This is a translation version of the original video documentary which was than transcribed and translated from Bengali to English. A book with the title of History of Bangladeshis in Greater Manchester has been published and it will be distributed to the libraries, schools and universities. The interview took place in 2008, so information about his personal family information may have been changed.

Alhaj Abdul Mannan  

 8.16.1  Life in Bangladesh   

Alhaj Abdul Mannan was born in 1940 in the area of Tengra, in Bishwanath, Sylhet. His father’s name is Late Abdul Gofur. He completed his primary education from “Tengra Primary School” and “Lalabazar High School’.  He studied till high school and after that he migrated to the UK.

In 1960’s there were only few people who owned their own land. The people were engaged in the cultivation work and they could support their families easily. He said he has seen that his father and uncles were cultivating the seeds in the paddy fields, digging the fields and doing the fishing.

At the same time, they used to play in the village with joy and happiness, now you will see more buildings have been built and all the joy and happiness has gone away. He said when he thinks about those days it makes him become emotional; he’d be close to crying even. With the closing of the old heritage and culture, he puts the blame on social management system.

8.16.2  Journey to the UK & Immigration:

He was only 21 years old when he first arrived in UK on 7th August 1961, his first intention was to work in the UK and earn some money. There were some close family members and relatives living in the UK, he inspired from them and he took the family visa to come to the UK.

His eldest brother and one of his cousins said they’d take care of the cost for coming to Britain. In 1958 he lost his father. He was deeply saddened by this, then to make things worse his mother passed away in 1960. Since after his mother departure, he left the school and made up his mind to come to Britain.

8.16.3  Life in the UK:

When first arrived in the UK, many of his close family members gathered in the Heathrow Airport. Many of his friends used to live there, so he went to the Coventry. He stayed in Coventry for two days, and then he went to Birmingham. Then he moved to Middlesbrough. He did not like Middlesbrough due to small community presents.

Then he went to Bradford, there were many of his relatives and people from his village who were living there. Since September 1961, he had begun to live with Monuwar Hussain at his house. His sister-in-law and her family were living in Bradford and that is the main reason for him to move into Bradford.

8.16.4  Employment:

In December 1961, he started his employment with the Hill Brothers Cotton Mill, Orme Road in Bridge house. He worked as a spinner with weekly wages of £7.40 and he used to do 40 hours a week. At that time there were plenty of job opportunities. Many of the people used to work in the factories. There were so many sections in the factory or mills, he was young therefore other workers used to show kindness and affection to him.

He used to ask the manager and the supervisor that if there is any vacancy then they should let him know. He helped many of the Bangladeshi people to get employment in the factories he worked for. He continuously worked in the same factory until 1966.

In February 1966, for the first time, he went to (East Pakistan) Bangladesh. He stayed there for about six months and got married. Upon his return to the UK, he rejoined with the same company. He worked there for another two years.

In 1968, he started employment with Hill Brothers. In middle of 1969 he left the job. His friends Modoris Ali and Bashir Ali encouraged him to become a partner to do the grocery shop. The shop was known as Bengal Store in Bradford. Some other people were involved in running the business, prior to they took over the business.

This business was very profitable and he runs this business until 1975. As a businessman, he became well-known in the community.  He received the affections from the community and he tried to provide services to the community.

In January 1974, he bought a grocery shop on Featherstall Road North, Oldham. The shop was known as Mannan Brothers. He was involved in running the business till 2000. As a businessman, he had the opportunity to get to know the local people very quickly. In 1978, Alhaj Moboshir Khan, Somuj Miah, Moksud Ali, Mofozzul Hussain taken a leading role to establish the Bangladesh Association in Oldham.

In 1976, he started a restaurant business on Featherstall Road North, Oldham called “Mati Mahal”. On the same year he opened another restaurant on Union Street, Oldham called “Light of Bengal”. Then he extended his first restaurant and changed the name. It was known as the Noorjahan Restaurant. He was successfully running this business till 2006. He also opened another restaurant in Hull town with the same trading name Nurjahan but unfortunately he wasn’t able to run this business due to management problem.

8.16.5  Housing:

He is now residing in the Coppice area of Oldham. Next to his house, there is Mosque, known as Al Aksa Mosque. He does all his prayers as this Mosque is closer to his home.

8.16.6  Social & Family:

He has three brothers and three sisters amongst them he is the second oldest. His eldest brother died in 2002. His youngest brother and two sisters are living in the UK. One sister is living in Bangladesh. He travels to Bangladesh once a year to see his sister and other close relatives.

He wishes to spend his retirement time with his family and grand children. He is the father of two daughters and all of them got married. His eldest daughter is a solicitor living in Manchester and trading as TM Fortist. He said when his daughter completed the LLB degree; she was the first Bangladeshi lady to obtain this degree within the Bangladeshi community in the North West. His second daughter completed a degree in Chemistry, serving as a teacher and she is residing in Kidderminster.

He reflected his whole life and made some of the valuable comments which are given as follows. He said “I enjoyed my childhood with joy and happiness, the money and busy with your job or doing business cannot bring the real happiness”.

He said “until I die, I wish to travel to Makkah every year and I would like to live there”. In 1988, he went to Makkah to do the Hajj (Pilgrimage) along with his wife. Thereafter, he has been there 10 times to do the Umrah and Hajj.

While he was working with Monuwar Hussain, he inspired to do the community work. In 1962, on the Manningham Lane in Bradford, a dancing hall was opened. The Bangladeshi and Asian people were not allowed to enter the Hall. Monuwar Hussain was the first person to make a protest against this discrimination. He called a public meeting to discuss this issue and take necessary action including demonstration. Abdul Mannan said, “It was my first appearance to do politics in the UK.”

At that time, there were many Bangladeshis with language difficulties. Now there are many bi-lingual workers employed by the council and other agencies. But during 1960’s there was no bi-lingual workers employed by the agencies. So, just for that reason, the people with language difficulties were relied on by people who had some education and were able to assist in filing forms, dealings with the medical, housing, immigration and tax matters. There were even people who used to come for writing letters to their loved ones and read the letters as well.

Since the Association was established, they were able to provide advice and information services to the local community. Beside that some people were confident with individual persons to get help and assistance from them.

In 1968, he became naturalised as a British Citizen. In 1978 he became General Secretary of Oldham Bangladesh Welfare Association. In 1988, he was elected as a Chairman of OBWA and since then he has been serving as a Chairman. He recalled an incident of a women, who was murdered and there was huge chaos of innocent people being arrested by the Police and some deportation orders were made by the immigration authority. In protest of this, he had taken a positive step from the OBWA to form an “Azad Action Committee”. This movement was successful; the Police had to stop their harassment to the ordinary Bangladeshi innocent people.

While he was involved with Mannan Brothers, he used to import vegetable from Bangladesh. Now he is involved with the money transfer business, known as First Solution Money Transfer. He was amongst the first person to raise some funds for the Oldham Central Mosque. He had given the receipts book to collect contributions from his customers. He was able to convince his customers to make contributions and he raised the highest amount. He was able to draw attention to all of the senior community leaders.

During the years between 1974 – 1978, he was not able to say exactly how many Bangladeshi were residing in Oldham area but he had an estimate of 200 – 300 Bangladeshi households and total Bangladeshi population was around 500 – 700. Now the total Bangladeshi population has reached to around 25,000. Before the liberation war in 1971, there was one Mosque at Church Hill Street for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis but now there are about 10 Mosque which have been established by the Bangladeshi people.

He also had taken leading role, to stop the deportation order made by the immigration. He was successful on those issues and many times he was able to convince the authority that individual people should not be removed from the UK. He has also helped many families, to bring their loved ones from Bangladesh by assisting in preparing their paperwork to get the entry clearance from British High Commission, Dhaka.

The Oldham Bangladeshi Welfare Association had begun their activities from a small terrace house at 82 Featherstall Road North. Two advice workers were employed by the OBWA to provide advice and information services to the community. When the local council demolished the house, then they had to move to Sylvan Street.

In 1980, there was demand for the local community to have a large accommodation. The local authority given a grant of £60,000.00 and the OBWA was able to build first community centre on Featherstall Road North. It was also known as the Bangladesh Cultural Centre in the Northwest. There were many activities run by the OBWA, such as Bangla and Arabic classes, wedding functions, social and cultural programmes etc.

The centre was the stepping stone to develop other projects by the OBWA. The capacity of this centre was only 250 people. So it was not large enough to hold big programmes. They used to hire the Queen Elizabeth hall to hold any public meetings and other social events.

The OBWA, had talks with many departments in the local authority to expand the centre. As a result of this, the local authority came up with positive responds and provided necessary support to secure funding for the expansion of existing building. With the assistant from the multi agencies including the Millennium Trust, they were able to build a new building with the capacity of 1,000 – 1,500 people. This building is now known as OBA Millennium Centre. This is a good example because it has been established by the OBA and seen as a symbol of a success story.

There are some meeting rooms and there are many offices used by the council. The main hall has got the facility to play badminton, basket ball, and football. There are also having facilities for fitness rooms for the local community to use. The main hall has got facilities with a large kitchen where the community people use it for holding weddings, public gatherings and other social and cultural events.

They spent 3.8 billion pounds to build this centre. This is a unique centre in this area and many people will be benefitted from this, he added. The Oldham Bangladesh Association also worked with many other groups, which include the elderly group, woman and young people. The facilities in the OBA Millennium centre are not open only for the Bangladeshi people but it is open for wider community to use this centre.

He played a vital role to develop the central Mosque. In 1996, they purchased the land from the local council and were able to setup the Central Mosque. In 1998, the OBA formed a convening committee for the development of the Central Mosque. He was appointed as a co-ordinator to serve in the convening committee.

The first budget was 3 million pounds but later they realised they may not be able to raise this amount of money. Therefore, they had revised their original plan and had brought it down to 1.5 million pounds. This fund has not been collected but he is hopeful that the Bangladeshi community is continuously contributing for the development work.

He also said that it’s the house of Allah and Allah will help us complete this work. The people will come forward because this is a good piece of work. Being a chairman of OBA, he was involved with other organisation, but he provides his personal support to the many of the activities organised by them.

8.16.7  Independence of Bangladesh:

In 1969, the liberation moment had started. He attended many meetings in support of independence of Bangladesh and he enjoyed working with the community leaders. He was a member of Bradford Action Committee in the liberation movement. Monuwar Hussain was the chairman of the Bradford Action Committee and Pakistan Peoples Association. At that time, there were only few peoples who owned cars.

8.16.8 Conclusion:

He is very active person and is still involved with the business. He never had free time due his business commitments. He said that the culture of British community has changed. The Bangladeshi community also has been improved a lot but if there is no leadership then it can go down ward. The Bangladeshi children are getting the highest qualifications but beside that they do not get the religious study and right leadership, in the near future they will lose their identity.

He also said that many of the Bangladeshi children after completing their University degree are working in the office with very good positions but they are not showing any interest at all to get involved with local community activities. The community leaders are responsible for not taking any initiative to encourage the young people to get involved in community activities.  The parents and the community leaders should work together to encourage the young people to make connection with the local community.

Although, the young people are getting the qualifications, they are not getting the social teaching from their parents or from any organisations. Therefore, there is a huge gap which has been created between the first generation and new generation. Just for that reason, the young generation is not showing any interest to get involved in community activities.

The get together for parties and other social gatherings, they used to be organised by the community organisations. There was a well warming presence of parents and their children at the community events. There were opportunities for everyone to get to know each other. But now days the organisations are unable to organise such parties due to lack of funding support.

There is need to continue this piece of good work, where the young people along with their parents would be able to participate in the community events. He said “we need to encourage and motivate our young people to take part in the community events”. Then the young generation might change and they would take the interest to learn the social-culture of Bangladeshi community in Great Britain.

The new generation will recognise the importance of community values, social aspects and practicing culture. Finally he urge to the all community leaders to forget about the differences and to be united in one flat form in order to develop our community even further.

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