Memories of SC Davidson

 January 18 2017

Thanks to Larry Brown and the Davidson family we now have this copy of


Glossary of words/events/some names shown in SCD’s Diary pages.


A.  Alexandrapore TE where Winchester was killed in a Lushai raid and his young daughter,
Mary, abducted. She was rescued some years later by a punitive expedition.





B. Boothby, see obituary.  Brahmin:  A High Caste Indian.


C.  Coulter, a young Doctor from Gilnahirk who died in Cachar- see obituary. Cherrapoonjee:
one time garrison capital of the Khasi& Jaintia Hills.  It is the wettest place in the world
and because of the incessant rain many troops suicided and are buried in the Cherrapunji

Challan: an Invoice.   Challines: as SCD and Harry were repairing these they were probably
Chalnies which are meshes and/or sieves. Congou a type of tea. The name is from China
and is  ‘Gongfu’ which translates to ‘disciplined skill’ (hence kung-fu).  Cargo Boats: these
are large wooden boats that are rowed by oarsmen. Going against the river current can
mean slow progress. Sometimes a river Steamer will take a number of these wooden boats
in tow for a fee

View from outskirts of Cherrapunji overlooking the Sylhet plains. The route from Silchar
was arduous in the 1870’s  James,Dick Doake and other planters usually travelled to
Sylhet and made the crossing at Chhatak for onward travel to Cherrapunji,Shillong and
then to Assam –a long,long journey involving ponies, bullock carts, elephants, trains
and steamers.

 Place names of Tura/Cherrapoonjee/Fenchuganj/Chhatak(Chattuck)/Silchar (Guwahati)
/Gowahatty are mentioned in SCD’s Diary pages.

D. Doorga Pooja (Durga Puja)  Durga is a Hindu Godess  and Puja is a prayer. It is one of
the main festivals in India where straw and clay painted effigies of them are floated down
a river and eventually reach the Ganges The Festival of colour is Holi and the Festival
of light is Diwali.



G.Gardens of Davidson’s in Cachar and Sylhet 1867:- Taradung-Mgr H.M.Hunter –J.Davidson
Jr Suptd  Owners Davidson Brothers & Co..Madupcherra Mgr Wm Boothby- J.Davidson
Suptd-Davidson Bros..Puttarea Mgr Jas Davidson Jr  & S.C.Davidson.  owners Davidson
Bros & Co.

Also Doodputlee/Boykuntpore/Kalline/Burkhola/Subong/Labac/Tarapore and possibly
had interests in others.  In Upper Assam: Hazelbank/Greenwood/Ethelwold.

Grog: many planters recognized that Assam and Cachar was an unhealthy place to live
in and the coolie’s work was hard and they were often exhausted by working in such
hot and humid conditions. As a treat they were often given a tot of spirits as a  reward
much like the sailor’s tot of rum.

H.  Hattee (Hathi) an elephant. Hattee Walla: elephant contractor.  Hockey as mentioned
would have been on horseback, with two or more on each of the opposing teams but
full polo games would be played when the Manipoorees turned up.




Elephant dragging posts at Balladhun 1950. This is an outgarden of the former Davidson
Garden of Kalline.

I. Indigenous Tea: This is a large leaf tea bush indigenous to Manipur and hill regions of Cachar.




K. Kallain (Kalline) a Davidson Tea Garden with outgardens Balladhun,Burtoll etc.
Court House.   Kansamma: the Butler – the usage of Kansamma was generally
replaced with “Bearer”  - Kodalie is a Cheelhoe with which garden cleaning and weed
removal is done..SCD when experimenting with tea making he uses the term ‘Karay’ 
Karayed etc., In Hindi a Karay is a frying pan but in the use of a Karay in the 1860’s
it is more like a large concave cast iron receptacle like a wok. Such a utensil was used
by the Chinese in their tea making and was copied by the early planters in India. Even
today many smallholders in Taiwan/China and Japan used the same method to make
tea and it realises very high prices. A high temperature in the wok arrests fermentation
(oxidation) and will make green or puerh tea. The method of applying the heat is called
“hot panning) The Japanese use steam to arrest oxidation for their green tea.

Oxidation can be described in lay terms as the effect of a cut apple turning brown.
A khitmagar is a table servant.                                  

 This shows the current ‘hot panning’ used in Taiwan and other smallholder gardens. SCD
used the ‘Karay’ on top of a wicker basket and later on a fixed frame where a charcoal fire
(Pucca Battee) dried the t



L Looshais (Lushais) now called Mizos and settled in the Hill State of Mizoram.

 In the 1860’s they resented that their land was being taken over by tea gardens so they frequently attacked and killed Planters and their Coolies. The British mounted punitive missions on many occasions. SCD employed many Kookies (Kuki’s) who  were even more warlike than the Lushais and this may have been a deterrent to attacks. Similarly James Davidson petitioned on the side of the Kukis for tax exemption so this also may have been a favouarable factor.

Labour Lines: where the coolies dwellings are.


M. Mooktear:Attorney.  Machan: a building and also an elevated ‘hide’ to overlook  a ‘kill’ made by a leopard or tiger. If a tiger/leopard had been seen near labour house lines, a hide can be made  and a bleating kid goat tied nearby. At night this meant a thousand or more mosquito bites during the wait. Malaria: was with Kala Azar the biggest killer in  Assam,Sylhet and Cachar. Malaria was transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito while Kala (Black) Azar (Hindi:Fever.Persian :Disease and Assamese: Fire) is transmitted by a sand fly. It has almost halved the population of Sudan and is endemic in Bangla Desh and Kenya. Tea planters called it Blackwater fever. Kidneys,liver and spleen were attacked.  Mahout: Elephant driver. Mella (Mela)  A Mela is a meeting/gathering/fair. The huge religious festivals in India are called Mela’s the biggest of which is the Kumbh Mela where millions take part. When SCD mentions a Mella it is a Club gathering where horse racing, polo, tennis, bridge, dancing –general festivities which take place in the agreeable ‘Cold Weather’.  Since the early 1900’s the annual festivities are called “Meets”. Munshee (Munshi): a teacher.  Manjee: Oarsman. Maund: equals 80lbs

Manipoorees (from the Hill State of Manipur-they passed on their game of “Pullu” to Capt Sherer,James Davidson and others who gave the world the modern game of Polo.


   Manipuri Polo Players.


Moolee: SCD describes some bamboos as this. It means ‘ordinary’ Mamooli means common or of liitle use. The strong giant bamboos that had great use were “jatthi” bamboos and are still used for scaffolding in many parts of India today.








N. Nerrick (nirikh)  a set daily task that a labourer must complete to get the full daily wage.


O. ‘off stick’  refers  to Polo ponies that are spelling and not engaged in active Polo.


P.Q.  “Pioneer” River steamer in the 1860’s.  Quinine: used to treat malaria. It is obtained from the Cinchona Tree. Pucca: generally meaning first class to items or people or upper class speech.

Pucca Battee : Battee usually means a light e.g. from a lantern, candle etc but a Pucca Battee as mentioned in the Diary refers to the charcoal fires that dried the tea or as occasioned by extremely cold weather as a charcoal fire in the bungalow.

Pheenchoogunge (Fenchuganj) Large town near Barlekha- Kala Azar is endemic there.

Pekoe: a grade of tea that contains tips. The presence of tips in the made tea is desirable and on the tea bush the tip (bud) has fine silvery hairs which the Chinese likened to the down on a  baby’s arm which was called “paykuh” thus came the word Pekoe.  The Dutch when they brought some tea from Java to present to Royalty they added Orange, after the Royal House of Orange (King Billy!) and thereafter this has been added to presently manufactured tea:- Orange Pekoe, Broken Orange Pekoe, Orange Fannings.


R.   River Steamer- Diary Mar 12 to 18. “ a Mr Cripps coming up in tow of ‘Sultan’ to buy seed….



          PS ‘Haflong’ one of the main line towing steamers.







            Rampore Bara Bungalow 1860   Maria Littlepage Jones standing in front she was married to the manager  Frederick Ross-Jones  (see Lynda Tedesco’s journey to Cachar)





S. Shikar: a hunt for a wild animal that is hidden. A line of  ‘beaters’ proceed in a line banging on tins and generally making noise to drive the animal towards the guns of the waiting hunters.

a Shikaree (Shikari) is a Hunter.

  Shillong: is a Hill Station that became the headquarters of the Assam Government.  It was formerly the administrative centre when the garrison moved from Cherrapunjee. It was devastated by a huge earthquake in 1897. As a hill station it was used as a getaway by Government officials and Planters alike and it’s altitude of 6000ft, pine clad hills, lakes and waterfalls earned it the title if “Scotland of the East” Like many towns of India it has grown exponentially and pollution and traffic chaos are evident. Outside the city there are still many pristine areas.





Henry Weir, long time manager of Kalline and partner of the Davidsons, is buried in the Anglican Cemetery in Shillong.  The Weirs were from Lisnabreeny in the Castlereagh hills. Henry’s brothers were Indian Civil Service in Madras and his sisters joined the “Fishing Fleet” and married and also lived in Madras.


T.  Tura the capital town of the Garo Hills.  Tat:  SCD indicates that this is a form of transport. In India a Tat is a mesh frame that is covered by Hessian. So it may have been a rudimentary wheeled, horse/bullock drawn vehicle very downmarket from a Palanquin/Carriage.

Tella(Teelah)  a teelah is a small hillock. Cachar has a very picturesque landscape of undulating hills and lakes. The Kookie Tella is called after the Kuki tribe. Like the Lushais they too were at one time headhunters.




                 The tea plant









                                                  Cachar Tea Garden     1860







                                           The  Oldest  Tea  Garden in Bangladesh



TICKETS (Tokens) SCD writes that he spent all day making tin tickets. These were issued in lieu of money and exchanged for goods at the local garden shop.










































    Well maintained Sirocco Tea Rollers built in the 1960’s and still going strong

    after 60 years. They will reach their 100 and beyond years easily!







see for the full story. Lynda had been suffering from cancer but was determined to make the journey to Rampore before it was too late. She did complete the journey but sadly, she later succumbed to the illness. She was accorded a great welcome by all who met her and she travelled widely in Cachar, Sylhet  and stayed as a welcomed guest of planters and their families on occasions.











We are honoured that the family of Sir Samuel Davidson has agreed to share some of the documents the family had--It is close to 90 years ago since the great entrepreneur died --our particular thanks goes to Wendy Pratt one of his  Granddaughter's


November 7 2008
Samuel Cleland Davidson

was born on 18th November 1846 , at Ballymachan Farm, Strandtown, Belfast. The family later lived at "Turf Lodge", Sydenham. He was the youngest of three sons, and was educated at the Belfast Royal Academical Institution. He served his apprenticeship with a Town Surveyor, William Hastings, C.E. In March 1864 he received an invitation from his cousin James Davidson, a tea planter in India, to go out with three other Ulstermen to help run a group of estates in which the Davidson family had acquired an interest. They left Greenock in August 1864 and arrived in Calcutta 66 days later, finally making the 600 mile journey inland to their destination in Cachar district by 5th December.

He started his work in India by mapping out the area for the first time. However he became interested in the methods of cultivation and production of the tea plant and its crop. He soon became an authority on the subject whose opinion was Widely saught. He experimented with different techniques for fermenting, rolling and drying the leaf to produce a better tea.

The method used for drying tea was a primitive one which had been copied from the Chinese and his investigations led him to the conclusion that the drying process was a major feature which had to be improved before a consistently high quality tea could be obtained. He developed and built his own tea drier which he patented on 15th December 1877.

This apparatus was first built by Ritchie Hart & Co. in Belfast while he was home on Furlough. He gave his first demonstration near Calcutta in Apri1 1878. There, and at several later demonstrations at Darjeeling and Assam, he received numerous orders for it as it produced consistent tea which fetched higher prices.

He returned to Belfast in 1879 and started his own firm to construct the driers needed for the next season. The workshop was not of large dimensions as there were only seven workmen employed, but, over the years, his work force increased until Sirocco Engineering Works employed upwards of 1,00 men.

He designed larger models but he had to rely on the draught from a fire to provide the air flow, which reduced as the machines got larger. This forced him to spend time experimenting with fans al1d led to the design of the "Sirocco" forward bladed centrifugal fan. (Sirocco is a warm wind).  This was then adopted Widely for other uses such as ventilation of mines, ships etc.

During his lifetime he applied for over 200 UKpatents and was granted over 120 of those. The majority of the others he allowed to lapse because he had improved on his original ideas in the intervening period.

He turned his attention to ballistics during world war 1 and designed a hand held Howitzer and a shell for it. He was also working on the use of Rubber before he died.

He played the violin as a leisure activity, and was a keen photographer. He coloured some of his photos by hand. He was one of the few who he knew in India to survive, probably because of his meticulous habits, though he had his share of illness while there. He travelled a lot and took Gran Hadow to America in 1904, where she bought a sewing machine.

Samuel Davidson was awarded a KBE in 1921 but was ill and unable to attend the ceremony of the accolade. He died on 18th August 1921.


Click on each of the items below to view the photos.  These are Adobe Acrobat files so you will have to open them to view the pictures.  On the Tea Producing group, you will see a screen of thumbnails.  Double click on the picture you want to see and it will be made larger.  There is the option on the larger image screen to go to the next picture.   To return to the thumbnails click the house button at the top left corner of the screen   Enjoy!

Personal Pictures


Tea Producing