Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th November
Technical difficulties afflicted Tuesday’s blog update – apologies, but here now ….
Team launched in earnest on site. The systematic graveyard recording exercise – overseen by Amanda, with Nick, Laura and Clare – is now progressing steadily. The enormous variety of monument type, construction material, very varied condition and accessibility is proving challenging. Steve Wallace of the RCAHMS targeted a variety of monuments about the site, taking advantage of exceptional light conditions to take a wide selection of general site shots and monument details; he and Clare also initiated a systematic phoptographic survey within the sample area.
The cemetery lodge was surveyed by Laura and Clare, this much to the amusement of local children and admiring teenage boys. An informal open public bath on the pavement immediately outside the gate proved no obstacle, despite the flagrant immodesty.
Manish and Joydeep, of Continuity Architects, organised a general condition survey of monuments. Undertaken by Joydeep, it may well be possible to cover the entire site by the end of the week.
Sweet tea delivered twice to site today – collecting the disposable terracotta pots as souveneirs is becoming a past-time, to the astonishment of the locals – collecting these disposable items must seem like collecting Big Mac boxes.
Tom came down with a bad bout of Calcut gut (it was the hooghly halibut..) and departed for bed. In his absence work at site dramatically increased in pace …
Teenage locals given short shrift by Norman & Loertta, the custodian and his wife. In the absence of snakes, rats made their appearance (snakes were clearly a good idea … we now regret).
Towards the end of the day a gathering of hooded crows leant a sinister note to proceedings – huddling upon the more Adams(family)esque tombs, loudly lamenting the lack of fresh carrion and doubtless hoping some of the team might expire…
At the invitation of the British Council, James led a workshop in the Bengal Club attended by about 50 of the great & good of the heritage community of Calcutta. The event was chaired by Professor Barun De, chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission. Amazingly, Professor Barun De spent three years in the 1950s working in the National Library and the Register House in Edinburgh on a thesis on Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville – the man on the top of the column in St Andrews Square! So he understood all James allusions to Edinburgh and comparisons of the two cities.
Wednesday 12th November
After a short burst of recording work on site the team was all called to an audience with Bishop Biswas of Calcutta at the Bishop’s House where we were most graciously served fish fingers and tea by white-gloved acolytes. James lauded the wonderful properties of crumbling Calcutta heritage (perhaps a slight look of despair on part of Bishop…)
Returning to site the Times of India descended upon the team for an interviewed piece – a curiously posed photograph of the entire team recording a single headstone may make the Sub-continental media on the morrow….
Earlier this evening, James, Clare and Tom were invited to Government House, a truly wonderful late Georgian mansion in the style of Robert Adam’s Kedleston Hall, until 1911 the official residence of the Vice-Roy, to meet Gopalkrishna Gandhi the Governor of West Bengal. The Governor, who is a grandson of the Mahatma, is held in great respect and affection in West Bengal. The conversation was relaxed and ranged over all the heritage issues of Calcutta, The role and history of the Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland and the ambition to provide skills training through the Scottish Cemetery project