Sunday, February 28, 2021

Insights into Colonial Goa, Our history


Insights into Colonial Goa


Why and how did Colonial Britain recruit Goans?? History undoubtedly belongs to the past, but understanding it is the duty of the present generation. In 2020 (pre-Brexit), the British print media published derogatory articles which portrayed Goans as opportunists who abused the EU immigration system by making a backdoor entry into the UK via Portugal. This scenario raises the interesting questions of why and how Goans became familiar with the British and vice versa.

The following are abstracts from our recently published book, Insights into Colonial Goa, which traces Goan emigration to British India, the Mid-East and Africa. In 1510, Goa was the first Asian territory to become a European colony. Following that, Portugal acquired several enclaves along the coasts of the Indian Ocean (East Africa, Mid-East and India) and around the South China Sea (South-East Asia). Portugal controlled the lucrative Silk Lane maritime trade of Asian spices to Europe after outmaneuvering the Arab-Venetian monopoly of the traditional over-land route along the Silk Road.

As a result of their successful trading in spices, Portugal and Goa reached their socio-political and economic zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries -- a golden era for both. After a century of Lusitanian dominance over the spice trade, other European powers such as the Dutch, the English and the French also ventured into that specialty get-rich-quick commerce. Old Goa served as the prestigious capital of Portugal’s eastern empire from 1530 to 1961; when colonization ended and Goa became part of India. After a century of Lusitanian dominance over the spice trade, other European powers such as the Dutch, the English and the French also ventured into that specialty get-rich quick commerce.

From their capital in Goa, the Portuguese oversaw their coastal enclaves both north and south of Goa, extending from Surat to Quilon. Of strategic importance were the islands of Bon Bahia (later called Bombay), which were handed over to the English in 1661 as part of Catherine Braganza’s dowry when she married Charles II. More than a century later, not only did England trade with India; but after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, ruled parts of the country. Portugal developed the model for Asian colonization in 1510, but it was the English who perfected the system. With sophisticated weaponry and devious manipulations, the English turbocharged the process of annexations in the 19th and 20th centuries.

During the early days of colonization, Portugal recruited Goans as seamen-apprentices, especially for the return voyage to Portugal and after they had experienced high death rates of sailors on the outgoing voyage from Lisbon. The 17th century witnessed some Goan emigration to Portuguese colonies, including ports along the East African coast especially Lourenco Marques (now called Maputo) and Beira in Mozambique. Some Goan émigré groups were displaced when the Omanis took control over Portuguese held Malindi, Mombasa, and Zanzibar.

However, when these later areas became British colonies, other Goan groups were recruited to settle in those areas. A chess game indeed! The British understood the importance of having an efficient and reliable administrative support staff in their colonies. The rulers were also keenly aware of the difficulties in recruiting British-born workers to re-locate to the colonies, despite the extraordinarily high compensation offered to them.

Fortuitously for the British, Indian employees were willing to work for much lower remuneration and provided their services with eagerness as well as loyalty to the boss – an observation Portugal had made two hundred years earlier. The first time the British experienced significant exposure to Goan culture was when England occupied Goa (1799-1813) as part of The Metheun Treaty of 1703 (one of the longest lasting mutual-defense treaties between two countries). However, Goans had experienced European ways of life for almost 300 years prior to British occupation of Goa.

As the British became increasingly familiar with their Goan subjects, the rulers appreciated the natives’ tolerant, contented, relaxed personalities, education, apparel, lifestyle, diet, and work skills. Forward thinking, progressive priests and nuns, in the Old Conquest of Goa must be given due credit for establishing primary schools in almost every parish as well as expanding the Goa-diocese-run parish schools to other enclaves.

The parish schools provided students of all religions and castes the ability to read and write in the Latin script as well as learn the basics of math and science -- The 3 Rs – like levels of western education of the time. Goans also developed skills at European cuisine – vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, including ham and bacon, and baking. The clergy also taught Goans to play western musical instruments and sing in church choirs.

Goan musicians became the mainstay for entertainment at official and social events in clubs and gymkhanas on land and at sea. Until recently, only Goans provided musical accompaniment on the violin, guitar and concertina for Bollywood movies.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay had plans to design the education system within the Raj. But long before the 1835 Macaulay report, the Lusitanian, especially the parish schools in 1600s, had well-established forms of education both in Goa as well as Portugal’s enclaves along the west coast of India. According to Macaulay, “education in the colony should train a narrow class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” Large numbers of Goans began immigrating to Bombay, which was rapidly expanding economically.

At school, the newly-arrived studied alongside children of other Luso-Indians (later called East Indians and Mangalorean) and of other ethnic groups including Parsees, Hindus, Muslims, Anglo-Indian, British and Irish military personnel as well as other servicemen. As Lusocentric and later Anglo-centric, Goans represented a fine-tuned model; the education they received from Franciscan, Jesuit and other teachers paralleled Macaulay’s vision. In short, Goans were well-positioned to be employed by the British in India and in their overseas colonies. Over time, the western educated class -- Hindus and Christians -- became pillars of the political establishment and apologists for colonialism both in India and in Goa. These included stalwarts like the Nehrus (father and son), Gandhi, Jinnah, and others who went to England for further studies.


Getting skilled help in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa posed a difficult challenge, and the English were keen in recruiting and holding-on to their well-trained and valued assistants. Bombay Presidency (the largest of the three presidencies within the Raj) served as the stepping stone for English Civil Servants and officers (civilian and military) and their Goan protégés prior to postings across southern Asia, the Middle-East and Arabian Peninsulas, as well as Africa. The presidency also served as a boost for Goan communities and parish schools and colleges (for boys and girls) in Bombay and attracted more Goans to migrate to Bombay in the hopes of gaining employment and higher education. In 1878, the Anglo-Portuguese treaty facilitated Goan migration to British territory just as Portugal-Goa connections were on the decline and replaced by Portugal-Brazil axis. Brazil had replaced Goa in the Lusitania crown.

The Goans that made Bombay their home were called Bomoicars. Other major Goan enclaves in the Raj were in Calcutta, Poona and Karachi. The Persian Gulf Arab states were mainly Aden. The English-speaking world home to Goans was colonial territories in Africa and south-east Asia. The Portuguese and Christian education lit the fuse of Western thought-process among Goans. The British turbo-charged the slow burning spark of Goan and East Indian transformation under the British Raj in Bombay.

There were Lusophones and Anglophones. Unfortunately, they also made distinctions that did not exist between and within the groups. Then and even more now, there is motivated sociology to promote divisions among the populace. From the Portuguese fidalgo to the English Nabob, we now had the natives in India who sprung from obscurity, to acquire great wealth, and on occasion spend it extravagantly. Thanks to the supportive staff, the British were much more successful in building railway lines in Africa, (to use just one metric), than were other colonial powers such as the Germans or the Belgians in that continent. In addition, the British expanded their hold on East African territories from coastal ports to the entire region of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rhodesia and other inland territories of Africa. They were able to prevail in their endeavors due, in large part, to their hard-working assistants, significantly comprising Goans.

The French, in contrast, achieved only minimal success in recruiting residents of their colony in Pondicherry to work in French-ruled African colonies. It was not long before word spread that Goans were productive employees, which led British vassals, allies and rivals in Asia, Mid-East and Africa to recruit Goans to work for them. Goans who settled in British East Africa were called Afrikanders. The recruited Goans had the full range of socio-economic skills from professionals like doctors and engineers to the ABC of society. And they were recruited as civil servants for the government, and government services like rail, post and telegraph, customs; private business, navy and merchant fleet; and in private capacity as domestic help. Goans who worked in shipping and British territories located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe regularly repatriated their earnings to Goa, thereby making valuable contributions to the Portuguese economy. The system was even given official recognition as the Remittance Economy.

The Afrikanders, Bomoicars, shippies, and others returned to Goa (to their ancestral home) for vacation, to find a spouse, retire or for ill-health. Depending on where they lived and worked, Goans were categorized as either Anglophone Goans or Lusophone Goans. It has been said that the best crystal ball is a rear-view mirror. During the Raj, Anglophile Indians self-servingly wanted “Dominion status” for their native land (like Canada and Australia) to be associated with the mother-country.

Lusophile Goans wanted something similar for Goa. But due to draconian restrictions, the educated class split into icons of colonialism and anti-colonialism. Beyond providing lipservice, the European countries had no intention of granting rights and freedoms to those living in their colonies, both in India and Goa, which led the younger generation of natives to demand total freedom from colonization. The seeds of affinity for the West planted during the colonial era continue even today across India and other colonies. “We are here because you were there” is the writing on a poster at a protest march in London.

Please feel free to forward this message to other Goan, Indian and Portuguese websites and share it with your friends and relatives on other social platforms. We hope you enjoy reading this article and the book as much as we loved writing it. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome. Thank you for your attention.

Regards, Philomena and Gilbert Lawrence.

For more details please see “Insights into Colonial Goa”

Published by Kindle and Amazon as e-book and paperback. Click available to buy on Amazon The e-book is available in India and can be purchased with Rupees

Friday, February 19, 2021

Kenya's once Happy Valley set


Happy Valley setfree

(act. 1924–1941)
  • Richard Davenport-Hines

Happy Valley set (act. 1924–1941), was the sobriquet of fast-living English upper-class settlers in Kenya's Wanjohi valley who were notorious for adultery, alcoholism, and violence. The sexual diversions of the Wanjohi valley led to it being known as Happy Valley and prompted the joke question, 'Are you married, or do you live in Kenya?' (Carberry, 156). The Happy Valley escapists were no more representative of colonial Kenya than the ‘bright young people’ were of inter-war England. The set's heyday ran from 1924, when two of its most notorious members, Josslyn Hay, twenty-second earl of Erroll, and his first wife, Lady (Myra) Idina Sackville (1893–1955), daughter of the eighth Earl De La Warr, settled in the Wanjohi valley. It petered out in 1941 after Erroll's murder, and the suicides of his discarded mistress Alice de Janzé (1899–1941) and his cuckold, Sir Jock Broughton, eleventh baronet [see under Hay, Josslyn], both of whom have been suspected as Erroll's killer. Alice de Janzé ranked after the Errolls as the third leader of the set. Also prominent were her first husband, Count Frédéric de Janzé (1896–1933), whose roman à clef Vertical Land (1928) depicts Happy Valley's habitués, and her second, Raymond de Trafford (1900–1971). The de Janzés were divorced in 1927 after she shot de Trafford, who was then her lover, and turned her gun on herself; her marriage to de Trafford in 1932 endured only a few months. Other members of the set included Kiki Preston (1898–1946; née Alice Gwynne)John Evans-Freke, tenth Baron Carbery (1892–1970), his third wife, June, née Mosley (d. 1980), and John Beecroft Soames (1884–1951), who settled in 1920 on the Burgaret estate at Mweiga, near Nanyuki.

The British East Africa Protectorate was established in 1895, and renamed Kenya colony in 1920. The first wave of pioneer settlers was led by Hugh Cholmondeley, third Baron Delamere, who remained a dominant figure until his death in 1931. They found their native land overcrowded, over-taxed, and succumbing to uncongenially egalitarian tendencies, as well as too northern in its climate and inhibitions. They saw themselves as implanting Anglo-Saxon values in a subject people dwelling in blank, brutal barbarism. They hoped to establish an English squiredom in equatorial Africa—a full-blooded version of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire rather than Trollope'sDelamere's regular teatime meal of gazelle chops, blancmange, and tinned peaches was eaten to the sound of 'All Aboard for Margate' on his wind-up gramophone. White settler society was demarcated by a strict order of precedence: the pre-war arrivals were united in their contempt for the second wave of settlers, chiefly ex-officers who arrived after the First World War, who had to work hard on their farms to prosper, and perpetuated 'the fearful living-death of the English middle-class mediocrity' (Blixen, 49). By class and temperament the Happy Valley set were allied to the earlier group. In 1926, when the Haysde Janzés, and Prestons congregated in Wanjohi valley, there were fewer than a dozen European settler families in total there. The squirearchy in the area included landless younger sons or heirs presumptive of peers and baronets: Galbraith Cole (1881–1929) at Keekopey, overlooking Lake Elmenteita, near Gilgil; Berkeley Cole (1882–1925), who farmed sheep at Nyeri; Eric Gooch (1886–1937) of Rongai River Farm, Naro Muru; David Leslie-Melville (1892–1938), who farmed from 1924 at Airdrie, Gilgil, and was divorced in 1927; and Roderick Ward (1902–1952) at ol'Leleshwa, Thomson's Falls. These men and their wives were not uniformly champion adulterers, although Gwynned Gooch, née Brooke-Meares (1875–1964), and a neighbour were found naked in the back seat of a Buick during a party at the Errolls' house, Oserian.

Some of those involved in the Happy Valley set lived away from the Wanjohi valley. Francis (Frank) Greswolde-Williams (1873–1931), a landed proprietor in Worcestershire, in 1907 settled on a model estate, Knightswick, in the Kedong valley. He preferred to live in his shooting-camp ten miles from the main house, for he owned reputedly the finest private acreage of big-game shooting in Africa, and (aided by his native tracker, Bogo, and Basuto headman, Bless) was a renowned lion hunter. Greswolde-Williams did not figure as a Happy Valley sexual partner (he was too fat and drunken), but as a supplier of cocaine and probably opiates. Sporting a black eye-patch after losing an eye in a shooting accident, he was notoriously coarse-mannered, but kind-hearted to women. He is surmised to have paid for the future aviator Beryl Markham to have a late abortion in 1924, and was subsequently her protector. The child was probably fathered by Denys Finch Hatton, safari leader, aviator, and lover of the author Karen Blixen. None of these individuals can be included as full members of the set, but like Diana Caldwell (1913–1987)—who married Sir Jock Broughton and later Thomas Cholmondeley, fourth Baron Delamere, and had an affair with Lord Erroll—they observed or briefly participated in its activities.

Another man who was crucial to the set, although never recorded as a participant in its orgies, was a stately, erudite, and independent-minded baronet, Sir John (‘Chops’) Ramsden (1877–1958)Ramsden, who had owned most of Huddersfield until 1919 and as late as 1930 held 150,000 acres in Britain and rubber plantations in Malaya, owned 70,000 acres in Kenya, where he was a large-scale dairy-farmer, sold land to Wanjohi valley settlers, and built houses for the de Janzés among others. The Wanjohi valley lies near the equator, at an altitude of about 8000 feet, beneath the eastern slopes of the Aberdare mountains, with their fertile foothills and cedar forests. Mount Kenya towers to the east. The valley's chief town is Nyeri, then a shabby, dusty settlement resembling an outpost in the American wild west. Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell, had a cottage there, in the grounds of the Outspan Hotel, which was opened in 1928 on a site overlooking the Chania gorge by Baden-Powell's former private secretary, Eric Sherbrooke Walker (1887–1976)Walker was an British army officer and American bootlegger whose pseudonymous Confessions of a Rum-Runner was published in 1927. By 1930 the Outspan had its own golf course and flying-strip, and served settlers as a social headquarters, library, laundry, and pharmacy, while staff organized safaris. The White Rhino Hotel (part-owned by Berkeley Cole) was the second-best hotel in Nyeri.

The set included people with houses near the rough-and-ready livestock town of Gilgil, or on the shores of Lake Naivasha. The Carbery farmhouse at Seremai was a single-storey grey-stoned building with a cedar bark shingle roof surrounded by a coffee plantation. The focal point of June Carbery's bedroom, which was painted in raspberry and cream with doors and mantelshelf in black gloss, was the huge bed in which she amused her lovers. With its well-groomed gardens, and a battery of servants, Seremai provided the semblance of English country-house living in an equatorial climate. Slains—Hay's first Kenyan house, named after his ancestral castle—was an unpretentious bungalow with corrugated iron roof and cottage-like bay windows, but had some exotic features: a mirrored ceiling above Idina's bed, and a green travertine marble bathroom to which hot water was piped from three 44 gallon drums heated by log fires. Josslyn Hay's next house, Oserian, known as the Djinn Palace, a crenellated and domed house, with minarets, inner courtyard with fountains, squash court, swimming pool, and polo ground, was near Kiki Preston's Dutch colonial house, Mundai, on the shores of Lake Naivasha. In 1925 the Hays moved to Clouds—a palatial mountain lodge, with a cloistered central courtyard, and a working dairy farm—which became synonymous with the high living of the Happy Valley set.

With a few exceptions, the settlers did not master Swahili, though they could bark peremptory orders in a primitive version called ki-settler. The most common phrases used were pesi pesi and watcha kelele, meaning 'hurry up, get on with it' and 'shut up' (Carberry, 40). Members of the Happy Valley set tended to regard their houseboys as sub-human, housed them in tin-roofed huts, and complained that they stank, but provided only pit latrines. Apart from a few women ayas, the servants were all men, mainly from the Kikuyu tribe. Somali men carried high prestige as indoor servants, and were the equivalent in Kenya of an English butler in California. Women were kept on the reserves, except when they were needed at harvest time. Houseboys wore long cotton rusty brown robes called kunzus with a red fez, although when the head houseboy served at table he donned a white kunzu with a sleeveless red bolero trimmed with gold braid. For breakfast they served porridge, eggs and bacon, sausages, kidneys, and black pudding (though Raymond de Trafford breakfasted in bed on grouse paste and soda water). Luncheon comprised soup, roast meat with boiled potatoes, and rice pudding or junket.

Adultery was the most notorious characteristic of Happy Valley life. Beryl Markham was first married at sixteen to Alexander (Jock) Purves (d. 1945): each time she took a new lover, he hammered a six-inch nail into the wooden frame of their front door. Jack Soames was a voyeur who drilled holes in the ceilings of his bedrooms to watch his copulating guests. At Clouds they played the ‘sheet game’: a sheet would be strung across the drawing-room, half a dozen men would poke their penises through strategically sited holes in the sheet, and the women on the other side would select their favourite appendage. A head start in the competition was enjoyed by Julien ‘Lizzie’ Lezard (1902–1958), a lover of both Idina Sackville and Alice de Janzé, who was so proud of his long member that he also liked to display it, along with his cards, when he got a full house at poker. When Evelyn Waugh stayed with that 'fine desperado' de Trafford at Njoro in 1931, the latter was trying to organize a scheme to capture gorillas, which he believed he could sell at £2000 a head to Berlin zoo: 'he got very drunk and brought a sluttish girl back to the house', then 'rogered her and her mama too'. De TraffordWaugh reported, in words applicable throughout Happy Valley, 'fights & fucks and gambles and gets D.D. [disgustingly drunk] all the time' (WaughLetters, 63–4; Diary, 347).

Alcohol was the second distinguishing trait. It hit hard at the high altitude surrounding the Aberdares, and created an ambience dominated by sexual horseplay, swearing, and furious recriminatory rows. Spirits, but not wine, were swigged by party-goers: whisky, John Collinses, white ladies, whisky sours, bronxes, brandy and soda, and pink gins. Alice de Janzé's drink of preference was absinthe-spiked vodka cocktails. Drugs were openly used. Kiki Preston, with her silver syringe, introduced George, duke of Kent, and Erroll's second wife, Mary Ramsey-Hill (1893–1939), to intravenous drug use. Michael Canfield (1926–1969), the adopted son of an American publisher, was reputedly the prince's son with Preston.

Speed rather than inanition was Happy Valley's preference. The road along the Rift Valley from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha was still in the 1930s a deeply rutted, slow-going red earth track. Aircraft covered the distance in an hour and several members of the set were pilots. John Carbery, for example, had been the first man to loop-the-loop over co. Cork (c.1913); his second wife, Maïa, known as Bubbles (1904–1928), was the first person to fly from Mombasa to Nairobi, and was killed when a later aircraft nosedived to the ground. Members of the set gallivanted to and from Europe, especially after 1931 when Imperial Airways inaugurated a flying-boat service from Southampton with a refuelling stop at Alexandria.

Several women in the set were disturbed or vulnerable. Alice de Janzé, heiress to a Chicago meat-packing fortune, endured a horrid childhood during which she tried to slash her wrists. She was a little woman with bright, feverish eyes and high cheekbones, who spoke in a deep-voiced American drawl that accentuated her air of naughtiness. By temperament she was melancholic and lascivious. Erroll's first wife, Idina Sackville, was frail and fragile, a brittle chain-smoker horrified by ageing and with an insatiable need of male admirers. 'Reputed to have had lovers without number', Georgia Sitwell noted on meeting her in 1928: 'heavily made-up face covered with blue-white powder, chic, empty; dissipated, hungry-looking, spoilt and vicious. She has dyed hair and no chin but withal looks like a pretty chicken, the same colour, the same contours' (Osborne, 187). Similarly June Carbery was a peroxide blonde plastered in cosmetics, face-cream, and scent, with lipstick and nail varnish in Max Factor's bright red. She spoke in a husky, gin voice, loved dancing, sun-bathing, and manicures, and avoided books. The only exercise she tolerated was with her many lovers in bed. Erroll's second wife, Mary, whom he married for her money and encouraged to destroy herself using alcohol and intravenous heroin, was the daughter of a bankrupt clerk who had clawed her way to prosperity. Almost every woman in the set was a callous, negligent mother estranged from her children. Idina had contact with her children severed by lawyers (both her sons died shortly after their reconciliation with her).

The set's dissolution came in the wake of de Trafford's departure from Kenya in early 1939 to forestall a police investigation after he struck and injured a farm worker during a drinking bout. In June he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for manslaughter, after killing a cyclist with his motor car while drunk after attending horse races at Cheltenham. De Trafford's departure was followed in 1941 by the deaths of Erroll and de Janzé, and the involuntary withdrawal of John Carbery while he served a year's imprisonment at Fort Jesus, Mombasa, for non-disclosure of American dollar assets and clandestine share dealings in American aviation manufacturers. After being charged and acquitted of Erroll's murder in July 1941, in November 1942 Jock Broughton returned to England, where he died from a drugs overdose in the following month. The Erroll murder was later investigated by Cyril Connolly and James Fox, with the findings also published by Fox as White Mischief (1982). A film of the same name (1987), directed by Michael Radford, depicts the Happy Valley set and events leading to Erroll's death.


  • N. Best, Happy Valley (1979)
  • J. Fox, White mischief (1982)
  • F. Osborne, The bolter: Idina Sackville, the woman who scandalised 1920s society and became White Mischief's infamous seductress (2008)
  • P. Spicer, The temptress: the scandalous life of Alice, Countess de Janzé (2010)
  • J. Carberry, Child of Happy Valley (1999)
  • Mary Carbery's west Cork journal, 1898–1901, ed. J. Sandford (1998)
  • E. Trzebinski, The life and death of Lord Erroll: the truth behind the Happy Valley murder (2000)
  • R. Furneaux, The murder of Lord Erroll (1961)
  • L. Farrant, Diana, Lady Delamere and the Lord Erroll murder (1997)
  • S. Wheeler, Too close to the sun: the life and times of Denys Finch Hatton (1943)
  • E. Trzebinski, The lives of Beryl Markham (1993)
  • M. S. Lovell, Straight on till morning: the biography of Beryl Markham (1987)
  • ‘Dragoon Guard’, ‘Mr Greswolde-Williams’, The Times (8 July 1931)
  • R. F., ‘Mr J. J. Lezard’, The Times (10 Sept 1958)
  • L. van der Post, ‘Mr Julien Lezard’, The Times (13 Sept 1958)
  • Lady Cawdor, ‘Sir John Ramsden’, The Times (13 Oct 1958)
  • E. Waugh, Remote people (1931)
  • I. Dinesen, Letters from Africa, 1914–1931, ed. F. Lasson, trans. A. Born (1981)
  • The diaries of Evelyn Waugh, ed. M. Davie (1976)
  • The letters of Evelyn Waugh, ed. M. Amory (1980)
  • Lord Cranworth, Kenya chronicles (1939)
  • C. Connolly, ‘Christmas at Karen’, Sunday Times Magazine (21 Dec 1969)


  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...