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Managing Agents Catechism

Surgeon Major George Stowcroft DSO

Visit to India January 07

 February 23 2008

This was found in a copy of "100 Years of Planting Times" and dated 1898 and kindly forwarded to us by Dee Stanley on her return from a visit to South India

Managing Agents Shorter Catechism
We make no excuse for extracting the following from the IPG which will be full of interest to those down south who have had a Northern experience and perhaps some of those at present slaving

What are Managing Agents

     We are the middlemen between the Board of Directorsin London and the managers of the Tea Estate

What is a Board of Directors

     A small body of kindly disposed elderly gentlemen who know nothing about the working of tea estates and believing all planters are unbusiness-like and unreliable wisely leave the control to us.

What is a Tea Estate

     In the eyes of the Government Tea Estates are farms started by wealthy philanthropists for the redistribution of population and the comfort and happiness of the labouring classes ; in the eyes of the Directors they are the tea plantations where planters will persist, in spite of instructions to the contrary, in growing more Pekoe than Orange Pekoe bushes; but we look upon them as forming, a most reliable and lucrative source of income.

What is a Manager

     He is a planter appointed by the Board to work and look after the garden, but whose whole time is much better employed in supplying us with information and statistics.

What is the chief aim of Managing Agents

     Our chief aim, after taking care of Dowb, is to impress the board with the enormous amount of skillful supervising we bring to bear on the Manager.

How is this best accomplished ?

     By constantly inventing new forms of elaborate statistics to be supplied by the Manager, which, republished and sent home in neat, typewritten columns causes the board to feel how fortunate the company is to possess such able and zealous Agents.

What is the great secret to the successful managing of an Agency?

     It is to keep the manager under control

Is this easily done ?

     Yes; it is very simple.

Can you give an example?

     Yes; if the Manager in the middle of the season wires us  " 150 Cacharies offering, can I employ ?" We do not write back "Yes" or "No"

What do you reply in such a case?

     We reply thus "Estimated expenditure must not be exceeded but cultivation and efficiency must be maintained"

What is the result of this ?

     The result of this is that if the Manager employs the Cacharees, we send him a set of statistics to show he is exceeding his estimate; while if he does not employ the Cacharees, we send him another set of statistics to show the cultivation is falling off.

Is it desirable that Managing Agents should understand the working of an Estate?

     No; it is most undesirable.


     Because such knowledge would seriously hamper the freedom of our criticising.

Without such knowledge, can the Managing Agents, with confidence, instruct a Manager as to how he is to work his garden?

     Yes, certainly; we do it with the greatest confidence.

Do such instructions given at the beginning of a season ever produce a disastrous failure at the end of it?

     Yes, frequently.

What do Managing Agents do then?

      We express to the Board our great disappointment in the Manager and recommend, reluctantly, in the interests of the company he be dismissed.

What effect has this system on the Managers?

     The effect is distinctly good for we have every reason to believe that the Manager frequently rises up (from his statistics) and calls us-‘Blessed!'

What is a Shareholder?

     He is a man of no importance.

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  December 31st 2006

Our sincere thanks to Dee Stanley

Dee Stanley is a military historian  who is an expert on the 15th Ludhiana Sikh Regiment , and is writing a history of the ‘15th'. Surgeon Major George Rowcroft, DSO is one of a long line of Commanding Officers who is buried in a Cemetery in South India. We at are privileged to have this sneak preview of this book that Dee of Seaton Devon is writing and publishing in 2007. It should be noted that this is under copyright and cannot be copied  

The adventures of 
Surgeon Major 
George Rowcroft, DSO

In order to set the scene here are some photographic evidence

Major General Sir Eric Bertram Rowcroft, The first Director of R.E.M.E. Died 1964  George's son

Seated Centre Front Colonel Fred Rowcroft C.O.4th Prince of Wales Gurkhas. Went on "Roberts" famous march from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1880 (A country that is still taking Allied lives)
Came home in 1883 and died in his first winter in Brighton
Fred was George's Uncle

White horse extreme left is Colonel George Francis Rowcroft DSO, with his Regiment the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs, Machine Gun Section.and Regimental Band on right of photograph  At the regiments front  right is Subadur Major Gurditt Singh. Sardar Bahadur   ----Ferozepore 1903

Lt Col George Francis Rowcroft C/O 15th Lufhiana Sikhs 1905 Most have the Khedive Medal and some of the Senior Sikhs have the Star of India

 The adventures of Surgeon Major George Rowcroft, DSO whilst serving as an Infantry Officer with the 15th Sikh regiment. George was originally a wing officer with the Sikhs and retired as their Lt  Colonel. He promptly retrained at Barts in London, specialising in ophthalmic treatment and rejoined the Indian Army as a Medical officer.... 
Here is his version of the incident known as Mc Neils Zariba, although the history books call it the Battle of Tofrek... Trouble was brewing in the Sudan and in February 1885 the Regiment was ordered to Suakin , to form part of an Indian Brigade. 
Once through the coral reef that guards The port of Suakin we made for the deserted beach and pitched our tents.. Unfortunately I had pitched mine on the recently buried corpse of a Camel and the stink was rather terrible..I repitched and then we met some Cavalry coming out of the Desert saying they had met the enemy and had been in a scrimmage...

We, therefore slept fully dressed with our weapons by our side...

During the next day we made our camp a little more fortified with sentries out at all times...They came during the night, quietly..probing our defences and one of our men was speared to death. I looked for some weapon to spread a little death and destruction in the dark. A shotgun  would do nicely.Trouble was we did not have one...I got some lead strip and cut it up and loaded it into a cartridge case and fired it in the general direction of the desert.....with some degree of horror I watched it whirr lethally straight through General Hudsons tent.. The great man shot outside and on asking me in a somewhat angry voice, as to what I was doing?
He told me to do something with my gun....!!
We marched out as a Regiment and were straight away enfiladed from our right..I saw a bullet strike the ground by my foot and then another hit the same spot. I was about to pick it up when there came a third bullet which would have taken my fingers off...Later I did manage to dig it up and I found it to have been made from cast iron, I have it on my desk now, as I write..

A  dhooly passed me by with Major Wilkinson aboard..He had been pinned into his saddle by a broad bladed spear. The Arab that had done this was now dead, shot by Major Wilkinson who was not best pleased by the mans attempt to fix him to his horse..
Captain Garstin and his trumpeter came in and he told me they had shot many arabs in a pitched battle but one got his spear in and under the Captains guard....Before he had left home, Mrs Garstin had sewn chain mail into his tunic..It saved his life and startled the spear wielder for long enough for the gallant Captain to shoot him. 
My own recollection of the next few days were clouded by having a ripe boil just inside my stirrup leather, which rubbed it all day.
The next day the MO had kept me in camp. Sometime during the day I could hear shots some way off and then a wild rush of camp followers came through saying, The force is done for. Run, save yourselves!
Since I could hear steady volley firing, I did not believe the run aways. Indeed an Officer came riding in and said we should seek the shelter of the ships in the bay. 
Again I did not believe him and issued orders for all the men to pile up the Biscuit barrels and boxes and to make a defensive position...Shades of Rorkes drift , here. 
We stood to all night but it was quiet and then in the morning, the 15th Sikhs came marching in with fixed bayonets, many bloody and bent, and their faces were black with gun powder. I got them to tell me the story and eventually I traversed the same the same ground, bodies were laying everywhere some several feet high. 
At Tamai we set alight to some of the enemies huts and wished we had not as they had hidden a lot of ammo in the thatch..It went up and hit some of our men.

At Tofrek we were told to pile arms and make camp. My CO , Colonel Hennesy told my men to ignore the order to pile arms and he said we were to keep them with us. We made up a camp with three arms spaced out to protect us. On our left was the 17th Bengal Infantry. Next to them and in front was the Madras Sappers and Miners. The 15th Sikhs and the Berkshires and on our right was the Grenadier Guards.
Parties of men in their shirt sleeves were told to proceed forward into the thicket of thorn bushes in front to collect bushes for defence and fire wood. 

We were to build A Zariba and the Berkshires went out, armed with axes. Soon a lone cavalryman rode in shouting...Natives, thousands of them. he was followed by several more cavalrymen hotly pursued by armed Natives Each trying to stab a rider. The Berkshires were overwhelmed and stabbed to death. And a host of thousands erupted from the thorn bushes and broke the 17th Bengal's square. Their CO was killed and we were immediately up and firing disciplined volleys Into the mass ranks of these dervishes.

The 15th got their blood up and went into battle mode as only a Sikh can. One of our temporary volunteers from the 45th Sikhs, one Gurdet Singh stood out front with his sword raised over his head and bought it down on an enemies head and the blade did not stop until it had met the mans waistline. He repeated this with two other Arabs and then his sword broke. ( Lord Wolseley gave him another afterwards with a suitable inscription on it.)

One of our men lost his head to a native sword and it had to be carried separately in a handkerchief. We fired so fast our rifle barrels became red hot, one man burnt his hand so badly He was invalided back to India.

The dead piled up in front of us was exceedingly high, and so the attack sheered to our right and was dealt with by the Grenadiers. After that the attackers ran into the bush and were lost to sight. This action broke Osman Digna,s powers for good and he never made any attacks after that.

George went on to win a DSO on the North West Frontier at the Tirah and eventually retired as Commanding Officer but that isn't the end of his story as he went on to the First World War on Hospital ships as a Medical Officer. He wrote out his life story from 1862  up until 1948 when he was at a Mission hospital. He then went back to his Daughters house in Coonoor in the Nilgiri Hills...I found his grave in Tiger Hill cemetery and had it refurbished. It shows he died in 1952. He had served four Sovereigns and lies under a large tree in a quiet backwater, so called because it was once the home of Tigers...A fitting tribute to this particular Tiger.

Dee Stanley. Seaton Dec 2006.  Copywrite applies.


February 13 2007
In January, Dee visited  India and here shares her  reminisences of the trip with us-- Thank you Dee

January , in our house, sees the suitcases coming down from the loft and the Dog going into his, " Don't leave me" mode. " I promise to be good and I,ll never chase another Cat". actually he is left to the tender mercies of a relative and so he does not have to go to the kennels, which is a lot cheaper than a Fortnight ,s bill from , The Doggy prison.

It takes me a whole year to settle down from a trip to India, each time I come back exhausted , saying, Never again. 
It draws you back, that's the trouble.. Once smitten you are hooked. The airport trials and tribulations are minor at Heathrow but build to a crescendo that is India....It start with , " Mem, what is your fathers name, what did your granny have for tiffin?"
I fix the official with a basilisk like stare engendered from 14 hours travel in a barbers chair and he begins to quaver. BurraMem, "My apologies, but you British, sniff, made the paperwork". Suitcases are re - found. Get customs chit and then someone in a very white shirt with a senior and very prestigious caste mark on his forehead , asks me for an address. 
Since I am here there and everywhere I regret that I am not able to enlighten him. Make not the mistake of writing down any flippant replies like Buckingham Palace or Mickey Mouse for a name. Someone in India is paid to actually read these paper chits. 
Once in the middle of a isolated jungle encampment absolutely crawling with Tigers and bighty things..not to mention ssss ssss things. (we don't do snakes, so lets not go there) a man appeared wearing the ubiquitous khaki uniform of a minor official and handed the Kamp Kommandant a chit asking that Guest so and so, taketh not the mickey but write down maiden aunt in Tonbridge Wells, proper address....We have ways of checking on you. Be warned. 
Our arrival see,s us let out into the sunshine of a 9am Cochin morning..Please excuse the use of the old name for Kochi. I am fed up with being PC and using the new names in India as no body has a clue as to what I mean...then a face will light up and they will say, "Oh, you mean Bombay, why didn't you say so?" And as for Ghandi Ji.. I used to ask for Mahatma Ghandi road , please!. Blank looks all round and then a light dawns and they say,"You mean Em Gee road!" Our driver Tom is always waiting for us..Thousands of people waiting for their relatives see a couple of pasty faced Brits being welcomed with floral garlands must think its someone famous..Anne Zeigler and Webster your heart out..That dates us..

Diving into the air conditioned comfort of an Indigo or Indica motorcar we shoot past the Ambassadors of India and with horn blasting every ten secs we make our way along the coast road to Kalikat..100 miles away. ( I love the American spell checker on this machine. It goes mad when I write Indian place names.I tell it,( That's for me to know and for you to find out). 
Tom took us to an Elephant sanctuary on one trip to Kalikat..we walked about and marvelled at these placid beasts. One of them was getting a bit agitated and struggled to reach us with trunk extended.. Good job I did not put a banana in it...That elephant, said a Mahout,

Has killed 5 people so far, including 3 Mahouts..I viewed it with a new respect. "How come you are looking after it?" I said,

He replied, "Its a job"..I wonder if he is still uncompressed. Fatalism , is it? Same way our driver dodges maniacal bus drivers doing 90 on the wrong side of a blind bend...These suicide jockeys regularly take out car loads of people and kill them. All part of the fun that can be India. I have adopted a, If you gotta go, you have gotta go, philosophy. You know it makes sense. Managing to survive Killer Elephants and lunatic Bus drivers we then take 36 hairpin bends up into the Western Ghats. I know there are 36 as signs keep telling us. Monkeys sit on the roadside parapets begging for scraps..I usually empty out the fruit bowls in hotels and save them for Hannuman and his relations,

You never know, Darwin said we are related as well, one of them does look like Uncle Edwin....At the top of this mountain we pass a tree festooned with chains...This is called, Wait for it, The chain chains a spitefull wraith who was murdered, so the story goes, by a Victorian road builder, and so the thing began attacking travelers so they chained it up..I didn't make this up, I,m only relating the story..There are many weird things in India and its not just me.

We are destined for a place called Sultans Batheri..the real name is Sultans Battery..which we call, Assault and Battery. On the map it is Batheri. It boasts an old Jain temple and Tipu sultan,

( Please see separate and very boring lecture on who he was and how displeased he was to meet the Duke of Wellington) Used to keep his ammo there. The Tiger of Mysore was his soubriquet,( Nickname)..and the Duke buried him at the Watergate in Seringapatam, which is now changed to something I cannot begin to pronounce. Supercallifragulisticexpiallidoceous.

Well, not quite , but almost..They do love their long place namesand here was I thinking it was only the Viet -Taff. Sorry, Welsh Nationalists.

A group 4 security man salutes our car as we sail past the gate he has opened for us..Up and up we climb thru a plantation of Coffee, Cardoman, Vanilla and Arica nut until we suddenly come into a patch of brilliant sunlight and there before us is the Tranquil Homestay and home of Victor and Gini Dey.

Sami, the head lad will be there grinning and offering hot scented towels with which to freshen face and hands and Victor will come out and give me a big hug..He may not do that to you , but we have been there many time sand, he says, we are Family...

Victor is very handsome and over six feet tall, in another life I picture him on the N.W. Frontier of India leading a tribe of dissidents and shooting the feelthy British from the heights of the Khyber..Gini, his lovely wife, has an engaging smile and it she who does most of the work there whilst Victor tells everyone he does it all ..We know the truth, Gini.....

Assisting them are Neesha and RJ..Daughter and son in law respectively.

The coffee plantation is 400 acres of cleared hill jungle with most of the shade trees left in situ..There are eight walks of varying lengths and difficulty..One is called Braveheart,so you can guess it is a real cardiac workout..or attack...

There are tree houses for guests who wish to commune with nature and the rest of the place resembles a film set of the 1930.s

And I keep expecting some matinee idol to roll across the set in bush shirt and nobbly knees, crying, Koi -Hai? And a young chap entering stage left asking, Anyone for tennis?

Whatever you ask for is in your hand before you even ask for it. The meals are wonderful and all the guests sit together with the family and eat and enjoy good conversation. In the evening most people congregate at the bar and the Dinner follows on as soon as everyone is ready..I make brief forays into the surrounding countryside checking on the condition of cemeteries for BACSA and preparing reports on the same..I go over to Ooty and stay with Koi- Hai member Tony and Bridget Pickford..Tony is, Our Man in the Nilgiris..or the Brit High Commish rep..No 1. And very good he is too. I am grateful to him as he sorts out who gets the money to repair cemeteries and a watching brief over them as they spend it...I shouldn't say this but we once had a member of the cloth take the money for repairs and last heard he had disappeared into the Ooloo on a new Motor Cycle..

I stayed with the Pickfords this Jan, and Bridget does a real mean Cottage Pie...after 2 weeks in India, and I don't eat curry, you can bet that was a sight for sore eyes.

Shall we just flicker back on that last statement..The one about the curry. Silly, isn't it, but I cant stand the stuff...Victor and Gini cater for me with English grub..Give us a bash at the bangers and mash..What!

One time in Cochin, sorry, Kochi..the room PA swished up to us in the Bubble Bar at the Taj in Ernakulam and whispered conspiratorially, Tomorrow night should please you, we are having a Mexican cuisine evening......

Yeh, Right..Chillies with everything...I told her, politely, where to go with her Nachos.

I digress. Having crawled thru countless overgrown cemeteries and got myself covered in those weed seeds that stick like burrs to ones clothing, and sauntered thru Bazaars..Oh , I must tell. I took an old coat to India and gave it to a Tailor in the Battery Bazaar..Copy that! He gave me a beautiful copy back, lined in red cost. $8..or £4.50..I was amazed and doubled his reward..Next year I will take him out more to copy.

After 3 weeks in the idyll that is India,s Wyanad district and a brief sojourn in Ooty...where the man plays the piano in the Savoy hotel just like Les Dawson, and a trip to Tellicherry,

we go down to Cochin, Sorry , Kochi...grrrr. The Chinese fishing nets see us sauntering by the harbour..I usually take Tom in to a big hotel for lunch..He always asks if he can go and change his white shirt for a check one, as the white one is his Uniform as a driver.. We have looked after him, bought him a motorbike last year and the year before that we managed to give him the money to get electric laid on in the house he built...For this he is very pleased. India without him as our driver wouldn't be the same.. Before I go, I must just share a tale with you. We found this detail on the wrapper of a bar of soap..Its worth sharing:

Very special we is carelessly blending this natural and organic beauty soap . Washing yourself times also can be very nicely washing your hands and face and feet and sometimes private parts making clean and very nice smelling is that .


Better you first standing naked with yourself outside of line in shower, then joining the soap and water to your not yet clean body .

Then little bit rubbing and scrubbing around and then many just water all around on yourself.

Then you are feeling very clean and happy about anything, eveything........
And I am too...

Sayonara..Dee Stanley. Seaton . Devonshire Feb 2007

PS..To those I have missed out, I apologise..Norma, Victors Mum and Samara, Victors, Grand daughter..and a host of hairy hounds..Pepsi, the Cobra Killer, Tequila and Peaches and last but not least, Victors favourite mutt. Gundha..which as you know means a Badmash..Follow the dogs on any of the Forest trails to the top of the Hill...but do not follow them back, they tend

To do their own thing, like chasing Mongeese, or is it Mongooses, whatever, those darty about things that kill snakes

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