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Living in Burma


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The following is an extract from Leslie Knight’s diary written just one week before he died. The preceding text makes it clear that under medication his mind kept drifting back to his childhood in Burma. His handwriting is not as neat as it was only two weeks earlier and the Burmese names were deciphered only with Olive’s help. There are also obvious errors with dates and timings but they are reproduced here as originally written.

… a day when in the tropics, in Burma’s tropical heat, yes in the swamps among the croaking frog bound fields. The wind whistling with the trees, rustles the bushes no doubt swarming with lizards, snakes and reptiles.

It was usually an evening’s walk after going to Church after I had been pushing the hassocks around. How mum used to manage it so regularly I really don’t know. I am never sure now how old I was then but I imagine about six and perhaps my sister was about 2¾.

I usually managed to trot around playing with the locals, climbing up trees of which I was very fond. Always fighting or getting involved in a fight, snaring animals and catching butterflies. My father seemed to be a freelance engineer, sometimes with the rice mills and sometimes Burma Oil. He seemed also very mixed up with the Freemasons from whom he got a lot of help. This is an aspect I don’t remember much about but I don’t think my poor mother knew much about it. Perhaps they took them out there after the 1918 war.

For some years we lived in Rangoon, then Olive was born in Bassein. I also remember Moulmein, Kanonto and a wonderful Irrawaddy River. The pagodas and the elephants, the rickshaws and the gharries, beautiful shaped entrances to the cathedrals and pagodas. Some nice English Churches, some nice English houses and some lovely old schools with roots back to Old England. Olive and I went to the Diocesan Girl’s High School.

As written by Leslie Knight 10th March 1987. He made no further entries in his diary.

Note:- Moulmein and Kanonto were Burmese towns; a gharry was a horse drawn open carriage.