Pakistanis in the Pub, Bradford, c.1965

Lumb Lane, from 'Changing Bradford', 1969, via Bradford Timeline on Flickr.

We came across the passage below in Graham Turner’s 1967 book The North Country a few months ago and have been sitting on it because, frankly, race and immigration tend to be rather toxic topics.

The North Country, Graham Turner, 1967.It comes as part of a chap­ter called ‘The Bur­ma Road’ about immi­grants to Brad­ford. The author (who is still about, by the way) was aim­ing for some­thing like objec­tiv­i­ty, let­ting peo­ple tell the sto­ry in their own words, although by mod­ern stan­dards the locals seem to come off poor­ly, exploit­ing migrants by rent­ing them prop­er­ty, for exam­ple, while moan­ing about them behind their backs. He might nowa­days at his own choice of words in places, too – ‘benight­ed’!

Any­way, the sec­tion below struck us as inter­est­ing in the con­text of the argu­ment put for­ward by some com­men­ta­tors that pubs have suf­fered in cer­tain towns and cities whose pop­u­la­tions include a sub­stan­tial num­ber of Mus­lims:

It was almost lunchtime and the pubs looked invit­ing. In one of them, the man behind the bar had a broad Lan­cashire accent, but the warm, dusty inte­ri­or felt like part of the one of those benight­ed trop­i­cal places which Gra­ham Greene evokes so well, where on the priest and pub­li­can are white. The pub­li­can here was serv­ing a group of Pak­ista­nis and all the faces in the ‘best’ room were dark.

We’ve been here two years now,’ he said, ‘and it’s begin­ning to dri­ve the wife crack­ers. Wednes­day after­noon, she had a drink, there were so many Pak­ista­nis in here by ten she start­ed cry­ing. At two in the morn­ing I was still try­ing to com­fort her. This last month, at least nine­ty per cent of my cus­tomers have been Paks. I’ve about six whites apart from the girls, you get them of course. The whites have just drift­ed away. When we came, there’d be twen­ty or so.’

Now, that sounds to us like evi­dence that peo­ple from (prob­a­bly) Mus­lim back­grounds (clear­ly not espe­cial­ly reli­gious in prac­tice) did attempt to make the pub part of their lives – they attempt­ed to ‘inte­grate’ in the lan­guage of this par­tic­u­lar debate – but were made to feel unwel­come.

It’d cer­tain­ly be inter­est­ing to talk to some of those Pak­istani pub-goers today, or to their chil­dren and grand-chil­dren.

Main image: ‘Lumb Lane’ from ‘Chang­ing Brad­ford’, 1969, via Brad­ford Time­line on Flickr.

4 thoughts on “Pakistanis in the Pub, Bradford, c.1965”

  1. An inter­est­ing idea that this open up is the ques­tion of whether the socia­bil­i­ty of beer and pubs is just an affir­ma­tion of homo­gene­ity. Not fit­ting expec­ta­tion of the group hold­ing forth. I’ve had the wrong accent in Lon­don, Paris and Pol­ish drink­ing spots. Not pleas­ant.

  2. I men­tioned this sub­ject with cau­tion too in this recent blog:

    You do have to be care­ful as the sub­ject can be tox­ic as evi­denced yes­ter­day on twit­ter, but as your case is in 1965 and mine in the ear­ly eight­ies, it would seem to indi­cate that in some ways and some places at least, that Pak­ista­nis and maybe Bangladeshis too, did vis­it pubs and stick with it to some extent. Spec­u­lat­ing about why that changed is the tox­ic bit. So I won’t. For now at least.

  3. When I was a child, our fam­i­ly lived in Malaysia, a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim coun­try, and I had no idea that Mus­lims weren’t sup­posed to drink, because plen­ty of them did. Scotch whisky seemed to be a par­tic­u­lar favourite. I get the impres­sion that com­pli­ance with this pro­hi­bi­tion is stricter now than it used to be.

  4. 1960s id sug­gest most of the pak­istani and oth­er south asian ori­gin folks in york­shire were first gen­er­a­tion immi­grants with no elders around keep­ing an eye on them. cer­tain­ly not just mus­lims who can be more reli­gious­ly obser­vant when old­er rel­a­tives vis­it­ing , and young peo­ple away from fam­i­ly mem­bers are most lik­ley to exper­i­ment.

    the mus­lims i can think of who do drink have rarely picked up typ­i­cal uk pub going habits and are more lik­ley to have drink at home.

Comments are closed.