British tourist traces family history in Kerala

By Sanu George, IANS,

Kochi : Joseph Hammond, a 65-year-old British national, long dreamt of tracing the place where his parents first met and married in Kerala in 1943. His dream was fulfilled this week on a visit to India’s tourist haven.

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“Yes, this is going to be one of the most memorable visits that I have been dreaming about for long and I am excited that I have been successful in locating the places where my parents met and got married,” Hammond told IANS.

Hammond and his wife Jill, who now live in Southampton, arrived in Kerala early this week. This was Hammond’s first trip to the state.

“My father, Gerald Hammond, was a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery posted here and was a musician too and my mother Edith Hellein who had a French connection was born in India and lived in south India. In 1940 they met at the erstwhile Malabar Hotel near here and they got married in 1943 at the Church of Infant Jesus here,” said Hammond, who is a retired engineering professor and dean of Southampton University.

Hammond was born in 1944 in Pune. Soon after World War II his father was discharged from the army and took up a teaching job in Darjeeling, where Hammond did his schooling.

In 1960 the entire family left India and settled in Hitchin, north London.

“My father passed away in 1968 and my mother two years ago. She was always talking about her life in Kerala because her father was superintendent of the Ram Mohan Palace here. I decided that some day I would come here and visit the places she always mentioned,” said Hammond.

The British tourist arrived here with a photograph of his grandfather taken in 1939 standing at the Ram Mohan Palace and to his surprise he located the building which till recently was part of the Kerala High Court.

“I went to the building and I took a picture exactly at the same place where my grandfather stood,” said Hammond.

His next stop was the Church of Infant Jesus and to his delight he located it without any problem.

“My excitement was mounting and I requested the parish vicar if I could have a look at the marriage register and to my utter joy I located the names of my parents and their signatures,” said Hammond.

Now that he has fulfilled his dream, Hammond believes he has lots to share with his two children aged 38 and 37. But he cannot help but wish that, if only his mother were alive, his joy would have been complete.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])