“The most noteworthy event in the history of the year was the total destruction in 1877 of the Krishna Shoal light-house , on the south coast of Pegu.”
While this report was extracted from the “Proceedings of the Commissioner of British Burma in the Revenue Department”, it contained these wonderful narrative and descriptive elements:
“This light-house, built throughout of iron, and supported on screw piles, stood on the south-eastern point of the shoal from which it takes its name, the depth of water round it at low water being three fathoms, with a rise and fall of 12 feet, and a tide running six knots and hour. It was begun in 1868 and completed in May 1869 at a cost of 16,000 pounds , the light being shown for the first time on 10th June in the latter year.”
Previous inspections suggested vulnerability due to scouring, and while subsequent repairs were carried out by the Public Works Department, they proved insufficient. Another noteworthy event that year, (though apparently not the most noteworthy) was the murder of Mr. E.R. Woodcock, “the only European ligthkeeper stationed at Table Island lighthouse,” by one of the “menial employees” there. There were both civil engineering and criminal mysteries to unravel in this tale!
I came across this Report on Lighthouses off the Coast of British Burma in the India Office Records at the British Library. Thought it was before my grandfather’s time working on lighthouses there, I read these pages with deep interest for the texture they contained. John O’Brien, the archivist of the India Office Records, shared with me that many of the reports and correspondences of the 19th century carried a level of detail that later ones in the twentieth century lacked.
I was curious to know if similar accounts existed for public works projects in Burma in the 1920s and 1930s. O’Brien pointed me to an index of the Proceedings of the Government of Burma, Public Works Department which contained reports of correspondences until 1924. I requested the volumes from 1919-1924. In each of these volumes there was a section called “Establishment,” which included notes about engineer appointments and transfers, as well as a section on “Accounts”.