Frank Bailey, London’s first post-war black firefighter, honoured on Google Doodle

April Roach
·2 min read
<p>Today’s Google Doodle honours Frank Bailey</p> (Google)

Today’s Google Doodle honours Frank Bailey

(Google)

Today’s Google Doodle honours Frank Bailey, the first full-time black firefighter of post-war London.

Mr Bailey was born in Guyana on this day in 1925. Today would have been his 95th birthday.

According to the London Fire Brigade (LFB), he was the first full time black firefighter in London, and possibly the first in the country.

The Google Doodle, illustrated by West Yorkshire-based guest artist Nicole Miles, pays tribute to the firefighter and social worker who fought for equal rights.

Who was Frank Bailey?

Mr Bailey’s first was job was on a German trade ship, which brought him to New York.

According to his Google Doodle biography, Mr Bailey found work in a hospital where he staged a walkout in protest of the institution’s separate dining rooms for different types of employees.

Mr Bailey moved to London in 1953.

After being told that black people “were not employed by the fire service”, Mr Bailey was inspired to join the West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955.

He was close friends with Fire Brigade Union (FBU) General Secretary and John Horner and became a FBY branch secretary at Silvertown Fire Station where he worked.

After leaving the Brigade in 1965, Mr Bailey became a social worker and the first black legal adviser to youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.

In 2007 Mr Bailey was asked to contribute to a London Fire Brigade (LFB) booklet called “In their own words”.

He said: "I was told that the authorities were not hiring black men because they were not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job.

"I immediately recognised racism and said I’m going to apply to be a firefighter and see if they find me unfit. I saved a fellow firefighter's life when he fainted while we were on the fifth floor of a ladder drill session.

"I brought him down to the ground in a fireman's lift. The guy's weight was 16 stone and he was 6'2."

Mr Bailey’s daughter, Alexis, said her father spent his whole life fighting against injustice.

She said: "Years after he left the fire service, right up until he died, he carried on encouraging young, black firefighters to get involved in politics.

"He was full of stories about using solidarity and determination to bring about change in his many different roles – as a medical assistant at a hospital in New York, and in London as a trade unionist, a firefighter, a psychiatric social worker, a warden at a social club for ex-soldiers, and an advocate for young black men appearing in court.

“His enthusiasm for equality sometimes got him into trouble. He never shied away from a challenge or a difficult conversation and had many angry showdowns. He put energy and sincerity into everything he did and people respected that.”

Mr Bailey died on December 2, 2015, six days after his 90th birthday.

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