President’s Letter

Being President of BACSA brings many rewards, but on occasion sadness. As this letter was about to go to press, I received the news that one of our Vice-Presidents, Viscount Slim, died on 12 January, only weeks after the death of his wife. John Slim was a strong supporter of BACSA
and he will be very much missed.

At the AGM in March, we say farewell to Sir Michael Davies as Chairman, to Christopher Penn as Projects Co-Ordinator and to Valerie Robinson as Events Officer. BACSA is greatly in their debt.

When he was appointed, Michael Davies intended to serve as Chairman for three years. In the event he has held the post for eleven. In the course of that time, Michael has done much more than provide continuity of governance. He has presided over the Executive Committee with wise counsel and a steady hand. Christopher Penn has been Projects Co-Ordinator for only three years but in that time has transformed the way in which the Executive and the membership is kept abreast of restoration projects by his use of photographs and PowerPoint presentations. Valerie Robinson has been Events Officer since 2003 and has used her contacts to arrange some memorable outings for members. She also organised BACSA’s very successful 40th Anniversary Lunch in June 2017.

BACSA is fortunate indeed that Paul Dean has agreed to be nominated as the next Chairman, and that Denise Love is willing to take over as Projects Co-Ordinator and Dr Rosemary Raza as Events Officer. Paul Dean is a London barrister whose father worked in Government service in India until 1947. Paul is a trustee of the Indian Civil Service Association. Denise Love is a former British civil servant with Indian connections, in particular to Calcutta (where she was born) and to Bombay. Rosemary Raza needs no introduction, since she is already General Meetings Officer and a member of the Executive Committee. Assuming that members approve their appointment at the AGM, I welcome them to their new roles.

Rosemary Raza has also been chairing BACSA’s Website Sub-Committee. Indigo Tree Ltd has been chosen to design the new website. Work has already started, and it is hoped that the website will be launched in the early summer. It promises to deliver a more impressive and user-
friendly platform from which BACSA can show-case its past and current projects on the internet and give the public access to its archives and records. The new website will also have a “members-only” area, where the more recent editions of Chowkidar will be available and where members can make purchases and book events. A website with so many new features will require constant monitoring and updating. David Blake, who has performed the role of Website Editor for a number of years with great dedication is now stepping down. BACSA is grateful for his contribution. Valmay Young has agreed to take over. I am prepared to wager that she understands more about how websites are built and operate than any other BACSA member. Her success in running the FIBIS website means that BACSA’s new website will be in very safe hands.

The subject of booking events on-line prompts me to mention the second BACSA Lecture Series, organised by Valerie Haye and Rosemary Raza. At the time of writing, three of the six lectures have taken place. By the time members read this letter, two lectures will remain. Tickets can be booked through Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.co.uk – The Raj Re-Examined). Co-hosted by the South Asia Centre at LSE, the lectures to date have been a sell-out success. I pay tribute to Valerie and Rosemary for the quality of the programme they have put together. The two
Lecture Series have greatly raised BACSA’s profile and has led to the recruitment of several new members.

You will forgive me if, on the subject of recruitment, I return to an old refrain. We need our existing members to think hard about those they know in the next generation who might be persuaded to join BACSA or to whom, perhaps, they might gift BACSA membership. We need to bring on board those in their 30s, 40s and 50s who share our connection with, or historical interest in, the cemeteries of South Asia. How about giving Life Membership to a junior member of the family?

Another concern is the increasing cost of our restoration projects. Higher wages on the Indian sub-continent, new Indian Government taxes and a weaker pound have all contributed. A few years ago we were making grants of a few hundred pounds. Now it is rarely less than £5,000 and sometimes into five figures. We are constantly looking for new sponsors and are immensely grateful to those members who make bequests to BACSA in their Wills.

The present picture, both in terms of numbers of members and the financial strength of the Association, is encouraging: but there is no room for complacency.

Mark Havelock-Allan

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