Peter Robert Shortt - 1960

Denys Shortt OBE - 2014

Photo - picnic on Dehing River with houseboats

Peter Shortt - Langharjan Tea Estate 1952

(Scroll to base of page for more photos)

 

Denys Shortt - editor of Koi Hai is the son of Peter Shortt - born 1932 and died 2009.

Peter Shortt was in Assam as a tea planter and was Manager at Langharjan Tea Estate. 

Denys Shortt returned to Langharjan TE in October 2019 with his son Charles.  They were looked after superbly by Ann and Anita Poyser and stayed at Ann's homestay near Digboi. 

Denys recapured photos of their Managers Chang Bungalow that he had as a child and much of it was all the same.  They also visited Debajit and Julie Bhuyan at their tea estate who were very hospitable. 

A wonderful trip and very fond memories were rekindled.   

Thank you Assam and the tea community!

History :

Peter Shortt was based at Rungagora Tea Estate and was Manager at Langharjan Tea Estate - Naharkatiya which is not far from Dibrugarh and Digboi. 

He was very involved at the Naharkatiya Planters Club which was very small - and now derelict.  He met my mother Rosemary Meredith at Dibrugarh Planters Club where her father Rev Leonard Meredit was the vicar. 

Peter loved boats and converted two army pontoons into houseboats which they took on the Dehing river for curry lunches (see photos below).  He also had a speedboat and imported a 50hp Mercury outboard which in the 1950s was unheard of in that part of India. He imported it and took to Naharkatiya - no small journey from America where they were made.  They would waterski down the Dehing which the locals had never seen ever before.  

Video of 1950s Mercury - click here

You can see Naharkatiya on a google map - click here and search for "Naharkatiya Assam" then click on "satellite"

Please also see Wikipedia for details on Naharkatiya - click here

Denys can be contacted at his website - Click here

 

These are the memories of Peter Shortt,  kindly written for us by Peter's son Nigel Shortt. 

The memorial service to celebrate Peter's life was held on August 18th 2009 near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire where Peter is buried. 

I wanted to share with you a few memories and thoughts regarding Peter Shortt, father, grandfather, husband and dear friend who sadly died at the age of 77 on July 17th 2009 after falling ill with cancer.

Here are a few of the things that were mentioned to me about my father:  

"He really does mark the passing of a generation"   "I trust your pa's truly engaging character and great charm stand out as guiding heirlooms for the next generation or two"  

"His interest in how things worked, especially people and his ability to enthuse others in a great learning experience was admirable and unique"   

"A true English gentleman of a bygone era and he certainly made his mark"  

Dad mentioned the koi-hai website to me almost 12 months ago and I spent hours looking through all the various articles searching for memories of the time I spent in India as a child. If there is one regret I have, it is that I did not sit down with Dad and ask him to remind me of my childhood days in India.

My recollection of those days are very patchy, so please excuse the random snapshots, but I do remember that we had some wonderful times !  

Dad managed the Langharjan Tea Estate and worked for the Jorehaut Tea Company having joined them in 1956 - a year before I was born. He met Rosemary my dear mother, out there in Assam and from then began my memories of a childhood spent between boarding school in the UK and holidays out in India. I remember at the age of seven, the excitement of flying out to Calcutta with BOAC as it was then and being a member of the Junior Jet Club and getting my free tin of sweets. My sister Belinda and I were given special treatment by the air hostesses as we were travelling alone ! Dad would fly down to meet us and I remember staying at the Grand Hotel for a night and seeing my first belly dancer at an evening show at the hotel before we flew back up north the next day !  

I can picture days in Langharjan spent as a child experiencing everything from learning how to plant rice, to riding around the garden in a marvellous homemade train made I think from an old cultivator engine ! I remember endless acres of tea bushes and the smell of tea being processed in the factory. I remember Dad's love of horses and his tall polo boots immaculately polished and polo hat. I can picture swimming galas and film shows and Dad running a club shop and all of us making so many friends.  

Above all I remember our trips on the river in a houseboat made from an old army boat I think ! There was a speedboat too and the adults including my mother waterskied on the river. I recall that I was terrified of the huge whirlpools as our boat went over them and having visions of being sucked down into the depths. I can still picture the picnics on the sandbanks or rather these were more of a feast of curries and other wonderful dishes.  

Peter often talked about revisiting Assam and I would have been first in the queue to join him as an opportunity to reminisce would be too good to miss. After Rosemary passed away in 2001, Peter did eventually have the opportunity to enjoy companionship again when he met Barbara who he married a few years later. Sadly her time with Peter was abruptly cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and died so soon afterwards.  

Dad - I thank you for all those wonderful memories !  

Nigel Shortt.

 

 

LANGHARJAN TEA ESTATE

The land on which Langharjan was planted was discovered by a Mr George Ross Grant, who in 1909 was extracting timber from the forest in the neighbourhood. This timber was for a saw mill owned by the Assam Bengal Railway, and which was in the charge of one, Mr Benson.It was this Benson who succeeded eventually, against competition from other interested parties, in securing the leasehold of Grant No.6, as the land was known in the District.

Benson went home to England and got in touch with Mr A M Lafone, Mr F A Robert’s partner, who bought the grant and formed the Langharjan Tea Estate Ltd., with a capital of £12,000. Benson received £500 in cash and he and his friends were granted between them 3,000 shares in the company. On the inception of the company the directors appointed were Messrs. F A Roberts (Chairman), C P Crookenden, Henry Lafone and Alexander Malins Lafone.

In the meantime, Ross Grant Had been put in charge of the land with instructions to start planting. By the end of 1912, 460 acres had been cleared and planted, 260 from nurseries and 210 acres seed-at-stake. The latter proved largely to be a failure, and it was reported that in 1913 therewere 295 acres only of satisfactory tea.

The original capital of £12,000 was inadequate to finance the rapidly expanding area of tea and to meet the anticipated expenditure on the factory. On October 8th 1912, it was resolved to increase the capital to £25,000 by the issue of 13,000 ordinary shares of £1 each. These new shares were subscribed for fully by the existing shareholders and their friends, 10s being called up then, and the balance in July 1915, making the shares fully paid. No further additions to the capital were made. The company was sold to the Jorehaut Tea Co., Ltd., in 1921 for 20,000 shares of £1 in that company, which shares were at that time quoted at well over 30s per share.

In 1912, the Calcutta Agents, Messrs. Begg  Dunlop & Co., appointed Mr Cyril Gore to supersede Ross Grant as Manager and he was in charge of the garden until his retirement in 1946. It was Mr Cyril Gore who was responsible for making Langharjan a very fine garden in the first place and at one time the most profitable Division of the Jorehaut Company.

Leaf was plucked for the first time in 1913, but was sold to and manufactured at a neighbouring factory, for it was not until the following year that the tea house had been erected and Langharjan manufactured its own crop of 44,687 lbs. In 1915, from and area of 296 acres in bearing, it produced a crop of 181,174 lbs., which sold for an average price of 11.86d per lb. From these small beginnings Langharjan comprises today of 524 acres capable of producing more than 1,000 lb of first-class tea per acre.

Langarhjan Tea Estate Ltd., paid its first dividend of 5 per cent in 1917. Dividends of 10 per cent were paid on each of the next two years before the company became a Division of the Jorehaut Tea Co.Ltd.

Mr Henry Lafone retired from the Board in 1916 on account of advancing years, and Mr Walter Erskine Stuart-Menteth was appointed. Major A M Lafone V.C. was killed in action in Palestine on October 27th 1917, the vacancy thus caused was not filled immediately. Mr Henry Miller, C.I.E., late Superintendent of the Jorehaut Tea Company Ltd., was elected a Director in 1919.

With its compact area of tea, Langharjan is the garden with the lowest cost per pound of production, whilst it holds the record for the highest individual price realised for its teas over a whole year, in1925 its average price was 1s 10.76d – that year was a boom year, however, when the average for the whole Company was 1s 8.95d per.lb.

1912 building Langharjan

Langharjan Managers Bungalow

Dehing River 1950s - early Mercury outboard engine

Dehing River Assam

Dehing River picnic with houseboats

Dehing River picnic

Car Ferry Dehing River

Houseboat made from an old Army pontoon

Toy train made from a garden cultivator

Assam dance

Lloyd Triestino - Victoria

Naga 1960s

Snake charmers

Tea chests by boat

Oil Well