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From Bermuda to Britain: Carlton’s wonderful journey

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Carlton and Jean Darrell at his 80th birthday celebrations last year (Photograph supplied)
Carlton Darrell as a young man (Photograph supplied)
Carlton Darrell with three of his five sisters from left: Muriel Anderson, Edith Morris and Gladys Furbert. Missing are Hilda Burgess and Grace Smith (Photograph supplied)

Carlton Darrell moved to England at 21 looking for a bigger, more open-minded place.

It was 1960 and the Bermuda he left behind had only just desegregated theatres.

“It was very difficult for Black Bermudians to purchase homes,” said Mr Darrell, now 81. “There was no segregation in England, but there was discrimination. Luckily, I didn’t experience much of it.”

Still, when he showed up at his first teaching post at Woodside Junior School in Thurrock, Essex, there was a stunned silence in the staff room.

“They were expecting a white South African,” he said.

His first task was teaching 25 to 30 children who had been labelled as “less able”.

“I had to work my socks off every day, preparing work for these children to help with their maths, English and other subjects,” he said.

Sport was a lifelong passion of Mr Darrell’s. The headmaster at Woodside quickly put him in charge of football.

“I think I get it from my father Leroy Darrell,” he said. “He was a master baker, but in his time was a runner and also played cricket and football. At Berkeley I played football and cricket.”

During the classes he held outside in the cold English winter, he longed for a sport to play indoors.

“When I was 16, in my last year at the Berkeley Institute, a teacher introduced us to badminton,” Mr Darrell said. “We only played it once as a taster, but I was impressed. I liked it more than tennis, and you could play it indoors.”

He turned the school assembly hall into a part-time badminton court. His enthusiasm soon had the staff playing on Friday nights.

“Afterward we’d go down the street to the pub and have a drink to relax before the weekend,” Mr Darrell said.

He then set up a club for students which raised eyebrows; the Thurrock badminton community thought children under the age of 12 couldn’t handle the rackets.

“Back then they only came in one size,” Mr Darrell said. “I was determined to prove them wrong.”

And he did, ultimately founding the Thurrock Junior Badminton Club from which many members went on to become national and international champions.

One of his students, former national player Gillian Moore, nominated Mr Darrell to be made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his service to badminton.

“That was really wonderful,” Mr Darrell said.

In 2010 he went to Buckingham Palace with his wife Jean; his niece, Levyette Robinson flew from Bermuda to join them. Prince Charles, who presented him with the award, chatted with him briefly about badminton then told him to “carry on”.

Mr Darrell was introduced to his Jamaican-born wife by her aunt Edna, in 1965. The couple will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary in July.

He remained at Woodside for 20 years. When the post of headmaster became vacant, a group of parents lobbied for him to have the job. Unknowingly, they made him ineligible for it as their efforts violated British employment laws.

Mr Darrell was, however, successful in his bid at the nearby Chadwell St Mary Primary School. On assuming the role he became the first Black headmaster in Essex.

Last year, some of his former students threw him a surprise 80th birthday party complete with shuttlecock cake. He was thrilled.

In 2018, his was one of many stories about marginalised Black communities shared by British artist Everton Wright through the Evewright Arts Foundation.

An interview with Mr Darrell appeared on Caribbean Takeaway Takeover – Identities & Stories from the SS Windrush Generation.

Mr Wright also included photos of Mr Darrell in an exhibit of Caribbean people in Britain.

As a result of that, Mr Darrell this year appeared briefly in Home Sweet Home, an ITV show hosted by Joanna Lumley.

“I was over the moon to see myself on national television and really delighted for Everton and Ionie Richards, who did the installation,” said Mr Darrell who was also featured in the Radio Times February 20 to 26 edition.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns in Britain have been hard on social Mr Darrell who lives with his wife in Corringham, Essex.

“It is pretty awful,” he said. “You can’t see your friends. You can’t chat to anyone. I managed to do a Zoom with my niece last night for the first time.”

An avid golfer, he is very proud that the Langdon Hills Golf Club named The Carlton Room in his honour and put his photograph on the wall after he received his MBE.

“It has been a wonderful journey,” he said.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published March 03, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 03, 2021 at 10:07 am)

From Bermuda to Britain: Carlton’s wonderful journey

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