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Sir Paul Catchick Chater


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#21 Yervant1

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Posted 10 September 2017 - 08:15 AM

Times of India
Sept 9 2017
 
 
The benevolent Armenian
 
Sep 9, 2017, 07:09 IST
 
 
 
On what would have been his 171st birth day, La Martiniere School has collabo rated with the Indo-Armenian Friend ship NGO to remember Paul Chater, the 'Grand Old Man of Hong Kong'. 

This pioneering Kolkata Armenian might only be known to the school's alumni and the people of Hong Kong, but his legacy continues to support millions through his philanthropic work and business acumen. Born in Kolkata on September 8, 1846, Sir Paul studied as a foundationer at Claude Martin's school and left as a qualified surveyor, a minor achievement that would, quite literally , build the foundations for Asia's business hub. 

Seen floating in a small dinghy out in the waters off Hong Kong, many thought he was out fishing as usual, but there was no bait at the end of his fishing line; there was a crude depth gauge. Over the course of months, he was measuring the depth of the waters. This data would lead him to carry out one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in Asia: the expansion of Hong Kong by an estimated 57 acres using 3.5 million tonnes of earth, thus increas ing the overall size of the island. This project led to the foundation of one of his many companies, Hongkong Land. 

On Friday, at La Martiniere, a number of dignitaries assembled to unveil a bronze bust of Sir Paul, to be located between the Martin and Chater buildings at the school. The Bishop of Kolkata, the Right Reverend Ashoke Biswas, the Armenian Ambassador to India, Armen Armen Martirosyan and the secretary of La Martiniere, Supriyo Dhar, as well as Sir Paul's biographer Liz Chater and National Coordinator of the Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO Karen Mkrtchyan, will be present. "The unveiling of the bust is the product of a long-held ambition to remember and recognise a man who is arguably Kolkata's most important Armenian," says Mkrtchyan, an Armenian from Armenia but who studied at the Armenian College in Kolkata and, before that, at La Martiniere. 

In a sign of the growing links between the two nations, an Indian artist has been commissioned to sculpt the bust. Originally from Odisha, Kantikishore Moharana has represented India on various international platforms, including twice at the International Sculptors' Symposium in Nagorno Kharabagh. The bronze bust took him a month to make.   

  Sonia John, who was both a foundationer and a member of the board at La Martiniere, says: "Sir Paul Chater left a very generous donation for the poor Armenians of Kolkata. His donation has allowed many Armenians to study at La Martiniere, including myself. It is because of these donations that he is still revered at La Martiniere, which was saved from certain closure due to his benevolence." 

Dhar holds Sir Paul in equally high regard "The school was in a very grave financial situation and its future looked uncertain. If it hadn't been for Sir Paul's generous donation, I am not sure the school would be here today."   

  Sir Paul owned, or had a stake in, over 20 businesses in Hong Kong, including many utilities. He held a number of senior government posts -treasurer and chairman of the Queen Victoria Jubilee Committee, member of the governor's executive council, consul for Siam in Hong Kong and chairman of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Committee.He had a great interest in sports too -he was the longest serving chairman of the board of stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (1892-1926). For his achievements, he was awarded the Legion d'honneur by France and made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by the British. The myriad of business interests allowed him to donate Rs 11 lakh (its equivalent today would be tens of crores) in the early part of the 20th century to his alma mater when it was on the verge of collapse. 

Both Hong Kong and La Martiniere are thriving today, thanks to major interventions by Sir Paul.Hong Kong is the financial trading hub of Asia while La Martiniere is one of the city's top private schools.
 

 

"It is a wonderful thing that La Martiniere and Indo-Armenian NGO have done. Sir Paul should have more recognition than he currently gets, and I hope this permanent statue will go some way to helping that happen," says Liz Chater, Sir Paul's distant relative and a genealogist currently working on a biography of Sir Paul.
 

 

Sir Paul's legacy is visible elsewhere in the city too: the `Sir Catchick Paul Chater Home for the Elderly' is in the same compound as St Gregory's Chapel near Park Circus, the rear gate of which leads into the Armenian section of the AJC Bose Road cemetery , where many famous Armenians are buried including some of Sir Paul's relatives; one of the companies he founded is still trading here in Kolkata -Jardine Henderson; and two plaques honour his memory at the Armenian Church in Burrabazaar.His palatial mansion in Hong Kong `Marble Hall' accidently burnt down but his final resting place there remains, as does Chater Road and Chater Garden, constant reminders of a Kolkata boy .
 

 

The author is an Armenian and a distant relative of Sir Paul Chater . He works as a historian, is a Kolkata heritage enthusiast and conducts heritage walks and tours in the city.
 

 

(Anthony Khatchaturian) 
 

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#22 Yervant1

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 10:56 AM

Dear Liz, it was a pleasant surprise that I found this article about you and I am very happy that you are back at this great work. Wish you well! Note for visitors of Hyeforum: If you search our forum for "Liz Chater" you will find many threads about her tireless work and effort, there are very valuable information about history of Armenians in India. Thanks Liz again for your work.

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Feb 17 2019
 
 
Recovering the stories of the Armenians of Asia
 
 
 
 
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Liz Chater
 
Interview by Moyukh Mahtab
 

Liz Chater, a family history researcher based in the UK, has been working on the Armenian communities in South Asia since 2010. Currently, she is working with the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection in Armanitola on the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project, which aims to "build the stories, starting from the ground up" of the Armenian communities of Bangladesh and India. In an interview over email with Moyukh Mahtab, she talks of her own heritage, which led her to her research interest, and of her past and present projects.

How did you come to be interested in the Armenian communities of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in Asia?

My interest in Armenian genealogy in Asia began because of my own family history in India and Dacca [Dhaka]. Like a lot of people here in the UK I was curious about my family's past but actually knew very little about my own family name. My father didn't speak much about his life as a child in India and of course when he passed away it was too late for questions. His brother had been killed in the Second World War at 17 years of age. Their father had also died in the 1940s and I was very young when their mother died, so there simply was no one that I knew of who could tell me about the India connection. My mother gave me a little information and armed with that I travelled to the British Library in London to see what I could discover. I soon realised that there were many people with the name Chater in India and I decided that it would be useful to try and record everyone in the archives with my surname, to try and build a bigger picture. It wasn't long before I found references to my Chater line in Calcutta and Dacca, and that was the spring-board for the journey of a lifetime.

 

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Lower Circular Road Cemetery, Kolkata, where a number of Chater family members are laid to rest.

Naturally my research led on to a wider collection of Armenian names. It dawned on me that there was very little information available at the time (around the year 2000) online that was Armenian related. Instinctively, I wanted to try and bring the Armenian family presence in India into a more accessible place to help others who may also be looking for their own Armenian connections in India. I created my website (www.chater-genealogy.com), and started putting general Armenian family history related information on it. Of course when you are researching, you are constantly working backwards and it wasn't long before my enquiries had taken me from the early 20th century, back to the 19th and even earlier to the late-18th centuries and beyond. The further back I went the more engrossed in Armenian family history I became and invariably an answer to a query often created more questions. I began to develop a much deeper interest—a passion for Armenian family history in Asia. I quickly recognised it as one of the less popular aspects of genealogy in India. With only a handful of people who had undertaken research on Armenians and their families in India, it made me even more determined to get involved at roots level. Helping people realise their own personal history, particularly if it contains an Armenian connection, is very important to me.

You mention your search for your family roots in Dhaka and Kolkata. Who were the Chaters here?

Like many Armenians who settled in Asia, my particular Chater line migrated to India from Persia. I am very fortunate that the family bible of my branch has survived. The earliest entry in the bible is of Arakiel Chater, son of Abraham Martyrose and Magdalene Chater. It states he was born on October 11, 1832 at 7am. Tuesday in Dacca. It goes on to record that Arakiel married Miss Elizabeth Florentine on October 4, 1851 and that she died on November 20, 1857 at 6pm on a Friday. The bible records their children and other generations too.

 

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Document recording that Arakiel and Elizabeth's first child was born on May 13, 1853 Copyright: Liz Chater

In the image provided it can be seen that Arakiel and Elizabeth's first child was born on May 13, 1853, whom they named Magdalene. A second child, Elizabeth was born on February 2, 1856 on a Saturday and that she sadly died on the October 5, 1880, although it does not state where.

Whilst assisting with the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project, what has been exciting for me personally is the process of organising the translating and transcribing of the Church registers. These will eventually be added to the Church website. However, what should be borne in mind is that the Dhaka Church registers are not the original ones. Those seem to have disappeared long ago—the registers the Heritage Project are working with are ones that are much later copies, probably written up in the 1950s or 1960s. Nonetheless, having got them transcribed to English, I have been able to match entries from these records with those entered in my family bible.

 

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References to the Chater family found in the registers of the Armenian Church. Copyright: Armenian Church

Arakiel became a clerk in a Judge's office in Arrah, Mymensingh and Dinajpore. One of his seventeen children was my great grandfather Abraham who became a Post Master working in Port Blair for 10 years, then later Calcutta, Patna and Bankipore. Abraham went on to have at least thirteen children of his own, some of whom did not survive infancy.

I have found the records at the British Library invaluable in my personal research. Besides the baptism, marriage and burial returns, there are numerous other records available for consultation. For example military papers, wills and estate inventories, directories, newspapers, East India records, personal papers, Parliamentary and Treasury papers, Marine Department records such as ships' journals and logs, telegraphic, customs, intelligence and secret records, and much more.

Previously, you have worked on the genealogies of the graves in the Armenian Church in Dhaka. Could you tell us about that project?

I have made several trips to India, particularly Kolkata and during the course of each visit, I made a point of photographing as many Armenian graves and tombstones as I could. On returning home I spent time transcribing the ones in English and uploading them on to my website. The Armenian ones were trickier. I don't speak or read Armenian, but I was fortunate that an Armenian student from Kolkata I met on one of my trips shared my passion for history and with his help, along with the help of one of the Armenian teachers, as well as a number of other people including Professor Sebouh Aslanian, these language-locked stones are once again telling their stories, but this time in English. As I began to make progress with the Armenian tombstones in India, I turned my attention to the ones in Dhaka. I hired a photographer to capture all the stones within the compound of the Armenian Church and once again set about transcribing those I could, and getting professional help for the ones written in Armenian. The Very Reverend Fr Krikor Maksoudian's help was invaluable in this regard.

 

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The Chater family bible. Courtes: Liz Chater

The Armenian community in Asia has such a rich history, the stones will one day wear away and those people who lay beneath and the stories of their respective lives will be lost and forgotten. If I am able to make a contribution to the preservation of the Armenian presence in Asia then I will be very pleased to play a small part in that.

During a trip to Kolkata in 2005, I was fortunate to be given permission to access one of the many baptism, marriage and burial registers of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth. I was able to photograph the very early baptism register entries between 1793–1859. It was of course written in Armenian and I once again had to find a patient and willing helper to translate and transcribe them. It took around two years to complete the register and I was very happy to donate all the work to The Families in British India Society (www.fibis.org) for their growing database of freely available data.

What are you working on currently? How has been the response about the project with the church in Dhaka?

Currently, the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project is the main focus of my attention. Over the last few months we have made appeals to anyone who may have had a family connection to the Armenian community of Dhaka at any point during the history of the church. Considering the community's numbers have always been small in Dhaka, both Armen Arslanian (warden of the church) and I are very pleased with the response and contributions that have been made so far. We have been given access to personal family archives, containing a wealth of commercial related documents, photographs and stories.

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Armenian musician Rouben Karakhanian who visited the Armenian Church Dhaka in the 1930s. Courtesy: Liz Chater

A completely unexpected side-story that has come to light is of an Armenian musician called Rouben Karakhanian. In 1935 Rouben was in Kolkata visiting the Armenian community there. Travelling on to Dhaka he played a concert in the grounds of the church; the Armenian community enjoyed it immensely. The musician found a most attentive audience and a new friend in a young 22 year old Armenian, Ruben David who was living with his uncle and family at the church who happened to be the resident priest, Reverend Ter Bagrat. The musician gave the young Ruben two signed photographs that became treasured possessions of Ruben's family, and we are delighted that the David family are sharing their archive with the Heritage Project. What is even more extraordinary is that when I was talking through this discovery with Armen, he was rather taken aback, because as a young boy, he remembers meeting the musician 30 years later in the late 1960s at his own home in Los Angeles. Rouben Karakhanian had been invited by Armen's parents to play at their house. Suddenly in 2018, because of his own sequence of life events, Armen, as warden of the Armenian Church in Dhaka found himself remembering a long forgotten memory of his early childhood. Armen says: "Looking at the photograph of Rouben the musician I find myself being reminded of a moment from my very early childhood time that I had no idea would connect me to my future responsibilities of the Armenian Church in Dhaka”—the extraordinary circle of Armenian life, spanning many decades and continents.

As a team, we are pressing forward on the work of the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project and continue to appeal for anyone who has or had a family connection to the Armenian community in Dhaka to get in touch with us. This is very much a community driven venture. When we first started this project, we had no idea what material, if any, would be shared with us. A story like that of the David family above just shows how a long forgotten photograph perfectly preserved in an album can be given a breath of life and meaning again.

It seems that with this subject there is a lot that we can still learn about our shared pasts—is there enough research being conducted in this regard?

I haven't come across an Armenian who hasn't got a story to tell but so much history is being lost, forgotten even destroyed. We all have a responsibility to preserve and record what we can as well as help to rediscover the elapsed past. We are fortunate to have Armenian academics dedicating their careers to exactly that.

For more details regarding Liz Chater’s research, visit chater-genealogy.com and chater-genealogy.blogspot.com

The Armenian Church would love to hear from anyone with an association to the Armenian families who once lived in this part of the world for their forthcoming research project. To get in touch, email armenianchurchbangladesh@gmail.com

For more on the Armenian Church in Dhaka, visit their Facebook page

https://www.thedaily...ns-asia-1703575

 

 


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#23 lizchater

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Posted 18 February 2019 - 02:23 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this article and your kind words regarding my research efforts. If anyone has Armenian connections to the community in Bangladesh, please do get in touch with  me. It would be good to include as many people and their stories as possible in the Bangladesh Armenian Heritage Project.


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#24 Yervant1

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 10:10 AM

Good to hear from you! :)






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