Some of Windrush’s most interesting passengers were Indo-Caribbean – but their stories remain unknown
When Lynda Mahabir won his immigration case in court last month, it was a victory for all Windrush activists. However, he also drew attention to a less visible group, the Indo-Caribbean members of the Windrush generation. The British census has no classification for “Indo-Caribbean” as is the case for “Black Caribbean”, the exact figures are therefore not available. The closest census designation is “Asian Other” which had 835,720 people. According to National Archives, “At the end of 1990, the British Indo-Caribbean population was estimated between 22,800 and 30,400”.
Wall painting and Windrush plaque at Tilbury Harbor
The story of Indo-Windrush is not simple the story trace or tell; it is as ethnically composite as the Caribbean region itself. Stuart Hall, the influential intellectual of the Windrush era, who arrived in Oxford from Jamaica in 1951, listed the “East Indians” among the ethnicities of his own family. But one thing is certain: if Indo-Caribbean people are here now, they must be here then, aboard that same ship, the HMT Empire Windrush, which has become the symbol of post-Caribbean migration. war on the UK.
I have 12 surnames of confirmed South Asian origin on the Windrush Empire passenger list (and as many of East Asian origin): Gopthal, Julumsingh, Luckhoo, Maharaj, Maragh, Mohamed, Mohan, Singh, Sukhram, Susayat, Tingling and Remachandan. Additionally, there are other surnames that resonate etymologically with the Indian subcontinent.
The bearers of these names were from British Guiana (now Guyana), Jamaica and Trinidad, descendants of more than half a million contract workers transported to the Caribbean from India between 1838 and 1917. Young and eager, they transformed both Britain and the Commonwealth. I spoke to some of their descendants.
Aladdin Tingling Diakun, 37, a Canadian lawyer, remembers his grandfather Eggie with the greatest love and respect. “He has lived an extraordinary, stimulating and very rewarding life across Jamaica, Wales and Canada,” Diakun told me.
Egbert Tingling (1926-2005) was passenger number 891 on the Windrush. He was 22 at the time, from Sav-la-Mar, Jamaica, he had been in war. “He had a very melodic voice and was offered a job as a host and entertainer” in Wales, said Helen-Claire Tingling, Egbert’s Welsh daughter. Standing 5 feet 4 inches, which Mr. Tingling lacked in height, he possessed him in determination and generosity. He raised 10 children with Icilda (née Byfield), his 40-year-old Afro-Jamaica-Macedonian-Welsh wife, struggling against relentless discrimination in employment, housing and the education system. From a menial job in London after finishing his job in broadcasting, he moved on to a post as an industrial chemist before emigrating with his family in 1970 to Jamaica and then to Canada.
“He is representative of a whole generation who did not have the opportunities that others had because of the color of their skin, so they had to make their own way,” Ms. Tingling said. “And that meant they weren’t afraid to start over.
Sikarum Gopthal, 28, also from Jamaica, passenger 664, declared his profession as a “mechanic” but worked as a tailor in London, according to later documents. He rented accommodation at 108 Cambridge Road in NW6, where in 1952 he was joined by his son from Jamaica, Leichman, Lee for short. Entrepreneurial Lee became an accountant and ended up buying the Cambridge Road building. There, in 1968, Lee Gopthal founded Trojan Records, the iconic UK label that brought reggae music to the UK and European markets.
Bhola Maharaj, from Trinidad, passenger 472, was 24 years old and declared his occupation as “driver” and his destination “Yorkshire”. He adopted the Anglicized surname of Mansfield and continued to drive professionally. In the 1983 New Year’s Honors list, Bhola Maharaj Mansfield was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his service as a ‘driver / loader’ for the Manchester City Council waste collection service.
The Indo-Windrushers are no different from their Afro-Caribbean comrades in that many of their written traces turn gloomy or totally gloomy afterwards. Tilbury Quays. To find them, you sometimes have to read between the lines what others wrote about the time.
Pick up passenger 466, Kadir Mohamed, 27, from British Guiana. He has listed “104 Inverness Terrace W2” as his “proposed UK address”. This address is a 12-minute walk from the corner of Chepstow Road and Westbourne Grove, the intersection from which literary figure Moses Aloetta departs by bus to Waterloo Station to welcome a newcomer from the Caribbean to Lonely Londoners (1956), one of the first novels about the Windrush generation, written by Sam Selvon, himself Indo-Trinidadian. If we cannot locate Mohammad in the records, we can still follow Moses.
K Remachandan, 24, from Jamaica, passenger 831, gave only his first initial and no England address. With no place to sleep, he would have been entitled to a six shillings, six pence a week bed in the old air raid shelter. under Clapham Common which was put in place to accommodate Windrush passengers needing a roof over their head. Is it him on the far left, wearing a sleeveless V-neck sweater and pleated pants in This picture?
The most infamous Indo-Caribbean Windrush passenger was among the most privileged, number 489, Dalip Singh. He was 26 years old and was heading to the University of Edinburgh’s medical school. He would successfully qualify as a doctor, marry a refugee from Nazi Germany named Inge Brown, herself an optician, and return with her to live and practice in her native Trinity. In 1955, following a widely publicized trial covered by newspapers as far away as London, Delhi and New York, Dr Singh was convicted of murdering his wife and hanged. The lawsuit inspired Trinidadian-American author Elizabeth Nunez to write the novel Bruised hibiscus (2000).
Upon retirement, Egbert Tingling embarked on yachting, becoming the “first black commodore of a Canadian yacht club”. But his children and grandchildren never knew he had sailed the Empire Windrush as well. “Ed Williams and Glen Douglas were two of his old friends,” said Helen-Claire. “I don’t know if they were also on this ship, if he knew them since then.”
His intuition was perfect. Edgerton Williams, then 21, was passenger number 916 and Glen Douglas, 28, was passenger 625. Egbert Tingling had maintained a long-standing bond with his fellow passengers.
Nicholas Boston, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology of Media at Lehman College, City University of New York