Hull delegation meet Mandela in Glasgow

Paul Sutton, who travelled from Hull to meet Nelson Mandela on that memorable day in Glasgow, shares his memories.

“I was part of the official delegation from the City of Hull in East Yorkshire which came to Glasgow to meet Mandela on that day. I was then Chair of Hull Anti-Apartheid.

Hull had given him the Freedom of the City in 1985.  Two years previously it had named the gardens attached to Wilberforce House (the birthplace of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and the home of a museum of anti-slavery telling the history of the campaign against slavery) as Mandela Gardens.

On that occasion it had erected a plaque in the gardens citing the words of a lecture given earlier in the year at Hull University by Sir Shridath Ramphal, then Commonwealth Secretary General, which stated ‘We tarnish and depreciate the memory of Wilberforce so long as slavery South African style flaunts its evil and defies our will to curb it, sensing our resolve to be a fragile thing’.

Mandela of course was then in prison and apartheid in full force. Hull City was then run by Labour and was resolute in its opposition to apartheid.

In 1993 the Hull City Council delegation was led by the Deputy Lord Mayor Mima Bell. We travelled to Glasgow in a small coach and for most in the delegation it was the first time they had been in Glasgow (for two of them the first time in Scotland!).

We met him as a group and Ray Flint, one of our most active members, gave him a photo album showing some of the campaign events against apartheid we had organised in Hull as well as visits by speakers from the African National Congress. The album was bound in ANC colours. He was very appreciative of the gift and I have a treasured photograph of my meeting him then as well as another taken at the same time of me, Mandela and Brian Filling. It must be said that some of our delegation were lost for words when they met Mandela.

We appreciated all the efforts put in by Glasgow to welcome us and it was a most memorable day, despite the rain. The delegation was inside Glasgow City Chambers looking out on George Square but some of our supporters who had travelled with us in the coach were out in the rain in the square. They claimed to have had a better time! Much more fun!!”

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