Black Firsts Blog: Who remembers Cy Grant?

He was one of my first heart throbs when I came to England, and the first black heart throb on UK TV: all my friends in 1959 fancied Cy Grant. We thought he was so, so handsome .. and he was on TV. He was a star.
Cy Grant was a Guyanese-born actor, singer and writer, who in the 1950s became the first black person to appear regularly on British TV on the Tonight news programme with Cliff Michelmore. Most nights he sang a witty calypso commenting on items in the news.
But Cy had many other talents. He was a poet and author of many books, including his 2007 memoir Blackness and the Dreaming Soul.
Cy Grant served in the Royal Air Force during WW II. He was commissioned as an officer after training in England as a navigator. He joined 102 Squadron based at Elshan Woods in Lincolnshire, one of a seven-man crew of a Lancaster bomber.
On his third mission Flight Lieutenant Grant was shot down over the Netherlands during the 1943 RAF offensive, the Battle of Ruho. He parachuted to safety but was captured by German troops and was made prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 111 camp. He was finally liberated by allied forces in 1945.
After the war he qualified as a barrister in 1950. When he was unable to find work at the bar, in spite of his distinguished war record and legal qualification, he took up acting.
Sadly, Cy passed away two years ago, on February 13, 2010. His website is still online www.cygrant.com where you can still read his blog and find out more about his life and work.

Here’s a link to some archive footage showing Cy when I first saw him on the Tonight TV programme in 1959.

Here’s a link to Cy talking about his WW II experiences