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A Passage to India or the Leaving of Liverpool.
By Mary Blackshire
16, Feb 2002 - 03:01

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I took a taxi to the Lord Nelson Hotel where Jim’s parents had spent the night. We spent the morning window shopping. In the afternoon we made our way to the docks again; this time to board RMS Circassia a Scottish line. I found my assigned cabin and my two cabin companions ToTo de Valde and Judith Bryce both going to Aden along with a bouquet of flowers from Jim wishing me Bon Voyage and longing for my arrival in Bombay. We set sail in the afternoon, had dinner. I couldn't count the courses and we didn't have to dress for dinner — which was a relief as I didn't have many evening clothes. This was a one-class ship with everything provided apart from drinks, which were cheaper than on land, all for a hundred pounds. That would not have been the most pressing start to the voyage, because that first night out we ran into a storm in the Bay of Biscay and for the next three days we were confined to our cabins, not only because of seasickness but for safety reasons. We were looked after by a Scottish stewardess and a Goanese steward. They were marvellous, bringing us tasty food and drinks to our cabin. But we also had water coming in and had to evacuate our cabin. We each had bunk beds. I had the top bunk being the last to check in. On the third day we docked at Gibraltar where we put in for repairs for the propeller and spent the next few days exploring the Colony and watching the Barbary apes. We stopped at various ports along the way, Cairo, Port Said, through the Suez Canal and Aden. I made lots of friends on the voyage and had the most wonderful time. I was still able to keep in touch with Jim and let him know of our progress or lack of it as we were already three days late. We arrived in Bombay on January 1st celebrating Christmas and Hogmany on RMS Circassia, missing a New Years party in Hyderabad.


We passed the Gateway to India on a lovely calm morning. When we finally docked I could see Jim amongst the crowd that had gathered. We were able to shout at one another. It wasn't long before he was able to join me aboard and afterwards we had the business of going through customs which took forever as everything had to be unloaded. We had to have a friend guide us through the process. Eventually it would be put on a train to complete the journey to the High Wavys, Manalaar. We stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel that night and next day we began the next part of our journey by train to Madurai (Tamilnadu) via Madras There we stayed at the Connemara Hotel. By the time we reached Madurai I was hot and exhausted, we were driven up the windy Ghat Rd from the hot plains to the relative cool of the hills to the tea estate in the High Wavys. I stayed at the manager's bungalow getting to know the place and the people. As time got closer to our wedding, I was sent to another estate in the Nilgiris.

We made a journey to Rayappanpathy where Fr Bess lived to confirm details of the marriage. It was a small village and the church of Our Lady of the Snows was large and would have been suitable also, but the powers that be decreed that Coimbatore would be more suitable for all. I was whisked off to Annamallais to spend the rest of the time away from Jim before the big day. I was driven to the church in an air-conditioned Chevrolet accompanied by Mr Thurnham who gave me away. Margaret Lea was my Matron of honour. The ceremony was short. We had two pieces of music played on the organ, Lohengrin Bridal chorus and Gunod's Ave Maria. I carried the white missal that my mother gave me; on which I had placed some white Amaryllis lilies and fern that I had picked from Lea’s garden that morning. It was all very simple and beautiful. We then returned to the Thurnhams' bungalow for the reception/buffet - which was prepared at the English club by Mrs Holden, no relation, but as a Catholic and witness along with Joe Mathias had signed the register. Buffet, drinks and wedding cake, which had survived the long journey apart from a crack in the icing, for 16 people. Our honeymoon was spent at the Sunshine Lodge, Kotagari in the hills, a few days of peace and tranquillity looked after by Shamagan and Joseph.

Part 1 of this story

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