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Success story in the face of discrimination; When early migrants founded club.


IMAGINE coming face to face with a sign in Huddersfield which read "No blacks allowed."

In an age of equality legislation it would seem like a relic of another age.

But this casual racism was very much the experience of five men who were among the early Caribbean immigrants to Huddersfield in the late '50s and early '60s.

Playing dominoes in the Antilles Club, 163 Trinity Street, they recalled the migration which led to a thriving Caribbean community in Huddersfield - and the challenges they faced.

James Alcide, 75, of Fartown was born in St Lucia in the West Indies, and left when he was 19, arriving in London in 1956 before moving to Huddersfield almost a year later.

He said: "I wanted a better standard of living, back in the West Indies there was no work. I didn't find that better standard of living when I got here.

"Looking for somewhere to stay you could see there were vacancies but the sign in the window would say 'No blacks, no dogs".

"Now I understand that people did not know better. Now if someone put up a sign like that there would be no excuse, but when you experience it yourself it is a shock."

Eugene St Hilaire, of Thornton Lodge, also experienced casual racism in the town.

He said: "We were looking for anywhere to live so we came to a place that had a vacancy sign and knocked.

"The landlady came to the door and when she saw that I was a black man she just slammed the door. She didn't say a word.

"Incidents like that were humiliating and you really felt it.

"Gradually people realised we weren't going to back out of being here, you force yourself to live among people and then there is no choice but to treat someone like a human being.

"There were Teddy Boys who wanted a fight in the dance hall and in a way that's less hurtful than a door in your face."

James added: "When you went to a dance the Teddy Boys were waiting for you, they wanted a confrontation and to tell you to drink up and move on.

"We all had to fight our corner. People didn't move on because there were girls!

"Now there are teddy boys in a different form. Our own youngsters are behaving badly, often black on black.

"They are rebelling but behaving in a way that we did not even though we had great cause to be angry."

John Moses, of Deighton, added: "We came across a lot of Irishmen who would say we've gone through it and now it's your turn. We got friendly.

"They would tell us they were glad we had turned up because that meant someone else could get it worse!" Eventually hard labouring work led to positions for men who could clearly graft, at locations including Hepworth Sewage Pipes and fabric mills across the town as well as LB Holliday, the chemical works.

James said that as time passed he found the north to be friendlier than the south, and natural interest from neighbours leading to questions about his place of birth.

They went on to become the founders of the Credit Union of Antilles House Huddersfield.

This financial acumen, and the experience of dreadful, freezing, digs led to a high proportion of the migrant community eventually owning their own property.

The credit union members decided that they needed a building, a place for the community to gather and it now stands on Trinity Street.

James added: "It's still in use - we are struggling a bit but it's definitely still in use.

"With so many pubs closing across the country we pretty much run it on a voluntary basis.

"We don't owe the bank or building society anything so we struggle on!" The club, whose members established it in the face of terrible discrimination, is remarkably friendly - and they are open for business.

All are welcome to pop in for a drink and to enjoy the facilities, mainly on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday.

And if you're a dominoes player you'll be in heaven.

James said: "Dominoes is a passion for people in the West Indies, it's been played for years. We could really do with future players as we play in leagues, anyone can drop in and join in."

You can contact the club on 548 388, the best time to call is weekend evenings, especially Sunday after 6pm.


* CLUBBING TOGETHER: Enjoying a game of dominoes Antilles Club in Trinity Street, Huddersfield, are, from left, Eugene St Hilaire, John Moses, Peter Alcide, James Alcide and Andrew St Aimee Picture by Paul Welch (PW071210Hantilles-04)Purchase: 01484 430000 ext 7778
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2010
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