Cecil Gutzmore was born in Jamaica in the 1940s and moved to the UK to join his family in 1961. He is a veteran community activist, retired academic (historian) and independent researcher.

 The interview with Gutzmore took place on 3rd August 2022 in a meeting room at the Black Cultural Archives and is formed of two parts.  In the excerpt below he talks about the changing immigration legislation from the 1960s through to the 1971 Immigration Act within the context of his own activities and the response of the Black and Indian community to these changes.  He notes that he was not aware of the emerging Windrush Scandal until it broke, with the exception of two cases which came to his attention in 2010.  He had viewed them as isolated cases rather than part of a wider issue involving a significant number for people.

Interview by Juanita Cox

Cecil Gutzmore Interview [Excerpt]

KEYWORDS: Deportation, 1960s, 1970s, Caribbean, 1971 Immigration Act, Leicester, Enoch Powell, London, Indian, Militant, repatriation, 2010, registration, naturalisation, 2-year rule, Commonwealth, Home Office, children, currency control, Ted Heath, Mental Health Law, Activism, Black Liberator, hostile environment, Ladbroke Grove, Hammersmith and Fulham, Jamaica, Community Centre, MPs, Windrush Scandal, Patrick Vernon

TRANSCRIPT [Excerpt taken from Interview (Part 2) 10:55 – 29:37]

Copyright & Permissions: Cecil Gutzmore granted the University of London exclusive licence to use this material for (i) academic and teaching activities, (ii) research facilitation and promotion and (iii) reporting or knowledge transfer. This was done with the understanding that names of third parties would be excluded except for those in the public domain.  This material, including photograph, cannot be reproduced without permission.


JC:         Dr Juanita Cox (Interviewer)
JA:         Dr Cecil Gutzmore (Respondent)

JC  10:55

Did you ever have any – I mean between that period from arrival to just after the 1971 Immigration Act – Did you, were you conscious of any issues relating to deportation, or issues with, regarding the status, the changing status of people in the UK?

CG  11:14

So not during the 60s because I wasn’t involved. And when I became involved in the late 60s, it wasn’t the status of the Caribbean community that was the issue until after the 71 Immigration Act. The issue was opposition to immigration, the racist response in places like Leicester, it was Enoch Powell, it was the active right wing movements that that were around at the time. And that’s what I was engaged with, in Leicester after I came back, back to London. My recollection is that the the Caribbean community didn’t engage as actively politically as we could have done around immigration issues because the 61/62 Act, first post war Commonwealth immigration act effectively closed the door to our primary immigration. And the issue then became, had you left your children behind? Could you bring them up in time? Could you bring an adult as a spouse or partner, and it was just kind of practical-legal. The Indian community on the other hand, probably because they were better organised, and there was entities like the Indian workers association, and so on, had a much more militant approach to the issue of of of immigration, probably because it was impacting them in a different way. I’m not even sure if that is true, because the thing was regulated under the the 62 Immigration Act, and it applied to all new Commonwealth countries, and India was one just like the Caribbean. But in my memory, it is certainly the case that we were less moved and motivated and organised around immigration issues. And when in the 70s, people were coming us were… The other thing to say is that even the 71 Immigration Act, which had major implications, including the need to register as a British citizen, in order to protect your rights of, of not of residence, but of return if you left, that was a key thing. And a lot of people did not understand what that meant, and our community did less than we could have done to communicate that. So the mobilisation was late and a lot of people put in application including me, I mean, I had thought long and hard about whether to apply for British citizenship. And then what persuaded me to apply was exactly that issue of if you went out and stayed out for for two years, you’d lost your right to return. Even though I didn’t particularly want to be able to be a British citizen, I wanted to reserve the right to come back if I wish to come back. And in the end it mattered because of, because I did go back to live in Jamaica. And if I’d done that, without British UK citizenship, coming back would have been a difficulty. So

JC  15:11

What year did you register then? Was this in the 80s? [Cecil Gutzmore: No, 71] You did register in the 1970s.

CG  15:22

Under the 71 Act, in my memory, though, it required Commonwealth emigrants who would come in under the 61 Act, to register for British citizenship, even if, in fact, you had been British citizens and had passports that said, so, by a certain date, it might have been a date in 73. And, in my memory, what I was saying about the late campaigning to get people to put in their their applications for for citizenship by registration was was was a factor and I’m saying that I am actually amongst the people who applied late but not out of time, and and the the home office ended up with a roomful of application which they had to employ extra staff to clear up the registration, or used to have the British citizenship registration form some some where. So, and a lot of people didn’t understand the difference between obtaining citizenship by registration and naturalisation. So a lot of people put themselves through naturalisation when they didn’t have to. Our community seems to me didn’t do as much around that as we could and should have done. So in the 70s, when I was community working around everything, because the place in which I work, both advertised in the Black press and on our window. It said we attended to legal matters, housing matters, everything. And people came with all kinds of issues. So they came with policing issues. But the the the emigration issues were infrequent. And the most frequent one was to do with the things like the right to get your children who were pass the age over. And people who were caught in a moment when there was currency control, taking more money out than they were entitled to do without getting permission. So those were the kinds of cases that emigration-related came up. You probably know, and it matters, that even though Mr. Heath expelled Mr. Powell from the Tory party, certainly from the cabinet. And then maybe Powell resigned from the party, but Heath’s ideas around emigration weren’t all that much different. And he was talking about induced emigration. And there were provisions for getting yourself – providing you’re willing to give up British citizenship – funding to go back to the Caribbean.  I know two people who did that. One of them was a bright sister, who I actually know, who had a degree in Polish and Russian. And she was fed up with this place and wished to go home. So she got herself sent back. You had to register, apply to it. And they gave a little bit of money. And they said you have to give up your British citizenship and you went home. Married a Rasta man with whom she was in love, had four children with him. And then he deserted her for a white woman. And she applied to come back with her children and they let her. So…

JC  19:31

When when was that? When would she have come back?

CG  19:37

She would have come back in the – where was I by then? – would have come back in the 90s. And she would have gone home in the late late 70s or early 80s.

JC  19:53

So do you know about… Because I heard in terms of these people applying for repatriation, that there were two types of repatriation: one was you gave up your citizenship and then they would give you money to return.

CG  20:10

Yes, it was assisted, assisted Yes.  That’s what she did.

JC  20:13

There was that, but then there was also the one [CG: National Health] where where you, you  apply for repatriation, and the government would reimburse you the money you’d paid into the system. So whether you paid national insurance, and if you took this other method, you wouldn’t, you weren’t allowed back. So I’m just wondering, because I’ve heard different people saying it, but I’m not sure if it’s a thing.

JC  20:38

I’m not aware of the basis on which the amount that you get got was was calculated, nor am I aware that there were two types.  What I do know is that you could apply and providing you’re willing to give up your citizenship they give, gave you some money. And like I say, the sister definitely in to my knowledge, somebody that I personally know, did that. I know that courts were occasionally ordering deportation. And I know that something under the mental health law allowed deportation also. So all of that was it was it was in in the air. But it didn’t in any of my areas of activism, therefore… Not in the Left stuff I was doing in Black Liberator, or the stuff that were that we were doing in Ladbroke Grove. None of those cases in that way came up. Because

JC  21:49

So no one ever approached you to say I’m worried about, I may be deported?

 JC  21:53

No. So, a point that you correctly made about how early and strong the what they call it atmosphere? Mrs May’s, Mrs. May’s phrase, [JC: Oh, the hostile hostile environment]. Yeah, how early that that came into operation. The impression I have is that the first time I became aware of that state of affairs was actually not when I was community working in the Groove and not when I was working for Hammersmith and Fulham, which I did between 84 and 94. But much more recently than that, and the two cases that come to mind: one of them is actually after I came back from my time in Jamaica, and therefore after 2010. What happened was that one community centre in which I was working, the brother there was approached by actually a relative of his and his, no, her son, who she had brought here at something like three. He was educated here, driving licence, working, everything, bank account, and he suddenly got a letter from the home office that said, you can’t work. We can’t do this, you can’t do that and if you don’t leave, we’re going to take you to court and then deport you and it was at that late stage that I realise the woman that I was then living with knew somebody else to whom something like that was happening. So the the hostile environment didn’t get communicated to us as a political issue until relatively late, and much of that stuff was happening with people going to the MPs or to, I don’t know where, with nothing happening. And with MPs being completely impotent to do anything about it. I don’t know if they were trying hard enough but and so you have to ask them about how hard they tried. But they were being ignored and this stuff was just ongoing. And we now know how terrible it was. But that, only since the scandal broke, has it become known how extensive and how horrible it was? That is certainly my understand of the situation, my reading of the situation. So, so the the Windrush scandal in a way, as far as I can see, surprised our community, including our political activists. That’s interesting. So, so you’re saying that you first realised that happened in around 2010?

JC  25:15

Yes. After 2010. Okay. So you were never aware of deportations going on in the 90s? Or?

CG  25:32

No, okay. Let me repeat, I was out of the UK from 97 to 2010. So I was actually involved in one or two cases while away and came back to [?], but nothing to do with that. And in between the mid 80s, and the mid 90s, I was teaching part time or full time, and full time, working as a race trainer for London Borough of Hammersmith. And I don’t remember anything relating to what the Home Office by then was doing to Caribbean people, which is converting the ones who came onto their radar into illegal immigrants when they weren’t and being completely unwilling, sorry, to accept the evidence of their their legitimate presence. That I only became aware of after 2010 when I came back, and I wasn’t even then  untill last two or three years aware of the extent to which this abuse had been the order of the day for I don’t know the numbers, but significant numbers of Caribbean people. 

JC  27:09

So it felt like an anomaly rather than a pattern?

CG  27:14

Well, I heard of it as isolated cases. And in fact, I only knew of two before the Windrush scandal broke, so this is just me. And it may be because I was less of a community work activists, in the period since since I came here, and more of a political protest. I don’t know if it makes sense – activist and more of a, you know, high-level nationalism, issues around neocolonialism and on which is kind of my focus, but it didn’t… For example, you know, you know, the brother who set up the petition, [JC: Patrick Vernon?] Yes. Now, I don’t know, what moved Patrick to do that and how the evidence came into his awareness of what was really happening. And I say to you that I don’t know, I still don’t know. But there were clearly people who were more aware than I was, of what was happening and there’s the scale on which it was happening round what we now talk of as the Windrush scandal. So, my involvement has been on the basis of somebody who is, you know, kind of analytical historian, and that kind of thing, so I can talk about the the pattern of emigration, law, migration, law, immigration control, the difficulty the British state had, between 48 and 61, actually finding a formula for controlling black immigration, which they wanted to do right from the start, even why they were recruiting black people. So I know all about that, I can talk about that. But the firsthand information about how it was impacting individuals, and the extent to which it was impacting individuals and causing their deportation and causing them to be prevented from coming back, even though they’d sometimes even been in the army. I frankly, wasn’t aware of […].


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