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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

KGF's VERY OWN LITTLE ENGAND - THE KGF CLUB

This is is an extract from my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE that was published in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore on 25th September 2012

www.deccanherald.com 

KGF’s very own Little England - DOWN MEMORY LANEBridget Kumar , Sept 25, 2012

In 1885, the British Mining Company of John Taylor and Sons established the first club in Kolar Gold Fields and named it the KGF Gymkhana Club. Bridget Kumar charts the history of the club. Among its members was T P Kailasam, one of the greatest Kannada playwrights.
By the end of the 19th century, a sprawling British township was in place in Kolar Gold Fields and it came to be known as ‘Little England’ due to its British and Anglo-Indian population and its colonial ambience.
Being a British mining colony, the social life of people at KGF was greatly influenced by British culture. The region saw the establishment of quite a few Associations towards the middle of the 1800s, such as the Kolar Gold Fields Choral and Dramatic Society which organised plays and choral functions, The Royal Army Temperance Association, The Trades list, etc. These Institutes catered to the social and cultural needs of the local British and European population. 

However, the need for recreational and sports facilities and clubs was greatly felt. In 1885, the British Mining Company of John Taylor and Sons established the first club in Kolar Gold Fields and named it the KGF Gymkhana Club. They built a 12-hole golf course and a beautiful Victorian Club House. This club was the first of its kind to be established in KGF and is ranked as the fourth oldest golf club in India.

 It had its own polo, golf and hockey teams. The club was and still is affiliated to Indian Golf Union and is also affiliated to all the major clubs in India. The club house was equipped with a traditional bar, library, snooker and billiard rooms, tennis courts, shuttle badminton courts and a ballroom with a wooden floor – all built and completed in a period of just six months since the company had vast man power and resources to complete the project in record time.


The foyer of the club was decorated with many deer and bison heads on its walls, as mementos of hunting spoils by the members. The club was surrounded by a beautiful garden with well-maintained sprawling lawns and flower beds. The serene surroundings of the club, with the golf course on the side looked like a picture from the English countryside.

Unique golf course
Because of the hilly terrain of KGF, the 12-hole golf course was located in a winding picturesque landscape with bungalows and villas along its course. Unlike other golf courses which have putting greens, the KGF Golf Club had no putting greens. Instead it had ‘browns’ constructed of river sand in place of greens. The golf course had a number of natural canals cutting across the fairways lined by huge trees planted when the club was established and gave it the setting of a British country side.

The club house


The KGF Club House has a regal colonial ambience. The old club house that is now more than a century old, was built of stone quarried from the area itself, with beautiful teak wood doors and windows. It also had a teak wood floor and the floor was always polished.The door handles, hinges and knobs and other fittings for the Club House were brought specially from England by the John Taylor and Sons Company, when the club was constructed. The solid brass door handles and hinges shone like gold all the time with constant polishing. The sterling silver cutlery and the beautiful crockery with the club’s emblem were also specially ordered and brought from Sheffield in the UK.

The KGF Club also had the distinction of having an exclusive ‘ladies bar’ just off the main lounge, where the ladies enjoyed their pims and sodas, gin and lime or vodka and orange juice, whiskey and soda, etc while catching up with the latest news and exchanging gossip.

The ladies lounge also had a huge grand piano and the ladies invariably gathered around it singing all the old songs and ballads while one of them played the piano. The gentlemen had their own bar to enjoy their evening drinks, and the ladies were strictly prohibited from entering it.

The KGF Club was famous for its English and colonial food in the old days. Mulligatawny soup, roast lamb with steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, club sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and caramel pudding were the main items on its menu.

In those early days, getting membership in the KGF Gymkhana Club was practically impossible if one was not British or European and was totally out of bounds for Indians. Only the British and European officers could become members. Even Anglo-Indian officers of the Company were refused membership to the KGF Club. 
T P Kailasam, an exception
However, in the 1930s, an exception was made in the case of a young Indian, a Tamil geologist who returned to Kolar Gold Fields after his studies in Ireland. His name was T P Kailasam (one of Kannada literature’s greatest playwrights), the son of one of the old timers in KGF. He charmed the British with his wit and impromptu singing and ball room dancing that he picked up in Ireland.

It was only because he was a “foreign returned” Indian who according to the British, knew his manners and etiquette, that he was given the ‘honour’ of becoming a member of the Club. No other Indian was allowed these liberties in the club. 

However, in the 1940s, things began to change and the management realised that they had to change the rules to some extent. They made an exception that only Indian covenanted officers would be allowed membership of KGF Club. This trend continued even after the mines were nationalised and the British left KGF.
Over the years with most of the old members retiring from the mines and the eventual closure of the mines a few years ago, the KGF Club now allows membership to persons from outside KGF as well.

Tale of the iron bucket

The foyer of the club has many deer and bison heads on its walls. There are also a number of framed photographs of all the old superintendents and chairmen of the mines starting with John Taylor in the lounge of the club. Besides these there are a lot of other photographs as well.

One particular faded sepia print of smiling Britishers standing around an iron bucket on one of the walls of the lounge draws one’s attention. The old barman, Susairaj, was often willing to share the story behind this photograph to anyone who was interested in listening even if it meant repeating the story any number of times.
According to Susairaj’s story, when the KGF Golf Club came into existence, and a new club house was built, and the 12-hole golf course was laid, the club hosted the First KGF Gymkhana Golf Tournament.
However the organisers forgot to arrange for a suitable trophy for the first tournament. It was quite an embarrassing moment when it was time to award the winner and there was no trophy to be given. The organisers had to just improvise by making use of an old cast-iron bucket with the words ‘The Cup’ painted on it. The old sepia picture on the foyer wall is of the winning team posing with the trophy of the very first tournament.

The KGF Club still maintains its gymkhana status even today and is affiliated to the Indian Golf Union and to all the major clubs in India. Like the rest of KGF, there are visible signs of deterioration in this once prestigious club. 

The mounted antlers and horns still adorn the foyer of the club. However, the beautiful garden surrounding the club has disappeared, the grand piano in the erstwhile ‘ladies bar’ now lies unused and is in need of repair. The brass door knobs and handles no longer shine, the beautiful crockery and cutlery with the club’s monogram have all disappeared.

The club still has almost 600 members on its rolls. The members still enjoy their rounds of golf and visit the club for a game of billiards and snooker and enjoy a drink in the bar.They still conduct many golf tournamentsas well

Mr Patrick Taylor, The great grand son of Mr John Taylor the founder of the John Taylor and Sons Company visited KGF after reading my book KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE. I had the pleasure of acompnaying them to KGF on the 8th November 2011.










This is a picture of Mr Patrick Taylor with his wife heather steading before the Photograph of his Great grand father in the bar of the KGF Club



Patrick Taylor with the old bar man Sausairaj and the other Club men. Susairaj regaled Mr Taylor of old memories of his father mr Arthur Taylor the last Chairman of the Mines before it was nationalised by the Government of India.












Mr Patrick Taylor looking at the photographs of his ancestors on the walls of the Conference Room of the KGF Club.

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