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James Archibald Watkins B.E.M, M.I.C.M.E
A.U.E.W Shop Steward- Retired
Place of birth; Jamaica Marital status; Married Children; Eleven College; Kingston Technical College
Montreal Institute of Engineering Liverpool Technical College Liverpool University British Institute Of Civil Municipal Engineering
Honors and Awards ; B.E.M in New YEARS HONORS list 1978, Queens Jubilee Medal, and M.I.C.M.E (Member of the Institute of Civil and Municipal Engineers. Presented to his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on his visit to the Royal Ordnance Factory Patrecroft 24th, February 1978.
Hobbies and Interests; Reading and politics with emphasis on the Caribbean.
Life in Jamaica
I was born on the 16th February 1916, in James Town, Parish of St Andrews, Kingston Jamaica. The fourth child in a family of eight children, my siblings being three sisters: Veda, Esmine, Hyacinth and four brothers, Seymore, Fabian, Edwin, and George. We were very privileged to be children of distinguished parents who could trace their blood-line back to their Arawack Ancestors.
We all commenced our education progress through the timely and firm guidance of our loving grandparents, with the introduction to folk lore and the history of the Arawack - aboriginals of the Island of Jamaica - also about the English Conquest, the Spanish and the Slave trade, they talked of the turbulent years of human suffering, of their parents and grandparents. They told us about "Accapong Nanny" the Great Gold Coast Woman Slave who organised an underground segments of Spanish soldiers, creating an effective army against the English and defeating them at Runaway Bay.
During those years of nurturing we were all taught to read and write, we could all speak Spanish and English and, could recite our Arithmetic tables and complete simple sums including interest. This academic side of our early education was directly controlled by our father who was a civil Engineer. My mother, who was a qualified nurse and proficient dress-maker took control of the family's health and social welfare.
At the age of seven I followed my sisters and brothers into School, I attended Jones Town Public School to the age of fourteen years, during this period I sat for the preliminary - first second and third year exams, because of my early parental tuition I passed all three exams. At the age of fifteen I gained a Trade Scholarship and commenced my further education at Kingston Technical College where I studied Mechanical Engineering, Physics and Chemistry.
At the age of sixteen I gained a Trade scholarship and was accepted by Kingston and St Andrews Authority and placed in their Engineering establishment known at the time as the " Pumping Station" I was taught turning, fitting, moulding, blacksmith, and general engineering maintenance. Whilst serving my apprenticeship, I continued my studies at the Kingston Technical College won a second award and was accepted by the- United Fruit Company- , through this I gained a place at the Montreal Institute of engineering after three years of study.
On my return to Jamaica in 1932 I gained employment with KSAC engineering works, road works department as a Supervisor constructing roads, bridges, dams, laying water mains etc,.
The Second World War
During 1939 the Second World War started in Europe. The British Government called upon the British Empire and Commonwealth for total mobilisation and supreme sacrifice in the struggle against Nazi Germany's bid for World conquest. Britain during this period was almost industrially bankrupt and was in dire need of skilled craftsmen in engineering and allied industries to assist in the build up and management of Munition/ordinance industries. Arising from this was a request for the Jamaican Government to recruit and dispatch volunteered engineers to meet this task, I was among the first contingent of sixty Jamaican volunteers.
We departed Jamaica the last week in January 1941, after an adventuress Atlantic crossing the Ship "Jamaica Producer" arrived with the full compliment of personnel, though some were ill from the effects of the German Submarine Torpedoes. We disembarked in Scotland on the 16th. February 1941, on the 17th, and 18th, we all went through thorough medical and technical test of which all personnel satisfied their respective examining officers.I must here commend the officials and others in charge at the Scottish department for their extreme courteousness, the depth of human dignity and respect showed to us for those three days, people we met for the first time in our lives.
We arrived at Birkenhead Y.M.C.A England, we all had anticipated a welcome similar to that which we received in Scotland. Instead we were confronted by four male representatives and about five women all with facial and body language of consternation and fear. We were surprised. Tired and Hungry we stood in shock for a few minutes. I was elected to inform all concerned who we were and that we were British Subjects, speak the English Language and why we were here. Our behaviour and attitude relieved the tension and all necessary actions was quickly and effectively put in place; we were made welcome with apologies, fed and accommodated.
That same night we were given another kind of welcome by the German Bombers who for a solid week bombed Birkenhead every night, the Y.M.C.A was damaged but no occupant was physically injured. The following morning we sorted ourselves out, breakfasted, and was driven out by bus to visit the site where the factory was being constructed.
We were informed by a official from Mr. Bevin's office that the right honorable Mr. a. Bevin, M.P Minister of Labour, requested a meeting with us, to welcome us on behalf of the government in London, other arrangements were a visit to the Houses of Parliament, Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Including in this was also a visit to Dr. Moody a well known personality in the ferternity , known for his constant endeavours to bridge the racial divide, we were also entertained with a visit to the Theatre. Personally the most outstanding part of the weeks events was when I met Mr.Moody who was a sincere friend of my father and family.
My colleages and I spent many an our discussing attitudes and cultural behaviour changes that we will experience for as long as we are in England and, against which we were brainwashed at home in the West Indies. The weeks' visit to London ended in harmonious and gratifying spirit. We returned to the appraisals and a good-bye assembly for a photograph with Mr a. Bevin MP.
We all arrived at Liverpool to commence the new adventure of working in harmony with our white brothers and sisters in the cause of peace and defeat of the axis forces.
Life in Liverpool
Commencement of employement- ROYAL ORDNANCE FACTORY FAZAKERLEY- Liverpool. On the first day of introduction to the factory, the Labour officer, ,shop manager, foreman and all Jamaican workers gathered for discussions to enquire into standards of skills and technical applications. My colleagues an I were asked about the structures of management and workers, working hours, types of machinery and the systems in the factories in Jamaica. We informed them that since all Jamaicans did not work at the same factory it would be wrong to assume and accept an answer in generality. I personally informed the labour officer that all men that the Jamaican Government accepted, registered and sent to England had compiled documentation along with passports in a sealed envelope to be handed over when they arrived in England, I have no doubt that all the answers to these questions now put to us was contained in these envelopes, taken in Scotland on our arrival. I am hoping that this occasion is not a repeat of social blindness we experienced in Birkenhead, however, if time permits I will appraise you of a number of the major industries that employes skilled personnel in Kingston;-Jamaica railways works department, Macdonald's foundary- moulding-turning Co.,Ltd, Waterworks engineering department, to name a few. All skilled personnel employed in these establishments worked fifty hours per week. An apprentice serves five years full-time at all skills by law. The social amenities varies depending on social awareness of each establishment, and finally, I said I am hoping that experience will not occur again with neither black or white workers, the meeting remained at this juncture.
In the 1970's the Factory site of Fazakerly Liverpool was closed and all works transferred to-ROYAL ORDNANCE FACORY PATRICROFT- near MANCHESTER. My life's experiences of racial hatred, intolerance and injustice and what it meant to be a black man in England forced me to actively participate and organize against racism, inequality, racial disadvantage and all the social evils that the black/ none white peoples from around the British Empire had to suffer whilst helping, giving their all, to the British Government and people to defeat Nazi Germans branded with the same Caucasian social disease. Inspite of all at the same time I was able to further enhance my intellectual and academical qualities in the disciplines of economics, social and political history at Liverpools' technical college and crash course with the British Institute of Civil and Municipal Engineering for which I was Awarded a British Diploma.
Throughout these struggles I had the very good fortune to meet my wife Margaret, we have been blessed with eleven children, we continue to reside in the same area of Liverpool where we met more than fifty years ago.
I held several offices in the Labour movement, secretary, chairman, librarian, accountant, delegate-speaker also writer of several articles dealing with the problems confronting the colonial peoples in their struggles for independence and freedom. I have also been a shop steward, convener for the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers - A.U.E.W - for more than twenty years within the establishment of the Ministry of Defence. I negotiated on matters of Industrial relations, Safety, Production Committees, Social issues etc. I was Council member of Liverpool Race Relations Committee Regionally Co-opted member Race Relations Committee. In the 1950's I became a founder member of the Afro Caribbean Asian Standing Committee and held position of Secretary, we campaigned vigorously on matters relating to Housing, Education, Training and Employment for Afro Caribbean and Asian people on Merseyside.
Arising from all the years of struggle and experience gained from my continued sojourn in England, I venture to express a concept where new human social values, can be created. I f all European Nationalism within their State Structures was eradicated and the concept of a new Social order of a United Europe with an outward International Declaration for World Peace and social justice be created vowed to the elimination of poverty in all spheres of Human Endeavour - A new Beginning. " The nature of man is identical,what divides them is their customs". Racism, overt or covert, continues to be a painful influence and, the majority of people still regard the Human Species as falling into distinct ethnic groups, each with its own mentality transmissible by heredity. I have seen the Enemy and he appears to be US.
This article was placed here by Miss Carla Maria Watkins Ba Hons, Pg DIP, P.G.C.E , Granddaughter of James Archibald Watkins, Daughter of James Archibald Watkins (junior) 22 APRIL 2015
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