Going Back to Our Routes Hafsa Ebrahim Atcha 1939 – 2002

Contributed by: Hafsa Ebrahim Atcha

Barbodhan women at the wedding of Hafsa Atcha.
Barbodhan women at the wedding of Hafsa Atcha.

This was my first interview with a woman. Along with my mother, Salima Dawood Kala, and a few others, Hafsa Erahim Atcha, nee Hafsa Eusoof Atcha, was one of the first women to come from Burma/India.

This obviously meant that her husband Murhoom Ebrahim Eusoof Atcha arrived before her and that was some six months earlier than Hafsa. Hafsa came from Rangoon, Burma in 1962 and was one of the families who started life in Preston at 64 Bedford Street. The family had one son, at the time, when they came from Burma. Another son was to be born in Preston, which is where they lived for two years until they moved to Bolton.

In 1964 they moved to Bolton and the reason for moving was that jobs were hard to come by in Preston. When they first moved to Bolton they lived at Hafsa’s brother’s house at 10 Pool Street, just on the outskirts of the town centre. Obviously no rent or lodgings were paid whilst the family stayed there and this is where they stayed for about a year.

In 1965 they bought a house in Isabel Street, number 31. This cost them at the time £350 and they had to pay a £50 deposit. Two daughters were born there. Hafsa also explained that it was her and her husband who encouraged Dawood Ahmed Kala to purchase a house in Isabel Street when he was moving from Bradford.

Their next move was to 303 Derby Street in 1968 and this cost the family £1,000. The property no longer stands there and was demolished. Their next and final move was 392 Derby Street, which cost them £5,000.

Hafsa said that they lived the sixties in hard times. She said that the toilets were outside and even then they were old style. There were no washing machines so as in India/Burma the clothes had to be hand washed. Coal fires used to exist and then paraffin Hafsaters. She also said that it was colder in those days.

Because houses at the time had no baths/showers they had to improvise and create makeshifts baths in the outhouse, remembering that the men had an opportunity to go to the baths for a wash. Women did not and therefore it was essential that something within the comfort of their own homes was created and that is exactly what people did.

I asked Hafsa why all the people I had interviewed so far had come from Burma and she responded by saying that a Barbodhan Waqf Trust used to exist and they assisted people by borrowing them money for flight tickets.

There were times when her husband was out of work, like many others in the early part of the sixties. “For a couple with one child we used to get £7 from Labour”.

The family used to send money to India and they used to manage to send something regularly. Hafsa had to work hard. She used to sew clothes in the house. She also used to feed up to 12/13 men, who had to pay of course for the cooking services of Hafsa and her cuisine. These men were mainly of Barbodhan background and were probably married but their wives and children were in India/Burma.

But in the early days there were not many women about and she used to think of home a lot. There was little or no halal meat. Once every fortnight Tahir Hussain Ghanchi used to go to the farm to get live poultry. Instead of meat they used to have canned vegetables, which meant quite a staple diet with little variation.

Because Hafsa’s husband arrived in 1962, I asked if they had encouraged any other friends/relatives to come over and she replied that Usman Eusoof Atcha, her brother, was actually written to in India. A few months later after receiving their letter he also arrived in England.

Hafsa said that in the sixties she felt safe and secure living in England. She mentioned that you could leave your front door open and unlocked at most times and need not worry. The folk were friendly and she cannot recall instances where she felt abused or threatened in any way by the local English people.