The Independent London Newspaper


BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Daughter tells inspirational story of Britain's first qualified black nurses

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Winifred Scott

Published: 4 October, 2012

Picture this: a baby born in London’s Docklands, mother English, father Jamaican. Nothing unusual in that – except Winifred Scott came into the world almost 100 years ago, spending her infancy in the shadow of the Tate & Lyle factory in Silvertown in the East End before being placed into care.

Spirited and self-possessed, she became one of Britain’s first qualified black nurses, married a political activist and counted Paul Robeson among regular guests at her Hampstead home.

“My mother was one of those unsung heroines, an extraordinary woman, whose life offers an insight into a little-known era of Black Britain,” says her daughter Penny Klees, who is researching the family history.  

“She experienced a lot of prejudice and hardship, but rather than let it get her down it made her more determined to get on.”

Born in 1917, when the sight of a black person on the streets of London would have excited a range of reactions, from curiosity to hostility, Winifred seems to have inherited her gutsy determination from her mother, Isabella, who defied convention by marrying Charles Scott, a merchant seaman from Jamaica.

But Charles returned to the Caribbean, leaving his wife to bring up their baby alone. “Gran found herself ostracised and couldn’t cope financially,” explains Penny.

“She felt she had no choice but to put my mother into a children’s home, which, sadly, was the fate of the majority of mixed race children then. The only difference was, my gran kept in touch with my mum.”

Like most working-class girls of the day, Winifred was expected to either go into service or to work in a factory. But she had other ideas.

“My mother set her heart on becoming a nurse and that’s what she became, training for her qualification at Whipps Cross Hospital just before the Second World War,” recalls Penny with more than a touch of pride.

“As far as we know, there were only two black state-registered nurses in the country at the time: my mother and Princess Tsahai, Haile Selassie’s daughter, who trained at Great Ormond Street Hospital.”

Winifred’s skills were soon much needed as the war hit home, and one of her deployments was to the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich during the Blitz.

By this time she had married Peter MacFarren Blackman, a Barbadian who had studied for the priesthood. He travelled to Gambia as a missionary in the 1930s only to return a communist.

“He was completely disillusioned by the whole experience – for a start, African worshippers had to sit at the back of the church. My mother met him at a political rally – it was a real meeting of minds but they clashed a lot.”
The couple had three children, two boys, Chris and Peter, and a girl. Penny, the youngest, was five when they moved to rented accommodation in Heath Hurst Road, Hampstead.  

Her father worked for the Communist Party and the flat became a haunt for political activists, among them Paul Robeson. “Robeson was a lovely man and I remember often sitting on his knee,” recalls Penny, who attended New End primary and Haver­stock secondary schools.

Winifred was by now a member of the senior nursing staff at the Whittington Hospital and would go on to specialise in midwifery before joining St Columba’s hospice in Hampstead. “It was unusual for married women to work but she really loved her job and saw it as a vocation.”  

But her parents had a volatile relationship and Penny would look forward to the weekends when she and her mother would escape to Silvertown to stay with her grandmother and her new husband, another Caribbean seaman.
“I used to love going down there. It was wonderfully calming and I had a really special relationship with gran. As for Silvertown, it may have been rough but it was a lot friendlier than Hampstead.”

Despite the disruption to her childhood, Winifred had grown close to her mother and would later look after her in old age. Did she ever talk about the children’s home? “No. My mum never mentioned it and neither did my gran. It was a closed subject. All I know is that they’d always kept in touch with each other.”

Although Winifred was well travelled, she never expressed a desire to seek out her father in Jamaica. “She was a most open-minded person but in this instance she just wasn’t interested,” shrugs Penny, a retired potter and jewellery maker now living in Lambeth.

Penny’s parents divorced when she was 13 but it was Winifred who moved out of the family home. She ended her career as a community nurse and retired to Epping. She died aged 92.

“She is someone whose story deserves to be heard,” declares Penny. “Considering her background and her generation, my mother achieved such a lot and I always look up to her as an inspiration.”

Black History Month -  Dates for your diary

It is 25 years since a group of workers at the former Greater London Council held the first Black History Month event and it is now become part of the national calendar. This year, despite government cut backs, there is still plenty to look forward to. Here are just some of the highlights in the next two weeks:

• Death of a Musical Genius: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Remembered. To mark the 100th anniversary of his death, the V&A presents a newly commissioned celebration featuring poets Malika Booker and Dorothea Smartt and music ensemble Music Off Canvass, with talks and excerpts of Coleridge-Taylor’s music. Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7, 6.30, Friday October 5, £9/£6 concessions.

• An evening of poetry, songs and readings marking the 50th birthday of Jamaica’s independence and the publication of a major new anthology, Jubilation! With Kwame Dawes. British Library, Euston Road, NW1, 6.30-8pm, Friday, October 5. £7.50/£5 concessions. Booking advised. 

• Black Beats: Amiri Baraka in Conversation – the renowned poet reads and performs from his work. British Library, Euston Road, NW1, 2.30pm-4.30pm, Sunday, October 7. Price: £7.50/ £5 concessions. Booking advised. 

• Author Jacob Whittingham discusses his groundbreaking book What Being Black Is, And What Being Black Isn’t at Waterstones, Islington Green, N1, 6.30pm, Thursday, October 11.

• Yvonne Archer’s talks about Life According Maas Roy, the biography of her father who, two years after arriving in London from Jamaica, is told to report for National Service. Working Men’s College, 44 Crowndale Rd, NW1, 1pm, Tuesday October 16.  

• Award winning novelist and author of Brixton Rock Alex Wheetle discusses his work at the Working Men’s College, 44 Crowndale Rd, NW1, 11am, Wednesday October 17.   

• Using Old Bailey records, Kathleen Chater talks about black people in the Islington and Clerkenwell area in an event organised by the Islington Archaeology and History Society, at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1, 8pm, Wednesday  October 17.

• Readers Research: Black in Renaissance Britain – Miranda Kaufmann reveals how the Library manuscript collection led to her discovery of 135 Africans spending a week outside Bristol in 1590, and  Michael Ohajuru to his discovery of a roodscreen featuring a black magus found in early 16th century Devon. British Library, Euston Road,  NW1, 6.30pm-8pm, Friday October 19. £4/£3 conc.

• For a full rundown of Black History Month events visit


U. S. Congress and Senate Unknown history/story of the Buffalo S

Erich Hicks
P. O. Box 6265
Woodland Hills, California 91365

Hello Islington Tribune

News Tip

The United States Congress and Senate are preparing legislation, House Bill # HR 1022 and Senate Bill # 544 to recognize the Buffalo Soldiers...see end of letter...

My name is Erich Martin Hicks, author of the epic novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge; and Mini-Series/Trilogy movie is in the beginning pre-production stage, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. The novel's website is: This is the greatest story of Black Military History...5 stars Amazon internationally; see link: and Barnes & Noble. The Youtube commercials are: and To review the book signing and great conversation, please visit the novels' FACEBOOK page at:

Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the 9th Cavalry from its Congressional conception in 1866, to the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers in 1890. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again, after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story has 'never' been told in length until now.

The 7th was arrogant in their duties, with revenge in their hearts for 'Little Big Horn', and this is proven the next day after the Wounded Knee Massacre, when they rode into a trap in the box canyon, because they 'did not' send out scouts, to scout the area, for if they did, they wouldn't have ridden into a trap.

Revenge is a word, 'that' does not stand in military terms, as a military action, therefore; when a military unit commits revenge, there 'is' no honor! Revenge is the only´╗┐ word you could put on this stupidity of killing 350 old women, old men and children with rifles, gatling guns and hotchkiss cannons which fire one explosive shrapnel shall as fast the cannon could be loaded, up to 2 miles. What honor is there in such an action?

More Medals of Honor were given to the 7th Cavalry for Wounded Knee, for revenge, then all America's troops received for Normandy, D-Day, WW-II. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism, redemption and gallantry.

The story embodies the Native Americans, Outlaws, and African-American/Black Soldiers, Buffalo Soldiers from the east to the west, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching Untied States of America.

When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at: and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first African-American/Black woman to deliver mail for the US Postal System in Montana, in the 1890's, "spread the word".

As you'll see on the Rescue at Pine Ridge website, renown educational institutions have purchased the novel, i.e., USC-University of Southern California, Xavier University, Louisiana and etc.

I am available for speaking engagements regarding the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge and the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, four generations.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at this e-mail address, or through our contact information below.

There are numerous reviews regarding my novel, from Australia, Europe, Germany, and America as mentioned above. I also have numerous reviews from several renown western publications, such a SASS - Signal Action Shooting Society. If you would like copies of the above mentioned, please just let me know.

NOTE: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Geoff Davis and now Senator Dianne Feinstein are preparing legislation to recognize the Buffalo Soldiers, Colonel Charles Young and the 25th Infantry as being the first National Park Rangers; Yellowstone; Yosemite; Kings; Sequoia and Volcano National Park in Hawaii, therefore; please recognize the ones that lead that path, by publishing this story, and telling family and friends to purchase the novel in support of this unknown history, "Rescue at Pine Ridge", the original Buffalo Soldiers, the first generation... Rescue at Pine Ridge concludes with the prestigious duty the 9th Cavalry received, for historical fact, no other military unit to date, has received such prestigious duty as, Presidential Parade Escort Duty and Presidential Guard Duties for accomplishments, which lead to the troopers mentioned above accomplishments as the nations first, National Park Rangers.

Please write a review of my novel in all your publications of Islington Tribune and Affiliates, print and electronic media, furthermore; ask your library to purchase the novel for study and reference, moreover; tell family, friends and associates to purchase Rescue at Pine Ridge in support of this unknown American history, bringing the story to the forefront.

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