It was in Barry that Ahmed met his future wife, Christina: the blue-eyed, 15 year old daughter of a Danish seafarer. George Jorgenson was second-in-command on his ship, and was also the padre. Says Zane: ‘The Jorgenson family were very upset about this romance, and ordered Christina to give up this illiterate, penniless Arab. Knowing they would not be allowed to stay together in Wales, Christina and Ahmed eloped, with her family chasing after them.
‘My parents went first to South Shields – another deep sea port – and then to Liverpool, where they were married in 1934; my mother was 16, my father 26. By this time my mother had converted to Islam.’
It was soon afterwards that Christina’s family caught up with them, but seeing that the pair were married and they would not be split up, Christina’s family had to make a choice. Says Zane: ‘Instead of losing his daughter, my grandfather decided to make friends with this Arab gentleman she had chosen, and my mother and her family were reconciled.’
In 1704 only 760 tons of raw sugar was imported through Liverpool, but by 1785 this had risen to 16,600 tons, supplying a dozen sugar houses in the town. Sugar arrived from Barbados and Demerara as a dark sticky molasses; treacle, syrup, sugar loaves and granulated sugar were all stages in the evolution of the refining process.
Another snippet to plunder – such a massive explosion of industry, and such a sticky one at that, is worth investigating. Sugar, which has a high boiling point, produced fierce burns, and many of the sugar houses were run by Germans, willing to work with the dangerous stuff when Liverpudlians weren’t.
Of all the sugar bakers and refiners in the town, the most famous was Henry Tate, whose sugar money founded the Tate Gallery.