TONY WADE SHAPED A GENERATION – Driving force initially in the background

By Clayton Goodwin

The passing of Tony Wade, aged 90 years, a few weeks ago marked the end of an era that was as significant socially as it was commercially. Born in Montserrat, qualified as an accountant, he was the third man of the team which made the already well-established company Dyke & Dryden Ltd into a the “they made a million” enterprise celebrated in community lore. Tony, who joined the company some years after its foundation, is credited with the decision to prune the other activities in which the business was engaged, for example – travel and records,  to concentrate on the hair and beauty products trade. He also adopted a higher national and international profile. Even so, and in spite of keeping himself initially in the background, Tony was as committed as his partners, Len Dyke and Dudley Dryden, to community and social affairs.

My own first contact with Dyke and Dryden was with the former through his work with the Standing Conference of West Indians in London or from his attendance as a principal guest at Jamaican social functions and events. Later I spent many hours, after the close of business, talking with him about his work, the record industry, politics, and, inevitably, cricket at the office on West Green Road in Tottenham, North London. In spite of a natural empathy with Mr Dryden, on account of him sharing the same forename as my father, I saw less of him because he concentrated on the field work of promoting the products on site, particularly at Ridley Road market in Hackney. In time, as the two senior partners withdrew from the limelight, Tony Wade was the main director, and direction, of business.

By the late-1980s, Tony engaged me to “ghost” the first edition of his memoirs, but the time was not right for its publication then. This was an era of intense and significant activity within the comparatively restricted limits of North London. As well as leading the day-to-day activity of Dyke & Dryden Ltd, Tony Wade was a driving force behind the UK Caribbean Chamber of Commerce – a role which was challenged by entrepreneur Sammy Jay Holder, promoter of the very successful Miss Afro-Westindian beauty pageant, each operating within walking-distance of the Westindian World newspaper and the increasingly influential Hansib publishing company run by Arif Ali. Those were the days …….

When the main speaker at the service to mark the 50th anniversary of Dyke & Dryden Ltd was held in North London in 2015 was delayed convenor Rudi Page noted that there were two potential speakers present who could deputise – Arif Ali and myself. As far as I can recall Arif patted me on the back saying “You can do it” and I found myself propelled onto the stage with everybody present more qualified than myself to talk about black hair and beauty. Nevertheless such as the impact of Dyke & Dryden Ltd that I had little difficulty in finding the words to define the careers and characters of the directors – Tony Wade was present, though his partners had passed on – and fit the company’s significance into the trio of landmark events in the consecutive years of the impact of the West Indies cricket team led by Frank Worrell (1963), the international break-through of Millie Small (1964), and the foundation of Dyke & Dryden Ltd (1965). Yes, indeed, those were the days …..

Caribcommx thanks Rudi Page, too, for providing the photograph of Tony Wade which illustrates this feature.

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