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Sikhs in Britain -'Sada Gravesend'


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Sikhs in Britain -'Sada Gravesend'

Gurfateh !

I have finally got hold of a copy of Peter Bance's 'Sikhs in Britain' - after an epic struggle due mainly to the vagaries of the Royal Mail !

It is a great book - chock full of wonderful photographs


One of my favourites is this one


An adorable picture of young boys making 'roti' in 1950s Liverpool - on a coal range.

The picture reminded me of my Dad's Tai and Taiya - they came to England in around 1950. They were old school 'salt of the earth' pure hearted people.

They couldn't read or write (Punjabi or English) and spoke only a few words of English. They were the most kind and generous people ever - they worked hard and sent money back to the family- nothing was ever too much trouble for them - every one was welcome in their home and even though they didn't have much they shared what they had willingly.

Anyway getting back to the picture - My Dad's Tai always used the Coal fire to make 'rotian' - I remember going to their house and her cooking Saag (in a frying pan ) - with at least 2 pats of Anchor butter used in the cooking - then another 1 to drizzle on top and another 1 used to butter the roti - those Punjabis must of kept the New Zealand economy afloat with the amount of Anchor Butter they ate !

She always cooked the 'Makki diyan Rotian' on the coal fire in the lounge ! - you were special if you got to eat straight out of the frying pan !!

My Dad's Tai felt totally at home in England - they lived in Gravesend - which she always called 'Sada Gravesend' (our Gravesend)

My dad lived in Gravesend - Cutmore Street - for a while when he first came to UK in 1960 and worked in the Paper Mill.

Gravesend was always a 'Sunny' place to me, we would always go in the Summer - for the famous kabbadi 'Tournament' - Tai's house would be full of people and we would go to the seaside - one time at the seaside - on one of those famous Punjabi impromptu mass outings - 30 people crammed into 3 cars ! - I remember going with my dad to the Ice crean Van and him asking for 30 ice creams - and the icecream man looked at us like we were from outer space - you mean you want 30 ice creams? - then he saw the very colourful crowd of Punjabi Mums Dads and screaming Kids behind us !

At the risk of sounding like an old timer - if you tell kids today about those times - they don't believe you

People had outside toilets usually at the end of the garden , a lot of people had no bathrooms - I remember going to see relatives in Leicester and going to 'Public baths' for a bath where the lady measured out the bath water ! - they had gas lamps in their house -a bit like Bunsen burners - which my uncle would turn on full to make what he called a 'Flame thrower' !

No one had central heating - only coal fires or Gas if you were posh ! - I remember being really scared of the soot covered 'Coal Man' who used to make deliveries and would hide from him.

I know I sound like a grandad but I remember when we got our first Fridge and when we swapped our Black and white TV for a Colour one.

My dad is full of stories of how he shared a house in Southall - and they had shifts for the beds and floors - first back from the night shift got a bed - when he went to work the day shift came back to a warm bed .

Anyway if you want more nostalgia buy the book - for more about 'Sada Gravesend' - watch the film I've posted below - If you're from Kent you'll recognise loads of faces.

It tells the story of Pier Road in Gravesend

the official blurb :


The story of how a typical street (Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent) in an ordinary English town gradually changed from being completely white to predominantly Indian. Told though individual stories, these personal experiences of immigration mirror some of the changes that have taken place in British society during the last half-century. As the new arrivals moved in and established themselves, local residents in turn welcomed, feared and accepted them. At the same time, different generations of Indians strived to assimilate, integrate and ultimately establish their own identity.

It's a great film - about 50 mins long - it's called 'Sikh Street' and was shown on Channel 4 in 2002

Click to watch


"I remember when it was all fields 'round here'" - 'It wasn't like that when I were a Lad''

Thank you and goodnight !


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