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'A daughter of the Empire': Beryl White In India 1901-03

Jessie White

Jessie, 'Nina' White, Beryl's motherJessie, 'Nina' White, Beryl's motherBeryl White's mother, Jessie, was the daughter of the army officer George Ranken (1810-1874) and Sophia White Davidson (1835-1904).

She married her distant cousin John Claude White on 12th September 1876 at All Saints Church in Kensington, London. The couple settled in Burdwan in Bengal, where their daughter Beryl was born in 1877.

Letters to her mother (written in 1877) evidence her easy adjustment to life in British India. She lived in India until her husband’s retirement in 1908 when they return to England.

John Claude White refers to her on several occasions in his writings, acknowledging her role in creating a splendid garden at the Residency.

Jessie White accompanied her husband on some of his arduous mountain treks. He describes how on one occasion they had to cross the swollen river Teesta on a ‘very rotten’ cane bridge that is ‘much sagged in the centre’ and how with each step taken the part of the bamboo platform just released under their feet ‘swung back ... leaving a gap beneath which swirled the flooded Teesta.’

On another occasion, he informs us that his daughter Beryl and her mother could only cross a difficult pass ‘carried on the backs of two of the strongest Lachung men...and two men helping on either side.’

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