British Somalian-born Shakila dodged bombs in Yemen after leaving her happy childhood in Preston behind

Despite only living in Preston for a few years as a young child, it will be a time British Somalian-born Shakila Carter will never forget.

By Natalie Walker
Friday, 13th September 2019, 11:20 am
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 12:20 pm
Shakila Kader (now Carter) far left sat on a teachers knee at The Parish Church School, in Preston
Mrs Williams is in the middle
Shakila Kader (now Carter) far left sat on a teachers knee at The Parish Church School, in Preston Mrs Williams is in the middle

And one person who left a lasting impression on her was Mrs Dorothy Williams, headmistress of The Parish Church School, in Preston.

Mrs Williams took a young Shakila under her wing after her father, Abdul Sattar Abdul Kader fell ill and had to move back to Yemen.

Her mum, Noorbi Abdul Kader, was struggling to cope with looking after seven children and Mrs Williams kept a special eye on them.

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Shakila Carter now

Shakila, now 64, says: “We were one of the first Indian Arabic families to move into Preston, back in 1962. I was around four or five.

“As we had British citizenship, we were able to move to the UK for a better education.

“My dad worked at Courtaulds factory but because he was working with cotton, he developed a bad skin disease - psoriasis. He also had bad asthma and as Preston was quite smoggy and had bad weather, it made his asthma worse.

“So he had to go back to Yemen. We were without him for a long time and my mum didn’t think she would see him again, as he was that bad.

Shakila Kader (far left) presenting flowers to a beauty queen, as photographed by Lancashire Post in December 1965

“But once back in Yemen, he got better and he is still with us today, aged 90.

“I am the eldest daughter, and I have two sisters and four brothers. Mum was on her own with seven children, so the teachers would look out for us.

“Mrs Williams used to visit mum and bring her flowers and the teachers would take it in turns to walk us home. I remember Mrs Yoxall, Mrs Hunt and Mrs Gray in particular.

“I spent seven years in primary school and I had such good memories. My three brothers were at a different school - Frenchwood Community Primary School.

“I had a really good British accent and my teachers said I could be a newsreader, so I was elected to read passages at school assembles, as well as Bible readings in church.

“I was also chosen to present flowers to the beauty queen in 1965.

“Mum and dad were Muslims but I went to a parish church and I became a Christian. We became very westernised as everyone made us feel so welcome.

“Mrs Williams was lovely to me. I was a bit of a rebel, so she made me a monitor, watching over the other children at school in case anyone got hurt.

“We lived in Chaddock Street, which was a very tight community. There was a sweet shop on the corner of the street and I was so impressed by it, that I wanted to be a sweet shop owner when I was older.

“The children would go to school together and the older teenage girls would come out and take my younger sister for a walk.

“In the school holidays, we would gather at the top of the street to have lunch at school because we were not that well off.

“We felt very welcome.

“We used to spend so much time playing in Avenham Park.

“I also spent a lot of time in pubs as my friend’s parents had a pub opposite St James’ Church. They were such happy times.

“But when I was about 10 or 11, we had to leave to return to our father, and I was very sad to go.

“I felt very lucky to live in Preston and it was the best time of my life.

“When we had to leave, we were crying.”

Shakila and her family moved back to Yemen in the late 1960s, where she describes dodging bombs and shootings following the country’s campaign for independence from the British Empire.

She recalls: “We only stayed in Yemen for three years as it was very scary. There were so many curfews and bombings. At school we were scared and had to hide under the tables.”

Shakila’s family returned to the UK in 1972, but this time settled in Middlesex where she completed her high school education and trained to be a nurse.

She says: “High school was hard as we also lost most of our education because of the war.

“I had poor CSEs (now GCSEs) and I didn’t get any A-levels.

“But when I was 17, I phoned West Herts Hospital in Watford and the matron accepted me as a cadet. I did an entry test, which was hard and got in.

“I trained there for two years to become a nurse and stayed a further five years.”

Shakila got married a few years later and relocated to Australia. Keeping their home in Australia as a base, Shakila and her husband travelled to Saudi, where she had two daughters, and the UK, where her son was born.

She adds: “I was a stay-at-home mum and worked on and off. Things in Australia were much better and my children had a really good education. My son is now a doctor. I feel very lucky to have been able to move around because I was born in a British colony and therefore had citizenship.

“My parents, Abdul Sattar Abdul Kader, now 90, and Noorbi Abdul Kader, now 87 and some of my siblings live in Australia. I also have a brother in Middlesex and a sister in Austria.

Shakila is currently on her travels again and recently visited Preston to reconnect with her youth.

She says: “I really enjoyed being back in Preston for a while. I visited all the places I used to go, including Avenham Park and where I used to live.

“I really wanted to get in touch with Mrs Williams’ family to visit her grave and pay my respects, as she really looked out for me as a child. I would still like to speak to them about my time with her.

“If any family members are reading this and would like to contact me, they can email me on [email protected]