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05 July 2023

Fun Fact – Apcar & Co

 Apcar & Co flag[1]


Apcar & Co., famous for their ships and coal concerns, weren’t very imaginative when it came to naming their vessels.  Several names were duplicated, one of which was ‘Catherine’.


There were three vessels named ‘Catherine Apcar’. The name, of course, is a nod of affection to A.G. Apcar’s wife, Catherine nee Thomas, whom he married in Bombay in 1813.


1st. Catherine Apcar

Catherine Apcar manifest dated 3 March 1849, bags of rice for Mauritius.[2]

Built by master ship-builder, Charles Christopher Poney Gueizelar of Cochin and launched in March 1848. It was 730 tons and made entirely from Malabar Teak to the highest standard and without much consideration to cost. She carried cargoes between India, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Canton. However, in January 1861, whilst sailing from Moulmein to Calcutta and under tow from the steam tug ‘Salween’, she unceremoniously ran aground on a sand bar in the Moulmein River carrying a cargo of teak.  The vessel was wrecked, but the cargo was saved. [3] It had been in service for only 13 years.


Pausing here for a moment, to reflect on the master ship-builder Gueizelar. He was a favoured craftsman of Persian and Arab merchants, yet little is known of him. He was an exceptionally highly skilled man, his vessels were nothing short of works of art.  An undervalued and overlooked ship-builder, he passed his talents onto his sons, who also became master marine craftsmen in their own right. One wonders why Aratoon Apcar chose him to create the ‘Catherine’. Perhaps he had already observed the ships made by Gueizelar sailing between Persia and India and their quality of workmanship and the strength of the teak used, and saw how they sailed fair in the conditions. Or maybe he was simply cheaper than the British ship-builders, and materials used were all local and the process quicker. Whatever the case, Gueizelar’s name should be more well known than it is; merchants and their super-cargoes were indebted to his skills.


Walton Walter Robert’s Facebook page helpfully refers to his 2 x great grandfather, Gueizelar:

My great, great grandfather, C.C. Poney Gueizelar, was a captain who landed in Vypeen and settled there. A Swiss-German, he built a shipyard in Vypeen and employed local people. He was a benefactor of Our Lady of Hope Church, Vypeen, and donated land for the cemetery and other land, too. So, he was bestowed the privilege of being buried near the altar on the right in the Church. A close friend of the Maharaja, I believe, was Kerala Varma III. According to the Madras Hurkarrah dated 26 January 1836: A vessel of 500 tons is being built for a Muscat merchant and 5 smaller ones for the Arabs, whilst a pretty large one made for the Bhavnagar Raja is now ready for the sea - all very cheap and durable - a 500-ton costing between 60,000 and 70,000 rupees and Mr Poney Gueizelar is the chief, if not the only builder."

Richard Gueizelar, son of C.C., built Fatteeh Sawad, an 870-ton ship, in 1864. It was decorated like a bride and a bottle of costly attar (Muslim perfume) was smashed on the hull. C.C.'s ships took part in the Crimean war for Britain. His shipyard was where Puncho Paynter resided. C.C. is fondly remembered in K. L. Bernard's Flashes of Fort Cochin. Vale Poney Gueizelar.”[4]

 With thanks and full acknowledgement to Walton Walter Raberts for this description.

 2nd. Catherine Apcar

Built and launched in April 1865 at Low Walker, Tyne and Wear, England.  It was an iron screw steamer made by Messrs. J. Wigham Richardson and Co, weighing just over 1000 tons.  She measured 240 feet in length; her beam was 33 feet and her depth was 18 feet. The engines were made by the Spring Garden Works and were 160 horse power.  She was fitted with a double bottom for water ballast, and two steam cranes.  There was passenger accommodation which included baths and jalousie blinds. Her fate was sealed when, in August 1871, she struck another vessel, just off the coast of Grimsby, and was sunk.  The reports suggest the cause was her fault. [5]

 3rd. Catherine Apcar

3rd vessel named Catherine Apcar circ 1900.[6]

Build in Scotland by Messrs D & W Henderson of meadowside, it was launched on the 26th April 1892 the third generation of Catherine Apcar was a steel screw steamer weighing in at 2850 tons and cost approximately £54,000 to build.  She was sold in 1912 to the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd. Two years later, that company was taken over by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The Catherine Apcar served as an Indian Expeditionary Force transport in WW1. In 1922 she was sold to Shiroto Kenshiro of Tarumi and renamed to Kumamoto Maru. In 1926 she was sold again this time to Syarashi Yokichi and was broken up in 1929.[7]


© Liz chater July 2023

[1][1] House Flags of Indian Shipping Companies

[2] Liz Chater’s private archive

[3] Times of India

[4] Walton Walter Raberts

[5] Times of India


[7] P&O Heritage

20 February 2023

Carr Lazarus Phillipps:

His Wife

Her Life

His Journey


Elizabeth Burrows, originally from London, was born in 1876 in Notting Hill.[1] One of eight children, her mother and father, William and Jessie Burrows, were both London cab proprietors and drivers (horse and carriage, not motor cars). Their earnings were meagre, the family lived hand-to-mouth. In 1891 Elizabeth, aged 15  and her elder sister Jessie aged 23, were domestic servants in London, Jessie was a cook and Elizabeth a housemaid. Both worked together in Fairfax Terrace, Putney.[2]

Elizabeth’s sister, Jessie had married in September 1897[3] to George Washington Rackstraw in Fulham, within a year their first child was born, they called her Vera Rackstraw.

Although there had been a number of arguments with her sister Jessie, it wasn’t long before Elizabeth took the bold step of sailing to India with a view to improving her financial situation as well as putting some much need space between her and her sister. Elizabeth also naturally wanted to try and help her family financially. Perhaps  because she’d heard that there was a  ratio of more men than women out there, Elizabeth understood the value of such an adventure. She went looking for a husband. Not an uncommon thing for some women to do, this was called the fishing fleet of colonial India. Thousands of women made the journey, many of them were successful in their mission.

Image courtesy of Zenon Moucessian

Forty years of age, Carr Lazarus Phillipps walked into the Bristol Hotel in Calcutta and met a 24 year old barmaid.  


Image: The Bristol Hotel, Calcutta. Wikimedia Commons[4]

Her name was Elizabeth Burrows. He became acquainted with her very quickly and it was only after knowing her for only 3 or 4 months that he proposed.  After their engagement, and to be publicly seen to be doing the respectable thing, Carr paid for her to be a resident boarder at the very hotel she had worked as a barmaid, she received an allowance from him of 85 Rupees a month with board and lodging during her stay at the Bristol Hotel. She had fished, and hooked a man of potential.

They were married at the Armenian Church in Calcutta on the 4th September 1900. Their witnesses were J.C. Galstaun (a doyen of Armenians in Calcutta) and C.M. Carapiet a fellow railway contractor[5].  Following the marriage, Carr and Elizabeth went to live at Carr’s coal colliery in Kusunda near Dhanbad, about 175 miles from Calcutta.  She had literally gone from the pits of London to the pits in India; but her prospects and stars were very much on the rise. Her transformation into one of societies ladies was rapid, she quickly became a fashionista, her clothes were made by the finest dressmakers with some of the best silks available; her custom was sought-after, she and Carr lived a very comfortable life.  He had not been overly well off when they first married, although he was in a far better position financially than her own family in London. His hard work in the coalfields meant that his modest living standards in Calcutta were firmly behind him as the success of his coal business flourished at a rapid pace.

Eighteen months after the wedding in Calcutta, Carr and Elizabeth sailed to England to visit her family.  Departing from Bombay in April 1902, they travelled on board the Victoria. Having spent 5 months in England, they returned to India in September of that year. Travelling with them was one of Elizabeth’s sisters, probably Fanny, and also a maid/servant for Elizabeth.

They spent four years living at the Kusunda colliery before Carr decided in 1904, he would make the move back to Calcutta and find a home to settle in with Elizabeth.  They settle at 4 Alipore Lane, and in the meantime, he was not only supporting Elizabeth, he was also regularly sending money back to London to support her parents and siblings. Had it not been for his intervention, her family would have had to consider workhouse options – there may have been no alternative. Carr ensured that did not happen, and her father, William, no longer had to drive cabs.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s sister Jessie and her husband George Rackstraw even included the name Carr for one of their children. George Carr Lewis Rackstraw was born in London on 4th April 1901[6], but unfortunately he passed away just a few months later.

In 1902 Jessie and George had another child called Beryl; in 1904 another daughter, Bertha came along; in 1906 a third daughter, Margaret Fanny was born and finally in 1911 a son, George Henry Rackstraw. Jessie and George were finding it difficult to look after all the children and so it was decided that Carr and Elizabeth would adopt young Bertha Rackstraw and bring her up in Calcutta. 

Bertha Rackstraw, briefly became known by the surname Phillipps, then reverted to Rackstraw. Taken in 1909.

Jessie travelled to Calcutta around 1907 with Bertha, accompanied by Jessie’s youngest brother, Robert Burrows.   The experience of the journey, coupled with the complete change of lifestyle in India, can only make one wonder at their reactions on their arrival. They were all staying with Carr and Elizabeth at the house he had purchased, 4 Alipore Lane, but he was already planning on building a bigger, more elegant home so all her family could live with them.

Around 1907 when Carr had resettled in Calcutta, he and Elizabeth and another of her visiting sisters from England called Fanny Burrows, all took a trip to Darjeeling  during the Pooja where they were introduced to Joseph Arnowitz, a solicitor based in Calcutta. He had been widowed in July 1906, when his dear wife, an Armenian named Helen nee Arratoon, had died of cardiac failure at their family home, 12 Lindsay Street.  



Simple family tree chart showing the connections between Phillipps, Burrows, Rackstraw and Arnowitz/Arnott

Arnowitz And The Armenian Connection

Extraordinary things happened in India, and the young 22 year old solicitor’s assistant, Joseph Arnowitz married the 44 year old widow Helen in May 1893.  Helen and Joseph had no children of their own, he was technically step-father to her children with her late husband, but they were all well into their respective adulthood, so any parental responsibilities were extremely minimal. Helen had had eight children during her first marriage to fellow Armenian, Hovannes Catchatoor Owen.   Hovannes had been a Chief Interpreter of the High Court in Calcutta, but he had died in February 1891 of what one can only imagine to be the most painful of deaths; gangrene of the scrotum.[7] 

Joseph Arnowitz would unwittingly, go on to play a pivotal role in the breakdown and downfall of the marriage between Carr and Elizabeth.

In 1907 on returning from Darjeeling, where Carr and Joseph had become friends, Joseph received an invitation to Carr and Elizabeth’s home in Alipore Lane. They were reciprocally invited by Joseph on a couple of river picnics. The boats were owned by Joseph’s long-time friend, George Batho, and it was on one of these picnics that Batho paid too much attention to Elizabeth. Carr was furious, and incandescent with jealousy. He remonstrated with Elizabeth, telling her to behave properly and not chat and giggle with bachelor George.  The next large group social occasion they all met was on Christmas day in 1907 at Carr’s house.  There, Joseph announced his engagement to Fanny Burrows, Elizabeth’s sister. A just cause for celebration, the champagne was brought out, and much merriment and congratulations took place, including congratulatory kisses amongst everyone.  Jealous Carr was extremely unhappy with all the familiarity, and particularly as Batho had kissed Elizabeth, even though he had asked permission of Carr, who politely said yes, but was seething that Batho had done so. After this incident Elizabeth, giddy from the flirtatious attentions of Batho, conducted a secret and torrid liaison with him for nearly two years, culminating in her being accused of adultery and she subsequently admitting it. 

During the down-swing of Carr’s marriage, Joseph Arnowitz was at the other end of the scale.  He married Elizabeth’s sister, Fanny on the 22nd February 1908 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta. Witnesses were C.W. Foley and Carr Phillipps. Exactly nine months later, Joseph’s first child was born. Betty Arnowitz arrived on the 24th November 1908, she was baptised on 13th February 1909 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Although Carr’s marriage faltered over a period of a couple of years, he had sincerely hoped things would turn around. Despite these uncertain circumstances, and forever the optimist,  in May 1909 he continued to build the dream family home at 38 Theatre Road.  It was never to be a happy place for him whilst married to Elizabeth.  By June 1909 Carr had instigated a Deed of Separation, due to her unacceptable behaviour. Even when Carr removed Elizabeth and little Bertha from the house in Alipore Lane, Elizabeth continued to see Batho for long periods of time. Sometimes in rooms he had taken or on river boats where their closeness was witnessed by servants.  Those same servants, and others, including the landlords of Batho’s rooms; the hotel staff at Spencers Hotel where Elizabeth was staying, and other individuals, such as Joseph Arnowitz  were brought to Court by Carr Phillipps as part of his divorce case against his wife.  It was a testing and a highly charged emotional time.  Carr had to withstand the indignation and embarrassment of having his entire married life scrutinised in court; re-living the ultimate betrayal of Elizabeth and listen to witness after witness giving evidence of her indiscretions.

Carr had also received an anonymous letter giving details of Elizabeth’s trists with Batho. During the course of the divorce hearing it was stated that Carr had confronted Elizabeth with the letter and an argument ensued. She said she wanted to see friends, go out without him, that she had made a mistake marrying him, wanted her freedom, she had passions and that Batho could give her as good a home as Carr.  Elizabeth wanted to go and live in England, away and apart from Carr, but wanted him to make her an allowance.  He disagreed.

It was stated that in the  two year period of marital uncertainty Elizabeth had left Carr and returned to England and her family, and then she went back to India to fight the case.  A few months later, after Carr had had a change of heart and forgiven her; he had hoped that life could return to “normal”. But it was not to be, and Elizabeth continued to see Batho at every opportunity she could, regularly meeting in secret.  A number of servants testified they had witnessed the meetings, one testimony of a servant included reference to her own brother, Robert, who had also witnessed his sister meeting Batho, but failing to tell Carr.  In May 1909 it was reported that Elizabeth had undergone an operation, the implication being that she had an abortion, although this was never clearly stated during the Court proceedings, only lightly touched on. Carr hired private detectives to follow her both in India and later in England. On receiving the necessary, but extremely upsetting proof, he once again banished her from the family home, giving her only 20 minutes to leave for good.  This was the 31 May 1909 and although it was no doubt a very difficult time for Carr, one’s thoughts turn to the innocent Bertha, whose life was turned upside-down because of Elizabeth’s actions.

In pain, exasperation and defeat, Phillipps wrote in a letter to Elizabeth: “I have raised you from the gutter and from the depths of degradation and made a queen of you, and this is how you repay me. May God curse you.”

The judge in the case agreed that Elizabeth had indeed committed adultery on numerous occasions with Batho and awarded Carr the divorce he applied for.  The judge also made Batho pay the legal costs of the case to Carr, which amounted to the staggering sum of £7,500 the equivalent today of around £800,000.

Even though Batho professed his love for Elizabeth and promised her the earth and world during their long affair, he did not follow through and they did not marry, as she had thought they might.  Carr removed all financial help he had put in place for Elizabeth’s family back in London, including assistance  to her father William Burrows who had spent the 10 years that Elizabeth was married to Carr not having to work or worry about money.  That avenue of help was well and truly closed. Carr appears to have been a little more lenient when it came to Bertha; she can be found in the 1911 census still using the surname Phillipps  and attending Addiscombe College in Sussex as a 6 year old pupil. With her at that school is her older sister Vera Rackstraw aged 12, I would think it very unlikely that Elizabeth would have been able to afford the education of two children,  Carr is likely to have paid for their education there.

Elizabeth and Carr’s divorce became final and dissolved with a decree absolute being issued in September 1911. Elizabeth had long ago realised, but alas too late, that she had bitten the hand that fed her, and gamely launched an appeal against the divorce, hoping to somehow reverse the decision, but it was in vain, and in February 1912 she and her legal team quietly withdrew the appeal.

Life changed enormously for all the Burrows clan. William’s wife, Jessie had died in 1907. By 1911 William was living with another of his daughters, Annie Jane who was married to florist, William Henry Grove and their two children.   By 1915, at the age of 70, William Burrows had taken on the license as publican at the Five Bells, St. Mary Cray, Kent. Assisted by his son Robert, (who had been out in India with Elizabeth and Fanny), Robert was now married to Margaret and had 3 children of his own. The family had moved away from cab driving (a dying industry at the time, because of the popularity and development of the London tube network) and changed course to ale houses. William Burrows died at the aged of 86 in 1932 at the Five Bells pub he ran with Robert.  After the death of his father, Robert took over the license and continued it under his own name. Sadly, Robert died suddenly in 1935, all his siblings, (including Elizabeth) their respective husbands and wives as well as their children attended the funeral. Life had not been easy or kind to William and made worse by the poor judgment and decisions of Elizabeth.

Although she was probably still reeling from the public and humiliating stinging she received in the High Court in Calcutta during her prominent divorce hearing, by December 1915 Elizabeth had met and married another gentleman in Barnes, Surrey. The wedding was at Richmond Registry Office. He was Glasgow born John Thomson, a bank official with the Guaranty Trust Company of New York, based in London. John was 28 years of age, but Elizabeth, who was clearly thinking on her feet, stated she was 32 years of age, when in fact she was 39. Where the old marriage was ended on a lie, the new marriage was started on one. Quite curiously the marriage record states she was known as “Betty Vernon Phillipps” but it also does clearly say “the divorced wife of Carr Lazarus Phillipps”. She was not baptised with the middle name “Vernon”, so it’s a mystery as to why she inserted that into her name string.

Remarkably, at the age of 41, Elizabeth had a child with John in 1918. Robert William Thomson was born in East Sheen, Surrey.  Elizabeth, John and baby Robert lived briefly in Kent, but by 1923 the family had purchased 61 Castelnau, Barnes, Surrey which would become their family home.

Elizabeth’s life was quintessentially English compared to the chaotic one she had in India.  Rehabilitating herself into a more settled, normal married life, she regularly held whist and bridge drives at her home Castelnau in aid of the Children’s Holiday Fund organised by the London branch of the British Legion.  It would seem that she was also a canny property owner; her will reveals she  was the owner of the family home at 61 Castelnau and in addition, she rented out a second property of hers in Grosvenor Gardens, East Sheen. She died in the West London Hospital on 7th September 1962.These properties and her residue estate were left to her husband and her son. She did, however, leave legacies to her niece Betty Reason (daughter of Joseph and Fanny Arnott, previously Arnowitz); her sisters Annie Jane Grove and Louie Silken; other family mentioned in the will were nieces Betty Reason, Doris Dolan (daughter of Annie Jane nee Burrows), Vera Rackstraw (daughter of Jessie Ann nee Burrows), Jessie Burrows and Margaret Burrows.


The back of the photo showing the date Carr received the image 9th April 1911, and in pencil, presumably the date it was taken; 22.8.09. Images courtesy of Zenon Moucessian’s family archive

As far as Bertha, her adopted daughter who was also her niece, is concerned, what we have here is simply quite astonishing. This photograph, an image of beautiful young Bertha was sent to Carr, probably by Elizabeth, in 1911, and has survived all this time as an unidentified child in the photographs inherited by Carr’s family in the USA.  I was able to identify it, because it came with another photo of Bertha as an young woman and I was able to compare it to one I had seen previously of Bertha taken around the time she married.  I am truly grateful to Zenon Moucessian for sharing his family archive and papers with me, and for his enduring patience, while I ask endless questions over email[i]!

By 1921, Bertha had returned to her mother’s (Jessie Rackstraw) home; a pub called The Limes in Maidenhead. She had also reverted to her birth name of Rackstraw, abandoning the adopted name of Phillipps. By 1924 Bertha had married Frederick John Adams and they were living in South West England. Sadly, Bertha died in 1927, aged 23 years, in Devon.

The instigator of Carr Phillipps’s marriage woes, Joseph Arnowitz had moved his wife Fanny (Elizabeth’s sister) and children to England.  Not far from Elizabeth, Fanny rented a property in East Sheen on the 20th December 1915 for an agreed period of three years.  However, Fanny went over that agreed timeline.  The landlord served her a notice to quit in September 1919, but Fanny dug her heels in and refused to move.  In court, the landlord stated his case, saying he and his wife and 5 children wanted to move into the property but were being prevented by Mrs. Arnowitz. Fanny didn’t actually appear in Court herself, she was in Calcutta, her solicitor represented her and said that she had gone to India with one of her children, leaving the other two behind in the care of a sister, Mrs. Louisa Zilken who was living in the house. The judge felt that the sister caring for the remaining children should not be moved on and they should continue to be safely housed whilst Fanny was abroad.

Joseph Arnowitz, later known as Arnott.
Image: Full acknowledgement to and courtesy of a MyHeritage public family tree of Richard F. Maidment

Joseph and the family eventually settled in Upper Richmond Road, East Sheen and by November 1931 he had officially applied for a change of name by Deed Poll. He and his family were to be known as Arnott instead of Arnowitz.

Fanny Arnowitz later known as Arnott nee Burrows, sister of Elizabeth.
Image: Full acknowledgement to and courtesy of a MyHeritage public family tree of Richard F. Maidment

Fanny died at the Nettlesworth Nursing Home in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex on 21st February 1949, her husband, Joseph Arnott, was executor of her estate. Joseph passed away on the 30th June 1952 at Putney Hospital, London.  David George Jackson, husband of daughter Joan, was executor of his estate.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and John Thomson remained at their home Castelnau. Their son Robert had married in February 1940 to Joan Palmer, the newly weds set up home at the rented house belonging to his mother Elizabeth in Grosvenor Gardens.  It was a very short lived  marriage, Robert went abroad in 1943 and before going, it was noted in the divorce proceedings that “he had trouble with his wife over men”. On returning to England in January 1945, he discovered Joan’s adultery with an American army officer who was also living in Barnes, Robert filed for divorce which was granted in 1946, there were no children. He went on to marry Beatrice Firth later in 1946. They lived briefly in New Zealand for a couple of years in the early 1950s, and in the 1960s moved to New York with their two children. Robert and Beatrice became naturalised American citizens in April 1966 and Robert passed away in December 1987 in New Jersey. Beatrice died a few years ago.

Elizabeth’s 2nd husband, John Thomson, passed away at the family home, 61 Castelnau on the 16th August 1966 of a perforated colon due to a carcinoma of the rectum. Son, Robert was the informant on the death certificate.

With his painful and acutely embarrassing divorce behind him, Carr Lazarus Phillipps continued to live and thrive in Calcutta. In 1911 he was one of three overseeing managers of the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy, J.C.Galstaun and P.H. Crete being the other two and all were family inter-linked to each other.  In 1919 he was excited at the thought of building a new school in the Indian hills for Armenian  and Anglo-Indian children.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago, you can see the blog story on this link

The house that Carr Phillipps built, at enormous personal expense, to enable his [ex]wife and her large family from London to live with them in Calcutta, held a host of unpleasant memories for him. 38 Theatre Road, Calcutta, remained his home for a number of years, accommodating visiting family from Julfa on occasions, as well as generously offering it and the grounds for community events, it was a bitter-sweet place in his life. 

In 1914, Carr held the wedding reception of his niece, Margaret Galoostian at 38 Theatre Road, although the invitations were in the names of Mr. & Mrs. Phillipps, I think adding “Mrs.” was more for formality than reality, the wedding photograph does not include Mrs. Phillipps. Witnesses at the wedding of Margaret and Movcesse Movcessian were G.A. Phillipps (Carr’s nephew) and Valarshak Galoostian, a teacher at the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy who was also the bride’s brother.

A note on Valarshak Galoostian.  At 16, he had been a student at the Armenian College in 1901. his “parent/guardian” was noted as Carr Lazarus Phillips, meaning he fully funded and sponsored his schooling.[8] Prior to the Armenian College Valarshak had been educated at St. Xavier’s School, Calcutta. I estimate that period would be from 1891-1901.  An incident in 1907 was to see his abrupt departure from Calcutta. He (apparently) should have prepared a eulogy for a recently deceased Armenian College school manager, but at the graveside he failed to do so. He was heavily criticised and dismissed for his apparent deliberate snub. This was around  the time Archbishop Avazdian was on a pastoral visit to Calcutta. He invited Valarshak to teach at the Central School in Julfa which he did for several years. Returning again to Calcutta to teach at the Armenian College between 1911 and 1919. Three of his children were born in Calcutta and Carr Phillipps was listed as a Godfather to the youngest, Carine Galoostian who was born in 1918. In 1919 Valashak became very sick, took six months leave and went to Japan with his family. On the advice of Carr Phillips, from there he migrated to California, it was Carr Phillipps’s name and address that was used by them as next of kin on the passenger list.

38 Theatre Road, the palatial home of Carr Phillipps.

It was even a port-in-a-storm for a visiting actress and her daughter in August 1920[9], when recently widowed Georgie Devoe and her daughter Charlotte toured India. During their time in Calcutta, Carr extended accommodation to them at his home at Theatre Road.[10] This was probably one of the last pieces of hospitality offered by Carr at this property, because by September 1920 Babu Keshoram Poddar, a local millionaire, had purchased it.  Poddar donated the use of the house to visiting President-elect Lala Lajput Rai, which allowed him and his entourage to stay during the Congress week.[11]

Throughout his life, kindness, generosity and great care and consideration was how he appears to have conducted himself. The phrase ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’  could easily refer to Carr; for someone so successful in his business life, he was an utter shambles in his personal life. His intentions were good, but his judgements were poor.

It wasn’t long before the wheels came off  in his commercial world.  As a true gentleman, he readily agreed to stand as one of three sureties in the case of Robert Church. In 1923 Church was accused of “illegal gratification and cheating” and his bail was set extremely high. Three Armenians; J.N. Apcar, J.C. Galstaun and Carr Phillipps each agreed to stand Rs50,000 each to help him out.  Church was a former mining engineer for the Railway Board in India. In the 1920s he found himself being extradited from England to India to answer charges  of contract fixing and bribery of coal deals and falsely inflating prices so he could make personal gain other than his normal wages. Apcar, Galstaun and Phillipps would have had regular dealings with Church as they all supplied coal for the railways from their respective mines.  I haven’t looked into this case in detail, but I do wonder if they were involved somehow in inflating coal prices. For the curious amongst you, this avenue would be an interesting piece of research to conduct.

It was at this time that Carr had diversified his interests. He was quick to see the interest and popularity of motor cars, having been an owner himself for over 15 years, he decided to invest.  He regularly ran advertisements in the local Calcutta newspapers, extolling the virtues of the Lancia.  Cost price Rs24,000, he was offering them at Rs12,000 each. If you bought 12 at the same time, you’d get a 10% discount. Ever the eternal optimist, I wonder if he may have mis-judged his audience, and marketing strategy a little.

Diversifying in the 1920s, the Lancia was the car of choice for Phillipps to sell. Image: Carr’s personal motor car was one he sold, the Lancia Kappa 35 HP. Courtesy of Zenon Moucessian’s family archive.

As an alternative source of potential profit, In 1927, sensing he may be able to make some money, he entered into negotiations with the Christian Burial Board and the Calcutta Corporation regarding 150 Bighas of land he owned near Golf Club Road, Tollygunge.  The Christian Burial Board were desperate for additional land for cemeteries, Carr suggested they purchase it from him for that purpose, they ended up taking 75 Bighas from him, the equivalent of nearly 47 acres, it now forms part of the current Tollygunge Cemetery, a small section of it is dedicated to Armenian burials.

Carr was immensely successful for a number of years in the coal fields around Dhanbad, but the turning point in that success was when J.C. Galstaun got into financial difficulties.  He called upon his wealthy Armenian friends and it was Carr Phillipps and Arratoon Stephen, who came to his financial rescue; Carr took a Rs40,000 mortgage and loaned Galstaun that sum. Galstaun died soon after and his estate was not in sufficient funds to repay Carr.  It appears that it was not something he publicly commented on, and stoically absorbed the debt. It was a large contributing factor to his loss of wealth. Galstaun, who, although not directly related, was familiar in Carr’s family circle. A sister of Carr’s had married Mackertich Galoostian, he being a brother of J.C. Galstaun.

During his lifetime, Carr yearned for personal happiness and fulfilment, but this seems to have eluded him, certainly during his marriage to Elizabeth. However, in a surprise move, I have discovered he married a second time in September 1920 in Berlin to a young German woman called Martha Heike.

German 1920 marriage record for Carr Phillipps and Martha Heike

I speculate she may have been in the entertainment industry, just as Georgie Devoe and her daughter Charlotte had been, and I wonder if Martha was one of the acting, singing/dancing troupe that entertained in India. I say that because Martha is on a passenger list for 1915 on the vessel St. Louis sailing from Liverpool to New York. It states she was going to visit her friend C.E. Jenkins at 2880 Broadway. This was a well-known haunt for artists, performers and theatre-wannabe’s to meet and get work. She had listed Carr as her husband which clearly, he was not.

The marriage in 1920 would have been controversial; so soon after the end of WW1, her German heritage would not have been popular in India, there was still great suspicion of German nationals.  During WW1,  Carr would have witnessed the exclusion and removal of a number of perfectly hard-working and innocent Germans from Calcutta, in almost all cases, anyone with German heritage (or married to a German national) was classed as a spy and traitor and treated poorly. So far, nothing has come to light that would indicate Martha lived in Calcutta, but I know the Moucessian family still have a lot of untapped papers to review, maybe evidence will appear in the future.  Earlier, in 1912 Carr had successfully obtained naturalisation in India as a British Subject[12]. In 1923, Carr  had officially applied for British naturalisation, and this was granted to him on the 11 June of that year in London.[13]

He passed away at his home 8/2 Alipore Park Road on the 17th April 1937 of heart failure following coronary sclerosis. He was buried the same day at the Armenian Church, Park Circus, known locally in the community as the ‘small church’.  Carr had made a very detailed will in February 1930, in which he appointed his beloved nephew Valashak Galoostian and Hyrapiet Crete (noted in the document as a “friend” but he was actually a cousin) as executors. He left very clear and precise instructions and legacies, and it is obvious he thought he had completed his last will and testimony with the utmost care and consideration as to how it was to be administered. However, he had not bargained on BOTH his executors renouncing their responsibilities to finalise the will. As soon as Valashak received the news in California of Carr’s death, he replied by telegram that he wished to decline and renounce, he offered his sister, Margaret as his replacement.

There were only a couple of legacies left by Carr. Firstly, 25,000 Rupees went to the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy in Calcutta.  Two further legacies of 1,000 Rupees each went to his nephews, Arathoon Aviet Phillipps and his brother Gregory Aviet Phillipps.  Carr also ensured that his wife Martha was to receive an allowance of £50.00 per month; a not insignificant sum.  The remainder of his entire estate was to be split between his nephew in California, Valarshak Galoostian who was to received 3/5th share and his niece, Valarshak’s sister, Margaret who was to receive 2/5th share. Initially the estate looked promisingly healthy, Margaret’s testamentary affidavit claimed the gross estate value to be Rs 1821299-3-11, but factoring in the liabilities of Carr, it quickly became clear that these far exceeded the assets.

There does not seem to be any immediate family in Calcutta either willing or able to help settle his estate. Carr’s wife, Martha was permanently living in Berlin, Germany.  His nephews, Arathoon and Gregory Phillipps[14], who had been living with  Carr and whose education at the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy had been fully funded and sponsored by Carr,[15] appear to have minor roles in the winding up of the estate.  The household sale and auction of possessions took place in April 1938, instructions for the sale were issued by Arathoon Phillipps’s solicitors, Messrs. N.C. Bural & Pyne, which is at odds with the estate solicitors appointed by Carr himself, of Orr, Dignam & Co.  In my conversations with Zenon over email, there certainly seemed to be resistance and conflict between Margaret and the two nephews in-situ in Calcutta. They pushed for the sale to take place, whilst Margaret wasn’t so keen.    Incidentally, you will notice that the entire household furniture owned by Carr had been made by J.E. Tomlin & Co.  A sideways Armenian connection here is that John Edward Tomlin, a well-known and respected cabinet maker of Calcutta, had married a young Armenian girl, Florence Isabelle Michael.  Tomlin’s own sister, Maria, had married another Armenian from Calcutta called Catchick Owen Moses. Carr, ever the Armenian patriot clearly liked to keep his Armenian connections to the fore. He lived in India all his life, his heart a long way from his homeland, but never far away from his community.

 Letters of Administration were only  granted in August 1939.

Image courtesy of Zenon Moucessian’s family archive.

The estimate of the estate value dropped to around Rs 921,000.  To add to matters, Martha had passed away in Berlin in March 1938. With the estate still not finalised, fresh Letters of Administration were granted in February 1942. Carr’s estate value had been re-adjusted again to reflect his business losses and was now valued at just Rs 29,000.

Margaret was a key part in getting the estate finalised, dedicating an enormous amount of time and effort in doing so and it is through her foresight the her family today have a rich archive of family papers that help to unravel Carr’s life.

Elizabeth and Carr could so easily have been an incredible asset to the local community through the many good works and charitable efforts Carr undertook, particularly with his commitment to Armenians in Calcutta; the potential for a modern-day power couple was within their gift. But Elizabeth was young, immature and selfish, she felt stifled in the gilded world she found herself in. Carr, for his part, appears inexperienced, and was overly possessive with a strong streak of jealousy coursing through his veins and, what seems to be, a life-abundance of naivety. Life crumbled for both of them and the fall-out from their failed marriage reached far across the oceans and changed the direction of many lives. Their adopted daughter, little Bertha Rackstraw, would have had a very different life and lifestyle had she stayed in India, Carr would no doubt have spoilt her and given her a more fortunate upbringing than that of her maternal family.

Ironically, Elizabeth settled into life in suburbia and became the respectable wife and mother Carr had always wanted her to be – she just didn’t do it with him.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott

[1] London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1923

[2] 1891 census

[3] London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932

[5] Armenian Church Marriage Register No. 555 also N11-9a-100-60

[6] London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1923

[7] N1-215-247

[8] Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy Register of Students

[11] Times of India 4 September 1920

[12] Carr Phillipps’s will

[13] National Archives, Kew

[14] They remained in India,  Arathoon died in 1970 and Gregory, who had been a member of the office staff for the Armenian Church died in 1960. Both were buried in the Armenian cemetery at Tangra.

[15] Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy Register of Students

[i] I found a family tree belonging to Zenon Moucessian on a genealogy website.  I reached out to him via the messaging system, and what has developed since then has been truly amazing.  Zenon was keen and excited to share with me his family archive containing information on Carr Phillipps, as well as other unknown information.   I would like to think I’ve helped piece a few things together and given the family an even more detailed insight into Carr’s life and marriage.  I cannot thank Zenon enough for his generosity and ceaseless patience with me and all my questions.   His family archive is a perfect example of how these long ago acquired papers can finally make sense and come to life, with a little bit of work and research.  Zenon had already done a lot himself, focusing on Carr, but my interest (initially) was with who Elizabeth Burrows was. At the time of writing this blog article, there were still many papers in Zenon’s archive to review and scan, something his family will be doing on the coming weeks and months.