BHM Heroes: Farewell Leicester Square - Joseph Clough

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BHM Heroes: Farewell Leicester Square - Joseph Clough
SACCO’s Gabby, Deborah and Ellen pay tribute to Joe Clough, London’s first black bus driver.

This is a story of black contributions to Britain…

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1887, Joe Clough became Britain’s first black bus driver in 1910, having trained with the General Omnibus Carriage at Shepherd’s Bush. Later, following training at Kempston barracks in Bedford, Joe saw service with the ambulance corps on the Western front between 1915 and 1919. After demobilising, Joe settled in Bedford with his Scottish wife, Margaret, where they raised their two daughters, and by the 1920s, he had returned to service with the National Omnibus Company, this time in Bedford. Joe did not forget the war; on commemoration days, he decorated his bus with poppies. With the transition to motor vehicles relatively new in this period, Joe’s place in history is both as London's first black bus driver, and as a part of the first generation of motor vehicle workers that would make public transport what it is today.

Well-liked wherever he went, and not one to take racist comments lying down - he once cuffed a youth for making them - Joe’s life has been of interest to historians, writers and anyone interested in the migrant experience. Recently, London-born Abe Gibson, poet-in-residence at the London Transport Museum, wrote a musical about his life called Farewell Leicester Square. SACCO’s Gabby went along to see it. 'I thought it was a wonderful and humorous insight into his life', says Gabby. 'The portrayal of the long & tedious journey by ship and the struggle of working in Britain, even during wartime, when the aid that was needed was at an all-time high, allowed us to understand his troubles and smile at the high points in his life. It ensured that the sacrifices many African and Caribbean people made in order to seek new opportunities, and the history of Black Britain, will never be forgotten.’ What a BHM hero!