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.
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.