Created by KeefH Web Designs, December 3rd, 2022, 17.04 PM
A KeefH Web Designs Travel Blog
Genealogy Info No 4, 1925 to 1930
This is a very retrospective blog, during the winter months of November and December 2022 I decided to translate most of the handwritten diaries we hold in our Family Tree data to supplement our Genealogy info featured here under the Family tab, good website design, backing up audiobooks, videos and slideshow with text. Enjoy!
Audiobook of Indian times
Audiobook, Gertie's full diary
Video with audiobook overlay showing relevant and irrelevant images of life in the Army and India created via Clipchamp by KeefH Web Designs
Introduction, real accounts of life in India in a posted British Army family 1925 to 1930 captured by KeefH Web Designs from a diary all handwritten by Annie’s Aunt Gertrude, just invaluable records, captured and turned into an audiobook by KeefH Web Designs in 2022 for prosperity, it would be awful to lose this history. An earlier audio book version of her full diary had been made in 2011 but the quality of text to speech voices has improved dramatically since then, hence the recreation, just so much clearer and less computerised speech on the spoken word. A full updated audiobook of her diary is also now available but it is over 9 and a half hours long, so probably not to be listened to in one go.
ARRIVING IN INDIA 1925-1926, Birkenhead to Bombay
We set of in March 1925. At that time, I was nine. Ralph was five. Bob was 2½, and Jean seven months. The land was covered in deep snow on the morning we left. All the neighbour's turned out to wish us well. We were all very happy. We sailed from Birkenhead on the "City of Lahore." It was a small ship with only 1st. and 2nd passenger accommodation. Officers and their wives and families travelled 1st. class and 2nd class was for Warrant Officers, wives and families. We had a small, four berthed cabin, so there was very little room and we had to get dressed and undressed one at a time. Meals were taken all together except that the children had high tea while the adults took dinner at night. I was left in charge while mother and father had their evening meal. One evening I was in great difficulties trying to change the baby's nappy when a black steward, a Goanese, looked in. He took the baby from me deftly dealt with her and restored order, and after that he always came to see if we were all right. The white stewardess’s did nothing for us. They only attended to those who had tipped them at the beginning of the voyage. Mother and father had thought that tips were given at the end. A stewardess was supposed to bring mother a glass of milk every night because she was feeding the baby, but it only arrived twice. Mother was constantly anxious in case the baby should suffer, but by drinking father’s coffee at dinner and being supplied with lemonade from the bar she got by.
The stewards who cleaned the cabins were black-skinned, mostly Goanese, and they were very pleasant. The dining-room stewards were olive skinned and extremely handsome and smart, Portuguese from Goa. Every morning the baby's cot was lashed to the railings on deck. The lascars who swabbed the deck used to take a great interest in the baby and talked to her and she seemed to like their dark faces and did not mind their moving her to another· part of the deck so that they could do their scrubbing. I was always left in charge of the baby in the early morning like Miriam watching over Baby Moses. The lascar boson used to talk to me pleasantly. I liked and trusted them all. For the first few days it was very cold and we had to be well wrapped up when we were on deck. Beef tea was brought round for our mid-morning drink and it seemed very good. It was rough in the Bay of Biscay and most people were seasick but none of our family were ill.
To my great disappointment we passed Gibraltar and Malta in the night and so there was nothing to be seen for several days but the sea. Deck games were started and I learned to play quoits, a big canvas swimming pool was erected and filled with sea water; there were concerts and competitions of all sorts and a fancy dress party for the children. The usual pattern for the day was to take up our positions on deck with the deckchairs which we had brought from home, keeping the same position throughout the voyage. It was a lazy life. People walked round and round the decks for exercise. One day we lost Ralph. We searched everywhere for him and were beginning to get desperate when a beaming stoker led him up from the engine room. "I wanted to see how the ship works,” said Ralph. Every evening we used to watch passengers dancing on the 1st. class deck. I loved watching the ladies’ beautiful evening dresses. This was a new end very luxurious world for me. I had never seen people dressed like that before. Mother was not so keen on 1st. class passengers because the laundry room was always full of nannies washing and ironing their mistresses’ finery when she needed to wash the baby's clothes. Officers could have a free passage for their nannies and many of the young women were not children's nurses at all.
They were often friends of their so-called employers having a free trip to India where there was a very good chance of finding husbands. Marriageable girls were scarce in India. At Port Said little boats came alongside and the bumboat men tried to sell their wares to the passengers. And boys dived for pennies thrown from the ship. We went ashore. I was entranced with my first sight of "the mysterious East" but the rest of the family were not at all impressed. Mother thought it was very hot and dirty and was troubled by the crowds of beggar ch1ldren who kept following us begging for alms. Wh1le we were having cold dr1nks at an outside cafe a guli-guli man came along and did his conjuring tricks w1th chicks and cups. The main point of our expedition ashore was to buy topees. In those days it was thought that anyone who went out 1n the tropical sun bareheaded was certain to die of sunstroke. We did not l1ke wearing the heavy topees because they made us very hot. For five years it was one of mother’s many worries to ensure that the family went out suitably hatted. In India there were better topees for children, lighter in weight, shaped like hats and covered in patterned cotton. Mother always had a sunshade and refused to wear a topee. I think that she was very sensible.
When we were going through the Suez Canal, I never tired of watching the Arabs with their camels along the banks. They seemed so near and sometimes they waved and called to us. The canal was to narrow for ships to pass unless one of them was right into the shore. It was exciting seeing a ship going back to England when we were manoeuvring to pass. It was very hot in the Red Sea. We saw sharks and flying fish and one day a shoal of dolphins came alongside and followed the ship for some time, enjoying the food that was thrown out to them. Aden was just as I had expected, a hot, barren rock. The ship coaled there. Three weeks after leaving Birkenhead we landed in Bombay. From the ship Bombay looked very grand with its large, white buildings.
Bombay to Lahore
But when we got ashore, we felt overwhelmed with crowds of people, noise, smells, and the tremendous heat. We went straight to the railway station, how we got there I do not remember and father left us in the ladies' waiting room while he went off to find out where we were to go. He had not been given his posting before we left England. The woman in charge" of the waiting room was a Eurasian. Her three daughters came in end I thought they were the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. After what seemed to us a long time father came back with a car to take us to a transit hostel for service families. There we were given a meal, had a wash, got cooled off and waited until it was time to go for our train to Lahore. I always had my atlas with me so I was able to find out where Lahore was. It had been suggested that we went to a transit camp at Deolali, a British Army transit camp in Maharashtra, India and then decided that we should go straight to Lahore. Later we discovered that we had had a very lucky escape as there had been an outbreak of cholera at Deolali and several people had died. At any time it was notoriously hot and unhealthy. Father had to bribe a railway official to get a compartment to ourselves. The porters who carried the luggage asked for a great many rupees and father meekly paid up. He never learned how to "beat them down" even when he suspected he was being cheated. It was against his principles. Meals on the train had to be ordered in advance and for five people for three days the cost was exorbitant. But nothing could be done. After that we all took our own food on journeys and a primus stove so that we could have tea end plenty of boiled water to drink. But at this stage we were novices with much to learn. The compartment was much bigger than we had expected. There were four long settee which served also as beds and two bunks which let down for the night. Adjoining the compartment was the self contained toilet compartment. There was no corridor. Our meals therefore would be brought to us at stops and the dishes collected at the next station.
By this time it was getting dark so we all got ready for bed. I had one of the top bunks. It had a little window so I could look out at all the strange sights outside. To our surprise an Indian gentleman got in just as the train was due to go. He said not a word but made up his bed, put on pyjamas and went to bed. When we woke in the morning he had gone. Nobody had seen him get out a1though I thought I had been awake all night. The train seemed to have frequent stops. Every station was crowded with Indians. They settled to be camping out there. Some slept on the platform, others sat round their fires, cooking and eating their food. The noise and smells were very strange to me. I wondered whether all these peop1e lived permanently in the railway stations. But as soon as the rain started to steam out hordes of them leaped at the handles of the doors and hung on and some climbed on the roof, careless of their lives. Presumably they were having e free ride. There were 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages. Father's free warrant was always for 2nd class.
There was no racial discrimination in travel by rail. Rich Indians travelled 1st. class but most Indians endured the rigours of the 3rd. class. Here compartments had only narrow wooden seats and the passengers were tightly crowded together. It must have been terrible for them in the heat on long journeys. Our expensive meals were far from satisfactory but we were not at all hungry. But we could not get enough to drink and were extremely thirsty. Father asked the refreshment car for more tea or soft drinks or boiled water. This was refused because it had not been ordered ahead. Even palm-greasing brought no results. Obviously we could not drink the water supplied for washing. There were taps on every station platform and Indians drinking from them. Mother wanted to get out for water but father said it would be full of typhoid and cholera germs and we must never drink unboiled water. She was also tempted to buy tea from the char wallahs on the platform but again father stopped her. Mother was feeding the baby, who was becoming very listless through lack of fluid. We did not understand at the time but, much later, mother said that she had thought that the baby would die on the journey. However the baby soon recovered after we had left the train, and all was well. There were fruit vendors at every station and it was decided that we would risk eating fruit.
The oranges were loose-skinned, rather like large tangerines but less juicy and tasty. There were three kinds of bananas, little yellow ones, large greenish ones and red skinned. The two latter were rather tasteless. Then there were sweet lychee with their husky skins, cape gooseberries and, best of all juicy mangoes. There is no neat way of eating a mango. One must have a wash afterwards. I used to clean the stones and brush the hairs so that they looked like little furry animals. The journey to Lahore took three days and nights. It was a long time for children to be cooppd up and Ralph and Bob needed a lot of entertaining. I think I was the only one really to enjoy it. There was a great deal to see. When we were going through the Thar Desert and I tired of looking at nothing but sand I had books to read. The Punjab was much more densely populated and interesting. At last we reached Lahore. We travelled from the station to the Cantonment in tongae which were two-wheeled horse-drawn carriages with seats back to back. Father found out where we were to live and we went on to our bungalow. It was at one end of a block of army quarters. There were four enormous rooms, a smaller one, a big veranda and a bathroom. The bathroom contained a wash-stand, a wooden commode and a zinc bath standing in an area with a little brick wall round it and had a hole in the wall, an essential part of the plumbing. The bath was emptied by tipping it up so that the water ran through the hole into an open drain outside. We learned later to put a brick over the hole because several times we found a snake in the bathroom which had crawled through the hole. Father killed them with a stick. There was no water supply, halfway along the block of houses there was an outside tap and the water had to be carried from there. Water for baths was heated in kerosene tins in the cookhouse about a hundred yards away and carried to the bathroom by a sweeper, an untouchable. He also emptied the commode and swept the bungalow floor carrying bath water twice a day for six people was a tremendous job in itself. I think his few rupees pay was well earned. Sweepers never spoke to us and always kept their eyes down. Probably they know no English except the call of "Sweeper” so we could not communicate with them. I used to feel very sorry for them. The only modern convenience was electricity. There were big electric fans in every room. This was standard equipment in all army quarters on the plains so we never had to employ a punkah wallah. The army supplied the basic furniture, beds, tables and chairs.
Soon after we arrived, a furniture wallah came to ask what furniture we wanted to hire. It was the usual practice to hire furniture by the month. So we had wardrobes, cal1ed almirahs, chests of drawers, a desk, bookshelves, small tables and basketwork armchairs all delivered that day. The chairs were designed for army living, with footrests and broad arms to hold a sahib’s chhota peg or burra peg.(2011: from british empire: chhota or chota means miniature jug for holding small alcoholic drink, i.e single scotch & soda or burra peg means double-whiskey)
A man came to see if we wanted straw matting for the stone floors. He cleverly carpeted the whole bungalow, wall-to-wall, weaving the matting to fit. It looked very good and was clean and springy. It was only meant to last for a few months and was inexpensive. Each time we moved house we had new matting. We also bought dhurris, cotton carpets, and numnahs, felt rugs embroidered in bright colours. The beds had frames for mosquito nets. The nets were essential but we did not like them because they seemed to make us hotter. When we went to bed mother put down the nets and tucked them in, first making sure that there were no mosquitoes inside. During the night she always did a tour of all the beds, listening for a buzz. If there was, there had to be a thorough search until the intruder was caught and killed. On the way to the bungalow we had discovered a marvellous shop in the cantonment, owned by a Parsee family called Jamset Jee.
It was as good a grocer’s shop as any in England. They also sold hardware. Adjoining the shop was a little bazaar, extremely clean because the stalls were let by the Jamset Jees, where one could, buy meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables. So we bought plenty of food, some china and cutlery and a primus stove and had an enjoyable meal in our big empty bungalow. Later on mother and father became very friendly with the Jamset Jee brothers and went to a wedding reception in their garden. Mother enjoyed it tremendously. We were told in detail of the luxurious food, Indian and English, which was offered and the elegance of its presentation. She was charmed with the good manners of the Indian guests. Long afterwards she used to repeat part of the first sermon she had heard in India. The minister had said that British army families should not judge India by camp followers. They were not likely to know Indians who were uncorrupted. They were certainly not likely to understand Indian culture. Mother always said that this was true. She regretted that there was never again an encounter such as that with the Jamset Jees. Our big oak boxes arrived some days later. When they were unpacked it was discovered that the contents of one had been stolen and it was packed with the bulky red petticoats of an Indian mill woman. Almost all of mother’s linen had gone. The box had been full of crocheted and embroidered tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases and towels, work which had taken her more than ten happy years to create. Her lovely wedding presents from her relations and lifelong friends in Blyth had also gone. Mother wept. The day after we arrived we had a cook, or khansama, a bearer, an ayah, a sweeper and a dog. Nanak, an engaging young man with a cheerful grin, turned up first and assured us that he was the best cook in Lahore and had chits to prove it. Most of his testimonials were obvious forgeries. It was common practice to pay babus in the bazaar to write them.
We discovered later that Nanak had only worked, as a bobajee for privates’ families before coming to us. However, we had to have a cook. It was physically impossible for a memsahib to do her own cooking in the cookhouse for this was one of a row of cookhouses some distance from the house where Indian men servants worked over open fires, stirring their dokshis and gossiping together. Nanak would do for a while. But as time passed he was still with us. Nanak was engaged at 25 rupees a month and food.(2011: 1 rupee = 1s 4d in 1925 which is £1 13s 3d and at todays rate is £50 for a months pay) He said we must have a bearer, an ayah and a sweeper and could supply them. He went away and came back with all three. The bearer was a tall, thin, young man. His only dut1es seemed to be to wait on us at table and do a little light dusting. He thought he was going to be a gentleman's valet but father would have none of this. So when we moved up to the hills his services were dispensed with. The ayah turned out to be Nanak's aunt. She was a large fat woman who could speak no English. It soon became evident that she had never been an ayah before and knew nothing about babies, English or otherwise. Mother continued to look after the baby and the ayah's only contribution was to watch over her tenderly. So she was soon given her notice. Another ayah was engaged. This one was more efficient, but she nursed the baby constantly and never let her move about. Mother was afraid that the baby would never learn to crawl or walk. Somebody told her tales of ayahs drugging babies to keep them still and quiet, and so after a time this ayah too was dismissed, and thereafter mother looked after the children by herself. Nanak was a terrible cook. He produced his masterpieces with triumph and never knew that they were often thrown out to the kite hawks. Every day he made a cake for afternoon tea and came dashing across from the cookhouse with it steaming hot from the oven. Birthday cakes were his Speciality.
These were entirely his own idea. Whenever there was a birthday in the family he would make a cake iced in brilliant red, green, blue and yellow, the bigger and brighter the better. It was horribly sickly, but a kind thought. For my birthday I was given a little gramophone. Nanak proudly presented me with some second hand records he had bought in the bazaar. The favourites were "Light Cavalry", "In a Monastery Garden" and "The Laughing policeman". They were played over and over again and nobody tired of turning the handle. In those days there were no were no record players or television or radio. We entertained ourselves and were never bored. Mother did not dare venture into the cookhouse for some time and when she did pluck up courage to do an inspection she was horrified at the lack of hygiene. So Nanak was given lessons on keeping the cookhouse clean scouring the dekahis (cooking pans) and washing the towels regularly. Sometime later we had a Valor stove sent out from England. It could be kept in the bungalow for mother to do some of the cooking and she gave lessons to the cook. We all thought that everything she made was superb. The cooks had to go every morning to collect the army rations which were bread, meat, vegetables and other basic foods. Every evening before the cook went home he came to say "Take account, memsahib." Then all his expenditure for the day was added up and more money given him for the next day’s purchases together with the orders for the meals. We used to have a cooked meal at midday and again in the evening because meat was much cheaper than in England, only a few annas(pennies) a pound.
Apart from that, our food was as nearly as possible what we would have eaten in England, except for more curries and fewer salads. New dishes were stuffed “brinjals” (aubergines) and "humph" which was a cow's hump. It was good, solid, salted beef which we enjoyed very much. When buying a leg of lamb we always chose one with its foot left on because goat was often passed off as lamb or mutton. After the cook had gone and the children had been put to bed mother and father made tea with the Primus and had tea and biscuits on the verandah in the dark. It was cooler by then. After a while I was promoted to stay up for tea with them. It was a great honour! All drinking water had to be boiled ad cooled in a chatti, an earthenware pitcher standing in another pot of cold water. There were no refrigerators then. Butter and milk were similarly kept cool. The butter and milk were similarly kept cool. The butter and milk were bought twice a day from the government dairy and bread was obtained from the government bakery.
Our dog Nutty had joined us on our first day in Lahore. He was given to father by a soldier who was going back to England. It was a common practice for soldiers to keep dogs as pets and guard dogs. They were allowed to sleep in the barrack rooms and food was no problem as they could be fed on beef. Nutty was a mongrel, but he was a beautiful dog, much bigger than a retriever, with a smooth, silky, nut-brown coat. He had a furrowed forehead, and so we thought there must be some bloodhound in his ancestry. The first night he was kept tied up on the veranda because he howled mournfully and incessantly, in the morning he was gone leaving a broken rope behind. A little later his previous owner bought him back, and this time Nutty agreed to stay. He gradually settled down and became as fond of us as we were of him. His favourite trick was to pull the ribbons off my plaits and run off with them, with me in hot pursuit. He chose to sleep in my bedroom. One night I was awakened by Nutty’s growling. H1s teeth were bared and the hair on the back of his neck was standing on end. This was a very different beast from the normally gentle Nutty. Then I saw a stick poking through the latch of the door, trying to lift the heavy bar which was the only means of fastening the door. I shouted for father and he ran out at once, but could see nothing. The loose waliahs(2011 wallah) (burglars) had probably reached the cover of nearby trees.
These great times were full of wild life. There were tree rats, like squirrels, brilliant parakeets, minah birds, cross end kite hawks. Kite hawks swooped down on any food they could see. Cooks used to run across with the food to avoid them and the children never ate outside for fear of attack. Bob’s hand was badly gashed one day while he was holding some fruit. At night we used to hear the jackals howling, a most eerie sound. They came close in to raid the dustbins. We seldom saw them in the daytime. Animals were no trouble to us but insects certainly were.The bungalow had no ceiling and enormous spiders used to drop down on us. As far as I know, they were harmless but they were most unpleasant. Scorpions had to be given a very wide birth. One day the cook came running to mother with a scorpion hanging on to his hand. He had been wiping the cookhouse table and had not seen the scorpion until it was too late. Mother took him by the arm and rushed him to the hospital at top speed and he was dealt with immediately. He might have died if he had not had medical attention at once. There were black ants, white ants, beetles, flies, mosquitoes and other pests which had to be kept in subjection with insect sprays. When the locusts came it was an incredible sight. The sky suddenly turned black with swarms of them. Then they landed and in a few minutes there was not a trace of vegetation left, not a blade of grass. The attack was over and the ground was covered with dead locusts. After the scorpion episode Nanak brought his wife and two little boys to see us. His wife was a pretty young girl who shyly hung her head and the children were plump and jolly. Poor, incompetent Nanek was very fond of all of us. Especially Bob. "Bobbie is a teak chotah waliah”,(2011 chota wallah, another spelling, is a “little guy") he would say, carrying him about on his shoulder. The children in the family returned his affection. All the Indian servants that we had were affectionate to chl1dren. I think it must be an Indian characteristic. It was marvellous for the children but for parents there could be emotional blackmail if they were soft hearted, as ours were, and incompetent servants quickly became unsackable. Another form of blackmail was that Nanak said that he was a Christian and that Christians were persecuted in the bazaar. We felt sorry for him at first but we later gathered that he had no religion and therefore was free to eat any food, Hindu, Moslem, or ours, especially ours. We learned to accept the minor pilfering of food as a way of life.
When we first arrived father had said that we must be polite to the servants, and we all were. But many people were not. They shouted and swore at their servants. I heard them as I passed their quarters. Some even kicked. I saw that too. Some of the privateers, proud of having servants for the first and only time in their lives, were the worst offenders. The cantonment where we lived was an army camp, clean and whitewashed, but unromantic. For a change we sometimes went to the city of Lahore. We travelled by tonga along the Mell, which I remember as a beautiful road with grass, shrubs and roses on either side. The gardens were well maintained by melis, Indian gardeners. We first came to the European part of the city where there were wide streets, good shops of all kinds, hotels, cafes and beautiful bungalows.
We continued on to the Anarkali Bazaar, the largest bazaar we saw in India. This we all found very exciting. It was a mass of stalls and was densely populated, it was smelly and noisy and incredibly crowded, but very interesting. What we did not like were the beggars who surrounded us with calls of “Baksheesh, sahib”. Many of them were terribly diseased and mutilated. It was said that some of them, the professional beggars, injured themselves to gain more pity. At first mother and father gave some baksheesh but that was fatal because more and more of them crowded round and followed us, and, although sympathetic, theye had very little money to spare. The poverty and squalor were unbelievable to our English eyes. But there was plenty to see, stalls of all kinds, selling fruit, silks, sticky sweets, brass, carpets, clothes, everything imaginable. It was usual for the stallholder to ask for more for his goods than he expected to get. Then the customer would offer a great deal less. The seller then came down a bit and the customer up a bit, and so it went on until a satisfactory price was agreed. Mother and father could never get accustomed to this system and were never very good at haggling. Beyond the Anarkali Bazaar was the walled city. We always had to turn back when we reached the gate because the city was out of bounds British troops. It looked like a continuation of the bazaar but was even more crowded and exotic.
Not very far from where we lived was the Suddah Bazaar. This was the most beautiful of all bazaars. Every stall was stacked and hung with the loveliest of materials for all purposes to suit both British and Indians of all classes. Some stalls specialised in readymade saris of rich colours and patterns in the finest of cottons and silks and gauzes, others specialised in silks alone. Striped silks were favoured at this time by English ladies and were thought to be as cool as cotton. It was a very clean bazaar and mother used to enjoy going there to buy materials. Our clothes were made by dhurzis, native tailors or dressmakers of amazing skill. They had English pattern books but no paper patterns. We looked through the books, chose the style we wanted and it was made up exactly like the pictures. Some dhurzis specialised in children’s clothes. I remember an old man with a beard dyed red who used to come round regularly with a large bundle of dresses, shirts, shorts and underclothes that he had made. These were spread out on the verandah. He sold some and took orders. He always had a tape measure round his neck and needles and pins in his turban. Then there was a very high class dressmaker who made the most exquisite dresses. When I was going off to boarding school he made me several white silk dresses w1th smocking, gauging and picot edges done by hand. Box wallahs came regularly and spread out their wares on the verandah. "You look, memsahib. If you no like, you no buy.” We bought as many Treasures as we could afford. There were brass ornaments, carved wooden Tables, trays and book rests, a carpet and rugs. Many of these were sent home to England as presents. We still have some Indian brass and three carved tables in our house. The carpet was from Baluchistan. It was full of desert and when we got it and it had to be hung on the line and beaten with sticks to get it clean. There were no vacuum cleaners then. It was immensely heavy and it took several people to carry it. It was red and blue, in a traditional pattern, and in one place the blue was slightly different, evidence, if it was needed, that it had been made by hand by skilled tribal workmen.
We had our carpet for over forty years. When it was given away to a neighbour it was not worn out, just slightly shabby in the part near the doorway. The carpet wallah was different in appearance from all other box wallahs. He was very fair skinned, wore a tight fitting black coat in the style of superior merchants, but unlike any other we had seen, he wore a fez. We thought that he was a Persian. In the usual fashion, he spread his carpets on the verandah and showed them off, one by one. Mother admired them all but especially the rugs from Bokhara. The carpet from Baluchistan, however, was cheaper and seemed to be very hardwearing, and so it was bought. All his wares had been so beautiful that she wished she could have, there and then, purchased carpets and rugs to furnish her own house and to send home to all her relations, but that was out of the question. The merchant called several times and on each occasion mother said that, of course, a11 his carpets were beautiful but she had spent all she could afford. Still he spread out his wares and always she looked and admired. Then having tried her out, he came to the point; he wanted her to take his carpets to England and sell them for him; they would be partners and share the profits. Mother said that she was no business woma she knew nothing about selling; but she could steal his rugs very easily under this system. He said that he knew that he could trust her. She said that he should try the officers up the hill, who must be better customers. No, he said, he wanted no dealings with them for their children mocked him. They were "budmash".(2011: Indian word meaning a bad character : a worthless person ) Mother did not go into business, but many years later we saw in a connoisseurs' carpet shop our Baluchistan carpet in the window. We went inside and were allowed to see their eastern treasures. Like mother we coveted them all. But the prices made them coverings for the houses of near millionaires. How had they reached such prices? Who made the profit? Certainly not the makers, nor the merchant, travelling afar to buy from the vil1ages and then to sell from door to door. Other box wallahs had sad times for mother. Many memsahib’s stole their wares and the English children too were thieves and very cheeky.
Ralph and Bob heard such tales with indignation. "They are stealing thieves” one of them said. Snake charmers came to the bungalows. It was said that the poison fangs of the cobras had been removed. We took no chances and kept well back. Sometimes the snake charmer had a huge python coiled round his body. In the hills there were dancing brown bears. I felt sorry for the the poor , chained animals being made to stand on their hind legs and jog about. Occasionally, we went to the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. They were really beautiful with flowers and lawns. Elegant young men used to wander about carrying books and chanting. We thought they were students from the university, reciting poetry. Our first stay in Lahore was brief because the hot weather was coming on when wives and families a11 went to the hills. It was too hot for them to stay on the plains, although most. of the soldiers had to remain in the terrific heat. I can remember that father was sometimes with us and sometimes not, but I do not know how his time was divided. He was attached to the Royal Berkshire Regiment at this time. With the help of some non-A.E.C. instructors he educated the men and prepared them for their third, second, first, and special class certificates. Some were barely illiterate and others were preparing to take external degree. He was also in charge of the education of an Indian regiment. He used to visit them periodically but as he did not know their language, he could not teach them. That was left to a ‘havilder' (an Indian sergeant) who often used to come to see father at home to report on his progress and afterwards take tea. He spoke perfect English and was a very pleasant visitor. Father was also in charge of the school for the children of the British regiments and he sometimes taught us. Our first hill station was Dagshai in the foothills of the Himalayas. We travelled overnight by an ordinary train to Kalka, where we changed to the small-gauge railway. It wound round and round the mountain, climbing higher and higher. Often there was a sheer drop on one side but the little train hung on. The vegetation grew more and lusher as we climbed higher. It became cooler and was a great relief from the heat of Lahore. We got off the train at Darempore Station where we had to take tongas for the rest of the journey.
The horses went at top speed and we hung on, thinking that we would be over the khud ( steep hillside) at any moment. But we arrive safely with all our "small luggage". The heavy stuff, boxes and trunks, was carried up from Daremore by coolies. They had. bands round their heads to support the load on their backs. They did not look very strong with their thin legs but they could carry tremendously heavy burdens. The, furniture hirer had his godown ( store ) at Darampore and the furniture was all carried up by Coolies. It was a terrible sight. We were told that sometimes they fell down a precipice to their deaths. Our house seemed more English and homely than the bungalow in Lahore. There were wooden floors instead of stone. The rooms were smaller but there were more of them. We used to have wood fires in the cool evenings. There was no electricity but we had oil lamps. Nanek, had come with us, bringing his wife and children. He had been given extra money for the journey but before we had gone far he came to us in great distress saying his family was starving. So mother handed out provisions from her food box. She had learned to take plenty of food and drink on journeys.
When we arrived at Dagshai. Nanak had to get his family housed in the bazaar and we did not see him again for a week. However, mother did the cooking, to our great satisfaction. It was possible because the cookhouse adjoined the house. It was good to see so many growing things after the dust and glare of the plains. Growing wild everywhere on the hill slopes were great deoder cedars, walnut trees and great sweeps of purple rhododendrons in massive, high clumps. Single, brilliantly coloured and sharply patterned dahlias were universal. How they survived the heavy snows of winter, even here in the foothills of the Himalayas, I have never understood, I often think of it when I am carefully lifting my own English dahlias, drying them, storing them at the right temperature, and dusting them against mould. The boys were always on the lookout for a walnut tree close to the road. The walnuts, however, were never ripe when we were in the hills and all they got for their efforts was darkly stained hands. The whole family longed to leave the roads, quiet though they were. The khud could be dangerous, as all of us knew. The undergrowth was certainly full of snakes, and every child knew about them, not only from hearing about them but from seeing them in their own bathroom or crossing a path. I had once encountered a cobra on the way to school, hissing and with its hood raised. I had immediately gone home and returned with an adult. No-one at all suggested that I was cowardly; it was the correct drill known to all of us. Another snake which was common was the krait, which was a dull blue in colour and very venomous. On the khud theee were also likely to be jackals. These would not attack a human being unless they had rabies and this was a constant fear. They might, however, very well attack a dog. Even on the road it was was always an interesting walk. We saw long-tailed monkeys, although they kept their distance, and twice we saw a leopard. So every evening the whole family walked round the mountain and it could all be seen , including the little bazaar, in an hour or so. After a while father found a wild place for us. It was a very beautiful pool surrounded by rocks, but it was a long walk and so only Ralph, Bob and I went with him. We frolicked in the pool while he stood guard with a stout stick. One evening, as we were going home, an old man on a donkey offered Ralph a ride. He lifted him on the donkey's back and at once the donkey plunged and kicked and threw Ralph off. It lashed out at his hea1d. We were greatly alarmed, but apart from a huge bump he was none the worse.
In India there are three seasons, "Cold weather," "Hot Weather," and "Monsoons." It was very hot before the rains came end everybody was longing for the weather to break. Then suddenly it would start to rain, not like rain in England, but pouring down in torrents which continued for several days at a time. Steam rose from the hot earth and it was very humid. Then it became cooler and we were much more comfortable. Father said that in Lahore the whole area suddenly became green in two or three days. The heavy rainfall went on for about two months. Then there was some pleasant weather before we moved down to Lahore again. Winter in Lahore was best of all. It was just like an English summer but without rain. In the evening it turned cool and we had wood fires. They were not always necessary but seemed cheerful. There was hardly any twilight in India. It changed quite suddenly from bright sunshine to darkness. I think it was at this time that we nearly lost Jean. She had been playing on the verandeh and somebody suddenly called out. "Jean as amongst the buffaloes." There she was, a tiny figure in a white dress in the midst of herd of huge, black buffaloes. They were grazing peacefully, and she was going amongst them , patting their legs. We were all aghast. Poor Nanek threw his tea towel over his head and wailed "Chotah Jean Baba will be dead." We did not know what to do. If we went near the buffaloes they might have stampeded and trodden Jean underfoot. Father said 'Keep still and quiet." So we did and hoped. After what seemed like years, Jean decided that buffaloes were not much fun to play with and came wandering back. She must have been about eighteen months at the time. Father and mother were unusual in their now established pattern of walking, and seeing the sights, always in the company or their children. Some couples, confident that there were servants to attend to their Household were always ready for social life. This usually began in the regimental tennis club and in dances in the mess. Neither father nor mother played tennis but we all watched regularly. Father attended mess dances; he liked conversation, he considered it a social duty, and he had taken on the supervision of the bar where he took pleasure in straightening out mess funds and thereafter keeping them immaculately. There had been a suppressed scandal about his predecessor and some misappropriation of funds. Father was confident that he would be more alert than some because he was virtually a teetotaller. So these occasions for father were quite interesting and enjoyable. Mother, however though quite as convivial as father, refused to attend any evening functions. She would trust no-one to guard her brood, espec1ally at night.
Then came news of a high spot in the social round. This was the annual Regimental Shoot for Ladies. Officers' wives were particularly enthusiastic. They practised regularly on the regimental rifle range which was periodically cleared for their use. Father, who was a good shot himself, persuaded mother to enter. She agreed. Although she had never in her life held a rifle or any other sort of firearm. As she went into the rifle range she was not worrying about the shooting itself; her secret anxiety was that she might look undignified when lying down to shoot. But all was well, she discovered, for the legs of each competitor were carefully shrouded in a blanket. Mother’s turn came, and father went with her to tell her how to hold the rifle, take aim and fire it, was time someone told her. She turned and saw that the worst had happened: she had scratched her smartest English shoes. At the end it was announced that mother had won the competition end that she was the best Ladles' Shot in the regiment, and she had won two silver gilt serving spoons. We were all bursting with pride. Mother could do anything, if only she put her mind, to it.
Then father was posted to the Seaforth Highlanders in Nowshera. Nowshera was on the North West Frontier near Peshawar. Consequently we had to pack up again. Nenak came to us in tears, saying that his father would not let him go so far away. It was decided, reluctantly, that it was too long a journey for Nutty, and so he was given to an unmarried sergeant who admired him. Nutty knew him and went peacefully. Ralph and Bob were quite upset at losing both Nanak and Nutty. When we said goodbye to Nanek Bob clung to his legs and cried. It was a long journey to Nowshera but not unpleasant. By now we were seasoned travellers. Father was pleased to be posted to a Scottish regiment and the Seaforth were splendid in every way. They treated us very well and made us fee1 welcome. The schoolmaster in a regiment was often thought of as an outsider. It may have helped that father himself was a scot. Mother became especially friendly with Mrs. Mar the Regimental sergeant Major's wife. Mrs.Mar had come from Scotland as the nanny to the children of the a commanding officer and had been married from his house. When she told mother about her wedding I was listening and found it most romantic. She said that the colonel and his wife had treated her as a daughter. They were still very fond of her and she of them. Mr.Mar was very young to have become a R.S.M and was reputed to have been a very good one. He was a handsome Highlander with golden hair, and their baby Spenser, was exactly like him. They were an extremely pleasant couple. Mrs.Mar was very efficient; she had excellent servants and her house was run like clockwork. She was exceptionally gentle mannered. Mother said she seemed like the wife of a minister. I was asked by Mrs.Mar to sell poppies for Remembrance Sunday and, much against my will, since I was very shy, I agreed. I was to go round the married quarters. At the end of the morning most of my poppies were gone but my collecting box was very light. Several women had given me one anna and taken poppies for the whole family, and some of them had very large families. As I was going, disconsolately home an Indian Ghurka officer stopped me and gave me ten rupees for one poppy. I was overwhelmed. It was about one tenth of fathers weekly pay.
Nowshera was a hot and dusty place. It left no lasting impression on me.We found a very superior cook who wore a fez. All went well until an ice-cream machine was bought. It had to have ice put in it and the cook turned the handle until the custard turned into ice-cream. The icecream was so popular that we wore out the cook. He gave in his notice, saying he could do it no more.
Then we had Nanoo. He was a delicate looking man with a sad, gentle face. He was a very good cook, perfectly clean, and most satisfactory when he was working, but periodically he disappeared for weeks on end and then returned and resumed his duties without any explanations. It was assumed that he lost himself in the bazaars for long bouts of alcohol and drugs. He had his own dog, Punjera, who stayed outside the cookhouse all day Jean, the baby, was devoted to both of them and she,of course, was Nanoo’s favourite. Punjera was the ugliest parish dog she could ever see, but he was very affable and Nanoo kept him clean and free from fleas. Nanoo’s departure was as sad as that of Nanek. Nanoo was dismissed for stealing from the school. There could be no doubt of his guilt. I heard my parents discussing, very seriously, what they should do. They liked Nanoo, they were sorry for him because there must be something very far wrong with his private life, about which we knew nothinq, and he was going downhill fast. But they concluded, a theft from us could have been overlooked, with a warning, but a theft from the school had to be reported. So he was sent away. Jean ran after him crying. It was very distressing. We had to have a chokidar or night watchman, while we were on the North West Frontier. His job was to guard the house against raiders during the night. He kept his charpoy, a wooden framed bed with webbing, on the verandah, and as soon as it was dark he lay down and snored loudly all night. To make a good show he kept a big axe under his pillow. By paying a chokidar we ensured that his friends and relations did not rob us. He was a tribesman, a Pathan, a tall, handsome man with a fair skin , hooked nose and blue eyes. His beard was dyed red. The pathans were fine looking people, very proud of themselves and fierce fighters. British soldiers had to sleep with their rifles beside them to prevent their being stolen. If a man lost his rifle he was in serious trouble. The raiders were clever thieves and we heard stories of barrack rooms being entirely looted while the men slept. There was sporadic tribal fighting on the North West Frontier but nothing serious whilst we were there.
While we were in Nowshera I learnt Scottish dancing. The young private who was caretaker of the gymnasium invited all the children of the regiment for lessons. He played the bagpipes. I enjoyed it and went regularly. It was useful to me years later when I went to school in Scotland and knew the dances already. My teacher, Mrs. Macrae, went with her husband, a sergeant in the regiment, to see the Khyber Pass. They also had splendid holidays on a houseboat in Kashmir and in Simla. I was very envious when she told us about it and showed her photographs. But a family of our size had no money for holidays. I think it must have been the heat and dust that made father think of emigrating to Canada. At that time it was possible to buy land in Canada extremely cheaply. In the less favoured parts lend was given away free to settlers. Father sent for all the information and got lots of books on farming. We decided that we would go to New Brunswick and build a log cabin and be highly successful farmers. We were all very enthusiastic, all, that is except mother. She said nothing, but let us go on with all our talking. She knew father was not really serious about it. But it was good entertainment for several weeks.
We got a second dog while we were in Nowshera. An Indian sergeant gave him to father as a present. He had been stolen by an Indian soldier from a camel caravan and was confiscated by the sergeant. They thought this was an exceptional dog. His name was Tiger. He was a big, grey and white dog, strong and fearless, but gentle and tame with the family. We did not know what breed he was, father thought he must be part timber wolf. He certainly looked like a wolf. All other dogs were afraid of him but he only once attacked one and that was not his fault. We were all out walking one evening when we met a young officer with his bull mastiff. As we were passing them he deliberately, with complete contempt for all us as low orders, set his dog onto Tiger. The bull mastiff sprang, but Tiger was too quick for him. In a second the face of the English dog was ripped open and pouring with blood and Tiger was sitting silent and grim amongst us. We were all horrified. Mother in particular grieved for the poor English dog, so beautiful, so well-trained, so basically tame. The young lieutenant, however, felt no shame, and tried to intimidate father, saying that he had not heard the last of this and dogs like ours would be better destroyed. We all stood our ground and father told him that he did not deserve so good a dog. Finally we went our separate ways, Tiger, as ever, walking with us, not on a lead, not at heel, unferocious, returning home with his family. "Sit! Stay! Heel!"
Tiger walked with us, not behind us, and never on a lead. I did not know until much later that dogs have only one meal a day. Tiger ate when we did. The cook brought his food after he had served our meal. He enjoyed tea very much. On two occasions it was reported to us that Tiger had been seen chasing leopards in the hills. We were not surprised. One day when we were up in the hills we met an old hill woman with a yoke on her shoulders to carry two pots of wild honey which she had collected to sell. She was wearing unusual pantaloons and had very bandy legs. Those legs were irresistible to Tiger. He darted through them sending the old dame and her honey flying. Then, if dogs can laugh, he did! The old woman was ,naturally, most indignant. We picked her up, dusted her down and paid her for her honey and loss of dignity, and she went off mollified. Jean, who was just a toddler used to roll about on the floor with Tiger and ride on his back, and we were afraid that he would hurt her. The teacher at my school, however, was afraid of him. He always came to school with us and sat quietly at my feet. At playtimes he frolicked with the children and was given titbits from their lunches. The teacher asked for him to be kept at home and so he was, but ten minutes after we had started, there he was in his usual place. This went on for several days, and so she gave up and tolerated the extra pupil.
The hill station for Nowshera was Cherat. It was not far away and not very high and seemed little or no improvement on Nowshera, equally hot and barren. There was a double wedding while we were in Cherat. Two young women came out from Scotland to marry Seaforth sergeants. They had been engaged before the regiment left for India. I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding and the reception which was arranged by Mrs.Mar. It was rare for soldiers to marry while they were in India. They did not get a marriage allowance and quarters until they were twenty-six, and they had to ask the Commanding Officer’s permission to marry. If the girl was Eurasian, the permission would almost certainly be refused. There was little or no chance for ordinary soldiers to meet British girls. Sometimes Eurasian girls attended the regimental dances, but before they could be invited their names had to be submitted to the Commanding Officer and they were carefully investigated to make sure they were respectable. Eurasians were usually referred to as “chee chee” or even worse as “chilli crackers”.
We were delighted when we heard that the Seaforths had been posted to Lahore. We had not expected to see it again. For the rest of our time in India we were stationed in Lahore for the winter months and in Dagshai, Sabathu and Kasouli (2011: Kasauli)for the summer. The hill stations were all much the same, but Kasouli was more beautiful than the others.
News had somehow reached nanek that we were coming back to Lahore and he came to meet us. He was delighted to see the children, and they to see him. He thought he was bound to be reinstated as our khensama (2011: a male servant who cooks and often is also responsible for taking care of the house and organizing other servants) but we had brought our cook with us and Nanek was working for a private’s family nearby, so it was not possible. He was disappointed, but thereafter he made periodic visits bringing sticky sweets for the chotah wallahs (children, lit. little people).
We were very proud to belong to the Seaforth Highlanders. It was a great sight to see them on parade, so smart in their kilts and with the pipe band or regimental band playing. It was mostly the pipe band. The regimental band was often away on engagements. The bandsmen were paid extra for this, and so were much more prosperous than the other men. This caused some ill-feeling in the regiment. Father, however, liked them very much because he found a number who were intelligent and genuinely ambitious to improve their education in preparation for civilian life. They were already skilled musicians. Now, with father’s help and their own correspondence course, they were working for external degrees of London University, usually in Economics.
Church parade was compulsory for the men. There were special racks in the pews to hold their rifles. We always went to church. Mother liked being able to attend a Presbyterian church again. The families had to sit at the front and the troops behind them. What we did not like was seeing defaulters doing ‘jerkers’. As a punishment they had to march up and down, in full uniform, with packs on their backs. This was sometimes in tropical temperatures. Father always told us to avert our eyes when passing them to save them embarrassment.
Mother, of course , was shocked and indignant. "They are only lads" she would say. "Some day they will kill them." Every New Year's Day there was a big parade in Lahore. All the British and Indian troops of the district took part and the Governor General took the salute. The Indian Cavalry regiments, with their magnificent uniforms and with pennants flying from their lances, rode past on their beautifully groomed horses. Then there were the Camel Corps and the smart little Ghurkas and other picturesque Indian troops. The British soldiers were extremely smart, but plain in comparison, except, of course, for the Scottish regiments. There were military bands playing and tanks rolling along. It was a most splendid occasion. The Seaforths had celebrated Hogmanay the night before but they showed little sign of their carousels. Father said that some of them did not go to bed at all; they continued their jollifications until it was time to be smartened up from the parade. They were kept standing for hours, long before the inspection was due. For spectators it was a magnificent sight, but should a soldier faint on parade it was literally a crime. In the regiment, however, the ordeal was considered a joke because it was assumed that any who fainted had drunk too deep and too long the night before.
Father could enjoy all parades because the Seaforths excused him from all strictly military duties. Splendid Christmas parties were given for the children of the regiment. Every child was given an expensive toy or book and a dress or jumper and the ladies had a silk dress length. Mrs. Mar chose the presents with great care and they were always suitable. One Christmas in Lahore stands out in my memory. Grannie wrote to say that a Blyth woman and her Indian army husband were home on leave and had offered to bring us our Christmas presents to save posting them. But they lived somewhere beyond Lahore and we were to meet their train when it stopped at Lahore station. We were later given the time of the train. Mother and I got up very early that morning – it seemed like the middle of the night to me- and went by tonge to the station. It was very dark and cold and I had a rug to keep me warm. It seemed a tremendous adventure. We arrived at the station in good time and when the train pulled in the people were looking out for us. They gave us our parcels and after they had departed mother and I went to a smart restaurant in Lahore and had breakfast. Then we went home with the presents which were bound to be lovely. The rest of the family were just getting up.We were allocated a much better bungalow that our first one. It was detached and stood in its own compound. Father made a garden and grew annual flowers and lettuces. They did very well because he dug irrigation channels which he filled with water. He worked hard on the garden and it gave him great satisfaction.
There were some scrubby baobabs around the compound and there lived a mongoose. We were very pleased about this and put out food regularly for it. We would have liked it for a pet but we seldom saw it. It certainly earned its keep because we were not bothered with snakes there at all. We had had snakes in the house before this, some of them cobras. Father kept a big stick ready to deal with them. Schools were provided for the children of British soldiers. Each regiment had an army schoolmistress attached to it as well as an A.E.C (2011: Army Education Corps) Warrant Officer. The small places like Nowshera , where there was only one regiment, it would be a one teacher school with perhaps some assistance from the A.E.C men , and in larger military stations, such as Lahore, the teaching staff gathered together to make a big school. The age range was from five to fourteen. This was the normal pattern in British schools at that time. Children left school at fourteen unless they attended grammar schools. These army schools were just as good as schools in England, better in fact, because theye were so well equipped. Our family all went to them. We were constantly changing schools but it did not seem to do us any harm. Mrs. Macrae was the Seaforth teacher.
She was a very strong-minded lady with aloud voice and a habit of calling children, silly little rabbits, bit I got on very well with her and liked and respected her. She was married to a Seaforth sergeant, a gentle, mild, handsome Highlander. He was very fond of children, especially our family, but they had none of their own. After we had left India we heard that at last they had had a baby and we were very glad for them.
The army gave scholarships for children to go to boarding schools of their parents’ choice. When I was nearly eleven I took the examination. I had been well prepared for it. Father coached me and Mrs. Macrae gave me extra lessons in the evenings. Mother thought it was too much for me and I was being overpowered by a dominating personality. She could hear Mrs. Macrae in her house next door but she could never hear me. In fact I was having a most enjoyable time. Mrs. Macrae always gave me smart refreshments at half time which made me feel quite adult.
The examination was held in Father’s school. I was the only candidate. Father was in attendance to hand out the papers and the invigilator was 2nd. Lieutenant The Viscount Tarbet. He was the education officer for the regiment, which meant he was the liaison officer between the regiment and the A.E.C. I knew him well because he often came to the house to see father. I thought he was the most charming and handsome young man I had ever known. Bonnie Prince Charlie should have been exactly like that. In honour of the occasion he wore his kilt and full dress uniform. Whenever I looked up he smiled encouragingly. It was a pleasant examination. A few weeks later a young soldier from the adjutant’s office came up to me on the veranda. He was carrying a note and smiling broadly. I said “I’ll fetch my father”. “No” he said, this is for you. I opened up my letter. It said that I had been awarded a scholarship of so many rupees a year and that I had come first in the whole of India. I could not believe it at first. The young soldier said it is true, congratulations. I’m very glad for you. That was the first of many congratulations. Shortly afterwards there was a telegram of congratulations from the Governor General. Then the Seaforth’s commanding officer and father’s A.E.C captain and Viscount Tarbet and all sorts of other people came. It was overwhelming but enjoyably so. The first thing to be done was to choose a school. Most of the boarding schools for Northern India were in Simla and so we had all Prospectuses. We were told that convent schools were the best and so, although I was not a Roman Catholic, it was decided that I should go to the Convent of Jesus and Mary. There were two schools on the same campus, the Boarding School and the St. Francis School.
My scholarship would have more than covered the keep for the St. Francis school but was not enough for the Boarding school. Mother thought I should have best and decided that she could just manage to pay the difference. After I had been at Simla for a year I took the Punjab Middle school examination and won another scholarship so that my school fees were more than covered. I was glad to feel that I was almost self-supporting for the next two years. The list of school uniform and equipment required was enormous and mother, amazed, supplied everything on the list. I found later that most of the girls did not have so many of each item. But mother was determined that I should be provided with all that the school demanded. I had to have warm gym slips, blouses and dresses for cold weather, cotton gym slips and blouses for warm weather, white silk dresses for best, white silk dresses for Sundays, and colourful dresses for Saturdays. There had to be dozens of underclothes for two kinds of weather, a blazer, a warm coat, a dressing gown, black shoes, brown shoes, white shoes, slippers, tennis shoes, black cotton stockings, brown cotton stockings, white cotton stockings, white silk stockings, black woollen stockings, white cotton gloves, brown leather gloves, bath towels, hand towels, a mattress, pillows, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, white bedcover, serviettes, silver serviette ring, shoe cleaning equipment, mending equipment, hair ribbons, navy, white & mauve, English & French dictionary, mathematics instruments, sponge bag, soap dish, soap, brush and dish and an enamelled mug.
We were not allowed to wear socks, and all dresses had to have long sleeves. We could not understand why it was considered immodest for little girls to show their arms. It was very uncomfortable in hot weather.
Mother went to the dhurzi’s cotton mills for a great quantity of material which was made up by the ordinary dhurzi. The grand dhurzi made my silk dresses most beautifully. Then I had to have two metal trunks to contain my vast trousseau. Mother’s contribution was to print my name neatly in marking ink on yards and yards of tape. I stitched the names on - a very long job.
The school year started on 1st. March and finished on 1st. December. It was too cold for the girls to remain in Simla for the three winter months. There were ten days holiday in the summer for girls whose homes were near Simla. Fortunately my family were in the Simla Hills at that time.
Father took me in the train as far as Kalka, the terminus for the mountain railway. There all the girls gathered up in the charge of some teachers, and we all travelled up to Simla together. At Simla there was a fleet of rickshaws waiting and we piled in, two or three to a rickshaw. I had never ridden in a rickshaw before and it was a strange sensation to be jogging along pulled by a coolie. The coolies did not walk, they ran all the time. I was amazed to see deep snow and brilliant sunshine. It was just like Switzerland. I had not seen snow since leaving England. The school was some distance away and we passed through Simla town. Its houses, churches, shops and hotels looked extremely English to me. In the next three years I saw very little of Simla, but I thought it was a beautiful place. It was very fashionable. All the "best" people, including the Viceroy and his staff, spent the summer there. I had read Kipling’s stories of Simla and it was just as I had imagined it.
The school was a very long, low building with a veranda running its whole length. There was a big compound and trees and flower beds and a khud with a path leading down to the netball and tennis courts. It looked very attractive. The dormitories had white curtains, which were never drawn, round the beds. They were tied with red, blue, yellow or green bows and the dormitories were called the Red Dormitory, the Blue Dormitory and so on. Apart from being new to a boarding school I had never known nuns before and the girls were different from any I had ever known. I felt very, very strange and suddenly wished I were at home with mother and father and my brothers and sister. I cried myself to sleep that night. In the three years I was there I never really got over my homesickness. Many of the other girls were the same. We used to make calendars and cross off the days till it was time to go home again. "Only another so many days," we would say to each other. The St. Francis School was at one end of the long building and we were near the other. Between the two were classrooms and dining rooms. At our end were the nuns' common room and the "parlours" -sitting rooms for visitors and the music rooms. Beyond them was the church, and, some distance away, a teachers' training college run by the convent and a monastery. We were not allowed to go beyond the church except on special occasions. St. Francis' School was just the same as the Boarding School, so far as I could see, except that they did not have the curtains and bows in their Dormitories and they did not use serviettes. But there was a great deal of snobbery and the girls of my school considered themselves vastly superior to the others. We had lessons together but were not supposed to fraternize in our spare time. We kept to our end and they kept to theirs. Later on my best friend was a St. Francis girl. Her name was Catherine Braganza. She was a Goanese and quite black. I found her intelligent and sensitive and I liked her better than any of the other girls. We used to sit together in the no-man’s land between the two schools. This was not stopped, but I was asked several times by nuns why I was so friendly with Catherine. "Weren't there better girls in my own school?" I said, "No. I like her." And they left it at that.
When I started school I was put in a class of girls of my own age. After a short time it was evident that I was wrongly placed and so I was moved up two classes. The other girls were thirteen or fourteen and I was eleven but I seemed to fit in. All the way through I was top of the class. I wish I could say that this was due to my natural brilliance and that it was all effortless but it was not so. I tried very hard and was determined to do well. I felt I owed it to my parents who were sacrificing so much to keep me at what they thought was the best school possible and so I always did my very best.
Domestic science was most peculiar. We cooked on a long charcoal stove with holes along the top and little ovens below. There was no way of regulating the heat. Whatever we made was taken away to the big kitchen and what became of it I do not know. We certainly did not have it. In laundry work we sometimes starched and ironed the nuns' collars and caps. The ironing was done with box irons filled with hot charcoal. The caps were corrugated round the front, with a soft cap for the head, and were crimped with goffering irons. Some of the girls used these to wave their hair when they were unobserved.
Most of the girls had piano lessons. This was an extra and so I did not have them. The sound of scales being practised and the click of metronomes seemed to go on all the time. The nuns were of various nationalities. English, Eurasian, French, German and one was Spanish. Rumour had it that she had been a Spanish Countess. Those who were not teachers ran the domestic side of the school. The nuns, I think, taught efficiently, but they showed no warmth or affection to us at any time. I, in turn, obeyed them and worked for them; but I did not like them. All the time that I was at Simla I knew that this relationship was unnatural, and I never understood it. Two nuns were quite different from the others. They were Sister Rosie and Sister Lily.
They were very pretty Indians and lay sisters. They both worked in the school hospital under the supervision of an old nun. We were expected at all times to stand when a nun passed, and if one was engrossed in a book and happened not to see her one was in trouble. Otherwise the nun always passed without a smile or any sign of recognition. When I was new in Simla I stood for Sister Rosie. She laughed and said that I need not stand for her. Thereafter I always stood for them both with pleasure and always received a warm smile in return.
Every morning there was a surgery at the school hospital. There were always a great many candidates for admission. It was most enjoyable to be kept in as a patient. We were looked after by the two lay sisters. We all thought they were the loveliest people we knew, so kind and cheerful and homely. They made us feel very comfortable, tucking thick red blankets round us. My ailments were very minor and so I could enjoy my few hospital visits. Most of the morning queue, however, was returned to duty after a dose of salts or castor oil. We were given the choice! The girls were mostly Anglo-Indians. There were hardly any who had come from England as I had. Army officers and senior Indian Civil Servants usually sent their children home to England when they were of school age. The girls in Simla were the daughters of railway officials, oil men, shop keepers, and merchants. They had always lived in India and expected that they always would. Most of them were Eurasians, although this was never admitted.
It was considered shameful. Most British people in India despised Eurasians, as did the Indians, and they themselves had no pride in their ancestry and pretended to be entirely British. I could never understand the British attitude. Many of the girls were strikingly beautiful with their dark hair and olive complexions. But fair hair and fair skin were considered the quintessence of beauty and I was much admired by all. In fact I was a very ordinary looking, healthy girl such as one would have seen by the thousand back home. The girls secretly tried all sorts of creams and lotions to make their skin paler. When the nuns discovered them using talcum powder on their faces they were in serious trouble.
One day, when we were being inspected before going on an outing, one girl was called out of line and denounced for wearing rouge on her cheeks. In front of us all her cheeks were vigorously scrubbed with a flannel by the nun. In fact nothing came off on the flannel. She just happened to have particularly nice rosy cheeks. No apology was given. It was very cold when we arrived in Simla and remained so for several weeks. It was very cold again before we went home for the winter holiday. But there was no heating whatsoever in the school. The nuns had a fire in their common room but that was all. We used to be absolutely frozen and wore our overcoats all the time, even to lessons and meals. Some of us put warm water into little bottles which were kept in our pockets to give a few minutes warmth to our cold hands. Bath mornings were worst. My dormitory was a long way from the bathroom. We had to go down some open stairs and along a very long open verandah, dressed in a dressing gown with a coat over it and carrying our bundles of clothes. This was no joke at six o'clock in the morning and with deep snow on the ground. We had only one bath a week. This was quite enough in the Winter, we thought, but not enough in the hot weather. At home we bathed twice a day and would have liked more; only the colossal labour of preparing a bath prevented this.
The bathing arrangements were peculiar. There was a huge bathroom with shelves all round on which stood our enamel basins and jugs with our names on them. On ordinary mornings we washed there. On bath days the room was filled with zinc baths. Coolies kept coming in with hot and cold water to fill them and to empty the used ones. Before we left our dormitories we had to put on long robes made of ticking. We got into the baths wearing them and washed ourselves with complete modesty and yet in public. It took great skill to get dried and dressed and to get rid of the wet gown. We were taught how to do it with decorum. The older girls bathed in private in cubicles. I envied them. I found that all the girls in my class had this privilege and so I plucked up courage and asked if I could have a cubicle. I said that I was in Standard VII and by virtue of my seniority in studies I was entitled to it The answer was ,” No. You are only eleven. Not until you are older.” I waited a month and asked again and had the same reply. When I was a week older I repeated my dignified request and this time the nun weakly gave in. I thought it was only fair because I knew that big, fat, stupid girls had cubicles. I was small, admittedly, but I had my dignity.
It was a great struggle to wash my long hair and even to plait it. Mother had always done it for me. On one of my holidays I told her of my difficulties and she immediately had it cut. When I went back, to my surprise, all the nuns exclaimed that it was a terrible thing that my long hair was gone.
Later I tried for a locker. Only the older girls had bedside lockers to hold their possessions. I put forward my argument that I was in a senior class. It was just as before and I won in the end. But I was told that first I must get a cover for the locker and some ornaments and photographs to stand on it. Of course mother sent something suitable by return of post.
Breakfast was always thin, sweetened porridge without milk and dhal( lentils) and rice. The main meal usually consisted of curry, mostly vegetable, and rice, or dhal and rice, followed by semolina or sago or rice pudding. Tea was a cup of tea and one slice of bread with either butter or jam. Supper was cocoa and one slice of bread. We lined up and collected our food which was served out by an old bearer with a red beard and a severe manner. When everybody was served we could go with our plates for a second helping if there was any left. All eyes were on the serving table when the queue was coming to an end. One day there was a near riot. Everybody rushed forward with their plates and spoons, desperate for more. The little French nun who was in charge could do nothing but wring her hands. The old bearer made for the door carrying his dish, hotly pursued by the hungry horde. Then he turned, lifted his dish above his head and said loudly and clearly, "You are supposed to be young ladies, but you are behaving like savages. Sit down! ". We all slunk back to our places, bitterly ashamed. Nobody had ever heard the bearer speak before. One night I was so hungry that I ate a whole jar of vaseline that I had to put on my chapped hands. We used to eat nasturtium seeds and leaves that grew in the garden.
Some of the girls had food parcels sent from home. I did not have them because mother naturally thought that I was being well fed and I never told her otherwise. I never complained to mother and father about anything at Simla. Some girls from Karachi became friendly with me and asked me to sit at their table. They often had parcels and they shared their good things with me. I was not a cadger but I was glad to have kind friends. These girls, about ten of them, were all sisters or cousins or close friends. Their fathers worked for the Iranian Oil Company. They all had Irish names and so, although none of them had ever been anywhere but India, their forbears must have come from Ireland. They were good girls, pious Catholics and well thought of by the nuns, but they were not at all academic. One of them was nearly twenty when she left school. She was a very nice girl but she kept coming back to try to pass her examinations and never succeeded. When eventually she did not return after a holiday I asked what she was doing. "She got married last month," said her sister.
On Sunday afternoons the tuck shop was open. Our pocket money was kept for us so we did not know how much money we had or if we had any at all. Most of the girls seemed to be very well off and were able to buy sweets and chocolate every time. I was not so affluent. We had to buy our own soap and toothpaste at the shop. It was very hard if, after queuing up in eager anticipation, there was no money or only enough for toothpaste.
On Saturdays we had school in the morning and were free in the afternoon after we had done our mending. The mending was in big clothes baskets and as our names were called we went to collect it. The lucky ones who had none could go free. The other's had to mend their clothes and have them inspected before they could go. Nothing was ever condemned as worn out, it had to be mended time and time again and darned properly. Drawing holes together would not do. Mother exclaimed in horror when she saw vests and stockings which were darned all over and said she should have been told that I needed new ones. Some of us had very little playtime on Saturdays. If, to make matters worse, there were no sweets on Sunday, life seemed very hard.
We went to church every morning before breakfast and on Sundays in the evening too. The few Protestants had to go to church with the others because there was nobody to take charge of us. There was no pressure on us to be converted to Roman Catholicism but we were made to feel that we were different from the others. A nun once said to me, “You are a good girl in spite of being a Protestant." I am sure that there is more tolerance nowadays on both sides. I always took my Bible to church and read it solidly. There were hymns at the back which I sang silently to myself. One day I got into trouble for letting some girls read my Bible because they were allowed to read it for themselves. I read the Bible from end to end several times in the three years that I was there. On Sunday there was a sermon and I listened to that. At first there was a German priest who spoke very poor English. His sermons were always about what bad girls we were. We thought this was unfair because we were not bad girls. Then there was a young English priest, handsome and charming. He gave good sermons and talked to the girls pleasantly. We all liked him. The Bishop of Simla, came for special occasions. He was a most impressive figure, tall and stately. I had never seen a bishop of any kind before and he was just as I had imagined a bishop would be. The papal legate from the Vatican visited the school once on his tour of India. He was Italian and spoke no English. Later he became Pope Pious XII.
During Lent the nuns and girls went into retreat. It seemed to me to be for a long time but it was probably only the week before Easter. They went to church, had religious instruction, read religious books and did not talk. The non-Catholics were given some school work to get on with and told not to speak to the other girls. We could speak to each other of course. The school seemed very silent. When Easter Sunday came there was great rejoicing. We wore our best clothes and had splendid meals. May was a special month. It was the month of Mary and we had to be especially good. If we did anything wrong we were given a black mark and these marks were added up at the end of the month. It was very difficult to avoid them. They were given for being a minute late, for having untidy hair, for not polishing our shoes well enough, for spilling food and many other peccadilloes. On the last day of May, there was a special service taken by the Bishop of Simla. We proceeded to church, wearing our best white dresses and each carrying a candle. There our names were called out, first the girls with no black marks, then those with one, then two, then three, then four. We went forward and kissed the bishop's ring and he put crowns of flowers on our heads, gold for no black marks, silver for one, white for two, blue for three and pink for four. Most of the girls had no crowns.
I had a gold crown each time. Although I was always well behaved, it took a great deal of effort to avoid those black marks. After the ceremony in church was over, we lined up outside in order of merit. There we were joined by the monks from the monastery and the students from the college.
We walked in procession to the Grotto, carrying our candles and singing hymns. The Grotto was in the grounds but some distance away from the school. It was beautiful. There was a big statue of the Virgin Mary, and in front of it were flower beds and many little paths and rockeries, with holders where we put our candles. There were roses everywhere, mainly creamy buff ones which were possibly Gloire de Dijon. Even now I can remember the scent of the roses and incense and candles. When we had sung some more hymns and the bishop had addressed us and had prayed, it was getting dark. The hundreds of candles were left softly glowing as we walked back.
Once a year we had our feast day, the day of Saint Ignatius, our patron saint. After a later start than our usual six o'clock rising we went to church dressed in our best clothes, our hair curled and tied with mauve ribbons, and with bunches of artificial violets pinned to our dresses. There was a special mass and we went back to a splendid breakfast. We then changed into non-uniform dresses and went down the hill to the tennis courts where we played games for the rest of the morning. We were given refreshments of Indian sweets and lemonade. I had never tasted Indian sweets before. They were fried in ghee, boiling butter. Some were sweet and sticky and others were spicy or savoury. Most of them were delicious. For dinner we had chicken curry and trifle, as much as we could eat. Then we changed our dresses yet again, this time into party dresses. One year it was a fancy dress party. I was a Dutch girl. The party went on until bedtime. There was an orchestra from the town and we had dancing and games, non-stop.
The Charleston was the popular dance of that time and all the girls did it. But the Black Bottom was banned because it was said to be vulgar. The buffet was marvellous with all sorts of luxurious food and there was claret cup. There surely could not have been any wine in it. We smuggled out some food to our friends of St. Francis' School and when it was their feast day they did the same for us. The day after the orgy we were back to normal, though some girls were rather bilious. Feast or famine. In my first year at the school there was a concert to raise money for the Church. We prepared for it for months ahead. Professional painters came to paint the scenery and a stage was put up with footlights. No expense was spared on the costumes. I was with a group singing Irish songs and dancing. I cannot remember much about the concert but it was a great success.
The college students took part as well as the girls. The general public came on the first two nights and each time the hall was packed. The audiences were very enthusiastic. The third night was reserved for Indian ladies. We did not know who they were but thought they must all be princesses. Their saris and jewels were magnificent. They looked as if they had come out of the Arabian Nights. There was a great deal of chattering and giggling as they took their seats. The concert started and the talking and laughing went on and continued throughout the performance. They took no notice whatsoever. The concert went on as usual but everybody was disappointed. There was not even any applause.
The Hindu Festival of light, Diwali, was in the autumn. Hindus used to light many little lamps in clay dishes and put them outside their houses. From the wall at the back of the school we could see all the little lights twinkling in the village nearby. The festivities ended with fireworks. We found it very entertaining. There was some trouble about this same wall. Down a slope was the road leading to the town. Some girls were caught talking to soldiers who were on the road. It was the scandal of the century. It was kept very hush hush but of course it leaked out to the rest of us. I could not understand why it was such a criminal offence, nor why anybody should bother to climb onto a wall just to talk to soldiers. I was used to seeing soldiers all the time. We went to the pictures twice while I was there, first to "Ben Hur" and then to "The King of Kings". The whole school went in rickshaws. These were great treats and we talked about them for weeks afterwards. Other outings were for the select few. There was a music festival for Simla schools. I was in the school choir. A party of us went to another convent school to a garden fete. I was amongst them. I was also one of the chosen few who went to the Viceroy's garden party. It seemed to me to be most unfair that I should have the few treats that there were and others had none. I thought that I was preferred partly because I was always well behaved but also because they liked to show off my fair hair and complexion.
The garden party was for representatives of all the boarding schools in Simla. We were dressed in our very best, complete with violets and mauve ribbons. The inspection before we set out was even more stringent than usual. Not a hair was out or place. We had to ride two to a rickshaw instead of the usual three so as not to get our dresses crushed. Vice Regal Lodge was palatial, with beautiful grounds and flower beds. There were marquees on the lawn with little tables set for tea. We were entertained by charming, young aides-de-camp who showed us round and then plied us with exquisite refreshments. None of us needed much persuasion to eat!
Then there was a film show followed by ice-cream and lemonade. We were disappointed not to see the Viceroy or his wife, but we had been entertained right royally. One morning I was summoned to the parlour. There were the Reverend Mother and, to my amazement, my old teacher, Mrs.Macrae. She was having a short holiday in Simla. I was delighted to see her but felt somewhat inhibited by the presence of the Reverend Mother. Mrs.Macrae asked if she could take me out for the day. 'No, "was the reply, "because her parents have not told me that you were coming. She cannot go without their permission." I was not at all perturbed. I knew Mrs.Macrae would not take "No" for an answer. She would get her own way even if it meant standing up to a Reverend Mother. And she did. I was sent off to get changed and I did it in double quick time.
When I got back Mrs.Macrae was alone. She said that she would like to have a quick look at the school. Lessons had started and so we kept well away from classrooms and I took her to see the dormitories, the bathrooms, and the dining room. The next day I was reprimanded for taking her round without permission. It had not occurred to either of us. "And did you even show her the bathrooms and lavatories?" It seemed that this was the worst thing that I had done during my entire stay in the school. I had a splendid day out. We saw the whole of Simla. I had only seen it in passing a few times before. It seemed a most elegant place. We looked at the shops and Mrs.Macrae took me into a bookshop which was just like a shop in England. She said that I was to have some books. I had a good look round and chose one. "You must have some more” she said, and so I came out with four lovely books.
We had meals at the hotel where she was staying. It seemed to me the most luxurious place I had ever seen. Of course she plied me with food. I remember that there was a plate of strawberry tarts with cream which seemed to disappear very quickly and she asked for another plateful. But best of all was the talk of home. She spoke of mother and father, and of how the boys were getting on, and of Jean's latest sayings, and of children whom I knew. She even talked about Tiger whom she did not really like. I wished I could have gone back with her. No time limit had been set and so she said that I might as well have as long a day as possible, and not go back until bedtime. When we got back I was carrying my four books, a big box of chocolates, and two large boxes of cakes. Mrs.Macrae embraced me warmly and said ”Keep your pecker up. You are doing all right. I will go to see the family as soon as I get back.” After she had gone I had a nice warm feeling inside me which was not just a full stomach. A nun who was standing by said “Was that your mother or your aunt?" "No, she used to be my teacher”. “But she has given you all these things, and she kissed you," she said in surprised tones. "Yes," I said, "She likes me." That night I could be Lady Bountiful with my cakes and chocolates.
In the summer we had ten days holiday. I was lucky that Dagshai, Sabathu, and then Kasauli were near enough for me to go home. It was lovely to be home and the holiday seemed much too short. But we had three months holiday in the winter. That was the best time of all. The checking and packing of clothes had to be started several weeks ahead. It was a great thrill to be summoned to the linen room to pack. Excitement mounted as the day of our release grew nearer. Most of us hardly slept at all the night before. When we looked out in the early morning darkness there were
the lights of hundreds of rickshaws waiting for us. After church and breakfast we were given sandwiches and our own money for the journey. Then we were off. A few nuns came to the station to see us safely on the train. Probably they were glad to see us go.
We were all together on the first lap of the journey on the mountain railway down to Kalka. It was traditional to sing all the way in the little train. We used to sing to the tune of
“Riding down to Bangor"
Riding down to Kalka,
On the homebound train,
No more awful lessons,
Isn't it a shame.
No more watery porridge,
No more rice and Dhal,
After this long journey,
We'll be home again.
There were numerous verses which I do not remember. The nuns would have been horrified if they had heard us. At Kalka we went our several ways. Some of the girls had very long journeys to Southern India. My journey to Lahore took only part of a day and one night. There were quite a number of girls who lived in Lahore and one teacher, and so my travelling was no trouble. At Lahore Station I was handed over to mother and father and three months of happiness started. When I went back on 1st. March the homesickness began all over again.
Home to Kasauli then England
We had had five years in India and were due to go back home in the spring of 1930. So 1929 was to be my last year at Simla. Soon after my fourteenth birthday in November I was sent for one day and the Reverend Mother said that I had to go home to Kasauli at once. She said that my mother was in hospital and I was needed to look after my brothers and sister. I was most alarmed and asked what was wrong with mother.
All she would say was that I would be told when I got home. I was to go and pack and then go for a meal, and a rickshaw would be waiting to take me to the station.
I got ready in a daze. There was no time to say goodbye to my friends. The more time elapsed the deeper grew my panic. Before I got home I was really afraid. I was accustomed to mother having babies.
That was something pleasant. I was sure that the mystery meant she was desperately ill of some illness that the nuns could not mention. The truth of it was that mother was having a baby, but this time as she was over forty they wanted her to have a longer time in hospital. I was to help at home until the baby was born and as soon as mother was fit to travel, we were all going back to England again.
Nearly everybody had left Kasauli by now and gone down to the plains. Father had been granted leave to stay on until the baby was born. It was strange living in such a deserted place. There were not even many stalls left in the bazaar. The only people living near us were the barrack warden and his wife who stayed in Kasauli permanently. She had not known mother before, but kindly visited her every day in hospital. We all went to the hospital every afternoon. There was no school for Ralph, Bob and Jean, of course. I would get them all washed and in clean clothes to face mother's inspection and before I had finished off the third one the other two would be outside and dirty again. I found it was best to get Jean done first, as she was less insubordinate than the boys and more likely to stay put, and then the other two simultaneously so that they could not escape.
Another of my duties was to give the cook his orders and "take account, miss-sahib”. I found this very difficult. I was not good at planning menus and often had to appeal to the cook for suggestions. There was a great deal of washing and ironing, not only for the tribe at home, but for mother and later for the baby. Washing was no trouble but ironing with flat irons heated on a primus stove took me hours and hours of toil as everything had to be perfect. The domestic science I had learned at school did not seem to be of much use to me. I asked father if he could iron and he just said, "Why bother. Just give them a bit of a smooth down." I cannot imagine what he was doing while I was struggling with my chores. Perhaps he was packing. One day a letter came from the Reverend Mother in Simla. She asked if I could be left to finish any schooling there and then go on to their teachers' training college. I could stay with them throughout the time at no charge and they would take good care of me. Father wrote straight back declining the kind offer. There was no need for consultation. The idea of abandoning me was unthinkable. Besides, their qualifications would not count in England and I would have been there for ever. I knew that there could be no question of my being left behind but at the same time the letter was a shock. Before we left India the Reverend Mother wrote again to wish us a safe journey and gave a most glowing account of my work and character. I felt rather confused. It seemed that I had not understood the nuns at all. Anne was born on 23rd. November 1929. She was a beautiful baby weighing 8½ lbs. We all thought she was lovely. Mother was the only patient in the hospital. The staff consisted of two army sisters and an ayah. They were glad to have a patient and enjoyed the baby. There were always a great many monkeys in the hill stations and they became very bold when there were so few people about. Mother said they scampered about on the roof and came on the veranda. She was afraid that they would harm the baby when the door was left open and she was confined to bed. Their chattering was very disturbing. Soon after the baby was born father was recalled to duty in Lahore. The Seaforth’s had been very generous in granting him so much leave. Mother and Anne had to be left until mother was fit to travel. Father and I unpacked only the essentials as it was going to be for such a short time.
We went to Lahore and bought a cot and a bath for the baby, and some thick tweed for a coat for me. The cot folded up and it had a white muslin valance and canopy. It was very pretty. The bath had a lid so that it could contain the baby's clothes for travelling. Mother was pleased and surprised at our purchases. It was unusual to find warm material in India. My coat was warm enough for Scottish winters and I wore it for several years.
When it was time for mother to come home father tried to get a few more days leave to go to Kasauli to collect her, but it could not be granted as he had already had so much. So she was escorted on the journey by a young Royal Army Medical Corps orderly. Mother said that he was most kind and helpful. He held the baby throughout the journey. She was amused that a young unmarried man should be so experienced with a new baby. Father went with a car to meet them at the station. I got the family spruced up for her arrival. They insisted on going to the end of the road to watch for the car. When it came along they ran behind it and got covered in clouds of dust, so that when mother saw them they were filthy. I do not think she was convinced that they had been perfectly clean and tidy a few minutes before. There was not much time to get ready for embarkation. We were to sail in January. Mother could have delayed going as the baby was so young but she wanted to get home. Before the baby was born mother had been informed about this embarkation. "Tell them I will be on the ship," she said. The nurses pulled comical faces behind her back, but she met her deadline. The serious preparation for this trip was to get us all kitted up for the rigours of a Scottish winter. Fortunately Kasauli, by now, was quite cold and so the change was not as abrupt as might have been.
The Seaforths sometimes legitimately sold surplus kilts and mother bought one. There were many yards of material in it, enough to make skirts for the girls and trousers for the boys. When families were going home, the army gave them so many yards of cream flannel for each child. As there were five of us there was a vast amount. The clever dhurzi made vests and pants for the boys, combinations for Jean and me, his own invention, and pyjamas for all.
It was very comical because it was not thought seemly for the dhurzi to see us in a state of undress and so mother measured us and tried the garments on all the children in the bedroom, stepping out onto the verandah to report her findings to the old dhurzi. I can remember one day, when he came for a fitting, mother was holding the baby who was crying. Without a word he took the baby from mother. She stopped crying immediately and mother was free to take us into the house for the trying on of the underclothes.
One of mother’s friends knitted all the baby’s clothes. She was kept in jumpers and pants instead of the usual fancy dresses and petticoats for ease in travelling. We were all very sad that Tiger had to be left behind. He was given to a soldier, but not until the night before we left because we thought that he might come home again. Just as the train was pulling out of Lahore station, Tiger dashed onto the platform. He ran alongside the train at tremendous speed, dragging a great chain behind him, while the cook, who had come to see us off, ran in pursuit, trying, in vain, to catch him.
We hung out of the windows, afraid that he would be run over by another train. He ran until he was exhausted and dropped out of sight. It was harrowing for all of us. How our clever Tiger knew that we were at the station and on that particular train is a mystery. But we all knew that there would never be another dog like Tiger. We were to sail from Karachi on the troopship “Devonshire." It was a long train journey from Lahore, two days and nights, but it took three days and nights to Bombay, and so it could have been worse. We were now such seasoned travellers that the journey was easy and quite pleasant, The picnic basket with all its contents and the Primus stove were given to coolies on the quay as we embarked. The “Devonshire” was a much bigger ship than the one on which we had set out for India. There was third class as well as first and second.
Sergeants and other ranks travelled third. Father thought that it was unfair that sergeants travelled in inferior accommodation from ours, and he was particularly embarrassed since he knew a number of sergeants socially, having belonged to the same mess. I do not think that third class accommodation was bad but it was crowded. The men had P. E. sessions to break the day and father and other A. E. C. men offered light weight courses as entertainment. But for the most part, from their deck came the interminable chant of housey-housey and crown and anchor.
We had to get to our deck through theirs. Men always spoke to father. If I went alone they spoke to me, kindly and pleasantly. I did not know what to say. Once I dropped mother's button box and buttons rolled all over the deck. Immediately men were scrambling to pick them up. I was so embarrassed that I wished I could have vanished into thin air. There were social graces that I had not learned at Simla and I knew it. However, it was a perfectly comfortable voyage and we all enjoyed it. Mother, Jean, Anne and I had a cabin to ourselves and father and the boys shared a cabin with one man. Everything was most smoothly organised for our comfort and entertainment. The children had their meals separately from the adults and were supervised only by the stewards. I was fourteen and so ,to my delight, I was classed as grown up. I used to put on a party dress for dinner. The boys ate tremendously. With no parents to check them, instead of choosing from the menu, they went right through it regularly. The stewards must have been very indulgent to them. Nobody was seasick or bilious.
When we left Port Said we all threw our topees into the sea. We were told that this was always done as a final farewell to India. It was a strange sight to see them all bobbing about in the water.
We were always demanding to be measured on birthdays and other important occasions to see who had grown most. I am certain that there would be no pencil marks on cabin walls from our parents. But I can record that we landed at Southampton in February 1930 when I was fourteen, Ralph ten,
Bob seven and a half, Jean five and a half years and Anne two months. It was bitterly cold, but the sun shone brilliantly. It was good to be home.