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27 May 2019

Sir Paul Chater: Remembered

Today is the anniversary of the death of Sir Catchick Paul Chater. A man ahead of his time, a visionary

At the time of Sir Paul’s death, it was suggested on more than one occasion that there should be some sort of memorial or statue in remembrance of his life and contribution to the development of Hong Kong. One anonymous newspaper contributor wrote:

“……By the passing of Sir Paul Chater, the colony has sustained an immeasurable loss and the memory of this, one of the most illustrious citizens of his time will forever be held in the history and future development of this Colony.  As a resident of the Colony, the late Sir Paul Chater had given his full time and money for the general welfare of the island and its inhabitants and stood a noble example of a generous benefactor, a businessman of marked ability, and last but not least, a man born with the true virtues and an Empire Patriot.   It is only fitting that as a recognition of Sir Paul’s wonderful realization of one’s duty of citizenship that a life-size statue of Sir Paul should be put up in an appropriate place.  I would suggest that as Sir Paul was actually the citizen who rendered the greatest service in the public affairs of the Colony, the cost of erection of the statue should be borne by the Government as a permanent memorial to her most noble citizen and benefactor”.

In 1927, a year after Chater died, his staunch and loyal friend Noel Croucher, himself holding a position in society of influence and authority, pushed Hong Kong’s LegCo hard to have a statue of the man erected, but even Croucher was unsuccessful in getting the Grand Old Man permanently remembered in the Statue Square. 

In February 1928, the annual report by the Kowloon Residents’ Association  stated: “a committee has been formed for the purpose of erecting a statue in memory of the late Sir Paul Chater, and they have suggested that as Kowloon has been built up largely by the foresight and keen interest of Sir Paul, it is fitting and proper that his statue be erected in Kowloon, to commemorate the fact that we owe a debt to his memory which is immeasurable.  It was also felt that the statue might form the centre around which a more dignified approach might be made to the gateway of the Kowloon Peninsular.”

Unfortunately, no further action was taken.

However, it was in 2009 that Hongkong Land, the company that Sir Paul created in 1889 in conjunction with John Bell-Irving Chairman of Jardines at the time, commissioned the first real tribute that Hong Kong had made towards him. A bust and a wall plaque were placed in Chater House in Central Hong Kong in remembrance and gratitude to his memory.  

Image courtesy of Hongkong Land

Image courtesy of Hongkong Land

In 2017, in the grounds of the school that gave Sir Paul the preparation and education he used to build the extraordinary life he had, La Martiniere is also the proud custodian of a Sir Paul Chater bust. Created and unveiled in a joint collaboration with the relatively newly formed and dynamic Indo-Armenia Friendship NGO, along with ex student of La Martiniere Girls’ School and a stalwart member of the Armenian community of Kolkata, Mrs. Sonia John.  The result of this unique team work stands tall in the grounds for all to admire. Sir Paul Chater has once again returned to his beloved La Martiniere School and will forever look over the current and all future students who go there to study for a better life.

In the grounds of La Martiniere School

Those of you who know about Sir Paul Chater will know he owned a unique and priceless collection of art, as well as Chinese and Japanese porcelain and bizenware. You may also know that he was a successful race horse owner in Hong Kong with a top class stable that many admired. His triumphs on the race course became legendary, particularly with the incredible record of Derby wins he gained.  Eleven Hong Kong Derby wins jointly with his business partner and best friend Sir Hormusjee Mody, and a further eight Hong Kong Derby winners solely in his own name.  

Image: Liz Chater's Private Archive

No other owner has been able to attain the heady heights of 19 Hong Kong Derby wins in their career.  In his trophy room in Marble Hall, his tables must have been groaning under the weight of silver they were displaying.
Image: Liz Chater

But what of that silver? After he died, he left his collection of art to the government of Hong Kong, perhaps hoping they would create a museum. Extraordinarily, in 1936 it was reported that: “…..portions of the household effects bequeathed to the Colony by the late Sir Paul Chater have in turn been bequeathed by the Hongkong Government to various charitable organisations as they are considered worthless from a collection point of view…………”

After years of being loved and admired, parts of Sir Paul Chater’s home were deemed “worthless”.
In the last 93 years, there have been no sightings of any of the silverware Sir Paul Chater once owned. That is, until now.

At a recent auction sale this beautiful silver tray, inscribed to Sir Paul Chater came on to the market. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase it. A gift from the 93rd Burma Infantry to Sir Paul in 1904.

Although it has always been thought that his art collection and silverware never made it after the Japanese invaded Hong Kong during WW2, I can safely say, at least one piece of silver did indeed make it and I am very happy to share the photograph here.

Image: Liz Chater's private archive

12 May 2019

An English Version of An Armenian Hymn of Saint Nierses Clajensis, Surnamed The Graceful

I am fortunate to have a small but unique personal collection of Armenian related memorabilia and ephemera with connections to Calcutta and Dacca. One of the items from my book collection is “An English Version of An Armenian Hymn of Saint Nierses Clajensis, Surnamed The Graceful”. It is inscribed to Joachin Pogose a brother of Peter Nicholas Pogose of Dacca and a cousin of J.G.N. Pogose founder of the Pogose School in Dacca.

Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose: Founder of the Pogose School, Dacca

The Pogose School in Dhaka is a familiar landmark in the city. What is perhaps unfamiliar to the Armenian Diaspora around the world is that it was opened in 1848 by local Armenian Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose. 

The Pogose School, Dhaka. Founding date.

His Armenian family network extended into Calcutta as well as Dacca. His parents were Gregory Nicholas Pogose and Elizabeth née Sarkies. Through his mother’s family line one can see a deep rooted philanthropic trace, His great grandfather, Sarkies Ter Johannes, was co-founder of Johannes Sarkies & Co., and during Ter Johannes’s lifetime contributed enormously to the poor, destitute and needy. His grave inscription reflects: “… he was charitable to the homeless and distributed money bountifully.”

Joakim Pogose of Dacca married a second cousin, Mariam née  Avdall of Calcutta[1]. The influence of personal advancement through education was something she was already very familiar with. The significance of her well-regarded father, Johannes Avdall, the headmaster of the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy in Calcutta from 1825 for 45 years[2], would have only made Joakim even more determined to create a school in Dacca.  

What better mentor than his own father-in-law, a leading educationalist of his time? Imagine if you will, the conversations these two would have had, no doubt discussions on education and the complexities of setting up a school, and how Joakim could learn from the first 25 years of the Armenian College’s existence. Poignantly, In Johannes Avdall’s will, he left a small legacy to: “….my esteemed son-in-law Joakim G.N. Pogose…..”.  Avdall was the perfect motivator for the forwarding thinking Joakim, emulating his father-in-law, Joakim became the headmaster of his own establishment. Knowing his extended Armenian family were already making a significant difference through education in one part of India, he realised it was within his gift to create a similar institution in Dacca, this was simply inspiring for Joakim. The determination and drive by Armenians in India to learn, develop and progress is something the early settlers recognized to be very important. Joakim was no different, and was in the fortunate position to be able to financially support his dream.

In 1856 Joakim and his cousin Nicholas Peter Pogose were on the local and managing committees of Government Colleges and School for Dacca.[3]
In April 1859 Joakim, along with his wife Mary and their 4 sons travelled from Dacca, via Calcutta to England. Also making this journey were other Armenians from Calcutta; Master Malchus, Mr. and Mrs and Master Paul and their three children (and two servants); and Master Apcar. It may be that the Pogose’s were acting as guardians on the voyage for Master Apcar[4]. The vessel docked in Southampton and the Pogoses continued their journey to London. The 1861 census shows the family at 26 Queen’s Terrace, Paddington, in temporary boarding house accommodation.  Education for his own children was paramount in Joakim’s mind and although by 1862 he and Mary were by now back in Dacca, their second son, John Avdall Pogose was successful in gaining prizes in English, Maths and Classics at Kings College School in London[5][6], an institution run in conjunction with St. Marylebone and All Souls’ Grammar School, a most prestigious institution. The Pogose name regularly featured in the prize list for the school for several years after this. Meanwhile John Avdall Pogose’s brother, Nicholas Joakim Pogose was elected to the ‘Eton Club’ in October 1869[7], indicating this is where he continued his education until he went to Oxford. 

Meanwhile in Dacca, Joakim (also known as J.G.N.) Pogose was amongst many things, an active Freemason. In recognition of his dedication to the craft, he was presented with as solid gold Past Master’s jewel. Reported in the Indian Freemason’s Friend as follows: 

“Lodge Good Hope – The brethren met emergently on Wednesday the 9th September [1863]……the proceedings were rendered most gratifying by the ceremony which next took place, of presenting to Bro. J.G.N. Pogose, P.M. of the lodge, in a suitable and graceful speech from the E., - besides a splendid collar and apron – a very handsome solid gold P.M.’s jewel, most tastefully executed with buckle and holder, ribbon and case complete, having on a blue ground, a square, and the diagram of the 47th proposition, encircled with a neatly corded vine and cassia border, and surmount with a square and compasses supporting a double Triangle, richly embossed and chased, bearing on the inverse the following inscription: 

“Presented by the Brethren of Lodge Good Hope (No. 1058), Dacca, to W.Bro. J.G.N. Pogose, as a token of fraternal regard, and in acknowledgement of his valuable services to the lodge, particularly whilst W.M. in 1861.” 

And around the obverse: “Lodge Good Hope (No. 1058).” The gift was acknowledged by Bro. Pogose in the most thankful and appropriate terms, and with feelings of the warmest gratitude.”

By 1871 a new set of Dacca Pogose boys were now at St. Marylebone and All Souls’ school. The census for that year indicates brothers, John Nicholas Pogose, Joakim Nicholas Pogose and Carapiet Nicholas Pogose had been enrolled as boarders, following in the footsteps of their elder cousins.  These boys were the sons of Nicholas Peter Pogose[8] (cousin of Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose) and his wife Mariam nee Sarkies. Nicholas Peter Pogose and his wife had sailed from Calcutta in October 1869 on the ‘Mongolia’ with three children, treading a well worn educational path set by Pogose School founder cousin Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose and his family.

Joakim, who by now was a familiar parental face to the teaching faculty at St. Marylebone and All Souls’ School, was one of a number of parents who presented prizes for the students’ examination success. Joakim presented the Geography 1st prize to the value of 2 guineas; the English Essay Prize to the value of 1 guinea; the Euclid prize to the value of 1 guinea; the Note prize to the value of 1 guinea, (this was for the best note written by any boy under the age of twelve); and two Pogose brother’s gained certificates of merit in German[9]. Incidentally, also at this school were two boys named Malchus and Apcar and it is very likely these are the same children who came to England with the (JGN) Pogoses in 1859.

By December 1873 J.G.N. Pogose had been appointed to the Mitford Hospital Committee[10] in Dacca, along with fellow Armenian Marcar David who ran a successful jute business in the city. These two community driven individuals can often be seen trying to make a positive difference by contributing and helping the local Dacca population.

Family tree chart showing the family network of the Pogose School founder, Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose.
Joakim Pogose’s grandfather, Nicholas Marcar Pogose was a man of enormous wealth in Dacca, having inherited some of it from his own father Marcar Pogose (sometimes also known as Poghos Marcar). 

Grave of Marcar Pogose

In Dacca, as a Zamandar Nicholas Marcar Pogose was able to build an impressive and substantial property and land portfolio of his own, and it is this combined early wealth that enabled Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose to be in a position to open the Pogose School in the city.

The Estate Administration notice of Marcar Pogose was granted to his son Nicholas Marcar in 1789

However, it wasn’t just his own school that interested him. Joakim actively supported a visiting women’s rights campaigner from England who was focused on education for women and reform. Mary Carpenter dedicated her life to promoting female education and better standards of living around the world.  Having already travelled to India a number of times, she returned once more in 1875, landing in Dacca where her hosts, Joakim and his wife Mary made her most welcome[11] [12]

Mary Carpenter was a guest of Joakim G.N. Pogose and his wife Mary in Dacca. Image: Public domain

During her time in Dacca, and fully supported by the Pogose’s, Mary Carpenter gave numerous talks about female education, infant training systems, reformatories, sanitation, industrial schools and providing better homes for the poor. She visited local jails to encourage better conditions for prisoners. She suggested merging the local branch of the National Indian Association (originally established by her) with the local Philanthropic Society, thus giving further strength to the purpose of female education. In her speech at the farewell reception held by Joakim and Mary Pogose, she said: “…sanitation is a subject which you will do well to take up; do not oppose Government in its efforts in this city to make sanitary improvements; you stand in very great need of them; you will improve in physique if you live more healthily…..”

On the evening of Tuesday 28th December 1875 her Pogose hosts bade her farewell. They were joined at the reception at the Pogose’s well appointed home by a number of local native gentlemen, and Mary Pogose was just one of three local females to attend the occasion. Clearly, gender equality was still a distant dream for such gatherings.  In thanking everyone, and particularly Mary Pogose, Miss Carpenter said: “…it seems but yesterday that Mrs. Pogose led me into my chamber, nicely decorated with evergreens and fitted up for my comfort.  I am very happy that I came to see you.” Eighteen months later Mary Carpenter passed away at her home in Bristol, England, but her legacy continued long after her demise.

In 1876 Joakim and his cousin Nicholas Peter Pogose were honorary magistrates in Dacca together.[13]

The grave of Joakim Gregory Nicholas Pogose, Nardina Cemetery, Dhaka. Image courtesy of Rajib Rj.
 Joakim died on 3rd December 1876 just two months after his fourth son Paul who had passed away In October of that year at just 22 years of age. 

The grave of Paul Pogose, Narinda Cemetery, Dhaka. Image courtesy of Rajib Rj.
By the end of this tumultuous year Mary Pogose had buried a son and a husband. She meticulously and carefully created identical tombstones for them; they are placed only yards apart in the Narinda Cemetery, Dhaka. Tragically, Mary and Joakim had already buried their 3rd son, Nicholas in 1872 who had died in St. Leonard’s, in Sussex of typhoid. Initially Nicholas had been buried in Kensal Green cemetery in London, but, was re-interred at St. Sepulchres, Cemetery, Oxford close to where he had studied.

Mary’s life continued to be difficult, her remaining two sons, Gregory and John became “mentally incapacitated”. Both initially seemed to have promising careers in front of them, but by 1893 she was providing care and supporting them both financially. Concerned about their financial future after she died, Mary ensured there was sufficient money and physical support for both of them in her will. Mary died in Calcutta in March 1893 and is buried in the Holy Nazareth Armenian Church in the city.

Grave of J.G.N. Pogose's wife, Mary. Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, Calcutta. Image courtesy of Liz Chater's private archive.

Extract from the will of Nicholas Marcar Pogose. Showing last page written in Bengali and first page written in English. BL: L/AG/29/47/153

Page 1 of the inventory and accounts of the estate of Nicholas Marcar Pogose lists a small selection of the houses and lands he owned at the time of his death. BL: L/AG/34/27/96/181

Today, there are no living descendants of the Pogose School founder JGN Pogose and his wife Mary. The school continues to educate students in Dhaka. Pogose’s father-in-law’s school in Kolkata, The Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy also continues to thrive. It will be celebrating its 200 year anniversary in 2020.

A less successful cousin, Nicholas Peter Pogose, was briefly the proprietor of the Dhaka Daily News, as well as a Warden of the Armenian Church Dhaka, but during his lifetime was declared hopelessly insolvent.  Nicholas’s son Peter Nicholas Pogose and his wife Eugenie nee Manook seem to spend the majority of their lives playing catch-up and trying to avoid their creditors.  Peter was embroiled in a spectacular court case for fraud, eventually being found guilty.  You can read the full story as part of the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project stories here

[1] Armenian Church Calcutta Marriage Register No. 201
[2] Armenians in India from the Earliest Time to the Present Day P.448 + 449
[3] General Report on Public Instruction in the Lower provinces of the Bengal Presidency for 1855-56
[4] Newspaper: Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 13 April 1859
[5] Newspaper: The Daily News 25 July 1862, p.5
[6] Newspaper: The Borough of Marylebone Mercury 2 August 1862.
[7] The Eton College Chronicle 11 November 1869 p.514
[8] There is a separate story for Nicholas Peter Pogose and his family
[9] Newspaper: The Borough of Marylebone Mercury 29 July 1871
[10] Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 22 December 1873
[11] Journal of The National Indian Association, IN AID OF SOCIAL PROGRESS IN INDIA. No. 61. January 1876, p.68.
[12] Mary Carpenter arrived in Dacca in the second week of December. It was noted in ‘The Indian Mirror’ of 28th November 1875 that she would be the guest of Mr. J. Pogose.
[13] Bengal Directory 1876 p.128