Jeffrey Green

Jeffrey is a historian
based south of London

185 : The ‘missing’ years of Dr Alcindor, 1901-1905

John Alcindor was born in Trinidad in 1873 and there attended the highly reputable St Mary’s College in Port of Spain. He was awarded one of the four Island Scholarships of 1893 (Port of Spain Gazette, 29 April 1893) and on 21 October 1893 he registered as a student of medicine at Edinburgh University. When I wrote his ‘Migrant’s Biography’ (Immigrants and Minorities, Vol 6 No 2, July 1987, pages 174-189) I noted the assistance of my friend Don Turner who visited St Mary’s College. Since then Dr Alcindor’s grandson and great-grandson visited Trinidad and likewise drew a blank. There is another period when I have failed to trace him, but that period 1901-1906 is becoming documented.

Alcindor graduated in 1899 and moved to London. Family papers which survived flooding in 1953 noted he had worked into March 1901 at a tuberculosis hospital in north London. In 1902 he was employed at the Hospital of St Francis in south London. This appeared in my ‘Migrant’s Biography’ page 176.

The 1901 British census is now available, and Dr Alcindor is listed as a boarder at 52 Fabian Road in Fulham, west London. That house was owned by a solicitor and another boarder was an African law student, John O. Payne from Lagos, Nigeria.

It seems he did not settle at any one address, and indeed he did not register under the 1858 Medical Act until mid-1905. The medical directories then state ‘Trinidad’ until 1908 when 17 Elgin Avenue, Paddington, appears. He remained in that area until he died in 1924.

There is a document at the Royal College of Music in London, relating to their star graduate, composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The constitution of the United African League, 1903, names both Coleridge-Taylor and Alcindor as committee members. Other officers had associated with both men at the London Pan-African Congress of July 1900, notably Henry Francis Downing, an African American who was the president of the League (see page 125 of this website).

The enthusiasts for Zulu culture, the Colenso family, had Frank and Robert as officers of the League, and its secretary was ‘R. Archer’ who may be John Richard Archer, who had been at the congress and lived in London. One of the two vice-presidents was Robert Broadhurst (see pages 016 and 017 of this website). Mrs Cobden Unwin, a radical dissenter and Negrophile; and lawyers M. and H. Ribiero were on the committee, as were Vidal Buckle and J. E. Dawson whose activities are untraced.

What the League did is untraced, but Downing, who had lived in Angola and was interested in Liberia, lived in Chiswick, west London into the 1910s. He was an experienced journalist and needs to be investigated. Both Downing and Dr Alcindor attended the 1912 funeral of their composer friend Coleridge-Taylor, and Alcindor was a guest at the wedding of the composer’s daughter in 1924 (see page 024 of this website).

The 1903 constitution of the United African League places Dr Alcindor in London, among friends, and concerned with African matters. There may be other documents which will add to our understanding of the ‘untraced’ or ‘missing’ years in the life of the doctor.

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