Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Recollections of Calcutta for over Half a Century by Montague Massey

Part 1 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed Proofreaders.
Produced from images provided by the Million Book Project.

[Illustration: Montague Massey]

For the benefit of the Red Cross Fund

Recollections of Calcutta for over half a century










I think it would be advisable for me to state at the outset that these
reminiscences are entirely devoid of sensational elements, in order to
prevent any possible disappointment and remove from the minds of
those, and I know several, who have conceived the idea that I am about
to disclose matters that, as far as I am concerned, must for ever lie
buried in the past. There are certain startling incidents still fresh
in my memory that I could relate, but they would be out of place in a
work of this nature. A considerable amount of the subject-matter
contained herein is devoted to a descriptive account of the wonderful
transformation that has overtaken the city since my first arrival in
the sixties, and to the many and varied structural improvements and
additions that have been, and are still being, made in streets and
buildings, both public and private. The origin and conception of this
little work is due to the inspiration of my friend Walter Exley of the
_Statesman_ staff. I had often before been approached by friends and
others on the subject of writing and publishing what I could tell of
Calcutta of the olden days, but I had always felt some diffidence in
doing so partly because I thought it might not prove sufficiently
interesting. But when Mr. Exley appeared on the scene last July,
introduced to me by a mutual friend, matters seemed somehow to assume
a different aspect. In the first place I felt that I was talking to a
man of considerable knowledge and experience in journalistic affairs,
and one whose opinion was worth listening to, and it was in
consequence of what he told me that for the first time I seriously
contemplated putting into effect what I had so frequently hesitated to
do in the past. He assured me I was mistaken in the view I had held,
and that what I could relate would make attractive reading to the
present generation of Europeans, not only in the city, but also in the
mofussil. I finally yielded to persuasion, and throwing back my memory
over the years tried to conjure up visions of Calcutta of the past. A
good deal in the earlier part refers to a period which few, if any,
Europeans at present in this country know of except through the medium
of books. The three articles published in the columns of the
_Statesman_ of the 22nd and 29th July and 5th August were the first
outcome of our conversation. I then left Calcutta for a tour
up-country as stated on page 28, and the work was temporarily
suspended. It was not until the early part of September, when I had
settled down for a season at Naini Tal, that I resumed the threads of
my narrative. It was at first my intention to continue publishing a
series of short articles in the columns of the _Statesman_, but as I
proceeded it gradually dawned upon my mind that I could achieve a
twofold object by compiling my recollections in book form in aid of
the Red Cross Fund. Whether it was due to this new and additional
incentive which may perhaps have had the effect of stimulating my
mental powers I know not, but as I continued to write on, scenes and
events long since forgotten seemed gradually to well up out of the dim
and far distant past and visualize on the tablets of my memory. I was
thus enabled to extend and develop the scope of the work beyond the
limit I had originally contemplated. My one and ardent hope now is
that the book may prove a financial success for the benefit of the
funds of the Society on whose behalf it is published. That some who
perhaps might not care to take a copy simply for its own sake will not
hesitate to do so and thus assist by his or her own personal action in
however small a degree in carrying on the good and noble work which
must awaken in our hearts all the best and finest instincts of our
nature, as well as our warmest and deepest sympathies.

I have to express my great thanks to Lady Carmichael for her kindness
and courtesy in having graciously accorded me permission to dedicate
the work to her on behalf of the Red Cross Fund.

My thanks are also due to my friend P. Tennyson Cole, the eminent
portrait painter, who did me the honour of painting my portrait for
the book at considerable sacrifice of his very valuable time.
Unfortunately, however, it was found impossible to make use of the
portrait, as the time at our disposal was too short to permit of its

I am deeply indebted to the Honourable Maharajadhiraj Bahadur of
Burdwan who kindly placed at my disposal a collection of priceless and
invaluable old views of Calcutta which are now quite unobtainable and
for having had copies printed off from the negatives and for granting
me permission to reproduce them in my book.

I have also to thank my friend Harold Sudlow for designing the sketch
on the outer covering, which I think considerably enhances the
appearance of the book. I must further acknowledge my indebtedness to
Mr. J. Zorab, Superintending Engineer, Presidency Circle, P.W.D., who
refreshed my memory as to certain details in the alteration of some of
the public buildings, while furnishing me with information as to some
others, with which I had not been previously acquainted. Last of all,
though by no means the least, my special thanks are due to my friend
C.F. Hooper, of Thacker, Spink & Co., who has rendered me invaluable
assistance in the compilation of the book, and without whom many more
defects would have been apparent. I shall for ever appreciate the
valuable time he expended and the amount of trouble he took, which I
know he could ill afford owing to the very busy life he leads.


_April,_ 1918. M.M.







Government House, North aspect

Government House, South aspect

Old view of Esplanade, East, showing Scott Thomson's Corner

Old River View, showing sailing ships

Royal Calcutta Turf Club's Race Stands, Viceroy's Cup Day

The Old Race Stand

Distant view of Race Stands


The Medical College Hospital

Scene in Eden Gardens

Present-day view of Eden Gardens

Eden Gardens

The Banyan Tree, Royal Botanical Garden, Seebpur

Palm Avenue in Botanical Gardens

St. Paul's Cathedral

Interior of St. Paul's Cathedral, showing eastern half

The Burning Ghat, Nimtollah

View of the River Hooghly, with shipping from Fort William

A Street in Burra Bazaar

Chitpore Road

Remains of St. James's Theatre, Circular Road

Remains of Col. Turner's House, 2, Wood Street

The "Govindpur" on her Beam Ends

Some Effects of the Cyclone at Garden Reach

S.S. "Thunder" on shore, at Colvin Ghat

Old view of Government House, showing Scott Thomson's Corner

Present view of Government House, showing Esplanade Mansions

Old view of Government Place, East, and Old Court House Street

Ball Room, Government House, Calcutta

Throne Room, Government House, Calcutta

Old view of Government Place, East, showing Gates of Government House

Present-day view of Government Place, East, and Old Court House Street

Howrah Bridge, from the Calcutta side

View of Harrison Road from Howrah Bridge

Old view of Bank of Bengal

Present view of Bank of Bengal

Frontage of Writers' Buildings from East to West

Distant view of Writers' Buildings, taken before the Dalhousie
Institute was built

Town Hall, Calcutta

Site of Black Hole of Calcutta

Old Court House Street, looking south

Government Place, East, at the present day

Bathgate & Co.'s premises, Old Court House Street

Grosvenor House

Old premises of Francis, Harrison, Hathaway & Co., Government Place,

New premises of Francis, Harrison, Hathaway & Co., Government Place,

Pehti's premises, Government Place, East

Dalhousie Square, looking north-east, showing tank

Old premises of Ranken & Co.

Present premises of Ranken & Co.

High Court, erected 1872

Small Cause Court

Treasury and Imperial Secretariat Building, at the present time

Department of Commerce and Industry, Council House Street, built on
site of Old Foreign Office

Foreign and Military Secretariat, built on the site of the "Belatee

Dalhousie Square, showing Post Office and Writers' Buildings

Old view of the Great Eastern Hotel

Present view of the Great Eastern Hotel

The old Royal Exchange

The new Royal Exchange

The Exchange--Mackenzie Lyall's premises from 1888 to 1918

The Exchange--Mackenzie Lyall's old premises in Dalhousie Square

The Imperial Museum

Municipal Offices, at the present day

Prinsep's Ghat from the land side

Mullick's Bathing Ghat, Strand Road

Currency Office, built on the site of the old Calcutta Auction Company

Hamilton & Co.'s premises, Old Court House Street

Old view of Clive Street

Present view of Clive Street, showing Chartered Bank's premises on the
right middle centre.

12, Dalhousie Square, East, showing West End Watch Co.'s premises

Smith, Stanistreet & Co.'s premises, Dalhousie Square, East

McLeod & Co.'s new premises, Dalhousie Square, West

Alliance Bank of Simla

Building erected by Martin & Co. containing these offices

Writers' Buildings and Holwell Monument

Esplanade East, showing tank now filled in

Old view of Esplanade, East, showing Dharamtala Tank

The Sir Stuart Hogg Market

Chowringhee, showing Tanks opposite Lindsay Street and Bengal Club

Modern view of Esplanade, East, showing Tramway Junction and Shelter

View of Tramway Company's Esplanade Junction before shelter was built

Grand Hotel

The five houses in Chowringhee that formed the nucleus of the Grand

W. Leslie & Co.'s premises, Chowringhee

W. Leslie & Co.'s premises, Chowringhee

Esplanade Mansions, built by Mr. Ezra on the site of Scott Thomson's

Thacker, Spink & Co.'s new premises, completed in 1916

Walter Locke & Co.'s premises, Esplanade, East

Mackintosh Burn & Co. and Morrison and Cottle's premises, Esplanade,

Bristol Hotel, Chowringhee

Corporation Street, showing Hindustan Buildings--Proprietors,
Hindustan Co-operative Insurance Society, Ld.

Old site of the present Continental Hotel, Chowringhee

Hotel Continental, Chowringhee

The Old United Service Club

Present-day view of United Service Club

Park House, Park Street, William Heath's Premises

The "Haunted" House, corner of Sudder Street, Chowringhee

G.F. Kellner & Co.'s premises in Chowringhee.

Army and Navy Stores, Chowringhee

Chowringhee Mansions, built on the site of Old United Service Club

Hall & Anderson's premises, at the corner of Park Street

Old Bengal Club

New Bengal Club

Bishop's Palace, Chowringhee

[Illustration: _Photo. by Calcutta Phototype Co_ Old view of
Government House, North aspect]

[Illustration: Old view of Government House, South aspect _Photo by
Johnston & Hoffmann_]




When I first came to Calcutta things were entirely different to the
present day. There was, of course, a very much smaller European
population, and every one was consequently pretty well known to every
one else, but at the same time the cleavage between the different
sections of society was much more marked than it is now. Members of
the Civil Service were very exclusive, holding themselves much more
aloof than the "heaven-born" do to-day; the military formed another
distinct set; while the mercantile people, lawyers, barristers, and
others not in any government service, had their own particular circle.
This marked cleavage did not, however, prevent the different "sets"
from having quite a good time, and as I have said, even if they did
not mix together very closely and intimately, we all in a way knew
each other.

Forty or fifty years ago, Calcutta was not so lively as it is to-day,
especially in the cold weather, but there was one thing in those days
which we do not see now. I refer to the regal pomp and circumstance
which characterised Government House, and all the functions held
there. The annual State Ball was an event which was always looked
forward to, and it was a ball at which one could comfortably dance,
instead of the crush it had become in the decade prior to 1911.


Looking back, one of the first things that strikes me is the change
between then and now in the matter of locomotion. In my early days
there were no taxi-cabs, trams, nor even _fitton-gharries,_ the only
conveyances for those who had not private carriages being _palkis_ and
_bund-gharries._ It would seem strange to-day to see Europeans being
carried about the streets in _palkis_, but half a century or more ago
they were by no means despised, especially by the newly-out _chokras_,
whose salary was not at all too high. They had to choose between a
_palki_ and a _ticca-gharry,_ which were very much alike in shape, the
difference between them being that the one was carried on the
shoulders of coolies, and the other drawn by a horse.

[Illustration: Old view of Esplanade East, showing Scott Thomson's
corner. _Photo by Johnston & Hoffman_]

[Illustration: Old River view, showing sailing ships _Photo by
Johnston & Hoffmann_.]

[Illustration: _Photo by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Royal Calcutta Turf
Club's Race Stands: Viceroy's Cup Day.]

[Illustration: The Old Race Stands _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann._]
The private conveyances of those days were as a rule quite elaborate
affairs, and it used to be one of the sights of the evening to go on
"the course," which embraced the Strand and the Red Road, to see the
richer inhabitants of the city taking their evening drive. Later,
however, the _haut ton_, evidently thinking the Strand was getting too
plebeian, confined their evening drive to a place in the stately
procession up and down the Red Road, which thus became "the course."


That term must not be taken in its modern sense, however. If one spoke
about "the course" to-day, it would be understood to mean the
racecourse, but in those days it meant the venue of the evening drive,
There was then, as now, a racecourse in Calcutta, but, though on the
present site, it was, as might be expected, nothing like so elaborate.
There was only one stand, and that was opposite the old jail; there
was no totalisator and no book-makers. The Racing took place in the
early morning, from about 7 o'clock till 9 or 9-30. The only public
form of gambling on the racecourse then were the lotteries, which were
held the night before at the race-stand, and they were quite big ones,
numbers of them on each race. In addition, there was, of course,
plenty of private wagering between one man and another. Very often in
the cold weather racing would be held up by dense fogs so that for a
time it was difficult to see across the breadth of the course, the
consequence being that we were on those mornings late for office. Even
in those far-off days professional jockeys were employed, but
principally in the cold weather. The riding at the monsoon meetings
was mostly confined to G.R.'s.


Of other sport there was not much. There was no football, and no
tennis clubs; but there were cricket clubs (Calcutta and Ballygunge),
and the Golf Club, which had the course and a tent on the site of the
present pavilion on the maidan, but there were few members and they
used to spend their time sipping pegs and chatting more often than
playing golf. Of course, there was polo for those who could afford it,
but there was no Tollygunge Club, no Royal Calcutta Golf Club, and no
Jodhpore Club.

As regards social clubs, there was the Bengal, which was then very
much more exclusive than now, and into which it was difficult to
obtain an entrance unless you had been a long time in the city and had
a certain standing. The old _Qui Hais_ who were members looked askance
at young men. There was also the United Service Club which was at
first confined strictly to I.C.S. men and military officers, but
subsequently financial considerations led to its being thrown open to
members of other services.

[Illustration: Distant view of Race Stands _Photo. by Bourne &

[Illustration: Belvedere]


In those days, there was no Saturday Club, and we were dependent for
our dancing on the assembly balls and private dances; the former used
to be held at the Town Hall about once a fortnight. All people of any
respectability were eligible to attend, and very pleasant, indeed,
these assembly balls were. We used also to have concerts mainly given
by amateurs, occasionally assisted by professionals, but there were
no professional theatricals. The demand for this kind of entertainment
was filled by the Calcutta Amateur Theatrical Society, which used to
give about six productions during the cold weather season. People who
flock to the theatres nowadays, especially in the cold weather, and
see companies with full choruses will probably be surprised to hear
that in our amateur performances there were no actresses. All the
ladies' parts were taken by young boys, and I remember well in my
younger days dressing up as a girl. I used to take the role of the
leading lady, and I remember two of our most successful efforts were
"London Assurance" and scenes from "Twelfth Night," in the former of
which I took the part of Lady Gay Spanker and Viola in the latter.

At first our performances were given on the ground floor of where the
Saturday Club now is, but after a time this was not found
satisfactory. Then one of our most enthusiastic members, "Jimmy"
Brown, who was a partner in a firm of jewellers, carried through a
scheme for building a theatre of our own, and this was erected in
Circular Road at the corner of Hungerford Street. Here we carried on
until in the great cyclone of 1864 the roof was blown off and the
building seriously damaged. We had, therefore, to move again, and went
to where Peliti's is now, which was then occupied as a shop. After one
season there, we were temporarily located in a theatre built in the
old Tivoli Gardens, opposite La Martiniere. The "CATS," as we used
to be designated, was a very old institution, and had been in
existence some time before I joined up. They were very ably and
energetically managed by Mr. G.H. Cable, assisted by Mrs. Cable, the
father and mother of the present Sir Ernest Cable. They were
affectionately and familiarly known among us all as the "Old Party and
the Mem Sahib." He used to cast all the characters and coach us up in
our parts, attend rehearsals, and on the nights of the performance was
always on the spot to give us confidence and encouragement when we
went on the stage, while Mrs. Cable was invaluable, more particularly
to the "ladies" of the company. She chose the material for the gowns,
designed the style and cut, tried them on, and saw that we were
properly and immaculately turned out to the smallest detail. On
performance nights I never had any thing before going on, and assisted
by the aid of tight lacing I could generally manage to squeeze my
waist within the compass of 24 inches. I recollect one evening when I
was rather more than usually tightened up, I had in the course of the
piece to sit on a couch that was particularly low-seated. I did not
notice this for the moment, but when I tried to rise I found myself in
considerable difficulty. I made several unsuccessful efforts, which
the audience were only too quick to notice, and when I heard a titter
running through the house, my feelings can be more easily imagined
than described. However, after a last despairing effort I managed to
extricate myself from the difficulty and get on my feet. Ever
afterwards I used carefully to inspect the couches before the
performance commenced. Amongst those who were members and associated
with us were E.C. Morgan and W.T. Berners, partners in the then
well-known firm of Ashburner & Co., who retired from business in the
year 1880. The former has been Chairman of Directors of the Calcutta
Tramway Co., I believe, ever since the company was incorporated, but I
hear that he has lately vacated the position. Berners, I believe, has
been living the life of a retired gentleman. I never heard that he
renewed his connection with business affairs after he got home. The
late Mr. Sylvester Dignam, a cousin of Mr. Cable, and latterly head
partner of the firm of Orr Dignam & Co., the well-known solicitors,
was also one of the troupe, and by his intimate knowledge of all
matters theatrical contributed very considerably to the success of our
efforts. I recollect he took the character of Dazzle in "London
Assurance" and Mr. Cable that of "Lawyer Meddle," which latter was the
funniest and most laughable performance I ever witnessed. We were all
in fits of laughter, and could scarcely contain ourselves whenever he
appeared on the stage.


Charles Brock, Willie and Donald Creaton, partners in Mackenzie Lyall
& Co., who were my greatest friends, but alas! are no more, were very
prominent members, and there is one more whom I must on no account
forget to mention, and though he (or she) comes almost last, does not
by any means rank as the least. I refer to "Jimmy" Hume, as he was
then known to his confreres, but who is in the present day our worthy
and much respected Public Prosecutor, Mr. J.T. Hume. In "London
Assurance" he portrayed the important part of Grace Harkaway, and a
very charming and presentable young lady he made.

But I must not forget to mention that his very laudable ambition to
obtain histrionic honours was at the outset very nearly nipped in the
bud. He, of course, had to disclose the fact that in his earlier life
he had committed a pardonable youthful indiscretion and had had both
his forearms fancifully adorned in indelible blue tattoo with a
representation of snakes, mermaids, and sundry. A solemn council of
the senior members of the company was forthwith held, presided over by
the Mem Sahib, "Old Party," and "Syl" Dignam. After a good deal of
anxious thought and discussion as to how the disfigurements could be
temporarily obliterated some one suggested gold-beater skin, which
was finally adopted and proved eminently successful. Not one of the
audience ever had the slightest suspicion that his (or her) arms were
not as they should have been, and such as any ordinary young lady
would not have disdained to possess.


One of our most enthusiastic and energetic members was the late Mr.
Charles Pittar, a well-known and much-respected solicitor of the High
Court, and the father of Mrs. George Girard, the wife of our genial
Collector of Income-Tax. He was on all occasions well to the front,
and the services he rendered to the society on many momentous
occasions were invaluable, more especially in "London Assurance," to
which I have previously alluded. In fact, it is not too much to say
that without him it would have been very difficult to stage the piece.
As "Dolly" Spanker, my husband, he was inimitable, and brought down
the house two or three times during the evening. He was also very
great as "Little Toddlekins," a part that might have been specially
written for him. The character is that of a stout, somewhat bulky and
unwieldy young person who possesses an inordinate appreciation of her
own imaginary charms. Her father, whom I might designate as a
fly-by-night sort of a gentleman, a character which I once ventured to
portray myself, is obsessed by the one thought of getting rid of her
as quickly as possible, but all the would-be suitors the moment they
set eyes on her beat a hasty retreat. There were, of course, very many
more pieces that Mr. Pittar played in, but these two were the _chef
d'oeuvres_ of his repertoire.

As I am writing, the memory of another member of the company flits
across my mind, in the person of the late Mr. H.J. Place, familiarly
known as "H.J.," the founder of the well-known firm of Place, Siddons
and Gough. Although he was never cast for very prominent characters,
he was most useful in minor parts, and in other little ways helped the
company along by his many acts of unselfish devotion.

I must now regretfully take leave of a subject which has always
exercised a peculiar fascination over me, and I can truly say that
those old theatrical days were amongst the very happiest of my life.


A year or two later, the first professional theatrical troupe came out
from Australia under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, whom
probably a few people may still remember. They erected close to the
Ochterlony monument a temporary wooden structure, accessible by a
steep flight of steps, and played in it for a few seasons, after which
Lewis built the present Theatre Royal. He brought out several
companies in successive seasons, and other companies also used to come
and perform between-whiles, but only in the cold weather. Hot weather
entertainments were practically unknown. With the advent of
professionals, the Amateur Theatrical Association went out of
existence, just as the starting of the Saturday Club later, mainly
through the initiative of the Hon'ble Mr. Justice Louis Jackson,
killed the assembly balls.

Then the Corinthian Theatre was built on the site of Dover's horse
repository in Dhurrumtollah, and subsequently, on the site of the
present Opera House, a smaller building was erected, in which an
Italian Opera Company used to perform. When the late King Edward, then
Prince of Wales, came out in 1875, the Italian Opera Company was
playing there. The company's expenses were guaranteed before they came
out, all the boxes and stalls being Tented at high prices, taken for
the season. During the Prince's visit, Charles Matthews and Mrs.
Matthews also came out with their company and gave several
performances in the city.


Turning from sporting and theatrical matters to the more important
topic of business, one cannot help realising the difference between
then and now. Business generally used to commence earlier than it does
now and many of the European houses, particularly the Greek firms,
opened their offices punctually at 9 o'clock, by which time both Burra
Sahibs and assistants were at their desks. I have very often passed
several contracts by the time offices open nowadays. The Hatkhola Jute
dealers usually began the day's Work at 6 o'clock in the morning, and
most of the buying by European houses was finished by 9 o'clock. There
were in those days no gunny brokers, their services not being
required, as the only Jute Mill then in existence was the Borneo
Company, which was afterwards converted into the Barnagore Jute Mill

Another thing which will strike the present-day broker as strange is
that there was no Exchange where brokers and merchants could meet
together. The only place approximating to it was a room in the Bonded
Warehouse, which was set apart for the purpose and called the Brokers'
Exchange. There brokers of all kinds used to meet each other, have
tiffin, and write their letters and contracts. The stock and share
brokers transacted their business in the open air in all weathers on a
plot of land where James Finlay & Co.'s offices are now, and this was
usually referred to as the "Thieves' Bazaar."


Speaking of business reminds me of the great excitement created by the
Port Canning Scheme over 50 years ago. The rumour was spread abroad,
as it has been more than once since, that the Hooghly was silting up
and Calcutta as a port was doomed. The idea, which originated with a
German, was to build a port with docks and jetties and all other
conveniences at Canning Town which was then already connected with
Calcutta by a railway. The Company was no sooner floated on the market
than the wildest excitement ensued--people tumbled over each other in
their mad desire to obtain shares at any price, and even high
Government officials were known to have forwarded to the Promotor
blank cheques for him to fill in the amount in the hope of being
allotted original shares. The scrip changed hands at rapidly
increasing prices, and it was no uncommon occurrence for shares to
advance in the course of a day hundreds of rupees until they
eventually reached Rs. 9,000 to Rs. 10,000, the par value being Rs.
1,000. I had one share given to me which I sold for Rs. 6,000. Of
course the inevitable happened--Port Canning proved a dead failure and
the slump was most disastrous, the shares rapidly declining from
thousands to hundreds and even less.


Of course there were no telephones in the days I am writing about, and
the telegraph was very rarely used. Business had not to be done in
such a rush then, and in the ordinary way the post was quick enough.
Telegraph charges were high, and it was only in matters of the utmost
urgency that the wires were used by business people. Then there were
only two mails a month. One fortnight the mails were sent direct from
Calcutta by the P. & O. steamer from Garden Reach, and the next
fortnight went across country to Bombay. The railway line did not
extend right across the country then, and in places the mails had to
be taken from one railway terminus to the beginning of the next part
of the line by _dak_ runners. I remember when I went home in 1869, I
went by train as far as Nagpur, and from there had to go by _dak_
gharry to join the railway again at another point about 150 miles
away. This was, of course, before the Suez canal was opened, and after
the round-the-Cape route had ceased to be the way to India. Mails and
passengers went by steamer to Suez, and then by train to Alexandria,
where they joined another steamer. Similarly the incoming mail came in
alternate fortnights to Bombay and Calcutta, and the arrival of the
mail at Garden Reach, particularly in the cold weather when all the
young ladies came out to be married, was always a great occasion. All
Calcutta used to gather at the jetty at Garden Reach to see and
welcome the new-comers. Practically, the only steamers then were owned
by the P. & O., Apcar & Co., and Jardine Skinner & Co., the two latter
trading to China; Mackinnon & Mackenzie had one or two small steamers,
but the trade of the port was carried on chiefly by sailing vessels.
These used to lie three and four abreast in the river from the "Pepper
Box" up to where the Eden Gardens now are, and they added considerably
to the attraction and adornment of this particular section of the
Strand. There were no docks or jetties, and all loading and unloading
had to be done over the side into lighters and country boats.

Travelling in the mofussil in those days, as may be imagined, was not
a pleasant and easy business. The Eastern Bengal Railway was only
built as far as Kooshteah, and beyond that the traveller had to go by
boat, bullock cart and _palkigharry_. Assam was quite cut off, and a
journey up there was a serious undertaking. There were no railways or
steamers, and the traveller had to go in a budgerow, a sort of
house-boat, and the journey took at least a month each way. Tea was
then, of course, quite in its infancy.


Of all the Viceroys in my time the most popular, officially, socially,
and in every way, was Lord Mayo (1869 to 1872). He was essentially a
ruler, a man of commanding presence and outstanding ability, a lover
of sport of all kinds, in short a Governor-General in every sense of
the word.

[Illustration: Present view of Medical College Hospital]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ The Medical College

[Illustration: Scene in Eden Gardens.]

He never once allowed it to escape his memory, nor did he permit
anyone else to forget, that he was the absolute and actual
representative of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and that in him was
personified the very embodiment of her rule and authority in India. He
thoroughly understood the Indian appreciation of the spectacular, and
this understanding was doubtless the reason for the punctilious
dignity with which he invested all his public and semi-public
functions, while the hospitality at Government House during his regime
was truly regal. His statue on the maidan gives a good idea of his
commanding appearance. It used to be one of the sights of the cold
weather on State occasions, and a spectacle once witnessed not soon
forgotten, to see Lord Mayo sally forth out of the gates of Government
House. Seated in an open carriage-and-four, faced by his military
secretary and senior aide-de-camp, wearing on the breast of his
surtout the insignia of the Order of the Star of India, looking like
what he really was, a king of men, and sweep rapidly across the
maidan, almost hidden from sight by a dense cloud of the bodyguard
enveloping the viceregal equipage, accoutred in their picturesque,
long, bright scarlet tunics, hessian boots, and semi-barbaric
head-dress, with lances in rest, and pennons, red and white, gaily
fluttering in the breeze.

He was beloved by all who had the good fortune to be closely
associated with him, and when he was struck down by the hand of a
Wahabi life-convict on the occasion of his visit to the Andamans, in
the cold weather of 1871-72, I have no hesitation in saying that all
felt they had sustained a personal loss. I shall never forget the
thrill of horror and grief that ran through the whole of the European
community in Calcutta on receipt of the intelligence of his
assassination, which was widespread, and which was also shared by the
Indian element. His body was brought to Calcutta and landed at
Prinseps Ghat, whence it was conveyed in State to Government House. It
was a very solemn and affecting scene as the cortege slowly wended its
sad and mournful way along Strand Road and past the Eden Gardens to
the strains of the "Dead March in Saul," amidst the hushed silence of
a vast concourse of people, both European and Indian, who had
assembled along the route to pay their last tribute of respect to
their dead Viceroy. Many a silent tear was shed to his beloved and
revered memory. On the arrival of the body at Government House it was
immediately embalmed, and lay in State for several days, being then
transported to England. Thus passed away one of the noblest, most
gallant and true-hearted gentlemen who ever ruled over the destinies
of the Indian Empire.

[Illustration: Old view of Eden Gardens _Photo. by Johnston &

[Illustration: Present-day view of Eden Gardens.]


Lady Mayo had also a very proper and high conception of the dignity of
her position and what was due to her as the consort of the Viceroy,
and on one occasion she gave practical effect to her views. Her
ladyship was one evening going for an airing, and Captain----, an
A.-D.-C., who was a great favourite in society, and had possibly been
a little spoilt, was ordered to be in attendance. He sauntered
delicately and leisurely along to take his seat in the carriage
wearing a forage cap. The moment Lady Mayo saw him she very politely
informed him that when an aide-de-camp attended on the wife of the
Viceroy it was incumbent on him to be attired in all respects as he
would be when he was in attendance on the Viceroy himself, and
requested him forthwith to make the necessary change. The captain, of
course, had to obey, much to his chagrin, and he was never allowed to
forget the incident by his friends in Calcutta society.


The next Viceroy to whom I would unhesitatingly award the second pride
of place as regards popularity was the late Lord Dufferin, who by his
courtly and charming personality appealed to, and won, the hearts of
all who had the privilege of any intercourse with him. I very well
remember the occasion on which I had the honour of seeing and speaking
to him for the first time. I was standing talking to a friend looking
on at a game of polo on the maidan. It was only a friendly match
between the two Calcutta teams and there were very few spectators
present. I happened to turn my head when I saw a gentleman approaching,
whom I did not know. He came up to me and smilingly held out his hand,
and at that moment it suddenly dawned upon me that I was in the
presence of our new Viceroy, Lord Dufferin. He made a few pleasant
remarks and then passed quietly on to another part of the ground. He
had driven up quite unexpectedly and unostentatiously, and I did not
see even an A.-D.-C. in attendance.


In addition to his own charming gifts, Lord Dufferin had the advantage
of succeeding a Viceroy (Lord Ripon), who had embittered and aroused
the enmity of the whole European community by using all the great
powers at his command in obstinately persisting in foisting upon the
country the most iniquitous and ill-advised measure conceivable, in
spite of the strongest protests, both public and private. I refer, of
course, to the obnoxious Ilbert Bill of sinister, worldwide fame.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffman_ The Bunyan Tree, Royal
Botanical Gardens Seebpur.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Palm avenue in Botanical

By the provisions of this Bill, it was enacted that any native
magistrate of a certain status should be empowered to try criminally,
European-born subjects, I have never seen or heard such a storm of
seething rage and indignation as then swept through the length and
breadth of the land and which at one time threatened serious
consequences. Fortunately at the head of the European non-official
community we had in the person of Mr. Keswick, senior partner in
Jardine Skinner & Co., then the premier firm in Calcutta, a man of
undoubted ability and most forcible and independent character, who
fought the battle against the Government in a most masterly manner. I
think that it was due in a great measure to him that several members
of the Government were won over to our side, notably Sir Rivers
Thompson, then Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, who was seriously ill at
the time, but rose up from a sick-bed to attend the Council and speak
and vote against the Bill; also Mr. Thomas, lately deceased, the
member for Madras, who cast aside all personal considerations of
future advancement to enter an able and strong protest against this
most iniquitous measure. I remember it was in contemplation to hold a
monster meeting on the maidan in the big tent of Wilson's Circus which
then happened to be in Calcutta, but in the meantime it was announced
that wiser counsels had prevailed, and Lord Ripon had reluctantly
climbed down, I believe, after most strenuous persuasion, and had
consented to a compromise by agreeing to the introduction of a clause
in the Bill conferring the right of option on European-born subjects
electing to be tried or not by a native magistrate. Thus ended the
most sensational and exciting controversy Calcutta has ever
experienced, and one which, unfortunately, struck a note of discord
between the European and Indian communities, the effects of which are
still apparent, and in a measure marred that feeling of kindliness and
mutual trust and good-will that formerly existed between the two


As for the appearance of Calcutta half a century and more ago, it was
very different to what it is now, and there were, of course, none of
the amenities of life which make the city a pleasant place to live in
to-day, even in the hot weather and rains. There were no paved
side-walks, the water supply came from tanks and wells, there were no
electric lights or fans, and no telephone. The drainage system was of
the crudest with open drains in many side streets. There were no
"Mansions" or blocks of flats as there are now, and generally the city
was a very different place to the Calcutta of to-day. The floods in
the streets are pretty bad at the present time after a heavy monsoon
storm, but nothing like what they were then, I remember going to
office one morning after three days and nights of heavy rain, and at
the cornet of Park and Free School Streets, where Park Mansions stand
now, there was quite a lake from which as I was passing I was startled
to see a tall form rise from the water. It was one of the masters of
the Doveton College, who had taken his boys to bathe there, and the
water must have been fully three or four feet deep!

The residential quarter was then, as now, "South of Park Street," with
the difference that where Alipore Park now is was a big open field
with a factory, which was called the Arrowroot Farm Rainey Park, Bally
gunge, was a big building called Rainey Castle, standing in its own
extensive grounds, owned by a Mr. Griffiths, and occupied as a
chummery. On the other side was a large building with an enormous
compound called the Park Chummery, now converted into the Park,
Ballygunge, while Queen's Park and Sunny Park were waste jungly land.


There were no Canons at the Cathedral in my early days. The services
were conducted as now, principally by the Senior and Junior Chaplains,
the Bishop and Archdeacon occasionally taking part when in residence
in Calcutta. Scott's Lane Mission was started in Bishop Millman's
time, from very small beginnings, in the year 1872, by the late Mr.
Parsons, former Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and myself. How
I became connected with the opening of the Mission Was in this wise. I
happened at the time to be chumming with the Rev. Mr. Stewart Dyer,
his wife and family, who was Junior Chaplain at the Cathedral, and he
returned one morning from early service and informed me that the Rev.
Mr. Atlay, Senior Chaplain, who subsequently became Archdeacon of
Calcutta, also a personal friend of mine, had, in consultation with
the Bishop, decided on starting a Mission in the poorer quarter of the
town, and had fixed on the district known as Baitakhana, of which
Scott's Lane formed the central portion, and had expressed a strong
desire that Mr. Parsons and myself should undertake the preliminary
work. I felt at first very diffident in the matter, as I had never had
any experience of this kind before, but they so earnestly pressed the
point upon me that I at last consented, and promised to do all in my
power to carry out their wishes. We commenced in the first instance by
making a house-to-house call upon all the people in the neighbourhood,
and on account of our business engagements in the daytime this had to
be done in the early morning.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston Hoffmann_. St. Paul's Cathedral.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Interior of St. Paul's
Cathedral, showing eastern half]

As a rule, we started on our rounds somewhere about 7 A.M., and put in
about a couple of hours' work. In our perambulations, we met, of
course, all sorts and conditions of people, and one morning I
recollect we got the surprise of our lives. We came across a large,
wooden gateway, rather common in those days to a particular class of
house, and forthwith proceeded to try to arouse the inmates. We
knocked and waited for a long time and could get no answer, and were
on the point of going away, thinking the house was empty, when all at
once the gate was swung violently open, and a lady in _deshabille_,
with hair hanging down her back, appeared before us almost
inarticulate with rage, eyes blazing with passion, and demanding to
know, in furious tones, what we wanted and meant by creating a
disturbance in the neighbourhood at that hour in the morning,
hammering at her gate in that manner. We were almost struck dumb, at
least I was, but Mr. Parsons, I believe, managed to stammer out
something or other, in the midst of which the gate was slammed to
violently in our faces and we had to beat an ignominious retreat. It
is, of course, needless to say we never repeated our visit nor tried
to induce the lady to enter the fold.

After a little while, we made friends with a good many of the people
round about, who were at first rather inclined to be shy and
suspicious, but eventually we obtained promises that they would send
their children to the school and services which we intended shortly to
hold. We then took a small ground floor tenement standing in its own
compound, which had evidently not been occupied for some time, as the
man in charge, soon after we had entered into possession, caught two
large cobras. We furnished the centre room in a modest sort of fashion
and started business. We used to take it in turn every Sunday evening,
and later on we secured the loan of a harmonium, and were happy in
enlisting the good offices of a lady of the name of Cameron, who
played all the hymn tunes for us, to the accompaniment of which the
children sang, and this had the effect of considerably brightening and
enlivening the services. Later on we were joined by two others, one a
young barrister of the High Court, both of whose names I have most
unfortunately forgotten.

We carried on in this manner for about two years, when I resigned,
feeling that my place could be filled by much better and abler men.
The Rev. E. Darley took over charge about 1877, until the late Canon
Jackson appeared on the scene, and infused new vigour and fresh life
into the Mission. He was ably assisted by the lady who eventually
became his wife, who had been the widow of Mr. Charles Piffard, a
well-known and highly respected member of the Calcutta Bar, and she
was also the sister of our popular fellow-citizen, Mr. J.T. Hume.
Canon and Mrs. Jackson, by their strenuous activity and energy,
combined with the beautiful and simple life of self-denial and
sacrifice they daily lived, succeeded in developing the scope of the
Mission and creating it into the important centre of religious
activity that we see in Calcutta at the present day. Though they have
gone never to return, their spirit still lives, and the noble work
they so wonderfully achieved is for ever imperishably enshrined in
letters of gold and will stand out for all time as a beacon and an
example to generations yet unborn.


The Oxford Mission was founded in the year 1880, and it was my very
good fortune to meet the first three members who started the Mission
shortly after their arrival in Calcutta; and I have never forgotten
the sense of honour I then felt that their friendship conferred upon
me. Their names were the Rev. Mr. Willis, the Rev. Mr. Hornby, and the
Rev. Mr. Brown, and the, following year their ranks were strengthened
by the advent of the Rev. Mr. Argles. I was introduced to them by the
Rev. F. Stewart Dyer, above referred to, who was then acting Chaplain
of the Free School. I used often to meet them at his house in the
parsonage in the school compound. For about the first five years they
were located at 154, Bow Bazar Street, opposite the Church of Our Lady
of Dolours. After that they removed to their present spacious premises
at 42, Cornwallis Street. The only one now left is the Rev, Canon
Brown who is the present Superior of the Mission. Mr. Willis
completely broke down in health in 1883, and went home. He died in
1898. Mr. Argles also had to leave India on account of ill-health, and
died in 1883. Mr. Hornby has since become Bishop of Nassau. The Rev.
Canon Holmes, who joined the Mission about fifteen years ago, is
closely associated with Canon Brown in the working of the Mission
House in Calcutta, and affords most valuable help. Of course there are
other members working in the outlying districts.

[_Up to this point I had published my Recollections in three articles
in the columns of the "Statesman" of the 22nd and 29th July and 5th
August last, and then left Calcutta for a tour up-country, and it was
whilst staying at Naini Tal and Lucknow that I completed the series
which is now published for the first time._]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ The Burning Ghat,

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann._ View of the River
Hooghly, with shipping from Fort William]


The great cyclone occurred on the 4th October, 1864, and well do I
remember it, as it was the Express day for posting letters _via_
Bombay, and an extra fee of one rupee was charged on each ordinary
letter. At that time the foreign mail went out fortnightly,
alternately from Bombay and Calcutta. I happened to be rather
behindhand with my letters, and was very busily engaged in office
until about 6 o'clock in the evening, when I ventured outside to go to
the post office, by which time the fury of the storm had almost spent
itself. Although confined indoors without any actual knowledge of the
awful destruction that was going on, I was not altogether devoid of a
certain degree of excitement.

The office of the firm with which I was associated was then known as
7, New China Bazar Street, now Royal Exchange Place, and my room,
which had several windows, was on the north side on the first floor.
The wind kept constantly veering round from all points of the compass,
and at one period of the day blew with terrific violence from the
north--right at the back of where I was seated. I got up from time to
time and closely inspected the fastenings of the windows, which, for a
long while, seemed to be all right, but later on I noticed ominous
signs that some of the crossbars were weakening. It then became a
question as to whether and for how long they could continue to
withstand the terrible strain to which they were being subjected, and,
forthwith, I and my co-assistants proceeded to wedge stools and bars
against them, which most providentially had the desired effect. Had
they given way, the place would have been clean swept from end to end
and completely wrecked. In the course of the morning my Burra Sahib,
who was married, and had left his wife all alone in their house, 3,
London Street, was, of course, greatly perturbed and anxious as to her
safety, and at about 11 o'clock he made up his mind to try and get
back home again, and ordered out his buggy. I must confess I felt
horribly nervous at the time, as he was a tall heavily built man, and
it was just a toss-up as to whether he could get through or not. He
might very easily have been capsized and the consequences would
probably have proved disastrous. Fortunately, however, nothing
happened and he reached home in safety.

The cyclone commenced before midnight the previous evening and
increased in intensity as daylight approached and the day advanced. It
was pretty bad when I left the house at about 9 o'clock for office,
still I managed to struggle through. But it was an entirely different
proposition with which I was confronted on my return journey in the

[Illustration: _Photo. by B. & S._ A Street in Burra Bazaar.]
[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Chitpure Road]

I was then living in a chummery in Circular Road, Ballygunge, and the
entrance from Lower Circular Road, Calcutta, was so blocked up with
fallen trees and other _debris_ that I found it impossible to make
headway against it in my gharry, so I sent it back to the office and
walked to the house, or rather scrambled over trees and other
obstacles the best way I could.

I can never forget the terrible scene of heartbreaking desolation and
destruction that I encountered in every direction on going down to
office next morning. It seemed at first sight as if the town had
suffered from the effects of a bombardment. As I slowly wended my way
along the various streets and across the maidan, I was confronted on
all sides with striking evidence of the frightful ruin that had
overtaken the city. On every hand were to be seen great stately trees,
that had safely weathered innumerable storms of the past, lying prone
on their sides, either uprooted or cut through as with a knife: many
in falling had broken through the masonry of the boundary walls of the
compounds in which they were growing, greatly intensifying the look
of misery and desolation. There were also to be seen myriads of
branches of trees stripped off and flung about in all directions in
the wildest confusion, and in some parts the ground was so thickly
strewn with fallen leaves as to form a sort of carpet.

Many of the buildings had also suffered very severely. Some had had
their verandahs and sides blown in, and others had had corners
literally cut off where the fury of the storm had struck a particular
angle. Amongst some others that had fared so badly was unhappily St.
James's Theatre in Circular Road, the home of the "CATS." All the
members at once felt that it had become a thing of the past, as the
owner, Mr. Jimmy Brown, who had built it at a cost of Rs. 30,000,
could never afford the expense of repairing it. The picture will show
the wreck it had become. But bad and distressing as all this appeared
to be, it absolutely paled into insignificance in comparison with what
I Was to witness on arrival at the river bank. The sight that there
greeted me was truly appalling and beggared description. Of the whole
of that grand and superb array of vessels which had been seen the day
before gracefully riding safely at their moorings, decked out in all
their pride and glory and lined up alongside the Strand, three and
four abreast from the Pepper Box to the Eden Gardens, one alone was
left, all the others having been violently torn adrift and swept clean
away to the four winds of heaven. Besides these were all the country
traders moored to the south of the Pepper Box known as Coolie Bazar,
extending as far as Tackta Ghat, which shared the same fate.

[Illustration: Remains of St. James's Theatre, Circular Road.]

[Illustration: Remains of Col. Turner's House, 2, Wood Street.]

They had all been driven helter-skelter in every direction, some as
far north as Cossipore, and one vessel, the _Earl of Clare_, was
landed high and dry on the present site of the assistants' bungalow of
the north mill of the Barnagore Jute Company. One of the P. & O. boats
lying at Garden Reach was deposited for some distance inland on the
opposite side of the river close to the Botanical Gardens, and the
_Govindpur_ was driven helplessly in a crippled state close to the
river bank just opposite to the Port Office on Strand Road, and was
lying for hours almost on her beam ends on the port side facing the
river. The crew had in desperation sought refuge in the rigging, from
which eventually and with extreme difficulty they were happily and
safely rescued. One of Apcar & Co.'s China steamers, the _Thunder_,
was driven well inside Colvin Ghat and on to the Strand at the bottom
of Hastings Street.

But the majority of ships seemed to have been flung together in a
confused tangled mass close to the Howrah Railway Ghat. Many were
sunk; others in the act of sinking; and the remainder so battered and
hammered about as to defy description, rendering it extremely
difficult to determine whether most of them would not become a
constructive loss. My eldest brother was in Calcutta at the time, in
command of a vessel called the _Vespasian_. He had been spending the
previous night at my chummery at Ballygunge, and when he went the next
morning to get on board his ship she was nowhere to be seen. At last
he traced her, jammed in amongst the ruck at Howrah, and that was the
last he ever saw of her, and he had subsequently to return home
overland minus his vessel. He afterwards joined the service of the
Pacific Steam Navigation Co., eventually becoming commodore of the
fleet, a position which he held for a great number of years, until his
final retirement.

In order to convey some slight idea of the force of the wind I will
just mention that there was in command of one of the vessels in port a
man of great weight and bulk who had been spending the night on shore.
When he attempted to cross the maidan on foot the next morning he was
thrown violently down, flat on his face, two or three times, and he
had to scramble back again the best way he could. Another striking
evidence of the violence of the storm was to be seen in the myriads of
dead crows lying about all over the place, and it really seemed as if
there was not one left alive. But unfortunately it was not long before
we were undeceived, and they soon appeared to be quite as numerous as
ever. As I have already stated, the destruction of trees and shrubs
was very great--a loss that the city could ill afford, more
particularly on the maidan, which at that time was very bare of trees
and foliage generally. The various topes dotted about that we now see
had not then come into existence, and the avenue of trees lining the
sides of Mayo Road had only been recently planted.

[Illustration: The "Govindpur" on her Beam Ends.]

[Illustration: S S "Thunder" on shore, at Colvin Ghat.]

I recollect there were also no trees surrounding Government House, nor
in the vicinity of the Eden Gardens. And there were none on the space
fronting Esplanade Row, West. Dalhousie Square and Old Court House
Street were also very bare of trees--scarcely one to be seen. The loss
of life amongst the natives was appalling, caused principally by the
huge storm or tidal wave accompanying the cyclone, resembling a solid
wall of water, which at Diamond Harbour rose to the height of 34 feet;
when it reached Calcutta it was 27 to 28 feet, rushing up the Hooghly
from the sea at the rate of 20 miles an hour, destroying and
overwhelming everything it encountered in its wild and devastating
career. It was, of course, a matter of extreme difficulty to arrive at
any very reliable estimate of the number who perished, owing to the
vast area of country over which the storm raged. Happily the death
rate in Calcutta itself was, comparatively speaking, not so very
great, and was confined more or less to the crews of small native
craft plying on the river, such as lighters, cargo-boats, dinghees,
budgetows, and green-boats. This closes a brief chapter of some of
the incidents that occurred and which have flitted across my memory
in this never-to-be-forgotten storm which nearly overwhelmed Calcutta
in October 1864, and shook it literally to its very foundations; but
no pen can adequately visualise the picture of awful desolation and
ruin that it wrought and left behind in its terribly devastating

_[The pictures illustrating this chapter are from a collection in the
possession of Messrs. Thacker, Spink & Co_.]


This happened about a month later than that of 1864, on the 1st
November, 1867, and long past the usual period for storms of this
violent nature. On this occasion I was occupying the top flat of what
was then 12, Hastings Street, Colvin Ghat, next door to the offices of
Grindlay & Co., and on the site of the building recently erected by
Cox & Co. as a storing warehouse. It was a very old shaky kind of
house of three storeys having an insecure-looking, narrow strip of
railed-in wooden verandah skirting the whole length of the southern
portion of the second and third flats, which many people now in
Calcutta will doubtless recollect.

[Illustration: Some effects of the Cyclone at Garden Reach]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Old view of Government
House, showing Scott Thomson's corner.]

It was by no means the sort of place one would choose to brave the
terrors of a cyclone, and it also had the great disadvantage, by
reason of its very exposed position, of being open to attack from all
points of the compass.

The storm commenced earlier than that of 1864, late in the afternoon,
and just about dusk appearances were so threatening that I went
downstairs, with the intention of going outside to ascertain, if
possible, whether it was likely to develop into a _pucca_ cyclone or
not. When I got there I found the wind was sweeping past the entrance
in such fearfully violent gusts as to make it quite impossible for me
to venture outside into the street, and I also detected that ominously
sinister, weird and moaning sound that unmistakably warned me of the
impending fact that a cyclone of considerable intensity was rapidly
approaching. I immediately returned to my rooms and made everything as
secure as I could for withstanding the fury of the storm. I had
invited that evening a party of friends to dinner and to play whist
afterwards, and they duly turned up to time. As the night wore on, the
force of the wind gradually increased in intensity, and great gusts
struck the building at all angles with such terrific force as to make
it reel and tremble from top to bottom. I recollect I was not feeling
at all nervous, not realising at the time the very great danger that
threatened us all. But one of my chums, a little stout man, well
known at that time in the tea trade, of the name of Inskipp, usually a
most cheery and genial soul, tried his best to instil into our minds
the very serious risk we were running. He kept roaming about the room
in a very distressed and restless manner, prophesying all sorts of
disasters, winding up with the assertion that it would not at all
surprise him if at any moment the house were to tumble down about our
ears and bury the whole lot of us in its ruins. It was, however, all
of no use. He could not succeed in frightening us; and the four of us
continued to play whist, and now and then threw out at him a few
chaffing remains on his lugubrious and unhappy state. But later on we
had a tremendous shock, and for the moment it seemed as if part of his
prognostications were to come only too true. It appeared that the iron
bar across one of the windows in my bedroom to the west, looking on to
the river, leading oft the sitting room in which we were seated, had
given way, and the wind bursting through the closely-barred shutters
with irresistible fury had forced open the door of communication
between the two rooms. Most fortunately the shutters held or the whole
flat would have been completely wrecked. It took all our combined
efforts some time to force back the door and securely-fasten it by
jamming a music stool and chairs up against it. To add to our
discomfort, the roof was leaking like a sieve, and we had to place
several bowls in each of the rooms, and my own room when I entered it
the following morning when the storm had passed was a sight more
easily imagined than described. Of course I had to find beds for all
my guests, but it is needless to say that none of us got much sleep.
When daylight at length broke we all rushed to the windows, naturally
expecting to see the same sort of debacle amongst the shipping as had
overtaken it in the cyclone of 1864; but, to our intense joy and
relief, not a single vessel had left her anchorage. This was partly
due to the port authorities having learnt by bitter experience the
necessity of considerably strengthening and improving the moorings,
and also in a great measure to the absence of the storm-wave which had
accompanied the previous cyclone and wrought such havoc and
destruction. But all the same the loss of life and damage sustained,
covering a large extent of country, must have been of serious and
far-reaching magnitude. The city again suffered heavily in the matter
of trees and shrubs, which were uprooted and, last of all, the crows
of course contributed their usual heavy toll of death and temporary


It is rather singular that though this happened about 20 years later
than the other two, the impression left on my mind as to the amount
of actual damage it caused is not half so clear and distinct, and my
recollections are confined more or less to one or two incidents of a
personal nature. I remember however for one thing that I was in
Darjeeling at the time, but I cannot recall any particulars that I may
there have heard, or subsequently on my return to Calcutta, about the
effect of the storm. I must therefore presume that nothing of a very
startling nature did occur in Calcutta. There is, however, one
outstanding event that I must relate, as it involved the loss of a man
well known in business circles and very highly respected, and who was
also a very dear and intimate friend of my own--Mr. Keith Sim, Agent
of the Queen Insurance Co. before they amalgamated with the Royal
Insurance Co. He had been suffering from a slight attack of fever and
had been recommended to take a trip to the Sandheads. He accordingly
embarked on a large and powerful steam tug, the _Retriever_, towing an
outward bound vessel, the _Godiva_, but the weather from the early
morning had been looking very lowering and threatening, and by the
time they reached Saugor Island It had become infinitely worse. Why
they were ever allowed to proceed to sea has always remained a mystery
to me. It must, I think, have been some bungling on the part of the
port authorities. The further they proceeded down the Bay, the worse
the weather became, until eventually they ran right bang into the very
teeth of a severe cyclone. The result, as was to be expected, proved
most disastrous. The hawser connecting the ship and steam tug snapped
in two, being unequal to the tremendous strain, and they parted
company. The vessel escaped by a miracle after having been battered
about and driven in all directions. She was eventually rescued by the
_Warren Hastings_, after the lapse of three days in the Eastern
Channel, in a completely gutted condition, but the steam tug foundered
with every soul on board. In the act of sinking, a most extraordinary
and unheard-of thing happened. A lascar on board was violently shot up
from below through one of the air ventilators of the steamer, and was
found floating in the sea some 36 hours afterwards by a P. & O.
steamer coming up the Bay to Calcutta. He was the one and only
survivor left to tell the sad tale. Of course it could never be
ascertained what actually occurred, but I recollect one of the
theories propounded at the time was to the effect that the steamer had
been drawn into the vortex of the cyclone, and she must then have been
encompassed round about by a towering mass of pyramidical seas,
tumbling in the wildest confusion from all points of the compass,
which gradually led to the culmination of the final catastrophe by
crashing down on to the deck with irresistible and overwhelming force,
literally smothering and engulfing her without a shadow of chance of
recovery. Mrs. Keith Sim and her little boy were in Calcutta at the
time, and great sympathy was expressed for them in their sad
bereavement. The little boy has long since grown to man's estate, and
is now occupying a position of great trust and responsibility as
agent of the Commercial Union Assurance Co., and is thus emulating the
activities and achievements of his much lamented father.


It will doubtless be a matter of surprise to a good many people to
hear of the change that has taken place in the venue of one of the
principal functions of Government House. When I first arrived here and
for many years afterwards the usual annual levee was held at 4 o'clock
in the afternoon. There is also another very marked innovation in
respect of the present procedure connected with presentations to His
Excellency the Viceroy. Formerly all that one had to do was to send in
a card, in response to a notification issued by the military secretary
in the papers, addressed to the "First Aide-de-Camp" in waiting,
marked on the outside of the envelope "For the Levee," which was then
considered to be all that was necessary.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Old view of Government
Place, East, and Old Court House Street.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Present view of
Government House, showing Esplanade Mansions.]

On the day of the ceremony you took two cards with you, one of which
you deposited on a tray in the vestibule of Government House, and the
other you retained, and on approaching the military secretary in the
throne room you handed it over to him, the same as you do with the
official card with which each person is furnished at the present day.
In the event of your desiring to act as sponsor for a friend wishing
to be presented, you enclosed in the same envelope, addressed to the
aide-de-camp, a second card with his name inscribed thereon, stating
the object for which it was forwarded, and he followed exactly the
same formula as his introducer on entering the precincts of Government
House. It was considered indispensable as now that anyone making a
presentation should personally attend the levee. The condition of
things has so much changed since those times and the European
population so greatly increased with advancing years that it was
considered advisable to make some modification in the then existing
rules so as to meet the altered requirements of the present time. I
think the real meaning of the change is to be found in the belief that
formerly existed in the minds of officials that every one who sent in
his card for the levee in the old days was eligible for the entree to
Government House. The procedure in respect of State Drawing Rooms has
also undergone a considerable modification in one particular. Formerly
gentlemen were allowed to accompany their lady friends as far as the
big hall and wait for them there until they emerged from the throne
room and escort them upstairs to the ball room. This privilege was
withdrawn very many years ago.

The hospitality of Government House was proverbial, and whilst the
Viceroy and his entourage were residing in Calcutta, it was one
perpetual round of gaiety and entertainments, week after week. They
comprised dinners, evening parties, dances, garden parties, and
occasional concert, At Homes, levees and Drawing Rooms, and, last of
all, though not least, the annual State Ball to which I have already
made previous reference which generally took place after Christmas in
the month of January. To this all who had attended the levee were
invited, and a very pretty sight and enjoyable affair it always proved
to be. I think the number of guests attending these functions
generally ran into a matter of 1500, more or less.

As I have already remarked dancing was quite possible and pleasant
except perhaps in the very early stages of the evening when it was a
bit of a crush, but later on, more particularly towards supper and
afterwards when real dancers came into their own and had the room more
or less to themselves, it was a treat for the gods as the floor was
always in an ideal state of perfection.

[Illustration: Ball Room, Government House, Calcutta. _Photo. by
Johnston & Hoffmann_]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Throne Room, Government
House, Calcutta.]

Dancing was generally kept up with spirit until 2 and 3 o'clock, and
it was always very difficult to tear oneself away. For my own part I
can safely say that some of the happiest and most enjoyable evenings
of my life have been spent in the ball room of Government House.
Amongst the numerous State functions that from time to time took place
must be included durbars, investitures, and other official ceremonies,
all of which were held either in the house or grounds excepting one
and that was the _Durbar and Investiture of the Order of the "Star of
India_," held by Lord Northbrook, Viceroy of India, in honour of the
late King Edward on the occasion of his visit to Calcutta as Prince of
Wales in December-January, 1875-76. It was without exception the most
gorgeous, magnificent, and impressive pageant ever witnessed in
Calcutta. All the great Ruling Chiefs and Princes left their capitals
to come to Calcutta to pay their homage and fealty to their future
King-Emperor, amongst others the little lady known as the Begum of
Bhopal, who, by reason of her great and unswerving loyalty and
devotion to the British Raj in the dark days of the Mutiny, had earned
for herself not only the lasting gratitude and respect of the
Government of India as well as that of the Home Government, but a
position second to none in all that great assemblage of Princes and
Rulers in the Indian Empire. Being a Purdahnashin she was of course
closely veiled, and all that we were permitted to see was a diminutive
figure, looking exactly like any ordinary up-country woman. The
ceremony took place about 11 o'clock in the morning in a huge marquee
or durbar tent, capable of accommodating any number of people, on a
site in close proximity to the Ochterlony monument. It was enclosed
within a high wall of canvas branching off the tent itself on either
side for a considerable distance, leaving a long, broad, open roadway,
and lined on both sides by a series of tiny robing tents for the use
and convenience of the Knights who were to be newly invested at the
ceremony. The enclosure was rounded off at the far end facing the
north by a large gateway, at which those taking part in the ceremony
were set down as they drew up in their carriages.

It was a sight never to be forgotten that gradually unfolded itself to
view as the Knights in grand procession slowly moved up the avenue in
solemn and dignified state to the accompaniment of the martial strains
of the Royal Marine band playing a different march as each Chief
appeared on the scene. They were all arrayed in the long flowing
princely mantle and resplendent dress and appointments of the Insignia
of the Order.

[Illustration: _Photo. by B & S_ Old view of Government Place, East,
showing gates of Government House.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by B. & S._ Present-day view of Government
Place, East, and Old Court House Street]

Each Chief or Prince was attended by a small retinue of retainers, one
or two being armed and clad in barbaric garb of mediaeval chain-mail
armour, and also a standard bearer who unfurled his banner to the
breeze over the head of his own individual Chieftain. As each Chief
reached the marquee he was placed in order of precedence alongside the
throne. Last of all, the Viceroy and Prince of Wales appeared,
escorted by nearly the whole of the bodyguard accoutred in their
bright and picturesque uniform, surrounded by a most brilliant and
numerous staff of aides-de-camp and equerries (chobdahs heading the
procession), and all the other State officials attached to the
entourage of both the Viceroy and Prince. The ceremony which took a
considerable time was conducted with all the viceregal pomp and
circumstance usual on such occasions, and, as I have already remarked,
has never at any time been equalled in grandeur and spectacular effect
in the annals of Calcutta.


When I first arrived, everything was immeasurably cheaper than it is
now, and it will no doubt surprise the young assistants in mercantile
offices of the present day to hear that for the first year I received
the sum of Rs. 200 per mensem and managed to live very comfortably on
it. And when in the following year my salary was raised to Rs. 250

I could indulge in the luxury of a buggy and horse. I had a room in
the best boarding house in Calcutta, in which lived young civilians or
competition-wallahs as they were then styled, studying the languages
prior to being drafted somewhere up-country, barristers, lawyers,
merchants, and brokers. For this I paid Rs. 90 per month. My bearer,
khit, and dhobi cost me a further Rs. 20--the two first Rs. 8 each
and the latter Rs. 4. House-rent was ridiculously cheap in comparison
with the rates of the present day. As far as I recollect, the biggest
house in Chowringhee was obtainable for Rs. 400 or Rs. 450 at the
outside. No. 3, London Street, where my Burra Sahib then lived, was
only Rs. 300 a month. A horse and syce cost about Rs. 25 a month to
keep, and everything else in proportion. People were then very simple
and inexpensive in their tastes. There was not, I think, the same
inclination to spend money, and, as a matter of fact, there were not
so many opportunities of doing so. For one thing, there were no
theatres and other places of amusement, and trips home and even to the
hills were few and far between. Ladies in those days thought nothing
of staying with their husbands in Calcutta for several consecutive
years, and yet they lived happily and contentedly through it all. To
wind up the situation as regards expenses, I should say roundly that
they are now about double what they were then.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Howrah Bridge from
Calcutta side.]

[Illustration: View of Harrison Road from Howrah Bridge.]


I should just like to relate a little episode that occurred in my very
early days in Calcutta, which nearly resulted disastrously for every
one concerned. It will serve, amongst other things, to enlighten
people of the present generation as to the wide difference that
subsists between that time and the present in respect of the treatment
of policy-holders generally by insurance companies. The firm with
which I was then connected were agents of a Hongkong house, and one of
our duties was to pay to the Universal Assurance Company, half-yearly,
the premium on a policy on the life of a man who was staying in
England. I forget exactly what the amount Was, but I recollect it was
something considerable. One fine day I was startled beyond measure by
the receipt of a notice from the then agents, Gordon Stewart & Co., to
the effect that the days of grace having expired for payment of the
premium, the policy in question under the rules had lapsed and had
been consequently cancelled. My feelings can be better imagined than
described, as I alone was responsible, and I was fully aware of the
gravity of the position. I made a clean breast of the state of affairs
to my Burra Sahib, and he instructed me to go straight over to the
agents and explain matters, and at the same time authorised me to
offer to pay anything they might see fit to impose in the nature of a
fine. I got very little satisfaction or comfort from my interview
with the head of the firm, a Mr. William Anderson whose soubriquet was
Gorgeous Bill, who told me that he could do nothing personally, that
the matter would have to be submitted to the directors at their next
weekly meeting, and that the probabilities were that they would
enforce the rule and cancel the policy. The following few days were a
veritable nightmare to me, as I fully expected they would act as he
intimated they would and as they were fully entitled to do. At last
the fatal day arrived, and I waited in fear and trembling outside the
Board room, whilst the directors deliberated over the affair. To my
intense joy and relief they announced their decision which was to the
effect that they had taken into consideration all the facts of the
matter and they thought a fine would meet the exigencies of the case,
but I must not do it again. As far as I remember the amount was Rs.
150, but the point of the story has yet to be told. Whilst all this
was happening the man was lying dead at home having been accidentally
killed by a bale of cotton falling upon him when passing along some
cotton warehouses in one of the streets in Liverpool.

[Illustration: Old view of Bank of Bengal _Johnston & Hoffmann_]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Present view of Bank of



Of all the vast and dramatic changes that have taken place in Calcutta
since I first saw it, I think the most striking and outstanding are to
be seen in Clive Street and its environs. Looking back and contrasting
the past with the present, it all seems so startling and wonderful as
to suggest the idea that some genii or magician had descended upon the
city and with a touch of his magic wand converted a very ordinary
looking street, containing many mean, dilapidated looking dwellings,
into a veritable avenue of palaces, and for ever sweeping away blots
and eyesores which had existed almost from time immemorial. This
transformation more or less applies to Clive Row, the whole of the
south side of Clive Ghaut Street stretching round the corner into the
south of the Strand, part of the northern portion, Royal Exchange
Place, Fairlie Place, the west and south side of Dalhousie Square, and
a goodly portion to the east.


Occupying as it does the whole of the north side of Dalhousie Square
has been changed and altered out of all knowledge and recognition. It
was formerly, before Government took it over, a plain white stuccoed
building utterly devoid of any pretensions to architectural beauty,
and depending mainly for any chance claim to recognition on its
immense length. Its blank, straight up and down appearance was barely
relieved by several white pillars standing out rather prominently in
the centre of the building. It used to be occupied by shops and all
sorts of people, merchants, private residents, etc, etc. Some of the
rooms on the ground floor were let out as godowns. I lived there
myself for some months on my first arrival in Calcutta, and very
pleasant and airy quarters I found them. I recollect in the early
morning quite a number of small green paroquets used to fly all about
the place, and their incessant chatter and calls to each other made it
very bright and cheery. My rooms were on the top floor at the extreme
west end, next to where the Council chamber is now situated. I also
had in addition a very good dining room on the first floor. When the
Bengal Government acquired the property they erected an entirely new
facade of a totally different design from the original, built the
present long range of verandahs and Council chamber which they
completed in 1881-1882, and also threw out from the main block from
time to time the various annexes that we see abutting on to Lyons

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Frontage of Writers'
Buildings from East to West.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by J & H._ Distant view of Writers' Buildings,
taken before the Dalhousie Institute was built.]

Of course most of us know that Writers' Buildings in the days of Clive
and Warren Hastings was the home and resting place of the young
civilians on their first arrival in Calcutta, and who were then
designated Writers, from which fact there appears little doubt the
place derives its name.

One of the very earliest street alterations and improvements that
comes to my recollection was in Canning Street, just at the junction
of Clive Row, on the space of ground extending from the latter for
some distance to the east, and north as far as the boundary wall of
Andrew Yule & Co.'s offices, leaving but a narrow strip of a lane
running parallel to the latter and affording access to China Bazaar on
the east and beyond. When I first came to Calcutta this space was
occupied by a very mediaeval, ancient, and old-fashioned building
having a flagged, paved courtyard in front, surrounded by high brick
walls. It divided Canning Street into two distinct sections,
effectually obstructing through communication between east and west,
except for the narrow strip of passage above referred to. The place
was then known as it is at the present day as Aloe Godown or Potato
Bazaar, and was in the occupation of George Henderson & Co. as an
office when they were agents of the Borneo Jute Co., afterwards
converted into the Barnagore Jute Co. When it was pulled down, it of
course opened out free communication between east and west and allowed
of the erection of the buildings we see on the north and south of the
eastern portion. Whilst on this subject I must confess to a lapse of
memory in respect of what Clive Row was like at that particular
period. I am half inclined to the belief that it did not exist as an
ordinary thoroughfare and had no houses on it; also that more or less
it was filled up by the compounds of the various houses situated on
the western side of China Bazaar. At the same time, however, it may
have given access of very restricted dimensions to the north and west
of Aloe Godown, but the entrance which we always used was the gateway
in Canning Street facing due west.

The next improvement, that I recollect, this time in connection with
the building of new business premises, was when Jardine Skinner & Co.
vacated their old offices which were situated on the site of Anderson
Wright & Co.'s and Kettlewell Bullen & Co.'s present offices, and
removed to their present very handsome quarters which they have for so
long occupied. I very well recollect the style of their old place of
business and how the exterior strongly reminded me of the cotton
warehouses in Liverpool. The interior was a big, rambling, ramshackle
kind of a place with but few pretensions to being an office such as we
see at the present day.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Town Hall, Calcutta.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Site of Black Hole of

The whole was of course eventually pulled down, as was also a similar
range of buildings in the south of Clive Ghaut Street on which
Macneill & Co.'s offices were built.

It has just occurred to me whilst writing that it might perhaps be a
matter of some interest to brokers and others engaged in business at
the present time to be informed of the various changes that have taken
place during the last forty or fifty years in the location of the
offices of many of the firms with whom they have daily intercourse.
Those to whom it does not appeal can skip the next few pages.

To begin with, George Henderson & Co. were the first to remove their
offices after their old premises in Aloe Godown were dismantled. They
first of all migrated to 3, Fairlie Place, and after many years to 25,
Mangoe Lane, now in the occupation of Lyall Marshall & Co. and
Lovelock & Lewes. They finally settled down in their present offices
in Clive Street which they have greatly improved and enlarged.

The next firm on the list to make a change of quarters was Jardine
Skinner & Co., to whom I have previously alluded.

Macneill & Co., who had branched off from the firm of Begg Dunlop &
Co., had their first offices in the building now in the occupation of
the Exchange Gazette Printing Office and Mackenzie Lyall & Co's
Furniture Range; afterwards they removed to the Strand at the
north-west corner of Canning Street, and then established themselves
in their present premises to which they have made considerable
additions and improvements.

Kettlewell Bullen & Co. have had many flittings since I first became
acquainted with them. My first recollection of them was when they
occupied a very old building, 5, New China Bazaar Street, which has
been pulled down, and on the site of which have been erected the
premises containing the Bristol Grill on the ground floor and several
offices on the upper storeys. They then removed to 19 and 22, Strand,
then back again to 5, New China Bazaar Street, afterwards to 5,
Mission Row, finally settling down in their present quarters which
they have greatly improved and largely extended.

Petrocochino Bros, had their offices originally on the site of the
Stock and Share Exchange and Ewing & Co.'s premises. They afterwards
moved over to Canning Street at the south-east corner of China Bazaar,
now occupied by Agelasto & Co., finally settling down in their present
quarters in Clive Ghaut Street.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Old Court House Street,
looking south.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Bourne & Shepherd_ Government Place, East,
at the present day.]

Duncan Brothers & Co., or Playfair Duncan & Co. as they were known in
the far off days, were established at 14, Clive Street. From there
they changed over to next door in Canning Street which had formerly
been occupied by Finlay Muir & Co., and thence, as we all know, to the
very handsome block of buildings which they have erected on the site
of Gladstone Wyllie & Co.'s old offices.

Ernsthausen & Co., or Ernsthausen & Oesterly as they were originally
styled in the days when I first knew them, had their offices in Strand
Road to the south of Commercial Buildings, now incorporated with the
premises of Mackinnon, Mackenzie & Co. Subsequently they removed to
Royal Exchange Place, where they remained for a number of years, in a
building formerly occupied by a very well known firm of Greek
merchants of the name of Schilizzi & Co., and now by Prankissen Law &
Co. They then went to a building next to Jardine Skinner & Co. to the
south, which some time before had been newly erected, but which has
since been pulled down to make room for the handsome premises of the
Oriental Government Security Life Assurance Co., Ltd. They finally
came to anchor in their present location.

When Birkmyre Bros first established themselves here under the
management of Sir Archy Birkmyre's uncle, with Mr. Patterson as
assistant, who later on took charge of the Hooghly Mills, and finally
of Jardine Skinner & Co.'s two mills, they occupied rooms on the first
floor of 23 or 24, Strand Road, North. It was here I negotiated with
them the very first contract that was ever passed in Calcutta for
hessian cloth for shipment to America. I forget how long they remained
there until they removed to their present offices. I may here mention
that they first of all commenced operations with the machinery of an
old mill which they had been running at home for some time previously,
and which they shipped out stock and block to Calcutta, and erected on
the site of the present Hastings Mill.

Graham & Co., on their first arrival in Calcutta, occupied 14, Old
Court House Lane, and afterwards removed to 9, Clive Street, which, as
we all know, was pulled down a few years ago, and the present
palatial premises erected on its site.

F.W. Heilgers & Co., in the far distant past, were known as Wattenbach
Heilgers & Co. When I first remember them they had their offices in an
old building occupying the site of Balmer Lawrie & Co's handsome new
premises, after which they removed to 136, Canning Street, where they
remained for a very great number of years, until the Chartered Bank of
India, etc., built their present offices when they took over and
rented the whole of the second floor.

Bird & Co. were originally located at 40, Strand Road, North, a very
ancient and out-of-date looking sort of a place. Their first removal
was to 5, Clive Row, where they stayed until 101-1, Clive Street was
erected, to which they changed finally establishing themselves on the
first and part of the ground floor of the Chartered Bank Buildings on
their completion some nine years ago.

James Finlay & Co., formerly Finlay Muir & Co., started in 15, Clive
Row, and stayed there for a number of years, after which they removed
to 21, Canning Street, and thence to their present handsome block of
buildings which they erected on the site of the old "Thieves Bazaar,"
and a portion of the adjoining ground to the east and south.

William Moran & Co.'s old indigo and silk mart was situated on the
site of the present Stamp and Stationery Office, and, as far as I
recollect, extended from Church Lane to the Strand. When the ground
was required by Government they built premises in Mangoe Lane, now in
the occupation of Steuart & Co., the coach-builders, the Pneumatic
Dunlop Tyre Co., and various other people. When misfortune overtook
them, the property was, I believe, sold, and they removed to 11, Lall
Bazaar Street, which has since been dismantled, and they are now in 2,
Mangoe Lane, next door but one to their former premises.

Hoare Miller & Co. have only made two removals during their very long
residence in Calcutta. First to the office in the Strand which they
have lately vacated for their present offices in Fairlie Place, next
to the National Bank. They formerly had their offices at the extreme
west end of Writers' Buildings, just under my old quarters, and to the
west facing the Custom House there was a large open space adjoining,
which, as far as I recollect, they utilised for storing iron, metals
and other goods of a like nature, and on which the Council chamber was
eventually built.

Ralli Bros. have also made but one change in all the long years they
have been established here, from 9, Clive Row to their present
offices, which they greatly improved and enlarged on entering into

Anderson Wright & Co. opened their first office at 12, Clive Row, but,
as far as I can recollect, they did not stay there very long before
they removed to their present place of business.

Andrew Yule & Co. were established for very many years, as most of us
already know, at 8, Clive Row, and they also occupied a considerable
portion of the adjoining premises extending along Canning Street. They
simply stepped across the way and built themselves the splendid new
block of buildings which they now occupy.

I think these embrace most of the important changes I remember. I will
therefore close this branch of my recollections.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Bathgate and Co's
premises, Old Court House Street]

[Illustration: Grosvenor House. Containing Phelps & Co's, and James
Monteith & Co's., premises.]

Before finally quitting the subject relating to business matters the
following may interest a good many people, more particularly those
engaged in the jute trade: When the jute baling industry was first
started, and for many years afterwards, it was carried on principally
in the very heart of the city, in Canning Street, and various streets
and lanes, branching off and in the neighbourhood, such as Sukea's
Lane, Bonfield Lane, Jackson Ghaut Street, and many other back slums,
some of which have altogether disappeared to make room for street,
and other structural improvements. There were no hydraulic presses in
those days for the baling of jute, and the work had to be done by hand
screws worked from the upper floor, on the same principle as the
capstan of a sailing vessel, by gangs of coolies in old, tumble-down
and dilapidated godowns. The jute was compressed into bales weighing
300 lbs. only, and it was not until the advent of the hydraulic
presses in the seventies that bales containing first of all 350 and
later 400 lbs. were shipped from Calcutta, and the baling was
transferred from the town to Chitpore and the other side of the Canal.
To illustrate another phase of the vast changes that have taken place,
in this instance in the matter of exports, I very well remember F.W.
Heilgers & Co., who happened one year to be the largest exporters,
advertising the fact by printing a list of the various shippers and
their shipments, with their own name at the head in larger type than
that of the other firms, with a total of 120,000 or 130,000 bales!!!

In comparison with this, and just to contrast it with what was then
considered a large export for one individual firm, I may mention that
just before the present war Ralli Bros, exported 1,100,000 bales,
Becker Grey & Co., 400,000 bales, Ernsthausen & Co, 330,000 bales, R.
Steel & Co. 240,000 bales, and James Duffus & Co. 220,000 bales.


It was not until the year 1878 that ice factories were first
established in Calcutta when the Bengal Ice Company was formed under
the auspices of Geo. Henderson & Co., followed in 1882 by the Crystal
Ice Company, of which for a time I was a director, by Balmer Lawne &
Co. It was not long after the starting of the latter concern that the
rivalry between the two companies became so keen and ruinous,
involving as it did the cutting down of rates, that it was found
impossible to continue. Unless something had been done the fight
would have ended very much like the proverbial one of the Kilkenny
cats. Before, however, this stage was reached, the agents and
directors of both companies very wisely entered into negotiations
with each other with the view of effecting a compromise, which later
eventuated in their amalgamation under the style of the present
Calcutta Ice Association, Ltd.

[Illustration: Old premises of Francis, Harrison, Hathaway & Co.,
Government Place, East.]

[Illustration: New premises of Francis, Harrison, Hathaway & Co.,
Government Place, East]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_
Peliti's premises, Government Place, East.]

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Dalhousie Square,
looking north east, showing tank.]

Before the introduction of artificial ice, Calcutta was entirely
dependent for its supply on the importation of Wenham Lake ice in
wooden sailing ships by the Tudor Ice Company from America. The Ice
House was situated at the west end of the Small Cause Court, the
entrance facing Church Lane and approached by a steep flight of
stone-steps. There were no depots distributed about the town as there
are now, and every one had to send a coolie to the Ice House for his
daily supply with a blanket in which it was always wrapped up.

I think the price in ordinary times was two annas per seer, but it
occasionally happened that the vessels bringing the ice, owing to
contrary winds or some other cause, were delayed, and then the stock
ran low and we were put on short commons; if as in some cases the
delay became very protracted, the quantity allowed to each individual
was gradually reduced to one seer per diem, and if any one wanted more
he had to produce a doctor's certificate because it was of course
imperatively necessary that sufficient should be kept in reserve for
the use of the various hospitals. When the long-delayed vessel's
arrival was telegraphed from Saugor, great was the rejoicing of the
inhabitants. The vessels used to be moored at the ghaut at the bottom
of Hare Street, as there were no jetties in those days.

The ice was landed in great blocks on the heads of coolies and slided
down from the top of the steps to the vaults below. They used at the
same time to bring American apples which were greatly appreciated as
there were none grown in India at that time.


To the present generation it would no doubt appear strange and
particularly inconvenient had they to rely solely for their lighting
power on coconut oil. It had many drawbacks, two of which, and not the
least, being the great temptation it afforded Gungadeen, the Hindu
farash bearer, to annex for his own individual daily requirements a
certain percentage of his master's supply, and to the delay in
lighting the lamps in the cold weather owing to the congealment of the
oil which had to undergo a process of thawing before it could be
used. Gas had been introduced some years previously, but it was
confined to the lighting of the streets and public buildings. Of the
days that I am writing about, and for long years afterwards, coconut
oil was the one and only source from which we derived our artificial
lighting, and it was not until the early seventies that a change came
over the spirit of the dream by the introduction of kerosine oil.

[Illustration: _Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann_ Old premises of Ranken
& Co.]

[Illustration: _Photo, by_ Present premises of Ranken & Co.]

This of course made a most wonderful and striking change in the
economy of life in more ways than one, and amongst others it brought
about at once and for ever the abdication of the tyrannical sway and
cessation of the depredations of the aforesaid Gungadeen who had no
use for kerosine as a substitute for his beloved coconut oil wherewith
to anoint his body and for the other various uses to which he could
apply it.


Although this did not come into general vogue until the late nineties,
it had been introduced in a very practical way as far back as the
year 1881 in the Howrah Jute Mills Co., but after a few years it was
discontinued, to be generally re-adopted in 1895 by all the jute
mills. The introduction of the light into private dwellings, places of
amusement, and other buildings, of course worked a marvellous change
in our social life and all its conditions, but it appealed most of all
to those who like myself had for so many years sat in a species of
outer darkness and made it almost seem as if the past had been but a


The old, swinging punkah, with which most of us are so familiar, held
on its silent way in spite of occasional attempts from time to time to
oust it from its well and firmly established position. The different
inventions that made their appearance always lacked the one essential
point of giving expression to the kick or jerk of the hand-pulled
punkah, and consequently they proved unsuccessful. I doubt much
whether it would ever have been possible to create an artificial
substitute for this most essential and necessary adjunct. But the
advent of the electric fan also in the latter end of the nineties of
course did away with the necessity for any further essays in this
direction. And so at last after innumerable years of abuse but useful
and indispensable work, the old punkah went the way of all things


Was designed and built by Sir Bradford Leslie in 1874, and proved from

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest