Allan Adamson

September 16 2005

This page is dedicated to the writings and memories of Allan Adamson

Allan Adamson was born on 20 Nov 1933 at Nonipara TE in Assam. His Dad was Allan.Renny. Adamson (ARA), and his Mum was Margaret (Peggy ) Duncan Adamson (Nee Nicoll).  Due to the 2nd World War (WW2) Allan remained in India until late 1945. During that time he moved to Kumargram TE around 1938, and then to Lankapara TE around 1943. Most of Tales of Tea Plantations are set at Kumargram.   On return to Scotland in late 1945, Allan went to school in Dundee, and then graduated to Queens College of St Andrews University where he studied Electrical Engineering. Queens was physically in Dundee. National Service was still going when Allan graduated in 1958, so Allan got a Short Service Commission (SSC) for 3 years in the Engineering Branch of the RAF. The 3 years stretched out to 22 years, Allan retiring from the RAF in Dec 1980. Most importantly Allan and Edna Windsor Adamson (Nee Lorimer) got married on 16 July 1955, and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have 3 sons, Paul, David and George.   Allan and Edna (A&E) emigrated to Australia in 1981 where Allan had obtained a job as a civilian engineer with the Australian (OZ) Department of Defence (DoD) in Canberra. On retiring from the DoD in 1993, A&E moved down the NSW coast to Batemans Bay. In 2003 A&E moved further north to a retirement style village near Nambucca Heads, and still live there. Allan came out of retirement from 1994 to 1995 to work for a consulting company who were working out of Kuala Lumpur on the Malaysian Air Traffic System Modernisation Project (MATSMP).
We thank Allan for his contributions, he sends us  a few Memories  of Tea Plantations. Allan requests that we pardon his spelling of Indian/Hindi words!



1.       During World War 2 (WW2) Scotch whisky was hard to come by, and the local varieties were not really up to scratch. However there was a supply of concentrated Rum, and this was better than nothing. The Tea Planters had a club where they met on Wednesday afternoons, and the weekend to play golf, tennis and polo. Due to WW2, all the younger planters had been called up into the Services, and consequently Dad was in charge of the Club, and its supply of Rum. One of our friends was a bachelor planter, originally from Tayport in Fife, called Jock Dewar. He was from a nearby estate on the other side of the Rydak River. To me Jock's visits were a real highlight as we got very few visitors after WW2 started. Like a true Scotsman Jock was feeling deprived of his Scottish beverage, so used to come and see Dad from time to time to get some rum.

  1. Well Jock arrived one Sat  lunchtime in his old Ford V8 convertible, having come over the Rydak from his estate. Seeing Jock's fishing gear in the back of his car, Mum asked Jock if he had tried his luck fishing in the Rydak on the way over. No such luck, said Jock. The fishing was just no good at all.

  1. Prompted by Jock's apparent depression Dad asked Jock for his container so that it could be filled up with the concentrated rum. I can still see the look of disbelief in Dad's eyes when Jock went to his car and produced a gallon can for Dad to fill up. I can't remember all the conversation that followed, but I think a compromise was reached by the can being half filled.

  1. However this was not the end of Jock's visit. To explain further, Jock's old convertible had the top down. Also I had a cat, which, quite naturally, was very fond of fish. The next thing that happened was my cat jumping into the back of Jock's car and trying to make off with a huge fish almost twice his size. Jock also saw this happening, and in spite of his size, Jock leapt out of his verandah chair just in time to stop the cat making of with the fish. Poor Jock was quite embarrassed, and explained that he had stopped at the Rydak and caught this fish. The fish was a fast river variety, full of bones, and not at all good eating. Well Mum and Dad somehow kept straight faces while Jock made his farewells rather sheepishly. I think Jock always brought us a fish on his subsequent trips to collect rum!

5.      There were no washing machines in our bungalow in the 1930's and 1940's, but we did have Dhobi Wallahs. These men took our soiled clothing away to wash, dry and iron. Most of the clothing was white, and to my child's eyes it came back dazzling white. Everything had to be listed before the Dhobi Wallahs took it away, and the same when it came back, as some items of clothing had been known to mysteriously disappear if this procedure wasn't followed. Mum used to go through this performance once a week, and I used to love it. We used the middle bedroom for this job, and the Dhobi Wallah used to lay all the clean, ironed items out on the spare beds for Mum to check. I can still smell the aroma coming off the fresh-ironed items, some of which were starched.

6.      On one occasion my Dad's shorts were starched too much, much to my Dad's discomfort, and they had to be returned to the Dhobi Wallah for rinsing out. Usually everything was accounted for at the checking in, but on the few occasions when something was missing there would be a great discussion between Mum and the Dhobi Wallah, and some sort of compromise would be agreed.

  1. It always amazed me how the items would come back so clean and without a crease in the wrong place, especially when they were all transported back to our bungalow in bags carried on the backs of the Dhobi Wallahs. I wonder if the Dhobi Wallahs are still business, or whether washing machines have replaced them. I certainly hope not


  1. The local Bazaars sold almost everything you could wish for, but for Scottish  

People like my Mum and Dad; there were some items, which had to be ordered from Army and Navy stores in Calcutta. The ordered items would arrive in a wooden box by rail once a month, and as you can imagine it was a really exciting time for my sister Dorothy Nolan and I. I can't remember exactly what used to be in the box, but Mum ordered books for me to read, called the AL Bright Story Readers. These books contained abridged versions of all the well-known adventure stories e.g. Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities etc. I still have these books in store in Scotland, but regrettably our 3 sons show no interest in them whatsoever.

  1. Other items in the box were Royal Sovereign wooden pencils, and I loved the smell of them - it must have been the wood. The local pencils were not up to scratch, and Mum used to lock the Royal Sovereigns up in the desk to save them from disappearing. It was a real treat when Mum used to give Dorothy and I a new Royal Sovereign. To this day I have "A Thing" about pencils.

  1. Other items in the box were tins of bully beef, fruit, condensed milk, jam, marmalade, and some magazines for Mum. Once a year Army and Navy stores would send their new catalogue, and I would spend hours looking at all the items in it. You could buy anything just about from nails to machine guns, and everything in between including clothing. I often wonder if today's Indian Tea Planters still order items from Calcutta. They are probably so well organised now with modern communications and transport that they don't have to wait for the monthly deliveries.


  1. The Dooars, being the part of West Bengal that we lived in, was very rich in many forms of wild life. One of the most obvious was the gorgeous butterfly. Our friend, Hollis, the Assistant at Newlands T.E., was a keen student of the local Flora and Fauna. He introduced me to butterfly collecting, and I think he gave me my first butterfly net. My parents encouraged me as I suspect they thought I was rather lonely after the death of my little sister, Dorothy Nolan, 2 weeks before her 5th birthday.
  2. Bukshish Singh, our Mysteri or Engineer, made me a wooden case with a glass top to display the butterflies in. The butterflies were secured to the base of the case by pins. I spent many happy hours chasing the poor insects around the garden, but I really wasn't that successful as most of them escaped my clumsy efforts. However I did manage to catch a few. The tricky part was to place them in a flat tin, which originally held Dad's cigarettes, without damaging them. I used to put some menthol(?) crystals in the tin to dispatch the poor creatures. It all seems rather cruel when I look back. Really it would have been just as nice if I had a camera and photographed the butterflies, but this would have been very expensive in war time India.
  3. I brought the case with the best butterflies home to Scotland in late 1945 when we were able to return after the European war was over. Somewhere along the line the butterflies fell apart and the case got lost. I suppose nothing lasts forever, but I will always be grateful for all the pleasure these beautiful creatures gave me. I still watch butterflies when I see them, and many of the Australian butterflies look very like the Indian ones.


  1. How does one recapture those magic moments of childhood, which are like still frames of a movie of long ago? There is one that comes to my mind from time to time - intangible and tantalising - with the focus somehow fuzzy, and yet in an instant so clear. So clear that I can even hear the silence and smell the hot air under those shade trees of over 60 years ago.
  2. The bungalow is before me - my home framed by trees on each side. The air over the lawns and shingle drive shimmers with the heat, and a Blue Jay - as if oblivious to the pre-monsoon heat - spreads its wings on the drive and shines iridescent in the sun.
  3. It is siesta time for all - my parents and servants alike - but I treasure this hour for there is no-one about to scold me as I walk among the tea bushes just outside our garden. A Golden Oriole perches in a tree nearby, shaded partly by the leaves, but unable to completely hide his brilliant orange plumage.
  4. All is still except for the slightest breeze rustling the leaves so gently. The fierce sun beats down, and the wide shady verandahs of the bungalow look so cool and inviting in contrast. Somewhere in the distance a brain-fever bird makes his strange and chilling call. Everything is so hot and still and secure. Sometimes I wish I were there again.


  1. Engines always fascinated me, and I think this was partly because Dad served his apprenticeship at Carnoustie foundry as an engine fitter. Dad was initially employed by Duncan Brothers in India as an Engineer Tea Planter, and engines were a very important part of tea planting, as they had to work at tea picking time. There was no public electricity in Assam or the Dooars in 1938. Nature would not wait until an engine was repaired, and for this reason there were always 2 main engines on the plantations, 1 as a spare. There was also another small engine for times when only power for electric lighting was required at the factory. Additionally, if the bungalows were some distance from the factory, each bungalow eventually had their own small engine and a bank of batteries, which were normally used at night to avoid engine noise.
  2. At Kumargram T.E. the main engine was a twin cylinder National Fielding gas engine fuelled by gas produced by burning charcoal in big gas ovens. The charcoal was produced on the plantation by burning wood in large underground pits. The critical time was starting the engine, which it normally did with no problem. The engine was started by compressed air, and once up to a reasonable speed, the compressed air would be turned off, and the gas fed to the engine, and off she would go. Occasionally the gas would not be good, and the engine would not start, and this was a real problem as the compressed air cylinder would have to be filled up again by running the small electricity supply engine for what seemed ages to me.
  3. The spare engine at Kumargram was a single cylinder horizontal oil engine, and she couldn't run the whole factory, so it was most important the main engine did not break down at peak tea plucking time.
  4. There is an amusing tale about the gas engine at the time Dad had just arrived at Kumargram from Nonipara about 1938. The tale was that sometimes the gas engine wouldn't start, and the only person who could then start it was the local Mysteri (Technician). He had to be locked into the engine shed by himself, and after half an hour of chanting, casting spells on the engine, etc etc, lo and behold the engine would magically start on the next try. Of course he had to be handsomely rewarded for this performance. Well Dad was a real sceptic, and wasn't going to allow control of such an important asset on the plantation be under control of anyone else. Story goes that when the engine wouldn't start, Dad allowed the Mysteri get about half way through his performance, and then barged into the engine shed to find the Mysteri in the middle of extracting some cotton rags out of the gas inlet pipe on the engine! No wonder the engine wouldn't start! Needless to say the Mysteri was sacked on the spot. Dad's Mysteri from Nonipara had followed Dad to Kumargram, hoping to get a job from Dad, so he then became the Kumargram Mysteri, and Backshish Singh then stayed with Dad for the rest of Dad's time in India to approximately 1951.