I took over Forres from 1957- 1961 after serving seven years as an SD on Pita Ratmalie, Haputale. During that time I had come to two conclusions about labour troubles: I. That a lot of petty troubles arose from the more intelligent labourers being bored and 2. that the old pre-war P Ds hadn't paid a lot of attention to Hindu culture. As an example of the second, Pita Ratmalie Upper Division had a bad reputation for pruning strikes. One day a pruner suggested to me that it was inevitable as we always started pruning on a Monday* which was an inauspicious day so that you had a self-fulfilling prophecy. A couple of years later I managed to get the P D to agree to let the Temple set the day for starting – no more trouble – another self-fulfilling prophecy.
The timing of my Forres take-over provided ideal ground for trying out the first of my theories. I took over from Tim Gordon who had taken over from Roger Price (now both dead). Roger, in particular, had had a very difficult time with serious indiscipline that had resulted in a number of dismissal cases going to the Hatton court, plus some nasty inter-union rivalry. Tim, with his superb Tamil (he also wrote it) had managed to calm the place down but the labour force was emotionally exhausted and was down to one union, led by an intelligent thalaivar who was prepared to discuss things with the P D. My earlier, half-hearted attempts as an S.D. to find some suitable diversions had all run into trouble – not least because any sign of going along with management was immediately picked on by some rival union. Here that problem did not exist and some thoughts were emerging before I went on overseas leave in 1958.
Forres was always a very happy place for me. I got married on that leave and came back with Jackie as my wife to our first married home and the place from which our first son, Paul, was born. While in England, I had thought about Scouts and when I came back contacted Scouting Ceylon who willingly cooperated in setting up what I was led to believe was the first estate Scout troop post-war. To my delight several of the brightest young men joined and Jackie and I had the privilege of inspecting their inaugural parade with the Scouts dressed in their new uniforms. Another exciting development that I had nothing to do with was a stage show put on by the labourers. Jackie and I attended the first performance. The rapid fire Tamil was way beyond my comprehension ability but I rather deduced from side-long glances that some of the laughter may have been from jokes that had me as the butt!
I also brought with me the practice of getting the temple to set the starting dates for major works like pruning and spent some time practising how to split a coconut with the back of a pruning knife so that I could take an active part in the pre-pruning ceremony, involving coconut splitting and throwing limes to the four cardinal points, before the first branch was cut.
They were good days and I left with great regret to takeover Glenlyon in the Agras.
Of the many happy memories of the Club, one is outstanding – the so-called “Bee Wedding”.
Richard Lancaster, at the time, I think, an S.D. on Scarborough, had chosen the Club for his wedding Reception and we all gathered there around 4.00 pm on the day after the church ceremony. All was going very well, inside and outside the clubrooms, when someone deliberately destroyed a wild bee nest hanging on a nearby tree. Paul had been born then and Jackie had gone to the Ladies to feed him. When she came back, the place was transformed – all doors and windows closed, some people nursing stings and everyone very enthusiastically going around the clubrooms with whatever could be used as a swat, hunting for bees. Order was eventually restored and the party resumed. There was, however, one other incident. As the party was starting to break up, Donald “Black Mac” McRae (A notable rugby player and later Ceylon Manager of Scottish Tea and Lands) left early as he had a long way to drive. However, in some unexplained and uninvestigated manner his little car ended upside down in a nearby culvert. Black Mac was uninjured and managed to get out but was worried as the headlights were still on. He could not get back in to turn them off but did manage to get a hand behind the dashboard and was able to pull out all the wires, thus turning off the lights to save the battery!
A memorable wedding indeed.
* I don't know why Monday was regarded as inauspicious to Hindus as the concept of Monday starting a working week after the Sabbath was a relatively recent (3-4 centuries) European overlay of Indian culture. Does anyone know?
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