The Giridih Coalfields


On the Surface

(notes by David Page, drawing in the work of the ORG Editors)

First Publication

24th August, 1888 in the Pioneer, 26th August 1888 in the Pioneer Mail, and 25th August 1888 in the Week’s News.

Notes on the Text

The ‘long siding’. This section of the East India Railway, north of Howrah and Calcutta, was described in the notes in this Guide to Among the Railway Folk Chapter II, page 282, line 5. It makes for such a concise geographic reference that it is used frequently in the notes to The Giridih Coalfields presented here. The description is:

Starting from Jamalpur, the loop runs east via Bhagalpur to Sahibganj, then south towards Calcutta as far as Kanu Junction where it joins up with the line from Howrah. The loop then tends northwest through Raniganj and Madhupur (where the spur line to Giridih connects) to reach the main east-west route again, about 30 miles to the west of Jamalpur.

[Page 303, lines 1-6] To reach Giridih we are directed from Luckeeserai (or Lakhisarai), which is about 60 miles from Patna in the direction of Jamalpur or 25 miles west of Jamalpur. It is the junction from which the trains to Calcutta travel S.S.E-wards. From there. it is about 100 miles to Madapur (Madhapore), at which point one takes the spur line (line 4) heading W.S.W. for about 20 miles to Giridih.

[Page 303, line 3] Sonthal Parganas or Santal Paganas is the name of a District.

[Page 303, line 5] Hazaribagh quite a large district, for it extends at least 60 miles to the west.

[Page 303, line 12] Quillem Roberts was a foreman of the Locomotive Erecting Shop at Jamalpur.

[Page 303, line 15] Monghyr a town 7 miles north of Jamalpur on the bank of the Ganges.

[Page 304, line 3] Pir Bahar is a hill about 4 miles east of Monghyr.

[Page 304, line 28] five lakhs five lakhs of rupees (500,000 rupees) was then £33,333.

[Page 304, line 33] native prints Indian newspapers.

[Page 305, line 11] trap an igneous rock, so named because of its stair-like appearance. [ORG]

[Page 305, line 12] hornblende a mineral comprising a mix of Calcium-Sodium Magnesium-Iron Aluminum Silicate Hydroxide, greenish-black in colour.

[Page 305, line 20] Jain Tirthankars mentioned in Kim. A Jain is one of a non-Brahminical sect holding doctrines like those of Buddhism, occupying Parasnath Hill in this neighbourhood, also Barabar Hills about 100 miles north-west (south of Patna). They are devout and occupy the caves in these hills. [ORG]

[Page 305, line 22] Dagshai and Kasauli hill stations near Simla, the chief of them all. [ORG]

[Page 305, line 29] Black Country the area in the English Midlands where there are mines and steel works. To traditionalists the Black Country is the area where the 30ft coal seam comes to the surface – West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton, Wednesfield and parts of Halesowen, Wednesbury and Walsall; but not Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Smethwick or what used to be known as Warley.

[Page 305, line 32] noseless woman at that time in India it was quite usual for an unfaithful wife to be punished by her husband removing her nose with a knife. [ORG]

[Page 306, line 1] Yeadon in Yorkshire, England, on the road between Bradford and Harrogate.

Dale (Abbey) is near Derby in Derbyshire.

[Page 306, line 2] Barnsley a town in Yorkshire.

[Page 306, line 3] Dewsbury a town in Yorkshire.

Batley another town in Yorkshire.

Derby Canal This canal opened in 1796 and ran for 14 miles between the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre and the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone. This Editor remembers fishing for tadpoles in the canal in the early 1940’s, but it has now been filled in.

[Page 306, line 9] Soon to turn into something very much worse the climate of India is very pleasant from November to March, but then becomes unbearably hot for many months. [ORG]

[Page 306, line 10] G.B.T. cart Government Bullock Train carts were quite the normal form of transport in so many parts of India at the time, and much later. [ORG]

[Page 306, line 11] Bathing-machine these were small enclosed box-like huts on wheels used in Victorian times in England, to enable a bather to get in and out of the water unobserved. [ORG]

[Page 306, line 12] tum-tum a conveyance rather special to this part of India. Kipling had owned one of them as shown by a letter of 16 March 1885 when Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, wrote to Edith Plowden: ‘Ruddy goes to Pindi as a special. He has started his pony and tum-tum [dog-cart] thither, . . .’ [Kipling’s India, ed. T. Pinney, p.78].

[Page 306, line 33] Tirhoot planters (or Tirhut) has been identified as being to the north of Patna and Monghyr in the general direction of Nepal, 80 miles north of Jamalpur, across the Ganges. It was known for the indigo plantations located there; however, the reason for the allusion is not clear.

[Page 307, line 13] Serampore Raja Som Mukherjee, who formerly lived in Giridh, writes: Serampore Raja is a place in Beniadih, Giridih, in the coalfield area. The Raja of Serampore was the original landlord who gave mining rights to the East India Railway to start the Giridih Coalfields. There is also another town close to Calcutta of the same name, Serampore, which was once a Danish enclave, but this is not the one referred to by Kipling. [S.M.]

[Page 307, line 19] Raneegunge (or Raniganj) this is about 50 miles south-east of Giridih.

[Page 307, line 30] pit-head wheel the winding mechanism for raising and lowering the cages in a colliery. They were a common sight in the Yorkshire and Derbyshire locations mentioned earlier.

[Page 308, line 6] meter-gauge engines locomotives running on a track with a one-meter gap between the rails. The standard for the E.I.R was broad gauge of 5ft 6in.

[Page 308, line 18] chord-lines are named after the straight line that crosses from one part of a circle to another. In this case it refers to the western side of the ‘long siding’ loop which is shorter than the eastern route.

[Page 308, line 19] Kanu or Khana. The southern junction of the two sides of the ‘long siding’ loop, just north of Bardwan.

[Page 309, line 7] pointsman a person who operated the switching gear, or points, that allowed trains to be switched from one track to another.

[Page 309, line 7] old mutineer the ‘Mutiny’ was in 1857, only 30 years before this article was written. [ORG]

[Page 309, line 7] sonthals were members of a tribe also known as Santals, a branch of the Kolarian people from the right bank of the Ganges. [See the article by George Smith on “Dalhousie” in Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th Ed. 1887, and From Sea to Sea, Vol. 2, p. 321.] [John McGivering].

[Page 309, line 26] Musahers who eat pig (or Musahars). They are casteless and have to do anything to survive, even now some 120 years after Kipling wrote this article. See the BBC web-site.

Kipling also referred to these peoples in “At Twenty-two”, collected in In Black and White and later in Soldiers Three and Other Stories, page 288, line 2:

Degraded Mohammedan, pig-eating Musahr [sic] and wild Sonthal, Janki ran his hand over them all.

[Page 310, line 8] choke-damp also known as ‘black damp’ and ‘stythe’, it is a mixture of carbon-dioxide and nitrogen, and is the result of the absorption of the oxygen in the air by the coal substance in the mine and the formation of carbon-dioxide in the process; it is also produced by the decay of timber, the breathing of men and animals, the burning of lamps and handles and the firing of explosive.

[Page 310, line 33] ‘Only 23s. a ton’ or £1.15 in decimal currency. By 1962 coal cost from £10 to £15 a ton in England.

[Page 311, line 8] Twelve rupees this is only £0.80 a month but at that time it was good pay for a labourer in India.

©David Page 2008 All rights reserved