Untold lives blog

552 posts categorized "Journeys"

01 December 2022

Requests to the India Office for help

A common activity for the India Office was fielding enquiries from members of the public asking for help.  These usually involved help in either travelling to India, in tracing friends or relatives, disputes over money, applications for jobs in government, requests for financial assistance.  Many such enquiries survive in the Home Correspondence files of the Public Department in the India Office Records.  To the majority of such enquiries the India Office declined help, and it is unknown how the situation was resolved.  However these small cries for help still survive in the archives, and here are a small selection.

Enquiry from Mrs E F Saunders regarding her son John CowlishawEnquiry from Mrs E F Saunders regarding her son John Cowlishaw, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/423  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In April 1873, the India Office received a letter from Mrs E F Saunders of Railway Street, Chatham.  Her son, John Cowlishaw had travelled to India in 1868 to work as an engineer in the Bombay Dockyards.  Mrs Saunders reported that he was very ill in the workhouse at Lahore, and asked for any help or advice on getting him home.  An enquiry with the Military (Marine) Department revealed that he had resigned his position as a third Class Marine Engineer on 20 December 1871.  Mrs Saunders was advised to address an enquiry to the Secretary to the Government of the Punjab at Lahore.

Request from Cossim Mooljee for assistance in returning to IndiaRequest from Cossim Mooljee for assistance in returning to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/435  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In July 1873, Cossim Mooljee wrote to the India Office for help in returning to India.  Mooljee had travelled to Mecca from Bombay in 1870, then to Constantinople via Egypt.  While there, he had entered into an agreement with a Greek merchant to serve as a shopkeeper, and travelled with him to Naples and Rome.  While in Italy, the merchant destroyed the agreement and abandoned Mooljee.  With the help of the British Consul, Mooljee had managed to travel to London and secure lodgings at the Strangers' Home at Limehouse where he had been for the past two months.

Application from Ellis H Myers for a free passage back to India.Application from Ellis H Myers for a free passage back to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/442  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In September 1873, Ellis Meyers wrote to the India Office requesting a free passage back to India.  He had arrived in London four months previously with a small fortune that he had lost in speculation.  He wrote that he was ‘quite destitute of means of support at present, and if I was to remain longer here I am positive that I shall starve’.  The India Office was not impressed, with one official writing in the file: 'This request displays an unusual amount of effrontery', and declined his request.

Application from May Mitchell for a passage back to India.

Application from May Mitchell for a passage back to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/56, File 7/508  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In October 1876, a letter was received from May Mitchell in which she described herself as a ‘helpless stranger in England without money or friends’.  She had been a stewardess on a steamship, but had to leave the ship to go into the London Hospital due to ill health.  Having recovered she was now unable to find a vacancy on a ship back to India.  Although European, she had spent all her life in India and this was her first visit to England.  She wrote, ‘The people of this country treat me strangely & I do not care to stay among them’.  She had been around all the shipping agents in the city without success and had no money to advertise in the newspapers.  She insisted that ‘I am not making matters out worse with me than they actually are I have literally nothing to live on’.  Although sympathetic, India Office officials struggled to know how to help, as one noted, ‘Distressing as her case may prove to be, there is no precedent of a European being sent to India at the public expense’.  However, a marginal note in the file stated that Mrs Mitchell had received a ‘private commission’, suggesting that she had managed to secure a passage back home.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Public Home Correspondence for 1873: enquiry from Mrs E F Saunders regarding her son John Cowlishaw, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/423.

Public Home Correspondence for 1873: request from Cossim Mooljee for assistance in returning to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/435.

Public Home Correspondence for 1873: application from Ellis H Myers for a free passage back to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/53, File 7/442.

Public Home Correspondence for 1877: application from May Mitchell for a passage back to India, shelfmark IOR/L/PJ/2/56, File 7/508.

 

29 November 2022

East India Company discharged soldiers

In the India Office Records are two fascinating registers of discharged soldiers for the period 1820-1882.  They record soldiers other than commissioned officers who served in the East India Company armies in Bengal, Madras, Bombay and St Helena, and in the British Army in India after 1859.

Page from register of discharged soldiersRegister of discharged soldiers IOR/L/MIL/10/301 - William Evitt from a recent post appears on this page  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


The information given is –
• Names
• Rank
• Service in years and months
• Which establishment i.e. Bengal, Madras, Bombay, St Helena
• Age
• Height
• Complexion e.g. fair, sallow, freckled, dark, swarthy, fresh, ruddy
• Visage e.g. round, long, very long, oval, square, sharp, thin
• Eye and hair colour
• Previous trade
• County and parish of birth
• Character
• Ship sailing to England
• Where enlisted
• Amount of marching money (grant to meet the costs of  the soldier's journey from the place where he was landed  to the place where he enlisted)
• Reason for discharge e.g. time expired, unfit, infamous character, own request, over age
• Notes e.g. admission to pension, scars, details of injuries and infirmities

Explanations are given for why the soldiers were deemed unfit for further service.  Some examples of infirmity are broken hips; fractured knees; wounds; liver, kidney, lung, and heart disease; rheumatism; injuries to hands; loss of limbs; constant headaches; poor eyesight; epilepsy; rupture; venereal disease; alcohol problems.  Several men died before embarkation or during the passage home.  Gunners in the Artillery seem to have been especially prone to injury – ‘contracted’ fingers, deafness, being hit by horses falling on them.  In 1858, discharges because of serious injuries sustained in actions during the Indian Uprising or ‘Mutiny’ dominate the register.

Some men with mental health problems were sent for admission to Pembroke House in Hackney, for example, in 1857, Patrick Glendon and Theophilus Boyd.  Their case histories can be read in the Pembroke House register in the India Office Records (IOR/K/2/36).

There are cases of men being discharged when they needed to return to Europe to settle personal affairs .  Others were removed from the army after being involved in criminal activity such as highway robbery.  James Deer, a private in the St Helena garrison, was discharged and sent to England as an infamous character.  He had been being found guilty of burglary and sacrilege after stealing articles from the London Missionary Society at Jamestown Church on 8 December 1821.  He was spared by giving evidence for the Crown against his fellow soldier Samuel Crump who was sentenced to death.  The East India Company Court of Directors and the London Missionary Society submitted petitions to the Home Secretary Robert Peel, asking for clemency for Crump on the grounds of Christian mercy and his contrition. A royal pardon was granted on condition that Crump serve seven years’ hard labour on St Helena.

Charles Gustasson, a native of Sweden, was discharged in 1823 and granted a pension.  He had originally enlisted in 1806 for service on St Helena but ‘being a foreigner’ was moved to the Cape of Good Hope after the arrival of Napoleon on the island in 1815.

In July 1859 William Ruxton, a gunner in the Bombay Artillery returned to Dublin with a pension and a very good character after 23 years’ service.  He was discharged because of old age, loss of vital energy, and bad teeth. He was aged 45.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading;
IOR/L/MIL/10/301-302 Registers of discharged soldiers 1820-1882, with indexes.
IOR/G/32/142, 153 St Helena records 1822-1823 about Samuel Crump.
The National Archives HO 17/92/50 Petition on behalf of Samuel Crump 1822.

10 November 2022

Finding employment for surplus Indian Army Officers

Following the implementation in April 1923 of the Royal Warrant 1922 a number of Indian Army Officers found their roles ‘surplus to requirements’.

One of the opportunities presented to these officers, was the opportunity to settle in the state of Victoria, Australia, with a significant plot of land for farming.

Newspaper advert for the Australian farms schemeAdvert for the Australian farms scheme -  Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) 26 July 1922 British Newspaper Archive

A financial agreement could be entered into with Australian Farms Limited whereby they would supply the land, tools, livestock etc. required for the officers to establish themselves in farming, and in return the officers would take out a financial loan with the company to cover the costs which would have to be paid back monthly.

The agreement also included an understanding that the gratuities these officers would be receiving from the India Office following their discharge (such as pension, annuities, bonus etc.) would be paid directly to Australian Farms Limited, who would then take their monthly payment from the gratuity received and forward the remainder of it onto the officer.

Newspaper report on the working of the scheme 1924Report on the working of the scheme  - Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) 22 January 1924 British Newspaper Archive

Problems arose however in June 1925 when the India Office was notified that Australian Farms Ltd had gone into voluntary liquidation.  This raised questions about how the officers' gratuities would now be paid to them, as the company had in effect been acting as the agent for these individuals.

Letter reporting liquidation of Australian Farms Ltd, June 1925Letter reporting liquidation of Australian Farms Ltd,, June 1925  - IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Enquiries were made with the Government of Victoria to identify how many of the 93 individuals who had originally taken out these contracts were still operating these farms, as some individuals had sold their land and bought themselves out of the agreement, whilst others had their contracts cancelled by being recalled to the Army.

Page from a list of officers who entered the schemePage from a list of officers who entered the scheme - IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

From the original list of 93 individuals, 80 were found to have chosen to remain in Australia and continue with the land and farm in June 1925.  Their contracts were re-assigned to the Treasurer for the State of Victoria, the state government having decided to take on the responsibility for the settling of the land by the officers in question.

Newspaper article about the plight of the men in the farm scheme December 1926Article about the plight of the men in the farm scheme -  Dundee Evening Telegraph 28 December 1926 British Newspaper Archive

Arrangements were therefore subsequently made for the gratuities to be paid via the Government of Victoria in future.  However any officer who was found to be in debt to Australian Farms Ltd at the time of liquidation was required to use their gratuity to pay off that debt first.

Some of the 80 individuals would later choose to sell up their land and return to England, but the vast majority settled in Australia permanently.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/L/AG/29/1/151, part 6 - Australian Farm Cases, 1925-1926.
British Newspaper Archive

 

08 November 2022

The Collier family of Bethnal Green and the East India Company

Following on from our overview of East India Company Home Correspondence, we look at a document from this collection which is the key to uncovering a wealth of detail about one East London family’s links to India.

In July 1856 Matthew Collier of Bethnal Green, a pewterer in his late 50s, sent a petition to the East India Company asking for a position.  He started by naming five members of his family who had served the Company – his father, two brothers, a nephew and a son.  Matthew said that he had been twenty years with his current employer but now felt inclined to finish his days with the Company as a firelighter or doorkeeper at East India House or in any other ‘low’ situation.  The hours would be shorter than at present and the work much easier.

Matthew Collier's petition for a position at East India House Matthew Collier's petition for a position at East India House - IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Company’s Secretary wrote in August informing Matthew that Court of Directors was ‘under the necessity of declining to comply with his request’.

From the information given by Matthew in the petition, it is possible to trace details of his relatives’ service with the Company in other parts of the India Office Records.

Matthew said that his father William Delves Collier had made a voyage for the East India Company in 1790-1791.  He didn’t know the name of the ship but I have found a William Collier who was surgeon’s servant in the Hawke.  William entered the ship on 19 April 1790 and the pay book shows that he was owed wages of £7 11s for ten months and two days. That means that William left the Hawke in Bengal. What did he do then?

Next, Matthew named his eldest brother William who had died in Bombay having served as a sergeant in the European Light Infantry using their mother’s maiden name Evitt.  William Evitt, a painter and glazier, enlisted in the Company’s army in July 1821 aged 19.  In 1825 he was discharged with chronic rheumatism and tremor of the limbs and sent back to England.  He was permitted to re-enlist in 1830.  He married Catherine King at Bombay in 1835, describing himself as a widower.  Catherine, née Hardcastle, was the widow of James King, a sergeant in the Bombay Horse Artillery.  William died on 18 October 1841 and was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Bombay.

According to Matthew, his next brother John Collier was a musician on board the Earl of Balcarras on a voyage to Bengal.  The ship’s journal records that seaman John Collier died at New Anchorage Bengal on 5 July 1826.  On 31 May 1827, William Delves Collier received wages of £5 2s 3d owed to his son.

Ship Earl of Balcarras pay book - receipt for wages of John Collier signed by W D CollierReceipt for wages of John Collier signed by W D Collier. IOR/L/MAR/B/35Q(2) Pay book for the ship Earl of Balcarras  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The fourth member of the family to serve the Company was Matthew’s nephew George Richards who was a private in the European Light Infantry.  Weaver George enlisted at the age of 21 in August 1840.  He died in Aden and was buried on 7 April 1847.  In a will written on 2 April 1847, George left Rs 100 to his brother William Richards of Spitalfields and all the remainder of his estate and effects to his ‘friend and companion’ Private William Theed.

Will of George RichardsWill of Private George Richards 2 April 1847 - IOR/L/AG/34/30/26 no.22 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Lastly, Matthew’s son Samuel Collier was a sergeant in the European Light Infantry.  Samuel, a groom, had enlisted for unlimited service in February 1840. He died in Sind on 13 November 1855 aged 34.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading;
IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238 IOR/E/1/193 Letter no. 238 Petition of Matthew Collier of 4 Tapp Street, Bethnal Green, July 1856.
IOR/E/1/305 Letter no. 3276 East India Company Secretary to Matthew Collier, 4 August 1856.
IOR/E/1 is now available as part of AM’s East India Company resource. 
IOR/L/MAR/B/390K Journal of the ship Hawke 1790-1791.
IOR/L/MAR/B/35H, and 35Q(2) Journal and pay book for the ship Earl of Balcarras
Documents for William Evitt:
IOR/L/MIL/9/2 London District recruitment register July 1821.
IOR/L/MIL/9/99 p.173 Embarkation list for the ship Berwickshire December 1821 .
IOR/L/MIL/10/301 Discharge register.
IOR/L/MIL/9/42 Embarkation list for the ship Buckinghamshire January 1831.
IOR/L/MIL/9/77 p.197 Embarkation list for the ship Buckinghamshire January 1831
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/147-149, 1823-1825; IOR/L/MIL/12/157, 1833; IOR/L/MIL/12/165, 1841.
IOR/N/312 f.246 Marriage of William Evitt to Catherine King, 1835.
IOR/N/3/15 f.471 Burial of William Evitt, 1841.
Documents for George Richards:
IOR/L/MIL/9/6 London District recruitment register August 1840.
IOR/L/MIL/9/101 p.48 Embarkation list for the ship Donna Pascoa October 1840.
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/177-178, 1846-1847.
IOR/L/AG/34/30/26 no.22 Will of Private George Richards, 2 April 1847.
IOR/N/13/14 Burial of George Richards, Aden 1847.
Documents for Samuel Collier:
IOR/L/MIL/9/5 London District recruitment register February 1840.
IOR/L/MIL/9/78 Embarkation list for the ship  Northumberland April 1840.
Bombay Army muster rolls and casualty lists e.g. IOR/L/MIL/12/186-187, 1855-1856.
IOR/N/3/29 p.348 Burial of Samuel Collier, 1855.

 

31 October 2022

Mr Trick and Mrs Treat

At Hallowe’en, we’d like to introduce you to Mr Trick and Mrs Treat.  Both feature in several articles in the British Newspaper Archive.

The Weston-super-Mare Gazette of 21 April 1849 reported that Mr Trick and his family were amongst 90 or so people from north Somerset villages emigrating to the USA.

Newspaper article about families emigrating from Banwell, Somerset, in 1849Weston-super-Mare Gazette 21 April 1849 British Newspaper Archive

William Trick was a baker living in the village of Banwell with his wife Ann and two children.  Trick was a member of the Banwell Total Abstinence Society and regularly addressed meetings during the 1840s.  He belonged to the Banwell Wesleyan Missionary Society and spoke on the subject of ‘missions to the heathen’ at a meeting held in the local chapel in November 1846.

The Emigrant's Last Sight of Home - painting of a man and his family about to set off on a journey by cart, looking back at their village from the top of a hill‘The Emigrant’s Last Sight of Home’ by Richard Redgrave (1858).  Image Photo © Tate Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) 

The Tricks sailed from Liverpool in steerage on the steamer Sarah Sands on 29 March 1849.  A broken piston rod in the engine meant that the ship had to make a great part of the voyage under sail.  The delay caused anxiety in New York but over 200 passengers and a valuable cargo eventually arrived safely on 1 May.

William, with his wife, daughter and son, travelled onwards to Dubuque County, Iowa, with others from Somerset, such as the Dyers.  The area had been settled by Europeans in the late 1830s, and in the 1850s became known as Dyersville.  William acquired 40 acres of land and also worked as a Methodist preacher, playing a large part in the building of the local church.  In 1855 he was granted naturalization.

According to the 1906 Atlas of Dubuque County, the marriage of William’s daughter Annie to Malcolm Baxter in 1852 was the first in the community.  Annie died in April 1856 aged just 27.

William Trick junior became a hardware merchant who served as mayor of Dyersville.

William Trick senior died on 27 October 1873 aged 78 after a busy life of public service.  He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery Dyersville where his daughter Annie and wife Ann already lay.

Let’s move on to Mrs Treat.

The Edinburgh Evening News of 19 February 1875 published an article entitled ‘Another Animal-Eating Plant’ about Mrs Treat and her carnivorous vegetables.  Very appropriate for Hallowe’en!

Newspaper article about Mrs Treat's carnivorous vegetables‘Another Animal-Eating Plant’ - Edinburgh Evening News 19 February 1875 British Newspaper Archive

Mary Lua Adelia Treat was born in 1830 in New York, the daughter of Methodist minister Isaac Davis and his wife Eliza.  In 1839 the family moved to Ohio.  Mary was married in 1863 to Joseph Burrell Treat, a doctor who also wrote and gave lectures on a variety of subjects including women’s rights and abolition.  The Treats moved in 1869 to Vineland, a model town and community in New Jersey founded by Charles K Landis.

Newspaper article entitled 'A lady and her spiders'‘A Lady and her Spiders’ – Shields Daily Gazette 28 August 1879  British Newspaper Archive

Mary Treat was a self-trained naturalist with a particular interest in insects and carnivorous plants.  Having made scientific investigations with her husband, she continued to research and publish on her own after the couple separated and Joseph went to live in New York.  He died in 1878 at the age of 55 and was buried at Siloam Cemetery in Vineland.

After the separation, Mary supported herself by writing scientific magazine articles as well as books including Chapters on Ants (1879) Injurious insects of the farm and garden (1882); and Home Studies in Nature (1885).  She corresponded with Charles Darwin and had plant and insect species named after her.

Drawing of the geometric web of a garden spider from Mary Treat's Home Studies in Nature
Geometric web of a garden spider from Home Studies in Nature (1885)

Mary Treat died in 1923 aged 92 at Pembroke, New York State, after a fall.  She too is buried in Siloam Cemetery in Vineland.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  - also available via Findmypast
Findmypast and Ancestry for the passenger list of steamer Sarah Sands; land transactions; naturalization records; UK and US census records; birth, marriage and burial records.
Atlas of Dubuque County 1906 
Injurious insects of the farm and garden
Chapters on Ants
Home Studies in Nature
Tina Gianquitto, ‘Of Spiders, Ants, and Carnivorous Plants – Domesticity and Darwin in Mary Treat’s Home Studies in Nature’, in Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting (eds) Coming into Contact – Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice (University of Georgia Press, 2007)

 

25 October 2022

Exploring the richness and variety of letters sent to the East India Company

Over 300 volumes of East India Company Home Correspondence have recently been digitised and they are now available through an Adam Matthew Digital resource

There are two series: IOR/E/1/1-195 letters sent to the Court of Directors 1701-1858, and IOR/E/1/196-314 (Miscellanies) copies of letters being sent out by the Court of Directors to Company agents, servants and Government departments 1688-1859.  ‘Home’ indicates that the correspondence is with individuals in Britain and Europe rather than Asia.

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817 

Copies of outgoing letters written by the East India Company Secretary James Cobb in January 1817  - IOR/E/1 /253 p.57  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The home correspondence arriving at East India House covers a vast array of topics and subjects ranging from the day-to-day running of the Company, personal requests from employees and their families, and even unsolicited letters advertising patents, proposals and publications.

The correspondence is arranged by the date it was received at the Court, rather than the date it was sent.  The date the letter was received is recorded on the back of the letter, along with any actions taken by the Court, such as referral to a committee; read in Court; laid on the table for any interested parties to look at; or given to a specific individual to answer.  When a letter was read in Court, the Court Minutes [IOR/B] can be consulted to discover the Company’s response.

Much of the routine correspondence relates to the East India ships, including signing charterparties; appointing captains and crew; paying wages, supplies and repair bills; notifications of ship arrivals in various ports; and matters relating to the trade goods being carried on board.   Other correspondence relating to trade includes dealings with Customs officials; notifications of sales; intelligence received from agents in other countries relating to rival companies’ trade and goods; and London merchants sending money and goods to Asia in exchange for diamonds, jewels and coral.

Approval of officers for Company ships 1761Approval of officers for Company ships 1761 - IOR/E/1/43 f.306 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Related to matters of trade and shipping was correspondence with other Government departments, particularly the Admiralty, as Royal Navy vessels often provided escort services for East Indiamen and the ships would come to each other’s aid at sea.

Letters from the Company’s agents in places like Italy, Vienna, Madeira and the Levant also form part of this series.  These tend to relate to packets of the Company’s correspondence sent overland, and intelligence about political relations between countries which might impact the Company.  In the case of Madeira, there are bills and invoices for wine supplied to East Indiamen, the Court of Directors, and key Company employees.

Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company 1771Commercial intelligence about commodities traded by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) 1771  - IOR/E/1/55 f.486 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There are also many letters from Company employees and their families, mostly in the form of petitions.  These include requests from employees to be considered for promotion, to extend leave in England owing to illness, or for relief or other assistance from relatives of employees who found themselves in financial distress.  Other topics include requests to send family members and servants to and from India, and the administration of deceased relatives' estates in India.  Occasionally there are letters from people trying to ascertain whether their relative overseas is still alive.

Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief 1764Petition of Mary Winbolt, widow of Gale Winbolt former doorkeeper, for relief December 1764 - IOR/E/1/46 ff.796-797  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Other recurring themes are concerns about the smuggling of Indian tea into England and Scotland; arrangements with missionary societies for sending supplies to their missions in the East Indies; and letters from individuals attempting to get the East India Company to take up their patent or invention, or to purchase copies of their recently published books.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
IOR/E/1 – Home Correspondence 
Adam Matthew Digital: East India Company Module 5 

 

18 October 2022

Agreement with Mina Ayah

An intriguing document was recently catalogued as part of the India Office Private Papers, and is now available to view in the Asian and African Studies reading room.  This is a signed agreement between a British family in India and an Indian nanny or ayah.

Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896 - Mss Eur F754/2/1  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Previous posts on this blog have highlighted the vulnerability of ayahs travelling to Britain in the employ of British families and the danger of being left stranded in London.  A written signed agreement, which specified payment, allowances and provision for a return passage, gave a measure of protection.

The agreement reads as follows:

I, Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street City of Calcutta, do hereby agree to proceed in the P&O. S. S. “Bengal” leaving on or about April 14th 1896 in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill receiving for my services on the voyage R100 & for warm clothes R25 the half of which viz R62.8 I have received in Calcutta; the remainder to be paid on arrival in London in English money.  Also £10.0.0. for my return passage unless Mrs Greenhill finds me a lady to return with.

The agreement was signed by Mina with her mark, and is witnessed and dated 9 March 1896.

Unfortunately, little is known about Mina.  Mrs G F Greenhill was Georgiana Catherine Greenhill (née Watson), the wife of George Fowler Greenhill, a tea planter in Darjeeling and Calcutta.  They had two children: Thomas Watson (born 1892) and Elsie Winifred (born 1891).  Greenhill was also a partner in the business Cook & Co. based at 182 Dhurrumtollah Street, Calcutta; Thacker’s Indian Directory lists them as veterinary surgeons, livery and commission stable keepers, coachbuilders and auctioneers.  The 1903 Directory also lists Greenhill as the Secretary of Sungma Tea Association Ltd, Darjeeling.

The family’s journey by sea to London was noted in the Madras Weekly Mail on 23 April 1896, which recorded that Mr G F Greenhill travelled on the SS Bengal from Calcutta to Colombo, and that Mrs G F Greenhill, children and ayah all travelled from Calcutta to London.  Presumably, George was visiting Colombo on business, while the rest of the family travelled back to Britain.

Georgiana died of cholera in Calcutta in 1908, her husband died in London in 1910.  Sadly, Thomas, a Lieutenant in the 4th Dragoon Guards (Royal Irish), was killed in action during the First World War.  He died on 11 February 1916, aged 23 years old, and was buried in the Vermelles British Cemetery in France.  Elsie died in 1955.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Signed agreement with Mina Ayah of 15 Free School Street, Calcutta, to travel to England in the service of Mrs G F Greenhill on the SS Bengal, 9 March 1896, shelfmark Mss Eur F754/2/1.

Thacker's Indian Directory

The British Newspaper Archive: Madras Weekly Mail, 23 April 1896.

Burial register entry for Georgiana Catherine Greenhill, shelfmark IOR/N/1/349 page 134; and the will of George Fowler Greenhill, shelfmark IOR/L/AG/34/29/155 page 78; both can be viewed online Find My Past.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

22 September 2022

Passport applications in the Kashmir Residency Files

Previous posts on this blog have highlighted the collections of passports contained within the India Office Public and Judicial Department files.  However, two fascinating files in the Kashmir Residency Records also have papers relating to passports for people wishing to travel from pre-1947 India.

The two files contain applications for passports to be issued or renewed from residents of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1943.  They give details of applicant’s full name, place of residence, age, marital status, occupation, place and date of birth, information on children and spouse, and some applications have a photograph attached.  Here are a few of the people who feature in the files:

Violet Gladys Stapleton, born St Albans on 21 February 1882, a nursing sister (missionary), residing at the CMS Hospital, Srinagar.

Captain Sydney Ernest, born Hertford on 15 April 1891, the guardian to the Heir-Apparent to His Highness of Jaipur.  He gave his ordinary residence as Rambagh Palace, Jaipur.

Pamela Mary Rumbold, born Wales on 1 September 1916, the wife of an RAF officer, residing in Srinagar.  She wanted a passport for a possible return to England in the event of her husband’s transfer there.

Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold Passport application for Pamela Mary Rumbold IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

 

Sagi, born Gilgit on 15 March 1911.  He gave his occupation as servant, and was proceeding to Kashgar with his employer Captain Binns.

Passport application for Sagi Passport application for Sagi IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

With some of the applications there is additional correspondence.  This is the case with Satya Pal Datta, born in Kotla Dattan in Mirpur District on 24 June 1924.  With his application, he included a letter in which he wrote: 'I am proceeding to Kenya for education purposes.  My financial condition is most satisfactory and there is no apprehension of my being stranded there for want of necessary funds'.  A police check reported that he was of good character, and 'There is nothing on record political or otherwise against the man.  His father is really in Africa.  He and his family are loyal subjects'.

Passport application for Satya Pal Datta Passport application for Satya Pal Datta IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The file contains three applications from tailors from Jammu City who wished to proceed to Palestine to work with Haji Roshan Din & Sons, contractors attached to His Majesty’s Forces.  The three men were Mohamed Said (aged 27), Mohamed Azim (aged 32 years) and Mehar Ilahi (aged 30 years).  A memorandum noted that the contractors had undertaken to maintain the three men and to pay their fare from India to Palestine and back.  The applicants were reported to be fit and proper persons to receive the passports applied for by them.

Mohamed Said  IOR-R-2-1070-142Passport application for Mohamed Said IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth Bell was born in Glasgow on 22 September 1911.  In 1943, she was a teacher living at Burn Hall School, Srinagar.  Wishing to return to Scotland to visit her parents, she reported that her passport had been destroyed.  She was required to furnish the authorities with a declaration in order to get a new one.

Passport application for Elizabeth Bell Passport application for Elizabeth Bell IOR/R/2/1070/142 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In her declaration, she stated that her old passport had been issued in Dublin in 1929, and she had been residing in India since March 1930 and had taught in schools at Murree, Rawalpindi and Srinagar.  She had recently been running a gown shop named Fitzgerald Gowns on the Bund in Srinagar, but it had been completely destroyed by fire on 30 March 1943.  Her passport and teaching certificates were lost in the blaze.  Her declaration was accepted, and a new passport was sent to her.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
File No. 476(5) of 1943. Applications for renewal of passports received during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/140.
File No. 476(6) of 1943. Applications for passports issued during 1943, shelfmark: IOR/R/2/1070/142.

Previous posts on Untold Lives:
Records of People on the Move
Sources for Asian biography

 

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