Barry’s Black History| Wales | Guest Blog

by Sheree Conibeare

Well this is my last post for this evening and I thought I would shift away from buildings and ruins and focus on society, people and inclusion which has made Barry and Wales what it is today.

People from the Caribbean had been brought to Cardiff to work from as early as the 1880s already, and thousands more also made their way to Britain in the First World War to fight, with many entering work in the merchant navy or war industries, and again due to the Second World War. The Windrush generation is also responsible for a sizable proportion of Wales’ Afro-Caribbean community; those that had been born British subjects that arrived in the UK before 1973, (so named after the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948).

Wales’ black population has made huge contributions to society across the country. We have had politicians and diplomats of African and Caribbean descent, our national rugby and football teams have had black captains, and many have become leaders in areas such as education, entertainment and athletics.

So I thought I would mention a few people I know of and if you know any families or people who moved to Barry and are friends and made and impact growing up feel free to comment.

Today, I’ll focus on the Farah Family

A father, a son and a grandchild from Somalia, and Barry, south Wales.

Abby Farah
We start with the first of the Farah family to arrive in Wales. This Somali seaman crossed the world to work in Barry Docks in the late nineteenth century and eventually set about becoming a community leader. He originally came from the Issa Musse subclan of the Isaaq, one of the biggest Somali clans from the Horn of Africa.

He became to be known as “Father” to colonial seamen who visited not just Cardiff, but also Barry and Newport, becoming the first point of reference for seamen who needed help or advice when they arrived in Wales.

He founded the Cardiff and Barry Coloured Society and the Domino Youth Club in Barry, and also became the president of the Colonial Club in Barry as well as manager of the Colonial Club in Cardiff.

He was awarded the MBE by King George VI for his war time services to seamen. Despite arriving to Cardiff in adulthood, he made south Wales his home and became a pillar of the community between the major ports of Cardiff and Barry.

He is the father of Abdulrahmin Abby Farah, the most famous of the family, and the one we know most about.

Abdulramin Abby Farah
He was dubbed the “Barry Boy that helped free Mandela”, because of his work as a Somali diplomat with the United Nations. He was Deputy Secretary General of the UN between 1979 and 1990 and served as the Permanent Representative of Somalia to the UN from 1965-72, as well as as the Ambassador of Somalia to Ethiopia in the 1960s, to name just some of his prominent roles

Abdulrahim was born in 1919 in Barry to Abby Farah, and an English mother, Hilda Anderson, who jointly ran a boarding house. He was a pupil at Gladstone Primary School in Barry, where he passed the 11-plus in order to attend Barry Grammar. On leaving school at 17, his father sent him to Hargeisa, in what was then British Somaliland, to begin a career in the Colonial Service. He became a magistrate, and during the second world war fought in East Africa as a commando in the British army. After the war he returned to the UK for studies in civic administration at University College, Exeter University and then Exeter College, Oxford, where he met his third wife, Sheila. Despite all his travels, he supposedly never lost his Welsh accent.

From 1969 to 1972, Farah was the Chairperson of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid, and in 1971 was president of the UN security council. In that role he organised the first ever UN meeting of the security council in Africa, in Addis Ababa in 1971.

In retirement he established an amputee hospital for landmine victims in Somalia and helped many young people to pursue an education through mentoring and financial support.

His death in 2018, at the age of 98, prompted tributes from around the world.

Abdirahman Abby Farah
Nephew of Abdulrahim Abby Farah and grandson of Abby Farah, Abdirahman was born in Cardiff and educated in Barry at Gladstone Road Junior and Barry Grammar Schools. He attended university in Cardiff and Exeter like his uncle before him, and went on to hold top cabinet posts in the Somali Government, becoming permanent secretary in the Foreign Ministry and Chief of the Cabinet in the Somali Government.


Thanks to Sheree for posting this eloquent Black History piece on our Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Vale facebook page. SUTR is a Black-led Campaign Group who, with the strong support of Allies, aim to unite our communities.

Happy to also share this piece of our town’s past here  – the community blog of Sue Vincent-Jones. Sue is a journalist, editor, and communications specialist who blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a quirky, and queer, girl done good.

Mrs SVJ, Barry’s Boldest Blogger, can be contacted here.