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From Jamaica to England Great Lives Roving Reader

From Jamaica to England revisited – Blanche Blackwell and the joys of reading obituaries

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The Roving Reader Files

 

You may remember I invited us all on a journey From Jamaica to England a little while ago. We were accompanied by a whole range of individuals, learning about their experiences of migration as preserved in primary and secondary sources you can find right here in the Centre.

Educated and uneducated, men and women, Black and ‘middle-class brown’ – each had something significant to tell us about the hardships involved in giving up their homeland to travel across the seas to what you’d think might be a better future…

Image of boat sailing into the sunset
Image courtesy tpsdave (https://pixabay.com/en/sea-ocean-sunset-boat-ship-water-67901/ )

Well, I was reminded of our journey back in August as I leafed through some obituaries over breakfast. Now, what’s so good about obituaries? Not a lot, you’d think, given that their purpose is to tell all and sundry that yet another person has died. Whilst that might not be the best news we’ll ever hear, I have to say I’ve always found obituaries fascinating. As a kind of secondary source, sometimes they open up a window into a different world, a different era – just enough to spur us on to find out a little bit more.

And that’s what happened to me whilst I was eating my cornflakes, and I’d like to share that experience with you…

When we travelled from Jamaica to England, there was one community from which we heard nothing directly, although despite it’s small size, it has influenced the lives of everyone who’s ever called Jamaica home. Which community was that? The white community. This fact struck me like a bolt from the blue as I realised I’d begun to read the obituary of a white Jamaican who died aged 104 – Blanche Blackwell.

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Book Reviews Finding Barrington Research skills Roving Reader

Finding Barrington. Part 1: Who is Barrington Young?

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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.

 

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Book Reviews From Jamaica to England Research skills Roving Reader

From Jamaica to England – Part 4: Adult literacy projects as primary sources

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The Roving Reader Files

The fourth instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Louise Shore and Her Literary Ambitions

So far, we’ve learnt from intellectuals Una Marson and Joyce Gladwell, as we travel from Jamaica to England. But are you, like me, asking what our poor underprivileged companions have got to say?

Well, the disadvantaged have historically left few records of their own due to illiteracy, so if we’d asked that question even a hundred years ago, we’d probably have been told, “Not a lot. Hard cheese.”

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Book Reviews From Jamaica to England Research skills Roving Reader

From Jamaica to England – Part 3: Primary sources and the autobiography of a ‘Middle-Class Brown’

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The Roving Reader Files

The third instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Joyce Gladwell Goes to London

Una Marson, through our secondary source, has given our Jamaica-to-England trip some context. Hurray! Now we can get comfortable, kick off our shoes, and learn a thing or two from the reminiscences of our companions. We’re going to thumb through some primary sources.

Primary sources come in many guises  –  letters, diaries, even old bus tickets, lists and catalogues. Archives are full of such things (often called manuscripts and ephemera), but for our journey, we’re going to look at the published variety; autobiographies  –  what people have written about themselves.

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Book Reviews From Jamaica to England Research skills Roving Reader

From Jamaica to England – Part 2: The secret of the secondary source

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The Roving Reader Files

The next instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Delia Jarrett-Macauley unearths Una Marson

When you’re planning a journey, what do you do?

Some people just throw a few things in a bag, jump on the first train and go to sleep. Others want to look out the window, take in the scenery and understand what they’re looking at. If this is you, you’re just the candidate to dip into a secondary source.

Secondary sources are wonderful things. Some are huge and fat, others quite slim. Nearly all are written by kind souls who love to inflict on themselves the hassle of assembling and making sense of piles of information, just so people like you and me can become enlightened. Secondary sources give us firm foundations for understanding the context and broad issues of a subject.

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From Jamaica to England Research skills Roving Reader

From Jamaica to England – Part 1: An invitation

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The Roving Reader Files

In a new series of posts, our Roving Reader travels from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Here we are back after the break, having seen in another new year. Do any of you feel like going away for a holiday after all that exertion? I know I do. Just as well then, that in this series I’m inviting everyone on a voyage of imagination and discovery, from sunny Jamaica to dear old Blighty.

Image of boat sailing into the sunset

Now why would I do that? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Centre is an ideal place to do a bit of research, and our journey will be a great excuse for getting stuck into introducing different types of published resources you’ll find here.

On the way we’ll find that each type has its own strengths, whether it’s a primary or secondary source, and each brings its own special perspective when read in conjunction with others. By taking a look at one or two examples in more detail we’ll start to see history spring to life, and we’ll meet Jamaicans who make their own unique contributions to the story of what it has meant to swap Jamaica for England.

By the end, I hope we’ll have greater insight into the triumphs and disasters of migration, as well as some of what the Centre can offer to shed light on the experience.

So keep your eyes peeled for the next post