Bajan’s book inspired by lifetime of experiences

A BARBADOS-born pensioner has penned a lifetime of memories documenting the changing face of Oxford and its attitude to race, as the Oxford Mail reports.

George Applewhaite, of Sandy Lane, Blackbird Leys, has created a collection of short stories about his life as part of the first wave of immigrants to leave the Caribbean in the mid 1950s.

Don’t Forget to Keep Your Chest Warm charts the 81-year-old’s life from to his arrival in Oxford in 1955 and his workplace adventures as a bus conductor, car factory worker and shop keeper.

The book’s title comes from the last words his mother said to him when he set out to find his brother Chester in the UK in 1955.

Mr Applewhaite said many people have told him his stories shone a light on an era when people acted in a more sociable and generous manner towards each other, but some tales reveal the occasional racial prejudice he encountered in Oxfordshire.

Mr Applewhaite, who has lived on the estate since 1961, is now working on a book about his childhood in Watts Village and then St George on the Caribbean island.

He said: “My friends thought my stories were interesting and thought I should write them down. I have a very good memory. I think I’m proud of it.”

After landing at Plymouth in 1955 aged 25, he made his way to Oxford and found work as a bus conductor at City of Oxford Motor Services before moving to Pressed Steel, in Cowley, where he stayed for 20 years.

Father to Mark, Tony and Peter, he bought a grocer’s shop in Sandy Lane, known locally as George’s, which he ran for seven years.

Recalling one incident of discrimination he said: “Sometimes, if I was standing at the door of my shop some people wouldn’t stop if they saw the shop was run by a black man. But the prejudice didn’t bother me, I don’t encounter that any more.”

Mr Applewhaite said his stories revealed a basic kindness in working class communities during the 1960s and 70s. He remembered how his friends Moore and Spencer rushed him to the toilet when roast lamb from the canteen disagreed with him on his first day as a bus conductor.

He is currently looking into possible outlets for his book.

For the original report go to

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