MOTHER COUNTRY In the wake of a dreamProduct no.: HP169
Summer 1947. Jamaican ex-serviceman Melbourne Welch stands at the corner of Effra Road and Rushworth Street in Brixton, south London, facing a tirade of abuse from the British Union of Fascists. It is a shocking contrast to the treatment he received three years earlier when grateful Britons welcomed the ‘loyal colonials’ who had come to help defend the Mother Country from Nazi tyranny.
How things had changed. Now out of uniform, and along with other non-white migrants, he and ‘his kind’ were seen as scroungers on the National Assistance; cheap labour occupying scarce housing; or salacious men on the hunt for women of easy virtue.
“You helped us to win the war now come and help us rebuild the Mother Country.”
This sentiment of British Empire unity might have been apocryphal but it was inhaled like a breath of fresh air by many West Indians. They answered the call and arrived in Britain from the late 1940s on ships such as the SS Almanzora and SS Auriga, and the iconic Empire Windrush. Former servicemen, like Melbourne Welch, chose to stay in the country they had helped defend after being demobbed. But for many, the dream of a better life and boundless opportunities was tainted with discrimination and hostility.
While the characters that inhabit Mother Country may be fictional, their stories are not uncommon and are set against the backdrop of actual events that took place in Britain from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. The story reflects how so many Britons reacted to Black migrants and how idioms such as “Keep Britain White” and “No (blacks) coloureds, no Irish” were commonplace. The narrative is rich, direct and laced with humour and pathos, but without bitterness.