Going Back to Our Routes Idris Dawood Patel 1938 – 2006

contributed by: Idris Dawood Patel




Idris Dawood Patel arrived in England on a cold winter’s day, 25th December 1961, arriving with four other Barbodhians. They were Murhoom Aboobaker Cassim Patel, Ismail (Laloo) Limalia, Farook Nalla and Murhoom Aboobaker Adia.

Idris was born in Rangoon, Burma and his parents lived there and worked there. They had emigrated from India.

Idris’s passage to England was from India, via Burma. Most of the people at the time, he said, ninety percent, would have travelled from Burma. The Indian Government was not keen on allowing Indian nationals to travel abroad, particularly to England. The only way out was via Burma. They only knew once they had arrived in England that they could have travelled as Commonwealth Citizens, but few people were aware of this system. They made passports in India, travelled to Burma and were then able to leave for England. There was a system in place. The Waqf Trust, including wealthy individuals, assisted those who could not afford flight tickets. The Waqf Trust assisted the madressa as well.

The flight ticket at the time was 180 pounds. If his first wage was 7 pounds, he would have had to work for 26 weeks before he would be able to afford just his flight ticket. In 2005 terms it would equate to half the average annual wage. Pretty expensive to travel from A to B. He was borrowed this money and had to pay this back.

The only flight at the time was with Pakistan International Airways out of Burma from Rangoon. But it stopped in East Pakistan and Karachi before embarking on the long trip to England.

Idris and Aboobaker Patel went to Bradford at an address in Lower Cobden Street. The other three had contacts in London before they set off for Preston.

The pair of them reached Kings Cross station as there was no mode of transport. So they had to wait the whole night. They both had suits on and a duvet (Sujnee in Gujerati which is made of wool) to keep warm.

The next morning on 26th, Boxing Day and at about 9.00am there was a train going to Bradford. From the train station in Bradford they got a taxi in Lower Cobden Street.

They both went to St Andrews Place looking for accommodation but this was full of lodgers and so they decided to stay at Lower Cobden Street. This property was occupied by the family of Ebrahim Ismail Patel (Dadabhai). This temporary measure was made more permanent.

Dadabhia was the person who spoke to his supervisor about job opportunities for Idris at his work of place. His supervisor asked if Idris knew English, and he was asked to bring Idris along. At this place of work he filled in a form and was told, to start the next day.First employer was Daniel Illingworth and Sons who were wool manufacturers and made man made fibres. Idris started as a doffer for about 1 and half years. They then put new machines in a different department. So his job then changed from Doffer to Twister. His wage was about seven pounds and 9 shillings per week.

In 1965 he went to Preston and spent about nine months at British Thermoplastic Rubber and he worked in the warehouse. The reason for the move was that wages in Bradford were not good, neither was it in Preston.

So the move to Bolton. Schappe UK Ltd was a company were wages were good. They made man made fibres and they were involved in the silk industry. The move to Bolton was in 1966. Schappe needed shift workers and the local English folk did not want to work the weekend shifts. It was the opportunity for the Asian workers to work shifts, including one 12 hour shift in the weekend. His job title was Up Twisting and he got paid about 22 pounds for his efforts.

The wages at the time was sufficient even after they paid tax, national insurance, lodgings, food, etc. In hand he used to get 5 pounds. They then paid 2 pounds lodgings which included the food. They then bought extras themselves like fruit, biscuits, etc. They all contributed 10 shillings per month to the BMWS and the money was sent to India to run the madressa and to maintain the madressa.

On one occasion they financially assisted a fellow Barbodhian who was ill and needed money to go to India, so members gave what they could, but unfortunately this brother passed away in India from his illness.

Idris’s first address he lived at in Bolton at was in Isabel Street, at the home Dawood Patel. There were other Barbodhians also living there. He bought his first house in Kestor Street, which was off Bury Old Road and he paid about £600 in 1968. There was no other Barbodhians or Asians in the area at the time.

Idris found it very strange, there were no other Asians. It was cold, full of snow and they did not have appropriate clothing as well. They had no intention to stay. They thought they would work for a few years and go back to Barbodhan. But nobody ever went back. Once people arrived, their families arrived, then extended families came, then they got jobs and homes. Life was better here than in India. People went to Burma to work and they came to England to work. So they could not even go back to Burma because of nationalisation there.

Once they bought houses then they had to help other relatives and friends and many other Barbodhians followed. They then came straight from Barbodhan as those settled could call over dependents.

Why did people settle in Bolton? Idris said that those who initially settled in Preston and who had good wages stayed there. Those who did not have good wages chanced their visit to Bolton. Nobody lived in Bradford, as all the Barbodhians came to Bolton, in some cases via Preston. Those who settled in Gloucester and the Walsall stayed there.

Idris is now retired and lives in Bolton.