THEY came here in the 50s and 60s.
It was a strange new world for many of them, but they found work and homes and had families.
Now a book detailing the experiences of South Asian migrants to Huddersfield during the 1960s and 1970s has been published.
It is a collection of memories put together by Nafhesa Ali, working for the University of Huddersfield.
She is a 29-year-old mum of three, who lives in Birkby and was born in Huddersfield.
But her late grandad, Ashraf Ali, arrived in the UK in 1960 from the Punjab and was among the early Asian immigrants to Huddersfield.
Asian Voices is based on a series of in-depth interviews of migrants from the Indian sub-continent to this country and in particular to Huddersfield.
As expected, there are many memories of the town’s textile industry, which provided work for many of the new immigrants.
But there are also stories about trips to the cinemas, visits to the seaside and the “ritual” of Saturday as a shopping day.
The book is part of research for the University’s Centre for Oral History.
Mrs Ali said: “It’s a unique collection of personal testimonies and family photographs, and hopefully readers can glimpse the difficulties migrants faced and the way in which the first generation was determined both to integrate and maintain their culture and language.
“They were the first ‘British Asians’.
“Some migrants expected to find the streets of Huddersfield paved with gold and were surprised to find, instead, a blackened, industrial town.
“Professionals from successful families found themselves working endless night shifts in the textile mills or doing manual jobs.
“The book highlights the huge cultural challenges that faced wives and mothers in adapting to a strange new land.
“They would be the educators of future generations and responsible for passing on the language, culture and religion”.
But she admitted it was a thrill and a pleasure to work on the book, meeting many members of a community now firmly ensconced in Huddersfield.
The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery which has already backed a number of successful oral history projects recording people’s memories and experiences.
Dr Stephen Dorril, the director of the research centre, said: “I find the book deeply uplifting, especially at a time when ideas of multi-culturalism are under attack.
“It is really a celebration of how people struggle to adapt and integrate whilst also trying – like we are all entitled to do – to preserve our cultural background and heritage.
“The testimonies are full of stark contrasts – from queuing up all night to see the Beatles at the ABC Cinema to watching back-to-back Bollywood movies on a Sunday afternoon.
“Others talk about the search for shops that stocked spices, and live chickens, and also their reactions to seeing snow for the first time.
“I am struck by the resilience and dogged determination of the migrants to succeed and their ability to make light of the obstacles even when faced with outright racism in the early days.
“I think we also welcome the fact that Huddersfield has also achieved quite a lot.
“It has become a town of diversity which, I personally think, is a good thing”.
Among the many people interviewed by Mrs Ali was her grandfather, who sadly died before the book was published.
She said: “I had the joy of recording my grandfather, who was the first in a line of four generations of our family to migrate to Britain in 1960.
“I hope the book will help break down any remaining barriers between communities and between generations within the South Asian community.”
Further information on the project can be seen on the website www.asianvoices.org.uk.
I WAS 15 and straight away when I came I had to work. I worked in the textile mills, it was a tragedy really. My father wanted me to go to the school and they said: “You’re 15, you have to find a job”. It was very hard work. I worked on the grinding machines and then as a spinner – Karam Hussain
WHEN I started work it was quite different and difficult for me, because in Pakistan I was a school teacher and here I was a mill worker. I was very happy the first week, I got £8 for 40 hours, and after two weeks the mill was so busy I worked overtime and my wage went up to £15 or £16 – Muhammad Ismail
NOBODY thought they’d come here and work five shifts. They thought they’d just get a case of pound notes just by coming here. It never happened because whatever you earned a week you paid out at the end of the week – Baldev Gill
IN Pakistan I was a clerk in the Irrigation Department. In England I came to Newcastle and worked on the buses as a bus conductor and then in Huddersfield I worked in the textile mills mainly. It was okay because there were no jobs for clerks. We would do shifts, some would go to work during the day, then some would go during the night, and that’s how we all lived in the same house – Ashraf Ali
THERE were quite a few of us in one house. There were four or five bedrooms and I had a single room and used to pay £1 a week. You could buy a week’s groceries on ten bob and even then we had change left. Fish and chips were only about two or three pence – Sabir Hussain
IN Pakistan, the clothes were different, pants and shirts and so on. When I came here I had brought my clothes from Pakistan and realised they were different so I bought some here to keep warm.My first suit was around £40. According to the wages this was a lot of money but I still have the jacket. Huddersfield was famous for its suits – Muhammed Ismail
IN those days, if you wanted Asian food you had to cook it at home.There were no takeaways or very few where you could buy Asian food. Gradually people started buying shops on places like Blacker Road in Birkby – Asghar Ali
SMELLY curry was a new experience for English people, with the Asians coming in. If they smelt a curry being made next door they thought ‘Oh it smells’. But eventually if you had English neighbours we would say: ‘ Would you like to eat some as well’ and people started getting used to it – Yaqub Masih
WHEN people came from India you would ask them to bring some spices, or you could get them from Bradford. There were no shops here where you could get spices – Balwant S Sandhu