July 8th, 2020 / posted by paularath

The cast of Beecham House on PBS Masterpiece Theatre           Photos courtesy PBS

“Beecham House,” currently playing on PBS Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday nights, has captivated me. Not because of Tom Bateman, who plays John Beecham (although he is quite divine to look at) and not because of the costumes (which are also eye candy) or even the sumptuous palaces and textiles that light up the screen – but because of my family roots.

The Rath family has a long history in India, dating back to when my great grandfather, James Rath, enlisted in the British Army and was sent to India in 1837. Although he was a cobbler by profession in Birmingham, England, then Werford, Ireland, he apparently had a falling out with his family and wanted to get as far away as possible. India fit the bill.

So east he went, with his Irish wife by his side. She died of disease soon after arrival, but he remarried, again an Irish wife, who was able to stay the course in India.

As my grandmother, Ragna Helsher Rath, whom we called Nana, wrote in her book “James Arthur Rath and Palama Settlement,” great grandfather served in the British Army’s Artillery Division during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, as well as in Afghanistan and Burma (now Myanmar).

This is only a few decades after the period portrayed in “Beecham House,” so there may have been many similarities to the time my family lived there.

Tom Bateman, heartthrob of “Beecham House” on PBS

My great grandfather served in the Army’s Madras Division, so this is why my grandfather was born in Madras.  His military job title was “Assistant Apothecary,” which seems to be similar to a Physician’s Assistant, or perhaps a pharmacist, today. Nana wrote that he was a skilled diagnostician, and had “Patients coming from miles away to be examined by him.”

Pallavi Sharda, who plays Chandrika on “Beecham House” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre. My grandmother had a few beautiful saris, but they weren’t as lavish as this!

There are many pukas in the family history, such as great grandfather’s name. It’s time I tried to learn more. But I do know a great deal about my grandfather, James Arthur Rath.

So how did Grandfather happen to travel from Madras, India, to Honolulu, Hawaii? Why was he asked to serve as the Consul General for India in Honolulu? Why is Indian curry the most traditional dish in the Rath family of Honolulu?

Well, you’ll have to read my next blog to learn more.

  • Paula Rath
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