Prince of Wales hails Windrush cricketing pioneer in ITV documentary

William praised Alford Gardner’s ‘positive spirit’ (Victoria Jones/PA)
William praised Alford Gardner’s ‘positive spirit’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to one of only two surviving passengers of the Empire Windrush who worked to break down racial barriers by setting up Britain’s first Caribbean cricket club.

William visited 97-year-old Alford Gardner at his home in Leeds, West Yorkshire, for ITV’s Pride Of Britain: A Windrush Special documentary, before taking him to Headingley cricket ground to a surprise celebration with cricketing stars.

The prince, who praised Mr Gardner’s “positive spirit”, said: “We are here because of one person, who changed the lives of so many.”

Alford Gardner at his home in Leeds
The Prince of Wales visited Alford Gardner, pictured, at his home in Leeds (Mirror Group Newspapers/PA)

Mr Gardner set the club up in 1948 – three months after arriving in the UK on HMT Empire Windrush from Jamaica.

He was among the first of the Windrush generation – people who travelled to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries, answering Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages – to arrive.

The documentary marks the 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation this year.

Mr Gardner was joined at Headingley by friends, family and famous cricketing names, including Darren Gough.

He bowled at William, who urged him: “Easy ball, easy ball Alford. Be gentle.”

The prince added: “Oh, he’s got it.”

Mr Gardner joked: “I can’t remember the last time I bowled a ball.”

William quizzed him on how the club had got started, asking: “Was there any other cricket clubs up here when you arrived?”

Mr Gardner replied: “Yeah, but I wanted a West Indian team. We started working on it. Some lads still in the RAF came up. Lads from Manchester came across … so they get a team together.

“The main thing was to have fun.”

Alford Gardner at a celebration event at Headingley Cricket Ground in Leeds
Mr Gardner was joined at Headingley by friends, family and famous cricketing names (Mirror Group Newspapers/PA)

William asked: “Were you a bowler or a batsman, or both?”

Mr Gardner replied: “I tried everything. I wouldn’t say I was good at anything.”

The prince described the club as acting as a “hub” for people in the area, saying: “You have such a positive spirit, has that always been you?”

Mr Gardner chuckled: “Always been me.”

Mr Gardner was part of the Windrush generation who received an Outstanding Contribution award at the Daily Mirror Pride Of Britain Awards on October 8.

Former England and Yorkshire cricketer Gough paid tribute to his legacy, saying: “Growing up and playing cricket in Yorkshire, everyone knew about the Caribbean Cricket Club.

“To set up something that’s lasted that test of time is an amazing testament to Alford himself and with the turnout today – his family and representatives from the West Indies team and from the England team past and present – it shows how well he’s regarded in cricket.”

Former Caribbean Cricket Club captain Claude Davis said: “When Alford set out to do this, that was impossible.

“The amount of red tape or we call racism, all sorts he would’ve had to go through. He’d have to be really mentally strong to overcome all those obstacles.”

The HMT Empire Windrush first docked in England on June 22 1948 at Tilbury Docks in Essex,

The Windrush scandal erupted in 2018 after it emerged that the UK Home Office had kept no records of those granted permission to stay, and had not issued the paperwork they needed to confirm their status.

Those affected were unable to prove they were in the country legally and were prevented from accessing healthcare, work and housing and threatened with deportation.

The documentary also features other members of the Windrush generation sharing their stories, with celebrities including Sir Trevor McDonald, Alesha Dixon, Mel B and Judi Love offering insights into their experiences.

Pride Of Britain: A Windrush Special will be aired on ITV1 & ITVX at 9pm on Thursday.