Jorhaute Company

 

Click on the links below to go directly to the stories

Winners of the Roberts Polo Cup 1961

JTC Managers early Fifties

Fire Singes Heritage Building

Viv Griffiths report of her Trip to Assam

Help request from Viv Griffiths

Jorehaute Company Management circa 1960

Memories of Pakhi Dasgupta

The Jorhaute Company


 July2015

 

 

 

January 27 2014

Winners of the Roberts Polo Cup  1961



This photograph was sent in by Pradhuman the son of the late Guman Singh

It shows left to right  Pat Russell, Cethin Davies, Guman Singh and  Abhay Singh ?
after they won the Robert's Cup at Jorhat Gymkhana Club.


According to Cethin Davies it was 1961 according to my "little man", a statuette
of a polo player always presented to each of the winning team.

Pradhuman tells us;  My father, Late Guman Singh is the one standing behind
Abhay Singh near the fan regulators. Those regulators still exist at Jorhat Gymkhana
Club.

 

We have a few of those Polo Player statues won by dad in mom's drawing room in
Jodhpur. 
Sadly the cups which existed last in Borbam Burra Bungalow were taken
away to Calcutta office & hence didn't hear what happened to them.

Abhay Singh's son Nribhay did join tea and was in Assam & South India, and
presently working in Malawi on the tea plantation.

 

July 17 2012

Jorehaute Company Managers early 1950's





 

Top Row (Left to Right)

Dick Clifford, Taran Chandra Bardalai, Jack Simpson, David Rodriques, Jock Holmestarn, K. Warburton, John Ham.

Middle Row

Not Known, Gusl Brown, Pat Lawrence, Bill Gawthrop, Richard Barnes, Baruah,

Bottom Row

G.T. Smith,  Jock Livingstone,  Bill Branson,  Tony Roberts,  Tony Brough,
Lester Wilson,  "Pops" Burnell,  Eden Showers,  Phillips,  Sandy Anderson.

If anyone recognises the one missing name please let the Editor know
by e-mailng editorkoihai@aol.com

Georgette tells us :

I recently found this group photo of the Jorehaut Tea Company management
and would like to thank Dacre Mogg, Cethin Davies, and Dick Ellingham for
so kindly helping me to put names to people in the group.

Georgette Gordon-Ham (married Mrs Jinks)

 





jUNE 19 2012

We have to thank Pullock Dutta for forwarding this sad item from the
Telegraph Calcutta

Fire singes heritage building

- First floor of Upper Assam commissioner's office in Jorhat damaged
PULLOCK DUTTA


.Jorhat, June 10:

The office-cum-residence of the Upper Assam commissioner at Cinnamara, one of the oldest buildings in Assam, built in 1921 and which housed Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was gutted in a fire that broke out today.

The fire started on the first floor of the two-storied bungalow, nearly 4km from Jorhat, which was constructed as the official residence of the Jorehaut Tea Company superintendent.

In February 1961, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had spent a night at the bungalow.

The building also houses Majuli Cultural Landscape Management Authority office, of which the Upper Assam commissioner is the chief executive officer.

It is, however, not known how and when the fire started on the first floor of the two-storied bungalow.

"I saw smoke billowing out of the first floor of the building around 11.30am and immediately informed my seniors," said Rajen Gogoi, a grade IV employee whose official quarters is about 200 metres from the building.

Today being Sunday, there was no one in the office and the commissioner, S.I. Hussain, is also in Guwahati to attend a meeting.

At least 10 fire tenders were pressed into action and after more than three hours they managed to stop the fire from spreading to the ground floor. However, the interior of entire first floor, which houses the official residence of the commissioner, was totally damaged.

"We did save several important files but we fear that many others have been destroyed," the special officer to the commissioner, Tanuj Goswami, told The Telegraph.

Goswami said actual damage could be ascertained only after a proper inspection of the bungalow.

"But the building cannot be used since a large portion of the first floor has been gutted and as such it would be unsafe to use the ground floor as it could cave in any time," the official said.

The floor is made of teak wood and the roof is made of corrugated iron sheets, which fanned the fire and it spread fast.

Hussain said over phone that it was a great loss since it would be very difficult to reconstruct such a historical building.

The Upper Assam commissioner's office was shifted to this particular building at Cinnamara in June 1981 following a bomb blast at the earlier office of the Upper Assam commissioner adjacent to the deputy commissioner's office in the heart of the town during the Assam Agitation.

The building was owned by the Assam Tea Corporation Limited then. It was formally taken over by the state government in 1996 and since then it was turned into the office-cum-residence of the Upper Assam commissioner.

In a document with The Telegraph, which was written by Denys A.T. Wild, who occupied the building in 1969 as the Jorehaut Tea Company superintendent, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, spent a night in this building in February 1961 during the course of the Queen's visit to India that year. It took three years to construct the building at the cost of Rs 2 lakh in those days and J.P. Ward, who was the superintendent of the Cinnamara group, was its first occupant.

 

 

 March 15 2012 
                                Viv Griffiths report of her visit to Assam  
    

                   
The Bench by the Lily Pond

 

My father died just after the war, when I was six months old and when my mother Margaret
remarried in 1953, it was to Bill Doran, a Scotsman with itchy feet, who had already worked
in Malaya and was in no hurry to settle down in the UK. Within a few months, he had been
successful in getting a job with the Jorehaut Tea Company as an accountant and manager
of the Sudder Office in Cinnamara. My mother and I, who had never been out of the country
before, followed behind on the Caledonia in early 1954 and I remember vividly the incredible
sights of Port Said, the Suez Canal, Aden and finally arriving at Bombay. We flew from there
to Calcutta and on to Jorhat, on a noisy old Dakota, I believe and arrived, tired and somewhat
bewildered. After a time in temporary accommodation, we moved to the Sudder Office
Manager's bungalow and began our life in India.

My mother had to adapt from the life of a housewife in suburban Manchester to that of a
memsahib with around 10 servants, with no family history of the expat life, unlike many of
our neighbours. However, she was a born actress and took to the part with gusto, learning
to play bridge, mah jong and was taught to drive by the indomitable Myrtle McTear, all at
the same time. The bridge and mah jong became a lifelong pleasure and, at the age of 79,
she taught her friends in sheltered accommodation to play, telling me drily, that she would
never be out of a job, because by the next week their short term memory loss meant that
they had completely forgotten the rules. After her death in 2003, we gave them the mah
jong set and, I believe, there is still a dedicated group which plays each week.

For me, as a six year old, the bungalow seemed huge and the garden was simply the best
playground in the world. Some previous memsahib, with a passion for gardening, had
created a typical English landscaped garden, with an ornamental wall, a rose garden, a lily
pond with a curved bench to sit on, a rockery and a stream with a wooden bridge. I also
found that I had an ayah. Beryl was an experienced Khasi lady, coming to the end of her
career and we were her last challenge, a memsahib and a young girl who didn't know how
things were done. Beryl made sure that this state of affairs didn't go on for too long.

For a few months I had an idyllic life, making friends with the other children, Gusl and
Doreen Brown's daughter, Anna, the children of Joe Savage, the Medical Officer, who
lived next door,  John Nelson, the vicar's sons and Willie and Claudie Mole's two sons,
Claude and Patrick. The daydream ended when I was sent, with Anna, to the Loreto
Convent in Shillong, where I was miserably unhappy and after a year there, my mother
decided to remove me and took me home to live with my grandparents. I was only in
Assam for two and a half years, apart from a visit during the summer holidays of 1958,
but India embedded itself in my mind and I have always felt an emotional attachment
to it. In fact, my parents also reluctantly left after six years, in late 1959, driven by a
concern about the increasing tensions with China, but mainly because by then, I had
a sister (born in the mission hospital) and a baby brother and my brother needed
medical attention which was just not available in Assam.

I have been to India on several occasions since those days, with my husband, who
also loves it and I also had a memorable trip when I accompanied the Lord Mayor
of Birmingham on an official visit to Delhi, the Punjab and Gujarat, but never to Assam.

I suppose I didn't want my happy memories to be spoiled and rapid change is so endemic
in the western world and, indeed had changed the other parts of India that we had visited,
that I couldn't see how I could relate Assam as it would be now, to my experiences of nearly
60 years ago. Then two things happened. First of all, whilst playing around on my computer,
I googled Cinnamara and clicking my way through the items, I opened up a photo which
looked so like our bungalow that I was fairly sure it must still be there. It was dated 2007
and a lot can happen in even 5 years, but it made me think. Then some friends who we
had actually met on holiday in Kerala announced that they were off to North East India
last year, including Assam. Their stories about how unspoiled, relatively speaking, they
had found Assam to be, gave me the courage to plan a trip. In doing my research,
I stumbled across the Koi Hai website and a treasure trove of information and kind
people, who gave me all kinds of advice and guidance which really made such a
difference.  However, just in case, I decided that this would be a holiday, with a little
trip down memory lane at the end.

As a result, we had a wonderful tour, starting in Kolkata, which was much as I
remembered it, followed by a visit to Darjeeling and the incomparable Glenburn Tea Estate.

At Glenburn, I chatted to their charming hostess, Najma Ahmed, who was married to a tea
planter and whose uncle and brother in law worked for the Jorehaut Tea Company, so she
knew many of their tea gardens, from her visits to them, as a child.

Then we flew on to Gawahati and a five day trip on the Assam Bengal Navigation
company's RV Charadew, up and down the Bramaputra, with stops at various tiny villages,
to Orang National Park and a chaotic crossing on the public ferry (plus around 150 people,
30 motor scooters and two cars) to Majuli Island and finally to the serenity of Thengal Manor,
formerly home to the Barooah family, where we were based for our visit to Jorhat.

Our local guide, Jintu, confessed that he was quite inexperienced and had only completed
his college course quite recently and that he lived in Gawahati and didn't know Jorhat well.
I told him that  although I knew roughly where I wanted to look I wasn't sure of the directions,
so I gave him a list of places I wanted to go to and asked him to do some detective work
for me.

He responded with great enthusiasm and when the great day arrived, he had not found
out where the house was, but he had a plan!

We started by going to the famous experimental tea station at Tocklai, which I knew was
close by our home. We arrived, unannounced at the Admin Office, where the manager in
charge, invited us in and said that although he didn't recognise my photo of the bungalow,
the Cinnamara tea garden was just next door, so it wasn't far away. Sadly, he told us that
the Cinnamara garden had been sold to the government in the 1970's and had declined
drastically from its heyday. However, he kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the model
tea factory and to see their beautiful guest house and the little church, which they have
renovated and opened as a community centre.

Undaunted, Jintu said our next stop would be the former Superintendant's bungalow, which
was now home to the Commissioner for Upper Assam Division.

 As we swept up the drive to the front of the house, I recognised it straight away. I had spent
the whole summer of 1958 listening to the LP of My Fair Lady and playing Monopoly with
Anna at the Burra Bungalow. Jintu popped into the outer office with my blurry picture of our
bungalow and returned bursting with excitement. The Commissioner had been informed that
we were there and wanted to meet us. We were ushered into Mr Hussain's office, as his
meeting was abandoned and spent a friendly half hour over a cup of tea, meeting his daughter
and granddaughter, talking about the past and my childhood memories. He was very interested
in who had lived in the house before him and showed me a photo on his phone of Gusl Brown's
grandson, who had visited the previous year. Various members of staff were called in to
look at my photo and, at last someone recognised it and he was delegated to take us, although,
by this stage, I was fairly sure that we were virtually next door to it. Five minutes later, we were
at the gate and I spotted the familiar curly woodwork on the edge of the roof. The house was
locked up and looked rather forlorn and dilapidated and the old man left to look after it, said
it was only used occasionally, but it was still there and looking exactly the same. It was quite
an emotional moment.

 

 

 

 

 Although we couldn't go inside the rooms, we walked around the verandah, where we used to
spend most of our time, apart from the very cold weather. I stood where I am standing in the
photo of my sister's christening party, sulking because my mother was more interested in
John Trinnick's jokes than my questions. I sat on the bottom step of the house where my mother
was photographed with my sister as a toddler and I managed to take a picture through the dusty
glass, of the living room, where I had snapped my parents sitting by the fire with the cat and the
dog. It was a very strange feeling.



The house was at least still very recognisable. After 54 years, the garden had completely
vanished.   The beautiful trees and shrubs had gone, as had the little wall with the lovely pots and,
as I wandered through the weeds, I thought about my mother's pride and joy, the pond with its
huge water lilies and the bench where she would sit to admire it. Then, the garden sprang one
last surprise. There, filled with weeds, but unmistakeable, was the pond and behind it, the bench.
I think you can tell from my expression in the photo, that discovery meant a lot to me.

 

 

 

 

After a nostalgic hour at the house, we went for a little trip to the tea garden, which was
very quiet, as plucking was not due to restart for another three weeks or so. Again
the staff were very kind and gave us a tour of the factory, but having seen the glorious
tea gardens at Glenburn, it was obvious that this was a garden in decline and, as
we passed the Cinnamara manager's bungalow, I wondered how Jack Simpson, who
was in charge when we were there, would have felt about it.

 Then, it was off to the Jorhat Gymkhana Club, where the memories all came flooding back.
The honours boards listing the presidents and secretaries with so many familiar names, the 
cinema, which is still in use, the cane light fittings in the bar (I'm sure they are the original ones!)
and the function room upstairs (avoiding the holes in the floor) with the little stage where my
mother performed in the amateur dramatics which she loved. Then we were introduced to
the bar man who has worked there since 1961. He had never met my father, because he
left in November 1959, but every time I mentioned a name, he could say which tea garden
they had managed.

 

Finally, I asked if we could pop into the only "proper" shop we had in Jorhat in the 1950's, Dos's
General Stores. I had noticed it was still there and wondered how it was getting on these days.
We walked in and my mouth fell open. I was transported back to my childhood instantly and I
commented to my husband, not only were the counters and the dusty glass cabinets the same,
but the stock looked as though it had been there since 1958 too. We peered round the corner,
into the accounts department, where two clerks scratched away at their ledgers in true
Dickensian fashion. So we bought a bottle of gin to celebrate their amazing survival and toasted
them, back at Thengal Manor that night.



We ended up back in Kolkata for a couple of nights and tied up a few loose ends.
Firpo's which I remember as a source of sweets and cakes had gone, but we had lunch at Flury's
and watched the old gents having their beans on toast. Then we braved the New Market and
found that Tejoomal's the jeweller ("Jeweller to the King of Nepal"), where my parents bought
me my silver charm bracelet and locket, is still there, although it is called Tejoo's and sells rather
inferior stuff. There was even a picture of the current owner's uncle, who visited the tea gardens
in Assam, selling his wares.  It gave me time to reflect on my experiences and to think with
gratitude, about all the people who had helped, in one way or another, to make the trip so
memorable.

 

Thank you to the following people who gave me information and advice which made my trip
such a pleasurable experience: Rana Dasgupta, Valentine Davies, Jill Dawkins,
Georgina Gordon-Ham, David Kincaid, Dacre Mogg and David, Editor of http://www.koi-hai.com/

If I can return the favour to anyone else who is planning a trip, I can be contacted by email
at viv.griffiths@gmail.com

 

 



 
January 17 2012

Can you help ?


This is a request from Viv Griffiths who is planning a trip in February to India and including Assam and has a strong desire to ge back and visit the Jorehaute Company places that she remembers as a child--If anyone has suggestions will they please contact her direct at her e-mail address which is   viv.griffiths@mail.com


Hi,
My name is Viv Griffiths and I have only recently become aware of your website. I was delighted to find it, as my stepfather and mother, Bill and Margaret Doran, were married in 1953 and lived in Cinnamara from 1954-1960, when Bill was Sudder Office manager and they lived in the Cinnamara Manager's bungalow, which we took over from Philip Branson
.
I lived there with them for only two years and for part of that time I boarded at the Loreto Convent in Shillong. My sister was born there in 1956 and baptized by John Nelson, whose sons were also playmates of mine.
I returned to the UK to live with my grandparents in 1956, but I did return on a "children's special" flight in the summer of 1958, to spend my summer holidays there.
The photo of the managers of the company in 1963, which appeared on the website this month brought back many happy memories, although my parents had left by then.
I vividly remember glamorous characters such as Tiger and Lenore Gore and Willie and Claudie Mole. Jack and Tyl Simpson were close friends of my parents and my mother and Tyl stayed in touch until my mother's death in 2003. Gusil Brown's daughter Anna was my best friend, but I lost touch with her after we left India.
I am contacting you, because in mid February, I am returning with my husband to Assam for the first time since 1958. We have visited India several times, but I was reluctant to go back to Assam, in case it had changed so much that it spoilt my recollections.
However, I am now 64 and I decided that if we didn't return soon, I might not get the chance again. We are staying in Calcutta, Darjeeling, spending 5 days on a boat on the Bramaputra (where I nearly drowned in 1958, when I went on a duck shoot and got out of my depth in the river!) and finally, to Jorhat, where we are staying at the Thengal Manor.
I obviously want to visit my old haunts, including the Jorhat Gymkhana Club and especially the Cinnamara Manager's bungalow, which I assume is still there, but whether it is occupied or I would be allowed to visit it, I have no idea. 
I wonder if it would be possible to put my email on to the website,with a request that anyone who wishes to get in touch or has any advice about our visit should contact me at
viv.griffiths@mail.com? I would be very grateful.
I also have quite a few photos from that period, some of which I took myself with my box brownie, so they aren't very clear, but they might be of interest to some of your correspondents.
regards,
Vivien Griffiths
(nee Ford)

 

  December 24 2011 


JOREHAUTE COMPANY MANAGMENT  circa early 60's

Basant Bardalai  the son of Taran Chandra Bardalai sent this

photograph to Denys Shortt son of the late Peter Shortt with the

comment :

I am attaching the copy of the photograph that I have,  taken in 1963, at

the Superintendent's bungalow, in Cinnamara, Jorehaut.

The photograph is of all the managers of Jorehaut Tea Company, once

the envy of the Tea Industry worldwide


 

Behind back row Bill Robson

Back row: Pat Russell,  Dick Clifford, John Parks, Peter Mertling

Second row: John Ham, Willy Mole, Warbie Warburton, Peter Cruden, Tiger Gore, John Burnett

Front row from left:   Jack Simpson, Bill Gawthrop, Tony Roberts,
Gusl Brown, ‘Taran Chandra Bardalai'

The Editor thanks David Kincaid and Cethin Davies for identifying all in the picture

 

 

 

 

October 6 2011
 

MEMORIES OF PAKHI DASGUPTA of JTCL


 

Thanks to Rana Dasgupta the son of  Pakhi Dasgupta who
served in the Jorehaut Tea Company Limited from 1956 till 1996. 
we have the above photograph.

The photograph taken in 1960 at Langharjan Tea Estate with my
father Pakhi seated second from right next to the Manager,
Mr. W.G.B Nicholetts, his family and the garden staff.  

 

Rana tells us that his father sends out his good wishes to
his father's erstwhile colleagues  Mr. Cethin Davies,
Mr. David Kincaid and Mr. Dacre Mogg, plus his special
salaams to Mr.Denys Wild,his Manager and later
Superintendent whom he fondly remembers


Please click on the section name you wish to read

Introduction

Communications & Transport
Internal Communications
Shipping
Place Names
A Small Diversion as written by Dick Clifford

June 2005

The Jorehaute Company

This section is dedicated to the  book of the company written by H. A. Antrobus in 1946--and covers the period from 1859 to 1946--- chapters have been added later --We have started with the Introduction of the book and followed by

 

Communications and Transport in the 19th century


This project  has been made  possible through the kindness and generosity of Hilary Eade the granddaughter of Stanley and Dora Lloyd.

Stanley Lloyd  was manager of Numaligarh T.E. in the Golaghat district and was part of the Jorehaute Tea Company Ltd.  Hilary's grandfather  retired in 1939 having served 29 years in Assam. 
Hilary worked very hard to  photocopy the book and sent it to me by mail all the way from Canada, and I thank her sincerely.

        As a result of receiving this book the Editor has been in touch with Denys Wild who was the last superintendent of the Jorehaute Company from the late sixties. The company and other tea companies were purchased by Camellia Investments in 1971. The new board changed Denys's title from Superintendent to General Manager. 

Denys left India in 1973 and the Company was purchased by Poddar company with its head Office in Calcutta in the mid 70's  

***********************************

Here are some photographs taken from the book but shown in groups please remember that most of the pictures are at least 60 years old and others are over a century in age.

 

 

 

 The HISTORY  of

THE JOREHAUTE TEA COMPANY LTD

1859 - 1946        BY      H.A. ANTROBUS

*******************************************

INTRODUCTION

It was many years ago when I was in Calcutta, on those occasions particularly of bidding farewell to the elder planters on their retirement after 30 or 40 years in Tea, that I thought of the connecting link with the past history of their gardens which would be lost with their departure.

I knew that there existed very few written records. In the hustle of business life in Calcutta nothing was done. It was therefore until I was transferred to London and found the old records that I obtained material to pursue the matter.

I started to probe into these just before the war, but it is true to say that the work would have progressed far slower if it had not been for the need to find some useful occupation to relieve the boredom of living in an hotel when Begg Roberts & Co office was evacuated from London to Englefield Green during four years of the War.

There are several books on tea and the tea industry. None of these which I have read correlate with the history of the industry and development of a single company, which is what this account attempts to do.

It will be understood, therefore, that in these pages there is nothing new as regards the tea industry of Assam.

The Jorehaute Tea company Ltd is the second oldest to have been incorporated in the British Empire and which exists to this day--the oldest being the Assam Company. There are many older tea estates no doubt, but not, as far as I can discover, any duly constituted as limited liability companies.

The material from which the account has been written consisted chiefly of the Company's 18 Minute Books. In the first few years of the Company's existence it was the practice for the Managing Director to record as part of the Board's proceedings, every letter received and despatched, which gave most valuable and authentic information, not only of the Company's policy but an insight into the tenor of correspondence and the flowing phrases used then in business letters as opposed to telegraphic communications of today. The very few original letters that have been found are examples of that wonderful copper plate calligraphy for which old letters are famous.

With the expansion of the Company and the increase of correspondence these proceedings of the Board were abbreviated to the name of the person addressed, and the page of the copy letter book in which the communication would be found, the latter destroyed long years ago.  From that date, about 1865, the Company's records are at the mercy of the writer of the minutes. By corrections that appear in Mr William Roberts handwriting, it is obvious that for a number of years were a matter for his personal concern, but thereafter, from the historian's point, they degenerate, though they were at the time they were written perfectly businesslike. To the chronicler of today, the minutes of the Jorehaute Company follow the general rule in that they raise questions which they do not answer and excite curiosity which they do not satisfy. What secretary of a company writes the minutes today from any point of view than that of the moment, for matters familiar to him are assumed to be known, and the details which he omits are just those which at a later time it is difficult if not impossible to reconstruct. In writing the history of an individual company I had in mind the preservation of records which might have been lost or forgotten, and that it might be of interest to some of those in the tea trade, but I did have in mind, also, that such a history would be of value to future member's of the Company's staff.

There may be young assistants who have wondered, on their first arrival in the country and being stationed on a particular garden, what at that place was their position in the Company, or what, in fact the Company was to mean to them. If sufficiently inquisitive , a newly-joined assistant might learn something from the senior managers, under whom he was posted, though that source of the information is not very reliable, for it is not until some planters are due for retirement that they have been able to sift the truth the truth from the distorted stories which they heard first when they came out to Tea.

I am conscious that to many who have experience of Assam this account will be incomplete. For these omissions I apologise. Communications with India were difficult during the war years and the stress and anxiety of those times people were preoccupied with other things, whilst they were afraid to entrust to the post papers and documents which would have been of such inestimable value.  I have experienced the fact that, with rare exceptions, it is most difficult to obtain for the asking anyone's experience or knowledge of a particular incident of which I am sure they could give confirmation.  One way to overcome the reticence is to write what is alleged to be the facts and ask for a correction. I would ask those who read this and can fill in what has been left out , amplify an account or correct a statement, kindly write to me , for in this way only can one expect to have a record eventually of the whole story.
It will be noticed that in this story of the Company's progress practically no reference has been made to the wives and families of members.  In extenuation of this apparent discourtesy I must point to the chief material from which the account has been written, the Company's Minute Books, in which the subject matter is confined. strictly to business. I have appealed for information , anecdotes, or stories regarding the men who have been in the Company's service; it is hoped that those who respond to this will include, of course, the same of those admirable ladies who have shared in the vicissitudes and uncertainties of an industry based on agriculture snd the discomforts of the trying climate of Assam. Everyone appreciates that without the aid and companionship of these pioneer women the men could not have accomplished so successfully all that they have.

Before the history of the Jorehaute Company was completed there has occurred the death of Mr F.A.Roberts. It was a few months only before he died that I submitted to him the first draft of what had been written, and I was fortunate to obtain his criticism and notes from his remarkable memory of incidents of years ago. It will always be a regret
that he did not see the account completed, for it was with his help and encouragement that it was all done.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped me with information and suggestions.                                        
H.A.A.
138, Leadenhall Street
London EC3
________________________________________________

September 2004

COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSPORT

In more recent years visitors to the, tea districts of Assam gained the impression that amongst the resident planting community there were only two topics of conversation-motor cars and tea. The former did not take precedence over the vital question of producing quality and quantity, but to possess a car that would negotiate what roads did exist was something worth talking about, for it meant neighbours could be visited and the weekly club day attended. Older residents of the more isolated gardens have painful recollections of what it was to be marooned on their gardens for months in the rains, through the roads being impassable for any means of conveyance they possessed.

With the metalling of roads throughout the Province this topic of conversation has tended gradually to assume less importance, but it may be of interest to remind those who know present-day means of transport only, of the conditions which existed when tea was first put out.

The original Commission of Enquiry set up by Lord William Bentinck in 1834 to ascertain the possibilities of growing tea in Assam took, on their voyage in 1835, about four and a half months to reach Sadiya from Calcutta. The whole journey was made by country boat up the Brahmaputra . But in those days, even, people spoke of some improvement having been made in communications, though it was admitted that they were very bad still.           

The post from Calcutta was carried via Murshidabad, Malda, Dinapur, Rangpur to Dhubri, but this route was almost impassable in the rains to the dak runners, even. The only means of travel then was by river.       

The journey down stream from Goalpara to Calcutta occupied from 25 to 30 days, and in the opposite direction eight days longer probably, but to gain an idea of the time taken for heavier craft, there is an account that at the time of the Burmese Wax in 1825, when supplies for the army were urgently required, a fleet of commissariat boats took 25 days to make their tedious way from Goalpara to Nagabera, a distance of about 30 miles, and as the chonicler comments, " there was no remarkable wind to impede their progress."

It is not recorded how long it took for the river journey only, or from which station the first consignment of tea was despatched, but what is regarded as the first shipment, that of eight chests comprising a total of 350 lb., was forwarded from Assam on May 8, 1838, and was sold in London on January 10, 1839.

Within the Province itself, in 1853, carts and carriages were unknown and the roads were few and bad. The two great trunk roads which run now east and west along both banks of the Brahmaputra had not at that time been commenced.

In 1859, when the Jorehaut Company was formed, the only means of transport to and from Assam was by river steamer.

It was the necessity for accelerating the transport of troops and their supplies, for there remained after the Burmese war much pacifica­tion work for the military authorities to do, which caused Government to establish, about 1847, a steamer service on the Brahmaputra. At first these boats ran at very uncertain intervals and they did not proceed beyond Gauhati. The Assam Company petitioned Government for an improvement in this service, and they asked only that there should be a regular monthly service to Gauhati, and in alternate months a steamer to go the whole way to Dibrugarh.

This service proved very soon to be wholly inadequate for the then small but expanding needs of the industry_ The accommodation was inadequate on the upward journey, particularly for the large numbers of urgently needed coolies being imported then for work on the estates.

When Mr. William Roberts went out to India , in 1859, to take over the newly-purchased properties of the Company, he reported to the Board that he, in collaboration with others who had interests in Assam , were making efforts to form, a " Steam Company " for the navigation of the " Berhampooter ".

The Calcutta agent in a letter to the Board dated September, 1860, reported that the India General Steam Company had arranged to despatch a steamer and flat to Dibrugarh every six weeks during the cold weather. This suggests that formerly sailings in the cold weather months, when owing to lower water in the river and consequent greater difficulty in navigation, the steamers ran only at longer intervals. This reference to the India General 'Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., in 1860, does not date the inception of that Company, its steamers had been operating in other parts of India since about 1844. It does show, however, that this was the first Steamer Company to cater for the tea industry's traffic on the Brahmaputra .

The Jorehaut Company possessed its own iron boats or flats. These were used not only for shipment of tea from the garden to the ghat or steamer station, but were taken in tow by the steamer to Calcutta . These boats would appear to have been of very similar type to the flats used today, though much smaller. Four new boats ordered in 1864 were 55 feet long by 9 feet 6 inches wide and 3 feet 6 inches deep, with curved corrugated iron roofs. One gathers something of their capacity from a report from the Calcutta agent in 1862, that he had received advice from Cinnamara of the despatch of 200 chests of tea by one of the Company's iron boats.

The Company had its own iron boats at Numaligarh up to 1898, though it was reported then that of the three existing boats one only was in fairly good order, the second required constant repairs and the third was not worth repairing. As it was decided to keep only the one boat and sell the others, it is presumed that it was not long afterwards that any boating that was necessary was arranged with local boatmen.

The difficulties of getting a season's crop transported then. compared with present-day facilities, is seen from a letter written by the Superin­tendent in April, 1863, to the Managing Director, in which he explains why, at that date, there remained still at Oating some of the teas of 1862 season.

•• I regret to say that owing to the shallowness of the Dhanseerra and the difficulty of procuring small boats of which to make 'mahs' s ' a considerable portion of the teas still remain at Oating, and it has been

thought advisable to retain what had already reached Numaligarh so as to make one shipment of the whole, to prevent confusion. As we have had heavy rain since the Ist, the river will most likely have risen high enough to admit of the iron boat going up to Gola Ghat and that the ' Lucknow,' advertised to leave Calcutta on the 9th instant will take all."

The minute books do not give the necessary detail to follow up the final disposal of Oating teas of 1862, but as the " Lucknow " would have had to make the trip up to Dibrugarh and back to Dhunsirimukh before picking up the consignment, it can be presumed that after arrival at Calcutta, with a sea voyage to undertake stilt of not less than three months by sailing ship via the Cape, it could not have been much before August, 1863, that the teas reached London !

Before turning to other means of communication within the Com­pany's gardens, it is as well to recount all its connections with the river service, that vital lifeline between the Province .and the world outside. It was the Province's first line of communication and even though other and more rapid lines have developed since, these have at times broken down, but the river just goes rolling along. From the earliest days how many planters have not blessed a trip on the river for a day or a week or even more, to rid them of the aftermath of a dose of malaria, or other evils to which their flesh is heir.   Until the advent of better means of conveyance to the more salubrious climate of some far away hill station, the planter, after sickness, had only the river and its service as a means of recuperation.

What planter has not experienced, after the heat and sweat of the daily Kamjari on the garden in the rains, the enjoyment of a long sleever on the deck of a river steamer, soothed back to renewed energy by the cool breeze, the chug of the paddles and the sound of the leads­man's " Tin bahm, milah nai ! " (Three fathoms and no bottom.) To say nothing of the welcome change of food, and in earlier days the luxury of an iced drink, which the commissariat department of the steamers was able to provide.

There would appear to have been competition for some years to secure the industry's carrying business on the Brahmaputra, for in 1862 the Calcutta Agent refers to a consignment of 150 chests of tea arriving by the Cleghorn's steamer " Berhamputer ".         Although the India General Steam Navigation CO. Ltd., was the first in the field, it is to be noted that the Jorehaut Company made the first agreement for the carriage of its teas and stores in 1869 with the River Steam Naviga­tion Co. Ltd. This steamer company offered reduced rates in considera­tion of the whole of the Jorehaut Company's goods being reserved for the boats of that company, provided no delay occurs in the despatch of their steamers, the agreement was for a period of two years.

The Company's books do not mention the agreements that were made subsequently until 1887. The Board had before them for con­sideration two proposals-one emanating from a new steamer company lately formed for building steamers and fiats and for establishing a new line of steamers on the " Bramapooter " River-the other made by the two associated steamer companies who have been. established for many years. The Managing Director was authorised to sign an agree­ment with the India General Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., and River Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., for a period of five years from July 1, 1888. Apart from showing that the Company supported then the two associ­ated lines which have today the monopoly of the industry's river traffic, ' it indicates that the two companies had come to that joint working arrangement years previously to 1887, and that they had then and continued to have for some years, competition from other companies.

One presumes that the original and older steamers were the stern­wheel paddle type, but there were attempts at record-breaking neverthe­less, for in a letter dated June 22, 1861, from the Managing Director, when he was in Calcutta, to the Board, he reports that the Steamer " Madras " had returned from Assam, having accomplished the upward and downward trip, presumably to Gauhati only, in 37 days, including stoppages.

With a view to accelerating their service the steamer companies, in 1863, made Kooshtea the terminus for their Assam cargoes, the rest of the journey to Calcutta being done by railway. This was not a successful arrangement, however, for the rough handling the chests received in transhipment caused much damage. The carriage of tea direct to Calcutta was reverted to in May, 1864. This latter arrangement had the advantage that on occasion consignments could be loaded direct from the inland steamer or fiat into the sailing ship lying in the Hoogly at Calcutta .

In old letters there is nothing to be found in confirmation of stories one has heard of the lavish hospitality of the captains of these inland steamers, or of the lucrative trading they did with the communities at the different stations on the river. For many years after the forma­tion of the River Steamer Companies their vessels were commanded by European skippers. In those days it would seem that the captain was responsible for the proper handling of his cargos- for presumably there were no stevedores at the main river stations or at the terminus. One gathers this from complaints made by Mr. James McIntosh, the Superintendent in 1863, who blamed the commander of the '' Agra " for damage to his chests, which damage he remarked did not occur on steamers commanded by Captain Morton of the " Lucknow ".

Amongst the property belonging to Cinnamara when the Company purchased it from George Williamson, there was what is described as " Also, a plot of land situated at the mouth of the Kokelah Nuddy, on the bank of the ' Berhampooter ' River, containing about three acres, held from Government under the usual annual rent-paying pottah, or lease, with a storehouse erected thereon." One has to admire the vision displayed by George Williamson, senior, in providing thus, some

ten miles from his garden, a depot for the unloading of his stores inwards and for the collection of his invoices of tea outwards. It would be interesting to know if this was the site of the Kokilamukh River station today, but knowing the vagaries of the banks of the Brahmaputra , that land may not exist or may be miles away from what is the station now.

Considering the intricacies of navigating the hundreds of miles of the Brahmaputra it is remarkable that there were so few accidents. In the first 35 years of the Jorehaut Company's existence, only, three losses are reported. The first was mentioned in the Agent's letter of February 7, 1862 , that the fiat " Mutlah " in tow of the steamer " Madras " struck against the rocks seven miles above Gowhatty, there were on board 175 chests of Cinnamara and 12 chests of Kohabar teas.        

Of these consignments 83 chests were salved and, although the tea was partly damaged, it sold in Calcutta for nearly a rupee a pound. The insurance company in London settled the claim eventually at about 2s. 6d. a pound.

In 1891 the fiat " Nizam " in tow of the steamer " Mirzapore " was lost with about 8,000 chests of tea, of which 210 chests belonged to the Company. On this occasion the value of the loss was recovered at about 1s. a pound.

The third occasion was in 1894, when the flat " Borendra " was totally destroyed by fire when at Naraingunge---the Company lost 762 chests, the value of which was recovered at about 1s. I 1/2d. per lb.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

To turn from the river itself to other means of communication and transport between the Company's gardens and its neighbours, it is necessary to go back to the original prospectus of the Company to find what was provided in the way of stock-in-trade for the transport of man and goods.

Cinnamara possessed three good elephants and two elephant carts. At Numaligarh there were elephants, elephant carts, bullocks, ponies and boats.

That such conveyances were not provided at Koliabar and Oating is to be accounted for by the fact that the former garden has at its door the river steamer station of Silghat and the latter relied upon the Dhunsiri River for the transport of its teas via Golaghat. Numaligarh was nearer to the Dhunsiri than even Oating and eight miles only from Dhunsirimukh, but its more varied complement of means of transport had been acquired probably to deal with the cultivation of sugar which had been carried on there previously.

Of the elephant carts there is no description, or a statement of what was their capacity in chests of tea per trip, but at the outset this was for Cinnamara the only means of getting tea to the river for onward despatch to Calcutta and London . It must have been a painfully slow and cumbersome process to get an invoice to Kokilamukh -invoices of 200 chests were not an uncommon size even in 1860. Elephant carts were superseded by bullock carts, though elephants were used for hauling timber out of the forests and were a part of an estate's property for many years.

In 1896 the Superintendent reported that the Company's elephant " ]onakie " which was used for dragging logs for sawing purposes had had to be destroyed.        In 1898 in reporting the death, which was presumed to be from snake bite, of one of the other elephants belonging to the Company, Mr. Showers proposed to replace it with another one if it could be procured at a moderate price.     .

Good elephants, however, were not available often, and this difficulty was experienced as early as 1865. This is to be learnt from a letter to the Board dated October 17, 1865 , from Mr. G. B. Stevens, the Superintendent this letter gives also a hint of the transition to the use of bullock traction and to the coming of the pony and buggy.

" As I find it impossible to procure elephants, I purpose purchasing a few pair of up-country bullocks, four pair I estimate will do the work of one or two Cart Elephants, these will be then available for bringing in timber and other purposes.       One cart as a 'muster' and wheels we shall require from Calcutta, the other carts that may be wanted can be made up here, as roads are opening out and getting more passable yearly, an extra cart or two will always be useful in bringing in tea from the out factories, charcoal, etc., etc.

" The bullocks I shall be able to obtain, I think, at some of the melas held in the neighbourhood of Rungpore in the cold weather.

" I hope you will approve of this. In a former letter you asked about two horses sent up by Mr. Williamson some years ago, one was sent to Numalligarh, but I learn that soon after its arrival there it went in the loins, was found useless and was sold by Mr. Lumsden, the assistant at Numaligarh for Rs.l 00, this sum was no doubt credited in the factory books; the other one died there only the other day, for a long time, I understand, it had been next to useless and both were old horses when sent up.
The roads and bridges being looked after and kept in better order than formerly, horses and ponies are much more common in Assam than they used to be, and generally speaking, with moderate care and attention, stand the climate very well. In the rains it is only along the high roads and not always then, these animals can be used, across country an elephant is absolutely indispensable."

Where means of transport affected the Company's business there is some reference to it in the minutes, but nothing is recorded about the mode of employees' conveyance either for their convenience or for their work on the garden. With the cutting of more roads through­out the Province, though they were so often little better than mud tracks, the bullock cart became for several years the chief and in many cases the only means of transport of merchandise between the gardens and the river, or the railway terminus, and on this account perhaps further mention of it is not made.   For the second reason there is nothing mentioned of the pony and buggy except in 1884, when the Company discontinued the practice of supplying and maintaining horses and granted their managers and assistants a horse allowance of Rs.30 monthly. It may have been this which fostered that friendly rivalry between individuals to possess, when the very necessary com­mission was forthcoming, the best horses in the district and. for the senior men the best turn-out in which to visit neighbours and the Club.

Polo must have been introduced when ponies and horses became general. The Company-has encouraged their members  always to take up this king of games and has done more to keep it alive in recent years than many other proprietors. The advent of the motor car, and those periods when there was not much commission with which managers and assistants could buy ponies, threatened to eliminate the game from the Province where it had found such favour originally. The Company's scheme to advance money to their men for the purchase of ponies has done good, not only for the sake of the game, but for the physical well-being of the men themselves.

 

It is difficult to state, without fear of argument, when the first motor car made its appearance in Assam , who introduced it and what was the make of car. It has been said, however, that the honour goes to Mr. Newton Gill, a planter then on the North Bank, who in 1904--5 brought his Darracq to Assam . Mr. Newton Gill gave up tea planting and became subsequently a local agent with the Tea Districts Labour Association. The ubiquitous Ford or " Tin Lizzie " was for a long time the only vehicle which could negotiate the ruts and potholes of the soft Assam roads. Now, with metalled roads and pucca bridges over the innumerable streams, any make of car or lorry practically can traverse the length and breadth of the Province.

Before this advance in means of conveyance was attained, however, there had appeared novelties on the roads of Assam , even, which included the planter who had his coach and four. Whilst there is the story of this Company's Superintendent who, to save time and what probably appealed also to his Scotch ancestry, money, had mattresses and his bedding put on a bullock cart and was driven all night at a leisurely two miles an hour to his out-gardens. The story is embellished by the report that one of his own assistants, driving his car home from the club one night, met this entourage, which refused to move to the side of the road to let him pass, so he got out of his car, beat the driver for his insolence and drove the bullock cart and all into the dhan-ket and drove on ? It was not until the assistant arrived at his own bungalow that he discovered that the bullock cart contained also his supply of soda-water. So for that night. or what was left of it, he had to do with­out more " belati-pani " with which to quench his thirst!
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SHIPPING

An account of the development of communications, should continue perhaps with that of the advent of the tramway and railways in the Province, but as they were much later in point of date, precedence should perhaps be given to the mention first of shipping from Calcutta to London.     
The factor which stands out most in comparing the early days of tea with the present, is the matter of the time taken between the date of making the tea and its arrival on the London market. One would be disposed at first to blame this to the long sea voyage by sailing ship via the Cape . A further examination of the facts shows, however, that delay was occasioned chiefly by the garden's inability to make its boxes in proportion to its rate of tea production-a garden was making a new season's teas before it had finished packing the previous year's crop. Transport to the despatching station on the river, of tea that had been packed, was the next delaying  factor.

These delays before the teas were put on board the sailing. ship in the Hoogly, are appreciated best from the Calcutta agent's letter to the Managing Director of February 18, 1862 , in which he advised that with a shipment he had made at that date there had been completed the despatch of half the crop of season 1861. Writing on July 11, 1863, the Superintendent advised that he had then shipped, from Assam, the first of that season's crop, that is, tea made in March-April, for in those days a larger proportion of the crop was produced in the first flushing months of the. season. This, it is to be noted, was an accelerated despatch, for in acknowledging his advice the Managing Director remarked that this early despatch was of much importance in many ways!As an indication of the total time taken, the first invoices of the Company's teas of season 1862, a consignment of 605 chests, was sold in London on May 5, 1863 . About 14 months after the date of production

The average voyage by sailing ship from Calcutta to London , via the Cape , took four months. In a letter to the Superintendent in 1862, the Managing Director advised that the " Areta " had arrived with 387 chests of tea after a long passage of nearly five months. In a letter dated January 11, 1864, there is reported the arrival on November 23, of the " City of Cashmere " with 100 chests, after a very rapid voyage of a little over three months from the Sandheads.
There is no romance attached to these tea ships from Calcutta to London , such as there was to the China tea clippers.  The first mention of an ocean steamer is in 1861, when a consignment of corrugated iron was shipped by " screw steamer " to Calcutta ­this material was for rebuilding the Numaligarh factory which had been destroyed by fire.

Steamers in those days were not so reliable as sailing ships and accomplished the round voyage, via the Cape , from Calcutta no faster. The s.s. " Jason " left Calcutta early in March, 1862, at about the same  time as the sailing ship " Marlborough ," both. carrying some of the Company's teas. The " Marlborough " docked at London on July 4, and the s.s. " Jason " berthed at the Victoria Docks on the 10th. It is to be noted, however, that the Managing Director, in his letter to the agents of July 26, advising the arrival of these teas, mentioned that the s.s. " Jason " was ashore an the Western Coast of Africa and that there was likely to be an average statement.

The Jorehaut Company were quick to take advantage of the opening of the Suez Canal in November, 1869, as a means of getting their crops home earlier, and on January 5, 1870, a cable was sent to the agents to " ship all Jorehaut teas via Suez Canal, freight not exceeding four pounds." To this the agents replied on January 18, asking that the necessary insurance be effected on a consignment of 400 chests which they had shipped in the s.s. " India " by that route.

Though this first shipment through the Canal was by steamship, consigments continued to arrive by sail for some years afterwards, for in 1870, and up to May, 1871, there is record of only one other shipment, in addition to the above, by steamer and that was 238 chests in the s.s. " Hotspur."   The steamer was made more use of on the outward voyage for new assistants. Dr. Stobie and Mr. Huttmann, when they event out to join their respective appointments with the Company, sailed together in the s.s. " Euphrates," on August 19, 1863, from Greenock, via the Cape. This ship was scheduled to reach Calcutta by the end of October -it did not arrive at that port, however, until December.

Letters between London and India appear to have been very consistent in the time taken for the journey. Many of the earlier letters in 1859 did take two months to reach London, but in the early 1860's the average time for letters from Calcutta to London was a month, and from Assam six or seven weeks. Before the opening of the Suez Canal there were two mails a month_ They went alternately, one by P. & O. steamer from Calcutta to Suez , from there by rail to Alexandria , where they were transhipped to a steamer for London . The other went by railway from Calcutta to Bombay and from the latter port by steamer to Suez and then onwards. The railway had not then been completed across the whole of India . On the Calcutta side it had been built as far as Nagpur , from whence the mails were taken by dak runner over the 150 mile break to the terminus for their onward carriage to Bombay by rail.

Delays in the arrival of letters by this route were due, it would appear, more to the defects of the steamers than to the hazards of the journey performed by the dak runners and the railway across India . Writing on January 5, 1864 , the agents reported that owing to the steamer with the mail of November 26, having broken down in the Red Sea , the Managing Director's letter had not reached Calcutta , but that his letter of December 3, 1863 , via Bombay , had reached them that morning

Mr. Robert B. Pringle, when he went out to join the Company's service in 1862, travelled by the overland route; he left Southampton on September 3 and arrived at Cinnamara on November 30. Dr. William Durrant also, when he went out in 1865 by this route, took two months exactly for the journey to Cinnamara.

Considering the length of the voyage and the number of trips that were made in carrying the Company's produce, the recorded losses and damage to sailing ships was remarkably small.

There was the loss of the " LordClyde," Cowper, Master, from Calcutta to London on October 7, 1860, in Lat. 33 South, Longitude 28 East with, amongst other cargo, 60 chests of tea belonging to the Company. This was insured with the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation, who settled the claim for 34 chests Pekoe at 2s. 10d. per lb. and 26 chests Souchoug at 2s. 4d.

In 1862 there was reported the loss of the " Colombo ," which was carrying mails, but where this occurred is not mentioned. In writing to the Calcutta agents. the managing director advised that he had received their letter of November 7, 1862 , which hadbeen recovered from the wreck of the " Colombo ," although it was in a damaged condition it was sufficiently legible.         The cyclone that struck Calcutta in October, 1864, is a matter of history. The subject is referred to in the Calcutta agents' letter to the Managing Director of October 20, 1864------ " You will have seen from the newspapers an account of a violent cyclone which passed over the city on the 5th instant, doing immense damage to propertyand particularly to the shipping.  

The ' City of Lahore. ' in which the last batch of tea was shipped, was cleared at the Customs and ready to drop down the riverwhen the storm came. In common with all the other vessels in the port she sustained serious damage and has had to discharge part of her cargo to undergo repairs. We have ascertained that this Company's batch of Tea is perfectly safe and has been landed in the bonded warehouses until the vessel is ready for sea again.        The detention we are told will be a short one.    We shall send you by next mail a pamphlet giving full particulars of the gale and do not therefore enter into detail here.

" It seems to have extended as far as Gowhatty in Assam , but by that time the fury of the storm would have appeared to have nearly spent itself and we are in hopestherefore the tea districts and especially those in which you are interested have escaped unharmed.   Our latest letters from theJorehaut quarter are dated 5th instant, the day of the gale here, and no mention made of any unusual weather.  It seems to have followed a north-easterly course from Calcutta , gradually decreasing in violence the further it went inland."

It was confirmed later that the storm had abated before it reached the Company's gardens.

On the outward voyage there was the loss in 1866 of the

·' Tenasserim," bound from Liverpool to Calcutta , carrying amongst its cargo a consignment of sheet lead for the Company's estates.


Of steamers of much later date, the s.s. " Queen Anne " was lost in the River Hoogly with 491 chests and in 1885 the s.s. " City of Manchester " with 114 chests.     All were covered fully by insurance.

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PLACE NAMES

The names of places, gardens and roads throughout Assam are of interest-amongst residents their translation may become, however, a matter of heated controversy, a diversity of opinion caused probably by the individual's endeavour to translate the name into its Hindustani or Assamese equivalent. One wonders if these disputants overlook sometimes the claims of the ancient history of the Province, in the time of the Ahom dynasty, for the origin of the place name, and before Hindustani was spoken in that country.

It is questionable if the past history of Assam is a very strong point with the average tea planter-it is a fact, however, that there are not many written records which are readily available. Through many gardens there are mysterious earthwork embankments or bunds, which are known to the planters who will explain that they were built by some bygone king with slave labour, but the ever-invading jungle has in the course of time eliminated almost even these monuments of the past.

History tells us that there were very few stone or brick buildings in Assam in the early days, and that because the courts and palaces of those many nobles, the Bar Barnas. Bas Gohains, Burha Gobam and Phukans, were kutcha, 'they may yet have been maintained on the same sites for hundreds of years.

One has read in managers' reports of a section of tea having to be abandoned because it will not grow, the conclusion come to, confirmed probably by some local story, being that the area is an old village site. One can imagine a village after a visitation of cholera, smallpox, or some such virulent disease, having moved off to some other site and having left no trace, but one wonders if this site is not, in fact, where some former king or Burha Gohain has held court in a civilisation of centuries ago ?  '

That is one aspect of the matter which is conjectural, but not so erroneous probably as the common idea that Assam had never been anything but a howling jungle, out of which the pioneers of the tea industry carved their gardens, adopting haphazardly as the distinctive name of the place that given to the area by some local inhabitant.

Without desiring to take sides in the controversy regarding names of places belonging to the Jorehaut Company, there are given for what they are worth, the following translations, and where it is possible reference has been made to the name in its connection with the history of the Province.

KOLIABAR.      Should be spelt Koliabor, as it is said to derive its name from the Kolia species of the Bor tree (Ficus Elastica) which

abound at that place.    There have been found in the neighbourhood, some pieces of carved stonework, parts, it is believed, of an old temple.

In point of date Koliabar is referred to in the history of Assam from 1532 as the place where the Mohammedan army in their battles against the Ahom rulers, halted for the rainy season. It is impossible to correlate the exact site of the Koliabar of history with the garden of that name today but it was there or thereabouts, for Koliabar of long ago was the scene not only of battles, but it was an important strategic point for the collection of troops and stores, and right down to the time of the British entry into the Province in 1793 it was used as a base by that small force. And later still it was a place that was occupied by the Burmese in their invasion of Assam , and from which they were driven eventually by the British troops in October, 1824.

NUMALIGARH. In the account of this garden as a division of the Company, reference has been made to the romance attached to it and to the translation of its. name into Numali, the name of a Princess, and garh, a fort in which she lived. It is, in addition, the only garden of the Company upon which has been found any monuments of historical interest, but it is not referred to particularly in the history of the Province, though it is possible that the romance may have taken place in the reign of the Ahom King Rajeswar Singh, 1751-1769, a monarch who preferred pleasure to the affairs of State.

KHARIKATIYA is the garden with the most variable spelling; Kharikatia, Koreekuttea, Koreakuttia, Khoreakuttia, Kharikatia, sometimes as one word, other times as two. The Company in its Annual Reports records four different ways of spelling the name from 1874, when the garden was opened it was spelt Koreekuttea, in 1923 it -was changed to Koreakuttia, and in 1925 an " h " was added to make it Khorea Kuttia, and then in 1939 it was abbreviated to KKharikatia. The spelling is a matter of unimportance probably, though local opinion would be for the shorter name of Kharikatia, whilst there would be some who would translate the name into the place where thatch was cut.

History, however, tells us that Kharikatiya Ali was the name of a road built in the reign of Rudra Singh, 1696-1714. Again, when the country was being over-run by the Moamarias in the reign of Gaurinath Singh, 1780-1795, the then Barha Gohain built a line of forts along the Namdang stream froze the Bar Ali to the Khari Katiya Ali.

It is not possible to identify this Khari Katiya Ali in relation to the other places named. In an old map of 1864 of the Assam Company's and neighbouring gardens, the Bor Allee is shown as running from the mouth of the Dikhoo river to Nazira, crossing the Namdang, which is marked as a tributary of the Dikhoo, the Dhodur Allee is shown as joining with the Bor Allee at Nazira and ending at the Desoi river somewhere above where present-day Moriani is, and the Khari Katiya Ali may have commenced there.

JOREHAUT. The name of the Company in its spelling of jorehaut has not varied, though the town and district from which it took its name is invariably and officially spelt: Jorhat.

We do not know if Mr. Wm. Roberts in naming his Company Jorehaut was influenced by the historical associations of that place, but it was of importance enough no doubt that the Company bore the name of what must have been one of the largest towns, and of a district, in the whole Province.

Although Jorhat as a town in India is insignificant in point of size, it is in the Province of considerable importance, though in history it is of less antiquity than such places as Gauhati, Nowgong, Sibsagas, Tezpur, etc., but it was once nevertheless, the capital of the Province, though this was when as an Ahom kingdom, Assam was declining.

It was in the reign of Gaurinath Singh, 1780-1795, that at Jorhat a fortified position was built at which to arrest, though unsuccessfully, the onslaught of the Moamarias.

In response to Gaurinath Singh's appeal to the Governor-General, Lord Cornwallis, a detachment of sepoys under the command of the famous Captain Welsh, was sent to his aid. A small party from this force under Lieut. Macgregor routed the Moamarias near Jorhat in February, 1794.     It was this small force which drove the Moarmarias as far as Rangpur near Sibsagar, the then capital, and would have driven them back to their own county if it had not been for a change in policy when Sir John Shore succeeded Lord Cornwallis as Governor­General.      It was decided to stop active interference in Assam 's affairs, and Captain Welsh and his force were withdrawn.

As Captain Welsh foresaw, the Moamarias, emboldened by the withdrawal of his expedition, attacked Gaurmath again, who withdrew from Rangpur and made Jorhat his capital.

Later, when the Burmese overran Assam , they occupied Jorhat just before they returned to their own country in 1817. Again in 1819, when another force of Burmese at the instigation of the Bar Phukan, invaded Assam , the Ahoms in their retreat fell back on Jorhat.

When the British determined finally to go to the assistance of Assam against the Burmese, the latter in their retreat in 1825, concen­trated their forces at one time at Jorhat, before despairing of defending that place they set fire to their stockade and fell back on Rangpur.

At the close of the Burmese War the Brahmaputra Valley was put in charge of an assistant to the Agent of the Governor-General, and this officer had his headquarters eventually in 1829 at Jorhat.

When the British Government decided to restore the Brahmaputra Valley to native rule, Purandar Singh was created the Raja of Central Assam and Jorhat in 1833-34 was made the capital of the new State.

Purandar Singh's administration proved a complete failure, and his' territories were placed once again under British officers and Jorhat lost its position as the capital of the Province, but it lost little, if one refers to McCosh's description of this royal court, written in 1838.

"The present representative of this once powerful dynasty (Svargadeo or Lord of Heaven, as he is pleased to call himself) now resides at Jorhat in noisy pomp and tawdry splendour; his resources

-limited to that of a Zemidar ; his numerous nobility reduced to beggary

or to exist upon bribery and corruption, and his kingly court (for he still maintains his regal dignity) more resembling the parade of a company of strolling players than anything imposing or sovereign."

CINNAMARA. Is a case where there are two possible trans­lations, one that it is the place where a Chinaman was murdered-­" cheana " (wallah) a Chinaman and " maro " to strike.                                                                   The other derivation being from " chini " sugar, " mara " place (where it is made), or the place where they made sugar. It is known that sugar cane was grown in Assam before ever tea was produced; but with the latter the introduction of Chinese tea-makers and cultivators. It would seem that a connection with sugar-making would be the more probable meaning, particularly as that is of older origin.

RUNGAGORA is translated literally into Red Horse. When this garden was put out originally it was called Rungamatti or red earth, a name common to any garden on red bank soils.                                                Rungagora is a name given to more than one garden in other parts of the Province. Rungagora is mentioned in the history of Assam as having been, about 1834, the capital of the District of Nowgong.          This district is quoted as having extended at one time as far east as the Dhunsiri River . There is a Rungagora, an outgarden of the Amluckie Tea Co., Ltd., in the present Nowgong District, so it appears doubtful which, if either, of these gardens can claim historic importance.

 

SYCOTTA was from the time of its planting out and for many years subsequently spelt Sycotty. " Cotta " is a measure of land and the name could be translated into Sai cotta, or land which has not been used or cultivated.     In one old lease it is spelt " Chaicottai," which could be made to mean a piece of land measuring six cottas, . ` chaff " meaning six.

TIOK. This Company's garden derives its name probably from the Tiok River , which flows along one boundary of the garden and thence into the Towkok River . This garden is not to be confused with another spelt Teok in the Jorhat District which is situated not far from a river Teok.         This Teok, or a place of that name, is mentioned in history as where, in the reign o€ Gaurinath Singh, the Burha Gohain, during the war against the Moamarias in 1790 built a fort.

Of the other garden names the following are free translations :­

BOKAHOLA = muddy swamp.

KATONIBARI = forest garden.

BORSAPORI = large grass land.   Bor meaning " big " and •` sapori " or " chopri " grass land.

" Jan " means a stream, so LANGHARJAN and LOKOOJAN mean streams of those names, and RUNGAJAN the red stream.

MURMURIA = the place where people were beheaded.  

 

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2006
A SMALL DIVERSION. 
PLANTING TEA. Etc.
as written by Dick Clifford  
Dick Clifford who worked for the Jorehaute Company from '46 passed away in November 2005 at the age of 83--His nephew Colin Meiklejohn has very kindly supplied us with Dick's comments when he was leaving the industry he loved having served quarter of a century in it.--below are Dick Clifford's  writings 

Much can be written regarding life as a Tea Planter and as I must be one of the last hundred or so to serve there I will, at the risk of boring the reader, give a short account. As the Tea Industry is now totally indianised no further opportunities exist for such as me. So we are a dying breed. You might be interested. Imagine a grant of land covering 2000 acres, six or seven hundred of which is planted with tea bushes at anything from 2500 to 3500 to the acre. A tea bush lasts well over thirty years but after twenty years or so the yield declines so there is a constant replanting programme. The six hundred acres under tea are divided up into plots of varying sizes, anything from six acres to thirty or so each given either a number or a name. The whole area is crisscrossed with roads and paths but the shape of each "section" is dependant on the topography due to streams, rice fields, or paddy land cultivated by the labourers at peppercorn rents, and other use to which the land has been put.

As the plantations in Assam are mostly on flat ground and the rainfall usually exceeded eighty inches a year, which fell during the Rains, It meant that about another two hundred acres were taken up by roads, streams and paddy land. Then there was the tea processing factory, the store rooms,  offices and withering sheds, all surrounded by a high security fence, usually covering say four acres. As Tea is a very labour-intensive industry requiring on average one-and-a-half labourers per acre under tea a six hundred acre estate would have to keep almost a thousand labourers on the daily pay roll .As the whole family were employed, father, mother and children over the age of 8 or 9, all had to be accommodated in housing which the estate had to provide, latterly to Govt specification as to size and density per acre. That then took up anything up to fifty acres. Bungalows for the executive and clerical staff, football grounds, the estate hospital, the school and the local shop used up another ten acres so, as per my reckoning, we have used up some 864 acres out of the 2000 .Bearing in mind that the original tea estates were powered by steam engines and all the processing was done by using wood-burning stoves, each estate had to use vast quantities of firewood which they produced from their own jungle or forest land. They had also to produce their own bamboos and thatch for housing hence the other half of the estate was taken up by such productive land. Since the advent of coal in the last fifty years and, more recently, oil, the jungles have become the source of firewood for the labourers and most trees have been felled making it into grazing land for the hundreds of cattle the labourers seem to keep. Being Hindus they do not eat beef and these animals multiply at a quite alarming rate and do much damage to the tea, sometimes being driven in to graze much to management's annoyance. That covers the size of the estate.

We generated our own electricity till about 1965 and had to maintain a complete water supply which was piped through to all built up areas. A small fleet of lorries and tractors was also kept. We had an estate hospital for minor cases but a Central hospital for more serious matters at Cinnamara. We had a school for children who wished to attend but few did after the age of 10. As tea grows strongly for about eight months of the year and each tea bush must be visited at least once a week to harvest the tops of the new shoots during this period, the reason for the huge labour force becomes apparent .The labour force is divided up into batches each with its own supervisors and they descend on the sections each day like a swarm of locusts come rain or hail.

What they have gathered is weighed up individually twice a day and a record kept of each individual's productivity for they are paid accordingly each Friday .During the season the sections must also be hoed or forked to keep down the weeds. During the non-productive four months each bush has to be pruned in some form or another, again at piece-work rates. This is also the period when unproductive areas are uprooted and new plants put in, all of which have been produced on the estate either from seed or now by cuttings or clones taken from selected bushes on the estate.

As to the manufacturing process, what leaf was plucked today must be manufactured into black tea within 24 hours and usually sorted into varying grades within 48. Today's manufacture was sorted tomorrow. The green leaf came into the factory twice a day (or sometimes three times) and was immediately thinly spread on Hessian cloth spread over wire-mesh racks in what was termed the Withering Shed where it stayed till ready for further processing . This was when it had become flaccid and lost some of its moisture content so during the hot weather this took perhaps twelve hours before manufacture had to start at midnight or soon thereafter. In the colder weather it took longer and a more civilised hour was acceptable. The leaf was then collected up and either rolled in Sirocco machines or, alternatively, put through a C.T.C. which simultaneously crushed, torn and curled it as the initials imply. Having made it into this messy state it was then thinly spread at a one-inch depth on trays to ferment and become oxidized and let its own juices interact. This process was critical and it took a good tea-maker to decide the optimum time required which varied from an hour to two or more, depending on the ambient conditions prevailing.

Once ready for the next process it was gathered up again and taken to large endless-tray drying machines, spread thinly on the trays through which hot air was blown so as to extract the moisture remaining in the leaf, and came out as black tea which one buys in the supermarkets . If it came out with too much moisture left in it the process was repeated but care had to be taken not to scorch the end product.  A quick pass through a dryer was to remove any moisture which had perhaps been taken up was essential before the packing process, as any moisture in the packed tea resulted in a mildew taste by the time the tea chests were opened at the Brokers in the U.K. some five months later. Once fully dried it was carted off and placed in a huge heap on cloth on the floor to cool off overnight. The next process,  Sorting, was mechanical where it was fed up conveyors on to vibrating wire-mesh trays of varying mesh,  the dust coming right through to the bottom and varying other sizes came out of the spouts at the end, the biggest at the top of perhaps a six-tray machine.

After sorting, the tea was kept separate in huge aluminium lined bins till there was a sufficiency to pack up a number of chests which had to be in multiples of six come what may. After packing it out, it was carted off by lorry for shipment by train, lorry, or river steamer to Calcutta .Once out of the factory, after Excise Duty had been paid, we lost interest till the Brokers reports or sale notices came home to roost. Tomorrow was another day. Prices for our teas were published and carefully monitored and there was much rivalry in Assam to see who was heading the price listings. As we were also paid a Commission on profits the incentive to produce more and better teas was certainly not absent. One's existence depended on it.

Virtually all tea was sold on the London Market, through Mincing Lane, till the end of the 1960s. Only second grade tea was sold in India up till then, but the Indian Govt saw the possibilities of a full blown Calcutta tea market and consequent income of foreign exchange. Once they had the organisation going, with purely Indian run Auction Houses, the system changed and any U.K. importer had to purchase his teas in Calcutta and pay sterling to boot. This pertains to this day, but as 95% of the industry is Indian owned, the old U.K. firms having sold out to Indians, one can not grumble.