The old man, past eighty, was ailing when the letter came from a friend to whom he had expressed a desire to buy a new sophisticated wireless set. The friend had written to say that only one such equipment was available.
From what was considered to be his death bed, the old bachelor replied, “Thank you for your letter. I suppose that at my age and in my condition I should be ordering a harp, not a wireless set.” He would have been reasonably certain about his place in heaven because he was a staunch Catholic and Pope Pius XI had, in 1927, conferred on him the Papal honor Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice for the services he had rendered to the Catholic Church and for his philanthropy.
But the man had great resilience. On this occasion he came back from the jaws of death, so to speak, and immediately sent a telegram to his friend: “cancel harp send wireless.” That was the kind of indomitable spirit he had.
Who was he? An Irishman named J. J. Murphy (1872-1957).
He was born in
That, in a way, set Murphy free, at the age of 29.
And there was the whole wide, wild world before him. How he faced it is a saga, which, unfortunately, has not found its rightful place in history. It would be a worthwhile thesis material for a serious researcher.
The first niche Murphy formed was at Pambadampara in the Cardamom Hills. It was virgin forest. There he did something that no body else before him had tried. Till then cardamom was obtained from wild growth in the forests, or from small peasants. The Irishman cultivated cardamom at Pambadampara on an organized plantation basis. It was the first such estate in
Murphy’s interest turned to rubber. Since 1872 the India Office in
Murphy’s success attracted major
At Yendayar Murphy planted tea as well, and scored another first by organizing pepper cultivation on plantation pattern. Till then, like cardamom, pepper too was procured from wild growth and small farmers.
Murphy was an enlightened employer. He once told the Planters Association of which he was the Chairman, "So long as we pay fair rates and look after our coolies well, we need not worry much..."
At one time I used to visit the Mundakayam Club, which Murphy established, rather frequently. I heard the following story there.
When the First World War began, Murphy went to
J. J. Murphy died on May 9, 1957. He was buried at Yendayar.
Note: For details I have depended on an article “J. J. Murphy 1872 – 1957”, which the late K. L. Kershaw, an eminent planter himself, wrote for the Planters’ Chronicle. This collector's item was sent to me by my maternal uncle, Michael A. Kallivayalil, who, among other things, owns the Yendayar Estate.
Cross posted to Articles By Abraham Tharakan.