Shortt - Denys & Debbie (Peter Shortt)

Denys Shortt - born 1964

Lives in Cotswolds, England

My parents Peter and Rosemary Shortt were in India for a long part of their life. Both have now passed away. 

Peter was born in 1932.

He was Manager at Langharjan Tea Estate owned by the Jorehaut Tea Company from 1962 to 1970.   Having been in India for over 20 years this was the last position he had in Assam. He went on to work in Uganda and for KTDA in Kenya at Ikumbi Tea Estate.   Uganda was tough as this was the time of Idi Amin and we left the country as the violence spread.

I was born in 1964 and my time in Assam was for my first 6 years and after that we moved to East Africa. I was educated by my mother at home to age 6 and then joined a boarding school in Surrey called Eagle House School. Once air travel became possible to India many children went back and forth to boarding schools.

At aged 10 I was very sporty and played hockey.  It was at my next school Warwick School at the age of 15 I was selected to play for England.   I went on to play for 6 years for the Under 16s, Under 18s and Under 21 teams.  Often people would say my stick skills were so good because I was brought up in India - who have a very skillful team!  

My parents came back to England and in 1975 started the Shakespeare Tea Company in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire. This business did ok but was never going to beat the likes of Unilever with a brand like PG Tips.  And so I went on to start DCS Group in 1994 selling Health, Beauty and Household brands.  DCS is based in Banbury and employs 300 people.

I also started Enable Software which is based in Stratford-upon-Avon with 90 employees. 

I married Debbie (an American from Chicago) and we have 2 children - a daughter (25) in Melbourne who is teaching and our son (27) who is in the family business and recently married Georgina. 

Memories of Assam :

My wife and I often talk about Assam and what life must have been like.  We both do really wish we had lived there in those times - it must have been such an amazing experience to work there.

My father often talked of boating and the fact that he imported one of the first Mercury outboard engines onto the Dehing River- see photo above.  It was 50 horsepower so sent our small speedboat very fast! He said the Naga tribesmen looked at the engine as some sort of miracle.   My parents used to waterski on the river near Langharjan Tea Estate. 

Dad also created two houseboats from old army pontoons.  Weekends were spent on the river moored up to a sandbar with a picnic. My mother taught me here roast chicken pilau recipe whish is what they took along. (photos below) I am sure we have a passion for boating from those days in Assam. 

We were always so impressed with what the craftsmen and women would build.  They had no issues with a boat, a toy train in the garden and so many other things that were there to entertain us all. 

Dad was a good tennis player (former junior Wimbledon) and well known at the tennis club.  He also was a great polo player and won many cups.   Life in Assam was all about work and play. You were very cut off from the world as it is so far north. 

My parents went there by ship in the early days.  Anchor Line had a ship called California which my mother and her father used when she was aged 4 in 1935. In the 1950's and 60s my parents went on the Lloyd Triestino Line on MS Victoria with the journey taking 3-4 weeks. The only way to get there was by ship for many years. 

Imperial Airways ran the first flights to India which latterly became British Airways. One of the primary goals of Imperial Airways was to maintain air routes to the far corners of the British Empire, mainly by transporting airmail to such places as India and Egypt. In anticipation of such flights, beginning in 1925, the airlines began surveys over some of the most hostile, waterless and dangerous areas of the world – over the Arabian desert and eastward toward India. To account for navigation and also possible emergency landings, Imperial Airways built outposts through some of these regions that included weather services, radio stations, landing grounds, and even a giant furrow that engineers ploughed in the desert to provide pilots with a sense of direction. Finally, on March 30, 1929, Imperial Airways flew its first flight from Britain to India using a de Havilland Hercules, a trimotor biplane that carried eight passengers. The standard trip was complex, difficult, and carried out in stages, from France to Italy to Greece to Egypt to Iraq and finally to India. The trip did, however, reduce travel time from three weeks by sea to only one week by air.

The video below is the ship my mother Rosemary travelled on in 1935 with her father Rev Leonard Nelson Meredith. She was aged 4.

Speedboat on Dihing river

Loading tea on Dihing River

Houseboat built at Langharjan TE

1912 Langharjan Tea Estate

Langharjan Tea Estate

Langharjan Tea Estate Mangers Bungalow

50hp Mercury - Dihing River Assam

Houseboat picnic on Dihing River

Picnic on dehing river

Picnic on dehing river

Lloyd Triestone - Victoria

Naga - Assam