Sunday, January 20, 2008

A racist attack in Brockley, 1960 - and the King of the Yodelers

The following story is from the Kentish Mercury, 26 August 1960. As well as documenting the violent racist prejudice suffered by black people in the area at the time, there is a remarkable detail in this story - the presence of Donn Reynolds (1921 -1997), a Canadian singer known as the King of the Yodelers: 'In 1978 Donn set the world record for the longest yodel by yodeling non-stop for 7 hours and 29 minutes. In 1984 he established the world record for the fastest yodel by achieving five tones (three falsetto) in 1.9 seconds'. Apparently in 1960 he was living in Brockley and a good neighbour too.

‘While a coloured man and his family slept, a gang poured petrol over his van and set it alight before running off. The incident occurred in Reservoir Road, Brockley late Sunday night. Canadian film actor and singer Donn Reynolds who lives opposite, saw the flames, raced across the road and with help from neighbours put out the fire before it could spread to the van’s petrol tank.

Owner of the van Mr Norman Taylor and his family moved into the road six weeks ago. Coloured families have been buying old property in Brockley over the past year, but Mr Taylor is the first coloured person to move into Reservoir Road. Two houses next to his are empty and local residents think it likely they will be taken by coloured people. Hile some white residents think it was the work of young ‘hotheads out for a cheap thrill’ others believe the outrage was intended as a warning to Mr Taylor and his friends to move out of the district’

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