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as if holding on to each word and phrase between his fin- gers and weighing them up “ HOOW NOOW BROOWN COOW? Now, come on let’s hear you sing it.” Some of the other nursery rhymes which we blasted out were at the top of our voices (some- times annoying the class next door) were “Polly, put the kettle on”, “Baa, baa, black sheep” etc. The pur- pose was to accustom our mouths and voices to Eng- lish pronunciation. And if we spoke Punjabi in the class in front of Mr. Halford, we were immediately admonished by him, “ENGLISH! Speak English! This is an English lesson!”

the first

It’s difficult to say where Sikhs settled in

Telford but two streets were often talked about then, favourably or otherwise, Wheatley Crescent and the High Street in Hadley op- posite the Bush Pub. Both only a stone’s throw from Sankey’s gates. The Bush was, without a doubt, the main watering hole for local Sikhs. It was also the place to settle lo- cal disputes. The lounge

was mostly occupied by the quietly-spoken custom- ers of all communities who sat on the soft cushioned sofas and chairs on a red- carpeted floor, where they chatted politely and wished each other well. The bar, on the other hand, was a differ- ent world, mostly frequented by a different kind of cus- tomers: young and not so young Sikhs, West Indians and those banned from other pubs.

It had a pool table and an assortment of stools, chairs and small tables dotted about here and there. The walls were black or brown and gave the impression of never having been painted. It was noisy, filled with smoke and profanities of

all lan-

guages. We young Sikhs mostly sat in one corner, playing cards or dominoes, chatting in Punjabi. Every time we disagreed with each other after a few pints of M&B, instead of letting out a torrent of abuse at each other in Punjabi, we would reach into our portfolio of English swear words and start to hurl it at each other “tongue in cheek” of course.

Our West Indian cousins in the room would often find this disconcerting and com- plain “why is it you Indian always speak Indian and when you swear you swear in English?” It was strange and surreal situation but they had a good point.

In the early ‘70s, we start- ed a football team called the “Bush Football Club”, play- ing in the Telford Sunday League. I was its secretary and part-time player. If only 10 players turned up on a cold January morning or if we only had 11 players and one had to come off through injury, Mr. Bram, our man- ager, would ask me to go on. The team was made up of all Sikhs with the excep- tion of the English goalie. It was said about him at that time, he was such a keen player he was always first in the changing room Sunday morning, whilst the rest of us staggered in just in time with dry throats and headaches from Saturday night at the Bush. Every time he let in a goal and we called “you’re useless Ken”, but he never argued with us or anybody else.

Our home ground was

Hadley Park and after every home match, we walked down to the Bush. There we replayed, discussed and dis- sected every move of the match with the help of M&B. We would then unanimously reach the conclusion that the reason we lost was because referee was useless and bi- ased against us.

our transgressions on the field were more than

There were times when the

referee could bear and we frequently ended up before the Shropshire F A to explain our behaviour. I will always be grateful to Tom Farmer, Phil Blackburn and their col- leagues for their tolerance and flexibility in dealing with us. The club ceased to be in the ‘80; most of its players are now in their mid to late fifties some are grandfathers and some even respectable pillars of society.

The Sikh temple, our Gurdwara in

Hadley, was

the idea among others of Mr. Mohinder Singh Bansi (known as Giani ji in the Sikh community) and Subedar Naher Singh Grewal (“Sub- edar” was a British military

rank for Indian officers) who both worked at GKN Sankey and were devoted turbaned Sikhs, those rare Sikhs who decided, come what may, foundry dust or sweat, not to cut their hair and remove their turban. I worked with them both in Sankey in the ‘70s and ‘80s when I didn’t wear a turban. Often with great tact and subtlety, they touched my green Sankey’s cap, as if to say “When are you going to have your tur- ban back on?”, because I had showed them a picture of me when I first arrived with turban. However this was not to happen for another 15-20 years.

Originally, sometime in 1968, Hadley old folks centre was rented every Sunday for 4-5 hours for service. This continued until 1972, when Hadley Primary School was closed and put on the mar- ket by the council. The Sikh community decided to pur- chase half of it for £12,000. This was a lot of money then, when, even by San- key’s standards, the pay was about £40 per week. So eve- ry Sikh who worked and lived in Telford was levied £40. The

unemployed were exempt but most of them still paid something because it was a worthy cause. Of course, there were those who paid more than their fair share. But we were still short be- cause the community wasn’t large, then. So the decision was taken to visit other Gur- dwaras in the UK and ask for help. Every Sunday a dedi- cated team of 10-12 travelled the length and breathe of the country visiting Gurdwaras, from Birmingham, to South- all and Manchester, asking members of the congrega- tion to help us purchase this building. In those days the UK Sikh community was not that affluent nor involved in business at the scale it is now. But congregations up and down the country always offered us a few pounds each and never sent us home empty handed. Even- tually the building was fully paid off. Giani

ji and Subedar ji

passed away some 10 to 15 years ago, but their gift to the local Sikh communi- tyremains as a monument to their Endeavour and char- acter.


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