The SAGAR ladies are a group of women who arrived in Hounslow in the 1970s. They originally came from India, Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda. The SAGAR ladies were photographed and interviewed for the heritage project, sharing th transition from their home country to England, and how they have settled in Hounslow's community. Read the interviews below.
Meet the SAGAR Ladies
Learn more about the SAGAR Ladies
Oral History Session at Feltham Library – The Hub, 1st May 2018
Hounslow Heritage Project
Interviewer: James Marshall, Local Studies Librarian
Interviewees: ANJANA (AN); URMILA (UR); JYOTSNA (JO); BHADRA (BH); RAMA (RA); FIZZA (FI),
and SUDHA (SU)
Audio-visual recordings: Gabriella Daris, Artreach
Q1) Ladies, where do you all live, now?
(AN) Hounslow West; (UR) Hounslow Heath; (JO) Feltham; BH) Beavers Lane, Hounslow;
(RA) Hounslow town centre; (FI) Hounslow, near the Civic Centre in Lampton Road
(SU joined the session late and so missed some of the early questions.
Q2) Ladies, where were you born?
(AN) In India, in Gujarat, in 1948. I moved with my family to Central Africa when I was just 6-months old and I grew up in Zambia.
(UR) I was born in Zanzibar in 1940 and I grew up in Kenya.
(JO) I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1946 and grew up there.
(BH) Mumbai, India is where I was born and grew up.
(RA) I was born in Gujarat, India in 1946 and grew up in Mumbai, India.
(FI) I was born in Uganda and I grew up in Uganda.
Q3) What were your family’s circumstances when you were growing up?
(AN) I was a child in Africa until I was 14 years old, then my family moved to India. My father owned and ran businesses, 4 or 5 shops in Africa.
(UR) I grew up in Nairobi, my uncle and aunt brought me up as I had lost my parents. My uncle was a Postal Worker in a city sorting office.
(JO) I grew up in Nairobi. My father was a skilled carpenter and furniture maker. We had a very happy life there.
(BH) I grew up in Bombay/Mumbai. My father was a corporate employee, I didn’t take much notice of his work. I had brothers and sisters and went to school until I was in my mid-teens. I took O-Level equivalent certificates at school.
(RA) I grew up in Mumbai, my father was a milk merchant. The milk was Buffalo Milk and we had a herd of 150 Buffalo in cow sheds, which were milked by my father’s servants/employees.
(FI) I grew up in Uganda. My father had a family business in property and real estate.
Q4) How did you all come to live in England?
(AN) I married my husband in India, in 1971, and we came to live in England. We were alone in England together, our families both lived in India.
(UR) I married in Uganda in 1965. I came to England in 1970, with three daughters. We were driven out of Uganda by Idi Amin, but before the final expulsion of Ugandan Asians in 1972. I had an ‘Exempt’ British Passport and I was free to travel to England straight away. My husband had to wait a while to get a permit to join me there.
(JO) I married in 1963, I was 17-years-old. I came to England, to Hounslow, in 1964. It was winter and I was very excited by the heavy snow. I had never seen snow before.
(BH) I married in 1983, in India, and we came to Scotland. My husband already lived in Glasgow.
(RA) I married in 1969. My husband came to India for the wedding. His family were Kenyan, but my husband lived in Brent, London and I came to England in December of 1969. It was very cold, I remember.
(FI) I came to England in 1972, with 2 small children and my husband.
(SU) I came to England in 1970, from Uganda. I worked in a bank, in Africa, but I had to leave the job (because of the policy of ‘Africanisation’ of Ugandan businesses). I was given a one-way ticket! I could choose where the ticket would take me to. My parents were living in London already, so I came to England with my daughters.
Q5) What were your early impressions of England? What struck you most when you first arrived here?
(AN) I remember looking down on London from the aircraft as it approached the airport. The city beneath me seemed to be a vast expanse of white and grey. It was September and London seemed cold and gloomy to me. I had no work then. It was hard to settle. It was a very different lifestyle from the one I had left. We lived in rented rooms, we did the family’s washing in laundrettes and we had to cook for our families. It kept us very busy.
(UR) I remember the beautiful December snow. I had never seen snow before. It was winter and London, and even the airport seemed to be quiet. I thought the airport was a very nice place (palatial perhaps? (JM). Traffic was very light and there were few cars on the road. It seemed very different from where I had come from. It was not so crowded, there seemed to be lots of space and not so much traffic on the roads. There were more places to park a car than there are now. I stayed with my uncle for a little while, then we rented 1-and-a-half rooms. After 6-months we were able to buy a house. I was happy in England, there were schools for the children and parks, all nearby.
(JO) In 1964 I was young and newly married and I came to England. I missed my family a lot. I went to classes at a college in Brentford to learn English and Shorthand Typing. After a while I was able to get a job at Parke Davies (manufacturing chemists at Hounslow Heath – a big local employer until they relocated to S. Wales in 1966). I sorted and packed pills and medicines there.
(BH) I came to Scotland in 1983. It was July and the summer was lovely. I remember my first winter there. It seemed bitterly cold – not at all like India – I suffered from chilblains even though I wore extra pairs of socks, and I found the cold hard to get used to. In the mornings I went to English classes at a local school or college. I spoke very little English when I first came here.
(RA) In 1969 I came to England with my family. We had no central heating, we put coins into a slot meter when we wanted to have a hot bath! I remember the paraffin heaters and the smell they gave off as we tried to keep warm. Slowly, I got used to the cold. Both my boys were born in England. I went to English classes at a local school and when I was a proficient English speaker, later on, I got work at the United Biscuits factory, at Osterley (now a Tesco superstore).
(FI) I arrived at a refugee camp near Yeovil, in Somerset, in 1972. My son was born in that camp. After 6 months we were allocated a council house in St. Helens, in Lancashire. But it was hard to find work there and in 1976 we came to Hounslow because there was more work to be found than in the north. My brother-in-law already lived in Hounslow. My husband took a job as a Postman.
(SU) It was 1970 when I came to Hounslow. I noticed the uniformity of the houses – they all seemed to look the same as the others in their street. I stayed with my auntie in Hounslow and I found a job as a wages clerk. Later on I worked at Parke Davies. The traffic made the roads seem so busy to me. I thought that I would never manage to learn to drive!
(AN and others) Some of us were well educated when we came to England, but our Indian degrees and qualifications were not recognised here. We had to work in factories for little wages, often doing shift work. I earned just £6.00 per week at Parke Davies – but I was under-21 and that reduced my wage. It was a hard life, but it paid-off for us! Timex (North Feltham industrial estate) paid £8.00 per week to adults. Out of our small wage we often sent money home to help our families in India. You could have a wide choice of work so long as you could show the factory your British Passport! Speaking English in Africa and going to ‘English’ schools there also helped some of us to adapt to life in England.
Q6) How have your children got on in England?
(AN) The schools are better here. My children did well at Lampton School. One of my daughters is a project manager; the other is a manager at City Hall (hotel and visitor centre) on the South Bank in Central London.
(UR) My daughters studied at Heathlands School – a very good school, built in the 1970’s. One is in accounts with GlaxoSmithKline on the Great West Road. The other works for the Timberland retail chain.
(JO) I have 2 daughters and a son. One was a team leader with British Airways and is now self-employed; another is in Kent, doing Business Studies; my son is with a IT company.
(BH) Has no children.
(RA) Has two boys, both went to Heathlands: one worked for British Airways and now works for Singapore Airlines; the other has a mobile phone shop in the High Street, in Hounslow.
(FI) Three children, 2 girls and a boy: one daughter is married; my son is an accountant with his own business; my other daughter works in Slough in chemical engineering.
(SU) I have a daughter who was born in Uganda and came to England at just 1-year-old. I have two sons who were born here. We went to Saudi Arabia for 4 years, but this made it difficult for the children to re-enter English schools when we came back as their English was limited and they had to have special English classes before they could go to ordinary schools.
One is with Lambeth Council; One works in Security Systems at Sunbury Cross.
Q7) How did your working lives develop and progress after you came to England?
(AN) I had an Indian degree, but the certificate was deemed ‘no good’, it was not a recognised qualification and it was worthless here. I worked for Timex on the North Feltham Industrial Estate. Later, when my daughter went to nursery school I met her teachers and they helped me to find work there. I was able to study child development and special needs children. After that I became a teacher in primary and secondary schools.
(UR) I was a nursery school teacher in Uganda, but I could not get work like that in England. So I worked for Timex for 29 years, in quality control.
(JO) After working for Parke Davies (who moved to S. Wales in 1966) I worked for reliance – an electrical parts company; and then for Gresham Lion (transformers and electrical plant). I was an interpreter, working with Indian employees who did not speak much English yet. Later I worked as a school teaching assistant in the Infants School at Cardinal Road, Feltham.
(BH) In India I taught Arts and Crafts and I was able to teach in Scotland too – in an Adult Education and Community Centre. When I came to London I was refused similar employment because my certificates were not valid here. Workshop Assistant work in local schools was sometimes available. But I began to work in hospitals, in London, and then at Ashford (Middlesex) and I did that for 10 years.
(RA) I worked for the Ascot gas heater company. Then I came to Hounslow and worked for United Biscuits at Osterley, from 1979 until the factory closed (early 1990’s). Then I found work with SAFT and with Dewhurst Lifts, in Inverness Road, Hounslow.
(FI) I worked at Honeywell Computers in the tall tower blocks on the Great West Road, at Boston Manor junction. I did book keeping for a year and then I worked for three years with Trico-Folberth (car windscreen wiper manufacturers) on the Great West Road, where Glaxo SmithKline is now. Trico closed in 1991 and moved to S. Wales. After that I worked at Tesco’s Mogden Lane superstore.
(SU) I was a wages clerk locally. Then we went out to Saudi Arabia. When we came back our family had an off-licence not far from the Rugby ground at Twickenham. It was a good shop and very busy on match days.