2021-02-22 11:20:34 | Melbourne Barrett obituary | Coventry


Story by: Melbourne Junior Barrett The Guardian

My father, Melbourne Barrett, who has died aged 91, spent most of his adult life in Coventry after leaving Jamaica in the late 1950s.

He was born in Negril on the rural north-west coast of Jamaica to David Barrett and his wife, Phyllis (nee Lynch). One of nine children in a family that grew much of its own food, he worked in the fields from a young age.

Into early adulthood he continued in the family farming tradition until in the mid-50s he spent three years working on a farm in Kentucky in the US, on a scheme that allowed young men from Jamaica to work for a limited period and send money back home.

After returning to Jamaica, in 1957 he left the country for good, this time for Britain, where he moved to Coventry and found work on the assembly line at the Morris car factory.

He was there for 15 years before moving to the Ford motor company’s foundry in Leamington Spa. For many years he did the noisiest and dirtiest work in the heat of the foundry – pouring hot liquid metal to form engine castings – but the hard manual labour was nothing new to him.

I have memories of him working on his allotment, clearing the ground with his machete (not a typical horticultural tool in Coventry), and being amazed at his strength and stamina as he appeared to be able to keep going forever. He used the allotment to grow chillies and peppers to supplement what he saw as the rather bland food available in England at the time.

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In Coventry, Melbourne met Olive Wilson, a machinist for the General Electric Company who had also come to the UK from Jamaica, and they married in 1959. They initially lived in just one rented room, but following the birth of a son, Michael, they sought a mortgage to buy what turned out to be their first and only home. Melbourne remained at Ford until he retired at the age of 64.

Melbourne loved a good story, often told at his own expense, and had a huge laugh and smile that lit up the room. He loved to play cricket as a fast bowler and competent batsman, and also enjoyed a modest flutter on the horses, which entailed a daily scrutiny of the runners and riders and a walk to the bookies.

He is survived by Olive and their two children, me and Michael, by two children, Danny and Shirley, from an earlier relationship in Jamaica, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.


Story continues…

Source References: The Guardian

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