Correspondence on the Liverpool connections of 1st World War military doctor Kalyan Mukherji

Chrestomather | March 1, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

Feb 18, 2014

Dear Amitav,

I discovered your wonderful blog entries about Kalyan Kumar Mukherji whilst researching First World War soldiers from the Liverpool area.
I initially became interested in Captain Mukherji because he is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as the “son of Mrs. Blair of 7 Percy St, Liverpool, England.”  
After reading your blog I quickly realised that his cwgc entry could not be true but, as I’m sure you can imagine, I am extremely reluctant to ‘lose’ such an interesting man from the ranks of Liverpool’s War Dead. 
 
As you mention that Kalyan spent time in England with relatives and studied at Liverpool I have been attempting to discover the identity of “Mrs. Blair of 7 Percy Street” and her connection to Kalyan Mukherji.
I have lighted upon a possible Mrs. Blair and, my Bengali being non-existent, I am hoping that you will be able to confirm from the text of Kalyan Pradeep that she is the relative Kalyan stayed with in England.
Nalini Heloise Blair was the wife of George Alexander Blair and the daughter of Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee (Umesh Chandra Banerjee), first president of the Indian National Congress.

Although Nalini was born in Calcutta she was raised at Croydon, England and this is where she married George Blair in 1899. Both her father and husband were lawyers and Nalini herself was a medical practitioner.
 
Nalini’s husband was also a Lt Colonel with the local Territorial Army. He was in command of the 10th (Scottish) battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment when they were first deployed to France in November 1914 but returned to England after a few weeks due to ill health.
 
The Blairs had a number of addresses in the Liverpool area:
 
1901 Census: 146 Princes Road, Toxteth Park
1904-5 Phone Book: 21 Church Road, Waterloo
1907 Medical Register: 5 Canning Street, Liverpool
1911 Census: The Bungalow, Formby
1915 Medical Register: Southmead, Formby
Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the early twentieth century edited by Susie J. Tharu, Ke Lalita [accessed via Google Books] contains the following information:
Mokshada Debi was the sister of Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee. However, it also states that Mokshada Debi was Kalyan’s aunt rather than his grandmother.
 
Nalini Blair translated her aunt’s books, Safal Swapna, into English as Dreams Unfulfilled
 
I hope I haven’t taken up too much of your time and, once again, thank you for your blog about Kalyan
 
Best Wishes
 
Marie McQuade
_________________________________
Feb 19, 2014
Dear Marie

Thank you ever so much for this very illuminating letter. The world is full of so many co-incidences (or ‘synchronicities’ to use Jung’s word)! As it happens, I’ve been hearing a lot about W.C.Bonnerjee recently.

Regarding your question, I’m afraid it will take me a few days to dig out the text but I will certainly try to get to it soon. In the meantime perhaps I should put you in touch with Santanu Das who is writing about Kalyan Pradeep at much greater length? I am sure he will be able to help.

Would you mind if I posted your letter on my blog? I am sure it would be of interest to many.

With my best wishes

Amitav
____________________________________________________
Feb 26
Hi Amitav,
 
Thank you so much for replying to my email.
 
By all means post my email on your blog if you would like and edit out anything you see fit.
 
As part of a larger First World War project I am putting together a section that features a story of an individual service man or woman with a Liverpool connection for every day of the year.
 
I hope Kalyan will be my featured ‘casualty’ for the 18th March. Your blog entries have let his voice be heard across all these years.
 
Now I just have to be careful not to get side-tracked by the Bonnerjee family!
 
Marie McQuade
_____________________________________________________
Feb 28
Dear Marie

Some excerpts from ‘Kalyan Pradeep’ that might be of  use:

Kalyankumar was the second child of Kshetramohan’s second wife. Kalyan’s mother was my [i.e. Mokshada Debi's] eldest daughter Binodini.’ (p. 79)

Kalyan was born in our Bhagalpur house in the year 1882 of the Christian era on 24th October, Tuesday at 6 pm.’ (p. 133).

- My sister in law Hemangini … left her Croydon house in the care of her eldest daughter Nalini, her husband Mr George Blair and Blair-sahib’s mother. My sister in law had received Kalyan’s letter before leaving and had made arrangements for him to be well looked after (in her house). When Kalyan reached England in July his aunt Nalini and his uncle Mr George Blair affectionately received him and took him to their Croydon house. … Kalyan’s aunt Nalini and Mr George Blair both treated him as if he were their own son.‘ (p. 183)

- ‘It was decided that it would be better for Kalyan to attend lectures and do his hospital work in Liverpool. This was because Blair-sahib worked in Liverpool, and he was acquainted with the burra sahibs of the hospitals in Liverpool…. (After my sister-in-law returned to Croydon) Kalyan went to Liverpool with his aunt Nalini and Blair-sahib and lived with them while studying medicine there. Kalyan often wrote to me and his mother about the great kindness they had showed him.’ (p. 188)

- Kalyan went to England in 1908.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Amitav


2 Responses to “Correspondence on the Liverpool connections of 1st World War military doctor Kalyan Mukherji”

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  1. Comment by JOYDEEP SIRCAR — March 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm   Reply

    My Dear Amitav,
    I was pleasantly astonished to find quite a lot of information about Dr. K K Mukherji in your Mesopotamia blogs – as a matter of fact I have been in correspondence with the CWGC since 2012 trying to make them alter the erroneous name of Kalyan’s mother. What is needed is documentation, and if you have a copy of KALYAN-PRADEEP that could be just the ticket.
    By the way, Nasiriya surrendered on July 25,1916 and the town named Bijit you could not trace is almost certainly Nasiriya – ‘bijit’ in this case being the Bengali term for ‘conquered’.

    Regards,

    J. Sircar

    • Comment by Chrestomather — March 15, 2014 at 12:54 am   Reply

      Thanks for the tips on Nasiriya and Bijit. I’ve sent them the relevant passages from Kalyan-Pradeep.
      best
      Amitav

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