Lord (Martin) Thomas writes…Celebrating the opportunities of migration

Two years after the First World War, my father decided to emigrate to the United States to join his brother in Virginia. He was 18 years of age, barely out of Rhyl Grammar School and all the jobs in the locality had been reserved for demobbed soldiers.

So off he went from Meliden to join his brother who was already settled and working in Virginia. He sailed out of Liverpool on the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria and landed at the immigrant reception centre on Ellis Island, New York. I have the record of his entry.

What he made in those first days of the bustling America after North Wales I do not know. But he quickly found a job as an electrician in the long established Newport News shipyard. Today, the largest aircraft carriers and submarines are still built there for the US Navy.

My dad earned well, acquired a penchant for melon, wore white socks and tilted his hat American style on his head. But after a few years, the pull of home was too much. He worked his passage back over six weeks on a tramp steamer and promptly joined the Denbighshire Constabulary in Wrexham. It was the tilt of his helmet which first attracted my mother, a Grove Park schoolgirl.

I always think of him when I listen to the inflammatory language aimed by Brexiters at migrants to this country from continental Europe. Young people leave their homes and travel to seek new horizons, fresh challenges and work opportunities.

Some settle down, as did my uncle in Virginia in the last century. He attended the Welsh chapel, became an American citizen and thoroughly approved when his daughter married a State Senator. In time, he and his family assimilated – though his great grandchildren, the current young generation in Virginia, remain true to their Welsh roots, formerly by their passionate following of Wrexham FC, now alas somewhat replaced in their hearts by Swansea City.

But others who now come to Britain, having made some money and enjoyed the experience, will return to their native countries to marry, to have children and to pass on to them a breadth of vision from another culture, as my father did to me.

Young Europeans who come to Britain pose no threat to our society. Their energy and drive contributes to our success in a competitive world – and their taxes pay in far more than they draw out. Universities welcome their brains. Business needs their skills and their commitment. Farmers need them to work the land and bring home the harvest. Industry welcomes their hard work. Most will return home, their minds broadened and their feelings for Britain and the British way of life enhanced and warmed.

But it is not all one way. Our youngsters want to taste life on the other side of the channel. When I was their age, work in a war-torn Europe was impossible. But in the new Europe where the boundaries have fallen away and all nations aspire to democratic and peaceful ways and the solution of common problems, the opportunities for work and travel are boundless.

I wish I were that age again!

* Martin Thomas is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and the party's Shadow Attorney General

Read more by .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Roland
    Attach an Apple Air Tag to your sign, whilst it won’t stop the sign being removed, you stand a good chance of locating where it’s been taken to…...
  • John Marriott
    @Peter Martin Under PR I reckon that, with their current opinion poll rating of around 12%, the Lib Dems might expect to get around 78 seats at Westminster. @...
  • David Blake
    Many years ago, my girlfriend at the time was living in a flat owned by the local Conservatives. One weekend all the power went out. The fusebox was in the ba...
  • Tom Hannigan
    The 3 main parties in Ireland frequently nominate more than one candidate in our multi seat constituencies which can have 3,4 or 5 seats. It depends on what you...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Andrew, You seem to be somewhat contradictory on your "solidarity fund". Whatever you want to call it it will mean that if someone moves to Germany fro...