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Mr and Mrs Dyson

Mr and Mrs Dyson

Mr and Mrs Dyson tell David David about their memories of living in Bradford.
(Interview and Photograph David David)

How did you come to Bradford and why Bradford?

Mrs Dyson) I came to Bradford when I married my husband. We met in 1965 when we were on holiday in Yugoslavia, and we married in 1967 and because my husband had seniority in his job it made sense for me to come and live in Bradford and so I have lived here 40 years now.

(Mr Dyson) I was born and bred in Bradford; my family have been in Bradford all their lives so I just carried on.

Has the Jewish community changed a lot from when you were younger?

(Mrs Dyson) I can't talk about when I was young because I wasn't here -- I was brought up in the East End of London, and then we moved to Essex and I was involved with youth work, AJY and Jewish Voluntary services, and things like that -- I was a youth leader, so I was very involved in the Jewish youth community in London. When I came to Bradford as a married woman I found a very different sort of community because obviously by the time I came most of the youth activities had ceased. I was asked at one point by London to open a youth club up here, but I'd already started my family and I didn't feel inclined. I did get involved in a group called young WIZO, but that only lasted a few years before it was absorbed by the older WIZO and we did obviously join the Bradford Reform community and we been active members of it ever since.

(Mr Dyson) Well obviously when I joined the community was much larger, but unfortunately time has taken its toll. The younger people went to college, mostly out of Bradford and they never came back to live. I assume they met people outside and got married and stayed outside Bradford. And the older age group have gradually got older and disappeared.

Tell me about your family background?

(Mrs Dyson) Well my father's family were Dutch; my grandmother came here in the nineteenth century when she was about 5. I didn't know much about my grandfather because he died young and my mother never met him. They were first cousins and so my grandmother never changed her name, she was always a Diamond. My father was one of six, he was the youngest. My mother came from a more mixed background. Her mother was actually born in England in the 1870's. Her father came from Lithuania when he was about sixteen, with a cousin. For many years he believed he was the only one who got out (of Europe) but a few years ago a cousin in London put me in touch with cousins in Washington. They went straight to America and grew up there. And on the Dutch side also we traced relatives etc. Many of the immediate family went to Auschwitz but many survived [she gives a lot more detail on her family history at this point].

Terry and I have two children, Andrew who is now 37 and married and expecting his first son and Deborah who is 35.

(Mr Dyson) My father was a Catholic, and all his family were, and my mother was a Methodist, so I have lived with a mixed marriage all my life!!
[He recounts a lot more family history at htis point.]

What are the big differences between Bradford in the past, and Bradford now?

(Mrs Dyson) I suppose the biggest difference in the synagogue itself, is that women do so much more. I always remember Nora Hershel who was always big in the synagogue, a big supporter, she was determined that when women start to parade the scrolls she would be the first. I mean she could take the service at any time, anyway, and as the community got smaller it was often that if you turned up for a service and there was no one to take it you took it yourself. Now, Nora liked a bit of notice, because she liked to prepare for it. When I came North, Bradford was being demolished, left right and centre, and people looked at me like I was mad because I kept referring to "bomb sites", having been brought up in Hackney we were surrounded by bomb sites, so to me any demolished area was a bomb site.

(Mr Dyson) Bradford was always a big wool town and quite a lot of engineering there; we had English Electric and various other engineers; but the mainstay was the wool industry, it was prominent in those days. Now a lot of the wool warehouses have disappeared and they are converting them into flats and maisonettes and whatever you want to call them. We had quite a good shopping centre but unfortunately that is going as well, people say that it's not worth going into the city centre to do any shopping any more; and we had big two railway stations and they've shrunk down to maybe two or three platforms and obviously we don't get in the goods trains that we used to get; they seem to all go by road now. They say that Bradford is very cosmopolitan now; it always has welcomed an influx of immigrants; but of course now, before the war and after the war, we got Jewish immigrants in, Polish immigrants came and other European. And later on we got Asian immigrants and Chinese and lately I've noticed if you are walking about in town, in the city centre you can hear a lot of European languages so I guess we are getting lots of people from the EEC countries, which is different again.

How do you find living in Bradford?
(Mrs Dyson) I think I fell in love with Bradford when I first came here. We enjoy the history, we enjoy our community, we love going up into the Dales, you are in the middle of the country here and it's very convenient. We like travelling. The drawbacks are the lack of decent shopping, the lack of children in our (Jewish) community to carry it on. We have struggled for many years now just to keep the synagogues open; Bnei Brith and the other organisations are all closing down because of lack of people to carry it on. I understand that ever since the Bradford synagogue opened 130 years ago it has been threatened with closure but when I first came at the High Holy days it was standing room only and now you are lucky to get 30 or 40 people there -- it is difficult to see where the future is going to lie.
(Mr Dyson) I find with the community we all seem to gel and get on well. Fortunately the synagogue is 130 years old and was doing well, but there are not many families left now and the Jewish life regarding anything going on like Bnei Brith and WIZO is practically non existent now. I know we used to go to the Orthodox synagogue a couple of times a year, they used to hold games afternoons and things to raise money for WIZO and even they've dwindled down to nothing now. The Orthodox and the Reform synagogue we've always supported each other, we've always had a good relation with each other, and what we've tried to support anything each other has done, but its almost non existent now because there is just no people.

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