage and contributions of those who made the journey from the Caribbean island to West Yorkshire’s capital.

Many of the people featured may have passed away but their legacy continues.

The project has collected the funeral programmes, photography and stories of over 70 first generation Jamaicans and their surviving relatives.

More than 18,000 people visited the exhibition at Leeds central library in the summer and has received interest from around the world.