UNVEILING OF THE BUST OF SIR CATCHICK PAUL CHATER
8th September, 2017. IAF PRESS
On Friday 8th September, 2017 in the grounds of La Martiniere Boys’ School, Kolkata, India, a bust of their most famous student and benefactor, Sir Catchick Paul Chater (Khachig Pogose Astwachatoor) was jointly unveiled by His Excellency Mr. Armen Martirosyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of India and His Eminence, the Rt. Rev. Ashoke Biswas, Bishop of Calcutta and President of the Ex-Officio Board of Governors, La Martiniere schools, Kolkata. Students from both the boys and girls schools of La Martiniere attended this long awaited occasion as well as the teaching staff, board of governors, members of the Armenian Community of Kolkata and numerous guests from different walks of life. The initiative of this wonderful occasion came from a joint collaboration between Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO, La Martiniere Schools and Mrs Sonia John, a former student of La Martiniere who also served as a member of the acting board of governors of the school. Mrs John is also the former chairperson of the Armenian Church Committee and the former honorary manager of the city’s Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy, one of the oldest educational institutions in the Armenian diaspora.
Sir Catchick Paul Chater, arguably the most famous Armenian of not only India but the whole of Asia was born in Calcutta to an Armenian family on the 8th of September, 1846. Khachig Pogose Astwachatoor, as he was named after his birth, was orphaned at the age of 9 and joined La Martineire for Boys’ School, Kolkata as a foundation scholar. At the age of 18, on the advice of his elder sister, he went to Hong Kong and very soon rose to prominence for his immense contributions to the colony.
In 1892, in appreciation for his valuable services rendered to the French Government at Tonking, Sir Paul was made a member of the reputed order, Légion d’Honneur. For his phenomenal achievements in Hong Kong, he was also made C.M.G. (Companion of the order of St. Michael and St. George) by Her Majesty Queen Victoria during her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897. Sir Paul Chater was also knighted by King Edward VII in celebration of his coronation in 1902 and was also bestowed with the honour of representing the colony of Hong Kong at the coronation of King George V in 1911.
In January 1923, the University of Hong Kong bestowed upon him an honorary degree of LL.D. as recognition for his services as the treasurer of the university and for his generous donation of $250, 000 to the institution. However, his most outstanding achievement was the land reclamation project from the sea, making Hong Kong one of the most important business hubs today. He has many monuments and roads named after him and is still remembered as the ‘Grand Old Man of Hong Kong’. When in 1924/25 he heard that his alma mater, La Martiniere was facing a financial crunch, he wasted no time in sending two generous donations to the school, thus saving it from certain closure. He thus became the benefactor of the school and to this day his name is mentioned every morning by the students and staff in the school prayer. Many Armenian students continue to get free education in the school due to his kind gesture. It is because of this reason that a bust of this most generous Armenian was placed in the school.
It is also apt to mention that it is because of Sir Paul Chater’s donations to the Armenian Church of Holy Nazareth, Kolkata, that the Armenian community and its various institutions are maintained today.
The Newly Unveiled Bust
The unveiling ceremony commenced with welcome addresses by Ms Rupkatha Sarkar, Principal of La Martiniere for Girls School, who introduced the panelists to the audience before requesting His Eminence the Rt. Rev. Ashoke Biswas, Bishop of Kolkata, to welcome His Excellency and the guests to the historic event. In his welcome address, His Eminence reiterated the fact that Sir Paul is still held in high regard by everyone in the school and acknowledged the importance of the historical ties India has shared with Armenia, giving the example of La Martiniere schools. “It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this very special occasion, which seeks to merge a historical association between La Martinere schools and Indo-Armenian Friendship and in particular our link with Sir Catchick Paul Chater, Benefactor of La Martinere Kolkata…… It is through the support of an Indo-Armenian foundation that La-Martiniere Kolkata is able to become the home to this timeless reputation of Sir Catchick Paul Chater”, said His Eminence.
Pic Credit- Rangan Datta
The Bishop of Kolkata also thanked Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO and Mrs Sonia John for taking the initiative of having the bust of Sir Paul Chater installed in the school. Expressing his appreciation, His Eminence said, “We are honoured that La-Martiniere has been chosen for the installation of this bronze bust of Sir Catchick Paul Chater, which is also an important event in celebrating 25 years of Indo-Armenian bilateral ties.”
The chief guest of the event, His Excellency Mr. Armen Martirosyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia, in his address congratulated the organizers on the occasion of the unveiling of Sir Paul’s bust and specified the need to spread more awareness about Sir Paul Chater, expressing regret that not many people in Armenia and in the Armenian diaspora know about this illustrious man. “I have always believed that one man can make a difference, and one outstanding man can make history. Khachik Pogose Astwachatoor, undoubtedly, was one such man”, said the Ambassador. His Excellency specified that more people must know about and celebrate Sir Paul’s legacy, placing him among the likes of other famous Armenian businessmen of repute. “Like the prominent Armenian businessmen such as Alexander Mantashov and Galoust Gulbenkian, developing industries in Europe and the Middle East, Sir Paul Chater, almost at the same time, was contributing to the formation and development of Hong Kong” conveyed His Excellency, before opining that the crown of Sir Paul’s legacy by far was La Martiniere School, which, thanks to the generosity of Sir Paul, continues to operate and educate many young students, preparing them for a bright future. His Excellency also called upon the students of the school to commit to knowledge as a way of enhancing Sir Paul Chater’s legacy as well as bringing special meaning to the school prayer they recite every morning in which Sir Paul’s name is glorified as the benefactor of the school. As a sign of recognition of the historic ties the Armenian Community has had with the school, and as a way of spreading awareness about Sir Catchick Paul Chater in Armenia, His Excellency also offered La Martiniere to establish a partnership with one of the leading schools in Armenia, a development that would further enhance Indo-Armenian ties.
Mrs Sonia John who had financed the making of the bust also addressed the gathered guests and students, giving a brief history of Sir Paul’s days as a young student in the school and expressed delight at being able to be a part of and contribute to this historic event. “It was on the initiation of the Indo Armenian Friendship NGO that Sir Catchik Paul Chater’s bust is being installed in the school campus and being unveiled by His Excellency Mr Armen Martirosyan the Armenian ambassador in India and His Grace Ashok Biswas Bishop of Kolkata and president of La Martiniere Board”, said Mrs John. “I am privileged to show my gratitude to Sir Catchick Paul Chater, benefactor of La Martiniere schools in Kolkata and my alma mater… This great Martinian who was highly honoured and respected will now have an image to further perpetuate his remarkable life”, she continued, before thanking the school authorities for organizing the program with much finesse.
Pic Credit- Rangan Datta .
Liz Chater, the leading researcher on Sir Paul as well as family history researcher specializing in Armenian families in India and the Far East, in her speech emphasized the importance Sir Paul gave to statues as a way of perpetuating memory. “Sir Paul Chater was very familiar with the concept of statues as a token of respect and remembrance. Statue Square in Hong Kong was his brainchild”, said Mrs. Chater before giving a beautiful narrative of Sir Paul’s life in Hong Kong and the close ties he shared with the royal family, including about how he commissioned and fully funded two statues, which makes him the only individual resident of Hong Kong to fully pay for two sculptures. “It is delightful to see the modern La Martiniere School of today on this most auspicious occasion collaborating with the relatively newly formed Indo- Armenia Friendship group, along with ex-student of La Martiniere Girls’ School and a stalwart member of the Armenian community of this city, Mrs Sonia John. The result of this unique team work is before you now. Sir Paul Chater has once again returned to his beloved La Martinere School and will forever look over the current and all future students who come here to study for a better life” she concluded.
Expressing his gratitude on behalf of his organization to the school for their collaboration and support, Mr Rananjay Anand, President of the Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO (IAF) introduced the mission & vision of the organization to the audience. He thanked Mr Kantakishore Moharana, the sculptor of the bust. Mr Kantakishore hails from Orissa and has also represented India in the international sculptors’ symposium held in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh) earlier this year. Mr Anand underlined specifically why organizing such programs are special, emphasizing that the program was organized within the framework of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Armenia, for which the organization has planned a list of initiatives spread across the whole year.
Pic Credit- Rangan Datta
The program included an Armenian song rendition, Im Yerevan (My Yerevan) performed by the school choir comprising of mostly Indian students which was conducted by Mr Vachagan Tadevosyan and Mrs Narine Sahakyan, an Armenian couple who teach in the school, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the school song. The school prayer, in which Sir Paul’s name is remembered in gratitude as the school’s benefactor, was also recited.
The program concluded with the singing of the Indian National Anthem followed by a lunch organized for all the guests.
You can watch the entire program on YouTube bellow.
REPORTS OF THE EVENT
The Times of India - The Benevolent Armenian
The Telegraph - A Friend in Need and Deed