~~Naive, easily led, but also head strong and determined, that’s me, I am Tony. I was born in 1950 of Cypriot parents. Hackney Hospital was the location, in the East End of London. My parents were George and Irini Leonitou, and they came to the UK in 1948 in search of a better life. In those days, as far as Cypriots were concerned, the streets in the UK were paved with Gold, as opposed to Donkey shit in their village streets.
I was the eldest of four children, in descending order of age, Angela, Costas and Dimitra. I suppose you could describe me as of average intelligence, I wasn’t an academic, I went to Primary school, junior school, and after failing my eleven plus I went to an all boys Secondary school.
At that time, 1961, there were a minimal amount of foreign students in schools and in fact, I was the only Cypriot in the whole school. Although I was born in the UK my darker skin and foreign name left me open to bullying and racist abuse. I had no choice but to suffer this for a couple of years until my brother Costas joined me at the same school, only then did my attitude change. The natural protectiveness towards my brother surfaced. I could handle being bullied myself, but when it came to my brother being pushed around, it was a different matter. I was involved in scraps and fights almost every day in my brother’s honour, going home with black eyes and fat lips regularly.
Then Stephanos joined us, things really changed then! He was an amazing six foot tall, already had facial hair which he showed off with his Mungo Jerry sideburns, and the makings of a decent moustache. For a fourteen year old, this was pretty cool.
As time passed, Stephanos, my brother and I, earned the respect that we had fought for, in fact, it would be fair to say that in a way we had become the bullies. We soon had a following of new friends. Even the teachers got involved using me as a sort of ‘peacemaker’, just to give their seal of approval, they made me Head Prefect. With the help of Stephanos and my brother we did a good job of keeping reasonable order in the playground.