Wales' first black headteacher is honoured with a statue in Cardiff

Wales’ first black headteacher who was told as a child that her dream school job was ‘insurmountable’ is honoured with a statue in Cardiff

  • Betty Campbell rose to become head of Mount Stuart Primary School in Cardiff
  • She was told when she was a child that her dream was impossible
  • Was born in 1934 to a Jamaican father and Welsh Barbadian mother
  • Hundreds of people gathered to watch the £75,000 statue’s unveiling in Cardiff 

A landmark statue to Wales’s first black headteacher was unveiled to the public today after the pioneer topped a vote in a campaign seeking to honour ‘hidden heroines’. 

Betty Campbell, who died in 2017 aged 82, proved her doubters wrong after being told as a child that achieving her dream of becoming a head teacher was ‘insurmountable’.

Betty – whose full name was Rachel Elizabeth Campbell – was born in 1934 in Cardiff’s Butetown docklands area to a Jamaican father and Welsh Barbadian mother.

She trained as a teacher and rose to become head of Mount Stuart Primary School in the docklands – despite being left in tears as a pupil after being told her dream would not happen.

Hundreds turned out to watch the unveiling of the £75,000 statue as friends and family proclaimed that throughout her life, she championed her multicultural heritage.

Mrs Campbell becomes the first non-fictional woman to be honoured in a public space in Wales.  

A landmark statue to Wales’s first black headteacher, Betty Campbell, was unveiled to the public today after the pioneer topped a vote in a campaign seeking to honour ‘hidden heroines’

People at the unveiling of the statue of Betty Campbell, Wales’ first black headteacher, in Central Square, Cardiff, today

 Betty Campbell, who died in 2017 aged 82, proved her doubters wrong after being told as a child that achieving her dream of becoming a head teacher was ‘insurmountable’. Above: The moment the statue was unveiled in Cardiff early this afternoon

Professor Uzo Iwobi, Founder of Race Council Cymru, said: ‘Wales has shown that this black woman truly matters to us all’.

Mrs Campbell was a county councillor for Cardiff’s Butetown war and was also a member of the committee which prepared for the opening of Wales’s National Assembly in 1998.

She was also a member of the Broadcasting Council for Wales from 1980 until 1984 and served on the Home Office’s race advisory committee. 

A UK-wide survey of statues, carried out in 2018, found that just one in five statues in Britain were of women, with most of fictional characters or unnamed figures.

The unveiling of the statue was due to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It came after a panel of experts made a list of 50 historic Welsh women after finding there were no statues celebrating heroines in Wales.

Helen Molyneux, founder of Monumental Welsh Women, said she hoped the statue would ‘inspire the next generation of Welsh women’.

‘Betty’s impact during her life was incredible, but, as with so many women throughout history, likely to be forgotten or overlooked by future generations unless something was done to bring her to people’s attention,’ she said.

Betty – whose full name was Rachel Elizabeth Campbell – was born in 1934 in Cardiff’s Butetown docklands area to a Jamaican father and Welsh Barbadian mother 

Hundreds had turned out to watch the unveiling of the £75,000 statue later today as friends and family proclaimed that throughout her life, she championed her multicultural heritage 

‘The monument created by Eve Shepherd will certainly achieve that. It is a truly iconic, beautiful piece that will attract the world’s attention to Cardiff.’

Her daughter, Elaine Clarke said she was extremely proud and privileged to have her mother remembered in such an iconic way.

She said: ‘Through her sculpture, Eve encapsulates Betty’s legacy of determination, aspiration and inspiration that reflected her passion for diversity and equality making her a truly positive role model for many in the community and beyond.’

Former pupil Chantelle Haughton said she had been a pioneer for change.

‘The thought of Betty’s statue fills me up and the wonderful opportunity this memorial brings for Mrs Campbell’s story to reach so many more from here on,’ she said.

Geraldine Trotman, a friend of Mrs Campbell whose children were taught by the teacher, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘She instilled a sense of pride and sense of belonging in all the pupils that attended.

‘And unlike Betty’s own experiences, she gave all her pupils the confidence to follow their dreams.’

She added: ‘Betty was one character, Betty was a strong character. She was determined to do it her own way and no one could stop her.’

The statue is being unveiled near Central Square, Cardiff, after being designed and created by Eve Shepherd.

It came after the Hidden Heroines campaign asked the public to vote from a shortlist made up of five historical Welsh women for who they would wish to see immortalised with such a statue.

Sheffield-born Eve said: ‘Betty was all about community and passing knowledge on from person to person and from one generation to another, and I’ve tried to capture all of that in this statue.

‘I think it’s been long, long overdue – and I don’t just mean because of the delays we’ve faced due to the pandemic.

‘We’ve waited hundreds and hundreds of years for women and people who are non-white to be put on plinths, especially in Wales, and so to have a statue of a successful and inspirational black woman in Wales is just amazing.’ 

A programme about Mrs Campbell’s life is being aired on BBC One Wales tonight at 7.30pm.  

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