Barissa girls enjoying the sunshine.
Photograph: Gammie family

Between 1908 and 1938, 130 Anglo-Indian adolescents were sent to New Zealand from Dr Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, India. Most were the children of British tea planters and Indian women, and faced an uncertain future in India. Their resettlement in New Zealand was in many ways a success, but it was also characterised by silence about their heritage.

This website is for descendants of the Kalimpong Kids, many of whom are still discovering this hidden aspect of their family history. It is also for anyone with an interest in the Kalimpong story, from which we can learn so much about memory, community and family ties.

My story

Jane at Dr Graham's Homes, Kalimpong, 2007.

My name is Jane McCabe. My grandmother, Lorna Peters, arrived in Dunedin with a small group from Dr Graham’s Homes in 1921. Lorna died in 1978 having never spoken about her Indian background. In 2007 I travelled to Kalimpong after the chance discovery of a school photo. On that thrilling first visit I found information not only about my family but also the larger scheme that saw groups of Kalimpong graduates resettled in New Zealand.

In 2009 I wrote a short dissertation at the University of Otago, based on the letters in Lorna’s personal file at Dr Graham’s Homes. Two years later, I embarked on a PhD looking at the emigration scheme as a whole. In the course of that research I met descendants all over New Zealand, and conducted archival research locally, in Scotland and in Kalimpong. I was awarded the PhD in December 2014. My book Race, Tea and Colonial Resettlement (Bloomsbury, 2017) was based on the thesis.

Ongoing work

My work on the Kalimpong scheme continues, spurred by our ever-increasing network of descendants. Together we are coming to terms with this fascinating and often difficult history, by sharing stories and information, reconnecting branches of families, and building a collective narrative. My new book Kalimpong Kids: The New Zealand Story, in Pictures (Otago University Press, 2020) is a brilliant example of this collaborative effort, featuring photographs from family collections all over New Zealand.

From Kalimpong to New Zealand

Dr Graham's Homes was opened in 1900 by a Scottish missionary, the Rev Dr John Anderson Graham, for the mixed-race children of British tea planters and Indian women. In an era when the Anglo-Indian community was regarded as a problem, tea planters faced few options for providing for their children’s education and future. Graham’s plan was to house and school the children in Kalimpong – an isolated hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas. Upon reaching working age, they would be sent to families in settler colonies like New Zealand, the boys as farm workers and the girls as domestic helps.

School buildings, Dr Graham’s Homes. c.1925.
Photograph: Sylvia Slater.

Fraser Cottage pupils and housemother. c.1916.
Photograph: Judi Cassidy.

The emigration scheme

The first two Kalimpong boys arrived in Dunedin in 1908. More followed, and from 1912, larger groups were sent from Dr Graham’s Homes in an organised fashion, chaperoned by housemothers and met at the port by their employers. Until 1921, all arrived in Dunedin, due to Graham’s Scottish contacts there. This changed after the introduction of new immigration legislation, and for the remainder of the scheme most arrived in Wellington. In all, 130 young people were sent from Kalimpong to New Zealand, before the scheme was halted in 1938. The Kalimpong Kids were placed with families from Southland to the Far North, and everywhere in between.

Reunion of Kalimpong emigrants at the Didsbury residence, Wellington, to celebrate John Graham’s visit to New Zealand in 1937.
Photograph: Gammie family.

Kalimpong Kids

The New Zealand story, in pictures

This brand new book presents a vivid telling of the Kalimpong emigration scheme using photographs from private collections of families all over New Zealand.

Comprising stunning photographs from every stage of this extraordinary pathway to New Zealand, this book provides an accessible introduction to the Kalimpong story. The images are complemented with short chapters on topics such as Tea Planters, Life at the Homes and Destination Dunedin.

Kalimpong Kids will appeal to anyone interested in India, its historic connections to New Zealand, and family ties across the British Empire. For descendants of Kalimpong emigrants this is a unique opportunity to understand your story in the bigger picture.

A hidden history is finally revealed in this beautifully presented edition.

Otago University Press, 2020. RRP $35

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Race, Tea and Colonial Resettlement

Imperial Families, Interrupted

Winner of two national prizes (Ian Wards prize 2017, Erik Olssen prize 2019), this book weaves the findings of my PhD into a compelling narrative.

From tea plantations to the very heart of New Zealand communities, I trace the lifelong journeys of individuals and families whose lives were forever altered by John Graham’s Kalimpong scheme. Using personal files from Dr Graham’s Homes, descendant interviews, and a rich archive of private and public sources, the voices of the Kalimpong Kids are brought to life. In addition to these intimate portrayals, this book puts the scheme in context: where does this story fit in New Zealand’s history of immigration, racial blending and cultural integration? What became of the Kalimpong Kids in later life, and how have their descendants come to terms with this unique family history?

“McCabe's remarkable work tells us about the meanings of silence and talking, about frightening and exhilarating journeys across land and sea and lifeways… and to the extraordinary courage of children who made and re-made their lives in an early 20th-century world uneasy with their very existence. This book changes the lives of those who read it.” – Charlotte Macdonald, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. Special online price £20.99

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The emigrants

S.S. Janus, 1925.

The following is a list of the 130 Homes graduates sent to New Zealand between 1908 and 1938. This list was compiled from a number of sources, including Dr Graham’s Homes magazine, Simon Mainwaring’s book A Century of Children, newspaper articles, shipping lists, immigration records, and information from descendants.

There were a small number of individual arrivals in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, separate to the organised scheme, which saw Isabella Leith, the Nicholls siblings (Ruth, Nora and Sidney), Kenneth Storey and Dennis Moller join siblings or friends in New Zealand. Thuten Kesang, the current New Zealand representative of the Homes, was among several new arrivals in the 1960s.

Allcard, Alice

Allcard, Violet

Andrews, Adrian

Anderson, Peter

Bayley, Clarence

Bayley, Colin

Beaton, William

Berkeley, Dorothy

Bishop, James

Bishop, Max

Blackhall, Alex

Boardman, Eric

Boardman, Eustace

Boden, Lucy

Brooks, Horace

Brooks, Tom

Brown, Annie

Buckley, Terence

Chambers, Molly

Chandler, Winnie

Chaston, Gwen

Chaston, Mary

Cooper, Rose

Cruden, Jim

Cullinan, Gordon

Davenport, Ellie

Dinning, Nancy

Dinning, Margaret

Duncan, Miriam

Edbrooke, Kate

Fox, Margaret

French, Deborah

Fullerton, Evelyn

Gammie, Alison

Gammie, Betty

Gammie, Fergus

Gammie, Kathleen

Gammie, Gavin

Gammie, Moira

Gollan, Amy

Graham, Esther

Greig, Janet

Greig, Mary

Greig, Helen

Greig, Tom

Hall, Harry

Hall, William

Hall, Richard

Haslett, Mavis

Hawkins, Richard

Higgins, Dorothy

Holder, Henry

Howie, Mary

Hughes, Ernest

Jones, Llewellyn

Keelan, Thomas

Kennedy, Jessie

Kennedy, Thornton

King, Harry

Langmore, George

Lawless, Charlie

Lawless, Winnie

Leith, Fred

Lemare, Stuart

Lethaby, Pamela

Lyon, Robert

Macey, Richard

Mackay, Jean

Mackay, John

Mackenzie, John

Masson, Eva

May, Richard

McIntyre, Donald

Melville, Hamilton

Moller, Charles

Moller, Dora

Moller, Elizabeth

Mortimore, Jeanette

Mortimore, Rend

Muspratt, Hugh

Nicholls, Sheila

O'Brien, Peggy

O'Shannahan, Quinton

Ochterlony, Mary

Ochterlony, Robert

Oliver, Mac

Pattison, Kate

Pattison, Mary

Peters, Lorna

Peters, George

Peters, Alice

Plaistowe, Gertie

Radcliffe, Beryl

Reid, James

Roberts, Molly

Robertson, George

Royston, Eva

Sarkies, Kathy

Savigny, Minnie

Savigny, Helen

Savigny, Patrick

Scott, Anne

Sinclair, Clarence

Sinclair, Mae

Sinclair, Aileen

Smith, Alice

Smith, Margie

Smith, Tom

Snelleksz, Ned

Snelleksz, Victor

Snelleksz, Wilfred

Sommerville, Hera

Spalding, Charles

Spalding, Tom

Spaul, -

Speed, Constance

Speed, Thomas

Spencer, Roland

Stevenson, Michael

Stuart, Alison

Stuart, Eric

Stuart, Reginald

Tweedie, Hamish

Tweedie, Lucy

Walker, Connie

Watson, Charles

Watson, Tom

White, George

Williams, Leonard

Williams, Sydney

Allcard, Alice

Allcard, Violet

Andrews, Adrian

Anderson, Peter

Bayley, Clarence

Bayley, Colin

Beaton, William

Berkeley, Dorothy

Bishop, James

Bishop, Max

Blackhall, Alex

Boardman, Eric

Boardman, Eustace

Boden, Lucy

Brooks, Horace

Brooks, Tom

Brown, Annie

Buckley, Terence

Chambers, Molly

Chandler, Winnie

Chaston, Gwen

Chaston, Mary

Cooper, Rose

Cruden, Jim

Cullinan, Gordon

Davenport, Ellie

Dinning, Nancy

Dinning, Margaret

Duncan, Miriam

Edbrooke, Kate

Fox, Margaret

French, Deborah

Fullerton, Evelyn

Gammie, Alison

Gammie, Betty

Gammie, Fergus

Gammie, Kathleen

Gammie, Gavin

Gammie, Moira

Gollan, Amy

Graham, Esther

Greig, Janet

Greig, Mary

Greig, Helen

Greig, Tom

Hall, Harry

Hall, William

Hall, Richard

Haslett, Mavis

Hawkins, Richard

Higgins, Dorothy

Holder, Henry

Howie, Mary

Hughes, Ernest

Jones, Llewellyn

Keelan, Thomas

Kennedy, Jessie

Kennedy, Thornton

King, Harry

Langmore, George

Lawless, Charlie

Lawless, Winnie

Leith, Fred

Lemare, Stuart

Lethaby, Pamela

Lyon, Robert

Macey, Richard

Mackay, Jean

Mackay, John

Mackenzie, John

Masson, Eva

May, Richard

McIntyre, Donald

Melville, Hamilton

Moller, Charles

Moller, Dora

Moller, Elizabeth

Mortimore, Jeanette

Mortimore, Rend

Muspratt, Hugh

Nicholls, Sheila

O'Brien, Peggy

O'Shannahan, Quinton

Ochterlony, Mary

Ochterlony, Robert

Oliver, Mac

Pattison, Kate

Pattison, Mary

Peters, Lorna

Peters, George

Peters, Alice

Plaistowe, Gertie

Radcliffe, Beryl

Reid, James

Roberts, Molly

Robertson, George

Royston, Eva

Sarkies, Kathy

Savigny, Minnie

Savigny, Helen

Savigny, Patrick

Scott, Anne

Sinclair, Clarence

Sinclair, Mae

Sinclair, Aileen

Smith, Alice

Smith, Margie

Smith, Tom

Snelleksz, Ned

Snelleksz, Victor

Snelleksz, Wilfred

Sommerville, Hera

Spalding, Charles

Spalding, Tom

Spaull, -

Speed, Constance

Speed, Thomas

Spencer, Roland

Stevenson, Michael

Stuart, Alison

Stuart, Eric

Stuart, Reginald

Tweedie, Hamish

Tweedie, Lucy

Walker, Connie

Watson, Charles

Watson, Tom

White, George

Williams, Leonard

Williams, Sydney

Kalimpong descendant gathering, Upper Hutt, 2017.
Photograph: Chris Ward.

Our community

Since 2011, I have been actively seeking to connect with fellow descendants of the Kalimpong Kids. On two road trips around New Zealand during my doctoral research, I met families in every main centre and many small towns. Our network grew in the years that followed, as the story received media attention and descendants regularly discovered this website and made contact.

In November 2014, we held our first get-together, in Dunedin. It was a wonderful three-day event for more than 70 descendants to meet and share stories, most of whom made the trip from the North Island. The vibe was amazing! We gathered again in 2017, in Upper Hutt, for an afternoon event that welcomed more people to our group, and launched my Bloomsbury book. We hope to hold more events like this in the future – they are an informal, fun and meaningful opportunity to chat to others with this shared history. If you would like to be on the mailing list to receive news of upcoming events, please fill in the Contact form below.

We also have a private Facebook group for descendants of Kalimpong Kids and others connected to the community, to facilitate sharing of stories, information and experiences.

Kalimpong Kids in the media

If you would like to be put on my mailing list to receive information about upcoming events and publications, please contact me using the form below.

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