Duncan Allan



October 31 2015

Duncan Allan.

Tells us;   I have looked at the annual report from Camellia  PLC, the last British Co. with substantial interests in N.E.India.  It suffered substantial losses despite introducing irrigation. The CEO explains this was due to severe drought and increased labour costs.

Duncan comments;  N.Modi will have to start looking after the tea industry.



September  22 2015

Duncan Allan tells us;

The latest news

regarding the Duncan gardens is as follows.

Managers have left to take up employment elsewhere.
The West Bengal government
has stepped in.  

Senior assistents have taken over and organised labour

to pluck leaf and
sell it to whoever will buy.
This provides some income


September 7 2015


A very sad statement from Duncan Allan


Retired V.A. of Duncans




The Duncan/Goenka Agency House


I have been shocked to hear from very reliable sources that Duncan/Goenka is in a state of chaos.  This company is the
Rupee rump of the once mighty  Duncan Brothers of Calcutta,
 a prince amongst the agency houses.


Labour have not been paid since April, thirty thousand
people are unemployed the estates abandoned.


This grieves me greatly since I knew all the gardens well,
and indeed served my apprenticeship on Hantapara and


There are probably very few British planters left alive
who worked on  Hantapara, Dumphipara, Garganda,
Lankapars, Tulsipara,Birpara, Dem Dima, Nagaisuree, Killcott,  Bagracote and Gungaram.  


But they should be told.








We are delighted to have more words of wisdom from

Duncan's memory--Thank you Sir


Duncan tells us that he received this from a modern VA which shows the long expected progression fromVP to clonal seed has taken place. this may be of interest to old koi hais.

May 1 2014




 The impending Referendum on Independence reminds me of the time when I had just

completed two years service with my Battalion of the 1st Gurkha Rifles in Peshawar as

part of the Frontier Brigade on the North West Frontier of India. Wavell, the Viceroy,

had been dismissed by the Labour Government, as he had been unable to reconcile the

leading Indian politicians in order to give them Independence.  Mohammed Ali Jinnah,

who led the Muslims, insisted on Partition and Wavell dreaded the consequences.

  Britain was broke and the Labour Government wished to get rid of India as quickly as

possible.  They called in Mountbatten. Boundaries were drawn up in record time and the

date was set for August 15th, 1947.

A bewildered and frightened population feared the worst and that is exactly what happened.

Most Indian Regiments consisted of a mix of Hindu and Muslim troops and they had to be split and moved to their new country.  The 18th Lancers in the next lines to us

mutinied and we had to intervene.  We then had to defend the local legislator and  

bazaar from a mob of Pathans (Muslims) intent on plunder before our troop train took us
on our way to India.  I shall never forget the six day journey.


The train drivers demanded protection, so I was assigned the job along with two

Gurkhas armed with automatic weapons.  It was then that I started to learn how to drive

a steam engine, something that I had yearned to do since the age of six.


It first all went well and we would stop the train every so often on a siding so that we

could cook a meal.  We even had goats on board.  The Indian Army always had its meat

on the hoof.  Troop train tea consisted of brewing up the boiling water from the steam

engine with 1lb tea, 1lb sugar, several cans of condensed milk in old four gallon mustard

oil containers with wooden handles inserted.


As we approached Punjab, ominous signs of civil unrest became apparent.  We passed

burning villages, long columns of refugees on foot and horseback, with their

possessions piled onto bullock carts and progress slowed because we had to seek out

signalmen who were often too terrified to work.  Stations were deserted except for

bloated corpses, which when pecked by vultures would give off a horrible gaseous stink. 
Indeed some times the vultures were so gorged they could not fly.  Eventually we arrived

at Lahore at night.  It was like hell on earth, fires burnt everywhere and mobs roamed the
streets.  We had to persuade terrified station masters to let us through.  We arrived at

Ambala to find ourselves drawn up alongside a train full of Muslim refugees which had

been attacked by the Patiala State Forces (Sikhs).  The stench in the heat of 110ºF was
almost unbearable.  The station was cleared at bayonet point and we started to extract

the living from the dead.  I personally saw a three year old child whose arms and legs

had been hacked off.

Our Colonel sent word to the District Commissioner to come, which he did,

accompanied by his Chief of Police.  He claimed that he knew nothing of what had

happened.  Our Colonel put his pistol to the head of the District Commissioner, who was

a Hindu, and said that if medical assistance did not arrive within half an hour, he would

blow his head off.  This proved effective and we left the pathetic survivors in their care, ?

as we had to move on.  One million people were killed in Punjab.  The next time we took

on water for the boiler, I took a shower, or rather a deluge, from the hosepipe.  I should

explain that most of the engine drivers who changed every six hours were Anglo-Indians,
descendants of the original British drivers who had married local girls.  They were the

back-bone of the great Indian railway system and now dark skinned as any Indian, have

integrated into the community.


Conditions were not so bad in the United Provinces and we soon arrived at Allahabad. 

The journey had taken so long because there had been many delays.  All the British

Officers were replaced by Indians and we were sent home.  Admiral Lord Louis ‘Dickie’

Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, returned to the UK in time to organise the

wedding of his nephew to our future Queen.  I turned up at my grandmother’s house in Aberdeen, wearing my demob suit in January 1948, just before my 21st birthday.  I do

not think I have ever been so cold in all my life.  The only warm place was my bed, which

was a large fourposter with curtains to keep the draught out.  I spent most of my time in

it, writing job applications for employment in warmer climes.  My c.v. included ‘can drive a
steam locomotive’.  By April I had started my new job as an assistant at Hantapara Tea

Estate, Dooars, West Bengal.





October 3 2013  


                                                  Two from Gandrapara

Explanatory note from Imran Sultan son of Mahmood Sultan

Dear David,

This photograph  was taken recently when my father visited Scotland.
To the left is Mr. Duncan Allan and on the right is Mr. Mahmood Sultan(my father).
Gandrapara Tea Estate being their point in common.
 They request this be shared on Koi Hai with the caption 'Two from Gandrapara'.
 Thank you,
 Warm regards,


This page dedicated to the thoughts and writings of Duncan Allan who spent his working life in North East India in Tea finally as VA for Duncan's

 June 20 2013




I attended Dick Simpson’s funeral in Aberdeen last week and met four other planters, all from the Duncan’s – Goodrickes group.  I hope that John Mackenzie sends you a copy of the excellent photograph of us koi hais.  I took a good look at the others, who looked in very good health, so it is unlikely that at 86 years of age I shall be last man standing


John told me that on his last trip to India he visited Cachar and heard that the manager of Roopacherra had been shot by bandits intent on gaining a ransom.  My mind went back to when I was an assistant at Dholai, the next door garden.  Actually I was the outgarden assistant in 1953 at Kukicherra, once a separate garden.  It consisted of tea planted along kunchis, rather like the spread of a hand, intersected by steep tillahs covered in muli bamboos.  You have to walk everywhere, leaf was weighed up twice a day and was carried by ‘country boat’ to the factory – three miles down stream.

Some time in the late nineteenth century, when Kukicherra was a separate garden, the manager was murdered and his daughter by a Kuki girlfriend was abducted.  After the Naga Lushi wars, his daughter was recovered and was sent to the UK to be educated.  Eventually she returned and set up Primary and Secondary schools for the education of her people.  This story was mentioned by an Indian Army General in a letter to The Times asking for further information, but I never heard the outcome. 

I was most disappointed to be posted back to the Dooars as I had found Cachar so much more interesting.  In later years when visiting Dholai there was flooding of the main road to Silchar and I had to take a kishti over the 42 miles, spending a night on the way in a farmer’s house, sleeping on the floor.



September 17 2012 


I was commissioned into the 1st Gurkha Rifles from the Indian Military Academy in 1945 when I was still only 18 years of age, but, like Kipling and so many others in those days, I was a son of the British Raj in that my father was a tea planter and I was born in Assam and had returned to India after schooling in England.

At the IMA in Dehradun we had a mixture of British and Indians from all over undivided India and my room-mate was a Sikh Ex-Havildar who was our Company Cadet Commander and kept a fatherly eye on me, still just a chokra.

The 1st G.R. centre in those days was of course at Dharamsala, now the abode of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees.  I was soon sent to Charee on the plains where the training Battalion was situated.  There I soldiered with recruits who were all my age and met veterans of the second Battalion who had survived Japanese prisoner of war camps and wished to stay in the army.  They were my mentors.

I led a boxing team to Lahore for the army championship and took a good drubbing from the 8th G.R. bantamweight champion.

Then sent to Tanda, the transit camp near Kangra, and then we all went by train to Peshawar to join the newly reconstituted 2/1 G.R.  I can be seen amongst the Officers in the group photograph, the youngest of them all.

The new Battalion was thus a mixture of 3/1 and 4/1 G.R. who had fought throughout the war and our contingent.  Our C.O. was ‘Bonzo' Moore, recently returned from a Japanese P.O.W. camp and his adjutant Charles Wylie, also an ex P.O.W.  Charles later was second in command at the first successful Everest expedition under Colonel Hunt.  Charles took me in hand and made me assistant adjutant, and since I could ride horses, I won the approval of the C.O., who was a keen horseman.  We had a few horses in the Battalion and before I knew it I was taking part in the Peshawar Vale Hunt, which had a pack of hounds and we hunted jackals in the sugar cane fields around Peshawar.  It was all very unexpected and great fun.                                                


- 2 -

On the hunt we would meet local landowners on Arabs and jumped over irrigation ditches and on one occasion I swam a river on horseback.

At first the Battalion wore khaki uniforms, shorts, roll top stockings, gaiters and polished boots, with of course the Gurkha hat.  Officers carried black swagger sticks with silver tops with the regimental crest.  It was really pre-war, but then that was all the Colonel knew.  I loved his old fashioned type of soldiering.  I fitted in well since I seemed to have the right skills and attitude, but it did not last long.  Colonel Moore retired, Charles Wylie was transferred to the War Office in London and the second in command Major Dodkins stepped in.

We immediately adopted olive green uniforms, no gaiters, black webbing and no spit and polish.  This was a seismic shift in policy and the war time British Gurkha Officers were in command.  I was identified with the old school, although I was the youngest Officer.  During the cold weather I was put in charge of the pipe band, which was hired out for weddings all over Peshawar.  My job was to see that the band members did not get drunk.  We were in great demand and far superior to a Foo Foo band.  Our pipe band played at Muslim, Hindu and Sikh weddings all over the city.  I got to know an amazing number of people as a result.

The old city was a wonderful mix of people from all over the North West Frontier and Afghanistan, Punjab and beyond at that time.  I believe that this once beautiful city is now an enormous refugee camp.

Our new C.O. decided that every man in the Battalion should learn to swim, ride a bicycle and drive a truck.  We were divided into three groups and after three months we were all tested.  I will never forget how at the first swimming test, the Subedar Major bravely dived in though he could not swim a stroke and sank to the bottom of the pool and had to be rescued.  He was given a special pass for swimming, since Subedar Majors are not required to swim without a bodyguard.

- 3 -

You might say, what about a little real soldiering?  Well, we were part of the North West Frontier Reserve Brigade.  On occasions we would venture into the wild mountain regions and run up and down rocky hillsides in unbelievably hot conditions, up to 120oF.  If we wished to move up the valley, it was absolutely critical to secure the hilltops, or the Pathans would take pot-shots at us.  We devoted much time to loading and unloading mules and even transported them in 3 ton lorries.  Have you ever tried to put a mule in a truck?  Just you try!!

Since our wireless set seldom seemed to work, we used bugle calls.

Unlike many of my subaltern friends, I had no problem in learning Khaskura, indeed I spoke it better than many of the senior Officers.  Regular visits to the Gurkha Officers' mess and to the N.C.O.s' mess, with frequent tots of Saharanpur rum helped!

One of our Company Commanders, who later proved a very successful Colonel in a British Regiment, had an affair with an RAF Officer's wife, which caused a great deal of tut tutting.  The Army does not like sex scandals.

Our most successful subaltern,Mike Callan, went on to attain the rank of Major General in the British Army.  So we did have talent in our midst.

The Mutiny, which involved an attack on the 19th Lancers quarter guard was sectarian and showed how the Army itself was divided.

As Independence Day approached, I was sent on a small arms course at Sagour, and on my return by rail I could sense the feeling of fear and foreboding amongst all sections of the population.  I make no bones of my firm belief that the Partition of the Indian sub-continent was an absolute disaster.  Look at the state of Pakistan, Kashmir and Bangladesh and the depressed nature of a once great and wealthy Bengal.  I blame entirely a vain Viceroy, the British Labour Party and, of course, wicked politicians.

- 4 -

The Battalion left Peshawar by train, the last Hindu Battalion to do so, soon after Pathan thieves and robbers plundered the mall in Peshawar from end to end and the terrible slaughter of innocent refugees and minority groups began.  Hell was let loose.

I was put on the steam engine of the troop train to guard the drivers and stokers who otherwise would not leave the station.  I had a Bren gun and two men, I carried a Sten gun.  During the dreadful railway journey across the North of India, I learnt to drive a steam engine, something I had wanted to do since   I was a small boy.  The drivers were mostly Anglo-Indian, who were at the heart of the Indian Railway system.

As we went through Punjab, every station had dead bodies lying around blown up and putrefied, gorged vultures flapped around unable to fly as they had eaten so much.  We had to seek out terrified station masters and signalmen to complete the journey.  Lahore was an absolute shambles, with fires everywhere, and when we drew up at Ambala we found ourselves alongside a refugee train packed full of dead and dying Muslim refugees.  It was a horrendous sight.

We did what we could for them which was not very much and went on our way to Allahabad.  We were then sent to Muthura, near Agra, where shortly afterwards all the British Officers were replaced by our new Indian comrades and left for Bombay and a troopship back to the U.K.

Little did I know that four months later I would be back in India, this time as an apprentice tea planter in the Dooars of West Bengal.  I often wonder why I did not stay in the Indian Army; after all I was born in India and could have obtained a permanent commission.  It was always my ambition to command 2/1 G.R.  The last British Army Officer in the Indian Army?  Why not?

On my retirement as Highland Councillor and Provost of Dornoch, I was presented with a pipe march in my name.  I would deem it a great honour if the Battalion pipe band would include it in their repertoire. 



September 2 2012

Planting out Tea in the Dooars

He tells us:

I wrote a letter to the Camellia suggesting that they  might re-publish "Recollections of a Tea Planter" either in the UK or India as attribute to the pioneers  in the Dooars who are largely forgotten.. I lifted this chapter straight from the book as it gives a unique account of the first year in planting a garden at the end of the 19th century




This extract has been taken from "Recollections of a Tea Planter", writen by W. M. Fraser, printed by Tea and Rubber Mail in 1935. The 6,000 acre grant of Kartick was on land very similiar to Phaskowa, which l know well. Patches of excellent soil cut up by jhoras and areas of sandy silt brought down from the hills suitable only for Khair and Sissoo trees.

Failures are just as intresting as successes and now that tea planting land is in such
short supply this might be a cautionary tale.

Playfair, a Sylhet planter, made many mistakes in the strange surrounds of the Dooars, and when the Bhutan Dooars Tea Company collapsed he lost all his savings. Young Fraser nearly died of blackwater fever and six labourers died while digging a well. 27 British planters died of blackwater fever in the Dooars in 1906.

When l looked up Kartick in my copy of the Assam Directory l see that it has 359.31 hectares under tea and a crop of 5,50,000 kilograms.

Who would have thought this after the trials and tribulations of those early years.

Below is the story as told by Fraser



                                            FIRST  PITCH A TENT

 I left Calcutta for the Dooars probably shortly before Christmas, 1895, but I cannot be sure, as I never had the sense to keep a diary. The name Dooars is often spelt Duars, and it is so spelt in the atlas of maps of the tea districts compiled for the India Tea Association in Calcutta. In the records of the Association, however, the name Dooars is used and I propose to adhere to this spelling, which was, it may be mentioned, the one always adopted in Government correspondence before the district was annexed. In some old maps the word is often given as Dwars, but that rendering has been dropped.

The route in those days to what has come to be known as the Torsa-Sankos district was much the same as to-day, except that the rail communications were not so complete. The Ganges was not, of course, bridged, and the metre gauge line only ran as far as Gitalda. Gitalda, however, was connected by the Cooch Behar State Railway, two feet six inches gauge, with Torsa on the river of that name, whence the city of Cooch Behar, a mile or so away, was reached by road. It was a funny little railway line, and the train proceeded a good deal according to the whim of the guard or engine driver-except when the Maharajah was on board, when he usually took over. I was only on the train once when he was driving, and if I were writing a book of fiction I could easily say that the train rocked. It didn't. but it went just as fast as the permanent way permitted. From Cooch Behar stretched a fairly good road to Alipur-Dooars, the headquarters of the sub-divisions, and thence to Rajah Bhatkowa.

 For Jainti, however, the acknowledged centre of the more easterly gardens, it was usual to proceed from Alipur to Somoktollah, and Kartika-the local name given to the grden about to be opened out by Playfair-and representing the property of the Bhutan Dooars Tea Company Ltd.,was situated en route, in all some thirty-two miles from Cooch Behar by road. I need hardy remark here that the name Kartik was given to the garden by the coolies because it was in October that Playfair arrived on the scene.

 I cannot remember whether I got out to Kartik riding or by elephant, but I spent one night at Alipur on the way.

The Himalayas, a great rampart serrated by peaks, dominate the whole of the northern horizon, but as one gets nearer, the high peaks sink out of sight and are replaced by the Bhutan foot hills rising from the plain to 10,000 feet and split by valleys and ravines.

 My new home was about six miles from the foot of the hills and if the scenery was strange after Sylhet, with its teelahs, the land round about was equally so. It was gently undulating , cut up by steep jhoras, all of them dry in the cold weather, and where bamboo would have clothed the landscape in Sylhet there was here scattered timber or forest with great areas of sunn or ekra. The road from Somoktollah was rough track which had come into being, I suppose, with the advent of tea into the district. In a small clearing, with new coolie lines dotted here and there I came upon a tent, very obviously my destination, and presently I was shaking hands with my new Burra Sahib.

 Frank Playfair, as he was commonly known, or "G.F." by his old friends, was about forty-one when I joined him. He had been for many years manager of the Phoenic tea Company in the Hailakandy Valley in Cachar. Compelled to relinquish that charge through an illness that sent him home-he had only recently returned to India. He had now invested his savings, a very considerable sum, in the Bhutan Dooars Tea Company. Although, of course, without experience of the Dooars, he was impressed by the results that had already been obtained in this comparatively new district, and by the opportunities for development which it appeared to offer. Before he came up to locate the grants he had visited some of the newer concerns in the Dooars, and naturally, after twenty years of slavery in worn-out teelahs in Cachar, these fine gardens, laid out with mathematical precision on land as flat as a table, appealed very strongly to him.


 During the three years I was with him I worked eleven hours a day, and I would have worked twenty if such a thing were possible. He was that kind of man.


 Apart from his personal qualities Playfair, for a planter, was both well-read and well-informed. He was more of a student than sportsman, and looking back I often think he might have met with more success in an administrative or professional career. He came of a brainy family. His father, Sir Lambert Playfair, was in the British Consular Service, and was then our Consul-General at Algiers.  He is still considered by his writings as the great authority on Algerian history. I remember Playfair telling me that it was his father who, when at Aden, was responsible for finding and putting into action again the famous Aden tanks. Sir Lambert's two brothers were both distinguished men, one being Lord Playfair, known for many years, when he was Sir Lyon Playfair, as a scientist and writer on political economy. At one time he held office in the Government as Postmaster-General. The other brother, Dr William Playfair, was one of the most eminent obstetric surgeons in London.

 Frank Playfair had three brothers, all associated with Assam; Arthur; who was at Greenwood, was at one time Chairman of the Assam Branch and a very good Chariman too; Harry , who was at Chowkidingi for some time; and Allan, who joined the Assam commission from the Indian Army.

 Mrs. Frank Playfair, whom I met later, but whom I introduce now, since I am writing of the personal side, was as charming and sweet as her husband was upright and generous. No assistant ever owed more to his manager and his wife for hospitality and companionship, both vital in a spot remote from the usual civilising influences, than I did. What would the position have been for a youngster in a new district, without club or friends or games, if at the same time he had a contend with a stiff-necked manager with perhaps a stand-off wife? It was three years' work in the jungle, but it had the one great compensation that it was for these good people.

 Mrs. Playfair, in addition to being a planter's wife, herself had connections in tea, one of her sisters being Mrs. George Balfour another Mrs. Elwin. Balfour was a Cachar planter, while Elwin was long associated with the Juri Valley in Sylhet, where he was manager of Ruthna.


 At the time of my arrival at Kartik, Playfair had got himself installed in a fairly large bell tent; he had been round his boundaries and he was busy getting a labour force together. The first object was nurseries, as a certain amount of seed had arrived and the few people already collected were clearing jungle for that purpose. In starting a new garden in a new district-Jainti, our neighbour some four miles away, had been started a year before there are a hundred things to be got under way, but the first essentials, once the Europeans are established in living quarters, are a labour force and nurseries. The question of living quarters was solved by pitching his tent and building a thatch cookhouse nearby.


 But my arrival, with, incidentally, a certain amount of luggage, soon made it apparent that we were going to be cramped if we limited ourselves in this way. Greatly grudging, we took some coolies off the nursery site and put them on to build a basha, which we used for our meals and as an office, leaving the tent for sleeping only. Bathing was done in the open with the aid of one or two kerosene oil tins. Furniture, other than camp beds and a stupid little camp wash-hand stand, we had none of. But the seed boxes most usefully served instead.


 With the aid of some odd servants, a cook, and a lot of tinned foods, we lived like fighting cocks; even actually trying to make bread, which, when it was fired high, was at any rate a change from biscuits.


 One item of food new to both of us, and of which we got plenty, was pea fowl. We shot some, but our usual source of supply was from the coolies. They threw out grain for their few hens, and when the pea fowl, which were on every tree in the evenings, swooped down to share in the grain, the alert Sonthalis, who were lying down in the partially cut sunn, knocked them over with sticks.  The birds soon got wary, however, and later on, if we wanted a delicacy to please some of our Calcutta guests, we had to send a Shikari out with a gun.

 I shall begin whatever I have to say about Kartik with the tea seed, which, for the benefit of those unacquainted with tea, I may mention resemble ordinary chocoolate creams in size and colour. Long before we could get the nursery ready it had all arrived. Stacked in piles under a temporary roof of thatch, it looked for all the world like a large invoice of the finished article ready for shipment.

 There were, approximately, 300 chests altogether, each representing 40 Ib., packed in sand or charcoal. I wish I could remember the whole of the marks. There was Jatinga, Cossipore, Larsingah, Kaline Magenta, some pure Burmah from Crozier's agency, and some special Manipuri from Stiefalhagen at Kukicherra. I suppose since half the Dooars and Sylhet was ablaze with openingout operations, seed was at a premium, and each new company had to take what it could get.

As work on the nursery was pushed on the seed was opened out, tested, and floated. The light was differentiated from the heavy, but both were put into shallow germinating pits, each mark having its own set, all being protected by thatch and regularly watered. They were turned ov er once a week, and all seed that had cracked was taken to the nursery to be planted. Some of it had, of course, already germinated in the boxes, and it was because of this that the nursery was so urgently required. It was a delicate task handling the germinated seed, the roots being often two or three inches in length, but Playfair had an instinct for work of this description , and as the beds in the nursery materialised from the jungle, foot by foot, and acre by acre, we eventually got all the seed successfully in, planted three by three inches, five by five. And a certain amount for later infilling eight by eight. That nursery was a battle. Every man, woman, and child in the garden, to say nothing of Playfair and myself, were concentrated on it from morning to night. The programme was 500 acres the first year, and Playfair wanted to make it more!

 The beds were covered thickly with thatch, which was thinned from time to time as the plants began to show. Meanwhile men were engaged in erecting the raised shading, while the women were occupied in watering. Every inch had to be thoroughly watered each week, and even if we had had a plentiful supply nearby, this would have been a formidable task for the number of women we had, although our labour force was growing every day.

 The water in the kutcha wells near the nursery began to fail. Up to the end of January the supply was rendered sufficient by constant deepening of the wells, but now, though we dug frantically and opened new wells in what we thought were favourable localities, the water receded faster than we could dig. To the north the land was dry to a great depth, as we found by testing, but by going farther and farther south we managed to secure enough for our purposes. The cost of watering, however, was becoming serious since it entailed the employment of so many people. In spite of having the assistance of carts fitted with water barrels, the work of clearing was interfered with.

 We had, in fact, come up against a phenomenon peculiar to the Dooars. The water table midway between the hills and the plains fell so low in the cold weather that nothing but a well so deep as to make the sinking of it quite impracticable could reach it. Four miles north of us, close up against the hills, springs abounded, and water was running in the river beds, but, within a few hundred yards it disappeared. If you followed the course of the stream the water reappeared some six or eight miles lower down. Kartik, unfortunately, lay midway between the source and the reappearance of the water. We could have got along so far as the labour was concerned for one cold weather, perhaps, carrying the precious liquid from the south, but the call of the nursery for the next two or three months made it imperative that a new and copious supply should be secured.

 Wells, as I have shown, were out of the question. Our subsoil, so far as we had already dug, consisted of loose boulders and sand, and though Playfair devised a method of shoring with logs by which we got down forty or fifty feet, we repeatedly lost ground through the sides falling in. Even if we did persevere we had no idea at what level we should find clay or rock and hence a permanent supply. Yet we persisted with our biggest well, even after we made other arrangements, because Playfair was anxious to have an alternative water supply in case of breakdown, but when one day the sides burst upon reaching sixty feet, and five men were smothered to death at the bottom we desisted from further attempts.

 A pipe line! That was the thing. We explored the land at the foot of the hills and found an excellent spring, obviously a permanent one, on the grant of the Jainti Tea Estate. Murray, the manager, readily gave Playfair permission to use it, and very soon the agents in Calcutta, urged by letter and telegram, had four miles of secondhand four-inch wrought iron piping on the way. Whether it was on account of the piping I cannot remember, but Playfair was absent in Calcutta when the first cart loads came rumbling in from Cooch Behar. I had had such full instructions, however, and we had been together so often over the ground, that I felt no qualms as to my ability to lay the pipe line down.

 We pushed the carts up to the farrie we had surveyed and cut, and thereafter ran the pipes up to the spring by hand. While the coolies were distributing them along the farrie as they arrived, I worked at the head water with a special gang.  To plunge the filter head into the spring was child's play; so also was the piling of rocks to cover and protect the source from damage.

 But not so the next step. By the help of two pipe wrenches, sent by parcel post as a result of an urgent telegram, we boldly connected a few lengths of piping of 18 feet each, only to find that when we had done so our end one pointed a dozen feet away from the appointed track. It was apparent that if we continued to link up the rest we should be carrying a lot of water somewhere, but not to Kartik. If we were twelve feet out in one hundred feet, what distance out would bwe be in four miles. It was here that I regretted, I suppose for the only time in my life, that I had no knowledge of logarithms. However, something had to be done, for it was no use having the line pointing in any direction except the carefully cut farrie which led to our goal.

 We could not alter our approach to the spring as the nature of the ground obviously forbade it. If only we had some bends or angle joints; but none had been ordered. It was to be a straightforward job. No useful suggestion coming from the coolies, I got on my pony and galloped off to seek the aid of Thomas Murray. The water was desperately needed and the hitch was maddening. But Murray was a brick. He was up to his waist in cut sunn grass, two miles away, busy measuring tasks with a luggie stick, when I eventually traced him down, but he dropped everything at once, got on his horse and hurried back with me to the spring.

 He studied the situation for a few minutes; examined the reservoir we had made, the pipes we had joined together, the water gushing from the end one, but pointing alas! some points off the compass. Then he viewed the approach to the farrie, walking first in one direction and then another. The coolies and myself watched every movement; for Murray was an engineer. A man who could do anything with the inside of an engine was a sort of superman to me. Therefore although, as I explained to Murray, we had no bends or cross pieces, I felt sure he would solve the problem.

 If only the rocky approach to the spring wasn't there -if only-but it was no good speculating . . . . It was then that Murray acted.

 He ordered us to join up a line of some ten pipes. Under his instructions we carried these to where two trees were growing close together. Putting one end of the line between the trees he bade us swing the other. We did with a vengeance. It was heavy work for as many coolies as could get a hold of and myself. But gradually each swing, which was effected by much shouting and not a few tumbles, bent the line of piping until we had a curve that gave us exactly the bend we wanted. The solution of our difficulty turned out with the aid of an engineer, to be quite simple.

 Apparently wrought iron pipes do not necessarily snap when bent. Presently we had linked up with our bend and were making progress down the farrie in the proper direction.. I know I expressed my heartfelt thanks to Murray at the time; heartfelt, for every hour's delay threatened the well-being of our nurseries, but if he should happen to read these lines he well know that my gratitude is as fresh today as it was at that anxious moment!

 Playfair said before he left for Calcutta, "Be sure and take the water with you, once you begin to lay the pipes." We did, and a devil of a time we had joining each new pipe up with water gushing and spouting from the end of the line, and, consequently, always working in a pool. But the coolies took it all splendidly, though all day we were soaked to the skin. I don't know how many days it took us to reach the garden, but I remember that when we burst through the jungle on to the cleared land, the whole labour force was there in a yelling mass to taste the water. All through that first night the coolies, possibly afraid that the miracle might be interfered with, were streaming to and fro with every receptacle that would hold water, and I guess that many of us who had been on short commons bathed freely for the first time in weeks. Presently we had the pipe bang into the centre of the nursery, and as in the meantime all sort of refinements, such as tees, cross-pieces, and hoses, had arrived from Calcutta, we were able to drench the beds in order and at little expense.

 Why I should inflict on my readers the tale of the pipe line I don't know, but I suppose, since it was my first engineering job, it has remained very vividly in my mind. Also, it loomed large at the time, for I had to do the linking up of every pipe with my own hands. That had to be done because no coolie seemed to be able to get the exact line necessary. The line had to be raised three feet and the next pipe screwed in, water gushing out the while in every direction, and only someone in authority could get the coolies, yelling with delight and excitement at the unexpected spouts of water, to balance the new pipe until the thread began to hold.

 To conclude, I shall just add one incident and leave it for ever more. It is sad to relate, but some time later Thomas Murray fell out with Playfair on the usual bone of contention, labour. It does not matter that I felt sure the whole thing was due to a misunderstanding. But it resulted in correspondence, and, finally, to a threat that our water supply would be cut off. I don't believe that Murray would have carried out his threat, but Playfair got alarmed and determinded he would be independent of him.

 We quietly explored the land outside the Jainti grant and found a spring if anything more suited to our purpose, and about an equal distance away. We were about to cut a farrie to this spring through what we had always imagined to be Khas, or Government Land, we could always take any liberty we liked with such when we came across a boundary pillar, and recently erected. We made enquiries. The land had been acquired by a syndicate of Jalpaiguri Pleaders, and a mile through the jungle a sahib who was going to open it out had pitched his tent. This was news. However, we pushed our way through and found the tent. The European was a man named Hutchings, and he had come up to open out Rohimabad Tea Estate. Hutchings had been connected with Indian estates before. He had been manager of Kisna, near Telepara, and of Nedam Jhora. He was very pleasant, and delighted to be of assistance. We mobilised the labour force, certain gangs cut the farrie, others disconnected the pipes leading to Jainti, others carried them to the new site, still others dammed the spring and collected stone, while my special gang laid the new line. Beautifully arranged by Playfiar, and, under the cover of the dense jungle, we had the water running into the nursery from the new spring in three days-a whole week before Playfar had a letter form Murray asking him officially to remove his pipe line from the Jainti land.

 While the nursery may be left to grow, assisted by a water supply that was not only sufficient for its needs, but also for those of our fellow-creatures, our growing body of workers, I turn to the labour force. When I joined Playfair there was not more than three score people at Kartik; there were now over a thousand. It is true the bulk consisted of cold weather Paharias, or Nepaulese, but there was a leavening of Modessias (the Nepaulese name for people from the plains), Santhals, Ooriahs, and Oraons, with the usual dash of Central Province people, such as Bilaspuris, etc. it may be wondered where they all came from. The cold weather birds, of course, were nothing more or less than contractors' coolies, men who came down from Nepaul to cut jungle just for the cold weather, for they had not a woman with them. Some of them stuck, but the majority cleared out before the rains. Both Paharia and Modessia, they were attracted by the tent. A tent, or tumboo, meant a new garden, and a new garden meant peski, or, in other words, advances, lots of double tasks, and, in fact, easy money all round. They all built their own lines, thatch and timber being plentiful, and grouped themselves according to their racial instincts. Playfair and I could tell from the lines at once as to who were likely to be settlers. But for the first year, at any rate, they were and outlandish lot, and we spent quite a lot of time in stopping drunken fights and settling disputes.

It was all very different from Sylhet, where every coolie was a unit. Here the unit was the sirdar. He it was who got the advance in money that brought the coolies in, and the whole of the pay earned by his people was handed to him. The coolies were in debt to the sirdar, and the sirdar to the garden, and the only security the latter had was the presence at work of the coolies. If the coolies left the sirdar, which admittedly they seldom did, the garden lost its money.

 Such a labour force, it might be thought, would be more difficult to work than an indentured force in one of the districts where the Labour Act was in force. But this was not so. The people worked hard and well. Considerable ticca money to be made.

 For the sake of speed Playfair undertook bare root planting, but was indiscriminate in his use of this varigated land resulting in good patches interspersed with areas of failure, despite infilling, and this was his down fall, and then the money ran out.

 So who was the greatest of them all among these pioneers? Probabley Fischer, who planted Ellenbarrie, Rungamuttee, Hope and Carron amongst others.