Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The British Raj isn't quite dead yet . . .

. . . even though one of its more audacious throwbacks is no longer with us.  The Telegraph reports:

Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Tullet, who has died aged 74, was the last Englishman to be elected president of the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.

Only about a dozen Britons are to be found among the 1,200 members today. But as a tall, popular local businessman who liked to sport an eyeglass and had the swagger of one born to command, Tullet was a natural choice to keep the peace between bickering Parsees, Sindhis and others. Agreeing to take control for 1974, he set about tightening up the way the club was run and reviving some of the glory it had known in the mid-19th century.

There were rumbles about the retention of its name after the doors were opened to Indians in 1957; but it was 30 years later that he and a predecessor as president, Major Frank Courtney, challenged the suggestion that the “Royal” of Royal Bombay Yacht Club, used since 1876, was redundant. They wrote to Buckingham Palace inquiring if it was still appropriate and were reassured to receive the Queen’s approval.

Few in Bombay/Mumbai now resent the club’s name, although one member insists on making his cheques out to the “Royal Mumbai”, without his bank objecting. Younger members enjoy the story of the upright Field Marshal Montgomery being asked to leave after dancing on tables as a subaltern, and approve of the sign declaring: “It is prudent to be attired appropriately for the time of day.”

Tullet ensured that the steak and kidney pie was properly cooked. A Christian choir still sings at the Christmas lunch. The Queen’s portrait retains pride of place in the Lounge, and the old trophies and sepia photographs were brought up from the basement to remind members of their 150-year history. Club staff showed their appreciation of his clear orders by presenting him, uniquely, with a silver salver on his retirement.

Looking out from his office at the Gateway of India in the Mumbai harbour, Tullet used to say that his most important task was to preserve the club’s artefacts – which included himself.

. . .

Tullet’s greatest boast was that he could drink at the Royal Bombay late on a Friday evening, then pick up a bag from his bearer to catch the 1am KLM plane to Amsterdam. He would then fly to Bristol and be driven to his Somerset house for breakfast before riding out with the Chipstable Hunt at 11am. It was an achievement echoing the spirit of Major William Hodson, the leader of Hodson’s Horse, whom Tullet played charging across the screen in Junoon (1978), a film about the Indian Mutiny.

There's more at the link.

It sounds as though he was quite the character.  I'd have liked to have met him.


1 comment:

Quartermaster said...

"Tullet used to say that his most important task was to preserve the club’s artefacts – which included himself."

It seems he failed on one part of list of tasks. Not much hope of doing otherwise, alas. That incident in Genesis 3 still haunts.