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Archiver > INDIA > 2002-07 > 1025576252

From: "John Feltham" <>
Subject: [India-L] Re: Apcar Alexander Apcar
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 12:17:32 +1000
In-Reply-To: <>

G'day David,

On 1 Jul 2002, at 9:17, david stewart wrote:

> Rudyard Kipling suggested in 1889 that a man named Apcar (or Apear)
> ran opium boats from India? Hsave you any information about him?

In the book "B.I. The British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd." by
Laxon and Perry (1994)

27th February 1912: Apcar & Co., ships, workshops and mines,
purchased for Rs 800,000 and absorbed by B.I. The mines were managed
by Mackinnon, Mackenzie & Co. until 1951. The Apcar name was retained
for B.I: s CalcuttaJapan service into the 1950s, the names in Chinese
characters on the sides of SIRDHANA and SANTHIA representing
'Sirdhana Apcar' and 'Santhia Apcar'.


>From the book. B.I. Centenary - 1856 : 1956)," by George Blake,

In the first Earl of Inchcape's time, however, before two World Wars
in quick succession completely upset the old order of things, the
battle for influence in eastern waters was unresting. The records
contain much correspondence about agreements with other British
concerns, designed to give the subsidised fleets of Germany and Japan
at least an exhausting run for their money. The most interesting
event of the pre First World War period was the acquisition of the
Apcar Line, and this may be historically regarded as a typical
Inchcape riposte to Japanese intrusion.

The Apcar concern, owned and managed by an Armenian family of that
name, efficiently ran a small fleet of tolerably fast vessels with a
solid goodwill in the trade of carrying Chinese coolies as well as
cargo. This was largely to and from Singapore, Hongkong and Amoy, but
the connections with Japan were sound and regular, in spite of the
fact that Chinese pirates were even more active, and up to a later
date, than those of the Persian Gulf. Well into the twentieth century
the ships had to be armed and sandbagged against attacks.

It was not that the B.I. had not already adventured into those yellow
seas on its own account. (During the Russo?Japanese War, when Russian
gunners were apt to be trigger happy, S.S. Ikhona was sunk by the
Terek of the Baltic Fleet.) A regular Calcutta?Rangoon Japan service
was started in 1907. The Apcar purchase, however, was the proper
entry into the trade, and B.I. sailings to Japan out of the Bay of
Bengal are still carefully advertised as being conducted by the Apcar

The transcript of the negotiations leading to this purchase makes
diverting reading. The first Earl of Inchcape was not given to smooth
phrases when dealing with an intrusive rival or with a hesitant Board
of Directors in Throgmorton Avenue. His first cable from Calcutta on
February 23rd, 1912, while he was on one of his frequent visits to
India, succinctly set out the terms proposed by the Apcar family and
ends ominously: " Recommend acceptance because Apcar intend to sell
their business, and or/or somebody else equally objectionable will
buy it if we do not." To this broadside there was no reply from
London, and another salvo came from Calcutta on the 26th, saying: "
It is important I should have a reply tomorrow." On the same day
London cabled approval of the deal; to which James Lyle Mackay
replied with a Napoleonic magnificence on the 27th: " Apcar & Co.
purchase concluded. Steamer Japan adopts Company's funnel and flag

This was a near approach to the culmination of Inchcape's career as a
shipping magnate. For many years the P. & O. and the B.I. Companies
had been working in close association and to their mutual advantage.
>From the transit port of Bombay the B.I. ships could lift those
passengers who, brought out by the fast Mail liners, were bound for
ports in the Persian Gulf for instance the P. & O. did not serve. It
should be remembered, especially, that the latter company did not
send its big ships up the East Coast of India. These had to race on
by Colombo and across to Singapore or Australia to keep their Mail
schedules, leaving it to the smaller ships of the B.I.


Everything is always okay in the end.
If it's not, then it's not the end....


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