Photograph of Leo Jones

Leo Jones

Born: 16th November 1933

St David's, Barbados

Date of interview: 5th June 2006

Map showing where Leo Jones came from

And what ... going back, right back, can you tell me what your earliest childhood memory is?

Well my childhood memory if I can remember right is I was always an ambitious boy. I had always wants to travel, and I would call myself ...
a god-given, cricketer from my young days.

How old were you when you first played cricket then? Were you a very young boy? Or first watched it?

From the time I start school, I was playing cricket we used to play cricket in the road as youngsters. From the time you could actually walk, it was the only sports that we had in them days in Barbados. Used to be a bit of football at school but cricket was the most number one sport or you used to have athletics running and thing like that at school.

So out, tell me what it was like out there in the street playing cricket then?

[laughing] I tell you had to be very good because, you play cricket in the road you got the traffic coming up and down you have to be on the alert, as soon as they is passing you had to be running out the road 'cos the traffic pretty fast.

Whereabouts was this?

In Barbados in the little village that I came from. So I was from St David's, Cox Road area.

St David's?

That's right.

And how big was that place, what was it like there?

Well, I was schooled at St David's, I was churched at St David's, 'cos there's the school and the church is right opposite side of the road from one another, so my childhood schooldays was at the St David's school and my confirmation classes and thing like that was at the St David's church. Still a member of the St David's church and still what you call an old scholar that any time I go back I will visit those places.

So who else was there in your family?

Well just my sister and I ... my mum only had two kids ... but the other family, like my uncles and aunties they had more children, so it was actually a big group that could have been playing and thing together.

And did you all play, did you all live in that St David's area your family?

Yeah between St David's and Cox Road yeah from the area.

And your father, what did he do?

My father? He was a they call a book keeper ... at one of plantation.

Was the plantation nearby?

Yes yes St David's we call ... call the name of the plantation I'm [laughing] ... I will have to come back to that. Can't remember the name of the plantation.

Do you know what he did with the book keeping? W as it records of what was grown there?

Well he was actually the book keeper of the plantation and he used to look after the workers, to pay the workers and thing like that.

Was that close by to where to where you lived then?

Yes it's in same area ... Staplegrove plantation.

And your mother did she work?

She work on the plantation.

What did she do?

She was a labourer.

So you would go off to school, tell me about a typical day, when you were a young boy?

The typical day was that, in those days you would have to bring water to, put in the house before you leave for school. You have to make sure you get to school early, and after school, three o'clock in the evening then you come home.

What did you do at school?

What did I do at school? I just learned ... the best thing I was at at school in those days you used call it arithmetic, but more or less these days now you call it mathematician. That was my best subject at school. I was proud of that 'cos I teach my children a lot about that now and I got a daughter that she's more or less an accountant now ... But figures, figures to me and adding up figures was just as normal [snaps fingers] as snapping your fingers, I could just see a couple of figures then I could give you answer that's why I love ... this programme here with Carol Vorderman. I'm not good at the words but I gets the Countdown.

I get the, yes, I get all those figures out [snaps fingers] by the snap of a fingers, I'm pretty good at that.

So how long, when did what age were you when you started school there then?

I started school ... I started school in Barbados at five years old. So I startedschool in 1938.

This was the plantation school?

No it was a church school.

Who organised the school?

It's a government school ... You call it, in those days you call it elementary schools in Barbados ...

So you used to get the water you were telling me, where would you get that from before you went off to school?

Well in those days you used have a place called a stand-pipe, because the government would run the pipes right through the village and they would have a pipe in every village. Each village would have one pipe so you have to go to the pipe. But things have changed so far now you won't see those things in Barbados because the majority of people now got, everyone they got their own water in their house and things like that now as well.

How would you describe life then?

What, life? I was lucky that, as a young boy when I start I was pretty good at cricket after I leave school. And I got called up to represent the BCL against the BCA ... And lucky for me that, the great Sir Garfield Sobers and his brother Gerald was selected in the same team that I was selected, and that's how we became friends.

What does BCL stand for?

Barbados Cricket League.

And you said against?

BCA is the Barbados Cricket Association. The BCA is the top boys, the BCA's the local boys and they improve your cricket, like through the years, through the year. They would check you the progress that you make playing for your home team and the runs that you make and luckily that you your performance is to the standard that there what you get called up. And that would improve you from the local cricket to the BCA cricket from BCA to Barbados cricket from Barbados cricket to test cricket ...

So how old were you when you left school?

I left school I was about ... between fourteen and fifteen, I think it was about that time.

And what did you do then?

I didn't do anything I was just playing cricket.

Did these, where were these games, where were they played?

There was a lot of cricket grounds in Barbados, because cricket was the number one sport ... So you would move from a certain grade up a grade until you met the test grade. I think after I ... represented BCL in 1952-5 ... There was a time when they was emigrating people to work in America in the fruits and veg and sugar, in the sugarcane, to work over there. I remember, some of the boys and I leave Cox Road and St David's excited that we was going down ... to join the police force. I was too old for the police band, too young for the police force and the only place that I could get fixed up was in the fire brigade.

In the in the what?

In the fire brigade, that was a police department as well ... the fire service. And, I decided well while I was in town to go and list you name in the park to go to America. So the older boys that I was with they go and list their name so I sat down and worked out that you have to be twenty-one. I was about nineteen at the time. And I went in and I list my name, I remember this police woman, she was the first police woman in Barbados ... and she started to laugh. Said 'What are you laughing at?' She said 'I'm sure that you're not twenty-one.' I said 'Well I taking the chance.' So she put down my name and everything. And you know two weeks afterwards I get a slip to go to register myself to go to America ... And lucky for me I did get a chance to go to America so I went to America in 1954. And I spent a year and a half down there, and I came back in 1955, '53, '54 yeah, I came back in 1955. And I leave a couple of weeks after that and came to England, hoping to improve my cricket. I had a friend in Reading ... we was in America together and he get this place for me and my first address was 49 Zinzan Street.

Was he, he was already here your friend was he?

Yeah. He came, he came up in December and we came up in August the year, the year afterwards.

How did you travel when you came?

I travel by boat I came up on the SS Orbita, take 12 days from ... Barbados to England we land at Plymouth.

What was that journey like?

It was pretty good. It was only the very beginning the channel that it was a bit rough but it was pretty good ... of course there was a lot of Jamaicans in ... But but put it this way, there was a whole heap of West Indian people that came up on that ship. From all round the islands that we could think about ... But the majority of them was Jamaicans that came up. And I think we travelled by train, I don't know what train that was ... But we got in the Sunday day time, got off the boat get up on train and we never got in to Reading till about three or four o'clock the Monday morning. For I tell you how long a train would take to get from Plymouth to here now things change innit? That must be was a slow train.

Can you remember how much the fare was from Barbados on that ship?

365 dollars, I remember ... 365 dollars [laughter] ... That's what I paid 365 dollars to travel here.

How did you get the money?

Well I earned it in America.

Was that your sort of plan or did it just happen?

It just happened. It was a plan like that 'cos ... What they was saying in those days 'If you come to England you improve your cricket' and that was ... something that I was looking at as well. I only come here to spend about five years to study accounts how to play cricket, and ... it's fifty-one, going on fifty-one years now, amazing innit? But as I said before and will always say I still think England is the best place in the world to live, and that's the God's truth. I had my time in America I went to Rome I went to Germany on a cricket tour and things like that. Around the continent. And well America and England is about the only two place that people think is to live or anything like that but, I wouldn't even want a pass to America ... But England, I always call England my second home. Well it's my first home now anyhow. And the Barbados you will know as well is called little England. From the time we grew up all our history based on England ... When I was at school. I didn't know about the river Thames before I even come up here. I remember it was supposed to be the longest river in England. [laughter] Luckily for me I come next door to River Thames in Reading.

So you felt you knew, did you feel you knew Britain before you came here then?

Well I can show you my passport and you will understand that it's what you call British Barbados passport. We were born British. But, the passport I came here on I still have it, to this day. I will never get rid of that, it got on it British Barbados passport. Now you have British passport and Barbados passport. I mean I've got dual nationality ... but I haven't used the Barbados passport, I've got Barbados ID card.

Let's go back then you you came over to stay with your friend and you lived in Zinzan Street.

Yeah my first address.

And what time of year, what date was it that you arrived can you remember?

The date? That I arrive? Let's see, I leave Barbados on the 8th I think it was, two weeks, twelve I would say about the 20th or 21st August. 'Cos it took two weeks to get from Barbados by boat.

And what was your impression when you arrived in Reading?

When I first looked in and ... When we was coming into England I see all those houses with the chimneys and the smoke coming out and here. I was saying to myself 'Wait, they've got a very lot of factories in England' ... And they was houses. My mate took me the Monday over here to get registered and then I went to the Ideal Casement. 'cos all the majority of the black fellas that was working up here before me, they was more or less working at Ideal Casement Windows.

Whereabouts was that?

That was just up up London Road here, at the back. I think that closed down now. And the other part, the other couple of fellas that was about was working at Huntley & Palmers on the biscuits. Or Huntley, Bourne & Stevens. They was the tin, just up here in used to make the tin to put the biscuits in.

Huntley, Bourne & Stevens? Southampton Street?

Yeah. All that buildings and things there? That used to be a big factory there that was called Huntley, Bourne & Stevens. That went right up to the back, up to about nearly back to back to London street, or London Road. which is which? London Street is here and London Road is near the hospital innit? London Road is the hospital. It will be London Street then. Huntley, Bourne & Stevens went right back up to that. It was a big factory. But both of these belong to Huntley & Palmers ... I work at Huntley, Bourne & Stevens as well ... So that I could play cricket for Huntley & Palmers, in Kensington Road. They have one of the most beautiful grounds in Kensington Road.

So your friends took you along, you were telling me to Ideal Casement Windows was it?


And did, what happened then?

I got a job there. I worked there for about eight months I think.

What were you doing?

I was putting the handles on the windows. Little screw handles that you open the windows and close the widows and that was my job.

What did you do next? You said you were there for eight months.

I leaved there and I went to work at the bakery. The Court Bakery that was in Grovelands Road. All that knocked down now and there's bare flats in there. You ever hear about the Court Bakery? It was the only bakery we had in Reading at the time it used to make all the bread for the whole of Reading, Berkshire ... I worked there for ... a good, I can't remember how many years I worked there ... But then I leave there about, in the, and teach myself to become a metal polisher ... and I stick to that for until I retire.

What did you do in the bakery then? What was your job?

In the bakery? I for what you call a handyman. I used to do the shift, I used to relief, go around relieving all the workers for they to have their breaks. So I actually work on every machinery in there.

Tell, just describe what the working day was like?

If you do you have to do eight hours a day in those days ... plus overtime if you want overtime, but in those days the ... your hours were four, I think it was forty-four it is forty-four hours a week in those working days ...

What kind of thing did you do? How did you, how did they make the bread then, was it bread cakes?

Yeah it was all type, there was all types ... I was in the bread department then but the cakes department was, the cakes department was at the top of the factory, the bread department was at the bottom of the factory. But I used to work in the bread department. And I used to I more or less used to put out all the bread for the delivery fellas when they come in the morning. And so they had the racks the thing that you would, and the numbers on the racks that the vans will come in to go to their rack to take up their bread that they want. So when I'm on nights I used to do that job, put out all the breads to the, to the amount for every driver to collect in the morning when he come in early.

So you went from there you were saying about being a metal polisher.


Tell me about that?

I went over to Caversham, Caversham Road. I can't remember the name of the company now I remember that. And I worked there to teach myself, they used to do ... chroming, and silver different things like that. So I went in that department and I worked there for some years as well. And then I leaved there then went to CF Taylor. I walk in there they ask me to work on the aircraft. And I work there for about twenty odd years before I to retire. So I move up a grade then work in the aircraft department. I was lucky to work on the first jumbo that ever built, and the first Concorde that ever built. I had to go up to London in the hangar and fix up the galleys and the luxurious part of the plane ... So I had a good time with my life.

What was the name of the company?

CF Taylor ... Molly Millars Lane Wokingham.

Are they still there or?

Nah nah, I think they all closed down now. But the old man used to live in Reading just up there on the, old man Taylor ... Just going up the Wokingham Road as you pass the school, Alfred Sutton school on the left hand and go round the bend he was on one of the big houses there on the left hand side. I don't know if he's still there or if he's still living or what, old man Taylor.

That was your kind of employment what else was going on in your life?

I was still playing cricket within all those days! And as I said to you ... I realise, looking back at my life that I actually bring the black and white community together. And it's so simple, it's just through sports ... Back in the fifties there was a chap he start up a cricket team. He used to get the teams to play some teams in Prospect Park ... I remember my first season, I had just come up from Barbados and the fellas heard about me just representing BCL and playing with Gary Sobers and those boys. And, I can pick the line of the ball because the ball doesn't divert ... And they used to laugh me and say 'You's all this cricketer and you can't make a run in this thing.' And the next year, the next year, every time I picked my bat up I used to score a hundred.

But how this thing happen, some the fellas decide that they were going to improve the they were going to put ten pence each of the member used to ten pence in the kitty and ... All who make their first fifty will get the money. And I used to win the money every week. And then they said look they will improve it to twenty pence and you have to score a hundred. And that encouraged me more 'cos a pound in those days was a lot of money. 'Cos I remember we used to a pound for rent and half a crown for the electric and gas in those day. So a pound was a lot of money in them day. And I remember my first pay pack, was five pound nineteen and six in those days ... So when you pay a pound for rent out of that as I say. But you see you could get, a pint of beer for about three pence or a pack of cigarettes for about something like that.

I remember people used to put up signs and said room for rent and soon as they see your black face they would say 'Sorry ... it's already gone.' And that encouraged me and encouraged the other fellas that you have to look for your own place. My first house I bought in England I paid £600 for ... And that was number 23 Mason Street. And there was another chap that owned all those houses down there and he had liked me through my cricket ability and he give me the house at £2 a week ... With no interest or nothing on top of that ... I can't remember his name but, he used to have his office here in, the street the street just here where the Citizens Advice Bureau is.

Gun Street?

Gun Street. He was right in Gun Street his office was right opposite there in Gun Street. And when he heard the name Leo Jones, for every week my name used to be in the Evening Post or the Chronicle. They haven't got another cricketer of my calibre. I can tell you that I scored a hundred for every ground they have in Berkshire, every park. I'm the only batsman to score double century ... in the innings, the only batsman to score three consecutive hundreds at the weekend; Saturday, Sunday and Monday Bank Holiday. I done that twice. And I think that if they had a man called Charlie I think he used to keep the records but, looking back on my life I must admit to me I must admit over a hundred hundreds. In my life.

But as I saying to you we go back to that part way to bring the communities together ... I start then the team called Reading West Indies Cricket team. The teams that I know I play with before, I used to get matches with them and teams like Kidmore End and Eversley and Wokingham. And you were surprised that the people that used to turn up to see us play, for the other white teams ... And we became so friendly that then people was begging you to come and live at their place ... So you see where the sport come into the community and make the black and white community become one ... 'Cos you read about it every weekend, and people from round the countrysides and thing that have to on cricket ground they used to look forward, and then they used to say well look let's make a day of it which you call a family day. You would call it an all day cricket match. Start at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning. You would have tea, you would have dinner, you would have this and then it would become a family occasion.

Do you still play cricket now?

No ... 'cos the boys now that is playing cricket ... And football and everything, they're not sportsmen ... You have to love something, to be good at it.
Cricket is a game that I ... I get a bit proud to say this - cricket caused my wife to divorce me. 'Cos she find out that I had love something more than I love her and my children.

So you mentioned your wife there, take me back to, when did you meet her?

[laughter] I was in town one day, I was working at the bakery at the time, I was in town one day and I saw these girls, she came up here I think in 1956 or '57 to study nursing, that time they bring nurses from Barbados then. And she was at Heatherwood hospital in Ascot, so they came to Reading to do a bit of shopping. I saw these four girls in town. I said 'Oh my God.' She was the most beautiful black woman I ever see in my life.' So I walked around behind them, and I went to talk to one of the other girls, you know. And she was from somewhere and she said to me 'Oh those other girls they're from Barbados.' So we start to talk and things like that you know, and I was saying 'I same from Barbados when you come up?' Said 'I came up in 1955.' 'Oh we only came up this year we at Heatherwood hospital and everybody.' So we exchange addresses and eventually I did get get her, I marry her. Yeah, we got married in 1958 or '59 ... if I remember ...

Around that time were there many black people in Reading?

No no there wasn't a lot, and, people used to look at you ... like they never see a black person before. It was really amazing you know ...

Well you see as I said I was in America and when you over there on contract you have to always walk with your ID card. And the things that we could get away with in America the black Americans couldn't get away with. So if you link the two together ... I mean you have to respect white people in when I was in Barbados you had to call them master the white people, the master this and if you working for them and thing like that. But being born as a half caste and I grew up within that area I had the best of both worlds, my mother was black and the old man was a white man. You know? 'Cos he died he died I didn't even know him he died when when I was a little boy or something like that ... I was well capable of getting around ... And sometimes when some of the white fellas look at you and tell you 'I can't understand you.' I say 'Well look the same way I try to understand you you should try to understand me.' ... You know? And the other thing if you get in a fight with them, they beat you or you beat them, they would get up brush their pants off, the gentleman said 'You the better man, shake hand?' and go along and forget about it ...

The other thing that, people must realise as well, that Barbados have got the highest population in Reading in the whole country.

Why is that?

That is a good question. Why is that? If you go back in the early days that, as I said to you ... They had a couple more before me. In the early days some of the Barbadian boys come to Reading. And when the others was coming they more or less coming to Reading, some break away went to London, or went to other parts. But Reading in those days then was the number one stop for spot for Barbadians to come to. 'Cos you know people, they had some clever fellas from St Andrews that used to work at some of the factories in Maidenhead. And those people had wanted people to work and they used to give them a slip or pass as you call them in them days, that you used to send back to the West Indies and they would pay the money and bring them up then they pay back the money and thing like that. Like Brylcreem. The popular one in Maidenhead I will try to remember the name, in those days, that. It was not emigration something like that, it was nothing like that, it was you know. If you as you was a good worker at this place they would tell you tell you about to bring some of the fellas to work at their factory. It was a fiddle somewhere along the line, you know. They was sending money for them and they would come work there and they would take back the money and that's why there so many Barbadians.

So you think it might have been to do with employment?

Yes, yes, yes. Don't let no one fool you.

And tell me about your family.

Well I, my family we had there's ... There's three girls, and two boys.

How many grandchildren do you have?

[laughter] There's three ... Two is five ... Three is eight ... Three is eleven ... Eleven that I can remember so far. But luckily no great-grands yet [laughter] ... Let me count on the back of me hand now: Debbie she got three, let me start from the first. Geoffrey he got two. My big son Geoff. Judy got, two. That's four. Debbie got three that's the three of them there. Seven. Suzanne got three she's the last girl. And Junior got three, he the last boy.

It would be thirteen then.

That's thirteen? Thirteen.

OK you were talking about how people have come together more, since, you came. Just tell me a little bit about that.

Yeah what I was say trying to explain ... Back in the '50s, like when the fellas go out for the night, which you will understand that in those days in the '50s they had the the American service people living in Newbury they used to come to Reading town every weekend. And we all used to mix up together and in those days, the early days if any white girl or woman was to come into that pub where the black people was they had a reputation saying that they was prostitutes ... And that went on for such a long time that, even if a decent person was to pass round here to come and have a drink they still would mention the word 'Oh, them's prostitutes.' But the fact was, that after the cricket teams and their wives and children everybody used to get together with the black community and the white community was concerned, and they had mixed together then you didn't hear nobody saying that she is a prostitute or that is a prostitute or not. 'Cos that's where the cricket association bring the family and thing together.

So they all realised then that we were all one people. So this word 'prostitute' had disappear, after the black community and the white community become an item. So, where people is concerned now people realise that we all human beings we don't look at white we don't look at black, 'cos black and white is together, black marry a white and white marry a black ... And, it's more or less now the word gone from prostitute to love ...

Forget about the half-caste children, they are children. You don't hear half-caste this nor that do you? All you hearing now is the community, the children, the father and mother and I'm so glad that I'm part of that because people is not looking at colour these days. They are looking at what they should be looking at; human beings ...

I used to work at C F Taylor and remember Leo working there as a polisher. I was one of the welders. great times

Ken North, 20 September 2010

I never knew that there was that much about my grandad i didnt know, but i am thankfuk my grandad has shared his stories about his life....I love you loads grandad :) xx

Tanisha Jones, 9 March 2010

It is nice to know that my grandfather likes to share his stories about his life. it is a great insight to my family history. ONE LOVE GRANDAD

Michala Jones, 30 December 2009

Excellent to read as my parents are both from Barbados & came over to Reading u.k around the same time as Leo Jones, i know him & went to school with his children.
All the best to you all.

Caroline, 13 November 2009

Read Leo's story with great interest.I was born in St.Davids and lived there for many years until I married and moved in St.Michael. I am still here in Barbados my mom still lives in St.Davids.

The areas leo talked about,Cox Road, St.Davids, Staple Grove plantation (my grandad was a Watchman there} that will soon be used for housing. A new Community complete with schools, churches, homes and recreational facilities is in the works for parts of St.Davids and Staple Grove.

A new primary school amalagamating the existing St.David's Primary- (Boys}{Leo's old school) and South District-{Girls}
Developing of 95 lots between Kent, St.David's and Staple Grove.
Establishment of the headquarters of a Dsylexia Centre.
Developing of 25 acres is the People's Cathedral to include a school, church, recreational facilities - Will be built on land opposite Leo's old primary school.
The plan is to bring more than 900 residentail lots on to the mrket iwth 5 non residental lots being made available for what was described as "mixed use."

A residential and relaxed facility by the Living Waters Commuity.

An unspecified project by the legends of Barbado
s covering 30 acres.

Iam hoping that Leo will get a chance to know about the happenings of his old village in Barbados..

Greta, 4 June 2009

I used to play cricket for Huntley and Palmers and remember Leo.

Roger Clarke, 2 February 2009

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