Nottingham

Black History Month: First black magistrate Eric Irons honoured

Eric Irons Image copyright Irons family
Image caption Eric Irons became the first black justice of the peace in 1962

A plaque has been 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 marked the unveiling at the National Justice Museum.

Image copyright Irons family
Image caption Mr Irons served in the RAF and then settled in Nottingham before being made an OBE in 1977

Mr Irons's sons Adrian and Paul said he had 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 the war and they went on to have six children and 16 grandchildren.

Image copyright National Justice Museum
Image caption The National Justice Museum said the plaque marks Mr Irons' contribution to the justice system in Nottingham

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.

Image caption The plaque was unveiled at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham on Tuesday

The city council said the plaque 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.

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

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