LLOYD Bogle was shopping in Musgrave Market, Port Antonio, Portland on Friday “about 11:30 am” when he got the phone call that he was anxiously awaiting.
On the other end of the line was a representative of the British High Commission who informed him that he had been granted a visa.
“When I heard from them that my visa was approved I just dropped everything and shouted out,” Bogle told the Jamaica Observer, his smile stretching from ear to ear.
Vendors in the market were left wondering whether Bogle was losing his mind as he jumped for joy. However, the 64-year-old Jamaican-born man who had been stranded here since last October because of his immigration status, said he did not care what the vendors thought as he knew the call meant that his agonising wait to return to England, where he has lived for over 50 years, was now over.
“I am still struggling to find words to describe the moment. I just feel relieved,” he told the Sunday Observer. “When I got the call I just stopped everything that I was doing and rushed back to the house where I was staying in Portland to collect my documents.”
Bogle said he then jumped in a taxi and headed for the British High Commission in Kingston, his heart racing with excitement throughout the approximately two-hour drive.
When he arrived there, he was told to wait as the authorities completed processing his documents.
The few minutes on the outside seemed like an eternity, but it was one that the retired Bogle was willing to sit through.
Then came the moment when he was handed back his passport and saw, in it, a multiple entry D-visa, which states that he has leave to enter England outside of the rules, requires him to register with the police within seven days of arrival in the UK, and has no restriction on employment. Images of his loved ones back home in Manchester and Oldham — who he thought he would never see again — flashed across his mind.
“When I got mi visa I felt like I just wanted to shout out and celebrate,” Bogle said, adding that immediately he took out his cellphone and called his friend, Gloria Thompson, who had stuck with him through the whole ordeal, giving him shelter and who had directed him to the Observer with the advice that the newspaper highlights people and their issues.
Thompson, who joined him later in Kingston on Friday, declined to be interviewed.
Bogle’s story was first reported by the Observer last Tuesday and immediately went viral, racking up more than 113,000 page views during its first day on the daily newspaper’s website.
Follow-up front page stories on Bogle’s plight on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as yesterday’s report of his visa approval led to a whopping 417,300 page views and elicited just over 1,500 comments from online readers worldwide.
Bogle, who left Jamaica in 1957 when he was seven years old and had never travelled since then, arrived in the island on a two-week visit in September last year.
After enjoying his post-retirement trip, Bogle went to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on October 13, 2014 to take his return flight home but got the shock of his life when Immigration authorities told him he could not leave as he needed a visa.
The reason for that is that Bogle, in all his years living in England, never applied for British citizenship. In fact, he said he only applied for and received a Jamaican passport just before he travelled here on September 29, 2014.
He said that after getting over the shock of being told that he needed a visa, he was on the verge of sleeping in the streets, as he had nowhere to go, neither did he know where he was.
He said he contacted his mother in England and told her about his situation. She gave him Thompson’s phone number, explaining that she once lived in England and told him to contact her for help.
Since then, he has been staying with her in Portland.
Acting on advice from the Immigration officials, Bogle made contact with the British High Commission in Kingston to apply for a visa and was given a list of documents he would need for the process.
He said he contacted his mother, who brought the documents to Jamaica.
“After I got the documents, I applied for the visa and, after waiting for some time, would receive another shock when I learnt that the visa was not approved,” Bogle told the Observer.
After reading the story, British High Commissioner David Fitton referred Bogle’s case to UK Visas and Immigration, which eventually granted the retired man permission to return to England.
On Friday after picking up his passport with the visa, Bogle’s second phone call was to this reporter, with whom he shared the news and expressed a wish to visit the newspaper’s head office on Beechwood Avenue to thank the staff.
While he awaited our arrival in New Kingston he received another pleasant surprise.
“People came from all over just walking up to me, shaking my hand, others were waving to me from the buses as they passed. Those who spoke to me say they knew my face from the Observer,” he said.
“If it wasn’t for the Observer my case would not have been heard, and to them I am ever grateful,” Bogle said while being surrounded by scores of people as he entered the newspaper’s office.
Immediately after the Observer posted online that Bogle had been granted a visa, readers started reacting.
“Oh thank you Jesus!! I am so very happy for that poor lost man. I am also ecstatic that his confidence in the Jamaican people was totally boosted by the way everyone rallied to help him. Glory be to God!! Thanks to you the Observer for observing!! And taking quick action by publishing his plight,” said Dianne Williams.
“Sure appreciate the British High Commissioner for taking an interest in a small person and moving to get lightning speed results in little time. Now everybody happy, even though we did not know Mr Bogle personally. God bless all involved. God bless Jamaica,” Williams added.
Another online reader, who posted as Ricardo Suptronic Security Williams, shared similar sentiments.
“Thank God. A hope he remembers the hospitality given to him by that lady, the media and everybody who helped him. So much that is wonderful about Jamaica. Most of them aren’t thankful. Hope he returns to our shores with his other old friends…. mek sure dem get visa first,” said Williams.
Paul Notch South said he was happy, and added: “Common sense prevailed… Hopefully he comes back to visit and don’t get cold feet and stay in England for another 50 years. Jamaica too sweet to be away for that long.”
A day before news emerged that Bogle received his visa, several of his former colleagues in Oldham and Manchester in England waited with bated breath to hear from him.
Fifty-five-year-old Lillie Rose was one of those persons.
Her voice trembled as she spoke for close to 15 minutes in a telephone interview with the Observer last Thursday.
“I cannot understand what is happening. What is taking the authorities so long. I am concerned that he has not returned home,” said Rose, who lives in Manchester.
On Tuesday, Mark Salloway, another of Bogle’s friends for the past 20 years, said he “was really upset” when he learnt of Bogle’s plight.
“He is the sort of guy that would do anything for anyone and the fact that he has been stuck there for months is appalling,” said Salloway.
“It is all a bit unbelievable. He has a house and two sons in England, he has a right to be here. Everyone knows him in his local area and everyone is really fond of him,” Salloway said.
Danielle Robinson, Bogle’s next-door neighbour of 25 years, told the Oldham Evening Chronicle that she was shocked when she heard the news.
“He had asked me to keep an eye on his house whilst he was away and when a few weeks went by I knew something wasn’t right. Then I found out what had happened and I could not believe it,” Robinson was quoted by the newspaper.
“It’s shocking, really. I know him really well and he is a lovely man. It’s awful. They need to let him come home now; he worked here for years,” she said.
Robinson also told the Oldham Evening Chronicle that family members told her Bogle applied for a Jamaican passport instead of British passport because Britain had a huge backlog of passport applications at the time. She believes he thought getting a Jamaican passport would be a quicker option.
On Friday, Bogle said he felt encouraged by the fact that family and friends were closely monitoring his case.
He told the Sunday Observer that aside from being stressed and frustrated he was worried about his family, especially his 84-year-old mother, who was desperately hoping for his return.