The Smith Administration XVI

‘A District at Play’

(notes by David Page)

First Publication

Published 27th August 1886 in the Civil and Military Gazette.

The Report

Describes a day of sports by the native workmen at the Egerton Woollen Mills at Dhariwal, India.

The factory was established in 1882 and since 1920 has been a branch of The British India Corporation Limited (A Govt of India Company).

Notes on the Text


[Title] ‘A District at Play’ The source of this quotation has not yet been found.

[Sub-Title] 1887 This date, as was the case with “A King’s Ashes”, is a year later that the recorded date of first publication of the report. It seems unlikely that two of Kipling’s bibliographers, E.W. Martindell and James McG. Stewart, would both get this wrong, so the discrepancy can only be ascribed to Kipling himself.

[Page 416, line 17] Dhariwal is about 80 miles from Lahore on the railway via Amritsar heading North-East on the spur line towards Pathankot.

[Page 416, line 22] tamasha entertainment or show.

[Page 416, line 27] Gurdaspur the district in which Dhariwal is situated. It lies between the Ravi and Sutlej Rivers.

[Page 416, line 22] mela a fair or concourse of people for religious or commercial purposes.

[Page 417, line 2] Canal this is a branch of the Upper Bari Doab Canal. The canal flows from the River Ravi and is used for irrigation, not navigation.

[Page 417, line 18] Skipton and Keighley towns in North Yorkshire about 40 miles west of York, in the North of England.

Beverley and Burnley Beverley is a town in the East Riding of Yorkshire towards Kingston-on-Hull. Burnley is in fact over the county boundary in Lancashire on a similar latitude to that of Beverley.

[Page 417, line 30] Dalhousie Hills though the name is Scottish, the hills are in India overlooking the Ravi River and Chambra State. They are named for James Andrew Brown-Ramsay, First Marquis and 10th Earl of Dalhousie (1812-1860), a notable Governor General of India.

[Page 418, line 6] carding-machine a device used to disentangle and align fibres so that they can be spun into thread.

[Page 418, line 26] seven minutes and a few seconds for a short half-mile. It must indeed have been a short half-mile, for even now (1962) the World Record for 880 yards is over 9 minutes. [ORG]

This area receives about 30 inches of rain each year, with 70 to 80% falling during the monsoon rainy season of July to September.
See this web-site for the climate of the Punjab. There could thus have been a significant flow rate in the canal to aid the swimmers.

[Page 419, line 9] Darbaries another pronunciation for Durbar(ies) – meaning here important people who attend official ceremonies or Durbars.

[Page 419, line 9] C.I.E.’s Companions of the Order of the Indian Empire – important officials who hace received this high decoration,

[Page 419, line 25] three-legged race the pairs of contestants have their adjacent legs tied together, and then attempt to run down the prescribed course, ideally holding hands or with their arms around each other’s waists.

[Page 420, line 2] Tug-of-War The two teams haul at the opposite ends of a rope, each trying to drag the other over a line marked on the ground between them.

[Page 420, line 28] guava-trees psidium guajava bearing a sweet ovoid fruit.

[Page 420, line 31] Nubbi Buksh used here as a group name or for a batch of average working natives. [ORG]

[Page 421, line 3] Zemindar landowner.

[Page 421, line 6] Canal-rate charge or tax made by government for the use of water for irrigation. Always a sensitive issue for farmers.

[Page 422, lines 11 & 12] magic-lantern ancestor of the modern slide projector.

[Page 422, line 21] Punjabi the chief language spoken by the people in the Punjab on the east of the Indus – whereas Pushtu was spoken on the west and in Afghanistan.

[Page 422, line 26] khitmutgar valet, table servant or butler.

[Page 422, line 26] salaam make a salutation.

[Page 423, line 1] Prince of Wales this was he who became King Edward VII (born 1841) who reigned from 1901 to 1910. [ORG]

[Page 425, line 7] three and four hundred rupees between £20 and £27 at that time.

[Page 425, line 12] Sujhanpur this town was north of Dhariwal, almost level with Pathankot.

[Page 425, line 29] Why are Kashmiris so objectionable all the Province over ‘the Province’ meant the Punjab, a part of British India. Kashmir was a feudatory state under the British Raj and many Kashmiris sought employment outside their own state. [ORG]

[Page 426, line 12] Gareth see Tennyson’s poems – Idylls of the King, The Round Table and Gareth and Lynette. The two lines are from the last of the three poems.

©David Page 2009 All rights reserved