Preston’s Banana Boat Stowaways

In 1960, the arrival of a ship carrying Caribbean stowaways in Preston caused a political and diplomatic furore.

M/ 'Windward Islands' was one of the two 'banana boats' that were regular visitors to the port with cargoes from St. Lucia and Dominica. Preston Digital Archives. Image kindly provided by Mrs. J. Williams, Fulwood, Preston. Courtesy of Paul Swarbrick & Gi

In March 1960 the Daily Telegraph revealed that 250 stowaways from the Caribbean had entered Preston dock in the past two years. ‘Shipowners seek tighter checks & bigger penalties’, read the headline. The stowaways were chiefly British citizens from Dominica, who made the two-week voyage on the banana boats which had operated this route since the trade had started in 1953. In a press release the Colonial Office in Whitehall had stated that, having received only two complaints in that time, it was not overly concerned and suggested instead that shipping companies and the governments in the West Indies ‘should consider strengthening their local arrangements’. However, this attitude would soon change. A press furore prompted by the arrival of the Norwegian banana boat Bjorgstein at the end of February 1960 led to allegations of an organised criminal enterprise that facilitated, even encouraged, the illegal movement of people on banana boats entering Britain and, ultimately, led to a change in Dominican law.

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