Pringle Family

under construction


A Trip to India

In 2013 whilst planning a holiday to Italy to attend a wedding, Mum casually mentioned
that she had not been to Venice, Rome and other places which had always fascinated her.
  Sal and I decided that she and Mum would fly to London and visit Monky (Monica Lacy-Hulbert),
her first cousin and then meet us in Italy.  As it turned out this was to be the last time Monky
and Mum had together as Monky (1919-2014) died earlier this year.  How pleased we were
that they saw each other again.

From this very successful trip the idea was formed to take Mum back to India, her place of
birth.  This progressed to taking Margaret, her sister as well and by March 2014 the plan was
hatched.   Margaret and Barbara (her daughter) had wanted to visit Assam whilst on a holiday
to Europe in 1970 but at the time it was deemed unsafe and so Margaret’s long term dream
had remained just that.

Over the years I have heard many stories of their life in India.  Margaret and Mum left there
in 1932 aged 6yrs and 4 yrs respectively.  Their father had been the Manager of Badulipar
Tea Estate.  They may have been young, but India was always there in the background and
part of who they are.  When on occasion being asked my mother’s place of birth, I always
loved saying ‘Shillong, Assam, India’  How exotic!  On a second look at me with red hair
and freckles, ‘no Mum was not Indian’!

And so the research began.  Margaret has her own memories documented in a biography she
is writing.  She also has papers, letters and photos from that time.  Tim Lacy-Hulbert has
done much research on the Pringle family.

A wonderful web-site Koi Hai, has been set up by a retired tea planter and is specifically for
family and friends associated with tea planting in Assam during the past 150 years. 


The Pringle Family

Generation 11 (Tim has documented the family from around 1400, but I am starting here.)

John Pringle (1763-1836 at Bairnkine).  I start with him because of names the Turnbull family
used to call their properties in Australia.  Interestingly enough in the book put together on the
Pringle Family by Tim Lacy-Hulbert in 2007, there is mention of an Eileen Turnbull (1746-1822)
and Mary Turnbull connected through marriage.   In 1812 John secured a 21 year lease on
Bairnkine, 1200 acres.  In 1823 and 1825 there are 2 letters addressed to John Pringle of
Carribber at Bairnkine.  He became a trustee to the estate of his aunt, Katherine Baillie Clark
who owned Carribber.  On 23 October, 1824 he executed a deed of Entail in favour of his
son David for Carribber.


John Pringle had 8 children, however for this exercise I am only mentioning Major David Pringle
(1790-1876) and his brother Robert Baillie Pringle (1806-1878).  There were 6 children between
these two.  Robert Baillie Pringle was the youngest child, whose arrival meant unfortunately
his mother’s death in 1806.   

 2  Generation 12

Major David Pringle:  In 1806 he was commissioned to the 7th Regiment Native Infantry in Bengal.
  He received endless commissions, first as an Ensign by the Duke of Buccleugh in May 1804,
followed by many others of Major and Lieut Col in 1855.  He retired from the army in 1835. 
When his father John Pringle died in 1836, David inherited the estate of Carribber whilst his
brother, Robert (father of RBP) inherited the estate of Bairnkine.  David died in 1876 and
subsequently left Carribber to his youngest brother Robert Baillie Pringle.

Of interest is that Robert Baillie Pringle was factor to the Earl of Hume (grandfather of Sir
Douglas Hume).  The silver candlesticks which Margaret has were a present to Robert on his
marriage to Margaret Brown, from the Earl of Hume. 

 3  Generation 13

Robert Brown Pringle (1844-1927) (from here on referred to as RBP) was the son of Robert
Baillie Pringle (1806- ) and Margaret Brown (1817-1886) of Rawflat.  He is the paternal
grandfather to Margaret and Isobel and he had three sisters and two brothers.  His older
brother was John (1842- 1917) who married a widow, Helen Mitchell in 1892 and had no
children.  RBP also had a younger brother David who went out to India in 1866 but died in
Bombay in 1869 aged 24 years.  When John died in 1917 the ownership of Carribber was
passed to his brother RBP.  However on his retirement RBP found that the Scottish climate
was a bit too tough for him after years in India, so he continued to live at Ardmore in
Stoughton Guildford. 

RBP – left Bairnkine in 1862 at the age of 18.  An extract from the koi-hai website says 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.’

RBP had an older sister, Margaret living in India, married to Major General J.P. Sherriff of
the Bengal Staff Corps.  We presume that RBP stayed with them but have no knowledge
of how he ended up on tea estates in Assam.

RBP marries Agnes Isobel Scott.

Agnes Isobel Scott  (1863-1915 – referred to in these notes as AIS or after she was married
as AIP) had an older sister Jessie (1862-63), who died in infancy and six other sisters and one
brother, Duncan.  She must have remained close to her family because her sisters and
descendants are family that we also have kept in touch with.  Amongst them were Alice
“Doodie” (1866-1951) who worked at Revilles in London and ‘dressed’ Queen Mary.

Notes from Margaret: Margaret has a piece of material in her possession from one of Queen
Mary’s dresses! Also when she married Errol Turnbull after the war, dress materials were in
short supply and one had to have coupons to buy them.  To Margaret’s great delight Doodie
sent out a beautiful length of heavy ivory satin, which  Margaret had made into her wedding
dress.  She also sent a lovely length of lace for her veil.  She had the wedding dress altered
for a ball gown and in 1998 Amanda Zucker wore it in a parade at Calrossy. 

Another was Amy “Amsie” (1868- ) who married Dick Forbes also a tea planter and whose
daughter was Virginia “Toddy” Porritt.   I met Toddy and her husband Jack and stayed with
their grand-daughter Georgina in the south of France in 1975.  Then there was Mabel
“Mezzie” (1877-1951).  Her daughter Joan married “Tikky” Tanner and I clearly remember
them in England.  They had two daughters, Julie and Jenny.

Agnes Isobel Scott’s mother’s father was Judge Gray and her uncle was Dr. Ned Gray, the
Doctor on the Cinnamara Tea Estates in Assam.  (Just for the record – Ned Gray’s youngest
sister was Eliza who married A J Owen.  Their granddaughter was Gwen who married Dr.
Ross Haddon)

There are two handed down versions of how RBP and AIS met.  The first most plausible was
that Dr. Ned Gray, her uncle was on leave in England and took his niece Isobel (AIS) to a tea
estates dinner when she was eighteen.  RBP was also on leave and at the dinner and met
Isobel.  RBP persuaded Dr. Gray to invite AIS out to Assam.  This she did and on 10th  October,
1883 AIS & RBP were married in Cinnamara, Jorehaut, Assam.  The second version is that
AIS went out to India in 1882 to stay with her sister Amsie who was married to Dick Forbes
and on Cinnamara Tea Estate.  Whilst there she met RBP who was on the neighbouring tea
plantation, Badulipar.  They met and married about 4 months later.   (The latter is from notes
I wrote with Monky in March 2006.)


AIS painted a collection of botanical plants.  After “tiffin” (lunch) when most people would rest
AIS would paint.  There is/was a large collection of her paintings which over the years have
been distributed to members of the family.  Those dated “Cinnamara 1882 AIS were done
before she was married and those dated AIP Badulipar 1883 after. 

Isobel was only nineteen when she married and Robert was thirty-nine, but by all accounts it
was a very happy marriage.   They had 4 children.

RBP died after complications from Appendicitis.  Baie came back from India to nurse him for
4 months or so before he died.

Probate details: died 8 July, 1929 Probate granted at Gloucester 11 Sept 1929 to Gilbert
McIlquham Solicitor and Walter Kenneth Warren Gentleman.  Effects 92,277/17/10 pounds.

 4  Generation 14

The eldest was Robert Scott Pringle (1885-1914 called by the family, Barts).  There are no
new paintings by AIP after the birth of Barts.  Barts went to Wincester school and joined
The Royal West Surrey Regiment becoming a 2nd Lieutenant on 13th March, 1907.  He went
out to India in September of that year and returned to England in 1909 and subsequently
became Lieutenant on 23 Jan 1911.

In April, 1913 he married Mary (Betty) Kenny at Westminster and they had a baby girl Mildred
Daphne Pringle who was born on 18th March, 1914.    Barts had gone to France with the
Expeditionary force but sadly he died of his wounds on the 14th September, 1914 during
WW1 and is buried in the Moulins Cemetery in the department of Aisne.

As if this was not enough his mother Agnes Isobel Pringle died on the 16th June, 1915 as a
result of a freak accident.  Her death certificate states cause of death “shock, haemorrhage
and injury to the bowels from a gunshot wound, the deceased having been shot by a gun
accidently discharging at Ardmore – verdict Misadventure”
.  It is thought it might have been a
rook rifle in the attic which was dislodged when she was looking for sporting equipment for
wounded troops.  As a result of the death of Barts there was no male heir to assume
ownership of Carribber and after his father died in 1929 it was duly passed to his
daughter-in-law Daphne Mildred Pringle.  She eventually broke the entail on the property
on 14th June, 1938 at the Court of Sessions, so ending the Pringle family’s ownership of
the Carribber Estate.  Margaret and Isobel both have copies of and remember having to
sign papers so that the entail could be broken.

The second born was Jessie Margaret Pringle (1887-1959) (Margaret and Isobel’s mother)
who was born during a trip back to England at Greylands, Chiswick, her Scottish grandparents
home.  The next two daughters, born at Badulipar, Assam were Amy Bertha “Baie” (1890-1983)
and Dorothy Isobel “Bon”(1895-?).

The third child was Amy Bertha Pringle 1890-1983 (Baie)  who married Lt-Col Percy Norton
Whitestone Wilson, DSO, MC.  He was born 28th Feb, 1886 at Roorkee, India.  His occupation
was: Royal Fusiliers, 1st Battalion.  He died on 4th March, 1933 at Ahmednagar, India and is
buried in India.  Baie & Percy were married on 18th December 1916 in London.  They had a son
Tom Pringle Wilson (1917-1945)  and two daughters Monica Baie “Monky” (1919-2014) and
Jean Isobel (1922-1984).  Monky married Denis Lacy-Hulbert and had two children, Tim who
has done much of the family research and Susy who is on this trip with us, with her husband
Henry McDowell.

The fourth sibling was Dorothy Isobel (Bon) 1892?- who married E F L Wright “F” and had
one son Robin in 1929.

In 1893 before Bon was born RBP and Isobel went back to England on leave and left the two
eldest children Barts (8 years) and Jessie (6 years) in England for schooling. Jessie (whom the
family called Daya) stayed with their aunt Lizzie Riddell.  It was quite natural for children born
in India to be sent back when they were very young to go to school.  It was considered the
climate unsuitable and no schools in India.   Barts at the age of 8 attended boarding school.

Jessie (Margaret & Isoble’s mother) was very unhappy living with the Riddells.  There were four
girls and two boys in the family.  The younger ones, Rietta and Willy teased her endlessly and
made life unhappy. Jessie eventually went to Miss Soulsip School in Herfordshire as a boarder
for some years, but Margaret says they did not hear much about school life.  Jessie wrote plays
and poetry and played the piano.  Margaret has an exercise book with Jessie’s poems.  She
adored Bon, being older than her and there is one poem of how much she misses Bon when
she went off to boarding school. 

In 1908 Robert & Isobel Pringle retired back to England.  In 1909 Robert went out to India
for a visit.  He would have made a couple of visits over the years to check on the tea plantations.

In 1909 the family bought a Riley car and all the excitement that went with this novel means of
transport, it being driven by a chauffeur.  Those were carefree and happy days before the war. 
The family went skating in Dresden, Germany in 1909.  Jessie spoke of a friend from Russia
whom she hoped to visit, but never did.  And then every August they went to Scotland for the
opening of the grouse season on the 12th!

Robert Brown Pringle – RBP wrote extensively to the Managers of Badulipar and to others,
especially to the directors of the Badulipar Tea Company.  Margaret has his letter book but
unfortunately the paper is tissue thin and disintegrates very easily.   She and I have been
through it recently and Margaret has tried to decipher what she can.  Most of it is business
mainly to do with tea, however there is mention of a letter to the Automobile Assurance Co.
With regard to a Riley 18HP @400 pounds.  There are letters to Curtis Skene, who was the
manager of Badulipar for at least 10 years, and a letter to Best (a director) referring to the
‘Badulipar affair’, but again it is very hard to decipher the writing.  There are more letters to
Forbes, who may have been a manager at Badulipar.  Margaret thinks perhaps that Skene
managed while Forbes went on leave.  Usually six months leave was granted every four
years, for it took 3 weeks to sail to England or Australia and 3 weeks to return.

In 1915 there is a letter to Skene, who had written about a tea garden that was for sale. 
RBP replied that it was too far away from Badulipar to be managed successfully.

In 1920 there is a letter to Dear Mr. Ross, also a Mr. Adams and Mr. Stephens.  It seems
that Mr. Ross had taken over while Skene was on leave.  Everyone in those days was
called by their surname, never the Christian name except in family.  Obviously RBP did
not know Mr JHC Ross at that time, but he had probably met Curtis on his last trip out to
India.  It would be in two years time, 1922 that Jessie Pringle and JHC Ross would meet.

In 1922 Jessie Margaret Pringle went out to India and stayed with Dr. Foster, the doctor on
Badulipar Tea Estate.  It was here that she met John Herbert Chisholm Ross (1892-1963),
the assistant manager at the time also on Badulipar.    They were married in 1923 and  JHC
Ross was the assistant manager until Skene resigned and went back to Australia.  He then
became the manager.


5      John Herbert Chisholm Ross

JHC Ross (1892-1963) was a ‘jackeroo’ at  Mogil Mogil in NSW immediately after leaving The
Kings School in Sydney.   He would have been about 18 years old when Curtis Skene came to
the property looking for horses.  Curtis Skene was a tea planter in Assam and as a sideline he
used to import suitable ponies for polo to the Indians and tea planters.  I think once the horses
were in India he trained them for polo and then on sold them.  We are guessing John Ross
showed him the horses at Mogil Mogil and Curtis Skene suggested he should travel out to
India with them and he would find him a job on the tea plantation.  This occurred and J Ross
remained in India for the next 20 yrs.   

When WW1 came along John joined the AssamValley Light Horse but was advised that he
would be of more use to the British staying where he was, and using his knowledge of the
local languages to assist and encourage recruitment of the Assamese, than as a routine soldier.
  John did not see active service and like many of his generation regretted that circumstances
had intervened.  Later, in Australia he would enlist early in WW11 in the 12th Light Horse. 
However he was 47 years old at the outbreak of hostilities and what with age, the conversion
of the Light Horse to meet the needs of modern warfare, and health problems, his period of
service was no more than one year.  After that he took charge of the local Volunteer Defence
Corps and reached the rank of Major.


 6   Curtis Skene (1880-1968)

Curtis Skene was a good judge of horses and on every leave he went to Australia and bought
horses, mainly polo ponies, but some remounts for the Indian Army.  In Rumer Godden’s book
“A time to dance, no time to weep” p 102. She mentions that her sister Nancy went to Australia
with Skene looking after ponies on the voyage back to India.

Rumer Goddens father-in-law was Dr. Foster, the doctor on the Badulipar Estate.   In her book ,
“A time to dance, no time to weep” she wrote’ with only a year to run before he was due to retire,
he found he had cancer of the face, without any fuss or ado he and his wife Florence left India
and went straight to London, where he was cured at the Marsden Hospital.  After almost
twenty-five years of faithful service, but because he left before they were quite fulfilled, the Co.
Refused to pay his pension”
Dr. Percy Foster was nearly seventy, but with what savings they
had, they brought a small house in a developing suburb and he put up his plate (medical) to
start again.

An entry in RBP’s book states an increase in Dr. Fosters pay from 1365.8.0 pounds to 1500

There are many other entries in his book regarding the tea plantations and managerial decisions:
  One extract is on Page 333 October 1920. To Skene.  Things are getting tough, reduced area
of planting, reduced labour also and the area of nurseries.  With your present good stock of
labour, it is probable you may be able to put out a certain amount of new tea without curtailing
your drainage and managing programme.  Hartley plantation more in need of draining-manuring
lime and green crops, perhaps oil cakes? With Vitrolin? As a temporary stimulant.
  He goes on
to point out that lime manure as at present applied looses much of its value from not being
properly housed.  It is proposed to sanction an expenditure of 50,000 pounds on manuring,
which he thinks is ample until the garden is better drained.  He says at present we are not
in favour of chemical manures simply to stimulate production till we get the full benefit of the
draining and manuring schemes as recommended.............

Margaret has made a note  there is a lot more in RBP’s book but as I felt the family would not
be very interested so I did not enlarge on it......
..........who would have thought all those years
later that here we are in 2014 heading back to Assam!

 7     The Tea Estates

Records  state that RBP was the Proprietor of Koomtai TE, Nahorjan TE and Badulipar TE.
We also think the Badulipar Tea Co consisted of three planations.  These would have been
Badulipar which was the oldest and the other two were Cinnamarra and Rangajan.  He was
also a company director.

A list of tea gardens in Assam as at 31st December, 1903 lists RBP as being a owner/part
owner of: 

 8          Badulipar Tea Estate  1830 acres of which 545 were planted out.  Labour force was 849 
Proprietors  W. Riddell, J Riddell and R. B. Pringle.  Manager C. T. Forbes. Cal agents,
Octavius Steel & Co.

Boure   433 acres of which 249 were planted out with 314 labour force. Owned by Messrs
Pringle and Riddell bros.

Farkating 449 acres and owned by Looksan Tea Co, and Messrs. Pringle and Fraser.

Here is a series of five photos taken during the visit to Badulpar

Lou,  Mum, Sister Sally, and brother Richard

Badulipar Office Building

The Office at Badulipar Te Estate  (not the main office which is at Koomtai)

Margaret and Annie

 Margaret and Annie

Rangajan (Garanga and Garanga South).  Owners Looksan Tea Co and Messrs RB Pringle
and JS Fraser 4,934 acres of which 1,105 was planted out with a labour force of 732

Nahorjan and Bokakhat.  1514 acres of which 505 were planted out with a labour force of
480.  Proprietors R. B. Pringle, H. R. Forbes, J. S Fraser and C. Forbes.  Manager, H R Forbes. 
Cal agents, Octavius Steel & Co.

 Koomtai Tea Estate – Acreage 3417 of which 877 was planted out.  Proprs. R B Pringle,
GF Pinney, F. Stivenson and J P Sheriff. Manager. J G Bush, Asst & engineer, T H Hall. 
Cal agents Octavius Steel & CoLabour force 1,099.


9       The Ross Family in India

Margaret Rowan Ross was born on the 25th December, 1925 at Shillong, Assam.  Isobel
Pringle Chisholm Ross (Tiny) was born on the 10th May, 1928 also at Shillong, Assam. 
Tiny was baptised at the All Saints Church at Cinnemara on 29th October, 1928.

When Margaret was a baby JHC and Jessie (Daya) Ross (Margaret & Tiny’s parents) went
back to England.  We don’t know how many other trips there were but Margaret guesses
that on one of these trips RBP probably asked JHC Ross what his plans were after India. 
(In most cases the tea planters retired to England.)  We can only assume that JHC had
no intention of returning to England and instead planned to go back to Australia and
make a life for himself as a grazier. 

Around 1931 Kenneth Warren was made a director of Badulipar Tea Estate and JHC Ross
decided that this was the time to go out to Australia. Also the opinion of that time was that
children should be sent back to England for schooling and  Daya did not plan to be
separated from her children.

A couple of stories Tiny recalls being told of life in India:

“Mum went to see Meg Skene who was married to Curtis Skene for afternoon tea.  Dad was
the assistant manager to Curtis.  Margaret was crawling and Meg had a pet tiger cub.  Mum
noticed that the cub was stalking Margaret.  When she mentioned this to Meg, Meg replied
‘you had better put the baby in another room’!!
   We were all amused when Mum used to
recall the story.  I doubt at the time she was very pleased!”

On another day she went to have tea with Meg.  The servant brought in the tea tray but
had forgotten the milk.   So she said to the servant ‘you haven’t brought the milk’.  Mum
happened to see out of the corner of her eye a thin black hand pass around the corner of
the screen door and carefully pick up the tiger cubs bowl of milk.   Mum declined to have
milk that day!!

Mum went out on a shoot with dad once and stayed the night in the hide, high up in a tree.
  This usually happened if a tiger had been prowling around the village or was a man-eater
and had taken a child.   This was rare and usually only happened if the tiger had been
injured or was very old and had no teeth.

Mum shot a crocodile and there is a photo of Mum sitting on the bank of the river.  It was
skun and she had a writing pad made out of it.  A card case was also made.

There was always an ayah who looked after the children.  Margaret remembers spotty Ayah
– who we guess must have had a bad case of small pox. She says there was black ayah
and white ayah.  One came from the Khasi hills and she thinks from Naga.

In 1931 whilst on leave JHC & Daya went out to England for three months and then came
out to Australia by ship to meet the Ross relations.  From Australia they sailed back to
England, but JHC got off at Calcutta to pack up the possessions at Badulipar.  Sadly the
house burnt down two days before he left Badulipar, so all possessions were lost, including
Daya’s much loved piano and Margaret’s dolls house. So they came to Australia with very
little except for things already sent ahead, all during the depression.  Daya had continued
on the ship with the girls to England.  Isobels one recollection was that it was bitterly cold
in England and you had to wear gaiters which had very tiny buttons from the ankle to the
knee.  They must have had an English nurse at that stage and she had to sit very still while
she had the buttons done up. 

She also remembers returning to Australia on the ship.  They stopped again at Calcutta to pick
up JHC.   There was a child further down the passage from them who was crippled and had
crutches.   Margaret befriended her and she and Tiny used to borrow the crutches and had
such fun going up and down the corridor – Daya of course was horrified.  She remembers
very clearly that after lunch in the afternoon  JHC used to climb up onto the top bunk in their
cabin and Margaret and Tiny used to lie either side of him while he read Treasure Island. 
It was way over Isobels head and she was asleep in seconds.

Margaret says the ayah used to put us to bed at about 8 whilst the grown ups were having
dinner and then she would sneak back to the girls with desert – banana custard and delicious
  All a secret from the grown ups!

When JHC & Daya were managers, the assistant managers house went up in flames and
the ayah took the girls down to have a look.  The houses often burnt as the roofs were all
made of thatch.   

Margaret had a little pony and the syce (groom) used to take her for a ride and she had a ring
saddle.  One day Margaret insisted on building a cubby house out of bricks.   The poor syce
had to go and get the bricks and help build it.  It was fairly elaborate with a curtain entrance –
not sure if there was a roof.  I guess it was just part of his job to help entertain the children.

The Sibsagar District Polo Challenge Cup was inaugurated in 1897, but Goriajan was not
among the original founding clubs.

The Goriajan club is located on Koomtai land (Badulipar Tea co).

10       The Goriajan Club –

   JHC Ross was a very good rider and polo was very much the sport of the
day.   We have many silver cups from those days.  The Goriajan Club
was obviously very important for the social life of the time.  Unfortunately
it is in ruins, but hopefully we may see it anyway.

It is thought the Goriajan Club was founded sometime between 1897
and 1914.

e photos show a large silver cup which was originally presented as the Sibsagar District Polo
Challenge Cup which was first played in 1897 among eight Polo Clubs.  Desoi, Golaghat,
Jhanji, Kakadonga, Moran, Nazira,  Sonari and Jorhat Gymkhana Club.  This beautiful trophy
was designed under the direction and supervision of J.H.H. Rolphe, the late hon. Secretary
of the tournament. The cup is hundred ounces in weight. Goriajan Polo Club, though not one
of the founding members of this tournament won it in 1914, 1915,1916,1918,1923 and 1929.

While returning from Assam a British Officer (Mr Ian Leetham) took this cup to his home
country and offered it to Hurlingham Polo Association. The then secretary of the H.P.A. Col
Alec Harper, knowing that Rutland Polo Club had been formed only recently, suggested that
the Club might have the cup. It was later stolen and a replica made.  However the base was
not taken and has the following names inscribed on it, being winners of the Goriajan Club

1914 (A. A Gardner, P Foster,C G SkeneCpt, F H Rust)
1915 (Adams, Ross, Skene, Gardner)
1916 (B Adams,J H Ross,C Skene,H A Gardner)
1918 (J Ross, R Gilmore, C Skene Cpt, H Gardner)
1923 (Dr Hewson,H H Morrison, C H Skene, J H C Ross)
1929 (T. A. Thomas, V. L. Hardford, J. H. C. Ross, J. C. Johnson)

General Information:

In those days men in India met very few women, although many single girls came out to visit
their relations in the Indian Army or on tea Estates.    There are numerous stories of life in India
in those days.  “The Fishing Fleet” by Anne de Courcy, “A Season in India” by Ruby Madden and
“Two under the Indian sun” by J & R Godden.


The manager of a tea garden (Sahib) in the late nineteenth century ranged from a sole European
(and sometimes Indian) in charge of a smaller tea garden, to larger establishments (1000 acres
and above) employing a head European in charge (Burra Sahib) above one or more assistants
(Chota Sahib). The assistants often had distinct roles. One of them was delegated to oversee
field work and the other, generally a mechanical engineer, looked after the work in the factory
and was responsible for the quality and quantity of tea manufactured. The manager earned
anything between Rs. 450 and Rs. 600 


The best quality tea in India comes chiefly from Assam. It was way back in 1823 that Robert
Bruce, a merchant and soldier, first spotted the tea plant in Assam and this eventually led to
East-India Company developing a trade in it


Cinnamara:  Cinna in Assamese means Chinese and Mara means tea making. An Assamese
man was the first man to bring the tea bush into Assam from China, from up in the northeast,
in the Himalayas. The local people did not know how to process tea so this man, Maniram
Dewan,  imported Chinese people who knew how to grow the tea bush. In those days the
bush was allowed to grow into a tree. The Chinese used to climb ladders to get the new
leaves. The Chinese worked in the garden and in the tea factory. So the first tea garden
was called Cinnamara.'


The British rule in India became known as "The Raj," which was derived from the Sanskrit term
raja meaning king. The term did not have official meaning until after 1858, but it was in popular
usage many years before that.

Incidentally, a number of other terms came into English usage during The Raj: bangle, dungaree,
khaki, pundit, seersucker, jodhpurs, cushy, pyjamas, and many more.


11       History and Stories

On 3rd May, 2014 I was looking up stories on the Hoi Kai website and came across an article by
Alan King – the extract of which follows.  Mum was amused when it got to the part about the safe
and JHC Ross.  She says she remembers there was a pink silk bag – full of keys that came
back to Australia -  she thinks the key was probably amongst those!

Extract by Allan King:

March 27 2014

Alan King tells us that although I spent 17 years in Sibsagar District between 1963 and 1980 I never once attended the annual Jorhat Gymkhana Club Races. However, on reading the article of 14th October 2013 I recalled an amusing incident that occurred while with the Badulipar Tea Co. I attach my "story" which may be of interest to your readers."

Safe Keeping.

Your recently published disclosures of the nefarious dealings of one Albert Douglas Masters in Jorhat in 1932, had me recalling an odd incident that occurred during my time in Assam.

In 1969, following a term as garden assistant at Badulipar Division, I returned to the factory and became the mistri sahib at Koomtai. Always looking for ways to generate “cash” to undertake small welfare projects for the workers, we regularly collected scrap metal from around the estate and sold it to one of the dealers who were always around.

Being of an inquisitive nature, I recalled that in the Badulipar office lay a locked metal safe! There were no keys and the staff assured me that it had not been opened for many, many years. No one knew what it contained.

Using the “scrap metal” collection as a cover I had the safe brought to the Koomtai workshop. Under my close scrutiny, but without ceremony the fitters attacked the safe, managing to gain access through the rear. It was a first class fireproof safe with double-walls of thick steel sheeting, the gap being filled with charcoal.

Finally all was revealed, it was not stacked full of banknotes, but full of books of unused Jorhat Gymkhana Club Race Week Tote tickets !!! Nothing else ! Except in the small draw were a couple of letters and a few odd coins (where those are now, I do not know).

Although the majority of the several hundred books of tickets were destroyed, I did keep one or two; unfortunately none appear to have survived my time in Bangladesh. I am not now sure of the date of the tickets, but it was certainly 1930 something.

The letters I have! One is addressed to W. Kenneth Warren c/o JHC Ross

Esq. at Badulipar from the Secretary of Goriajan Club, enclosing his bar

bill dated July 1930 !!!! Another letter is from the Manager, Rungagora

T.E. regarding a “mar-piet” between two groups of workers and requesting compensation. The third is a request from the Manager, Messamara T.E. for settlement of a worker’s dues. The last is the May 1930 pay-slip of A. Watson, Assistant Manager, Bonn T.E., his monthly dues were Rs. 375/- !!

Not a lot had really changed in the 40 years that those letters had lain unanswered !!

A. C. King.


below are the copies mentioned above

1 The envelope which enclosed Kenneth Warren's bar

Kenneth Warren's Bar Bill: Goriajan Club March 1930

31st July 1930 "Marpiet" Letter from the Manager, Rungagora Factory.

. Worker's (ILASI Settlement statement. From Mr Dyer of
Messamara T.E. dated 25th May 1929.


The above worker's(ILASI) Articles of Agreement.

The Pay-slip for May 1930 of A. Watson, Assistant Manager, Bonn Tea Estate.

Alan adds; Apart from the hundreds of books of Tote Tickets these were the only papers in the safe. H. Carnegie was obviously the Manager at Badulipar T.E. in 1929 (I don't know the year that the factory was removed from Badulipar and Koomtai henceforth became both the Manager and the Superintendent's billet.). Was this upheaval the reason for "lost" safe keys.


Kenneth Warren (1886-

Kenneth Warren went out to Assam in 1906 to manage the Doom Dooma TE.  He stayed in India until 1926 and returned to England.  He married Sybil Twist and had 4 children – David 1929, Peter 1934, Richard 1937 and Susan 1939.  There is a picture of David as a child in Margaret’s photo album.  His father was Walter Warren(1838-1921) and he married Grace Silverlock

Kenneth Warren wrote a story of his life called Tea Tales of Assam.  It is a short book,  no scandal and even though he was a good friend of RBP – having been invited to join the board of Badulipar and later being an executor to his will he gets one very brief mention at the end of the book.  However there were a few interesting comments which I shall repeat here:

In 1860, being the time that RBP arrived in India it would take 3 weeks by river steamer from Calcutta up the Brahmaputra River to Dibrugarh.  Most of Assam then was virgin forest.


The mutiny occurred in India in 1857, however the British remained popular in Assam especially by the elder people who remembered the Burmese occupation and the slaughter and atrocities which were committed during the occupation.   They were rescued and the invaders driven back by the British troops.


 12        In 1950 an earthquake resulted in the front of the town of Dibrugarh being washed away, especially the Government and European occupied portion.

 The Tim Lacey --Hulbert Phot6os













Another collection of pi9cs

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