Tag Archives: India

First Brush

Morning came early at Hebron Academy. At six a.m., I would enter the bathroom, calmly pick up the basin with the snake curled up inside, and walk outside to dump it in the bushes. I was a border and this was not my first brush with snakes.

The school was in the village of Coonoor, high in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India.1 Most of the students were the children of missionaries but a few like myself were “business kids”.2

Shortly after arriving at Hebron in 1957 I found two names in the front of an old text book: Margery Angus and Kathleen Angus. It was enough of a curiosity that I wrote home about it. Imagine my surprise when Dad wrote back that they were his cousins, cousins he had never met! Their dad, the brother of my grandfather, had been a missionary in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Now my curiosity knew no bounds!

How did they travel to Hebron? They could not have come like I did, four days from Calcutta on a train. Had they come by ship across the Bay of Bengal to Madras and then on the narrow- rail train up into the hills? At what age did they come? As teenagers? Or were they Kindergarten age and placed in The Nest? Did their parents join them for the May vacation or were they required to spend the holiday month with the school staff?

How did they feel about the school program? About tennis and field hockey? Art lessons, music, and drama? About being kept busy every minute of the day? In what academic subjects did they excel? I bet they had no trouble memorizing scripture or praying publicly in the daily prayer meetings being the children of missionaries. How did they feel sleeping six to a dorm on wooden beds with straw pallets? Or bathing in a tin tub twice a week in water heated over a wooden stove? Did they like the blue and white checked frock uniform?  And the navy tunic and tie on Sundays?  Were they as homesick as I, living for the daily mail distribution and letters from family?

This was my first brush with genealogy. Names were insufficient – I wanted stories, not just the knowledge that I walked in steps they had walked. I wanted these cousins to come to life for me! Today I want the same thing. The family tree I inherited from my dad was just a list of names and dates. Who were these people, where and how did they live?

Today the internet allows me to find some answers.

Margery and Kathleen’s father Thomas Angus was an Evangelical missionary from Glasgow.3 His wife was Eliza Simpson and they had five children: David, Robert, Joan, Kathleen and Margery.4. There was an Anglican school for girls in Kuala Lumpur but Thomas likely chose far-away Hebron to ensure that his daughters were educated in their own faith. 5 Perhaps his sons went to Breeks Memorial, Hebron’s sister school for boys. Or they may have been left at a school in Britain on one of the furloughs. Thomas’ final trip home was in 1940.6 He suffered from a heart condition and died in 1948.7 His son David took over his work in Malaysia until his interment by the Japanese during WW2.8

My work on Thomas’ family remains incomplete. I will likely never find answers to my questions about the girls’ years at Hebron. The school is now an orphanage, academic records and yearbooks likely lost to time. I have not yet been able to trace the remaining years of the girls’ lives. What is key for me today, however, is that this long ago first brush with genealogy led to my insatiable quest today for family stories.

 Notes and Sources

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebron_School

Hebron Gleanings 1958 (yearbook) – on file with author

Note: The school was surrounded by plantations growing the famous Nilgiri tea.

  1. My father worked for a Canadian mining company that was part of a NGO in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The job involved the construction and start-up of a newsprint mill in the village if Khulna south of Dhaka on the Ganges River. At the time, Bangladesh was under martial law.

 http://www.gospelhallkl.org/?page_id=14

“Mr. and Mrs T.R. Angus arrived to work with the Hakka tin miners and in October 1903 found “a crying need for the gospel on every hand” but few to meet the need. Training locals to serve the Lord proved difficult as the miners led a rather nomadic life and were unable to attend church regularly. Just before the Second World War engulfed the Pacific, the aging Mr. Thomas Angus returned to Scotland and was replaced by his son David Angus.”

  1. Eliza was listed as the wife of Thomas on his death certificate. To date (February 2015), I have been unable to find any other documentation. The children’s’ names are those provided by my father. The children may have been born in Kuala Lump, indeed Thomas and Eliza may have married there, but I have been unable to access Malaysian records.
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Mary’s_School,_Kuala_Lumpur
  1. Finding passenger lists (outgoing and incoming) have proven difficult. Angus is not an uncommon name in Britain, there are many British ports from which Thomas may have left, and a Malaysian destination is often merely a port–of-call on the way to a final destination like Australia. The lists I have been able to find sometimes show Thomas travelling alone, sometimes with his wife, or with his wife and children. The children’s names do not all match those given to me by my father. I have found a David, a Robert, a Margery, an Annie and a Frances. I have not found a Joan or a Kathleen. Were they younger than the others or did they go officially by other names?
  1. Death Certificate: http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/
  1. http://www.preciousseed.org/article_detail.cfm?articleID=744

“In 1931 Mr. David Angus joined his father to continue the service the hallmark of which was grace and humility. During the war years Mr. Angus and other missionaries suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Japanese invaders. He survived the horrors of prison with fortitude and emerged with a new understanding of the people in the country of mixed nationalities he had come to serve” 

Troop Train Across The Sind Desert 1916

In 1916, William sailed for India. He was to take up garrison duties in Multan, India (now Pakistan) so as to release regular troops to fight in the War.

William Clegg lived in Liverpool during the early 1900s. He was married to Louisa, and together they had eight children; one child stillborn, one child who died at aged two and another at six years of age, leaving five living children.

At that time and for many years afterwards life in Liverpool was hard. Living conditions were crowded, poor and unhealthy. There was not much work, and only the few could hope for a fulfilling life. William earned his living as a paint grinder a dirty, noisy and unhealthy job.

In April 1914, one of the children named Evelyn aged six died. This must have been a very hard year for the family. When WW1 was declared on August 1, 1914, William joined the Territorial Army. He probably wanted get away from the death and poor living conditions and maybe hoping to get a better level of pay to support his family. He was 32 years of age, and he left Louisa eight months pregnant!

The Territorial Army is an army of volunteers which supports the British Army. Volunteer units have existed for centuries, but in 1908 they were merged to form the Territorial Force. Members of the Territorial Force were mobilised in the First World War and served alongside the regular army. [1]

One of the units was The Fifth Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, which had its HQ at 65 St Anne Street Liverpool.

William was supposed to be part of the Home Guard and serve in England but at some point he agreed to transfer to the Rifle Brigade. He was immediately sent to the Curragh in Ireland, and then to Douglas on the Isle of Man for training.

By 1916, he and other troops were on their way to India as part of the “The Indian Trooping Season.”

Normally, troop ships left England in September and returned on another ship, with the last ships leaving India in March. This pattern was probably established once troop ships no longer sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and started using the “Overland Route’ and then the Suez Canal after its opening in 1869.[2]

Travel was restricted to the cooler months so that acclimatised troops from Britain were not traveling from the ports of Bombay or Karachi to their cantonments during the heat of an Indian summer.

William travelled on the troop ship “Ballarat,” which was mistakenly diverted to Karachi by senior officers.

It was against regulations cross the Sind Desert from Karachi to Multan because of abnormally hot temperatures, but William and the other troops with him did so anyway.  They were exposed to terrible conditions. More than 200 men suffered from heat stroke and 20 of them died.

During an inquiry, three senior officers were blamed for not looking after the men. Questions were raised in India and England.

The governments of India sent the following telegram to the British House of Commons:

We can now give a considered opinion, having received a report of committee. The responsibility for diverting the ship from Bombay to Karachi rests with Brigadier-General Roe who was acting as Quartermaster-General at the time. He knew acclimatised troops had never before been sent in large number by rail in the middle of Summer through the Sind Desert. He knew, or should have known that the Commander -in-Chief in December 1915, had decided that Karachi should not be used as a port at which wounded and sick British troops should be landed and distributed to other stations, on account of danger of sending in the hot season through Sind.

It follows, that before (the ship) Ballarat was diverted to Karachi, Acting Quarter-Master-General should have consulted Commander-in-Chief but did not do this. Having taken on himself responsibility, he should certainly have warned Karachi military authorities to take special precautions for safety of troops during journey by rail. He did not do this.

We, therefore, must hold him responsible, and propose to remove him from his appointment as Deputy Quarter-master-general. It is clear from evidence, that the mischief began before disembarkation, many men having been seen on deck bareheaded in the sun, a thing no officer with Indian experience would have allowed. All the officers on board were quite inexperienced, and we cannot hold them blameworthy.” [3]

The lengthy telegram went on to add that the troop train left Karachi with 13 officers and 1013 men and was insufficiently equipped, overcrowded and without experienced officers.

The three British officers named in the inquiry were “cashiered,” which means they were dismissed from their positions for a breach of discipline.

William Clegg and 19 others died in the Multan Military Hospital, which is now in Pakistan. He left behind his wife and 5 children.

He was originally buried in Multan but the commonwealth War Graves Commission has found it impossible to maintain War Graves in Pakistan so his name also appears on the large British War Graves Cenotaph in Karachi.

William was the grandfather of my husband John Clegg.

[1] http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/army-auxiliary-1769-1945

[2] https://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Trooping_season

[3] http://papersPast.natlib.govt.nz/dominion