Family Pringle



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 Clarkwho 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 Cinnamaraon 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 onebrother, 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 notesI 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 for4 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 aresult 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 forwounded 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 MildredPringle.  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 occupationwas: 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 seemsthat 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 TheKings 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.



   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 pounds.

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 notin 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 notbe 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 plantations.  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