Updated: Mar 10
Pioneer, community activist, Caribbean champion and patron of Descendants.
Constance Mark, known to Descendants as Connie, was born in Jamaica on 21st December 1923. Connie was an inspirational woman, a mother, grandmother and a role model to all young people she came in contact with.
Connie was born in Jamaica. During the second world war, in 1943, Connie was recruited to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS.) She worked in the British Military Hospital of Kingston, as a medical secretary, typing reports of battle injuries. After six months of service, she was promoted to lance corporal and applied for her additional pay as provided for in the British Army regulations. The War Office turned down her request, stating that ATS soldiers were not entitled to the increase. Six months later, Connie was promoted to full corporal but her pay increase was still denied. Connie put this down to racist policies feeling that as she was in a British regiment of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) she ought to be treated like other British personnel. She never received what was owed to her.
When the war ended, Connie’s commanding officer put in for her to receive British Empire Medal, but this was denied. She believed the denial was because she had refused to clean British officer personnel's private quarters. In 1949, when the ATS was merged into the Women’s Royal Army Corps she signed up for further service. She finally moved to England in 1952 and campaigned for Black Britons’ contributions to the services, especially women’s, to be recognised. She played a leading role in several notable campaigns, including the campaign to get the contribution of Mary Seacole recognised. In 1992 she was finally awarded the British Empire Medal.
This inspirational lady met Descendants at a performance in Chiswick Town Hall, soon after Descendants was established. Connie made an instant impact and came to many of our events, and invited us to perform at many of the events she organised. Most memorable were the Black History festivals for Hammersmith & Fulham Borough. Connie was associated with countless other charitable, community and educational initiatives, including the Mary Seacole Memorial Association, of which she was a founder member and president, she was also an active member of the West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women’s Association and of the West Indian Standing Conference.
In 1997, the children chose Connie to become our second patron, following MP Mr Paul Boateng. Shortly before her passing Connie endorsed our newest patron Dr John Roberts Q.C.
Connie was very passionate about the Caribbean, which made her a champion of its culture and a formidable force within the black community. She was much in demand for her poetry and storytelling events, using oral history to address the young. Connie was a remarkable woman, who inspired so many young people. She told them stories and taught them many Caribbean songs and poetry. Descendants were very privileged to have shared so many special memories with Connie. She will be greatly missed by all of us but she will never be forgotten. We will continue to award The Connie Mark trophy at our Annual Achievement Awards.