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Granddad Phuman Singh Sahota
My granddad, Phuman Singh Sahota, came to Huddersfield from the Punjab in India in 1963. He came through the government ‘voucher’ system, as labourers were much needed in industries all around Britain. My granddad initially came over seeking a better future, he used to tell me he thought he would make some money and return to India but like he said, “Life is a little more complicated and harder that that.”
He brought approximately three pounds with him, a small duvet, a suit as well as a range of musical instruments: a vajaa (harmonium); a dholki (percussion drum) and my favourite the chimta, which is an instrument that looks like two foot tongs that have blades of iron. They have a series of metal discs called chaene that produce a sound similar to a tambourine when played.
When he first came he rented with a family friend at 212 Springdale Street in Thornton Lodge, but then shortly moved to 28 Grove Street in Springwood. He used to pay £2 a week for the rent, which also included food as well. He started work at Elliot, which was a foundry that made bricks, as a labourer and was paid £7.50 a week. He regularly sent letters home to tell his family of his safe arrival and that he had found work and was settled.
Father’s Migration to Huddersfield
He worked for just over a year before he managed to raise enough money to bring my dad, Harnam, from India to Huddersfield as well. A ruling had been passed in India saying that if you were over fifteen it was less likely for you to be able to come to England; therefore my dad’s big brother Gurnam could not come. Gurnam stayed in our village in the Punjab, Shota-Rurka where we have a farmhouse with cattle and six acres of land.
My dad was just under fifteen when he came to Britain. Unfortunately for my dad, it was around June when he came therefore by the time anything could be arranged for him to go to school it was the summer holidays. He ended up starting work at the Globe Mill in Slaithwaite as a textile worker, as textile production was one of the main industries in Huddersfield.
After another six months it was time to move again, this time to number 30 Bankfield Road. It was mostly men that had come over first to do the work and send money back to support their families. The men soon became experts in making chapattis and curry for themselves. My dad tells me that he used to go running, as they didn’t have any spare money to spend on leisure activities, not even going to the pub in the early days. He remembers running up the flight of steps in the middle of Bankfield Road and sitting on the top staring out at the lights around Huddersfield.
When my dad was aged nineteen he got married to my mum Jinder Kaur Sidhu, who had just turned seventeen. It is custom for Sikhs to go to the bride’s hometown where the wedding takes place, so my parents got married in someone’s house somewhere in Hilltop in Birmingham. The Sikh wedding ceremony took place at somebody’s house that had Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy scriptures) at their home. My mum and dad are both from the Punjab, India. So that makes me a second generation Sikh.
Family Migration to Huddersfield
My grandma, Gurbachan Kaur, was then asked to come to England in the mid 60s, she brought my three uncles with her. She remembers it being cold and was a bit surprised at seeing what she describes as sheds all lit up in the night. In those days the main air traffic route from India was from Delhi Airport to Heathrow in London.
My uncles were soon enrolled at school but the older two, Santokh and Joginder Singh, were less dedicated to their studies than Tersem Singh the younger one. My grandma too found work after a few months even though my dad wasn’t too best pleased. I asked my gran if my ‘Baba’ didn’t mind her working, she laughed and said that he would have had me working as soon as I got off the plane. Their relationship was one of extremes, at times I remember them fighting and at other times getting on great, but speaking to her since he has passed away I know deep down that she loved him a lot and misses him very much.
Then their youngest son, my uncle Manjit, was born in 1969, by that time the family had moved to a new house, 88 Mount Street, which they had bought cash for £300.
My brother, Talbere Singh, was born soon after in 1971 at St.Lukes Hospital. My sister was born in 1973 whilst my parents were living at 155 Yews Hill Road. I was born on Christmas Day in 1975 and my picture was placed in the local Examiner. My granddad celebrated down at the local pub, The Town Hall, with his friends. My dad remembers it being a good Christmas for my brother and sister too, as their staple diet was sweets until my mum came home.
I can’t remember the house we lived in then 127 Moor End Road; most of my memories are of our old house that I lived opposite on Thornfield Road.
We lived on a hill so when it snowed we made the most of it. Even now all the children on that street come together to have goes sliding down the hill.
I am now a secondary school teacher of art and design and my sister is a police officer in Merseyside Police.
My main role model in life has always been my grandfather and the main things he taught me about life is that you need to work hard, always trying to better yourself, but most of all have fun in life, be happy and try to bring happiness to others.
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