From years of torture as a child slave to an Aylesbury escape - John’s story is inspirational

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John Blake, 84, was a victim of horrific child slavery during the 1950s, after his family left him at seven-and-a half years old to work for another family in Jamaica.

This week, after his neighbour Liam Collins got in touch with The Bucks Herald, he sat down with me to share stories of his amazing life and escape to the UK.

John worked long hours for the family his mother and father left him with. While working for them, he says he whipped and poured boiling hot water on him for punishment, scarring him for life.

Mr Blake said: “We were so poor. We had no money, 
so they sold me to a family where I would work, carrying wood, fetching water and 
logs.

“My parents gave me away to a family to work as a servant. They treated me like a slave, they made me work.

“Everything was rough in the cane fields, making sugar at the mill.

“Conditions were really hard, it was hell. There was never enough food to eat and it was always burning hot outdoors where we had to work.

“I often had to forage in the forest for food, for mangos mainly or wild yams. Luckily the mongooses chased the snakes away!

“It was tough growing up as a child without any friends, but I had no choice in the matter. We were poor and that was that.

“My dad wasn’t around to help.

“It was tough work, hard work out in the fields.

“It was very hot and the only water we could drink was the irrigation water, that often had faeces in it,” he 
said.

“I was burned and whipped when I did things wrong, it was a horrible time to be alive. They didn’t care.

“Everything they wanted, I had to do it. There was 
no question about it, “he added.

He had to continue working in pain for three months, without medical attention. He was only eight.

The wound never healed, and John was made to continue work for two months before he was finally allowed to go to the doctor. But not before an eight-mile walk through the bush.

The living conditions he experienced were appalling, living underneath the footings of the house with the dogs.

John finally managed to get the money to escape from slavery on the sugar plantations, leaving Kingston to go to London, via Genoa in 1958. He was 15 years old at the time and travelled alone.

He left with only £10 in his pocket and the London address of an unknown man in Guildford Road.

Miraculously, the man he didn’t know would eventually put him up to try to find him a job.

John said: “The taxi dropped me off, the man took me in and gave me food. He showed me the area.

“After a while, he sent me on my way to Birmingham to Smethwick. I couldn’t find work there so I went to Corby, and couldn’t find work there, either.

“I shared a house with other immigrants looking for work, people from India and Pakistan. We used to sleep on a shared floor, a dozen to a room. It was difficult to get a job in those days.

“I ended up in Luton, working on the M1 motorway and worked on some of the bridges. It was quite a change to the sugar cane fields!”

The story, however, has a happy ending, as John found love with his wife Edna Blake.

They currently live in Granville Road and have 10 children.

He added: “Moving to England was the happiest day of my life! It was an exciting adventure away from the hardships of home.

“So many people, young girls and boys and older people, experienced the same things as I did. Slavery was still rife in Jamaica when I left in 1958. We had it better than older people who had to lug heavy rocks all day every day with no respite.

“There are many who could tell you the same story as I have. Before my time it was even worse. In many respects, I am a lucky man. It was a hard time to be bought up in the West Indies, but I have no complaints about my life.”