Oscar ‘Joe’ Chang


William Robinson Clarke

‘Reunited With His Long-Lost Sister’

1926 - 2015

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The Empire Windrush passenger list showed that 22-year-old Oscar Chang was destined for the Causeway Green Hostel in Oldbury, Birmingham. In the event it seems that Oscar never made it to the Midlands which is possibly no bad thing as Causeway Green, a hostel holding up to 700 people, was the scene of violent fighting between West Indians and Poles in 1949.

Instead, he remained in London where he met and married Cecilia McLaren with whom he had two daughters, Marlene and Beverley. Oscar’s friends knew him only as ‘Joe’. When he started work in England, a fellow worker asked him what his name was. When he said ‘Oscar,’ his colleague said he was not going to call him that and named him ‘Joe’. He was known to all and sundry thereafter as Joe. Although on the passenger list, Joe said he was a chauffeur, he worked in mining. Afterwards, he became a railway porter and HGV driver before going on to be a fitter.

Joe was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1926. His father, Albert Chang, was a shopkeeper, and his mother was Sarah Chang née Chin. Joe and his sister Kathleen had a difficult childhood as their mother had to be taken into care because of illness. The children were sent to live with another family but they were badly treated. Kathleen married when she was aged 13 in order to escape the family with which they were living.

After arriving in England, Joe lived in Lambeth, London until the mid-1950s when his marriage to Cecilia broke up. Moving to Stoke, he met and married Jean Biddle and together they had four children; Raymond, Evadne Marie (known as Nita), Anthony, and Daryl. Sadly, Anthony died shortly after his birth.

Joe joined the Territorial Army and spent much of his spare time teaching Army cadets. He reached the rank of Sergeant Major. Joe had lost contact with his sister Kathleen for many years when in the early 1970s, a man came to Joe’s house and gave Nita a piece of paper with Kathleen’s address on it. He had been asked to pass it on to Joe.

After much nervous soul-searching Joe asked Nita to write to Kathleen (whom the children knew as Aunt Icelan). Joe learned where his parents’ graves were located and was reunited with Kathleen. Nita kept in contact with her aunt until her death. Joe and the family visited Kathleen and her family many times at their Florida home.

Joe had not set foot in Jamaica for 50 years when in 1998 Nita took him and Jean there for a family reunion. It was an emotional moment for Joe in particular. Joe died in Stoke in February 2015. When he was buried his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all dropped paper butterflies into his grave to take his soul to Heaven. He had seen and achieved very much in his lifetime and remains very much missed.

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