@ideascopemediaAfro NuggetBlack History



In 1945, when Britain was left in ruins after World War II, thousands of men and women from the Caribbean were invited to the United Kingdom as part of their duty to the mother country to help rebuild Britain’s weakened economy.

These Caribbean migrants, many of whom worked in the manufacturing sector, public transport, and the NHS are known to be the Windrush Generation. While their stories have often been told, we know less of the stories of the children they left behind, many of whom hardly knew their parents because they were left in the care of grandparents and other extended relatives at a very young age. The only real connection these children had with their parents was the care packages that were sent to them in a barrel. To capture the experiences and the ongoing realities of the Barrel children who eventually reunited with their parents in the United Kingdom, I met with three Barrel children, Deanne, Jean, and Linford who shared the triumph and trauma of being a Barrel child but most importantly their connection to their Homeland.

From the beginning of time, people have always moved from one place to the other.  The long history of migration in the Caribbean brought with it the trend of parental migration whereby one or both parents leave their children behind with relatives for years while they seek greener pastures. It is estimated that around 90,000 children were left behind in the Caribbean by their parents in the 1940s and 1950s. Enticed by the prospect of long-term job opportunities and filled with hopes of a prosperous life the Caribbean parents moved to the UK to help with the post war labour shortage and rebuild its economy. The parents left their children at home in the care of relatives because they initially believed they would work merely for a few years and return after earning good money abroad.
Back home in the Caribbeans, scores of children grew up with absent parents who were looked after by relatives and extended family members. While some of the children knew their parents, many of them grew up not actually knowing or remembering their parents because they were only toddlers when their parents left. The only memorable connection they had with their parents were the gifts; the care packages and remittance they send to them occasionally. This was how the term ‘Barrel Children’ was coined by Jamaican academician, Dr. Claudette Crawford.
Even though the barrel gifts initially spurred excitement in the children, as the years run by the barrel soon become a symbol of loneliness, emptiness. For some children the reality of growing up without parental presence hits them hard when they begin to suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of abandonment.
This story explores the experiences of the Barrel children that goes beyond just the term and its symbolism for the Windrush communities and delves into the impact it has had on their lives and the generation after. It offers a comprehensive and nuanced perspective on this lesser-explored aspect of the Windrush story and contribute to a more informed and empathetic understanding of the historical and ongoing connections between Britain and the Caribbean.

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