Windrush – Leaders of a Generation

Our Windrush Heroes – Leaders of a Generation

The Todd family story

It was the British Nationality Act 1948 that led to Britain becoming the home for our parents. The UK had reached out to the West Indies – its former colonies – to ask for help in rebuilding Britain after the Second World War.  The call was from Clement Atlee who was the Prime minister at the time, eager to kickstart the British economy.

Ms Gertrude Francis met Mr Alphonso Todd at a property in Peckham where they both rented rooms from the Hibbert family. The Hibberts went on to become very close family friends and we consider them family, still to this day.

This was the beginning of our Windrush story. Gertrude and Alphonso were married on 22nd September 1956, becoming Mr and Mrs Todd.

Harry and Meghan

The Wedding Day – Gertrude and Alphonso Todd


They faced many challenges in the early years…

Both our parents arrived in the year of 1954, Mum in November and Dad in August. This was the year when the UK government was seeking to increase numbers of British citizens from the Caribbean, as earlier years had produced a minimal take up. The passage fee that they each paid to come to the UK.was in the region of 83 pounds, which in today’s money equates to nearly a whopping 3000 pounds.

The passage took approximately two weeks from Kingston in Jamaica, docking in Plymouth. After two years living in shared accommodation with the Hibbert family, the Todds’ moved to what came to be the family home on Clive Road, London SE21, in 1958. This after Dad was earning around six pounds per week, which must had provided a difficult challenge for saving the deposit required.

They faced many challenges in the early years while settling into their new home in West Dulwich, with neighbours and locals not extending a hand of friendship. I remember the frosty reception of our direct neighbours who were unfriendly and would give you a particular stare that indicated an uncertainty about your residency. We started hearing of incidents and attacks by local white groups who started to resent the arrival and progress that the Windrush families started to enjoy.

Our parents had to navigate this, and guard us as much as they could from unsavoury and unpleasant happenings.

In October of 1965 at the age of 34, Dad suffered a horrendous accident while at work as a sheet metal worker. The accident, due to faulty equipment, rendered him permanently disabled: he lost four fingers from his right hand and the terminal joint of his thumb. The trauma that Dad endured was only realised years later, as we pieced together the documentation detailing the struggle for compensation, which went on for five long years. We are grateful to the then Sheet Metal Workers Union for their council and support – the power of Trade Unions in full effect.

In Mum’s earlier years she had worked as a seamstress and was paid based on what she produced. After Dad had the accident, mum realised that she had to secure alternative employment to supplement the growing family. She took a job as an auxiliary nurse in a local home for the elderly and infirm. Her shift always started in the afternoon, allowing her the mornings to take care of family and the various home routines she had, before heading off to a job which ended late in the evenings.

Both Mum and Dad would maintain family back in Jamaica by sending money and barrels of condiments and clothes. Dad in particular was a provider at home and overseas, as he lost his father, our paternal Grandfather a few years after migrating to England. This was indeed challenging, especially after the accident.

Realising and understanding the need for financial prudency, mum started a ‘Pardner’ club. This was a savings club where family and friends, fellow nurses and their families and other members of the local community would save a weekly amount collectively. Mum was the trusted banker for over 36 years, a role which she took extremely seriously. I remember helping her with the accounting and related bookkeeping. This savings scheme helped many of the members save for deposits on their homes and my siblings also made use of their savings in this fashion.

Windrush heroes, we salute you.  

Dad lived with his sometimes painful disability but was still able to work until his retirement. I cannot recall Mum or Dad taking any time off for sickness or for anything else for that matter, showing how their joint commitment to family was impenetrable. This was the backdrop and foundation for the lives of their children in England, our home. After retiring, Mum still supported the family by caring for many of her Grandchildren, and the family home in Clive Road was always open and welcoming to anyone who wanted to pop by for a chat and a cuppa.

Harry and Meghan

Picture: Richard, Polly, Valerie, David, Peter and Linda

Our parents are Windrush heroes, but they were also bastions of hope, change agents, disciplined champions and our providers of real, tangible life opportunities.

Their legacy continues through a new generation that will be taught about the family pioneers, who they should remember and hold in reverence as their foundation. 

In this important 75th Anniversary year of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship on these shores, it is important that we take the time to remember and honour this generation’s contribution to a land that was then viewed as the Mother country.  Thanks to them, it is now our country.


Mum and Dad fondly remembered by; Richard, Polly, Valerie, David, Peter and Linda.

Dedicated to our parents, Gertrude Hyacinth and Alphonso Alvin Todd, and all those of the Windrush era.


By Peter Todd

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