“Who can stop Hadda winning?”  That was the call after the most enthralling round of heats the contest has known. Now that the feature was no longer covered by the Weekly Gleaner newspaper the title had to generate interest direct from the public. And it came off well. Well-known contestants – title-holders, former title-holders and runners-up – vied for inclusion causing constant speculation – and doubtless even betting on the eventual outcome – as one favourite followed another after an impressive performance in the heats. Although they did not lend their name to the title, which remained an unattributed Page 5 Girl contest, the West Indian World newspaper took up the running where its rival had left off. 

Hadda Haye (right) on the night of her victory with future runner-up Ruby Palmer (left) and Elaine Maxham (centre) who qualified to enter the most finals five)

The one drawback was that because most of the heats took place in London the competition lost its early distinction of introducing contestants from outside the area of the capital city. Public support was so strong that it was now possible, after only one year, to drop the practice of having individual entrants sponsored. Three entrants from each heat progressed to the final. The heats started with a shock at the Shady Grove club, Bruce Grove. Most of the contestants paid little heed to promoter Clayton Goodwin’s reputation for punctuality – “he couldn’t start without us, could he?”  He could and he did. Only three girls were ready at the appointed hour; they paraded, and all went through. Late-comers struggled in vain to get into their evening-dress and swimsuit as they pushed through the crowd. The title has not suffered from bad timing in its 34 years since then. 

Hadda is the guest of Vauxhall Motors at Luton 

Coming to the last heat, which was back at the Shady Grove, the shape of the final seemed to have been settled. It was a dull, rainy night and 22 candidates squeezed into the tiny dressing-room to compete for the last three places. They included Hadda Haye, a recent Miss Elizabeth, who had just arrived in the country from Jamaica with her sister, our outgoing deputy title-holder Marleen. She took the contest by storm, introducing a new dimension of approach. The audience, and newspaper representatives, just had to tell everyone who would listen about the new star. It was all good publicity and ensured another capacity attendance for the final at Spots Club on December 1984. 

Well, nobody did beat Hadda. The teenager dominated the catwalk. Yet it was not a walk-over. The other contestants put in a magnificent performance. One finalist took looked around the dressing-room on arrival, said “I haven’t got a chance”, and sat down in the audience to enjoy the display. The runners-up were Georgia Robinson and Jennifer Wisdom, both from Jamaican families in North London, and a future winner of our own competition was also in contention. Compere Spencer Williams was at his best. Nobody could know then, including himself, that this would be the last time he would introduce the show. By the time that the title was contested again he and his colleague Trevor Russell had moved to their own, smaller club Nightmoves close to Liverpool Street but it did not support a stage big enough to host the competition.  

During Hadda Haye’s reign press and public attention for the title reached its peak. It was the hey-day of beauty contests, and as newly-arrived to the country Hadda had no steady occupation to impede her taking up offers of personal appearances. Furthermore the Westindian World covered her every move – thanks mainly to the enthusiasm of managing director Caudley George, and, above all, photographer John Richards. Hadda joined her sister in Luton, a town which had made an impressive, though short, impact on contests through Miss EbonyStarlight promoted by Sonia Jessup and Jacquie Wright.  

Hadda did not complete the triple recognition of a reception by High Commissioner, Mayor and Member of Parliament.  Although Jamaican High Commissioner Herbert Walker received the title-holder (and her deputies), as did the Mayor of Luton, Clayton Goodwin made a rare, and possibly unique, censorship by not applying to John Carlisle, a right-wing politician recognised for his support of continued links with the apartheid-administration in South Africa. Ms Haye started her term-of-office by being shown around a new wing of Luton International Airport and her engagements included a tour, and lunch with the management, of Vauxhall Motors, the commercial enterprise for which the town has been chiefly associated. Hadda also made various guest appearances at UK West Indian social occasions. 

The highlight of her reign, however, was Hadda’s visits to Berlin and Holland which put the title firmly on an international footing. Karl-Heinz Milferstaedt, an employee of Berlin-Spandau local government administration, and his wife Ingrid provided exceptional hospitality. The previous year they had accommodated Pauline Fyffe, then Miss Ebony Starlight, as part of the borough’s twin partnership with Luton and made the same generous offer to Hadda. She visited the attractions of this westernmost borough of Berlin, including the famed Peacock Island, and had a day in East Berlin. At that time the city was divided on a cold-war footing between capitalist West and communist East. Hadda may well have been the first black beauty title-holder to go behind the then Iron Curtain. Her points of call included Under den Linden, one of the world’s most celebrated thoroughfares, and the Alexander Square hub of the metropolis. 

A few weeks later Hadda accompanied her deputy Georgia on a private visit to Amsterdam, calling in Rotterdam on the way. The travel was sponsored by Sealink who had previously assisted Lucia and Carron to St Quentin. The trip started dramatically. Clayton Goodwin accompanied them to an early morning departure from Liverpool Street station, making sure that they had the money for their accommodation and subsistence. Just as he was about to retire for the night he received a telephone-call from Georgia to the effect that she had misplaced the funds, together with the list of people to contact, in a restaurant. So, unexpectedly, Clayton found himself rushing out to join them the next day. The rest of what was an enjoyable break had no such further drama. 

A definite pattern of progress was now discernible. Maureen and Collette had put the title on its feet, Lucia had taken it to the forefront of national UK West Indian contests, and Hadda had added an international dimension. The latter two, particularly, had a good sense of how to represent the title to the public. When she was in Berlin, Hadda was filmed for television. The session had to be shot in early morning before any people were about. She was required to walk along a deserted cobbled street – a life-time later she claimed that her feet still hurt – while pointing out the local landmarks. As Hadda spoke no German, Clayton had to translate the director’s directions by hand-signals – and the session was still completed in one take. At the end of the street she took up a coconut, drank its milk through a straw and wished Prosit Berlin. When the film was shown that evening, the studio had blended in some crowd shots, so that the street seemed to be very busy and with a market. Hadda’s term of office concluded with an extended trip to Barbados and then to Jamaica.

The title, which was still without an identifying name, was different to any other contest or pageant. Indeed, Clayton forbade the latter word to be used. He saw the final, and the heats, as being the groundwork for the term-of-office. Even now the future Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth was known, in fact if not in as many words, by the term which has become its motto. It was/is the contest that is more than just a title. 



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