WESLEY BARRINGTON COKE
PIONEERS & CHAMPIONS
He worked his way to the top, becoming an explosive expert and a charge-hand for 200 other miners
So said his son, Jason, as he spoke proudly about his Jamaican dad who was a miner in Nottingham.
Wesley had heard from a friend about the Kingston harbour docking of Empire Windrush in May 1948 and, at 23 years of age, immediately became interested in travelling to England. At the time Wesley was working as a clerk at a Kingston store, and had saved enough money to pay for a ticket costing £28 and 10 shillings (about £2,000 in today’s money). The ship charged £28, but ten shillings was an administrative fee. Ex-RAF serviceman Sam King, aged twenty-two, became one of his friends on the journey and his name was entered in Sam’s address book.
On arriving at Tilbury Docks, Essex, he did not have anywhere to stay and was fortunate to have obtained accommodated at a Government hostel in London. His first job was as a stock clerk, an occupation he had several years of experienced. It was not long before he had to decide whether to serve in the British Forces, or work in one of the coal mines. Wesley was not keen on becoming a soldier, and opted for the latter. He had no idea of where the mines were, and it turn out to be Cowdenbeath, near a town in west Fife, Scotland, and 18 miles north of the capital, Edinburgh. He was there 18 months but did not enjoy life, because the place was very cold. Hostel accommodation was provided, but had never seen or experienced snow or frost.
The coal mining job involved having to crawl on his hands and knees and often black workers were given orders to ‘go first’ before the other miners went in. Because of the Scottish weather, he moved south to Glapwell Colliery, Derbyshire, and was there for about six years.
Nottingham was the nearest city where he often went to enjoy himself at dances and meet other black people. It was at one of the dances that he met a young lady, Dorothy Spademan, whom he married. “He had some good moves on the dance floor, It was a time when the women would rub their hands in the middle of black men’s backs to feel whether they had tails,” said son Jason.
Wesley was also employed at Bentinck Colliery, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, twelve miles from Nottingham. “He worked his way to the top, becoming an explosive expert and a charge-hand for 200 other miners, but it was not before doing some dirty jobs in the pits,” according to Jason, the youngest of three children. Wesley took early retirement during the miners’ strike in the 1980s and lived with his family at Spinney Close, Nottingham, for many years. He became a mining advisor and very well respected.