William Robinson Clarke

‘Would-be settler quit UK for the American dream’

1922 - 2008

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The calypso star Lord Kitchener seemed to have summed up the spirit of his fellow passengers when he sang ‘London is the place for me’ on the gangway of the Empire Windrush to awaiting journalists in 1948. But within two years of arriving on the same ship, Joseph Aaron had decided that London was not the place for him. He headed instead for the USA where he would live for the rest of his life.

Born in Georgetown, British Guiana, present- day Guyana, on October 13, 1922, to parents Uban Thomas Aaron and Susan Cecilia Aaron, née Nedd, Joseph Thomas Aaron was an electrician by trade but eager to improve his prospects with the opportunity of going to the UK on the Windrush.

Aged 25, he joined the ship in Port of Spain, Trinidad, travelling with his friend George Kauffman, an engineer. According to the passenger list, both gave an address in Bolton, Lancashire, as their intended UK destination.

Neither made the journey to Bolton and spent their first few nights at the Clapham South Deep Shelter in London, which had been set aside by the government to provide temporary accommodation for Windrush passengers.

While George settled in Liverpool before eventually returning to his homeland, Joseph found work in a timber factory in Dalston, east London. He met Eileen, a young English seamstress, and romance followed.

However, life in England wasn’t turning out as Joseph had hoped, and in 1950 he made the decision to try his luck elsewhere.

Leaving Eileen behind, Joseph boarded the SS Washington bound for New York at Southampton with all his worldly possessions packed in two suitcases. Unbeknown to him Eileen was pregnant with their daughter, Tangee, who would be given up for adoption following her birth as in the 1950s racist attitudes made life very difficult for a young white woman bringing up a child of mixed heritage.

After reaching his destination on July 7, he headed first of all for Birmingham, Alabama, where he stayed with an aunt, but would finally settle in Pasadena, California, becoming a naturalised American citizen in 1960 and marrying Rita Anita Madrid, whose father was Mexican, in 1963. Joseph first worked as a welder but for many years was a lab technician at the Deluxe Laboratories in Pasadena.

He died in Pasadena on April 13, 2008, aged 85, having lived in the USA for almost 58 years. He had four children, the first of whom, Aubrey, was born in British Guiana shortly after he arrived in England. He had two more children in the USA, Desmond and Jarome. He never got to meet Tangee, who was brought up in Essex and became a nurse and an actress. However, she is in close contact with members of the Aaron family in Guyana, the UK, and particularly her cousin Desiree in the USA.

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