JIS News

It was standing room only at ‘Jamaica House’, the headquarters of the Jamaica Society Leeds, last Saturday (September 6), as scores of Jamaicans from across the northern United Kingdom (UK), turned out to say farewell to community stalwarts, Travis and Elizabeth (Betsy) Johnson, who are retuning home after 46 years in the UK.
Mr. Johnson and his wife were among the founding members of the Jamaica Society Leeds, and are members of the Northern Regional Council. Both have been well respected community leaders and Mr. Johnson was, for four years, one of the UK representatives to the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board.
The Johnsons were praised for their commitment to the development of the Jamaican and wider ethnic community, not only in Leeds, but across the UK. They were hailed for their warmth, compassion, friendship, and the support they have shown over the years.
Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK, Burchell Whiteman, said the Johnsons have been good for Jamaica, good for the United Kingdom, and indispensable to the northern region.
“They have been successful, because they demonstrate love for each other, love and respect for those with whom they work, and a sensitivity to people. Travis understands how British society work, which is a great asset, and therefore, that is why he has been such an important part of it. But more importantly, he has never compromised on his respect for, admiration of, and defence of Jamaican excellence. So, while he is fully a part of the UK, he is also very supportive and promotional of Jamaica, and for that we thank him,” Mr. Whiteman said.
The Johnsons told JIS News, that the decision to leave the UK and return to Jamaica, was one of the hardest they have had to make. “It was always our dream to return to Jamaica, but after 46 years, it was difficult, especially because of our two children and grandchildren,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mrs. Johnson, who came to the UK in 1961 to train as a nurse and midwife at Stratford and Avon, moved to Leeds in 1966, following her marriage. She said her original plan was to live in the UK for a maximum of six years.
“I always planned to go home. My plan was five years of training, one year of working and travelling around the UK, then home. However, things changed. We got married and then we had our children, but now we are going back to Jamaica,” she said.
In addition to being an active member of the Jamaican Society, Mrs. Johnson was a midwife until she retired in 1993. She also worked as an agent for Victoria Mutual, and was Manager of a Home Care service.
Mr. Johnson, who came to the UK as an 18 year-old, started his working life with British Rail, but he was also a bus driver, and a social worker. He was appointed a Magistrate in 1981, and became a Lay Canon in the Anglican Church in 1994.
He has received recognition from the British Government, for his services and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), by the Queen.
His services have been recognised by the Government of Jamaica as well, and he was awarded a Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service (BHM), as well as the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation in 2002.
Mr. Johnson said there has been much improvement and advancement within the black and minority ethnic community during his 46 years in the UK. However, he feels that there is still much more to be achieved.