Windrush Generation: Ryland Campbell

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The Birmingham Black Oral History Project

This extract is from The Birmingham Black Oral History Project (BBOHP) which was recorded in 1990s. The project was created to record the stories and lives of people from the Windrush Generation and people who came to Birmingham from South Asia.

Ryland Campbell
Ryland Campbell  © Kate Green, The Birmingham Black Oral History Project.
Photo credit: Ryland Campbell © Kate Green, BBOHP.

Name: Ryland Campbell

Born: Jamaica, Born 17th September 1932. 

Education: Ryland stayed in school until he was 16 where he excelled in art. He later went to college in England.

Job: After series of odd jobs Ryland began work as a sign writer and painter. After arriving in England, he began working as a bus conductor but moved through a variety of other jobs in engineering, music and writing.

Oral History Interview: 1991 at the age of 59.

Interview Overview:

Ryland was mainly raised by his aunt in Jamaica as his mother was young and worked away in Kingston. He talks about not having a father in his life and the difficulties this caused him. Ryland describes his early years in Jamaica including his thoughts on colourism and experiences of Kingston. He began to get into trouble with the police for minor offences such as loitering and theft.

His mother decided to emigrate to England and later sent for Ryland. He arrived in 1952, travelling by boat for 21 days to Barcelona and then by train through France and eventually to England. He spent his last £1 to get from London to West Bromwich where his mum was living. He began working as a bus conductor for Midland Red, a highly regarded job at the time,

“I’m telling you everybody think I’m the bees knees you know, because all the factory for the others.”

Eventually Ryland left Midland Red and explored many different roles, sometimes leaving employment for periods of time to look after his children.

As a young man he married his wife Margret, a midwife, and they had two children. Ryland talks about the difficulties of being in a mixed-race relationship at the time,

“They come and they feel sorry for Margret and that is a thing that annoys her, ‘I don’t know how you going to get on with those half-caste children because you know, don’t you see the problem?’, and I’m saying, I don’t see no problem.”

He and his wife also took in unmarried mothers and their children offering support at a time when ‘illegitimacy’ was stigmatised.

Ryland talks at length about the Handsworth Riots and performs some of his songs and poetry.

Ryland's Full Interview:

You can listen and download Ryland's full oral history on our City Sound Archive website: Listen to Ryland's story.

Warning: These recordings include racially explicit content, including discussions of racism, prejudice and violence; racially explicit language; and language and phrasing that we would not use today. Some of this content might be unsuitable for younger listeners or triggering for People of Colour.


Windrush and The Birmingham Black Oral History Project

Find out more about this project on our Birmingham's Windrush Generation schools resource page.