In 1963 the Lancashire Evening Post ran a story about a colour bar operating in Preston.Advertisement
An organized pub crawl organized by the Commonwealth Association discovered two bars in the town were openly running a colour bar; those pubs were the Old Britannia and the Old Black Bull situated in and around Friargate.
The Old Britannia went as far as having a sign saying ‘No Coloureds’ above the door. When asked to explain his actions behind this move the landlord stated that the barman was responsible for this sign. However, he also stated that the colour bar was beneficial to black people as their presence in the bar often led to trouble.
This view was upheld by a correspondent to the newspaper who thought the landlords of these pubs deserved medals for the stance they were taking. Another letter writer complained of the presence of West Indians in the town’s cinemas and agreed someone had to take a stand.
Members of the West Indian community thought likewise. Facing discrimination in the workplace, on the home front, through education and now more so through recreational pursuits, something had to be done.
The solution behind this was to set up their own club. That club was Jalgos. The club grew out of the Jalgos Cricket team.
Cricket is a religion to many West Indians. Cricket was a symbol of West Indian prowess over their Colonial masters.
In the Caribbean cricket would be played everywhere. In the towns and cities and throughout the countryside kids played on every available patch of ground. They would even play it on the way to school, and God forbid any cricketer who turned up late or dirty for school.
This love of cricket never abated especially when West Indians established a community in Preston.
Pathways to Preston from the 1972 Guild noted how many West Indians came to add a little of their Caribbean gaiety to our streets and their adventurous spirit to our cricket fields.
In the summer time it would be common to find groups of West Indians playing until dark after work in various fields around the Preston area. Not just in Preston but all over the country. Basically anywhere there was a West Indian community. Whilst some people played in their works team like Dutton Forshaw’s or Leyland Motors there was a move amongst the community to establish their own team.
The founding members of Jalgos were initially all Jamaican but were joined shortly afterwards by a Dominican who Gladstone Affleck met in Willie Cunningham’s sport shop on Church Street.
The other founding members of the team played in different teams scattered across Lancashire. However, they were all friends and would meet up regularly to play cricket together during the week for many a long hour.
It was decided that they should form their own team to play in the league.
The team initially started out in the Church league and then in 1963 progressed to play in the Preston and District Amateur League. Jalgos started out in the Third Division playing on Grange Park but it was not long before they progressed to the First Division and were able to play on Moor Park.
Jalgos were quite successful winning the Mackinson Cup on several occasions. They never won the Turner Cup; however, when playing the Caribbean club the atmosphere was akin to a Turner Cup final.
The Caribbean Club was not the only West Indian team Jalgos played as they often travelled to different parts of the country where other West Indian communities were established. These teams would in turn pay Jalgos the compliment of paying them a visit.
The problem was where would the team entertain their visitors after the match? The lack of a clubhouse proved detrimental. That is not to say there were not facilities available for the club to use.
The first home of the club was in a rented room at St Peters Club on Fylde Road. The Foxton youth centre was also utilised by the club for dances and fundraising activities. It would be more beneficial for the club to have a permanent home. That would not take place until 1976. A full 14 years after Jalgos was founded.
The club was purchased in 1976 from the Hibernian Club who had already purchased the club form the Ribble Bus Company. The club was originally offered the site where the Caribbean Club was situated and another site in Fishwick was offered by Preston Borough Council.
The option to purchase this land was turned down after a surveyor had a look at the site and deemed it unsuitable. When the Hibernian eventually came up for sale Tommy Meade approached the Chairman of that club and said Jalgos would buy the club off them.
The sale was agreed and the rest as they say is history. However, the club is very much a part of the West Indian community today.
The cricketers may be too old and grey to play but the club is a focal point for all sections of the community.
Jalgos is home to the Jamaican National Association and the Montserrat and Friends Association. Both groups provide sterling assistance to the countrymen both here in the UK and back home in the West Indies.
There is also a function room and restaurant facilities in the extension to the clubhouse that was opened on May 1st 1989.
Every Tuesday members of the community old and young alike meet for a Luncheon club were you can partake in fine West Indian cuisine.
Thursday night downstairs is dominoes night and at any given weekend the club could be paying host to visiting clubs from other West Indian communities scattered across the country.
Every year the club hosts the annual Jamaican Independence and thanksgiving festivities. There is also the Montserrat annual reunion dance that is held at Jalgos. In more recent times the club is home to the Isles of Harmony carnival band.
Yet there is moves to destroy not only a living and vibrant piece of Preston’s history but to rip the soul out of the West Indian community.
In 2010, 47 years after the Lancashire Evening Post reported the presence of a colour bar in Preston was reported we are potentially facing down the barrel of another one.
There is no sign saying ‘no Coloureds allowed’ above any door. There are no people writing in to the newspaper in support of such action.
The majority of black people in Preston today should not face any discrimination in the workplace, on the home front or through education. But yet there are official moves to close down Jalgos.
In 1963 the elders of this community took a stand to ensure there would be a club like Jalgos.
A place where people could go without having to run the gauntlet of fear and discrimination. A place for all in the community both Black and White. Somewhere for the community could gather on social and sporting occasions. A home from home.
If Preston City Council give the go ahead for this club to be demolished they are no better than the landlords of the Old Black Bull and the Old Britannia who openly ran colour bars all those years ago.
We are now heading towards the second decade of the 21st Century but are the attitudes that prevail in some quarters rooted way back in the last one?
Stephen Poleon is one of the key members of the Save Our Club campaign and recently established the Lancashire Black History Association.