John Fettes Falconer

Falconer - Fettes

Fettes Falconer

I am Fettes Newman Arthur Falconer the grandson of John Fettes Falconer, and son of Peter Alexander Fettes Falconer. I am a retired teacher living with my wife, Marie, in the hills behind Perth, Western Australia

John Fettes Falconer (DSO, MC) spent most of his working life tea planting  in Assam (1910 (?) to 1937). He and his second wife, Hilda (nee Newman), are buried in Forres cemetery (northern Scotland). They met and married in Assam

His first wife, Janet, is buried in the Cinnamara cemetery. The discovery of her grave you are able to read in my Koi Hai story (in the old website established by David Air)

To save me time I will edit and  copy and paste the first chapter of my Koi Hai story (published 15 July 2011) … it helps to explain much.

Chapter 1 --My India Connections

Our father, Peter Alexander Fettes Falconer, hardly ever spoke to us children about India. But for a few snippets at table, especially when he sweated over a hot curry he made for himself while the rest of the family dined on a much milder form concocted by our African cook there in Rhodesia, we knew little of his history.

I knew from a young age that my father was born in Shillong, Assam; that his father, John Fettes Falconer, a Scot, was a tea planter in India. I knew that I was named Fettes after my grandfather, and that it was one of my father's middle names. I found out much later that there were two John Falconers playing polo in Assam. To distinguish between the two the tea planters used my grandfather's middle name. Maybe my father did not know that his father had John as a first name? I also knew that my father, the young Peter Alexander Fettes Falconer , at the tender age of six was packed off to an English boarding school, first in Taunton and then as a teenager to Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen.

My father and mother would sometimes remind me that my name is connected through an ancestor who founded a famous school in Scotland; Fettes College in Edinburgh.

I do remember the jubilation of my father and mother over the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the conquest of Everest at the same time. I remember the pride that my father showed when he heard that his side of the family played a small part in the conquest of Everest. His Aunt Jill, my father proudly announced to all who would listen, was the one who, as Secretary of the Himalayan Mountain Club, selected Sherpa Tensing for the British ascent of Everest. Some of that pride washed on to me as a six year old.

My father had a photograph album in which were a few photos of his family's time in India.

My mother was a second generation Rhodesian. I was more proud of the fact that her grandfather was a Rhodesian pioneer. Alexander ‘Sandy' Tulloch was a member of the famed Rhodes Pioneer Column that occupied what became known as Rhodesia.

My father spent most of the Second World War as a flying instructor in Rhodesia. It was in Rhodesia where my father met and married my mother, Nancy Tatham, and decided to stay. I was born in 1947 some two weeks before the granting of Independence to India ... the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

I later learned more about my father and India from my paternal grandmother, Hilda Falconer (nee Newman), who. in the early 1970s, I visited in Forres northern Scotland. Her husband (Major) John Fettes Falconer died  in 1948.

I also learned a bit more from my great aunt Jill, Hilda's sister, when I visited her in East Meon, Hampshire. I learned that she was christened Enid Newman. However, upon marrying a tea planter, Jack Henderson, whom she met whilst visiting British India after the First World War, decided to change her name to Jill. Jack and Jill went up the hill to Darjeeling.

It was Jill who persuaded her sister Hilda to come out to India and ‘fish' for another husband. Hilda had lost her first husband in the First World War. In Assam Hilda met and married a Scot, Fettes Falconer.

These things I knew and took with me, plus my English wife and two born - in - England boys, to Perth, Western Australia.

As happens to most in later life I became more interested in my family's history, especially my father's, once I surpassed him in age.

With our two boys off our hands we were able to save and do some travelling.

We visited my father's younger brother Paul Oswald Falconer living in Queensland. We visited the youngest brother Pat (who changed his name to Loft) on Vancouver Island, Canada.

From both the brothers I gleaned a few more stories and photos of the Falconer family in India.

Thus it was that I was packed and ready to go on my own to India to look up the places where the Falconers and Hendersons had put down roots ... tea tree roots. This was the long Australian Christmas school holidays of 2008-9. On the Boxing day, two days before my take off for India, the horribly sad news came of my sister's unexpected death at home there south of Durban, South Africa.

I was able to change my itinerary so that I could farewell her on behalf of the Rhodesian Falconers now flung far and wide.

After the funeral I decided to visit long lost relatives and friends.

I had been invited by friends living in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal keen to show me the African wildlife/game I sorely missed back in Australia. This meant I would be passing through Stanger. I knew my great Aunt Jill (Henderson) was buried there. She had decided England was not for her and wanted to be closer to her younger daughter, Jane, who had married a South African sugar planter near Stanger.

I had never met Doctor Jane, though my father had suggested I look her up if ever I got to Stanger when I was down at Rhodes University in the south east of South Africa.

Through the power of the internet and a determined friend I managed to contact Jane who was now semi-retired with her husband (Jasper Pons) on the coast east of Stanger.

I called in for a few hours and learned much more about the Indian side of our families. I was shown photos of the Hendersons in Darjeeling. I told Jane that I was still intending to visit Assam and West Bengal; to look up places in our family's history.

Through email Jane eventually furnished me with copies of her Darjeeling photos and the address of her elder sister Ann, now retired to, and still living in the Dominican Republic. I contacted Ann.

Ann was busy writing her memoir and a history of her family in India. She informed she was going to publish her tea planting  family story in the recently established Koi Hai website. (It is there under the title -Henderson Family). She supplied me with stories and suggested I not only find my grandfather's Assam haunts, but also look  the Henderson 'ghosts' in Darjeeling .

It was Ann who persuaded me to publish in Koi Hai my discoveries of my tea planting family.