FOR Jaswinder Singh Shergill the prospect of moving to England from the Punjab as a 15-year-old student was one big adventure.
His father had come to West Yorkshire the year before to find work and a home for his family. For Jaswinder’s mother and five siblings, following in his footsteps, it was to be an exciting fresh start.
Mr Shergill senior found work in a textile mill in Bradford and then a foundry before opening his own sweet shop selling Indian confectionery and working until he was 70.
Jaswinder, sub-postmaster at Bailiff Bridge, seems to have inherited his father’s energy, enterprise and flair for hard work.
An electrical engineer by training, he has been a JP on the Bradford bench since 1998 and has just been appointed president of Leeds Assocation of Engineers, the first Sikh to hold the position in the organisation’s 146-year history. He was a governor at Laisterdyke High School for 20 years, helping with a major transformation and rebuilding scheme, and part-time lecturer at Bradford College.
He is about to mark his tenth year in charge at Bailiff Bridge Post Office.
“I can remember exactly the date we came to England from the Punjab,” he said. “It was March 15 1971. I could read and write English but couldn’t speak it very well.
“We thought it was a new chapter for the family and the start of a better life. I had three brothers and two sisters and, at that age, we thought it was an exciting adventure.”
Jaswinder, now 56, went to college in Bradford, keen to complete his education, study for his engineering certificate and get started on his career. “But when I left college I couldn’t find a job in engineering straight away so I worked as a bus driver and conductor for about 13 months until a vacancy came up up at GEC.”
Jaswinder worked in engineering until 2000 and, though he is no longer involved in industry, he is immensely proud of his links with the Leeds Association of Engineers.
“I was talking to a customer in the post office one day about five years ago and when he found out I had an engineering background he told me about the association.
“The next thing I knew he brought me an application form and encouraged me to join! We have about 100 members and it’s a marvellous organisation, full of interesting people. To be able to serve as president for two years is a great honour.”
Service - to his community, his family and his profession - is important to Jaswinder. “I’ve always believed in being inside the circle rather than outside,” he said.
“While I was involved at Laisterdyke School we saw it transformed with new buildings and facilities. It was a fantastic opportunity and we took it. I wanted to get the best school possible for the community.”
Jaswinder and his wife Surinder have three grown-up children who went to the school where he served as chair and vice-chair of the governors and chair of the finance committee. One of his daughters now teaches there, another daughter is a GP and his son is an accountant.
Recently Jaswinder has been persuaded to join Bailiff Bridge Bowling Club.
“Again it was through a customer who came into the Post Office and invited me to go along. Bailiff Bridge is a lovely, friendly community and all my customers know me.”