0133

May 16, 2013 in | Comments (1)


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  1. Comment by Nicholas R MessingerJuly 13, 2021 at 7:08 am   Reply

    Signing indentures with the P&O Steam Navigation Company in March 1961, I was appointed to my first ship, the ss Ballarat, bound for South Australia, with a Lascar deck crew, under a Serang and two Tindals.

    Keen to learn Hindustani, I did a deal with a young sailor, a Kalassi, called Aakash, who hoped to study for his Second Mates Certificate. He taught me Hindustani and I did my best to teach him navigation – the Worcester training ship variety!.
    I recently rediscovered my Cadets Journal, and pages of Hindustani vocabulary – most of it now long forgotten! And a copy of ‘Malim Sahib’s (Ship’s Officer’s) Hindustani’ – first published in 1920, by Brown, Son and Ferguson of Glasgow..

    This prompted me to research and publish a web page dedicated to the fine sailors of the Indian sub-continent, which can now be viewed at:
    http://www.pandosnco.co.uk/lascars-two.htm

    “Lascar labour was indispensable to British industry. Without their labour the British Merchant Fleet could not have functioned. They were
    responsible for transporting raw materials and manufactured goods, as well as passengers, across the world within Britain’s imperial economy, and Britain’s wealth and prosperity could be said to have been built on the backs of these poorly paid sailors.” By Dr Rozina Visram – from Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History.

    “To be aboard a Company’s ship once more, to see the familiar red and blue of the Lascar’s uniforms, to hear the Tindal’s soft-spoken ‘Salaam, Sahib’; in a word, to be on my own ground and amongst my own people after my long exile…..” By Commodore D.G Baillie, P&O, writing in A Sea Affair.

    Once vital, today, Lascar Sailors remain nigh on invisible in historical accounts of maritime trade and empire, and are remarkably under-represented in the emerging scholarship on global histories, trans-national identities and colonial networks, to which their stories are integral. Their lives remain fragmented in the archives, ciphers glimpsed rarely in ship’s logs, Admiralty records – and in the Navigation Acts that governed their employment. Finding Lascar stories in historical records is difficult. There are very few first-hand accounts written by Lascars – only bureaucratic, European references in East India Company records, muster lists and logbooks, and the occasional parliamentary records.

    Sadly, largely forgotten today, Lascar sailors are now commemorated in the naming of a modern housing development in London’s East End…..

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