Tributes to mother of ten who fought prejudice and corruption

BREAKING BARRIERS Bharkat Ahmad and his wife, Susannah, on their wedding day in 1939.
BREAKING BARRIERS Bharkat Ahmad and his wife, Susannah, on their wedding day in 1939.

A woman who broke down racial barriers and spent her life fighting for the underdog has died.

Susannah Ahmad, who was raised as a Catholic in Dewsbury, fought corruption in Pakistan after marrying an Indian Muslim in 1939.

Her children believe she was the first woman in Dewsbury to marry an Asian man – a decision that her family opposed.

Mrs Ahmad, nee Ingram, grew up in Daw Green and met Bharkat Ahmad while working as a bus conductor.

Her daughter, Donna Blakeway, said: “The romance blossomed and my father wanted to marry my mum in a Catholic church. He didn’t want to change her religion.”

But clergy at St Paulinus refused to conduct the marriage, so they married at Huddersfield Register Office in 1939 instead.

“When they came back to Dewsbury, mum had a lot of hassle from family and some of the older people, quite a lot of prejudice, but they soldiered on,” Mrs Blakeway said.

Mrs Ahmad had three sons in Dewsbury before going to India with Mr Ahmad to find his family, who were caught up in the partition of the country.

“If it hadn’t been for my mum being British, my father could have lost his life with the children because he was a Muslim,” Mrs Blakeway said.

The couple, known locally as Susie and Sandie, eventually made their way into newly-formed Pakistan, and had four more children, including Mrs Blakeway.

Because of their education, the Ahmads were able to help prevent immigrants into Pakistan from being exploited.

As well as raising her family, Mrs Ahmad found herself working closely with the fledgling Pakistani government.

“She never got paid for it, but she went to work in Karachi and the corruption office,” Mrs Blakeway said.

In the late 1950s, the family moved back to Dewsbury and three more children were born.

Mr and Mrs Ahmad both worked at Strosses textile mill in Earlsheaton, and lived in the company’s nearby cottages. The family later lived in Thornhill and Mirfield, eventually settling in Ravensthorpe as Mrs Ahmad became an expert rag sorter.

She made her last trip to Pakistan in the 1970s and lost Mr Ahmed in 1987.

“She was always for the underdog and the poor – mum’s heart went out to them,” Mrs Blakeway said.

In later life, Mrs Ahmad moved from her Bradbury Street home to live with her daughter in George Street because she was suffering with dementia.

She was nursed by Mrs Blakeway for eight years and died at home, aged 91, with her loved ones around her on May 1.

Mrs Ahmad’s funeral was held on Friday at St Paulinus’ Church and a service was held in Pakistan where, Mrs Blakeway said, “she was thought of as a legend amongst the people and families she helped”.