In the October-December Edition of Vocalise our very own caretaker Rennie Williams was featured in a local legend article. We are so lucky to have Rennie as part of our team here and are truly thankful for all the hard work he does to keep the Centre running. It is great to see him get some recognition for all the hard work he does for the community. Below is the article taken from Vocalise.
Local Legend: Rennie Williams
Written by Hilary Finch, Vocalise - your free community magazine for Montpelier, St Pauls and St Werburghs. October – December Edition
For the last eighteen years Rennie Williams (75) has been the early morning caretaker and cleanerat St Werburghs Community Centre. He arrived in Bristol in 1962 from St Thomas, Jamaica when he was 19 years old and joined his older brothers here, at first on Richmond Road in Montpelier. It was June so he was not shocked by our weather, but that winter it was the worst on record for some years and he found that cold and miserable. He told me his story in his sot lilting voice.
He has been gainfully employed his whole life and has also played reggae with the Untouchables who many remember from the Bamboo Club days. They played many gigs there and travelled to other towns and cities.
He told me his first job was as part of the team that sunk pillars in the water for the first Severn Bridge working 12 sometimes 15 hours without the modern Health and Safety regulations, dealing with the strong tides. A dangerous job. Another frim took over the construction when that was done so he had to find another way to earn his living. In the Spring of 1963 he went to meetings at 119 City Road where he joined Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett and Prince Brown to plan the boycott of Bristol buses when Black and Asian people, were not allowed to work in the company.
By September of that year they had made there point but he was only allowed to wash the buses, not drive or conduct. He did this for a year at Lawrence Hill Depot.
In the meantime he found help with housing from the Irish and Polish immigrants who were much more welcoming then the British home owners. He found more work at a defunct crisp factory in Brislington but they were sold out to Golden Wonder. He had enjoyed that place as a potato washer.
Still in his twenties he moved on to BAC at Filton as a fitter where he remained for five contented years. His boss played football on the BAC team and was often off work due to injuries! When this was the case Rennie stepped up to his job. However, when this boss moved on to other things, he asked to be considered for the position but it was given to someone else and Rennie was expected to train the man. He left considering this unfair.
So on to Frys in Keynsham where he ate chocolate until he was sick of the stuff but it was one of his favourite jobs, packing chocolate and taking care of machinery.
He was on days one week and nights the next. In 1998 he was offered voluntary redundancy when Fry’s was sold top Cadbury’s. It was a good offer so he left Frys on January 1st 1999 and started caretaking at St Werburghs in March of that year where he continues his duties to this day.
Rennie is married and has four grown up children. He lived on Pensfield Road in St Werburghs for 30 years before his wife wanted to move to Downend where she became a preacher.
Thanks to his gentle, hardworking man the St Werburghs Community Centre remains a well-loved, cared for building.
The Centenary of the declaration of Armistice of the First World War will be marked this November.
Here at St Werburghs Community Centre we will be marking the occasion and also the end of the Old Scholars Project.
We are hosting a Remembrance Service to celebrate the lives of people who lived in St Werburghs over a Century ago. The memorial plaque on the front of our building was once a forgotten feature but now thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers we now know more about the soldiers named in the memorial and the lives of their families left in St Werburghs.
At the service we will welcome the family and descendents of the soldiers, unveil a heritage board created by the research team and the pupils from the local Primary school. We will lay wreaths created by local groups in our community and there will be contributions from talented bristol based poets.
Please join us to mark this special occasion at the Centre.
0117 955 1351
The Old Scholars - First World War Stories of St Werburghs
Today the St Werburghs Community Centre has received a National Lottery grant of £7,400 for a project called The Old Scholars in St Werburghs, Bristol. Awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War then and now programme, the project will focus on sharing First World War stories with our community. The memorial at the Community Centre was once a forgotten feature but now with thanks to National Lottery Players and the Heritage Lottery we can share the stories of people who lived in our community a century ago. This grant will allow us to :
A team of researchers have been delving into the history of the memorial to find out about the soldiers named, what they did where they went and who they are. The Centre holds an archive full of research and details about the Old School and the soldiers from St Werburghs. The Old Scholars Project aims to share these stories so that more people in the community can learn about the First World War heritage of St Werburghs.
The stories will feature alongside school pupils artwork on 2 heritage boards. The pupils from St Werburghs Primary School will contribute to the project.
The research team will be present at various community events including the Picnic in the Park and the St Werburghs Arts Trail 2018 leading talks and sharing the stories from the archive. People from the community can take part in a free workshop to create a wreath for the memorial service.
This November we will be hosting a remembrance service for all the community to attend, inviting all those who have taken part to help us remember the lost stories of these soldiers, and other people who lived a century ago. This event will also mark the centenary of the end of the War.