Travels Around the British Empire


It was a great pleasure to welcome David James to talk to us about his travels around the British Empire. It wasn’t actually a travelogue but more like a resume of his teaching career which took him to various parts of the world starting in the late sixties. His talk was interspersed with snippets of the history of the British empire and its influence on the colonies.

David was a history teacher and his wanderlust first began with three years of teaching in Somerset. Any anecdotes were told with a Somerset accent of which he was quite accomplished. From there he went to America where he taught in a small private school in Philadelphia. They were a warm hospitable people in what turned out to be a wealthy area alongside a ghetto where the crime rate was extremely high and murders occurred frequently. He was fortunate enough to travel extensively in America for holidays making lots of friends along the way.

One such holiday took him to Jamaica where he was offered. and accepted a teaching post. He stayed on the beautiful island for two years even though there was extreme poverty and most people lived in tin shacks. The food was mostly uninspiring, mainly rice and peas. but fortunately there was an abundance of lobster.

He returned to Wales after this and while job hunting succeeded in getting a post in Hong Kong. He assured his wife that it would only be for a short while but they ended up staying for twenty eight years! He found Hong Kong very interesting and again encountered extremes of wealth and poverty. Some parts were quite beautiful but it was very crowded and became flooded with Chinese criminals.

The education here was greatly influenced by the British. The standard in schools was very high and students were ruthlessly competitive. In 1992, forty children committed suicide because of pressure to succeed in school. The rich were super rich and the poor strived to get rich.

Whilst in Hong Kong he travelled to Fiji which was beautiful, Kashmir where he stayed on a houseboat and Calcutta which had the oldest golf club in the world. They were fortunate enough to go to Japan for a wedding and a holiday in Kenya.

Throughout his travels he observed the influence of the British which included better roads and railways which greatly improved the infrastructure. The spread of the English language allowed people to communicate in a common language. The trade system allowed people to come to Britain bringing their culture to us which has made Britain more diverse. Britain also took the idea of democracy to its colonies which helped them build their own as well as law and order, a system which has been maintained to this day.

David returned to Wales on retirement twelve years ago with amazing memories of his travels and we were delighted that he came to Tuesday group to share his experiences with us.