Bob Craig

September 29 2015

Eccentric lives of Irish and British tea-planters

                                 From The Irish Times 


          Bob (Ginger) Craig

Irish planters, alongside their equally eccentric British colleagues, added to the colour and folklore of the tea plantations in north-eastern India.

One such was Ginger Craig of Dublin, who was in charge of various gardens in the Dooars region in the plains in the Darjeeling foothills until 1977.

Craig was an insomniac who, after a day and night of steadily drinking gin and then whisky, would begin a round of his garden, spread over hundreds of hectares, at about 4 a.m.

He would then jump into his jeep and race off to Darjeeling some 100 km uphill to buy fresh ox tongue at the hill town's special food stores.

Having acquired the delicacy, Craig would be back home to have his breakfast off the meat, completing the arduous round trip, a precipitous mountain journey, in a record 90 minutes.

"He was one hell of a chap," Jaggi Malhotra, who worked as Craig's assistant manager, said. "A rare man and an even rarer planter, whose kind are just not around today," he added.  

(Ginger was born in Northern Ireland. His father  was a a bank manager who worked at a branch of the bank in Dublin. Ginger mentioned that he and his brother, William, rode their bikes about Dublin with a little Union Jack flag attached to the front mudguard!)

A couple of the many stories about Ginger:

On one occasion Ginger was having “an altercation” with some of his labour and 3 or 4  men started fighting with him. About the same time some young Army Captains were driving past and witnessed the scene. They stopped their vehicle and went to Ginger’s aid pulling the three men off him. As Ginger got to his feet and dusted himself down he thanked the young Captains but also said “You shouldn’t have bothered, I was just getting the better of them!”


On Jiti garden, Ginger was ‘Gheraoed’ and was not very happy after having been hit with a few lumps of wood by some labourers who were incited to do this by ‘Puna’ who was the right hand man and general rabble rouser for ‘Parimal Mitra’ who was the head of the CPI(M) in Nagrakata.

While recuperating that evening and after a few Drams, Ginger thought that Parimal needed a ‘Sweetener’ so with a half kilo of sugar he delivered it to him via the petrol tank of parimal’s pride and joy, his little Ford Prefect!!


      The great man himself in the Care Home in Bangor, County Down



 A leopard that Ginger shot at the request of his workers whose cattle were being Killed.


A picture of Darjeeling’s Chow Rasta in Darjeeling showing Keventer’s Stores in the  The foreground where Ginger got the ox-tongue and other Cold Stores. The magnificent  Himalayas with Kanchenjunga in the background.