Extract from Tea, Tytlers and Tribes by Beryl Mitchell (Doug's wife)
The tea planting life of Doug Mitchell
Joseph Douglas Mitchell was born on the 21st August 1925. His father was Peter Samuel Mitchell who was Superintendent of Ambalankande Estate Aranayake and his mother was Florence Cecilia Maitland. Douglas was their third child.
His siblings were -Ethel- 8 years older- and Alick 6-years older than him. P.S. Mitchell soon bought his own place nearby and called it Alickland Estate, where he built a home typical of the planters' homes of that age. I remember being amazed at the solid construction of the large old home, and then remembered my Grandfather – J.C. Tribe – had built a very similar home for his family on Matale Estate Matale in 1902!
Doug's father passed away when he was just 12 years old and his mother died 10 years later leaving him in the care of Ethel – his sister.
Doug was educated at St Anthony's College, Katugastota, and after doing his Higher School Certificate, he went to the Men's Agricultural College in Peradeniya on a 3-year course in preparation for a career in tea planting. The next step was a year's 'creeping' on Giragama Estate, Kadugannawa under Mr A. (Joe) Hermon.
With this preparation under his belt, Doug applied to Carson Cumberbatch and Co, Colombo for his first junior planting job under Mr Norman Greig on Kallebokka Group, Madulkelle.
Mr Greig – a true Scotsman of the old tradition was a very strict but fair Manager. Kallebokka ran like clockwork, and was the showpiece estate of the Madulkelle District, and Doug loved the organisation and positive workmanship Mr Greig instilled into him and his other 4 assistant superintendents’. He had a very good grounding under Mr Greig, and often quoted Norman Greig's positive assertions in relation to work ethics!
On Norman Greig's retirement, Mac Ross took his place and Doug was well versed in what was expected of a senior assistant superintendent. Kallebokka thrived under the new manager. However, there had been some undercurrent of labour unrest which was beginning to show up in many plantations at the time, and the Kallebokka factory was burnt down. This created the opportunity for a brand-new tea factory to be built, in a better position, and with Doug managing and learning all about the new factory and its improved manufacturing processes. He loved it and was often found checking things up at the most ungodly hours. Fortunately, he had married the daughter of a tea planter who understood what was required and never felt the stresses of her husband's position undermine her life. She knew what was expected of a planters’ wife, and she loved the country life just as much as he did.
Mac and his lovely wife Ann were always dependable friends and they remained so for many years after Doug moved to Bopitiya on his first Superintendents job. We were all part of the planting community and we understood how things were supposed to be done.
At Bopitiya Doug took a greater interest in the Planters' Association and was made Secretary under the Presidentship of the late Ranjan Wijeratne. He was also eminently progressive in the managing and success of the green propagation of tea plants instead of seed planting. His agricultural studies gave him a head start on vegetative propagation, and Bopitiya became his pride and joy. Doug loved his job and 1960 to 1966 at Bopitiya were very good years. His agents, Carson's acknowledged his success with the offer of 3 months overseas leave and a transfer to Marigold Estate and overlooking Mahacoodugala as well. We were sad to leave Bopitiya, but who would turn back a career upgrade?
We went on the fully paid holiday which Doug arranged with his usual assiduous detail. At the time, we had to take it as a 'pilgrimage' as that was the only way locals were allowed to leave the country.
Still keeping to the specific Sri Lankan Government requirements of the time, we had a wonderful first-time look at the outside world! lt was 1967 and on returning, we were keen to get into the tea planting routine in the Kandapola District when we received a letter from the Australian High Commission in Colombo. They were 'clearing the backlog’ and found an old application we had put in 10 years before and then forgotten. Suddenly, we were being accepted for Australia and they wanted us to make arrangements to move within one calendar year. All we had to do was send photographs of the two children we had had since first applying and proceed!
Times were changing in Sri Lanka and with the education of our children looming we had no other choice but to accept. Our lives changed forever but we made another life in Sydney – our new but permanent home.
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