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: http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/gone-but-not-forgotten.html

    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.

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