A River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950 - Ships Nostalgia
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A River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950

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  #1  
Old 27th November 2007, 00:22
REDBERT REDBERT is offline  
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A River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950

Can some kind soul please help me, while researching my Family Tree I have discovered my step/G/dad was a River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950, however over the last 6 months, trying to find more information by way of web-sites browsing & Googling I have been unable find more out with regard to the Ship-line he was employed by, service/records, etc etc etc, despite sending many emails to web-site in Calcutta, again without a response from one site,??????????????

I also discovered he & my G/Mum were married on what I beleive was a ship SS BHADRA in Rangoon Burma 1929, can some one help me with this one?

I have found a list of ships, NEURALIA MOOLTAN MAHANADA MULBERA NALDERA MANELA SRTRATHMORE 1st & Viceroy of London, do these ships mean any thing ??????????. I would be most grateful for any advise or guidance by some-one kind enough to point me in the right direction, for instance would he have been employed by a U.K. company, than sent to INDIA, I await for a reply, thank you. redbert !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! G/Dad NAME: THOMAS POSSER G/Mum NAME: Margaret WILTON-KING

Last edited by non descript; 27th November 2007 at 08:51.. Reason: minor edit when part of the thread was copied
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Old 27th November 2007, 06:08
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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Margaret, those ships are all either British India Steam Navigation Co. or P&O. Possibly your grandfather sailed on them before he entered the pilot service at Calcutta, or could they have been ships he piloted.

If you Google Hoogli there is quite a bit of information around. A few years ago there was a BBC documentary about the Raj and all that and they showed quite a bit about the Hoogli pilots, including some of them talking about their lives.

The pilots lived on their cutter and were waited on hand and foot. They gave the impression that the stewards got them up in the morning, dressed them and put them out on deck with a gin before breakfast!

Good luck with your search.

John T.
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Old 27th November 2007, 08:52
non descript non descript is offline
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Thanks John, that is a most helpful start for Margaret.
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Old 27th November 2007, 09:05
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Margaret.
Earlier this year, one of the members on this site, Hugh Ferguson, posted a series of items about Hooghly river pilots in the early part of the last century. You may find them interesting. Look here https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showth...=hooghly+pilot Good hunting.
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  #5  
Old 27th November 2007, 16:36
Bruce Carson Bruce Carson is offline
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Redbert, a warm welcome to Ships Nostalgia.
The following is part of the information you were looking for. I would guess your grandfather was employed by the Bengal Pilot Service and if you Google that name, you'll find about 220 items. There's a slight possibility that you may glean a little information on one of those sites.

Neuralia:
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...ip.asp?id=4271
Mooltan:
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...p.asp?id=15337
Mahanada (Brocklebank):
http://iancoombe.tripod.com/id7.html
Mulbera:
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...ip.asp?id=3571
Naldera:
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...p.asp?id=15358
Manela:
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...ip.asp?id=4361
Strathmore:
http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/PO_Strathmore_1935.html
I would suggest that the 'Viceroy of London' is, in fact, the 'Viceroy of India':
http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuil...ip.asp?id=3593

The 'Bhadra' was a British India ship of 600GT, the second of that name, built in 1920, 4 1st and 650 deck passengers.I would guess, at that tonnage, she was used on some type local feeder service. Sold in 1929 to Zanzibar interests and renamed 'Khalifa'. Sold Greek in 1936 and renamed 'Pyaros'. Lost by bombing in 1941.

Bruce
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Old 25th June 2013, 16:06
Capt D.K.Deshmukh Capt D.K.Deshmukh is offline  
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Thomas Prosser

To begin with I would like to make a correction. The name of the officer who was a branch pilot in the Bengal Pilot Service, was PROSSER and not Posser.
When I joined the BPS in 1945, T.Prosser was already a Branch Pilot and much senior to me. He was called Tommy by his contemprories.With Indian independance in 1947. many senior British Pilots retired and went back to England. As far as I remember. T. Prosser was one of them. I am glad to be able to give this information and hope that this will be of some use to you.
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Old 25th June 2013, 18:47
sidsal sidsal is offline  
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Bengal Pilot Service.
The Mahanada was a ship of the Brocklebank Line of Calcutta Steamers. I joined Brocks from HM training Ship Conway in 1943 adn went to Calcutta several times. The last time I sailed down the Hooghly was in 1947 on the day that India got its independance and all the villages on the banks were having parades and parties.
The Bengal Pilot Service was considered the cream of pilotage jobs and when picking up the pilot at Sand Heads at the mouth of the river they wouod board with a servant, golf clubs and luggage. The Calcutta Dock pilots, also Brits were considered a lowesr form of life and there was a class divide even among the Brits.
Before 1947 when there were riots etc and it was suggested that India might get its freedom the general concensus was that the Indians could never be able to pilot ships up the river. Of course, like so much else that was rubbish - they managed perfectly well. The Raj was generally a good thing probably but there was some awful snobbery involved. We used to carry a few passengers who worked in the Indian Civil Service. A chap would perhaps be a solicitor in the uK but in Indioa he woupd be a high court judge or similar. The wives were even more snobbish than the husbands very often
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Old 25th June 2013, 19:18
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The wives were even more snobbish than the husbands very often[/QUOTE]

Wives often owed their social standing to their husbands. Those who had grown up in elevated circumstances were less likely to be snobs. My grandmother lived to 102 and was the family's social climber and she who kept the rest of us up to the mark. It turned out in her latter days that she was illegitimate and had been farmed out to another family until her mother had made a marriage and produced another daughter. Then she was returned to her mother, but spent the rest of her life keeping up appearances and making sure there was always someone to look after her. The last person to provide this care was my mother who wore herself out doing so and only made it to 89. I used to resent my grandmother for her self centred meanness of spirit, but I now see how sadly life had damaged her.
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Old 25th June 2013, 20:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt D.K.Deshmukh View Post
To begin with I would like to make a correction. The name of the officer who was a branch pilot in the Bengal Pilot Service, was PROSSER and not Posser.
When I joined the BPS in 1945, T.Prosser was already a Branch Pilot and much senior to me. He was called Tommy by his contemprories.With Indian independance in 1947. many senior British Pilots retired and went back to England. As far as I remember. T. Prosser was one of them. I am glad to be able to give this information and hope that this will be of some use to you.
Between 21st Mar.1945 and 29th Nov.1945 I was an apprentice in the Ministry of War Transport ship, Empire Capulet (managed by Glen Line).
During those months we made twelve passages up and down the Hooghly. I wonder if our paths-yours and T. Prosser's- ever crossed!?!?

(I still have my copy of the Tercentenary publication of that famed pilot service which began with the arrival of six Cinque Ports pilots in 1669, from the same named pilot service in which I began service in 1957).
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  #10  
Old 22nd September 2015, 10:59
Toby Webb Toby Webb is offline  
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Hoogley Pilots Breakfast

Sorry I cannot help you directly but my question may trigger a response which may help you.
Gin & tonic is not my favourite drink. I much prefer gin & ginger beer which I had been led to believe was the preferred breakfast for Hooghly pilots. Is this a lot of hog's wash?
Thanks, Toby.
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  #11  
Old 22nd September 2015, 12:45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REDBERT View Post
Can some kind soul please help me, while researching my Family Tree I have discovered my step/G/dad was a River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950, however over the last 6 months, trying to find more information by way of web-sites browsing & Googling I have been unable find more out with regard to the Ship-line he was employed by, service/records, etc etc etc, despite sending many emails to web-site in Calcutta, again without a response from one site,??????????????

I also discovered he & my G/Mum were married on what I beleive was a ship SS BHADRA in Rangoon Burma 1929, can some one help me with this one?

I have found a list of ships, NEURALIA MOOLTAN MAHANADA MULBERA NALDERA MANELA SRTRATHMORE 1st & Viceroy of London, do these ships mean any thing ??????????. I would be most grateful for any advise or guidance by some-one kind enough to point me in the right direction, for instance would he have been employed by a U.K. company, than sent to INDIA, I await for a reply, thank you. redbert !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! G/Dad NAME: THOMAS POSSER G/Mum NAME: Margaret WILTON-KING
Click HERE to see if this can help.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 13:00
NOEL MUTCH NOEL MUTCH is offline  
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Bengal Pilot Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt D.K.Deshmukh View Post
To begin with I would like to make a correction. The name of the officer who was a branch pilot in the Bengal Pilot Service, was PROSSER and not Posser.
When I joined the BPS in 1945, T.Prosser was already a Branch Pilot and much senior to me. He was called Tommy by his contemprories.With Indian independance in 1947. many senior British Pilots retired and went back to England. As far as I remember. T. Prosser was one of them. I am glad to be able to give this information and hope that this will be of some use to you.
In response to Capt Deshmukh I spent some time between Madras and Calcutta as a DEMS Gunner aboard a ship named "Sygna" which was an old Norwegian Iron Ore carrier during my time aboard her we carried coal.It was not the best of ships and had a rather notorious Master and I just wondered if you had any dealings with her.My time aboard her was Jan - May 1945.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 20:10
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I have tried to find details of the death of John Norman, a Hoogli River Pilot who was killed on board a ship in Budge Budge where he lived with his wife and son. Hugh Maclean found out a great deal about John for me, including the fact that he died on 29th May 1944, but emails to Calcutta were generally ignored so that the name of the ship and what exactly happened remains a mystery.
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Old 23rd September 2015, 02:22
dihdahdit dihdahdit is offline  
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Originally Posted by REDBERT View Post
Can some kind soul please help me, while researching my Family Tree I have discovered my step/G/dad was a River-Pilot on the Hoogley India, 1919-1950, however over the last 6 months, trying to find more information by way of web-sites browsing & Googling I have been unable find more out with regard to the Ship-line he was employed by, service/records, etc etc etc, despite sending many emails to web-site in Calcutta, again without a response from one site,??????????????

I also discovered he & my G/Mum were married on what I beleive was a ship SS BHADRA in Rangoon Burma 1929, can some one help me with this one?

I have found a list of ships, NEURALIA MOOLTAN MAHANADA MULBERA NALDERA MANELA SRTRATHMORE 1st & Viceroy of London, do these ships mean any thing ??????????. I would be most grateful for any advise or guidance by some-one kind enough to point me in the right direction, for instance would he have been employed by a U.K. company, than sent to INDIA, I await for a reply, thank you. redbert !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! G/Dad NAME: THOMAS POSSER G/Mum NAME: Margaret WILTON-KING
Hi there - this is a v late reply and you many have found this potentially useful site but just in case - here it is - a (found by Googling 'who employed pilots on river hooghly calcutta?) - http://riverpilots.webs.com/hooghlypilots.htm
Hope this helps - you might try contacting them. Cheers... Jon
PS I've been up the R Hooghly in a merchant ship - 'Firbank' of Bank Line (Andrew Weir & Son) - must have been about in the v late 60's - all the way to Calcutta (kolkata) and had to enter the inner docks with, if I remember correctly, an extra flooded caisson plus the lock gates to protect us from the infamous Googhly river bore - which is one of the longest and largest in the world (there is one in China which is larger I believe). It was quite an adventure! Good luck with your research - that website has a wealth of information.

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  #15  
Old 23rd September 2015, 12:40
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Lists of old Hooghly pilots:-
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File Type: jpg Hooghly1.jpg (209.1 KB, 51 views)
File Type: jpg Hooghly2.jpg (206.6 KB, 42 views)
File Type: jpg Hooghly3.jpg (199.4 KB, 47 views)
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Old 23rd September 2015, 17:45
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Herewith, 2 more pages from M.H. Beatties book "On The Hooghly"
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File Type: jpg Hooghly5.jpg (236.6 KB, 43 views)
File Type: jpg Hooghly6.jpg (247.0 KB, 41 views)
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Old 19th March 2016, 11:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hugh Ferguson View Post
Herewith, 2 more pages from M.H. Beatties book "On The Hooghly"
If anyone is interested I've got the whole book on disc in .pdf format. If you're interested in such things ( as I am) it's well worth reading.
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Old 19th March 2016, 12:16
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I'm interested!

About 25 years ago I had the opportunity to read that book, it belonged to a since departed friend.

At the time I was sailing with an Indian master... he was rather taken with one passage...and I paraphrase here... ' There may be someone in the subcontinent that can do this work but I doubt it'.

Author was also very disparaging about the 'dock pilots' whose job it was to get the ships ready for sea.. ie ...in the stream and pointing down river..... They were very much lesser mortals...

A bonzer read ...
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Old 7th September 2016, 19:58
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I'm interested!

About 25 years ago I had the opportunity to read that book, it belonged to a since departed friend.

At the time I was sailing with an Indian master... he was rather taken with one passage...and I paraphrase here... ' There may be someone in the subcontinent that can do this work but I doubt it'.

Author was also very disparaging about the 'dock pilots' whose job it was to get the ships ready for sea.. ie ...in the stream and pointing down river..... They were very much lesser mortals...

A bonzer read ...
The 'dock pilots' were known as Harbour Masters and here's what Malcolm Beattie had to say about them:-

"......
CHAPTER X I I I
The Harbour Masters and their work—Rocco the Maltese—His skill—Harvey the West Indian—His star turn—Short life of Harbour Masters.

I have made mention several times of the Harbour Masters to whom the pilot handed over his vessel on arrival at Garden Reach, or from whom he took over charge when leaving to go down the river. These men were specialists and wonderfully expert at their job. I propose to devote this chapter to an account of the work of the Harbour Masters.
Of all the people who travel by sea, how many give a thought to the men who handle the vessels in port ? They realise to some extent the work of the captain. They know that by his skilful navigation the ship is conducted from one part of the globe to another, that it is owing to his care that she avoids rocks, ice, or collision with other craft, that his knowledge of the law of storms will enable her 1 o escape the danger zone of a typhoon, that the comfoit of all on board, as well as their safety, will depend in a great measure on the way in which he commands his vessel.
But the voyage over, and the landfall successfully made, he hands over the navigation of the ship to another man who possesses special knowledge of the channels and local conditions of tide or current—the Pilot. On the Hooghly the pilot in his turn hands the vessel over to the Harbour Master on arriving at Garden Reach. The passengers, if any are carried, are naturally too busy collecting their belongings and dealing with the Customs officials to notice the delicate precision with which the artist who is now in charge ol the proceedings will wend his way between buoys, or between other vessels, lay his craft alongside a jetty, or take her through a dock which is almost a tight fit, without rubbing any of her paint off. Such skill is not acquired easily, or in a day ; but given natural aptitude and nerve to start with, continual practice at the same work day after day will develop a nicety of judgment and a correctness of eye little short of miraculous to the spectator who is competent to appreciate it.
In the Port of Calcutta the shipping was handled without any aid from tug-boats, the only motive power in the case of sailing vessels being the tide and the muscles of the crew. The pilot of an inward-bound ship in tow would time it to arrive in Garden Reach with the ebb just making down. The Harbour Master would come off in his heavy, red- painted boat, decked over, and with a cabin for shelter. It was manned by a sturdy-looking crew of boatmen. Having relieved the pilot, he would continue to tow up until he was abreast of the tier of shipping which the newcomer was to join. The tug was then cast off, and the anchor dropped under foot; a line would be run to a buoy ahead, and the vessel sheered over until she was above the berth which she was to occupy, when she would be dropped down with the tide into position between the mooring buoys and held there with lines until, with the help of the ' heave-up ' boat, the cables would be shackled to the buoys, two ahead and two astern.
There she would remain until discharged, reloaded, and ready for sea again, when the Harbour Master would reappear to unmoor her, drop her into the opening below, sheer her out into the stream, and drop her down to Garden Reach as described in my account of the Knight of the Thistle.
Vessels were moored head downstream at the beginning of the south-west monsoon, when the flood tide during perigee springs came in with a bore, or tidal wave, which might reach a height of seven feet. It was safer for the ship to meet such a wave bows on.
Steamers on arrival would proceed up to the jetties and be placed alongside one of them if there was a vacancy. If not, they would be placed in the moorings off the jetties and await their turn to go alongside. On leaving, the Harbour Master would take them out into the stream, and back them stern first down to Garden Reach.
In 1878 the men who were most highly considered were Day, Rocco and Lockhart, and of these the one I admired most was Rocco. He was a Maltese, a small man with grey whiskers, who looked about fifty years of age. He always spoke very quietly and very slowly, and I could not imagine him showing emotion under any circumstances. To watch him extract a large steamer—as steamers went in those days—from alongside the jetty, take her through the moorings, and back her down past the shipping, always
at the right angle and in the right position, until with a minimum expenditure of energy and no waste of time she arrived at Garden Reach, was an object lesson in efficiency. But he would brook no interference, and resented criticism from the ignorant.
Once when backing down a large passenger steamer, leaning over the bridge rail, thoughtfully watching a moor- ing buoy under his stern, which looked as though it must inevitably be struck and sunk by the vessel, but which he
knew, from his knowledge of the set of the tide at that particular spot, would as a matter of fact pass alongside some two or three yards away, the captain foolishly remarked, " You will be on top of that buoy if you don't look out." Rocco softly replied in his usual drawl. " Do you think so,-Captain? Oh, no," and to show what he could do, proceeded to turn the steamer round head down. He then turned her head up again, and again repeated the manoeuvre, although the channel was very little wider than the length of the vessel.
The Harbour Masters were of ail nationalities. Besides Rocco the Maltese there were Schneider, a Dutchman, Matthieson, a Swede or Dane, and Harvey, a West Indian, and when it came to handling a sailing vessel the majority of the skippers would have given the palm to Harvey. His star turn without a doubt was when he took over charge in Garden Reach of a laden barque, which had been sailed up by the pilot from Saugor. The ebb was just making down and Harvey proceeded to sail her up to the moorings off Prinseps Ghat where she was to be berthed. Instead of merely taking in and furling sail, he sent the men aloft to cut them adrift and send them down as they were taken in, starting with the mainsail and topgallant sails, and then did the same with the upper topsails, sailing up under the lower topsails and foresail until he was abreast of the opening below the berth which he was making for. He then steered across the tide to the berth and sailed her up into it, cutting the remaining sails away as required to reduce her speed, and as the lower forctopsail came down on deck she was in position to run the lines to the buoys and make fast, and all
this without any unnecessary fuss or noise. He was a spare-built man, slightly above the middle height, dark- complexioned, and with very blue eyes.
The life of the Harbour Master was a strenuous one, much of the work being done at night. They seemed to wear out very quickly, and few of them made old bones. They had not the advantage which we enjoyed of spending most of our time at sea in fresh air. During my service I saw many good men drop out and fresh men join. The general standard of work was always at a high level.
Conditions are different now. Sailing vessels are no more and the work is all steam. The steamers are larger, and presumably will keep on getting larger still, but I have not the least doubt that the Harbour Masters of the present day are just as expert as they ever were, owing to the constant practice which makes perfection.

....."


And here's what he had to say about the 'Indianisation' of the Pilot Service:-

"....It would be absurd to suppose that among the three hundred million inhabitants of Hindustan there are not thousands who would make excellent Hooghly pilots. I had the good fortune during the War to spend eighteen months in France with Pathans and Punjabis who had been recruited for the Indian Labour Corps, and amongst them were men who would have made excellent sailor- men...."

Mr Beattie seems to have been a very fair minded man and not at all prejudiced.
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Old 27th October 2016, 22:51
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If anyone is interested I've got the whole book on disc in .pdf format. If you're interested in such things ( as I am) it's well worth reading.
Good evening, I've just come across this thread having recently returned to the site after a fairly lengthy absence. Can you please tell me how to get a software copy of Beattie's "On the Hooghly"? a fascinating subject and I'd like to know a lot more. Abebooks et al are only able to provide a reprint with no guarantee of it being the complete text.

Kind regards,
Geoff English.
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