Before getting underway with the formal business may I thank Chargé d’affaires Mr Tej Bahadur Chhetri and the Embassy staff for once again allowing us to hold our AGM here in the splendid surroundings of the recently refurbished Embassy reception rooms. We do all of course await with keen interest the arrival of a new Ambassador. In the meanwhile it has been a real pleasure to work with the Charge D’Affaires and his team and I am grateful to them for their positive, enthusiastic and helpful support of the Society.
We are delighted to welcome Brigadier Ghimire’s successor as Military Attaché, Colonel Pradeep Jung KC. Mr Chhetri is unable to stay for the whole meeting but he has very kindly agreed to get the evening under way with a few words now. Thanks to Mr Tej Bahadur Chhetri and open formal business.
Apologies read by Jenifer
In sending his apologies Peter Trott also sent a message of thanks to the Society for the engraved kukri with which he was presented on relinquishing the post of Treasurer last year.
The format for our AGM is a little different this year. As you know Major Gordon Corrigan will give a talk entitled Gurkhas in World War 1 after the formal business is over. In order to keep things moving along I hope that you will forgive me for (or possibly even welcome) an abbreviated Chairman’s Report this year.
The Report Proper
We were all saddened by two major disasters in Nepal during the year – the Sherpa tragedy on Everest and the more recent events on the Thorung La. Will you join me in a few moments silence as we reflect on lives lost and damaged and also in memory of a number of members whose deaths have been reported this year: Barbara Boissard, Richard Burges Watson, Jonathan Kaye, Bill Towill, Rodney Turk and John Tyson
On a happier note our programme of events has followed the customary pattern: two lectures were held at the Medical Society of London and one postponed due to a threatened rail strike. The Committee held a most enjoyable farewell party for Dr Chalise and Madame Adhikary and the Annual Supper was much enjoyed – especially the surprise performance of a set of Nepali folk songs by one of our guests Yogeshwar Amatya.
We did not hold a summer outing this year as we were unable to identify a location that would have appealed to enough members at a reasonable price. The future and shape of this event is something that the Committee is considering.
Gerry Birch has worked flat out to produce two editions of the Journal during the year and the 2014 edition will be circulated with the supper mailing. This will re-establish the pattern of one Journal per year.
Looking ahead, the Annual Supper will take place as usual at St Columba’s Church, Pont Street on 19th February. The Chief Guest will be Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, whose immensely distinguished legal career includes appointments as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice, and first President of the Supreme Court having supervised its transition from the House of Lords. Nicholas also has the distinction of being a long-standing member of the Britain-Nepal Society.
Our programme of lectures is taking shape. In May Professor Robin Coningham will talk on Excavating the Birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini. In October Craig Holliday will give his postponed talk on Water Aid in Nepal. We are hoping that our third lecture in November will feature some dramatic climbing events and pictures – a topic that we have not enjoyed for a while now.
During the year the Committee has worked hard to deliver the developments promised in the follow-up to the questionnaire circulated earlier in the year. Alison Marston’s younger members committee is up and running. It has already promoted a lunch with the captain of the Nepal cricket team and posted a Facebook site. Alison and her colleagues are actively seeking new younger members for the Society. We are also endeavouring to establish reciprocal membership with the Nepal-Britain Society in Kathmandu.
We are increasingly using e-mail to alert members to events of interest which are not necessarily arranged by the Society. If you would like to receive these notifications please ensure that we have your e-mail contact details. We are also considering the production of a new and more effective website
The process of transferring the Society’s archive to the Gurkha Museum in Winchester has begun. If you have any items that would be appropriate for the collection please let Gavin Edgerley-Harris or myself know.
Looking ahead to the Sugauli celebrations of 2016 Ashley Adams is spear-heading the planning for a Sixth Form convention on Nepal and we are looking at the possibility of a Society trip to Nepal in Spring 2016 to overlap with the projected Royal Visit to Kathmandu. We are also discussing with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a jointly hosted event at the FCO to celebrate the bicentenary. It has also been suggested that we might help with the restoration of the apparently somewhat dilapidated grave in Brookwood Cemetery of Andrew Gardner the First Resident in Kathmandu. More details of all these events will be circulated in due course but please contact me or a Committee member if you would like any further information at this stage or have other suggestions for Sugauli related activities.
In our drive to increase the membership we have produced an attractive flier which is being circulated as widely as possible including through the Visa Section of the Embassy. More copies of the flier are available in the entrance. Do please take some if you know anyone who might like to join the Society. Considerable efforts are being made to attract new members through the various Gurkha networks and such organisations as the British Council and VSO.
Perhaps inevitably as we try to break new ground more and more work is being done by a small handful of people and I have to say that appeals for help from the membership have not yielded results. For example, we are still looking for someone to take on the relatively minor task of seeking advertisements for the Journal – a potential source of valuable revenue for the Society.
Far more important is the urgent need for a new Secretary to take over from Jenifer Evans who has so brilliantly stepped into the breach for the last three and a half years. Without a Secretary it is difficult to see how the Society can function. We are exploring ways of easing the secretary’s burden but urgently need someone to take on this role as Jenifer feels for totally understandable reasons that she cannot carry on. If no-one comes forward soon we will have to consider a paid position – something that we have never done before. There is a role description on your seat. Your help in attracting the right person will be greatly appreciated.
Before asking Gordon Corrigan to speak I have just one or two completely unrelated announcements. Those of you who know or have heard of John Cross who has lived in Pokhara for many years will be delighted to hear that he has finally been granted Citizenship of Nepal – only the second Briton, I believe, ever to achieve this distinction. John is also a prolific author and a number of his books are currently in print and available from the Gurkha Museum shop. Fliers are also available in the Hall.
Also, I would like on your behalf to thank Mahanta Shrestha and Prashant Kunwar of Khukuri Beer for so generously providing the Khukuri beer for us this evening. I am sure that you will want to take full advantage of their kindness. Many thanks to Monty and Prashant.
It is now a very great pleasure to invite Major Gordon Corrigan to tell us about Gurkhas in World War 1. Gordon’s career began with service in the 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles. He then took a break to run the Hong Kong Jockey Club before returning to the Brigade. Now retired he is a distinguished military historian, with several books to his credit, and a well-known broadcaster and battlefield guide. He is a member of the British Commission for Military History and an expert Nepali linguist.
Major Corrigan’s talk ….
This was a fascinating insite into the Gurkhas fighting in the World War, 100 years ago.
…And thanks to Jenifer
And finally I know that you would not wish me to allow Jenifer Evans to escape without a heartfelt word of thanks for so valiantly fulfilling the role of secretary at what has been a far from easy time. We are all grateful for your immensely hard work, your knowledge of the Society and the Nepali scene, and your wise advice. We don’t want to over-encumber your return journey by train so a floral tribute will shortly be winging its way towards Lower Froyle and we have a very small gift which we hope that you will enjoy using. Many, many thanks, Jenifer
Date of next AGM: Thursday 1st December 2016
Location: The Embassy of Nepal, 12A Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QU
Guest Speaker: Professor Suriya Subedi