Windrush community champion and Walsall Together Chair Patrick Vernon has appeared on BBC TV’s The Repair Shop where a happy ending for a special gift proved music to his ears.
Patrick, who has worked in the NHS for many years, appeared on the popular show to mark 75 years of the NHS and the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain.
He was gifted a radiogram from Eddie Martin Noble, a Jamaican citizen who came to England after volunteering to serve in the RAF in World War Two.
Eddie, like a lot of new recruits who came from the Caribbean, was posted in Yorkshire where he undertook basic training, and went on to ensure that the Wellington and Lancaster bombs were made and loaded correctly, and the paperwork was all in place.
When the war finished, and many of his comrades went back to the Caribbean, Eddie decided to stay in the UK and had various jobs including owning his own luxury limousine service where he would collect celebrities like Max Bygraves and Cilla Black and drive them home.
Eddie had two daughters, and when they told their teachers their dad had served in World War Two, they didn’t believe them. Eddie set the record straight and went on to become one of the first people of black heritage to publish a book of memoires about his experience in the war called `Jamaica Airman: A Black Man in Britain, 1943 and After`. This book told the story about what it was like being black in post-war Britain as part of the Windrush generation and is what led to Patrick meeting Eddie and the pair becoming firm friends.
“I read Eddie’s book and loved it. It gave such an insight into what life was like for him and many others during that time.” said Patrick.
“I was writing a feature for my website and really wanted Eddie to be part of it, so I called up the publishers, and asked them for his address.”
In a rare twist of fate, Eddie was living in Hackney London at the time, in the same area as Patrick.
“I knocked on his door and said, ‘I love your book and I’d like to feature you on my website’. He looked at me strangely as you’d expect but the rest, as they say, is history.”
Patrick would visit once or twice a week and run little errands for him as he got older.
“We had a great bond. He used to tell me so many great stories and we also shared a love of music. When his heath began to deteriorate, he had to move to a care home, which meant he had to give up a lot of his possessions. His pride and joy was his radiogram and he knew how much I loved it too, so he said to me ‘Patrick, I know you like my radiogram look after it’ and so I took the radiogram and the music collection and had it at my home for many years.”
Patrick had been planning to restore the radiogram but hadn’t got around to it so when The Repair Shop put out a call for items to mark 75 years of the NHS and the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain he expressed an interest.
“When I heard it felt like a sign as I’d be meaning to get the radiograph repaired for a while. I was called in for interview and screen testing and then when they found out a bit more about who I was, my connections to the NHS and campaign work for National Windrush Day, they invited me to be on the show.
“It was such a great experience and meant a lot to me. I am extremely proud of my roots and contribution of migrant communities from the Windrush Generation have made to Britain. It was a privilege to be able to share Eddie’s story and really emotional hearing the radiogram played again. As a tribute to Eddie, we picked the track In the Mood by Glenn Miller which was hugely popular during the Second World War.”