London’s first black firefighter Frank Bailey, honoured in Google Doodle


Google has honoured Frank Bailey, the first full-time black firefighter of post-war London.


The doodle, illustrated by West Yorkshire-based artist Nicole Miles, portrays the Guyanese-British firefighter in full uniform.


Mr Bailey was born in Guyana on this day in 1925. Bailey passed away in 2016 at the age of 90.Bailey dedicated much of his life to the fight for equality, breaking several barriers along the way.


After attending local schools, Mr Bailey took a job on a German trade ship, which took him to New York.


According to his Google Doodle biography, Mr Bailey found work in a hospital where he staged a walkout in protest of the institution’s separate dining rooms for different types of employees.


After being told that black people “were not employed by the fire service”, Mr Bailey was inspired to join the West Ham Fire Brigade in 1955.


He was close friends with Fire Brigade Union (FBU) General Secretary and John Horner and became a FBY branch secretary at Silvertown Fire Station where he worked.


Dedicated to fighting for workers’ rights, Bailey also became a union branch representative – a role he was forced to leave after being repeatedly passed over for a promotion.


After leaving the Brigade in 1965, Mr Bailey became a social worker and the first black legal adviser to youths at Marylebone Magistrates Court.


In 2007 Mr Bailey was asked to contribute to a London Fire Brigade (LFB) booklet called “In their own words”.


He said: "I was told that the authorities were not hiring black men because they were not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job.


"I immediately recognised racism and said I’m going to apply to be a firefighter and see if they find me unfit. I saved a fellow firefighter's life when he fainted while we were on the fifth floor of a ladder drill session.


"I brought him down to the ground in a fireman's lift. The guy's weight was 16 stone and he was 6'2."


In a statement shared with Google, Bailey’s daughter, Alexis Bailey, honoured her father’s legacy, writing: “I’m very proud of my dad. He spent his whole life fighting against injustice and he never gave up. He taught me to challenge things I believe are wrong and stand up for myself and others, even when it scares me.”


“I didn’t always appreciate it when I was growing up, but my dad showed me that hard work pays off and you can make a difference if you’re passionate and relentless,” she said.


“Years after he left the fire service, right up until he died, he carried on encouraging young, black firefighters to get involved in politics."


His enthusiasm for equality sometimes got him into trouble. He never shied away from a challenge or a difficult conversation and had many angry showdowns. He put energy and sincerity into everything he did and people respected that,” she added.


Frank passed away on the 2nd December 2015, six days after his 90th birthday.

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