Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Death of Much Machee, the High Priest of Ghee Hung Chinese Church

H.E.A. Cotton
Going through one of H.E.A. Cotton's copies of Calcutta Old and New I came across several newspaper clippings the author had retained probably for future use. Among them is this report of unknown provenance on a Chinese funeral, which was mentioned in the Empire.
Let us all be buried in the ways that we severally prefer. Who is for the ceremonial recently observed at a funeral ceremony in Calcutta? It was the occasion when the remains of Much Machee, the High Priest of Ghee Hung Chinese Church, were interred in the Chinese burial-ground of that city. ''The body,'' says the ''Empire,'' ''was placed in a long box, and at the feet of the corpse was placed a table loaded with roasted sucking pigs and lambs and a variety of Chinese sweets. Two Phoophoo bands''--all Anglo-Indians will recognise with a shudder what that means--''were in attendance, and the music included pieces like 'The Raja of Bhong' and 'Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching.'''
"The Raja of Bhong" appears to be some sort of musical drama written by Adrian Ross (1859-1933). Ross was a renowned writer of musical comedies, popular in his day. In 1902 he had written in The Tattler a comic critique of Kipling's attempts at writing verse:

Give us the blending of East and West, of new and of old;
But don't go writing verses in the style of a common scold.
For it makes the metre rocky and it makes the rhyming weak,
And you never were a master of poetical technique.

Of "The Raja of Bhong" I have only so far found these stanzae that were added later:

There's a writer of rhymes that appear in The Times,
Who is down upon football and cricket,
And he pours out his soul on the oaf at the goal,
Or the flannelette fool at the wicket!
There was violence feared when his poem appeared,
But the poet was hardly a dreamer;
When the oafs in the mud came to look for his blood,
He was off to the Cape on a steamer!
Peace ! peace ! leave him in peace!
Though he pitches it rather too strong;
We'll forget how he sails if he'll tell us some tales
Of the beautiful valley of Bhong!

"Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" was a Civil War time song, composed by George F. Root in 1864. Here is a rendition -- trying to imagine what the funeral must have sounded like!




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