Life begins at Icklesham

Philip John

I was amazed that several people reacted to my last post – Icklesham. This story also got a large number of Likes on Facebook. Many people remembered our Coonoor home fondly. Here are some of the comments:

Rachel Varugis Chakola
Where, many lasting impressions were made. The introduction to Jimi Hendrix & Lou Reed, memories of coffee with cream, wafts of freshly baked chocolate cake emanating from the oven, Doberman’s ears being taped, dressing tables with lace doilies & vintage brush & mirror sets.
The list goes on…

Walza Mathew
We have such lovely memories of staying with you at Icklesham. Beautiful house and view and the hospitality was par excellence. We will never forget it.

Stanley N Esme Mehta
In our minds Premela, you and Icklesham are fused together. It was indeed the finest property in Coonoor. We have many fond memories of our time with you at Icklesham. Time stood still when we were there.

Nina Varghese
Many a time your Dobermans would escape and stand guard over the narrow bridle path below, scaring the hell out of me on my evening jaunt.

Philip John replied: The older Doberman was Ebony, a softy. The younger one Gypsy, was adept at nipping an ankle or two in passing – as Aban Sethna would fondly recall!

Aban Grant
I don’t remember either one being softies – but thanks to Gypsy I visited the Pasteur institute frequently!

Dawn Latham
Lovely seeing an old property restored. We remember Brig. Apcar at the Ooty Club.

Lyn Watson
Oh yes, Icklesham. Fond reminiscence.

Sheila Naharwar
I remember Icklesham having visited you both a few times. Wasn’t there a roof top covered in wild roses in one area?

Harendra Kailath
Was talking about this lovely house at breakfast today. Last seen circa 1975-76!
I remember one of your lean hounds at the far end!

Hamid Ashraff
Another lovely story. I can just imagine Icklesham, looking at the photos. Truly a beautiful abode with its immaculate surroundings. An era which has gone past.

Vijay Shankar
Brings back memories, was indeed a prime property, hidden away in the heart of town. An eyrie – this lovely property was totally hidden from view till you actually got there.
I remember being startled to find how it sprang on you suddenly when you ascended the hill and turned a bend on the small pathway up. Interesting to hear of its background and how it played a role in your and JT’s Coonoor saga. Pity you had to part with it later.
Who lives there now? I recall you sold it to Dinshaw Daruvala and it changed hands again after his passing.
Difficult to believe 40-45 years have passed since those early days ! Your children, I am sure, will cherish their childhood there.

Philip John replied: Vijay, we were happy that some early years of our lives were spent at Icklesham, also that Sandhya and Yohaan remember it as Home.
I will write some more stories about our life there and touch on some of your references.

Elsa Oommen
I just read your  article on Icklesham and the stupendous photos of the house and garden. What a fortuitous walk that led you to discover this gem tucked away on Gray’s Hill. And then life moved on.
Now you have 3 homes to enjoy!  Being in US near Sandhya and family is the best gift in these precarious times. Stay safe and keep us nourished with many more stories.

Early Days at Icklesham
Life for us changed in multiple ways. The lie of the land with large grassy tracts  was perfect for those interested in gardening, and my wife definitely was! Over the years she developed a wonderful garden replete with different coloured hedges formed by Azaleas, beds with Roses, Pansies, Petunias, Roses, Flocks, Antirrhinum, Astor Maria, different kinds of Lillies,  Bird of Paradise, Dahlias, Zeina, Flocks, Salvia, Gladioli, and the list goes on. We were fortunate to have the services of experienced gardeners.
We landscaped the garden and put in a pond where we grew differently coloured Koi fish. We cleared the ‘jungle’ below, more to scare away snakes that had taken residence there.

We now live in Silicon Valley and my wife and I enjoy an evening walk in our neighbourhood. It is a treat to see the wonderful gardens of the homes in our neighbourhood. Plants and flowers seem so easy to grow here, while my wife laboured much in our Coonoor garden. The climate in most parts of California makes this State the supplier of vegetables, fruits and flowers, as well as, wines, all of which are exported the world over.

A new hobby!
On a visit to Kuala Lumpur after our wedding, we met friends who had a black & tan Doberman. I had grown up with German Shepherds but the Doberman Pinscher (as it was called then) was smart, athletic looking and sharp. I fell in love with the breed immediately. It was a ‘man made’ breed developed in Germany by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermannas a guard dog.

There were not many breeders of the Doberman in India at the time however, on our return we ran into a friend who had a pair from English bloodlines. He was good enough to let us have a puppy – we named him Trigger though he had a fancy registered name. We had his registration and pedigree papers transferred to our name so that we could start ‘showing’ him. Without realising it at the time I had entered into the fascinating world of breeding, exhibiting, and judging pedigree dogs.

At the time the Kennel Club of India’s registered office was in Coonoor. It was looked after by a French lady, called Mrs. Goldsmith. She was assisted by Baba Mathews who took a liking to me and encouraged me to take up judging of dogs. Those unfamiliar with dog shows have little knowledge of the scope and extend of this unique hobby.

I will talk about this in another piece but suffice it to say I have been an All Breeds Judge for over four decades. Dog judging has taken me to all continents and this hobby became our gateway to see the world and have lasting friendships around the globe!

One Response

  1. Eagerly look forward to read more about icklesham as well as about becoming a Dog judge. Each episode is fascinating

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