Call to Place : India

In the beginning…

My grandfather, Herbert Beddall was born in Sheffield in 1889. He lived in Dunsville near Doncaster and worked as a blacksmith. He married Annie George in April 1908 when he was only 19 years old; Annie was 24 and they were cousins. My grandfather suffered from ill health and the cold damp winters in the north of England did not help, so in 1913 he and his wife and baby son got on a boat at Liverpool docks and went to India where he worked as a silversmith and gunsmith. In 1916 he returned to England where a daughter was born, my aunt Marjorie, but it wasn’t long before he returned to India and his youngest child, (another daughter, my mother Iris) was born in 1919. When she was born they were living at Angus Jute Mills, Gourhati in the Chandannagore subdivsion part of the Hooghly-Damodar Plain near Calcutta. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the Danes and the British dominated industry, trade and commerce in this area for more than two centuries.

Herbert Beddall – definitely not in India!

Eventually the family returned to England and settled back in Thorne near Doncaster, South Yorkshire. My grandfather died of a heart attack whilst cycling to work in March 1938, aged just 49. My mother was only 18 years old.

As a child I always romanticised about living abroad. It seemed such an exciting thing to do; I adored learning about explorers who went out into the unknown and discovered unknown lands and reading about the settlers. I thought my grandfather must have been very adventurous and wished he had lived long enough for me to have known him. As it was my mother’s vague childhood remembrances of India had to do. Her tales of the “Amah” sleeping outside the bedroom she and her sister shared in order to protect them from any intruders was completely alien to our very English suburban way of life.

Because of this background, India in particular appeared very exotic and greatly appealed to me; I didn’t need too many excuses to want to go there, but it seemed no-one else in my family was keen.

The inspiration for my particular travels came from the ‘hippies’ of the 1960s heading to mystical India to seek spiritualism and so-called enlightenment. One of the key elements was travelling as cheaply as possible for as long as possible, using buses, trains and hitch-hiking their way as far as possible from the ‘evils’ of Western capitalism.

It wasn’t until 1973 when I turned twenty years old that my own overland adventure began following that famous ‘Hippie Trail’ through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was a journey that would shape my life.

~wander.essence~ Call to Place

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

32 thoughts on “Call to Place : India”

  1. What an enterprising man your grandfather must have been. Though the humidity of India wouldn’t have been great for his health either I wouldn’t have thought. I too was fascinated by India, though with no reasons like yours. It took me till I was sixty to get there …

      1. After the October squares which I will be publishing on this blog as they won’t all be from Cornwall. Haven’t quite decided how to write the journey though. Originally it is as a diary but that could be too long-winded and dull.

  2. I too was fascinated by my Dad’s stories of India. He was there in the Army during WW2, from 1941-1947 until independence. But his stories of the abject poverty and terrible living conditions for so many actually put me off visiting, so I have never been there.
    I obviously missed out on a valuable experience.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

  3. I love it when you get autobiographical and discursive (as well as, of course, when you get gardener). I envy you the hippie trail (I think) and I’d like to hear more about how India shaped you. I love the photo of your grandfather, and your account of his life – my week has been full of other people’s family history – Prague, the goldfields in Australia, and now India.

  4. I have huge admiration for our forebears who emigrated. It was such a huge undertaking. These days travel is so fast; even when my family moved to NZ it only took three days, compared to the three month sea voyages of T’s ancestors in the 1850s and 1860s.

    1. I have no doubt that sea journey to India was no picnic. My mother never set foot on a boat as far as I remember saying that even looking at waves made her seasick.

  5. I was thinking the same as Jo, I too hope you write up more similar stories. My grandfather always wore an ironed shirt. Though like yours, mine stayed put in Gisborne for most of his life.

  6. Interesting history. Quite a leap to leave England for India, and return a second time. Travel in those days was so much more an experience and adventure than (it mostly is) today. I see your wanderlust is genetic. 🙂

    1. I only got to meet my maternal grandmother and she died when I was six, so I don’t remember much about her at all, except for the fact she had a blue budgerigar.

  7. Wow, what a story, Jude. I never had any travelers in my family that I was aware of, so how interesting that your mother was born in India and your grandfather lived there off and on. I love how you followed the famous ‘Hippie Trail’ through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don’t think I’ve read about any of these exotic travels of yours (except some of your Morocco stories)! I’d love to know about them. Is this post the start of an exploration down memory lane? I hope so!

    I’ll be happy to link this to my next call to place post on October 24. Sorry it took me so long to get to it. I’m still setting in and trying hard to catch up after being on the road for 34 days. 🙂

    1. I shall be writing about the hippie trail in November after the Squares challenge. I will try and link some of the posts with you if possible. Hope you had a marvellous trip. I will look forward to reading about it.

      1. Good, I look forward to reading all about your Hippie trail travels! 🙂

        My trip was wonderful. It was a lot of driving (7,500 miles, mostly on my own!) and I got to see a lot of off-the-beaten-path places. I loved that, instead of seeing the normal touristy places (although I did see some of those too). It was fun, but I’m exhausted and glad to be home. 🙂

  8. So many trips by your grandfather’s family between England and India in a short span of years, at a time of slow and uncomfortable travel — now that’s endurance! I wonder what your grandmother thought of all that to-ing and fro-ing?

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