Crawley Memories: Iyadh Daoud interviewed by Marilyn Le Feuvre

Iyadh: I’m Iyadh Daoud. I’m originally from Iraq, Baghdad. My mother was a head teacher and my father was an army officer. Thankfully I had excellent education. Free education. State education. And at the end of secondary school I got through the Baccalaureate and got a scholarship to come to the UK.
Being the eldest in the family of four sisters and a brother, I was fussed about, and also given a lot of responsibility. My dad was an army officer, he wasn’t much around. So I had to do all the shopping, I used to buy the newspaper every day for my mother, go to the bakers at least twice a day to get the bread and the flatbread. And I had lots of friends as well which I miss because I came to England in 1960 on a scholarship and therefore I’ve lost touch with all of my school friends.
Unfortunately, in 1958 we had the revolution where the royal family were killed. And my father was regarded as a royalist, and he was put in prison. And I used to go every day and take food and clean clothes. But eventually he was released. And thankfully he was okay then.

Marilyn: What were your first impressions when you first came to England? How old were you then?

Iyadh: I was 16. My father, being in the army, he was sent to the staff college in Camberley, in 1954 to 55. So he came back. Lots of photos and lots of stories about England. So I had some kind of an idea of what England was about. But the main thing, my first impression was you know, first meal. After coming down from the airplane into the hotel. Cold roast beef, boiled potatoes and peas with a bit of gravy on top. But I like English food, it gives a change from the flavours of Middle Eastern food. And the other thing is obviously the weather. And I’m thankful to God that my first landlady, she didn’t have any children so she treated me as a son. She bought me a paraffin heater which is the same as we have in Iraq because I said to her ‘Oh I’m cold today’ so she bought me one. And the first place I lived was Birkenhead, so it rained a lot.

Marilyn. So you were at college there?

Iyadh: Yeah. I did my A levels in Birkenhead. And then I went to Swansea, South Wales. Again, rain and rain. For six years. To study chemical engineering.

Marilyn: So what were your reasons for moving to Crawley?

Iyadh: Well, life is full of happy and tragic events. My father eventually, because of the political situation he lived in England, in London, for a few years, and then he went back to Iraq. So after I went back, in 1969, not really more than about 6 or 7 months later, it was January 1970 where my mother rang me and said ‘Your father left last night, went out, and hasn’t come back. And eventually, when we put the radio on, there was supposed to be a coup d’etat , and he was supposed to be the leader of the coup d’etat as a retired army general. And he was executed. And I had to go and deal with the whole situation. But because I still had my other life from 16 I never, never got involved with politics. The political, you know, the Ba’athist system, left me alone. But at the back of my mind I was always frightened they might sort of get cross about something. Added to that, I had an English wife, so it wasn’t that complicated. So I left in 1977. I was a university lecturer. So I came to the UK, stayed and didn’t go back. So that was the reason. To be safe. If it was just for me I would have stayed. But having a wife and three children. It had to be their safety first. And thankfully things worked out.

Marilyn: So when did you think of coming to Crawley?

Iyadh: When I got to the UK in August, September, August 77 I started to apply for jobs. Within about four weeks of applying for jobs I got two offers. One in a place called Grimsby and one in Crawley. So I hired a car, went with my wife then to Grimsby and throughout the interview and being there it was so windy it was unbelievable. And house prices were half what they are in Crawley. Not only that, but the salary offered was 10% more in Grimsby than in Crawley. So we decided to go to Grimsby. And then, God bless him, her father said well, what is the problem? So we said well, you know, Crawley’s expensive, we want to buy a house, all that. So he said ‘well I’ll lend you some money’. So I accepted the job in Crawley. And I remember coming to Three Bridges station for the interview with APV and I’d somehow worked it out that I walked from the station to the industrial estate and there is the bridge over the roundabout just before you get to the industrial estate. I got to the top and looked round and saw of the right side, well the east side, all green. And I made a prayer to God, I said Please God, if I get the job here can I live on that side? And I did, in the end, live on that side, in Pound Hill. So you know, I believe that what we have in life is what God gives you and I can’t thank God enough for all the good things that I’ve been given in this life.

Marilyn: What were your first impressions when you moved to Crawley?

Iyadh:. So the first impression was that the roads are not straight. And also, how green it was. We had good reports about the schools here. And everybody was friendly, welcoming. The manager in my department took me and showed me all the places in Crawley – the Leisure Centre, and where the cinema was, and so on. I think it was a welcoming town. And also it’s so spacious and so many trees, you know, everywhere you go. And all the parks so that was what, We were very very grateful that we settled here.
We moved into the house in February 1978. When there was still free parking.
I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. So it’s my home town. That’s why I say ‘Crawley, the centre of the universe.’

Marilyn: What would you say are your highlights of life in Crawley, over the years?

Iyadh: Well, the highlight is really the children. I’m so grateful to God that the schools were fantastic. Pound Hill primary, then middle school, then Hazlewick. I mean, they literally lived in the old Leisure Centre. And then my son – although he passed away, God rest his soul – he was with the football, under 6 and under 7, the football. The parks. So not only that but also I used to take them to London just before Christmas to see the lights, and to Brighton, and so  geographically it’s so well placed But I think the other thing is the people. All the people around us. My ex-wife was English but you know, I’m still foreign. But all our neighbours, they were all English, and they were extremely friendly. Not just pretending. I think Crawley is a friendly town.
But also the weather. When I left Iraq permanently my worry was ‘how am I going to cope with the weather?’ ‘Cos I lived in Liverpool, well Birkenhead which is wet. Manchester for about nine months. And Swansea, which was six and a half years of rain. But Crawley, to me, is in terms of the weather –  it’s south and so it’s warmer. And the other thing is, apart from being with the host community, I’m also friends with lots of other people from minorities so you get benefits from both sides.

Marilyn: I really would like to go to the impact that you’ve made in Crawley, in the community, in the last 40 years.

Iyadh: Well obviously in terms of making a living I’ve contributed because of my work. But in terms of the community it started with, if you’re a chartered engineer you’re part of the engineering council. So they wrote and said we want people to go to schools and make engineering more familiar to science teachers. So my first involvement with the community was to go to Hazelwick school.  And apart from talking to the teachers when they started career events and they had stands, we used have a stand. So I used to go and people used to come to me and say what is chemical engineering then? And then I volunteered with the hospice. I volunteered with the Open House. As they say, I felt Crawley’s been good to me. And then eventually I got involved with interfaith. I was a founding member of Crawley Interfaith. I was a founding member, with others, of the Crawley Ethnic Minority Partnership. CEMP. Then we started to, you know, with the NHS going from the PCT (Primary Care Trust) to CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) again I volunteered to work for the CCG to get authorisation and so on, set up the patients forum. And from that, we also had the Adult Services, West Sussex. Social Services, Ethnic Minorities Forum. And then we combined the two. So it’s really volunteering to connect our communities to the statutory and voluntary.
And also I’ve been a trustee. I started, what was called Crawley Community and Voluntary services, and is now Crawley Community Action.
I was also a trustee and a visitor with Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group. So I visited failed asylum seekers at Gatwick, Tinsley House. And I’m now a volunteer interpreter with the Refugees Welcome group. To try and make an iota of difference to people in this troubled world. And I always thank God that I have that opportunity.
The central thing in my life is my faith and our teaching is that you can’t count the blessings that God gives you. So I thank God every day as I pray for the blessings that I’ve been given. And I’ve gone through good times and tragedies and so on. But still, that is what I’m grateful for.

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