Reid-Kay - Simon

I stumbled on your Koh-Hai Facebook page over the weekend. I have a bit of any interest in that neck of the woods. In fact only yesterday I finished William Dalrymple’s book The Anarchy about the EIC.


My father’s father (Sir) James R Kay lived and worked in India from 1906-39 save for during WW1. Eventually he became the “Senior” at James Finlay & Co in Calcutta prior to WWII - by virtue of it being “Buggin’s Turn” or so family lore would have it. According to the James Finlay & Co history he was knighted for his services to public affairs including as Chairman of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. His father was James Kay who was a Director when the Company was incorporated with limited liability in 1903 and died in 1911. He was also related to Andrew Kay who joined the partnership when Wilson, James Kay & Co. merged with the firm in 1858. Andrew Kay remained a partner until he left the business in 1873. He left £100,000 of his capital in the firm until at least 1880. [Note: Sadly that chunk of change disappeared a couple of generations back]


Grandfather was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 1st Volunteer Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry on 8 February 1905.  The Volunteer Battalions were eventually to become the Territorial Army.  However it seems that his weekend soldiering did not last for long as he sailed for India in 1906.  He was living at 1 Clive Street, Calcutta when he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery following the outbreak of the Great War.  He did serve in Flanders as a Lieutenant and was awarded two medal after the War; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  As James Reid Kay Esq., Partner, Messrs. James Finlay & Company, Calcutta, Bengal he was listed in the New Years' Honours on 2 January 1939 and received the Honour of Knighthood from the Viceroy of India, on the 23 February 1939 at an Investiture held at " The Viceroy's House," New Delhi.


My wife and I and two of our boys had a wonderful trip to Calcutta about 5 years ago including going up to Gangtok and Darjeeling. We had some photos of my grandparents at their house on Alipore Road and also at a couple of tea gardens but we ran out time trying to recreate the latter. A typical example was one of someone on horseback entitled “Do Try” or similar. It was too late (our last day in Darjeeling) that I realized that it would have been Dooteriah. My grandfather and grandmother both kept raced horses in Calcutta. In the library of the turf club we saw records of his horse having won the Metropolitan Stakes/Cup in 1931. It was fun to see the Pathe News clip of the Viceroy Cup in 1938 through your FB page yesterday. Both my grandparents were most likely there that day. My wife and I were there for the Calcutta Derby – the QE2 Cup on our trip – entirely by chance. Grandfather was President of the Tollygunge Club in the early thirties. The photo of you sitting under the name board with your father’s name on it reminded me of that. At the T/Club we found the board of past chairmen with my grandfather listed on it but it was a somewhat neglected which was disappointing. He retired to Ayr in Scotland, near where of course James Finlay & Co were based (Catrine


I was also amused to click into links on your site that mentioned the Anchor Line. On my mother’s side (from Glasgow and Ayrshire) her mother’s father was Sir Frederick Henderson (being a grandson of one of the original Hendersons) of D&W Henderson, of the Glasgow ship-builders and owners.


By way of additional background my parents lived all their lives (and my mother now 89 is still) in Scotland but as a small child I was always fascinated by the idea of living overseas. As a consequence my wife (whose great grandfather left Inverness in 1893 to be Consul General in Shanghai - my wife’s father was born in Shanghai in 1937) and I, although we met in Edinburgh, have lived in Hong Kong since the mid 1980s. My wife’s parents have also been in the UK all their lives so in a sense both our parents skipped that generation in terms of living abroad.