Finding Barrington. Part 3: The educator gets educated

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

Last time we discovered Barrington Young had become the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. We also found that he’d begun a United Nations in his own home by marrying an Austrian in the 1950s. This time, we’ll see Barrington fully engaged in transmitting knowledge of his own, as well as wider Black history, to youngsters of all ethnicities.

Image of an older Barrington YoungBarrington retired in 1994. Counting his years on the railways as the best time of his life, he joined the Railway Club to continue that good experience into the future. But by 1998 we find him in a different role. It was the 50th anniversary of the arrival from the Caribbean of the good ship Empire Windrush in 1948 and Barrington was enrolling on an exciting innovative new course – Mapping Our Lives: The Windrush Project.

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Finding Barrington. Part 2: Moss Side roots

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

Ever found that once you set off in search of someone, signs of them are just about everywhere? That’s how it was for me as I began rummaging around the Centre trying to find Barrington Young. I must have been the only person never to have come across him in my travels…

And that’s the key to Barrington. Travelling. Is he a prime minister, pianist, brain surgeon, astronaut or footballer? No. He’s far more important than that. As well as being one of the most kind and humorous individuals around, Barrington Young was the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. What Barrington doesn’t know about trains and the railways of Britain just isn’t worth knowing.

So, where did I find Barrington Young?

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Finding Barrington. Part 1: Who is Barrington Young?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

Small, but a kaleidoscope of colour. That’s the only way I could describe it.

What I’d found was a gem of a book packed with lovingly evocative images of Jamaica – Jamaica: Photographs by Ray Chen. Thanks, Mr Chen! What vistas you’ve opened up! Beaches, sea, mountains, people… You name it, it’s there. And the fruit! Call me a smoothie-head, but whenever fruit’s involved, I’m addicted already…

image of Jamaica book - fruit marketimage of Jamaica book - dancersimage of jamaica book - flyleaf

But wait a minute, what’s this? Another intriguing dedication on the flyleaf? You know I’m a sucker for a mystery, so take a look at what I’d found:

Donated by Mr. Barrington Young
September 07

Who’s Barrington Young? And why would he give away such a breathtaking book, a visual feast inviting us to another shore? Not something I’d do…

Barrington Young… Just say it out loud… Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? With a name like that, this man has to be somebody. A prime minister or a jazz pianist, a brain surgeon or an astronaut, or what about a footballer? I resolved to do a bit of digging. Who knew what I’d find?

So follow me on a roller coaster of a ride through the rail network of Britain, interracial marriage, and the value of a rigorous education. In my next couple of posts we’ll swim like fish amongst fascinating oral history treasures unique to the Centre, not published ones this time, but manuscripts, recordings, and their transcriptions.

Are you ready for another journey? The quest to find Barrington will be our guide…


Jamaica: Photographs by Ray Chen was published in 1995. Ray Chen was born into the Chinese community of Jamaica and, although he lives and works in Canada, he counts Jamaica as his home. He is one of Jamaica’s leading photographers, having published a number of collections relating to Jamaica, its scenery and its history.