Hinds, Donald

Date of Birth:
1934

Donald Hinds was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1934. At six weeks old, Donald was taken to the village of St Thomas in the east of the island, where he grew up.

His family were farmers, and Hinds recalled that they were poor but ambitious. Donald himself was sent to school early and stayed on into his late teens to take the Jamaica Local Examinations. These were the equivalent of British A-Level exams and were necessary for a student to get into university. As an older student in the school, Donald assisted in classes, and got his first taste of teaching.

The tertiary education system in Jamaica was still in its infancy in the 1950s and many young Jamaicans wanting a university degree came to the United Kingdom to complete their studies. In 1955 Hinds decided to come to London. He was 21 years old.

Hinds was qualified as a probationary teacher but, like many educated West Indians who arrived in Britain, was unable to find work appropriate to his qualifications. Donald got a job with London Transport as a bus conductor, working out of Brixton garage.

In his spare time, Hinds honed his writing skills. He recognised his opportunity to write as a professional when he met Theo Campbell, who was well known as the first Black record store owner in London. Campbell told him about the West Indian Gazette, the only newspaper published for the West Indian community in London at that time. He introduced Hinds to the editor and Black activist, Claudia Jones. Hinds started writing for the paper in 1958, working with Jones until her death in 1964.

At this time, Donald Hinds was also broadcasting for B.B.C. Caribbean, where one of his producers was Tom Adams, later Prime Minister of Barbados. Hinds worked regularly for the corporation between 1959 and 1963. One of his regular slots was reading short stories based on his experiences on the buses.

In the late 1950s and 60s, Hinds continued his studies in night school. He was also working as a freelance contributor for other publications, including the Observer newspaper. In 1965, after nearly ten years with London Transport, Hinds decided it was time to leave. Frustrated by the shift work and lack of promotion, he wanted to focus on his writing.

In what he later described as his most productive years, between 1963 and 1973, Donald Hinds wrote five novels. These included In the Wake of a Dream, and his best-known book, Journey to an Illusion, based on the experiences of West Indian migrants to Britain. He also contributed to the Caribbean Artist Movement publication during the 1970s.

In 1996 Hinds collaborated with Marika Sherwood and Colin Prescod on the book Claudia Jones: A life in Exile. Since qualifying in the late 1970s, Hinds has focused on teaching, returning to his early passion. In 2005 Donald was teaching English in a London secondary school.

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