Between 1908 and 1938, approximately 130 young Anglo-Indian settlers arrived in New Zealand from Dr Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, India. This website is for descendants of these emigrants and anyone with an interest in the Kalimpong community in New Zealand.
The Nicholls family in the 1950s, from left to right Ruth, Sidney, Sheila and Norah. Photo kindly supplied by Ruth den Boogert.
My family story featured in a fascinating new book, The Lives of Colonial Objects. The book received a positive review on Nine to Noon. With 50 contributors and amazing images, it is highly recommended.
My doctorate was awarded at the graduation ceremony in Dunedin.
I installed a small exhibit at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. Featuring objects from my family archive, the exhibit was very well-attended over the nine months.
We had a reunion of Kalimpong descendants who I had connected with over the course of my research. The event was held in Dunedin and was a wonderful gathering of 70 participants, almost all of whom travelled from the North Island. We hope to gather again at some time in the future!
I submitted my dissertation and began a teaching role with the Department of History and Art History at the University of Otago.
I travelled to New York to participate in a colloquium at Brown University, where papers for a 2014 edition of Gender/History journal were discussed. This will be my major trip as part of the PhD, with the focus now very much on writing.
I presented a paper at the ‘Colonial Objects’ conference, run by the Colonial Cultures Research Centre at the University of Otago. I spoke about artefacts in my grandparents’ home that acted as intriguing and important reminders of our Indian heritage. This paper will be published as a short essay in a publication later this year.
As promised, here is the link to Jane's interview with Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon’ show.
Jane will be interviewed live to air by Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ’s ‘Nine to Noon’ show on January 29th at 11.20am. Tune in if you can! If not the interview will be archived and you will find a link to it here after it has aired.
The University of Otago issued a press release about my project in early January. The story was picked up by various media and elicited a wonderful response with a lot of good feedback and several new families making contact. Please see the links below for a sample of those stories:
Wellington revisited: I was delighted to meet more Kalimpong descendants as well as revisit those I met last year, and again was quite overwhelmed with the generosity and warmth I was shown by the growing number of people who are becoming a part of this project. I also spent time in the archives, researching immigration policies and the efforts required to get permits to enter New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s for non-white migrants.
‘Endurance and the First World War’ conference in Christchurch: I presented a paper about the Kalimpong men in WWI. It was great to make known the untold story of Anglo-Indian New Zealanders in the First World War. Please see the timeline page for more info about the Kalimpong men and war service.
To Kalimpong: I was a guest of Dr Graham’s Homes for almost two weeks. During this visit I conducted further research for the project as well as enjoying being immersed in this beautiful setting. The staff of the Homes were very supportive, and although it was Puja holidays I was lucky enough to meet numerous children and join in school activities. For several days the clouds cleared to reveal the majestic Himalayas - I can truly appreciate now why so many emigrants reminisced about this.
I attended an academic conference on Domestic Service and Colonisation in Newcastle (Australia). My paper focused on the Kalimpong women and was called “Settling In, From Within: Anglo-Indian ‘Lady-Helps’ in 1920s New Zealand”.
The Asia/New Zealand Research Cluster at the University of Otago held a symposium on ‘Reconsidering Gender’. I presented a paper entitled “Stroppy Wives and Happy Spinsters”, which looked at Kalimpong women, their marriages and families.
My planned trip to India was postponed until October/November.
I spent four weeks travelling around New Zealand, meeting descendants of Kalimpong emigrants and visiting local archives. I had meetings in Christchurch, Blenheim, Motueka, Wellington, Levin, Hamilton and Auckland, and finally travelled down to Invercargill in December. A wonderful trip - I was blown away by both the richness of the family archives and the generosity in sharing them with me. I was shown splendid hospitality and made many more connections to Kalimpong people along the way.
My name is Jane McCabe. My grandmother, Lorna Peters, arrived in Dunedin with five others from Dr Graham’s Homes in 1921. Lorna died in 1978 having never spoken about her Indian upbringing. In 2007 I travelled to Kalimpong after the chance discovery of a school photo. There I found information not only about my family but also the wider group of New Zealanders who grew up at Dr Graham’s Homes.
As a result of the trip to Kalimpong in 2007, I approached the Department of History at the University of Otago. In 2009 I wrote a 400-level dissertation about my family, entitled “Letters from Kalimpong: A Tea Planter’s Journey Towards ‘Home’ with his Anglo-Indian children.”
From there I put forward a proposal to undertake a PhD looking at the wider community of Kalimpong emigrants in New Zealand. I began the PhD in March 2011 under the supervision of Professor Tony Ballantyne and Dr Angela Wanhalla. After meeting many descendants and conducting archival research in New Zealand and India I was awarded the PhD in December 2014.
I am currently working on publishing the thesis as a book and am still very interested in hearing from anyone who has a connection to the Kalimpong community in New Zealand - that may include descendants, friends or former employers. If you are unsure about a connection to Kalimpong, please see The People page for a list of names of emigrants between 1909 and 1939.
Kalimpong is a small town in the Darjeeling district of Northeast India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. It has a population of 40,000 and in the colonial era was known as a ‘hill station’ - a healthy retreat and cooler climate for British families living in India. The population today is mostly Nepali, but comprises many different ethnicities. Many descendants of the Kalimpong emigrants remember their parents speaking fondly of breath-taking views of the Himalayas and being able to see the borders of numerous countries.
...was opened in 1900 by a Scottish Presbyterian missionary, the Rev Dr John Anderson Graham, to provide a home and an education for the mixed-race children of British tea planters and native women. Graham’s plan was to raise the children in a European institution in Kalimpong, and send them to the colonies as young adults. See Dr Graham’s Homes website for more information about the history of the Homes.
The first two boys were sent to New Zealand in 1907. From 1912 onwards, emigrants were sent in groups of ten to sixteen, chaperoned by teachers from the Homes and met at New Zealand ports by their employers. Most of the emigrants were in their mid to late teens, having spent ten to fifteen years at the Homes. The boys were all placed on farms and the girls worked in families caring for children and performing domestic duties. Please see the timeline for more detail.