About An Infinity of Traces blog

A few days after arriving in Jamaica for the first time in 1981, my companion Merrise and I were walking along St James Street towards Sam Sharpe Square in downtown Montego Bay when an old woman, wearing a headscarf and looking not unlike the depictions of Nanny of the Maroons on contemporary Jamaican 500 dollar notes, came up to me, looked hard into my eyes for a moment and then said: “Buckra man.” I stared back at her and for a few seconds she held my gaze before disappearing into the crowded street. I looked at Merrise and asked her: “What did she mean? What is a buckra man?”

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About Derek Bishton

I was born in Birmingham in 1948. My father, who had served a seven-year apprenticeship as a letterpress printer before the onset of WW II, found it difficult to settle after the war and we moved about a lot before he finally settled back in Birmingham in the mid-1950s.

I went to Greet Primary School where, because I was the tallest, I was selected as goalkeeper in the school football team. From Greet I went on to Kings Heath Boys’ Technical, a newly-built school where I was part of the initial intake. Being a senior boy from day one had some unexpected benefits, which included intensive academic and pastoral support. To the great surprise of my parents and most of my family – none of whom had advanced beyond the age of 14 in formal education – I was offered a place at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge in 1967, where I read English.

Cambridge was a challenging place for a working class boy to negotiate 50 years ago (it’s probably not much easier now) but I gradually discovered that journalism, writing and publishing were key tools in the struggle to speak truth to power and privilege.

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