Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society (9 december 1882)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This article is a report of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society published in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle on 9 december 1882.

The report is about a lecture "Himalayan Health retreats" attended by Arthur Conan Doyle.


Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (9 december 1886, p. 6)

Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society

The second ordinary meeting for the session of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society was held at the "George" Hotel, High-street, Portsmouth, on Tuesday evening.

The chair was occupied by the President (the Rev. Dr. Kennedy-Moore), and the company included the following gentlemen:— General J. W. Cox, General C. D. Nugent, Surgeon-Major G. C. Gribbon, Surgeon-Major Stock, Surgeon-Major Walker, the Rev. W. J. Staynes, the Rev. Barnard Gisby, Dr. Coates, Dr. Guilemard, Canon Doyle [1], Major F. S. Terry, and Messrs. J. Andrews, J. Hay, G. A. Cook, R.N., G. Byrne, J. R. Robson, R.N., W. Silver, R.N., W. E. Atkins, T. Newell. W. H. Kirton, C. G. Knight. C. F. ----, W. White, J. A. Wilson, R.N., A. Howell, G. D----, A. H. Williams, A. Simmonds, J. Digweed, M. ---ld, R.N., Alexander Stannard, W. S. Etheridge, G. F. Bell, Dr. J. Ward Cousins, Hon. Sec., &c.

The following gentlemen were nominated for membership:— Dr. Coates, Dr. G. Kell, R.N., Rev. J. P. Williams, Rev. H. R. Passmore, and Mr. Foran.


Surgeon-Major Gribbon, A.M.D., read a paper on this subject. He said that a temperateness in climate is a great desideratum to Europeans in India not to be adequately understood by anyone who has not lived there. But it was a long time before Anglo-Indians succeeded in realising what potentialities for health enjoyment lay on those great hills which tower up on the north, and whose glittering pinnacles of snow they can see on the horizon from many of their stations. The climate bears sorely on infant life as soon as the hot weather sets in, and the anxious English mother and her child were undoubtedly the pioneers who found out the health retreats. Speedily what was begun to arrest sickness became practised to prevent it. Even more, going to the hills became in fashion, and, having a reasonable basis, would be a lasting one. And as railways rendered the journey to their foot easier and easier, so are they becoming more resorted to, until it has come to this at the present day, that as the hot season approaches the query runs through every plain station, not "Who is going to the hills?" but "Who is going to stay down?" and congratulations or condolences follow accordingly. Now, in the Himalayas people can choose their elevation almost to a foot. That great mass of mountains is considered to be made up of three divisions — first, sub-Himalayan range, next to the plains; second, Himalayan proper, the location of the health retreats; and, third, the snowy range. The proper Himalayan is comnosed of clays, shales, slates, &c. In some places it suddenly attains a high elevation, but in general its rise is more gradual by a succession of spurs, one higher than the other. It is on the sides and tops of spurs from 5000 ft. to 7500 ft. that the hill stations have been formed. Time was not so long ago when a slow, disagreeable journey by a bullock cart confronted those who wished to get to the hills, a journey possibly of one or two hundred miles, or even more. New trains run to the foot of the hills invalids are rushed up in a night or two, for during the heat of the day weakly people rest in the dak bungalows, and they are at once in cool air. The hill station or retreat that asserts itself the Queen of all is Darteeling. Though this station has such attractions, its wetness, the rainfall being over 120 inches (that at home being 30), deters many from spending the season there. Nevertheless it never lacks visitor, and is the large health retreat of the Eastern Himalayas. Passing westward the traveller and that two independent states — these of Bhootan and Nepaul — take up that part of the range in their territories, and keep them at a distance. This is unfortunate, for a few stations midway between Darteeling, and the next, or those above Oudh, would be valuable. There are several at short distances from one another. Naini Tal is the principal, at an average elevation of 7000ft. Rhanihhet, eighteen miles off, at a little higher elevation, is the beau ideal of a hill station. After alluding to numerous other stations, making especial mention of Dalhousie and of the favourite health resort of Murree, the reader went on to speak of the climate. Snow falls, he said, in winter, but does not lie long. Then follows some days which the paths are almost knee deep in slush. Then a short season — "spring, gentle spring" we consider it — when violets and anemones peep out from sheltered banks on the precipitous hill side, with the light red and magenta flowers of the rhododendron trees. Then there is an interregnum of unsettled weather, marked by hail storms and cold showers. This is in March and April, towards the end of which the weather gradually settles down into a hot, dry summer, only a pale reflection, however, of the hot season going on below. The rains set in about the middle of June, often earlier than they do in the plains, except along the coast. The eastern stations get them early, and plenty of them. The eastern stations have the finest scenery, but the western ones are compensated by being drier, and English fruits and vegetables thrive better. The temperature is rarely below freezing — he spoke of an elevation of 6800 feet, perhaps the average of hill stations. The climate therefore is perfectly adapted to Europeans. It is a very official community in India, and the hill season is arranged for by regulation. April 15th is fixed as the opening day. The price for the season of an average house is from 800 to 1000 rupees, &c, about 757 to 857, and it is a poor return for one's money to have to sit in July and August with an umbrella over each one's seat, at dinner, while every available tub basin are diverted from their natural use to catch the cascade falling from the roof to the carpet. Yet this happens in at least a fourth of the houses in most stations. After giving a sketch of indoor and outdoor life on the hills. Surgeon-Major Gribbon went on to make some remarks on the healthiness of these resorts and the causes inimical to it, in the nature of things they should be in healthy, and were so in the main, or otherwise they have acquired their title. There was the mountain air with his exhilarating, lightness; there was the coolness which almost always be enjoyed in the ----, however strong the sun's rays may feel. There was the varied scenery. But no more on the hills than in any either place where human beings congregated could complete healthiness obtain if insanitary condition has been allowed to arise. At most of the stations those were the evils arising from the station being --- and also from the houses being built close to one another. The although there was no system of drainage, yet drains did exist from the bathrooms of most houses. ....



The Rev. W. J. Stayne having spoken, the vote was unanimously carried.

  1. A common typo in the newspapers.