Oswald George Powe
Remembered by Cynthia Horton (daughter)
Oswald George Powe, affectionally known as George, was born on 11th August 1926 in Spanish Town, Kingston, Jamaica. His father, Richard Pow, was Cantonese, having migrated to Jamaica and married Dad’s mother, Leonora Sinclair.
Dad attended a Chinese school at the age of five in Kingston for three years and then attended St Ann's Elementary School in Kingston, he then attended Kingston Technical School where he was undertaking a course in Electrical Engineering until he left to volunteer for the RAF.
Dad joined the RAF in Jamaica in 1944 having lied about his age (he was only 17 when he joined). He first came to the UK on a troop ship, arriving in Scotland. He trained as a radar operator in Wiltshire. His first posting was Filey in Yorkshire.
His first impression of the UK was of the rain and the houses were somewhat strange to him with so many chimneys. He was also struck by the different coloured hair that people had.
After the war Dad had to stay in the RAF until 1948 when he returned to Jamaica to be demobbed. He then chose to come back to England on the SS Orbita landing in Liverpool on the 2nd October 1948. He moved to Birmingham for his first job as an electrician’s mate and subsequently met our mum Barbara Florence Pool at a dance hall. They married and had five children (one, Terrence, died at a young age). They moved from Birmingham to Long Eaton in 1950 and then onto Sawley, a neighbouring small village.
Dad was politically aware and involved himself in local and national politics, trade unionism and actively fought racial discrimination. In 1956 he wrote and had published an important political pamphlet in conjunction with the Afro-Asian West Indian Union (of which he was the secretary). It was called “Don’t Blame The Blacks”. He had been inspired to act following the Race Riots in 1958 and campaigned to change the employment policy at Raleigh Cycles Nottingham, but with negotiations failing he sought the assistance of Norman Manley, Jamaica’s first Premier, leading to an embargo of bicycle imports from England. This action helped change the company’s policy, Raleigh subsequently becoming one of the largest employers of African Caribbean workers in Nottingham.
In 1960 he joined the Labour Party and was an active member. Between 1963 and 1966 he served as a local councillor for the Labour Party in Sawley Ward for the Long Eaton Urban District Council. He was the first Black Councillor in Greater Nottingham.
In 1969 he was given a place at Nottingham Trent Polytechnic to train as a teacher. He went on to teach Maths at Robert Mellors School, Nottingham.
Mum and Dad separated in 1970 and divorced in 1977. He later went on to marry Jill Westby.
Dad was a founding member for the Afro Caribbean National Artistic Centre (ACNA) in Nottingham which was housed at a former school building in Nottingham. He was involved with the setting up and running of the centre and was the secretary for many years.
He went on to represent St Anns (Nottingham) on the County Council in 1989.
He continued to be prominent in local community affairs even up to his death. Dad’s door was always open to anyone who needed help or had a problem. Racial Equality Chairman of Nottingham, Milton Crossdale, said at Dad’s funeral: “His vision was to create an environment for change and to leave the world a better place than he found it.”
Dad regularly visited Jamaica, and along with my partner Mark, I was able to visit him there - which enabled me to meet up with family giving me lasting memories of our heritage and culture.
When Dad died on 9th September 2013, he left a lasting legacy that we, as a family, are proud of.
George's service number was 714779.