William Chong


William Robinson Clarke

‘Gift was just the ticket for settler who dreamed of home’

1929 - 2014

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Christmas came early for William Chong in 2006 when a group of Jamaican businessmen presented him with a return ticket to Jamaica. It was the first time he had been back to his homeland since arriving in England on the Empire Windrush some 60 years earlier.

The former Nottinghamshire miner spent time in Jamaica visiting his old haunts with his eldest son, Anton. During the trip, he met then-Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Governor General Kenneth Hall, and several government ministers.

William was followed by the BBC’s East Midlands reporter, Jeremy Ball, who made a short TV documentary of the momentous visit. “I have done more this week than I would have, had I spent a lifetime in Jamaica,” William beamed afterwards. It was not the first time he had benefitted from the kindness of strangers. When William had all of his money stolen while on board the Windrush, his fellow passengers had a whip round, collecting enough money for him to secure lodgings when he arrived in England.

William George Chong was born on April 17, 1929, the only child of a Jamaican shopkeeper of Chinese heritage and a Panamanian mother. The family lived at 38 Long Mountain Road, Kingston, a detached house surrounded by trees and vegetation.

He once recalled playing on his bicycle as a young child. His friends included ‘Chubby’ – Marcus – and ‘Junior’ – Julius. These were the children of Marcus Garvey and his wife Amy. Aged 19 and without any proper qualifications, he decided to try his luck with the Empire Windrush. He spent his first night in England at the Clapham South Deep Shelter, a former war-time bunker turned into temporary accommodation. He then made his way to Wales where he found work at Penywaun Colliery.

William would travel to Cardiff at weekends where he linked up with other West Indians. It was there that he met his future wife, Doreen, who although born in Liverpool was of Sicilian heritage. He eventually moved to Cardiff before settling in Nottingham, where escalating racial tensions would explode into the riots of 1958. Anton, better known as Tony, was born in September 1956, and another son, Keith, followed. William worked in Workshop Main and Welbeck Collieries for 10 years but left following an accident. He then had various jobs including assembling Raleigh bicycles.

In 2000, William and Doreen moved into accommodation run by Nottingham’s Tuntum Housing Association. He became active on the tenants’ forum as well as serving on the board of a local hospital and organising cricket matches for young children.

Tuntum heard about his dream of visiting Jamaica and it led to his being presented with two return tickets to the island. Then in 2013, William received a Windrush Award at the Albert Hall, Nottingham, to thank him for his contributions to education and community relations. He died on November 27 the following year aged 85.

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