Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

23 April 2015

India and St George!

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On St George’s Day we look at the lives of two appropriately named brothers who served as officers in the East India Company’s armies. Their careers were very different: one died as a young man whilst the other had a long and distinguished career.

Etienne and George St George  were the sons of Edmond St George, ‘a private gentlemen’, and his wife Mary. They were born in London in 1827 and 1830 respectively.  At the time of the 1841 census Etienne and George were boarding with their sister Louisa at the house of Mary Woodman in Westbourne Sussex.  Both boys attended Mr Roberts’s school at Eagle House in Mitcham Surrey, but by January 1845 they were in Paris.  Etienne was baptised there at the age of seventeen and there is nothing to indicate in the register entry that his father was dead.  However when Etienne passed as a cadet for the East India Company’s Bengal Army in April 1845, he said his father was dead and his mother was living at Rue de Grenelle, Paris.  Etienne was put forward for a cadetship in the Bengal Infantry by Company director Major General  Archibald Galloway on the recommendation of his aunt Miss M Barwell.

George spent the year 1845-1846 at the Institut Boniface in Paris, following a course in elementary mathematics.  He was given a good report: he was always regular in attendance, industrious and well-behaved.  In 1847 his aunt Miss Barwell secured him a nomination for the Bombay Army from director Sir James Law Lushington. George served with the 25th Regiment Native Infantry, rising to the rank of Lieutenant before his death at the age of 27 on 4 July 1858 whilst on furlough and living with Louisa at Montpelier Crescent in Brighton.  Etienne was also on leave that year. The Brighton Gazette records that he arrived at Montpelier Crescent shortly after George’s death, on 12 August 1858.


  Bengal Fusiliers 083908
1st Bengal Fusiliers - from George Francklin Atkinson, The campaign in India 1857-1858 (1859)  NocImages Online

Etienne served with the 1st Bengal Fusiliers at the siege of Lucknow and was subsequently seriously wounded in action. He spent the rest of his life suffering the effects of  a bullet wound in his liver.  He rose to the rank of Colonel, ending his career as assistant secretary to the Government Legislative Department. Colonel St George retired on 1 April 1875 after 30 years’ service in the Bengal Army.

During the 1880s Etienne St George moved to New York,. In July 1891 he married Alice Lee Eldridge (née Goodrich) the widow of Frederic G Eldridge, President of the splendidly named Knickerbocker Trust Company.   Etienne died at home in New York City on 1 May 1902.  His will bequeathed his entire estate to Alice, who died on 17 August the following year.

St George death notice
Western Times 5 May 1902 Noc

A death notice for Colonel St George was published in the Western Times,  immediately above an advertisement for Carter’s Little Liver Pills. This was unfortunate given that Etienne St George died of cirrhosis of the liver as a result of the wound he had sustained more than forty years earlier.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records Cc-by

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/9/209 ff.623-627 Cadet papers for Etienne St George
IOR/L/MIL/9/217 ff.100-105 Cadet papers for George St George
British Newspaper Archive
New York Times obituary 3 May 1902


21 April 2015

Memories of Reading needs you!

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Memories of Reading is the name of a new research project conducted by the School of Education, University of Sheffield. The project seeks narratives, stories and anecdotes from all sections of the community, focusing on reading experiences and adventures spanning the past 100 years. The project evolved from a Booktrust-funded evidence review, entitled "Attitudes to Reading and Writing and their Links with Social Mobility 1914–2014" (Levy et al, 2014). This evidence review was mainly based around literature searches and data drawn from the Mass Observation Archive, as well as a small number of intergenerational family interviews.

PaddingtonCC copy-sm

During the interviews, we found that people came to life when they shared their stories about reading - whether they talked about visiting the library as a child, learning to read in school, or about their favourite books and stories, people's memories of reading are vivid and descriptive, linked to their identities and personal histories. In order to focus on these stories, "Memories of Reading", led by Dr Sabine Little, was launched at an event as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science at the University of Sheffield last November. In a "Story Hut", members of the public were invited to share their memories. The event led not only to a number of wonderful narratives, but also to intergenerational communication - grandparents took their grandchildren in and explained to them how they learnt to read as children, children spoke about their favourite books and explained to their parents what they liked about them. Together, the Memories of Reading form a social commentary on reading in school, in families and at home, using technology, visiting libraries, arriving in the UK, or establishing an identity as a reader. Spanning 100 years, some decades are obviously better represented than others, and the search is on to make sure that each decade is fully explored!


Your input is needed!  It is intended for the Memories of Reading to be published in book format, alongside a narrative analysis and referenced commentary linking the memories to historical events. In order for the project to be successful, many, many more memories are needed! Anybody willing to be a part of the project can add their memory here   - Please share the link with any organisation, school or initiative you feel would be interested! Memories will be gathered throughout 2015, to maximise opportunities for the project to become known across all sections of the community. We will keep you posted on the results, or follow #memoriesofreading on Twitter!

Sabine Little
Lecturer in Educational Studies, University of Sheffield

Further reading:
Memories of Reading website
Levy, R., Little, S., Clough, P., Nutbrown, Bishop, J.,  Lamb, T., and Yamada-Rice, D. (2014a) Attitudes to Reading and Writing and their Links with Social Mobility 1914-2014 – An Evidence Review.  London: Booktrust.


16 April 2015

'Fifth rate accommodation' in Sharjah

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The Political Agent at Bahrain, Hugh Weightman, went on an official visit to the Trucial Coast in February 1940 to discuss the business of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. BOAC was the British state airline created in 1940 by the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways. 

Weightman stayed as usual in the BOAC Rest House at the Fort in Sharjah which was built in 1932 to host airline guests who were stopping overnight. The airport and the Rest House were built in the form of a fort to protect travellers against the possibility of attacks from the Bedouin.  The Rest House was at that time the only hotel to guarantee ‘Western’ standards to travellers in Sharjah.


Air Outpost  A rare 1930s film showing a day at the Fort from

Weightman was billed Rs 60 by BOAC for two nights spent at the Rest House.  He refused to pay the full tariff:  ‘they should understand that the Political Agent does not intend to pay luxury hotel rates for accommodation and food in the Sharjah Rest House, especially when he goes there mainly for the purpose of serving the interests of Imperial Airways’ (IOR/R/15/2/502 f 93).

His superior, the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf Charles Geoffrey Prior, also confirmed: ‘I refuse absolutely to pay luxury hotel rates for the fifth rate accommodation which one gets there’.

The maintenance of the air route to India was in fact one of the main purposes of their trips to Sharjah.  BOAC apologized and sent a refund, suggesting that in future the accommodation charge should be waived, local mess rates applied for food, and the cost of drinks paid.


Sharjah officers' mess
Officers relax outside the Officers' Mess at Sharjah, Trucial States. © IWM (CM 6008)

 Valentina Mirabella Cc-by

BL/Qatar Foundation Partnership