TV historian David Olusoga has thanked former England footballer and schoolmate “tough kid” Paul Gascoigne for stepping in to help when he was subjected to racist abuse as a child.
Born in his father’s home country of Nigeria, Olusoga moved to his mother’s home of Gateshead, in Tyne and Wear, when he was a young boy.
His family was targeted by the National Front, who subjected them to horrific abuse and, in one terrifying incident, drove them from their home after smashing the windows with bricks in the middle of the night.
Olusoga was also bullied at school, and says he remembers Gascoigne helping him out.
During an appearance on Desert Island Discs, he said: “My older sister, Yinka, was three years ahead of me and in her class was Paul Gascoigne. I have one memory of Paul, one strong memory.
“Which is of lying on my back having been pushed over and hit in the playground and this kid with light-coloured hair and very bright blue eyes leaned over, he was beside my sister and he gave me his hand and he pulled me up.
“He must have been maybe nine, I must’ve been maybe six or seven, something like that. He was one of the tough kids, you won’t be surprised to learn. It wasn’t really in his interest to be looking after this couple of black kids. And I’m very grateful for that.”
In an interview last year, Gazza, 53, said he remembered helping his younger schoolmate out.
“I was only young but I do remember,” he told the Mirror. “I hated bullies and I did not like what was happening.”
Olusoga, who presents the BBC documentary series A House Through Time, told presenter Lauren Laverne that racism was “just the background hum of life” when he was growing up.
One of his teachers had a coffee mug bearing a National Front slogan and another attacked him during a school trip, he said.
Talking about the night his family home was attacked, Olusoga said racist messages were strapped to bricks before they were smashed though the windows.
“I think it says something quite remarkable about the power of the idea of race,” he said. “Because these guys were probably not much older than me and my siblings.
“They went to the same shops and the same cinemas, they supported the same football team. And they decided that the right thing to do was to get up in the middle of the night and throw bricks through the glass windows of bedrooms in which children were sleeping.”
Olusoga, who lives in Bristol, also spoke on the show of his support for protesters who toppled the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in the city.
“It was always something that bothered me about Bristol and I think Bristol is a better place without it,” he said.