J H G (Ginger) Craig - Gargaram & Jiti Tea Estate 1926 - 2014

 

Ginger Craig was one of the great characters of the planter’s fraternity in the Dooars.

He and his wife, Anush, were on Gangaram and Jiti for many years before retiring to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

As they got older they resided in a Care Home in the County Down seaside Town of Bangor. They peacefully passed away some years ago.

Although time has passed I feel that some words should be written in their Memory.

I had visited them over the years in their retirement when they lived at Knock, a leafy suburb in Belfast, near the Stormont Parliament Building but then lost touch with them.

Ginger was born about 1926  and had two siblings, a brother and a sister.

His elder brother William (Bill) Craig was born in Cooktown, County Tyrone in 1924.

Bill later became the Home Minister in Terrence O’Neill’s Unionist Government and formed the ‘Ulster Vanguard’ and when he banned a Civil Rights Procession led by Bernadette Devlin it lit the blue touch paper for 30 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

Ginger’s  Father was a Bank Manager in Dublin for many years and as young boys, Ginger and Bill rode their bikes in Dublin with little Union Jacks fluttering from the front mudguards! No doubt Bill would have coerced Ginger into non conformist ways!

Many will remember the early morning flights from Grassmore to Calcutta when Ginger was also a passenger. Always hospitable, he brought a bar with him and it was copious pre flight drinks all round while waiting for the Jamair DC3 to arrive!

Some, like Krupa David and Mani SherGill will never forget the times they were ‘on duty’ during the marathon sessions when Donald and Ginger met up!

 

Just a few of the many stories:

 

I remember him telling me of one of the many times he was ‘Gheraoed.’

When he had signed the proferred list of demands he wrote “under duress” beside his signature and was promptly hit on the head with a lump of wood!

He told me that he would make a complaint to the Nagrakata CPI(M) leader, Parimal Mitra and try to sweeten their sour relationship. He did this by delivering a packet of sugar into Parimal’s pride and joy Ford Prefect’s petrol tank!

At Gangaram he had a dispute and three or four labourers attacked him in a  section’s ‘kenchi allie’.  Two young Army Captains happened to be driving by and came to his aid. They pulled them off Ginger and chased them away. Ginger got up ,dusted himself off  and said  “Thanks, but you shouldn’t have bothered, I was just getting the better of them!”

 

A Story that appeared in the Irish Times newspaper - 

 

Eccentric lives of Irish and British tea-planters

First published: Wed, Oct 22, 2003, 01:00

 

Irish planters, alongside their equally eccentric British colleagues, added to the colour and folklore of the tea plantations in north-eastern India.

One such was Ginger Craig of Dublin, who was in charge of various gardens in the Dooars region in the plains in the Darjeeling foothills until 1977.

Craig was an insomniac who, after a day and night of steadily drinking gin and then whisky, would begin a round of his garden, spread over hundreds of hectares, at about 4 a.m.

He would then jump into his jeep and race off to Darjeeling some 100 km uphill to buy fresh ox tongue at the hill town's special food stores.

Having acquired the delicacy, Craig would be back home to have his breakfast of the meat, completing the arduous round trip, a precipitous mountain journey, in a record 90 minutes.

"He was one hell of a chap," Jaggi Malhotra, who worked as Craig's assistant manager, said. "A rare man and an even rarer planter, whose kind are just not around today," he added. 

Ginger’s great friends  who went Huntin’ Fishin’ and Drinkin’ were Donald MacKenzie of Bagracote and Gerry Halnan of Banarhat. Younger ones, like Krupa David and Mani Shergill,  played an integral part in organizing their Bara Sahibs  parties, picnics, and hunting trips!!

 

Dougie Armstrong would remember a dinner party we both attended at the Jiti Bara Bungalow!

Aloke Mukherjee would remember Ginger and his escapades.

Evarista and Eula (and Protima) Rodriguez  fondly remember Ginger and Anush.

Duncan Allan the ex Duncan’s VA remembers Ginger as a friend who worked hard and played hard.

I’m sure many others would remember him.

 

Reproduced is a  Donald MacKenzie letter to Gerry Halnan  that was given to me by Derek Perry. It shows the kind of outings that Ginger was part of.

Such get togethers of the three could often last several days and particular attention and importance was given to ‘Sustenance’!

 

Dear Gerry,

It appears I am almost compelled to admit the “Jonah” in you is a little discouraging

However, in view of you being such first class company a further endeavour to hold a successful shoot in your company is planned and I hope, despite

your presence the goods will be delivered. The background to this ambitious undertaking is as follows:-

Last Saturday T.M.Roy and I felt we should opt for a spot of shooting, instead of getting looped in some form of a club the following day or a Sunday.

(4th instant) This momentous decision resulted in ambling down to Hubigunge

With two loads of beaters getting there late, only finding time for one beat, but nevertheless collecting 7 pig for the trouble. Had we known that particular thatch

It would have been 3 dozen without any labour.

 

 

 At a rough estimate I saw over 50 making tracks, out of range, for Pakistan. We were handicapped by the shortage of guns, plus my back making me only an 8 anna shikari! I am certain a dozen wounded by lites were probably, and regrettably, not to say annoyingly, picked up by villagers the next day. This is a regular result of a shoot in that locality. Incidentally, one of the pig’s at a conservative estimate would have turned the scales at 300 lbs.

Now if you are desirous of displaying your ability with the old 30.06 please meet us in your transport at the fork in the road, from this end at the entry to

Burumaguri near the cinema at 6.30am(latest) on Sunday 11th instant. It would be ....(contd)