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Lord Iqbal Singh of Butley Manor

by KIMBERLEY HAMILTON

Lord Iqbal Singh had key works by Rabbie Burns translated into Punjabi, created a Sikh tartan and once opened the doors of his 20-bedroom Victorian house to Paisley Old Age Pensioners left homeless by floods.

Now he has been honoured for his contribution to the community.

The 72-year-old joined "Curry King" Charan Singh Gill and restaurant tycoon Satty Singh at Glasgow City Chambers when men and women, from medics to marathon runners, were recognised for the first time by the local Sikh community.

Lord Singh, a Lahore-born property developer, began his career in the UK on £12 a week in London before moving to Lesmahagow in 1987 with his Swiss-born wife Gertrude.

Since learning about Burns' poetry, he has worked tirelessly to promote Scottish-Sikh relations and dedicated his life to promoting the bard's memory.

Poems translated into Punjabi include Auld Lang Syne, To A Mouse, My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose, Scotch Drink, Tam O'Shanter, and The Twa Dugs.

He was once described by a Canadian newspaper as "more Scottish than the Scots themselves" and he has re-named an island he owns near the Isle of Lewis as Eilean Vacsay Robert Burns.

After picking up his award, Lord Singh said: "When I lived in London, I heard people sing Auld Lang Syne at a party. Then I heard it again and started asking how everyone knew the song.

"I could not believe nothing was named after a man whose work is so widely known, so one of the main things I have been doing is trying to have Prestwick Airport re-named Robert Burns International."

Lord Singh helped bring the Singh tartan into the world and has also had a coat of arms put together to represent Scots and Sikhs.

The Singh tartan was officially registered by Lord Singh after he and his wife were invited to present prizes at a school.

They noticed the Sikh children stood out because they did not have a family tartan, so he came up with a predominantly blue - strongly linked with the Sikh religion - green and yellow tartan "to give Sikhs a clan identity like MacDonald or Robertson."

It was registered in 1999 with the Scottish Tartans Association.

He said: "The Scots and the Sikhs have a lot in common. They are very hard-working and happy to get on with things peacefully.

"If the host country is welcoming and helpful, like here in Scotland, then life becomes easier, and we can do more to help those around us."

Local charity organisation Anderston Mel-Milaap is behind the launch of the new Sikh Heritage in Scotland project, which is jointly funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund and Strathclyde Police.

It is hoped the awards ceremony - set up to encourage Sikhs across the country to get involved in the local community - will become an annual event.

The event also marked the launch of a website for individuals, schools, and libraries as an online learning resource on which photographs, memories of life in Scotland and news of upcoming cultural events can be posted. For more info see the website: http://www.sikhsinscotland.org/

[Courtesy: Evening News]

Conversation about this article

1: Zia Choudhury (Nairobi, Kenya), March 27, 2009, 12:10 PM.

What a wonderful article about the contributions of this upstanding Scotsman from India. There is a long history between India and Scotland, which goes deeper than recent Asian immigration to Scotland, which is what most people think of. A huge chunk of British colonial administrators were from Scotland. In my ancestral home, in Assam, India, Scotsmen ran tea estates, railway stations, post offices and all manner of administrative posts. So way before Sikhs and Indians came to Scotland, the Scots came to India. And ran the place for many, many decades. Knowing migration history is an important way to maintain good community relations today, and I applaud the contribution of Sikh-Scots in improving knowledge and relations through their various activities.

2: Gurpal Singh (Bristol, United Kingdom), January 24, 2012, 4:47 PM.

Yes, most definitely, there are many similarities between the Sikhs and the Scots.

3: Iqbal Singh Sangha (Birmingham, United Kingdom), October 15, 2013, 6:17 PM.

As a young man born in England, it's appealing to discover such a man of conquest, who has not only fulfilled his own wishes but seems he has never forgotten his own heritage. Truly empowering.

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