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Dr. Graham’s Homes

AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE​ By Aishwarya Bhatt

Image by Brenda Haseldine, Facebook

Class of ISC in 1973 poses for the camera at the then Jubilee House at Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong. The Homes were established as a vocational training school where abandoned children were relocated to British colonies such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, where they could establish themselves with the job skills, learned in Kalimpong.

Dr. Graham worked as a clerk in the Civil Service in Edinburgh when he met Reverend John McMurtrie, whose influence and encouragement changed his and the lives of thousands of others.

After being ordained in the Ministry of God, Dr. Graham arrived in Kalimpong to turn to social reforming. The aim of his work was to find a solution to the “poor white problem” of British India. Contemporary observers at the time had coined the term to the unacknowledged mixed-race children, most of who were shunned by the British and the upper-class Indians. The plight of these children ended up on city streets and saw the birth of St. Andrew’s Colonial Homes in Kalimpong, even today the homes stand for its origin.

Different people from different places, coming together, we become friends. – Natasha

Reverend John Anderson Graham opened the homes on September 24th 1900 with 6 children which he would, later on, expand to 400 acres and continue to grow. By 1920s the Homes complex was a self-sufficient village housing 600 children. In the initial two decades, he constructed 44 buildings, the last being the Kindergarten in 1938. The year after was his personal Jubilee year (1889-1939), hence the coining of Jubilee House commemorating him. Dr Graham passed away on 15 May 1942 and rests in the Garden of Remembrance alongside his beloved Katherine.

An image of a smiling Reverend John Anderson Graham standing in front of his beloved Homes retrieved from The Elgin Nor-Khill’s archive.

Established as a vocational training school for the abandoned children, the Homes saw the state of the art architecture and facilities. A hospital, gymnasium and a farm provide the children at the homes with all-round development and the most serene environment to cherish a lifetime of memories within.

Image by @_cherishedcaptures, Instagram

Homes has evolved. There was the name change from St. Andrew’s Colonial Homes. The original mascot was harmony and learning in the school crest. There was the change in the school song. Wearing shoes to school was made compulsory in 1964. But the children went barefoot in the cottage. Grant had been converted to teacher’s residence. Edinburgh got dismantled. The famous Clock tower stopped it’s chimes. They sold off the bells. A smaller one still rings in the chapel. Shyam Dhewanan alumnus of the Homes from the batch of 1973.

Shradha WtbCoach and Author Ambassador Les Brown Unlimited and an alumnus of the school recounts her boarding days, “At the whitewashed fence of McGregor cottage that was going to be my home for the next nine months my father let go of my hand. ‘Have Faith’, he said. ‘Believe in Yourself’. His slow steps downhill, Aunty’s (my warden’s) quick instructions on how to blend with the other thirty-odd girls and the bark of the oozing gumtree stood sturdy beside welcoming me with widespread arms. Boarding school life at the Himalayas had just begun and along with it began my Faith. At four, I decided to prepare and work for seeing my father a day early on Prize Distribution Day. The fortunate who came first or second in class and those who progressed the most from middle to final semester got a book and parents assembled in tow at the Jarvie Hall. My Faith told me. I was going to make it. I had to make it my business to see my father as soon as possible even if it was going to be laborious nine months of mental resilience for that one extra day. Most of us have our traits instilled in us during these formative years and when life happens, we tend to give way. In the hope of seeing my father soon, those eight years at Dr Graham’s Homes, Kalimpong taught me how to practice Faith.

An old image of Dr. Graham’s Homes in the early days, retrieved from The Elgin Nor-Khill’s archive.

The Homes today stand as a testament to the years of care, love and lives it has caressed and shaped. The marvel of centuries-old Scottish influences in its architecture stand as a reflection of the prestige that the schools have maintained over the years.

Image by Shradha Wtb, Facebook

Dr Graham’s Homes made me the person I am today. Am grateful to the Homes for blessing me with values, education and self-respect to go on living my dreams and never ever give up!

At a distance of 14 minutes’ drive from The Elgin Silver Oaks, the Dr Graham’s Homes finds itself as the destination of a wonderful scenic drive for tourists from all over the world.

Image by @_alex.d.d, Instagram

I wish I knew about you before but I am happy that at least I got the chance to be part of this institution who create GREATs. Thank you so much, Dr. Graham’s Homes. I love you and I’ll miss you immensely. You brought the best qualities that were hidden inside me. – Alex Daiman alumnus of the Homes and currently a student at International Institute of Hotel Management, Kolkata.

Till today, students find themselves coming back to the school to pay their respect to the institution that brought them to where they are today.

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