Black History Month: First black magistrate Eric Irons honoured

A plaque is to be unveiled to commemorate the life of Britain’s first black magistrate.

Eric Irons was born in Jamaica in 1921 and then settled in Nottingham following RAF service in World War Two.

Mr Irons, who died in 2007, was a campaigner for social justice, became the country’s first black justice of the peace in 1962 and was made an OBE.

A ceremony on the first day of Black History Month will mark the unveiling at the National Justice Museum.

Eric Irons at various stages in his life
Eric Irons served in the RAF and then settled in Nottingham before being made an OBE in 1977. Image copyright: Irons Family

Mr Irons’s sons Adrian and Paul said he devoted his whole life to “serving people of all colours, religion, age and the whole community”.

“In so doing, not only was he a remarkable role model to his family, but his selfless and courageous work helped to ensure we have a more equitable understanding and tolerant society that benefits us all,” they said.

Mr Irons met his wife in Nottingham after World War Two and they went on to have six children and 16 grandchildren.

Eric Irons plaque on the side of the National Justice Museum
The National Justice Museum said the plaque marks Eric Irons’ contribution to the justice system in Nottingham. Image copyright: National Justice Museum

During the 1950s, while working at Chilwell Ordnance Depot, an Army base, he campaigned for better employment opportunities, health and education for black workers.

The museum said he was also instrumental in lifting a ban on black people working for a transport company and helped the city council address issues following the 1958 race riots in the St Ann’s area of Nottingham.

After making history as the first black magistrate in 1962 he was later made an OBE in 1977 and continued to oversee court cases until he retired in 1991.

Nottingham Forest's Trent End
Eric Irons (far left) was honoured on a banner unveiled at the City Ground in February. Image copyright: Nottingham Forest FC

The city council said the plaque, due to be unveiled at 12:30 BST, would act as a permanent reminder of his legacy.

In February, he was honoured in a “Rebel City” display at a Nottingham Forest match for his fight for racial equality in the city.

Forza Garibaldi, a fan-led campaign, featured him on one of seven giant banners along with former manager Brian Clough, Robin Hood, writers DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe, suffragette Helen Watts and Ned Ludd, the figurehead of the Luddite movement.

Matt Oldroyd, from the group, said Mr Irons was a “hero of a man” and it was fantastic he had been recognised with the plaque.

Eric Irons banner
The Eric Irons banner, made by Forza Garibaldi, in detail. Image copyright: Forza Garibaldi

Main image copyright: Irons Family

First published 01.10.19: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-49880407

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