For someone who left Jamaica because of lack of work, Tom Douce did very well for himself in England, going into business with his wife and becoming one of Derby’s most successful entrepreneurs


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When 22-year-old Thomas Montique Douce spotted an advert in the Daily Gleaner for tickets on a steam ship to England it did not take him long to make up his mind what to do. Work was hard to come by in Jamaica and he felt he had nothing to lose by taking a chance along with hundreds of other young men in his position.

After disembarking the MV Empire Windrush on that historic day in June 1948, Tom’s first night was spent at Clapham South Deep Shelter, south London. It was not for long though as within a week he was offered a job at a foundry in Derby.

House hunting was frustrating, to say the least. He recalled that on one occasion a landlady screamed as soon as she opened the door to him and told him to go away immediately. In the autumn of 1954 he married Iris Martin, a Derby woman. Iris was under 21 and needed parental consent before she could tie the knot. Her father refused but her mother relented and reluctantly signed the forms. Despite the initial opposition to their union and the hostile atmosphere around them, Tom and Iris were a fine match and decided to start their own grocery shop, an unusual step for such a couple in those days.

As luck would have it, they both had a good head for business and their venture thrived. They lived upstairs from the shop, allowing them to take care of their many children at the same time. Fortunately, Iris’s mother and father came to value their new son-in-law and were always on hand to help the couple run things. Their business was so successful that Tom and Iris also ran a popular night club in the 1970s.

They had five sons who went on to make important contributions in the fields of business, science and the legal profession, one of them as a district judge sitting at Derby County Court

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