Last year I blogged about Beth Ellis’s An English Girl’s First Impressions of Burmah.
At the time I had two mysteries, who exactly was Beth Ellis, and why did Beth refer to Maymyo as Remyo?
Well last night I got an answer to both questions as a comment on my original post – and what an answer it was:
Beth Ellis was my great-aunt and I have copies of all her books (7 novels, plus her Burmah book). Sadly she died in childbirth at the age of only 38, otherwise there might have been many more novels. She was also very keen on education, as might be expected of one of Oxford’s early women students, and played an important role in helping to improve the schools in her home town of Wigan before her marriage in 1908, after which she move to Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire, where she would die less than five years later. It is interesting to note that she was at Oxford at the same time as her brother, although he took four years to get a Third class degree in Law while she took only three years to get First class honours in English – but no degree, of course, because she was woman!
Like you, I have been puzzled about the Maymyo – Remyo conflict and have finally found some documentary evidence that your guess was correct. In 1904 a French gentleman called Count Etienne Lunet de Lajonquière made a two-month visit to Siam and, for a few days, Burma. On his return he wrote a book called “Le Siam et les Siamois” which was published in 1906. In his entry for November 11th 1904, while he was in Rangoon, he writes “Depuis quelque temps, le Lieutenant- Gouverneur a transporté sa résidence habituelle à Remyo, une station estivale de la haute région, où il installera peu à peu toutes les grandes administrations, concentrées jusqu’ici à Rangoon: les fonctionnaires y trouveront une température plus agréable; quant aux commerçants attachés à leurs bureaux, ils y gagneront l’aisance des coudes ; il y a donc profit pour tous.” Loosely translated this says that “For some time, the Lieutenant Governor has transported his main residence to Remyo, a summer station in the high region, where he has installed little by little all the main administratve offices, which were previously concentrated in Rangoon; the civil servants will find a more pleasant temperature there; while the staff attached to their offices will have more space; there is thus a benefit for everyone.”
So it is clear that when Beth visited Burma the embryonic summer administrative capital was still called Remyo as you, and I, had guessed might have been the case.
And I do agree with you that her first book is a wonderful book with an entrancingly witty view of life in the Raj.
It doesn’t get better than that!
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