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Mr Egerton Bassett

Back-a-Yard

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Egerton Adolphus Bassett was born in St Thomas, Jamaica in 1927. He was one of the first Jamaican people to settle in Newport, having first lived in Wolverhampton and Birmingham before settling in Wales.

Growing up in the Caribbean

The young Egerton Bassett was a great animal lover – his favourite pet being a goat.

Egerton’s childhood was a happy one. He was fun loving and popular at school, cycled miles around the island and adored his stepmother, Rosanna.

At an early age, he watched his step-cousin making an iron and he decided he wanted to be a moulder too. His dream came true when he befriended a stranger in Kingston and as a result was introduced to a foundry owner. 

Coming to the UK

Leaving the island he loved was the last thing on Egerton’s mind when he went to a wedding. But when he found out the groom was moving to England and booking his passage the very next day, he decided he too was coming.

He’d heard a lot about England, though much of it was to prove untrue – like the requirement to wear a white shirt.

He travelled by ship, stopping at Tenerife and then travelling from there to France and on to Southampton. After almost losing his suitcase in London, he travelled on to Wolverhampton where he found work in Dudley.

Getting used to the UK

Like many early immigrants, Egerton shared his lodgings – one room with two beds costing five shillings a week –with a friend and considered himself lucky to find that.

With no experience of the British weather, they left the window open on the first night and woke up frozen because it was snowing outside.

His new workmates took him shopping and soon his wardrobe was suitable for a British winter – long coat, suit ad pullover. 

Employment

Having been promised that England’s streets were paved with gold, Egerton was somewhat surprised to earn just £7/15 shillings in his first job on the railways – less than he’d earned in Jamaica.

He decided instead to look for work as a moulder and was finally rewarded with a decent pay packet.
Unfortunately, his good luck was short-lived and after a misunderstanding, which metal ore to use, he walked out of his job. 

Coming to Wales

It was a short holiday in Cardiff that persuaded Egerton to move to Wales. He liked the fact that it was clean – much cleaner than the Midlands – and the Welsh were friendlier than the English.

Friendly but perhaps not so willing to offer a Black man a job. Eventually he found work at Pill’s foundries, though he had to settle for a labouring job.

Egerton worked hard and despite considerable opposition from the workforce, he was eventually taken on as a moulder. He remained at the foundry until it was sold to Saunders Valve.

During this time, he was living in Raglan Street where he helped his older neighbours and became popular.

The accident that changed his life

In 1964, while working in Splott, Cardiff, Egerton had the spinal accident, which ended his working life.
His surgeon repaired his spine with bone from his hip and steel, but he was warned he might never walk again.

On his first day out of bed, Egerton walked three steps. He was soon walking again but the continual pain changed his cheerful personality and for a while he was very unhappy.

Sick of being unemployed, he eventually returned to college to study electronics and later opened a record shop called Marty Records. An early fan of the Beatles, he bought all their records before they were famous.
 

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