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Windrush Story: Harvey De Pass

Posted in Articles on 21 Jun 2023

On 21 June 1948 HMT Empire Windrush docked at the Port of Tilbury, Essex, and discharged its passengers the following day. The date of 22 June 1948 marks one of the first examples of mass migration from the West Indies to Britain. 75 years on from this event, the Windrush Foundation asked us to do some research into individuals that came over on the ship and ended up settling in Berkshire. We wanted to share the results of our research with you. This blog will be looking at Ernest John Harvey De Pass.

Ernest John Harvey De Pass [mainly known as Harvey] was born in the 1920s in Jamaica. He married his wife, Olive Lydia Fyffe in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, on the 24 June 1947. Almost a year later, he arrived at Tilbury on the Empire Windrush.

Once arriving in Britain, he settled in Kinver, five miles from Wolverhampton. At some point he was joined by his wife, and they had two children, Patrick and Val. They lived in Staffordshire for 20 years where De Pass worked as an education welfare officer.

Photograph of newspaper clipping showing man standing outside Reading General railway station

Reading Evening Post, Friday 6 February 1970, p.10

In March 1970, the DePass’s moved from Staffordshire to Berkshire when Harvey started work as the first Community Relations Officer (CRO) in Reading. He was appointed by the Reading Council of Community Relations (RCCR). He was not employed by the local authority, but rather was paid by the Government-backed Community Relations Board.

The RCCR was based at 55 Castle Street, Reading, until August 1977 when it moved to 46 Caversham Road. During the early days of this Council, De Pass appears to have occupied the roles of CRO and Secretary. They appear to have relied on the help and generosity of individuals, such as former Mayor of Reading Phoebe Cusden, to set everything up (see letter below).

Typewritten letter to Phoebe Cusden from Harvey De Pass with signature ref D/EX1485/26/17

Whilst CRO, De Pass worked extensively within schools. He helped organise a conference about ‘Children in a Mixed Community’ in October 1970; held meetings with school heads; and attended open evenings in schools to share videos and literature (D/EX1485/26/17).

He was passionate about this work with the second generation of immigrant children saying in a newspaper report “our children aren’t immigrants – they know no other home but Britain” and wanted to “ensure…they have equal opportunities when they leave school” (Reading Evening Post, Friday 6 February 1970, p.10).

Typewritten report by the Community Relations Officer D/EX1485/26/17

In 1979, amid concerns about new immigration laws, De Pass attended a reception held by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. He described the evening as “a great success” as various representatives from “ethnic minority groups involved in various aspects of life, work and sport in this country” met with His Highness (D/EX1485/26/17 – Newsletter Autumn 1979).

De Pass left his role as CRO on 4 December 1981 and went into the travel industry. He opened his own travel business, DePass Travel, adverts for which can be found in local newspapers from 1983 onwards. He specialised in Caribbean holidays, particularly to his birth-country of Jamaica.

Entry from Yellow Pages showing DePass Travel, 263 Oxford Rd, Reading, 567018 ref. YP Reading 1991

He died on 13 April 2012. In tributes posted by GetReading, he was described by Peter Small as “a great man” who “would always be there to help a fellow person”. His “big heart” and love of cricket were also fondly remembered.

If you remember Harvey De Pass from his time as Community Relations Officer, or as a travel agent, please let us know, we’d love to learn more about him. Please do get in touch with us by using our Contact Form

Discover the Windrush Story of Anna Rojek, a Polish refugee.