Sheroes: Lydia Simmons

Lydia Simmons

Slough has the pleasure of having a resident whose life experiences is a precious example of what can be accomplished if you walk in faith with conviction of what you think is possible.

Lydia Simmons was born on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. She responded to the invitation to travelled to England to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War.

Lydia was originally based in London and moved to Slough with her husband Dudley. This is where they lived and raised their three children StClair, Susan and Jason. In those early years the town was known for having one of the biggest trading estates in Europe. The Caribbean settlers always express that in the early sixties how much easier it was for people to walk out of one job in the morning and have another by the afternoon. A growing and thriving place.

This was the days when we had just overcome the signs that said No Dogs No Blacks No Irish. The influx of what is now classified as ethnic minorities and some British nationals thought there was an invasion and that the white culture would be taken over and become extinct. In many ways it seemed as if one war had just finished and now a psychological race dispute was starting.

For some of the grandchildren the achievements of their grandma was way before they were born. But they tell their friends to go to google her in a light hearted way to prove the creditability of their word. She was the first Black woman to become the mayor not just in Slough but in the United Kingdom. Their proudest moments was their grandma receiving her OBE on the New Years honours list 2011.

Lydia was a devoted wife and mother to her children and was very keen to establish equal opportunities for all she was and still remains a proud Black woman. Lydia became a member of a lot of the local Caribbean groups. For more than a decade she actively supported the first Black children who was born in Britain alongside some of the British citizens born abroad to be treated fairly and equally educated. She fought against the mistreatment of Black Caribbean, African, Asian Pakistan and Indians who were being unfairly treated.

Lydia realised for voices and views to be represented that she would have to place herself in a group where the collective views of her community could be heard. and In the words of her grandchildren: With the encouragement and support of her husband Dudley, she joined the Labour party. She would actively canvass door to door. She shared and encouraged the vote for the workers those labouring to help build up the community. In her view and opinion the Labour party was inclusive of all nationalities.

The grandchildren expressed this as a memory they shared: going door to door with leaflets. She would be explaining to them how important the job they are doing is to the future of Slough. One day they were driving and she wound down the window and called to a young man that had dropped some litter. She asked him to pick it up to keep Slough clean! She was completely fearless and committed to her community.

She was a maternal nurturer as well as an educator for her family. They smiled as they explained that their grandma always had an open door policy for her community. Many people would approach Lydia at home with their problems. She would put her glasses on, a listening ear, and offer a cup of a beverage, pen in hand with perfect equilibrium to her role for the community and as a caring loving mother and grandma.

This woman was depicted in the Guinness book of records for her double achievement. In her everyday role as a woman, wife, mother and grandma her loving strict no nonsense and encouraging mannerism showing how to live this gift called life is much loved. She has delicious, amazing culinary skills and one of the families favourites is her macaroni cheese. The description almost made the taste and the aroma come off their lips. They spoke about family dinners and gathering and all the traditional Caribbean cuisine. The grandchildren expressed that during family time she would make all of them aware of the state of affairs all over the world. She would praise the advancements and achievements of worldwide progress. They view their grandma as very intellectual and intelligent – their own version of google or Wikipedia. Her story telling is captivating and very inspirational.

Lydia is a testament to her amazing mother and to the support of her wonderful husband Dudley, who her grandchildren always describe as her backbone and the patriarch of the family. Slough thanks Lydia for her fight for equality and the right to be heard of all communities.

Read about the other Sheroes