Kenneth Grinell, caretaker who always ‘lifted people up'

Much-loved figure around Queen’s Crescent had lived there for decades

Wednesday, 1st September 2021 — By Tom Foot

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Kennt Grinell

RASTAFARIAN caretaker Kenneth “Kenny” Grinell was remembered this week as a family man who played the Conga drums and became a horse riding instructor at Kentish Town City Farm.

He was a much-loved face around Queen’s Crescent where he grew up and lived for decades.

He worked in school and college buildings including at the old Camden Institute in Holmes Road, Kentish Town, and at Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham.

A driving force in the historic Talacre Action Group campaign in the 1970s, Mr Grinell has died aged 59 following heart and lung complications.

One of his 18 children, Natalean Grinell, said: “My dad was really for the family and the community. When people were upset, he was one of those guys who always lifted people up.

“He helped me through a lot, always calming me down and showing me I had to stop being hard on myself. He never had anything malicious to say. He went to rasta huts in Jamaica, and to do prayer work abroad. He was a full-style rasta, with gold teeth.

“He also liked the [Sir Robert] Peel pub in the Crescent. And William Hill. That was his spot. You caught the most jokes there. But he always kept himself out of trouble and I think that’s why he was drawn to Kentish Town City Farm.

“He loved animals, particularly horses. He learned how to ride and was an instructor. Some kids don’t get to feel and touch and talk to animals – they are just stuck in the house. They can’t do normal things that normal children do. But they can up there, and he loved that.”

Mr Grinell’s parents Inez and Arthur Grinell were born in Jamaica and moved to Bassett Street, which became the family home.

His daughter said: “Dad liked to travel, to go sight seeing, nature, art, old historic buildings. He would collect a lot of objects from where he went, like African masks. He played the drums, the Conga drums. He wanted to go to Zambia, but he couldn’t because of his illness.”

Mr Grinell had heart and lung problems that led to him having to be on oxygen 18 hours a day at the end of his life.

Two months ago he became seriously unwell and died in Coventry, where he had moved to be closer to his cousins.

A “nine night” celebration of his life was held at Queen’s Crescent Community Centre earlier this month. “We had literally roots revival music all night – I was raised on that,” said Natalean.

She said she had found out recently that her granddad’s nickname was “Man Kind” while her father’s was “Yam Shit”.

“I don’t know why they called him that,” she said. “But I found it so funny. He could talk you know, he wouldn’t stop. I think that’s why.”

John Langan, the City Farm’s former stockman, said: “He was well respected. A good family man and well-known locally.”

Mr Grinell’s dying wish was for his ashes to be taken to the seaside so his family are organising a “road trip” with his urn before his remains are scattered next to his parents’ plot at East Finchley cemetery.

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