British India Greets the English Pub. Part III.

The old mob on the Deccan

It is December 6, 1943. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer just on one page contains items as diverse as “General Marshall”, “Must We Be Poor?”, “Gardeners Differ”, and “Parting With the Family Pew”.

And this one (via British Newspaper Archive):

Home Touch in India

On a vast and famous plateau in India is a small area with springy turf rather like that which a wayfarer finds so pleasant underfoot, on the moor edge, Ilkley way. There are many large boulders, too, some of them not unlike the Cow and Calf Rocks, again at Ilkley. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to hear from a Bradford soldier out there that Yorkshiremen in the near by military camp on the plateau have named the spot, Ilkla Moor. With its happy reminders of week-end rambles at home, it has become their favourite Saturday afternoon spot for relaxation.

It was not long before the idea caught on among natives, and one day Yussaf Ali, proprietor of the little canteen, renamed his establishment Dick Hudson’s, after the wayside inn which these men from Britain seemed to know well on the uplands of their homeland.

If this enthusiasm spreads much further, I expect to hear that the Nizam of Hyderabad has fixed a replica of the Shipley Glen tramway for the soldiers – though he would find the stubborn growth of the tongas a more awkward obstacle to amusement park engineering than any cascade of millstone grit in the glen.

Shipley Glen is a funicular in West Yorkshire, where of course too is Ilkley Moor, “Ilkla” in Yorkshire vernacular.

A similar story in the Bradford Observer on December 20, 1943 named the plateau – Deccan – and substituted the following for the last paragraph:

Yussaf Ali’s ale is not by any means Yorkshire ale, but he does a nice steady business with Bangalore Beer which the soldier writes helps them considerably to sing with more gusto, “On Ilkla’ Moor Baht ‘At”.

The last two words have an Indian ring to a foreign ear, perhaps, but are not connected to India in any way: in Yorkshire dialect they mean “without a hat”.

The song is a lament, dating only from World War I in published form. It has earlier roots in oral tradition, stretching to the early 1800s. By 1939 it is the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire.

Wallace House performed it in this undated performance, possibly from the 1940s. (If you check the lyrics they are rather gruesome, or end that way: an example of folk directness uncoloured by English gentility).

So we see again Bangalore Brewery churning out beer for the troops.* The stretch of Hyderabad below may well be where the Deccan Dick Hudson’s flourished, or near enough.

 

 

The English Cow and Calf Rocks, boulders said to resemble the named animals, are in a sense replicated by the Indian outcrops. The triangular-shaped Deccan Plateau in South India also encompasses Bangalore, today Bengaluru, in the lower reaches.

This pub is not as calculated an English replica as the Wade Inn I discussed in Part I. But to tired, thirsty soldiers far from home, a similar result obtained, as the area bore a good resemblance to the geography surrounding the real Dick Hudson’s in Bingley Moor.

These men likely joined the Burma Campaign in the following year, i.e., to free Burma, now Myanmar, from the Japanese joug. I hope many returned to Yorkshire, to enjoy again a moors ramble and pint at Dick Hudson’s, or a ride on the tramway.

In Maurizio Peleggi’s essay I cited in Part II, he writes the following of European hotels that dotted Empire. The words apply no less to taverns such as the Deccan Dick Hudson’s and the Wade Inn.

As sites of European civility, and civilization, hotels comforted the fledgling identity of Westerners displaced in the colonies by providing a space for socialization that returned them momentarily to the familiar space of “home.”

The phraseology of course posits the experience as patrons would have viewed it.

He goes on to discuss tensions that might arise among the different communities that often featured in such settings. He notes for example, as Harry Hobbs did in his book on old taverns in India, that many hostelries were operated by a “diasporic” population.

This might be Armenian, Jewish, or Arab, and formed an interface between European patrons on the one hand, and staff, typically locals, on the other.

In the case of the Indian Dick Hudson’s, Yussaf Ali was probably an enterprising local, one who got on well clearly with his clients, using their knowledge of home to create a more welcoming environment.

This is similar I think to creating a British bar environment in Tenerife, or to a Canadian setting up an “Irish pub” to attract both curious locals and the wending Irish. I might add, Irish people do frequent transpontine Irish pubs, in Toronto at least – often to work there.

It is interesting, too, that in the first press story the Nizam of Hyderabad is name-checked, from the historic ruling family of the Princely State, as it was known in the Raj period. The last Nizam in the British era was Mir Osman Ali Khan, who contributed significantly to the economic and cultural development of the State.

 

 

While sharing power with the British in a kind of protectorate relationship, vs. other parts of India directly ruled by Britain, he was accorded a special deference in such accounts. This was due to his acknowledged leadership but perhaps also the late state of the Empire in 1943.

At the Walkiees site, we see photos of Ilkley Moor today including Dick Hudson’s. The ivied pub would have looked surely much the same to young men rambling of a weekend before 1939, before they joined HM Forces to fight for Britain.**

In their 2008 book Fighting Tykes: An Informal History of the Yorkshire Regiments in the Second World War, Charles Whiting and Eric Taylor described the men this way:

These young men from the pits, mills, factories and farms of Yorkshire would be projected from their narrow pre-war world of pub, pictures and the local palais de danse. They would see things, live lives, undergo experiences which would have been beyond their wildest dreams in peacetime.

Sadly, for all too many those lives would be brutal, desperate and all too short. But for those who survived and came back to Yorkshire, they knew they had achieved something – and not only victory over the enemy. They had realized something about themselves, the need for true, loyal comradeship, and that at times men had to sacrifice themselves for the others; that the ‘old mob’ was more important than the individual.

 

Note re images: the first image shown, of Deccan Plateau at Hyderabad, was sourced at Wikipedia, in the entry for Deccan Plateau.  The second, in the Wikipedia entry for the Princely States. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

*Bengaluru is the site today of United Breweries’ headquarters but UB brews elsewhere in India now, by my checks (the group owns some 14 breweries). There are craft breweries in the city though, and an impressive roster of high-end bars, as we see at Thrillist. One clearly offers an English mien, the comprehensively named Tavern at the Inn. Another, Watson’s, appears to recall a famous hotel of the British era. History still speaks.

**The Cow and Calf Pub was so-named after 1945. The venerable building inhabited was a private residence during the war.

 

1 thought on “British India Greets the English Pub. Part III.”

  1. I re-phrased the sentence, as it originally read, on origins of the song “On Ilkla’ Moor Baht ‘At”. For practical purposes, or in my view, it does date, as I stated initially per se, from World War I, as it first appeared in published form then by various reports (in 1916).

    But music and the (evolving) lyrics date from the 19th century.

    I don’t think the song could have become a standard without being published, in other words.

    Reply

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