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Holiday to Jamaica results in chance family reunion

FAMILY AFFAIR: From left to right - siblings Lindsey, Carol and Stuart who have reconnected with Jamaican family they never previously met

SOME PEOPLE might call it fate – others would say it was destiny: this is an incredible story of how four members of a West Midlands family have found their Jamaican roots – purely by chance.

The story started back in January 2016 when Lindsey James travelled to Jamaica for a sunshine break in Ocho Rios with his partner and young son with no real intention of tracing family roots. Little did he know how fate would step in and by chance guide him to where his father grew up in Jamaica, a place where so many of the James family still live.

A year on and James has returned to Jamaica with his three siblings to be united with yet more family members – while also discovering that they are among the beneficiaries of a 40-acre parcel of land in the parish of St Ann.

The whole experience has been life-changing for James, his brother Stuart and sisters Carol and Trudi who are all in their 60s.

James, a private hire driver, who was brought up in Kidderminster where he still lives, told The Voice:

“I feel very proud. I feel the pinnacle of my life has been reached now because so many questions about our father have been answered for us thanks to the welcome we received in Jamaica.”


BACK IN THE DAY: From left to right - Pauline, Carol and Sidney James

Lindsey’s late father Sidney James came to England in the mid-1940s to join the RAF and was stationed at RAF Shobdon in Herefordshire. He later met his future wife, English local Pauline, at a dance in Kidderminster where they married and set up home.

Being an interracial family in rural Britain at the time was not easy for the four James siblings who maintain that their difficult childhood experiences are probably the reason they remain so close now.

Sister Carol explained:

“Life was very hard for us growing up in such a white area during the 1950s. Our mother was white – Kidderminster born and bred –while our father was from a place we knew very little about and he hardly spoke about Jamaica to us. In those days people simply didn’t talk about their lives.

“A friend told me later that she had been frightened of my dad as a child because people had never seen any black people, yet my dad went on to become such a popular member of the local community – people loved him.”

However, six years before his father’s death in 1982 son Stuart had taken his parents to Jamaica in a bid to rekindle any memories, but his mother Pauline had found the trip difficult, not being used to the heat and the conditions on the island.

Two Green Hills

That said, no member of the family had visited Jamaica for 40 years until James flew to Ochi Rios in January 2016.

In a chance conversation with the taxi driver who picked him up, James explained that his father grew up in Green Hill, St Ann. The driver, Bertram (nicknamed the senator because he knows everyone), said:

“You’re joking! I was brought up in that area – I’ll drive you over there.”

The unknown life of James' dad started to become clear when he was taken to his father’s old schools – Alva Primary and Charlton Primary – where he was able to see his name on the register which went back 100 years.

The taxi driver saw on the register where Sidney James actually grew up, so he drove his son there.

“We pulled up outside a makeshift shop and a very elderly woman directed us to go on to a post office up the hill,” said James.

“I can remember my dad talking about Green Hill post office. By sheer coincidence, the area where we lived in Kidderminster was also called Green Hill. A woman there shouted to someone in patois and the next thing there was a man was walking towards us who was the image of my father. It was an incredible experience I will never forget.

“The man said: ‘I knew your father Sidney. My mother Ivy was your father’s sister. My name is Victor.’ And I said to him: ‘My father’s middle name was Victor,’ and this man replied: ‘Yes I know. We thought you were all dead.’ And we threw our arms around each other.”


LIFE'S A BEACH: Pauline and Sidney James holidaying with their children (left to right) Lindsey and Carol

Lindsey had been united with his first cousin on the last day of his holiday, so he vowed there and then to return. Ten months later last November he did just that with sisters Carol and Trudi, who had never been to Jamaica and brother Stuart.

More revelations awaited them as they were united with further cousins Ronald and Theodore. They were also able to visit the grave of their father’s sister Ivy, who they found also died of a stroke in 1982 within 12 weeks of her brother in the UK.

“Victor was able to show us his late mother’s home, which the family still kept in immaculate condition,” added James.

“And probably most moving of all for us, we were shown the house where our father was born and grew up and our grandmother Marie Arscott’s gravestone, although sadly the area is very overgrown and needs restoring.”

Carol, who is a seamstress, like her late grandmother, said:

“The whole trip for me was life changing. Everyone was so welcoming. I cried when I got on the plane to come back to the UK. I felt I was leaving my soul behind.”

So what are the family’s dreams for the future now Jamaica has taken over their hearts?

James said:

“Now we have finally tracked down our father’s birth certificate we would love to be able to have a property on some of the land that’s in the family. Our dream would be to have a house there and be able to look down the garden and see the old home where our dad grew up. Our lives would be complete.”

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