The First East Indian to Trinidad
By Dennison Moore
The first Indians to Trinidad were not indentured
By Ralph Paragg
Dr. Dennison Moore has produced a masterpiece. It should be of interest to both academic historians and lay readers with an interest in the migration of East Indians to the Caribbean in general and the 1845 arrival of the first East Indians in Trinidad in particular. The book is well-researched, well-argued and superbly written. The research includes official correspondence between the British Government of India and the Colonial Office, as well as the Governor of Trinidad and the Colonial Office with regard to the migration of the first East Indians. In addition the book benefitted from the Diary and private papers of Captain Rundle, and details of the ship construction and handling.
A major finding or revelation is the first East Indians to Trinidad were not indentured in the sense of being bound to a particular estate and required a permit from the estate-owner or manager to travel outside of the estate property. This was a later development and was not instituted for almost a decade after the arrival of the first East Indians. The main motivation for “bounding” the labourers, which included both men and women directly and their young children indirectly was the fear of the estate authorities that they would hemorrhage labourers, if they were allowed freedom of movement.
A second major revelation is the ship, Fatel Rozack, was not European, but likely Indian built and owned by an Indian merchant, Abdol Razack Dugman, a resident of Calcutta. The ship was used for transporting Haj pilgrims from India to and from Arabia, Indian labourers to Mauritius, trade between Britain and the Persian Gulf as well as in the India-China trade. The ship, surprisingly, made only one voyage to Trinidad, the historic 1845 trip.
Captain Rundle (1818-1899) had remarkable careers on both sea and land. He rose from being a ship’s boy to a full and duly certified captain. After leaving the merchant navy, he worked as an Engineer for the East India Railway Company, mainly as a bridge-builder, and later as Superintendent of Canal Works and Canal Agent with the then Government of India building the historical irrigation works in the Punjab., and even later still as the Chief Engineer of the principality of Kapurthala, whose Rajah held him in high esteem and regarded him a close friend. After his retirement, unlike most British officials who typically retired to England, he chose to remain in India and lived in Dharmsala, with the Himalayas as a background. He died there at the ripe old age of 81 in that era, and is buried in the Cemetery of the Church of St. John in the Wilderness.