First Impressions

Early Life


Waseema Azfar

“Damp, cold! Horrible (laughter)…I did not like a bit! I was so upset! The hard start was very hard. Very hard. I wanted to go back (laughs), obviously…you can imagine. But anyway you have to stick by, it’s your life…you have to start.

’62 was the worst winter of the century as well. It was so cold and I wasn’t prepared for it…and he, through lack of money, we couldn’t by proper things to get warm. The houses were with coal fire…you had to light the fire before you get warm. Hot water and baths, they were trouble, they were trouble. “


Sufia Choudhury

“When I came I was so excited because I was dreaming coming here, and I thought about it…London was going to be this and that. When I came here I was shocked! (laughter) I was shocked when I see the house and everything – nothing there. Just one gas heater in the living room. There was no sofa, no dining table. The front room, I know was like… but my husband didn’t say anything and my husband’s auntie came here to stay with us for two weeks and look after us because I’m new.

I never said anything. No carpet or anything, lino…and it’s not nice lino, like torn…the main thing is my husband got the house only two months ago, bought his house only £2000 he spent, and the house used to be a lodger house, there was 11 people used to live in this house. There were two beds in the front room…like two single beds; one big bed in the living room…it was nothing like my dream house! (laughs) …

When my husband got the house it didn’t have any bathroom before, and he said…when we need the bathroom and he used to use the outside toilet. As I said – Oh, my dream house! (laughs)…

One day I told my husband “Is there any fish?” He said “Yes, yes…I’ll get you some fish”…and he got the English fish, you know the trout. I was so excited but I didn’t like the taste…you know it’s not the same taste, like at home – it’s different. (laughter) There wasn’t any central heating, no washing machine…that’s a dream, washing machine and dishwasher…”

Ice-cream story:

“My husband used to work in the factories as a weaver and our money was really tight, and then every week I saved a pound to…the children to get an ice-cream. Just a pound.

That day they were really excited – I’ll get an ice cream today! One point is that money was tight, but another point is that if you give them every day they’ll only get spoilt. On the day they’re waiting for the ice-cream van, and when they heard the – my second one was 3 and then my daughter was 2 – they were really excited…”Mum, mum, mum! Ice-cream van here!” I said okay, I’m going to get them…I was excited and very stupid…

…opened the door and forgot to put it on the latch. Because I was excited “Oooh, ice-cream van!” and the ice-cream van doesn’t stay long…and I just ran to fetch the ice cream, and there, looking out the window…when I came back the door was locked.

And there, looking out the window…ice-cream in my hand and with ice-cream melting on my hand “Ooh my…what am I going to do!”…and there…”Mum, mum…ice-cream!”. I said look, door locked and they are 3 and 2. They were so excited and the ice-cream, it was melting…I don’t know what to do, what to do, because I don’t know many people round here, there was no mobile system…probably I was out 30, 35 something minutes and looking for my husband at work…looking if someone is coming to help me.

I can’t go anywhere and leave them, and because the gas-fire was on and I was worried about them because the gas-fire. In the meantime there was one friend, one of my husband’s friends, he’s a thingy…a joiner, and he used to come – he did our kitchen work and everything – and he was passing, and he was asking “What are you doing Mrs Choudhury? Why are you outside?” …Good job it was summertime and the weather was good.

I said ‘ Look, but I wasn’t speaking English very well at that time, so I managed to talk to him and I said this is the problem…He said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out for you”, and he ran to his garage and opened the thingy…door. And ice-cream…all melt…all…it’s really the shame of the matter. No, I can’t forget that day…them looking, the two children waiting for ice-cream and I outside and the ice-cream melt in my hand! And after, they got ice-cream anyway, my husband got it for them. So that’s it…”


Mazhar Hussain

Settling in and college:

“…In the morning I said I want to go to college. This lady will by signs or language or words she understood she pointed to go from here to this direction, that direction and… I would go to the front door and it was raining! I come back and sit down, watching outside through the window…weather, it was so terrible. It was month of August. Summer. Raining…and… she eventually said ‘Lad, if you want to go out, you going to have to go out in this.’ …and no raincoat… I was planning to have some clothes for this country while living when I arrived here…and she gave me a brolly, “Take this and go”!

…Started going to college and… textile, was a good college with all the textile machinery and lectures. I did dyeing and finishing part of the textile with a class in Manchester UMIST…I used to go there twice a week from morning till afternoon. From bus, on the bus from Burnley to Manchester. Quite easy…”

Dance halls and cricket:

“Yes! they had…Rawtenstall. Was a well known Astoria dancehall. Bob probably been there as well in his time (chuckle). That’s…they pulled it down. Astoria was known and people came from all near towns, from Burnley, from Blackburn, from Rossendale. They had a good band… and it was popular… it used to get crowded…from Burnley to…used to come with some friends to…Astoria and…Wednesday used to be in Accrington, the Con Club dance evening and then this was the entertainment, I made lots and lots of friends, I bumped into a lay preacher, Geoffrey Grimes. Then (a) social worker…Harry… something became very good friends. Lot of talking, they used to talk and I used to tell them…they want to listen to my background, my religion and my way of life and all that. While I’m adopting something from here…but with some close friends like that, used to talk about my way of life with them.

I made friends with a West Indian family who used to live near where I was in Rose Hill. (A) cricketer. I don’t know whether you remember Martindale? West Indian test player. He’s a fast bowler, a very hard hitting batman in his time. (Note: Manny Martindale, 1909-1972, played in 10 tests. Also played for Burnley).

This was the war time… I’m talking about when he was, arrived here to play cricket in the West Indies. War started, he stayed here with the family, he arrived with a family as well. and… they became very good friends. Two sons he had, Fred and Colin Martindale. Had four daughters, I remember them because they were like family to me, and Mrs Martindale very friendly, bit large and very good friends and… girls were very you know, friendly, chatty…all start teasing me, I used to tease them. The West Indian test players used to come visit Martindale, being their senior. They saw like their duty to come pay…Respect!…Sobers, Gilchristand others, I met them, in their home and they were funny people. Very funny…having a joke on each other…”

(Note: Sir Garfield Sobers b.1936, one of the greatest ever all-rounders, played 93 tests and for several Lancashire League clubs; and Roy Gilchrist 1934-2001, played 13 tests and for Bacup.)


Samina Hussain

“…When I came here actually, when I came in Haslingden, got married in London then I came here in Haslingden. First few days I didn’t realise what was happening and what kind of people lives in here. And when I realised some people came to me and then they said, I said I want to do Qur’an khani (Qur’an reading) and they said you can’t do it, because people, the ladies doesn’t go to people’s houses, each other’s house. And I said what? Then I realised that people don’t go out. Because they are completely different people. They are very nice people but they have different culture, different views. And that was a bit, you know, impact for me. I said, what I have to do now? This is so difficult for me. And when I… Any way I done this Qur’an khani and this and that, then I meets a few girls…

I said how I can do something for these ladies. So one lady she come to me and she said you can’t do any Qur’an khani, these ladies don’t come out and this and that. So she, I said right, I gave my idea to her, I said I want to organise an Eid party. So she said oh, these ladies never come, no they don’t like, their husbands never let them out and let them do and this and that. I said no I want to try… So that was my first successful event. It gave me a lot of encouragement and then I decided right I will be continue on this project.

…And then I had my son Hamza he (was) born and he was only a small boy. Because…the set up was completely different in here and I was missing my family, my home. My…you know, living style was completely different over there and here it was completely, I will say simple. And I was a bit spoilt person, so anyway, but I learned a lot household things I learned how to manage a house, how to cook, before I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t know how to…things works in the kitchen. But I learned, but I still wanted to go back.”


Mohammed Ishaque

“…Well there were not so many people in those days. And people local indigenous people used to respect us. So much! Couldn’t believe it. Good harmony, no prejudice anything you know, very good people. Sometimes if anybody, in the time of the skin heads when Enoch Powell, you know him, you must have heard about him. When he gave first time against the immigrants you know. So there were some skinheads in the area. And if anybody shouted like that local people used to come to us and use to fight for us on our side. They were so good. Later on when there was too many people came. Then obviously you know, the things could got a little worse that’s all. Not too much. Not too much. But life was very good and the local people were very good. There’s no prejudice, there’s no discrimination anything like that. This is what I say…So these people I would say very tolerant people. Good people. If we are good they are best…

…in those days England was not developed. They used “Tippler” toilet outside (These toilets were operated by a ‘tippler’ system. Most toilets did not have a flushing system). And there was hardly, we used to go the Public Baths (swimming pools) in those days even everybody not a very few house has used to their own baths you know. And toilets inside.

And also I don’t know when you have come to this country. But used to burn the coal for heating, no gas. So they discovered the coal, …gas and oil as well at that time. And this is why they say it was the poorest country in all Europe.”


Aslom Miah

Living conditions:

“…94 Bury Road, I came… It was August to November, and then I took this house over…so what happened there was no toilet in the house; toilet was from there to that building (points). Scaring going night time…and snow, never seen before (laughter)…far to go outside to toilet, you had to walk with another friend because we were scared to go out ourself. So, waking up and saying, right – come with me. So we had torch, and there was candlelight in the toilet, so we lit it and he would wait outside until you finish your business. This sort of thing – no shower, no nothing…can’t speak in English, so sometimes you had to ask a colleague “How do you do this? Wash bath like this? Or something like (that)”. “

Public baths:

“…Then they… told us something, get penny out of their pocket and say…keep like this and give it to attendants and say “twice please” “twice water please” yeah… okay… so if a towel costs 2 pence and a piece of soap costs 3 pence, we know that (belongs to) the Council…we know now to ask attendant too, we know now. So okay, we came inside and quietly give penny to attendant and I say “twice please” with humble, you know and he says “when you finish, knock, knock” that means to knock my door twice, so there you go he let me go once, and then he’ll clean the bath for me and get fresh water. So soon as we found second time water, we thought we were in heaven, we like to fall asleep there… So we are there long time and then we tell everyone in our community right…

So then me and one of my young friends, same as me, noticed some people kept coming to the side door… So we open the door, I say “God, such a beautiful swimming pool there” (laughter) we don’t know, and all due to the communication problem. “


Farida Munir

“…But then I came to Haslingden, there was used to be a very old house there was no bathroom in it, and there was a toilet, was outside. Altogether a street’s toilet, was another street. They were altogether they had a lock, pad lock each toilet for each house. And when I asked why. My brother in law came as a student here, (he was here then) and I asked him, I said “where’s the toilet I want to go” he didn’t answer me. He went to him (my husband) and he said “I’ll get a torch, you have to go outside”. I was really worried, I said “I heard in Pakistan in villages people go outside for the loo! But in Lahore we never thought of going outside for a toilet. And he took me and he took a lantern in his hand and torch. And he opened the door. It was a typical (Tippler) toilet. And I was surprised to see that. And I was shock(ed). And I was shocked to see that, it not good experience. Well then I didn’t like it here first.

I was looking at the houses, looking in Haslingden, all the smoke coming through the chimney dark. And I said oh what country I have come! And it was not a good experience to come, I wasn’t happy at all. I was very, very upset, missing my family. All because I was the first of my family, all my brothers, sisters they were teenagers young. My younger sister was only two and a half year old. You know they were family, was full, my grandparents was used to live with us. I was missing them, then onto of that the atmosphere here wasn’t very appealing you know. It’s just say oh very nice house, and this and that no. And then second thing my husband in the morning when we got up he said “I tell you how to put the fire on, coal the fireplace”. And he said “clean this and bring the coal from outside and put the coal like that and put the firelighter there. Put a few stick of wood and then put the coal on top.” That was hard work again. (laughter)

So I did all that, and that’s it you know when I came here it wasn’t pleasant experience. But because I came and I married him, and I have to stay with him. And then he was planning and he said “in a few years we earn enough we go back to Pakistan and stay there”. And I was hoping oh let’s go back and we stay in Pakistan. And then I had my daughter after nine months, I came in ‘67 and she was born in ‘67 November. So another child to look after and everything. She was, I was lonely but then she was born and I was busy with her and everything.”


Said Rahman

“The first impression was…to make some money (laughter). Work here and make some money and send it to Pakistan…

I started working at Whitehead Mill. It was a textile mill, I worked there for 14 years… after that I worked in a different factory for one or two years. Then I started having heart problems, and had surgery on my heart so I stopped working. Since that time I haven’t worked…and in those days they needed workers, there’s quite a few…plenty textile mills and foundries making machineries.

How the persons here come to this country, by passport or by voucher, by so – so that’s why there’s a lot of peoples here now. (Note: The voucher was a work voucher, instead of a passport or visa)…because I like this town and this town’s people(s).They’re very friendly people…very warm…so that’s why I stay for a long, long time…

(In the beginning)…I was living for a few(s) week with single peoples who had no families here…though there was a lot of Bengalis here…in the 23 number house in Wales Street and 23 people lived there! How can they live there? Because there were three shifts, and the cotton mill was up against the house and they were all working there. The beds got no rest but the people…(laughter)…I moved from there after 4 days to my own site with a Peshawi from Pakistan, Pathan…I moved with him and…then I bought house…I lived in a front room with another friend and it was open and I told him make some partitions here and door, so when we sleep we don’t know how we sleep. He said ‘no, if you want privacy or anything like that you’ll spend some money and I will cut it off in rent”. I said alright, so I did, I made a room…

Then I called my wife in ’64…in those days there was only one family from Pakistan was in London, not in Birmingham, Bradford, Sheffield, nowhere… she was the first one… That’s the first ladies from our area in London and it cost me 20 rupees in Pakistan for passport… British passport.”


Zamro Rahman (Pashto/Urdu)

“…When I came here there were no other people, I came to this country you know, there were no other people, no Punjabis, no Pathaans, no people. Then near me, behind us some Pathaans came, there were others in the country, but no Pathaans. Then lots of Pathaans came and lots of Punjabis came, so many people came that oh God, it became Pakistan. (laughter)…I was scared, I would say there’s no (Asian) people here, there was no coming and going, I was very scared…

Two children were born at home right? And the others were born in hospital. …The helper… it was their dad wasn’t it, he would help me..there was no one else.. There was my uncle’s daughter Zarmeena, she would come and help me from Bury.

…Your Granddad used to go to work and us friends used to visit each other. They would come and go, and when the kids went to school we would go to each other’s houses you know… Then when the children were home, at the weekends we would make dinner… They would eat at our house we would eat at their house. They were very good people then, people have changed a lot… They don’t come and go. It was very good then, sometimes I ate there sometimes they ate here… They were very good times… now every one has grown up and got married and everyone has moved on…

You know when I came here the children were born and I had to change nappies and clean nappies and hang them outside…now they come ready…There were no machines for washing then…Now there is everything…”


Luai Ullah (Bengali)

Work life: “Eta asil cotton mill (David Whitehead). (This was in the cotton mill.)…Yeah Amdaar Shutha banaytham. (We used to make cotton.)…Like in the machine… 

Onyh manush eh korthaah amdaar spring oh aslam. (Other people used to weave it, we were on the springs.) Machine eh de ayah fourtho shuthah. Sirleh amdaar laugh detham. (The machine you have to bring the threads and make them drop, if they ripped we would put them back up.)…Weaving and making cloth and I making the wool…

Oy, omenh gur tho. (Yes, it used to spin like this.)…Like in the bobbin…Spindle…Cotton, wool duyoh ta asil. (Cotton, wool both.)…

I think two years I have work in here. Then I’m going to another factory in Smith and Nephews, Cloughfold…Same work. I think ’76, just. And ‘78 I’m go to Bacup to Joshua Hall Ltd., Rochdale Road.”

Help from local people.

“And other is… Amdar furot kaytham zeney. Haslingden Mary asil Italian. (And the other is, the fruit we used to eat and vegetables that used to come. In Haslingden, there was Mary who was Italian woman.)

..thai amdar meat teat, ze tho ta halal asil, etha thai thukai ya antho (…She would get our meat, stuff everything that was halal, she used to find for everywhere and bring.)…Ho Bradford thaki Oh nelson thaki. (Get it from Bradford, from Nelson.)…

Thai thaier hokul tha zukar korya, anya amdar, thair geseamdar safee asil goror. The Key. (She, her self used to organise everything, and get for us, she used to have a key to our home, the keys.)

For every house in Rawtenstall, Haslingden, every house… So she… twelve o’clock everything, you know carnation milk…She put in the doyar (drawer) you know…Everything she doing…

Like bigger and big ladies! Oh zen sawul or bed ekso kilor? (You know those rice bags 100 kilos?)…Etha thai emnay oula dorya thula de. (She used to just lift then up like this.)…Atur ufray thulya, how unthaki atur ufair loya dola kortho. (She used to lift them above her knees, from over there to here.)…Thai hokul ratioan za asil amdar, fiyaes holid moris, zo tho thaa shob that eno anya doyar roh. harayah. Thoya zaitho.” (She get all the vegetable, whatever there was for us onion, turmeric chilies, everything and anything, she would come and put it in our cupboards and then go.)…