PASSION FOR THE POOR: Dr John Alcindor was awarded a Red Cross Medal for his efforts in the Great War
WHEN TRINIDADIAN doctor John Alcindor (1873 –1924) was rejected as a medic by the British army at the start of the First World War because of his “colonial origin”, he found a new way to serve his adopted country.
He used his skills as a volunteer with the British Red Cross, treating wounded soldiers at London railway stations as they returned from the battlefields.
His contribution earned Alcindor – known as the ‘Black Doctor of Paddington’ – a Red Cross Medal.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the war and the ordinary men and women who contributed to the war effort, Alcindor has now been recognised with a blue heritage plaque from the Nubian Jak Community Trust, with support from the Edward Harvest Trust. Reshma Bissoon-Deokie, acting High Commission for Trinidad and Tobago, called Alcindor one of her country’s “brilliant sons”, adding: “We hope his story can serve to inspire future generations.”
The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Audrey Lewis, said: “When Alcindor passed away, his loss was felt by everyone he came into contact with. It is right that we remember and celebrate his life.”
The plaque is part of a six-month project backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund called From Sea to Land and Skies which looks at the contributions of black servicemen and women from 1914-1918.
Alcindor was respected for many other reasons both within and outside of his field. He fought for racial equality and was president of Pan-African group African Progress Union, which brought together activists of African heritage who held “advanced African ideas in liberal education.”
LASTING LEGACY: A heritage plaque has been erected outside the surgery Alcindor started
Alcindor’s granddaughter, Bar Holmes, said: “Although our grandfather never knew his grandchildren because he died in 1924, we are immensely proud of his passion for both helping those who could not afford to pay for GP services in those days, and for his fight to promote racial equality at that time. We very much appreciate that his efforts have been recognised.”
Born in Trinidad in 1873, Alcindor attended St Mary’s College in Port-of-Spain, where the late publisher John La Rose – former chair of the George Padmore Institute in London – later studied.
He won a scholarship to Edinburgh University and graduated in 1899. He worked at a number of London hospitals before setting up his own Harrow Road practice in 1907 where the plaque now has pride of place. At the height of his career, he was the senior district medical officer for Paddington in 1921.
Jak Beula, chair of the Nubian Jak commemorative plaque scheme, said: “After setting up his medical practice of Harrow Road, Dr Alcindor carried out research and published papers on cancer, tuberculosis and influenza. As a member of the committee of the National Council for Combating Vene-real Diseases he worked to prevent syphilis and tuberculosis in Great Britain.”
Historian Jeff Green added: “For over 20 years, Dr Alcindor aided thousands of people in Paddington. He was also a respected cricketer, Catholic, and president of the African Progress Union. His death at the age of 50 was a great loss to the sick and to the Caribbean and African community.”