Newton Burgess


William Robinson Clarke

‘From Lincoln’s Inn to Kingston lawyer’

1921 - 1983

Share this:

Not all West Indians on board the Empire Windrush came to England with the aim of getting a job. Many of them intended to study. Newton Burgess was a mix of the two. While he had to work hard to pay his way, he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn and, after being called to the Bar, returned to Jamaica in 1966 to open his own solicitor’s practice.

Despite living 17 years in England, marrying and having a family, he was glad to be home and telling the Sunday Times in 1968: “Here [Jamaica] you’re part of the country, whereas in England you’re not. I’ve a great fondness for London, but I don’t think I could go back.”

Speaking from his offices in a “hot, crowded street” near Kingston Harbour, he was being interviewed as part of a feature in its colour supplement to mark the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury, titled ‘Voyage to the promised land’.

Newton Augustus Burgess was born in Jamaica on June 10, 1921. He joined the RAF in 1944 but the Second World War ended before he could be posted to England. The chance to buy a ticket for the Windrush in 1948 made up for the disappointment. He was described as a draughtsman on the ship’s passenger list.

However, Newton’s vision of England “shattered fast” when he finally arrived, he told the same Sunday Times magazine article that things did improve. He settled down and in 1950 was living at 312 Dudley Road, Birmingham, with 13 other adults.

He later moved to London where he met Jamaican student nurse Monica Muir at a dance.

Monica first came to England on the SS Cavina, which docked in Bristol in March 1953. She was shown on the passenger list as a teacher, with Ashford Hospital in Middlesex as her final destination. Romance followed and the couple married in November 1956. They went on to have two daughters, Karen and Tracy.

The newlyweds lived at Hildyard Road in Fulham, west London, until 1962, and later moved to Ongar Road in nearby Barons Court. Newton owned both properties and rented out rooms even after his return to Jamaica. In its June 30, 1964 issue, Jamaica’s The Gleaner announced that Newton, a member of Lincoln’s Inn, was one of seven Jamaican law students in England called to the Bar.

Newton was a highly respected member of the community. In June 1966, he took part in a debate at the University of the West Indies’ Students’ Union, and spoke against the motion that Haile Selassie should be King of Jamaica.

He died in Constant Spring, Kingston, on May 1, 1983, aged 61. Tracy now lives in the USA, but Karen and her mother Monica remain in Jamaica.

Share this: