The recent furore over the treatment of the Windrush generation of emigrants to the UK has catapulted a Barbadian Queen’s Counsel into the public eye of the English speaking Caribbean diaspora.
The UK Home Secretary has appointed Queen’s Counsel Martin Forde to advise on the design and implementation of a Compensation Scheme to recompense those affected, mainly from the Caribbean who have in some instances, it is alleged, been wrongly deported from the UK.
His brief is to understand the experience of people affected and those experiences should be reflected in the scheme, allowing them to seek reparation by means of monetary compensation.
I went along to meet the young Barbadian whose rise up the ranks of the legal tree can easily be described as meteoric. A fascinating man with a story to tell from the early days of his infancy, his life is one founded on parental guidance and interest in his career and ambition and his confidence in his ability to succeed in whatever he chose as a professional career.
He was born in 1961 in the semi-rural environs of Slough, Berkshire to Ralph Forde from Spooners Hill, St Michael, who had emigrated to the UK after a seven-year apprenticeship and career at the Barbados Advocate and Mrs Cynthia Forde.
Early on, he showed an aptitude for academia. Having been taught at an early age by his school teacher mother, Forde unwittingly met his first experience of being stereotyped when his English teachers refused to believe his ability to read to the level he could at age five and in essence branded him a fake. Forde said he owes a great deal to his parents for his success. He said “My parents were tough as they sought to instill the virtues of a sound education. They were prepared to make many personal sacrifices and my father took all manner of jobs to help me on my way.” He continued,”It was fashionable for young black boys to be shunted by their school masters into sport, but my father would not join the trend.”
The Barbadian was an obvious talented all-rounder, and he excelled in the classroom as well as on the sports fields. He qualified for the National Championships in the Triple Jump and followed West lndies star Gordon Greenidge and Hampshire County fast bowler Cardigan Connor into the Berkshire School Boys team.
Interestingly, Moore believes that an incident at the start of an athletic event might have had a greater impact on him than could be seen at the time. He recalls, “As I lined up for the event, I overheard the comment – ‘make sure you beat the nigger’. I never looked back after that slur.”
Forde saw his adolescent life as a challenge rather than a hurdle and he pursued an ambition to join Oxford University. After his admission to Braemore College, he was elected College President of the Student Union. His graduation in Law was quickly followed by success in the Bar Exams in 1983 and he was soon called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1984.
Mindful of the tradition of black pupil barristers entering Lincolns and Grays lnns, I asked why he had chosen Middle Temple. He said he was not aware of any such tradition but felt very comfortable at Middle Temple.
He added, “Such things are defined by University rather than heritage and the Oxbridge connection should not be underestimated”.
Forde was invited to join a very successful and prestigious Chambers that had produced High and Appellate Court Judges as well as a Lord Chief Justice. Resisting the urge to train as a solicitor with the lure of great earnings, he remained a barrister because he was “enthused by the romance of persuading juries to his points of argument”.
He was soon seen as having great potential and he specialized in the minefields of Clinical Negligence, Regulation of Health Professions and Administrative Law. He was made a Queen’s Counsel in 2006 and then Recorder of Crown Court in 2009 where he serves as a part-time Criminal Judge. He was also appointed for six years to the Judicial Appointments Commission which advises on the appointment of Judges. He was made a Bencher at the Middle Temple in 2010. This honour bestows on the individual certain rights and privileges akin to being given the Freedom of the Middle Temple.
Married to Nadege with 3 daughters and a son, he has seen Laurel qualify as a solicitor and Daniel as a natural scientist. The younger twins, Ava and Maia, have not yet reached tertiary education stage. His father who survives his mother, keeps a keen eye on the progress of the grandchildren and was recently quick to make sure the QC’s feet were kept firmly on the ground by reminding him that “these abilities tend to skip a generation”.
Finally I could not resist the urge to ask of his experiences given that he is uniquely placed as a black QC operating at such lofty heights. Rocking back with laughter, he recalled the time he arrived at Court as a defence lawyer, and as is customary, enquired of the Usher, “What is the Judge like?” Quick as a flash she assured him – “You’ll be alright, he likes well-dressed defendants’’.
Obviously, Forde was still being stereotyped. I get the feeling that the claims by Windrush victims are in good and capable hands.
Mr Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and Disapora.