Memories of the Attitude Towards Minorities in Laindon

By Alan Davies

My initial reaction to the question “what were the attitudes and opinions toward minority peoples in the Laindon that I knew as a child and as I grew to be an adult” is that there were very few attitudes of any kind and no thought out opinions toward minority peoples. It was simply not a thought that occupied people's minds.

The demographics were such that the great majority of the population were white Anglo-Saxon protestant and almost every one else was Caucasian of some origin and belief.

The fact that, on our school maps, a quarter of the world's surface was pink thus designating some form of British government or control was simply accepted as the natural order of things. There was no xenophobic gloating or jingoism.

Of course cowboys were always the good guys and Red Indians the bad guys whether it was at play or watching the Saturday morning flicks at the Radion.

The political correctness and super sensitivity that today mandates using exactly the correct term and going to extreme lengths to avoid any word which might give offence to any constituency was lacking.

Robertson's jam and marmalade were free to use their little trademark of a ---------- on their product. No one thought it pejorative or associated it with anything racial. That mind set simply was not present. In the west end Agatha Christie's murder mystery, "Ten Little ------- Boys" enjoyed a successful run with no protests or accusations of pejorative overtones in the title. The title was descriptive. No more no less. Interestingly in the US, where it enjoyed similar success, the title was changed to "Ten Little Indians."

The only non-Caucasian resident that I can remember was Dr Chowdhary. He was eminently respected. No one took any notice that he was not Caucasian. He was simply accepted for what he was- — a caring, hard working, skilled physician. My father always referred to him affectionately as "good old Chowdhary." Quite why the "old" I do not know. He was a little younger than my father.

When I was about thirteen, walking along the High Road, I encountered a strange sight Walking toward me but on the opposite side of the road was a dark skinned man, with what appeared to be a white sheet wrapped around him, open toed sandals, bald or shaven head, and a staff. He was the first Indian I had ever seen. He looked remarkably like Gandhi. Enthralled at such a strange sight; I crossed the road behind him and followed him. I could hardly believe my own eyes. Such a strange person in such strange garb. In Laindon. I must have followed him for a hundred yards. At a respectable distance of course.

Attending Laindon High Road School, part of the curriculum was religion classes. What an imposition on personal freedoms that must sound like to present day young scholars if they are anything like young American scholars where religion of any form or expression is banned I do not think it did us any lasting harm! There were always two girls absent from religion classes. The same two girls. I learnt they were catholic and therefore excused from class. I wondered what Catholics believed and then promptly forgot about it No one else was interested

Finishing school at Chelmsford Tech I started work in the city. Saturday night was dance night with a few friends. More often than not it was the Archer Hall in Billericay. I met this charming girl, Ann Wiseman, who lived somewhere behind St Andrews hospital It took me a while to realize Ann was Jewish. In due course I took Ann home to Sunday tea to meet my parents. My father immediately took a liking to Ann. He couldn’t care less that she was Jewish. He thought she was the cat's whiskers.

Some time later I was dating an Irish nurse who I met at a dance in Ealing, west London. Same scenario. I took Teresa home to Sunday tea to meet my parents. My father barely said a word to Teresa and it was plain that he only tolerated her. It was only later that I understood he was not opposed to her catholic religion. He disliked the Irish for a different reason. They were competition for the little work that was available and would often work for lower wages than their English counterparts.

The Laindon I knew contained a homogenous population. The great majority of us were white Anglo-Saxon protestant (at least on paper but I suspect fewer than 50% were practicing), exclusively English speaking, assumed everything English was better than any alternative, accepted this superiority as natural and God given and not to be bragged about, accepted the white man’s burden as a duty toward those less fortunate, while we lived in varying degrees of near poverty. Perhaps it was this homogeneity that, without the conflicts that seem to arise when there are substantial minorities of any description in a population, enabled the Laindon that I knew to be a tolerant and non-judgmental community. At least that is how I remember it.

This page was added by Alan Davies on 16/03/2013.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Ethnicity is not something that concerns youngsters, in fact they possibly are not even aware of it. It is only as they become older that their minds become tainted with the thoughts, opinions and prejudices of others, usually older than themselves, who in turn became "racially selective" in a similar manner. In the sixties I was in a position where there was a black lad who was getting an awful lot of racist abuse. When he finally tired of this, he cut his arm with a blade, opened the cut with his other hand and said, "look, I'm the same colour as you underneath". Extreme as it may have been, it made his point perfectly and as such he was treated much differently from then on. Anyway, the most colour prejudiced always seem to be the ones to rush out into the sun to get a tan, don't they?

By Donald Joy
On 18/09/2015

Hi Keith, the boy you refer to only spent the odd bit of time with the Romany woman.

His family had some connection with her, the boy's name is Billy he lived in Vaugan Williams Road on the Kathleen Ferrier estate. He still lives in the area.

By Barry Ellerby
On 26/03/2013

Further to my remembrances of churches abroad, although St.Andrews was originally within the walled British garrison of Abbassia which I presume was demolished when the British finally left Egypt, it would seem the church survived and is now shown as being No.38, Sharia Fouad el Awal. 

Also further to my comments on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre being probably the richest church in the world, based on my memories over 70 years ago, I was surprised to read that in 2012 it was in debt of over £1.5 million pounds. Does this mean that all that mass of treasure donated by people such as Queen Elizabeth the first and the icons from the Tsars of Russia has been disposed of?

By W.H.Diment
On 26/03/2013

Hi I remember in late 50s to early 60s Sikh men coming round selling silk scarves. I do remember the gypsy lady who lived on footpath to St Nicholas Church we called her gypsy grannie her son lived there to.

By Keith Nock
On 24/03/2013

In connection with the attitudes to minority groups, it was inevitable that differing theological beliefs would be considered by ethnic populations. This caused me to consider the other side of the coin, where we introduce our beliefs into countries which are not predominately Christian. 

I remember during the early 1940's stonemasons from the Scottish regiments were building a Scottish kirk in the Abbassia garrison in Cairo. It was to have been called St.Andrews. I do not know if it was ever completed and if so, whether it aroused any strong objections from the locals, although Christianity does have a following in Egypt. 

Also an anomaly exists within the Christian church in that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem embraces all the various factions of Christianity under one roof, which includes Roman Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Armenians etc. It is probably the richest church in the world containing vast treasures. 

On entering, there is a statue of the Virgin Mary dripping with jewellery donated from famous people all over the world. One of these is a multi-band choker of pearls donated by Queen Elizabeth the 1st. Further into the church, there are a number of large icons, but closer inspection shows these are not painted, but the colours come from precious stones, diamonds , rubies , pearls, emeralds , amethyst and topaz. I do not know if the intrinsic value has ever been calculated. Strange enough on leaving despite the enormous wealth contained there-in, an Armenian Priest attempted to sell me a small envelope contained a small piece of stone, "guaranteed" to have come from the tomb of Jesus Christ.

By W.H.Diment
On 24/03/2013

Responding to Alan, I seem to remember a mosque in the area of Roundacre and believe that it still exists at another destination in the area, but I am not sure where.

By W.H.Diment
On 24/03/2013

Upon reflection there was an astonishing number of churches in Laindon. The less than a mile stretch of the High Road from Langdon Hills primary school to the railway station must alone have been home to at least six different churches. There must have been enough catholic families to support at least one church. 

I remember the nicely kept white wooden catholic church of St Theresa almost opposite Langdon Hills primary school. It is still there, or at least it was a few years ago, looking just as neat and cared for as it was sixty years ago. This is the only catholic church that I can remember. 

As for a synagogue let alone a mosque or Hindu temple I do not think such existed in Laindon. Not that I can recall.

By Alan Davies
On 24/03/2013

Alan Jacobs lived in the St Nicholas Lane/Dickens Drive area and was in my class at LHR. One of the male teachers at LHR (I cannot remember who it was) did not call him Jacobs but Jack 'Obbs (Jack Hobbs) the great Surrey and England cricketer circa 1910 to 1930. Of course the rest of us young lads thought this to be a great witticism. It was only fifty plus years later at a Chelmsford Tech annual reunion dinner that, in conversation with him, he mentioned that he was Jewish. I never knew or thought about it. He was just one of us lads.

By Alan Davies
On 23/03/2013

I can think of another example i.e., Mrs Angela Pelham, the Jewish lady of Pelham’s confectionary shop in the Broadway, Laindon. Throughout the forties and fifties she ran a tight business, measuring out each penny drink and quarter of sweets with expert precision. Her dark little shop was an Aladdin’s cave of goodies to us children. Quite stern at times and known to be a bit ‘naughty’ e.g. mixing cheap sweets in amongst the more expensive ones, yet we Laindoners took her to our hearts and remember her with fondness. Probably of Polish origin, Mrs Pelham was considered as much a part of Laindon as the rest of us. I doubt if any of us could remember Laindon High Road shops without thinking of Mrs Pelham and the alley that was named after her. Pelham’s Alley became a landmark in Laindon and still remains there today.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 22/03/2013

The Romany woman that William refers to was known locally as Mrs Buller, she had skin like leather. Her only companion being a dog that would always warn when you past. I believe she passed away around 1977-78, her Romany van was then set on fire and burnt to the ground by her family. A true Traveller.

By Barry Ellerby
On 22/03/2013

As an indication that the community has always included families or individuals who were subject to being classed as different to the norm I publish below an item sent to me by Willam at the time when Dale Farm was very much in the mind of the community. 

No one can be unaware of the present confrontation between the travellers at Dale Farm although this is just outside the Laindon boundary but does remind me of a situatiion circa 1970. 

There was a very old Romany lady who for many years lived completely alone in a tradional gypsy caravan alongside of the track which ran from the A127 to St. Nicholas church. There was no antagonism between her and the locals who watched over her. She was regularly visited by other gypsies who made no attempt to set up camp nearby, possibly the might jeopardise her permanence. 

Although the romanies are traditionally of a clan like nature they left her to live alone, probably because she was too old for the travelling life, even if she had a horse and driver. She lived out her last years in peace and in harmony with the resident neighbours.

By Ian Mott
On 22/03/2013

Richard, the article is not talking specifically about racism, it is talking about how we have allowed what was accepted at the time as acceptable has over time become used as a derogatory name. The point of the article is looking how prejudice against those who were different, or were seen as posing a threat to their way of life, affected the members of the community. 

There is quite often similar feelings between different communities and people in authority (i.e the feeling between the people of Laindon and Billericay, Laindoners and the Basildon Development Corporation to name but two). 

You also say that there were no Asian or black children, while I can not remember many African or West Indian children in the community there were a number of families from India and/or Pakistan. Just think of the local doctors who provided the backbone of our local health service. 

In addition there were Romany and Irish Traveller families visiting and living in the area. The Romany families have been subject to prejudice for centuries. 

There has also been for many years inter-religious prejudice which although not usually affecting children has at times caused much ill feeling within the community. 

I consider myself tolerant of all creeds and races but I like most others become less tolerant when I or my community and family are subjected to injustice by other individuals or groups who ever they are.

By Ian Mott
On 18/03/2013

Wow this is a new topic, racism in Laindon. I for one cannot remember any foreign people around Laindon all the time I lived there. There were only a few Catholic or Jewish kids but not any Asian or black children around at all. This meant we were a totally caucasian white neighbourhood at the time. When I was younger living in Barking as a small child we would see Indian sellers around the door with shoe cleaning equipment or textiles and the occasional Gypsy selling those wooden pegs. My nan would warn against 'Chinamen' who would whisk you into their shops in Limehouse but these were mainly joked about by us Cockney kids. As for Laindon, no, totally white, no predudice required!!

By Richard Haines
On 18/03/2013

Alan writes that intolerance of minorities never existed in old Laindon because it was never evident. I suggest that xenophobia and intolerance or prejudice of other groups, while totally without reason, does exist in most of us but the majority do not allow it to manifest itself. 

Alan considers his father's dislike for an Irish nurse was because Irishmen were occupying jobs at the expense of Englishmen, yet surely this nurse was not one of these and was she not rendering a service to English people, so why dislike her without logical reason. 

Xenophobia does also exist at national level, as I remember the pre-war fear of the "yellow peril" at a time when Japan was not our enemy and we were training their navy. 

Also Gen.de Gaulle despite having been given sanctuary for his free French forces did after the war attempt to bankrupt Britain by securing as much gold as possible and trying to revive the gold standard for international trading while our stocks were at an all time low. 

Then there were the French factory workers who gave standing ovations when British ships were sunk by exocet missilies during the Falklands war. 

To illustrate the irrational nature of such feelings, I remember a little poem 

    "I do not like thee Dr.Fell,    

The reason why I cannot tell,

I only know and know full well.

I do not like thee Dr.fell"
By W.H.Diment
On 17/03/2013
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