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Letters of Muriel Hatherley Rendell (1895-1981, married name Cathcart) - notes on people and places mentioned

The letters illustrate  not only the attitudes and opinions of the Raj but also its vocabulary, which includes many words which are unfamiliar to a modern English reader.The OED has most of the obscure words encountered, but there are some which appear several times in the letters which are not in the OED: khubar and butchas (see below for illustrative quotations) for example.

The immediate family members who are mentioned very frequently are:-

  • MHR’s married sister Bertha Leeson, her husband George William Leeson of the River Steam Navigation Co., and their small daughters Cynthia Leeson (born about 1908) and Joyce Dorothy Leeson (born Darjeeling Aug. 1910).
  • MHR’s married sister Nora[h] Macgregor [“Dolly”] and her son Roderick born 1903.
  • MHRs unmarried sister Mabel Rendell [ “Queenie “].
  • MHRs brother Alan C Rendell [“Cleve”] of the Madras and Southern Maharatta Railway, and from 1912 his wife Ethel nee Murray.

Friends or more distant relations who are mentioned very frequently include:-

  • “Truda” ,”Ivy” and ”Elizabeth”.These have not been identified .
  • The Baileys of Khargpur. They were old Rendell family friends: they had sons including Ivon A Bailey (1900-1963) who spent some school holidays with the Rendells in England.
  • The Brooke family of 17 Elgin Road Allahabad: Dr Brooke, Mrs Brooke, Kathleen (who married  Captain Ted Palmer) and Gracie (engaged to Hugh Smart, an impecunious subaltern of Mussorie, Aug. 1911).
  • The Browns of Barisal (an absent or dead daughter Iris is mentioned).
  • The Hensleys. Mr Hensley was Director of Telegraphs for Bengal; his daughter Joan Hensley was  one of MHR’s close friends.
  • The Highets of 2/1 Harrington St Calcutta.
  • Mr Ernest Murray, District Forest Officer, his daughter Ethel Murray who married MHR’s brother Cleve, and Mrs Murray. Mrs Murray was Miss Murray’s stepmother.The Pelly family of Walthair: Mr and Mrs  Pelly ,and their small daughter Betty. Mr Pelly was a close friend of MHR’s brother-in-law George. Mr George Pelly (a “B.N.Rly” man) was a bachelor who visited from time to time.
  • The Pratts. “Daisy Pratt” (Margaret Jane Pratt, aged 21 in 1911),their only surviving daughter,  became  a special friend of MHR’s in India: Mr [Charles]Pratt was a Senior Inspector of Railways, inspecting the Burma Railway, Assam, Bengal, and Bengal Nagpur Railways. Mrs Pratt had two sons at Blundells,Tiverton: Charles Thomas Edward Pratt and John Selby Pratt.  
  • Kathleen Stokes of 21 Ballygunge Calcutta. Her husband Harry Stokes, a rising barrister aged 34, to whom she had been married only 3 years, died in Calcutta in December 1910 leaving her pregnant(birth due May 1912;the child’s name was reported as Pheobe Elizabeth in June 1912) and with a small son Alan. She had a sister Mrs Oakeley. Mrs Oakeley’s small children Roland and Joan stayed with  Mrs Leeson ( ie MHR’s sister Bertha) in Darjeeling. Kathleen Stokes also had a sister Mildred, Mrs Mcpherson.
  • The Wheelers of Garden Reach; Mr Wheeler was an old friend of MHR’s brother-in-law George Leeson. 

Of particular note are detailed descriptions of several weddings, including the preparations (MHR was bridesmaid in some cases):-

  • Mr Casement, an engineer working on the new bridge at Sara over the Ganges (the Hardinge Bridge) and Miss Cowie, Darjeeling  29 April 1911. MHR also met and described Mr Robert Gales (later Sir Robert Gales, as anticipated by MHR) the senior engineer on the bridge, a massive project.
  • MHR’s brother Cleve and Ethel Murray,Walthair  20 Jan. 1912.
  • Mr George Dey PWD and Miss May Davey, Governess to Mrs Benson (who had small children Winifred Benson 6 and Gerald Benson 4) of St Pauls School Darjeeling 10 April 1912.
  • Daisy Pratt and Bill Allies (Margaret Jane Pratt and William K Allies, a tea planter) 4 March 1913.The wedding was attended by Bill’s uncles Kenneth Murray (the eldest, also in tea), Donald Murray (Manager of the Alliance Bank of Simla), and Bertie Murray (the youngest).
  • Charles Edward Chase, an engineer, and Edith Barbara ,surname probablyTaylor, 18 Nov. 1913.

Walthair: from Rendell 2.3:

Personalities in Walthair are described systematically in the letter of 31 Jan. 1911. Mrs Parsons, the Collector’s wife, is the Burra-Memsahib of the Station.The Judge Mr Hannay comes next in order of precedence; Mrs Hannay, also a burra–memsahib, is at home (ie in England)just now. Mr Mainwaring is Inspector-general of Police. Mr Pelley, brother-in-law George’s special friend, is District Supt. of Police. Captain Iceley is Port Officer for Vizagapatam. The Lushingtons are Forest Dept; they have daughters aged about 20 and 18. The Fawcetts are Railway (traffic) and Mr Peters is Mr Fawcett’s assistant; the Fawcetts have a small daughter Barbara. Then there are Major and Mrs Foulkes (he is  I.M.S.); Mr and Mrs Whitton Browne (salt- there were salt mines nearby) with a grown up daughter at home; Mr and Mrs Cotton (he is tutor to a native Rajah’s son) with one infant; Mr and Mrs Caplin (mines) with two small sons; the new Padre Mr Jervis and his wife (there for six months while the Proctors are on leave).There are very few unmarried men: in addition to Mr Peters only Mr Graham (I.C.S.), Mr Hodding (shipping, but he is engaged) and Mr Saunders (A.S.P.), the chokra of the station. Also there are the Elsworthys, a quiet mercantile couple, and the Murrays,and the Birketts (ICS). There are no military people.

[Back to catalogue of Rendell Letters]

- John Jones, 2012-13


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