James Augustus Boston: Community pillar, bus conductor and Afro-Caribbean Citizens Club stalwart dies aged 91
- Credit: Archant
Hackney bus conductor, family man and pillar of the Afro-Caribbean community James Augustus Boston has died at 91.
James, a teacher in his native Montserrat, came to England in 1960 in his early 30s to forge a better path for his family.
He arrived in Southampton with just the suit on his back and hitched a ride to Islington to find a family friend he was staying with.
He failed to get work as a teacher and was told his accent might confuse the children - even though he spoke perfect English.
Desperate for a job, on the ride home he saw an advertisement for bus conductors, and applied.
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Grandson Antonn Christophe, 27, said: "Back then people would throw their change on the floor and tell him to pick it up because they were scared to touch his hands.
"He would pick up the money, print their ticket, smile and move on. He couldn't lose his job because he had to pay for his family to come over here.
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"To him, everything was about family."
James worked as a conductor for more than 26 years without taking a single sick day.
Antonn said: "Towards the end of his life, when he started to get sick, he finally went to the doctor but they had no record of him because he had never been in hospital.
"It was like he had never existed."
Once James was working as a bus conductor he started to send for his wife and children and his family eventually grew to seven children, 11 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren (with another on the way) and "so many adopted children as well," said Antonn.
James realised how racist landlords could be in the 1960s with awful "No Coloured" signs - and tenants had no power when they were thrown out suddenly.
He knew he had to work hard to buy a house so he could get out of the rental world.
He did just that in Londesborough Road in Stoke Newington, and spent the next 60 years there.
Sadly, James encountered racism throughout his life in Hackney, but he never allowed it to make him bitter.
He was turned down for promotions but Antonn said he was content to remain a bus conductor and provide for his family and community.
James ran the Afro-Caribbean Citizens Club just off Newington Green for more than 20 years. There, he would organise trips to the seaside.
Montserrat is an island nation, and Antonn said James liked to return to the water - he would take groups all over, from Blackpool to Belgium.
He was planning on returning to the Caribbean in recent years, but his illness didn't allow for that.
James, an only child, liked to be surrounded by people and to bring the community together. He ran the club until three years ago, when funding was cut and it instead began meeting in people's homes.
He was also the master of ceremonies at St Paul's Church in Stoke Newington for 46 years.
Always smartly dressed, he would take off his hat and greet everyone he passed on the street.
Until he discovered he had prostate cancer three years ago, he was always running around the neighbourhood and giving advice to the young people he encountered.
James called Antonn his bodyguard "because anywhere he went, I went" and Antonn could barely keep up with him.
He took time to tell everyone how special they were, believing confidence and encouragement would keep them straight.
It's a lesson that was passed down to Antonn, who wants to continue his grandfather's work and help young men in his community who are struggling.
James's funeral will be held on June 7 at 11am in St Mark's Church, Dalston.