Against the Wind


And I got to know one West Indian bricklayer, Len, quite well.

Before I had met Len, Bert the foreman had asked me if I would work with a Jamaican bricklayer that had come in on site looking for work. “I need more brickies, but I don’t know who to mate with him,” he said.

“No problem,” I replied, “If I don’t get on with him, it won’t be because he is black. It might be for some sort of similar reason that I might not get on with any bricklayer from any part of Ireland or England.”

“Thanks, Seamus, I thought you’d be the right one to ask”.

Next morning I was introduced to Len by the foreman who was relieved to have the two foreigners teamed up. We worked along quite steadily and when it came time to raise the line for the next course, Len shouted down from his end of the wall, ‘Ready for line up, Paddy?’ I banged my trowel down into the mortar board and walked straight up to him.

‘What did you call me, Sambo?’ I asked.

‘Paddy,’ he said.

‘That’s not my name, Sambo.’

‘I’m not Sambo,’ he replied. ‘No, Len, and I am Seamus and no more of this bloody ‘Paddy’ stuff, okay?’ I held out my hand.

He looked at me a little shyly, hesitated a moment and then shook my proffered hand. From then on we got along very well together.

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