--------REMEMBER DAVID OLUWALE--------DROWNED 18 APRIL 1969--------50TH ANNIVERSARY 2019--------LEEDS / WEST YORKSHIRE / UK--------REMEMBER DAVID OLUWALE--------DROWNED 18 APRIL 1969--------50TH ANNIVERSARY 2019--------LEEDS / WEST YORKSHIRE / UK
54 YEARS SINCE HE WAS
DROWNED IN THE RIVER AIRE
David Oluwale was born around 1930 in Lagos, Nigeria and died in Leeds, England, in 1969. He was a British citizen and a migrant. On this page we provide the information we have on the geography of David’s life. David lived his adult life in Leeds, and he died there, but he also spent some time in Hull, Bradford, Preston, Sheffield and London. We set out here what we know of him in each city.
‘Subject is not recorded in this country.’ That was the reply when the police investigators in Leeds asked their colleagues in Nigeria in 1970 to tell them all they knew about David Oluwale. Like so many low-income people, David Oluwale was for a while invisible. To reverse this ‘un-recording’ is one of the aims of the RememberOluwale charity.
He was born in Lagos, Nigeria. We do not even know for sure what was the date of his birth. The records we have show, variously, 8th August 1926, 8th August 1929, 30th August 1930 and 8th September 1931.
Officials in Leeds think he was aged 38 when he died, so perhaps we can assume he was born in 1930 or 1931.
Because Nigeria was a British colony in 1949, when he set sail for England, David was a British citizen.
He lived with his family at 4 Tokunbo Street in the heart of the Brazilian Quarter in Lagos. His mother was named Alice. His father worked in the fishing trade and is said to have died in 1937. His uncle might have owned the Ilojo bar in Tinubu Square.
Leeds’ psychiatric nurse David Odamo stated that he had helped David write letters from High Royds hospital to his father, whom he said was a chief at Ikole-Ekiti in Western Nigeria. David gave David Sature Oluwuala as his next of kin – perhaps that was his father’s name?
He left school at 14, after attending Christian Mission schools in Lagos. Leeds police records ascribe various religions to David: Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and Muslim. Among his meagre possessions at the time of his death was a set of Catholic rosary beads. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Leeds in 1969 by a Catholic priest.
As a citizen, David was able to obtain a British Travel Certificate. He was 18 or 19 when he stowed away on the Motor Vessel Temple Bar, which left the Apapa Wharfe in Lagos on 16th August 1949.
He didn’t buy a ticket because he was too poor. Much later, his friend Gabriel Adams told Max Farrar that he and David earned a few pence picking up golf balls at the colonial golf club in Lagos. There was no work, and no prospect of work, Gabriel said. They left for England full of hope for a better future.
According to the prison record in England, in 1949 he was aged 19, 5 feet 3.5 inches high, between 9 and 10 stone in weight. Later records show him as 5’5” and muscular.
On 3rd September 1949 the MV Temple Bar docked in Hull, in east Yorkshire in the north of England. David disembarked and was arrested under the Merchant Shipping Act for stowing away. With three friends he had crept on board and hidden in the cargo hold. They were discovered a few days into the voyage.
His possession of a British Travel Certificate meant he and his fellow stowaways had to be allowed entry to Britain. (This rule was withdrawn in September of 1949.) He was sentenced by Magistrate J H Tarbitten at Hull Police Court to 28 days in Armley Jail, Leeds. He was treated for gonorrhoea.
September 1962 to March 1963: David was back in Hull in 1962, spending six months in Hull prison for malicious wounding of a police officer in Leeds.
This information comes from Kester Aspden (2008) The Hounding of David Oluwale, and an interview conducted by Max Farrar, DOMA Secretary.
Between 1949 and 1953, David was mainly living and working in Leeds. The exact dates of each job and residence aren’t known. He had lots of friends among the small number of West Africans in Leeds during this time. (Statistics show that there were 45 black people from Africa in Leeds in 1951.)
Armley Jail, Leeds 12. David’s first stop in Leeds was Armley Jail. After a month in prison (because he hadn’t paid for a ticket on the MV Temple Bar) he emerged into the city on 3rd October 1949.
Well Close Place, Leeds 2. David’s first address was 2 Well Close Place (in Little London, Leeds).
Grove Terrace (no longer on the map, thought to be where the Merrion Centre is today). Then he moved to 12 Grove Terrace, with Abbey Sowe, Steve Oke, Speedy Acquaye (later in Georgie Fame’s band), Frank Morgan, ‘Widey’ Williams, Ademola Johnston and Sheila (sometimes Sheba) Savage. He had a close friend named Lucky Akanidere. He also became friendly with Christmas Ogbonson.
After six months in Bradford, David was back to Leeds, where he worked as a hod carrier on a building site and then at the Public Abattoir and Wholesale Meat Market (next to Kirkgate Market in the city centre).
In the autumn 1951 he returned to Leeds after a period in Sheffield. He worked at the Abattoir near Kirkgate Market in Leeds city centre.
Belle Vue Road, Leeds 3. He lived at 175 Belle Vue Road in the Hyde Park area of Leeds for some time. In 1952 David was living at 209 Belle Vue Rd – on the electoral roll his name is listed as Olu Davies. He lived there with Widey, Isiaka Harding (nicknamed Tex) and Sunday Daniel (both from Lagos).
Leeds City Centre. His social life circulated mainly around the Mecca Ballroom (now Reiss in the Victoria Quarter) and the King Edward Hotel (now the Halifax) in King Edward Street, in the city centre.
It is believed that he lived with a white woman called Gladys at 209 Belle Vue Rd, Hyde Park, and at 4 Springfield Place, Hunslet, but she has never been traced.
His friend Christmas Ogbonson told Kester Aspden that David was well liked, ‘A quiet man and he was always happy and smiling . . . not aggressive and would not harm anybody.’ His friend Abbey Sowe, from The Gambia remembered him as ‘A very happy individual and a good conversationalist, he was always making jokes and could be the life of the party’. Gayb Adams confirms this. He was not a big drinker, but he enjoyed cannabis. He loved American music and film. 'He was always wanting to be like a Yank,’ said Gayb. His nickname was Yankee.
King Edward Street, city centre. On 25th April 1953, PC Maurice Roberts arrested David at 11.20pm in King Edward Street. He was charged with disorderly conduct, assault on police and damaging a police uniform. There had been an argument over a bill at the King Edward Hotel. His friends said he was hit by a policeman’s truncheon.
Armley Jail, Leeds 12. April to June 1953: David spent two months in Armley Jail.
St James’ Hospital, Leeds 9. On 6th June 1953, David was admitted to St James’ Hospital, Leeds, on a 14 day court order. Psychiatrist Michael Leahy recorded that David appeared ‘Apprehensive, noisy and frightened without cause’. Five days later he described him as loud, excitable and terrified. He said David was ‘Childish and wept when talking of his fears’.
Menston, Leeds 29. On 11th June 1953 David was taken to Menston Asylum, Leeds. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic and his treatment included electro-convulsive therapy and largactyl. He was incarcerated there for the next eight years.
Belle Vue Road In April 1961 David was released from Menston hospital and went back to live at 209 Belle Vue Road. He worked as a labourer at Storey, Evans & Co (possibly in Bradford).
West Yorkshire Foundry, Leeds 10. Then David got another labouring job, this time at West Yorkshire Foundry in Leeds. He was sacked soon afterwards for fighting with another worker.
In September 1962, David was back in Leeds after a spell in Sheffield and London. His African friends were married by then. Slim and Tex saw him from time to time and described him as nervous, twitchy, slow, shuffling, laughing for no reason – ‘gone simple’ because of the blow to his head by a police truncheon in King Edward, they said. The ECT and largactyl in Menston no doubt contributed to his plight.
North Street, Leeds 2. In the 1960s David was seen sleeping in the ‘Jews Park’, or ‘Sheeney Park’ or ‘Reubens Park’ on North Street, close to the city centre. It acquired these hostile titles because it was much used by the East European Jews who had been refugees in Leeds from the 1870s and had started working (and in some cases living) around North Street in the early 1900s. It is now called Lovell Park. It was first landscaped in 1888.
Albion Street, city centre. In September 1962 PC Dave Stanton found David sleeping in the doorway of Maple, Denby and Spinks’ Furniture shop on Albion Street. A few weeks later, asked why he wasn’t sleeping at St George’s Crypt, the shelter for the homeless in Leeds, he told PC Stanton that they gave him a hard time there because of his colour.
Woodhouse Moor, Leeds 2. On 21st September 1962 David was arrested by PC Harold Robinson on Woodhouse Moor after almost biting off the finger of the park ranger. He was sentenced to six months for malicious wounding. He was sent to Hull prison.
Chapeltown, Leeds 7. In 1963 he lived at 15 Mexborough Avenue, in Chapeltown, for several months.
St Alban’s Place, Leeds 2. Between 1964 and 1967 David squatted on and off at 12 St Alban’s Place (close to the Merrion Centre). His friend Abbey Sowe’s thriving ceramics business was nearby and Abbey did his best to support David.
Well Close Place, Leeds 2. Between June and October 1964 David was living in Faith Lodge, 2 Well Close Place (an address he’d used in 1949). This was a hostel for ex-alcoholics, ex-mental patients and ex-convicts, linked to St George’s Crypt. Donald Paterson, the warden, described him as ‘A timid little man who had language difficulties and was simple-minded’.
St Alban’s Place, Leeds 2. In October 1964 David was jailed for being drunk and disorderly. On discharge he went back to squat at 12 St Alban’s Place.
In November 1965 he was charged with malicious wounding of two policemen who caught him entering 12 St Alban’s Place.
High Royds Hospital, Menston, Leeds 29. On 11th November 1965 he was detained under Sn. 60 of the Mental Health Act 1959 and placed in High Royds Hospital. (Menston Asylum had been re-named High Roads in 1963.) Dr. Carty said he soon settled down, becoming less aggressive and overactive, but remained elated, garrulous and ‘somewhat childish’. He was there for 18 months.
On 27 April 1967 he was discharged from High Royds. Dr. Carty said he was quiet and co-operative, his hallucinations had faded and his ‘persecutory ideas’ had mainly gone.
In city centre doorways. From 1967 to 1969 David slept in the doorway of John Peter’s shop in Lands Lane, the Bridal House on the Headrow, Eve Brown’s on Kirkgate, Peter’s ‘Sew and Save’ in Thornton’s Arcade, all in the city centre. Further locations are listed below.
Armley, Leeds 12 September 1967: David was back in Armley Prison, Leeds.
Calls. From 17th April to 4th July 1968, David was accommodated at the Church Army Hostel in the Calls, city centre.
Bramhope, Leeds 16. On 7th August 1968 police Inspector Ellerker and Sergeant Kitching picked David up in the city centre and drove nearly six miles north, dumping him around 3am outside the Fox and Hounds pub in Bramhope. They told him to knock on the door and ask for a cup of tea.
Middleton Woods, Leeds 10. On 11th August 1968, Ellerker and Kitching picked David up in the city centre and drove four miles south of the city centre, dumping him in Middleton Woods. They said he’d feel at home there, “in the jungle”.
But David always came back to the city centre.
A Leeds policeman called Alex Woolliams contacted Caryl Phillips to say this:
“I saw him [David Oluwale] quite a lot. He never ran away from me. He wouldn’t enter into a conversation with a policeman, he wouldn’t talk. But he didn’t run away. Whereas, if he saw Ellerker and Kitching he would run, and he would shout. But he wouldn’t run from me.”
On 26 Jan 1969 David was arrested by Sgt Kitching in the city centre. He was sentenced to another 14 days in Armley prison.
Millgarth, city centre. When he was arrested, David was taken to the original Millgarth Police Station, in Millgath Street, off Eastgate, in the city centre. At the trial of Ellerker and Kitching, the two officers accused of his manslaughter, and of grievous and actually bodily harm on David, evidence was heard from various other police officers.
Here’s a sample of what was said:
Phil Ratcliffe, working in the central charge office at Millgarth said: “I have never seen a man crying so much and never utter a sound” as Kitching pushed his knee into David’s back at the charge counter. David, he said, was placid, far from violent; he was withdrawn and subdued.
Hazel Ratcliffe, also a police officer, witnessed an attack on David on 26th January 1969. He was punched to the ground and kicked so hard that he was “lifted a little”. “He was holding his private parts with both his hands and he was crying,” she said.
WPC Hazel Dolby, PC Ruddock and Sgt Frank Atkinson all described the brutal beating of David on several occasions by Ellerker and Kitching in Millgarth.
It was Police Cadet Gary Galvin who first suspected that Ellerker and Kitching were the instigators of David’s drowning in the River Aire. His fellow cadet Brian Topp had witnessed violence by Kitching against an arrested man and discussed this with Gary. Gary had heard rumours about David’s last encounter with Kitching and Ellerker (on 18.4.69). He told Sergeant MacLeod.
His son, Detective Inspector Carl Galvin, told Max Farrar that MacLeod told Gary to think it over before he took his suspicions any further. Gary thought it over, and told Inspector Jim Bass. Bass took it higher and enquiries by Detective Chief Inspector Len Shakeshaft then began. These are the honourable officers.
Sleeping rough in the city centre. Kitching told the enquiry where David tried to sleep. The transcript of Chief Superintendent John Perkins’ first interview with Sergeant Kitching was read out in court. Kitching said: “I have put him [David Oluwale] out of doorways and kicked his behind. Under Leeds Library in Commercial Street. Brill’s, Bond Street, in Baker’s in Trinity Street, in John Peters in the Headrow [actually, in Lands Lane], Bridal House in the Headrow, the Empire Arcade in Briggate and Trinity Church in Boar Lane.”
Kitching used other chilling phrases, including: “Tickled him with my boot”, “never hit him really hard”, “kicked him gently”, “just a slap”, “booted his backside out of it”, “a good slapping”. He said David Oluwale was “a wild animal, not a human being”.
Call Lane, Leeds 2. Evidence was taken from David Condon, a bus conductor, who saw in the early hours of the morning of 18th April 1969 a short, scruffy man being pursued by two police officers down an alley off Call Lane, close to the Leeds Bridge over the River Aire. It was dark, and he couldn’t identify Ellerker or Kitching, and he couldn’t say if the short man was black or white. The alley could be Pitfall Street or Riverside Court. At the time, this area was called Warehouse Hill.
Knostrop, Leeds 9. On 4th May 1969 David’s body found at Knostrop weir, at the junction of the River Aire and the Aire-Calder canal, by a group of boys, including Wayne Batley and Martin Thorpe. If, as we believe, Ellerker and Kitching forced David into the River Aire near Leeds Bridge on 18th April, his body had drifted about 2.5 miles down the river to the weir, on the way back to Hull.
Killingbeck, Leeds 14. On 4th June 1969 David was buried after a ‘welfare funeral’ in Killingbeck cemetery, maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Leeds. The plaque on his grave reads ‘David Oluwale 4th May 1969’. The service was conducted by Father Martin Carroll from St Anne’s Cathedral, Leeds city centre.
Much this information comes from Kester Aspden (2008) The Hounding of David Oluwale, occasionally supplemented by information in ‘Northern Lights’ in Caryl Phillips (2007) Foreigners — Three English Lives, an online article by Neil Wilby, and some material from Max Farrar’s published work.
Places of Memory
David is memorialised in these places
On Chapeltown Road, Leeds 7, where the words REMEMBER OLUWALE were painted in 1971 in huge white letters on the wall near The Hayfield Hotel (now the site of The Reginald Centre). The words remained visible for several years.
On Chapeltown Road, in the Mary Seattle Garden, near The Reginald Centre, where the F Words project in 2007 inserted a plaque and a poem collectively written by members of the project: Tanya Chan-Sam, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Jack Mapanje, Sai Murray, Seni Seneviratne, Rommi Smith, and visual artists Fosuwa Andoh & Seyi Ogunjobi.
In Water Lane, next to the Asda HQ, close the Leeds Bridge in the city centre, a small patch of land was designated for the interim memorial garden to David Oluwale. The Remember Oluwale charity was launched on this spot in January 2013. Leeds Beckett University students and Group Ginger architects both developed schemes for this garden. Although it could not be built, this site contains our memory of David.
Watch this space for the actual David Oluwale Memorial Garden on the South Bank of the city centre.
1950: Lucky Akanidere and David Oluwale went to Bradford for six months (probably in 1950), and worked at Croft Engineering. Vincent Enyori worked there too. He said black workers swept the floors or did hand-grinding: “They didn’t allow you to touch machines so that you might have made some money,” he told Kester Aspden.
In 1961 David worked for Storey, Evans and Co. This might be the company that today supplies printed cartons, located in Robin Mills, Leeds Road, Bradford.
David Oluwale in Sheffield
In March 1951 David lived in Sheffield at 15 Oxford Street (Crookesmoor) with (mainly) Gold Coast Africans, including Victor Cole. He worked as a labourer at Sheffield Gas Company.
He worked with Joseph Odeyemi in Sheffield. Joseph said this to Caryl Phillips: “I was really happy to see a face from Lagos, but I worried about him. He wouldn’t let anything go . . . and his attitude was getting him into trouble. If the foreman said anything to him, it would be ‘fuck off’ and there wasn’t any point in talking to him . . . [David] was a stubborn fighting man who simply found it impossible to back down and work the system”.
On 17th March 1951 under the name David Llewelyn he was arrested for being drunk. It was alleged he had bitten a police officer. He was fined for assault and drunk and disorderly. Then he got a job at an iron foundry in Sheffield.
In August 1962 he signed on as unemployed at the Labour Exchange in Sheffield.
In June 1962, David signed on as unemployed at the Labour Exchange in Islington, north London.
David Oluwale in Preston
26th December 1967: In the Magistrates Court in Leeds, PC Simpson said David admitted exposing himself to two women on Lands Lane in Leeds city centre. He was sentenced to three months, most of which were served in Preston Prison. He was released on 29th March 1968, and returned to his doorways in the centre of Leeds.
Sources (Bradford, Sheffield, London, Preston)
Kester Aspden (2008) The Hounding of David Oluwale.
RememberOluwale uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide information published today that relates to the issues that marked David’s life: mental ill-health, homelessness, racism, destitution and police malpractice. David was a British citizen who migrated here, so we also provide information relating to those seeking refuge in the UK. We give credit to the city of Leeds for the progress it has made since David’s days. But there is so much more to be done. Our aim, always, is to help the city of Leeds become more inclusive, more just, more hospitable and more equal. Please go to our social media to find out about current campaigns.