‘Tigi Adventures’ by Mark Ernest Young, self-published in Mysore, India, 2005, 171 pages with maps and black & white photographs, AU$6 plus postage. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Gumanch’ by Mark Ernest Young, self-published in Mysore, India, 2016, 215 pages with maps and black & white photographs, AU$6 plus postage. Contact the author at email@example.com
TUMBY BAY - Imagine this – you’ve led a very interesting life but you’re getting on a bit. You’ve got a mixture of memories and stories floating around in your head, some of them you know are true, some of them you think are true and some are in between.
There are only vague connections between these various stories and recollections but you decide to write them down anyway and arrange for their publication.
You’re a little bit out of touch; you still think Vanuatu is called the New Hebrides and is governed as a British-French condominium but that doesn’t really matter.
You’re also not too fussed anymore about the spelling of place names and other things but you have a good command of grammar which acts as a neat offset.
You have a great deal of respect for the old British Empire and what it once stood for and your values and perceptions of the world are still coloured by that view.
The two books you write go to one of those cheap Indian publisher-printers so the quality is not tip top, especially the second book, but the end products are still highly readable and have a certain charm and appeal.
Satisfied, you sit back and wonder what the world will think of them.
This is my impression of the evolution of Mark Ernest Young’s two books, ‘Tigi Adventures’ (2005) and ‘Gumanch’ (2016), named after plantations in the New Guinea highlands but not exclusively about them.
I may be totally wrong in my impression and no doubt I’ll be corrected if this is the case.
But I still recommend them to the readers of PNG Attitude.
Together the books give people who are interested in the culture of the short-lived colonial era plantations in the highlands of Papua New Guinea a glimpse of not only how they operated but also the mindset of many of those who were engaged in the endeavour.
Mark Ernest Young was born and brought up in Bangalore in South India and comes from a well-known Anglo-Indian family of Scottish descent. His father was a coffee planter in the Wynad (Kerala State) and later a police officer in Mysore State and subsequently served with the Metropolitan Police in London.
Mark was also a coffee planter in South India and in the New Guinea highlands. He once worked on a sheep station in Western Australia and later for Chrysler International in London.
What particularly intrigued me about the two books was the contrast between Indian plantation culture and the Australian version that briefly flourished in the New Guinea highlands.
Many of those Australian planters used expatriate managers and expertise from Africa, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaysia and India and no doubt the attitudes they brought with them from those places had an impact on the way the plantations operated in New Guinea.
The only real difference between the two was perhaps the absence of large carnivores in New Guinea like lions and tigers and the hunting and shooting culture that these encouraged.
Despite that difference, many of the other factors were similar and the attitudes the same. Both groups, at least in my view, seemed to consider themselves a cut above the run-of-the-mill and evolved a pukka sahib class of their own.
Reading the first book is great preparation for reading the second where the majority of the New Guinea stories occur.
Unfortunately, this second book, ‘Gumanch’, is much less well-presented and unlike the first is much more error prone.
I came across people I had known and this gave it a ring of authenticity and the priming from the first book made it a bit easier to understand.
Such was this effect I was inclined to forgive the rendering of place names like ‘Wahgi’ spelt incorrectly as ‘Waghi’ and ‘kunai’ spelt as ‘kunhi’ and people like Dick Hagon mistakenly called ‘Dirk’.
If you are just interested in reading about the author’s experiences in New Guinea you only need to read the second book, ‘Gumanch’.
The books are a little bit tricky to get hold of because they come directly from the author. Mine came in a package from Mysore neatly tied with string and I paid for them by sending money to the author’s cousin in Western Australia.
That aside, if you have an interest in Papua New Guinea and the colonial period, the books will sit well on your bookshelf.