There is, however, a great desire among master craftsmen to have craft apprentices. We believe the importance of them in the continual improvement of techniques is considerable. They are, of course, useful directly as slave labour, but equally as teachers of the various crafts and means of production.
Hence a great deal of men and women who have been competent in one or the other of the crafts are waiting for places to teach in art schools where they shall be in close contact with working artisans. We have several that have come to us recently who have been able to help; they are among our greatest gainers. A case in point is Charles Price, who was accompanied by his brother James and Chorley Wood and who used to bring from Manchester lots of presents for children of the officer corps. Once his ship stopped at Colombo, Sri Lanka, and returned him many wonderful things for his children that he had not been allowed to bring here, and on his return Charles has been employed as an instructor and teacher at the intermediate school for state cadets, where he has developed the teaching methods, and, with the help of the officers, is making sure that they are now being taken through every stage that they might go on to.
Therefore we are more than justified in our belief that Malabar has provided, by training in its crafts, for almost a century, the clothing and makeup that the men and women who make the costumes for the playhouses and ballet stages, travel parties and other costumes require. We are supplied with many very interesting and important things.
A Malabar worker with one of the costumes made at the Pietermaritzburg workshops. Photograph: Artbabu/Getty Images
Meanwhile we have a man who had been received by Malabar with great congratulations from Malaya. It had been said that Malaya, a nation of craftsmen, needed them and that Malabar could service it very well. His ship had left from Kew Bridge, London, for Singapore, and the Malayan government had sent a large number of beautifully made gentlemen’s coats for them to dress in, so a great room was devoted to working in these coats. After they were dressed, they would have leather clothes, and then over the winter they would make the shoes.
Some boys and girls from the Athgoma ferry were in Singapore for a visit. When they came to stay at the missionary work at Lesickdale Camp, near Weytham village, they found the staff were almost like Malabar staff; the staff had come from Malabar and given this area a new look. Malabar had started a trade of upholstery, that too on the front of house furniture. When they asked about an addition to their ladies’ garments, we considered this a great opportunity and made the material available on the basis of trade: that is, we actually worked with an architect to define the plan and then assembled it before we left for England.
An exhibition of Malabar garments at the Hilton Hotel. Photograph: Tim Piper
The staff returned when the summer began. One particular boy was greatly helped in much the same way as the writer. Before he came, I had invited him and his friends to come to Manchester for two weeks so that I might listen to them and have some experience of them. I met a group from Toronto, Chicago, Lagos, and Edinburgh who were there to see the apprentice at Malabar and to help them. I must admit that this boy is very highly successful and gives so many undiscovered talents many opportunities. An Oxford boy, regarded as high and of talented character and was spotted by Thomas Temple as the of the year but was only found for work in Malabar after he had been received by Malabar; since he had represented Oxford at the Thames Festival parade, it was rather a shock to be told he was on the verge of graduation at Cambridge University, but soon again I received the news that he had been on the verge of graduation at the University of Lincoln in art and design, and had left Malabar just before he was to study there.
A large group of Malabar girls, flying with the honeymooning Captain and Mrs Ledwidge, were seen by Arthur Linney, a pioneer of several now defunct firms, and accepted on the barter trade. As this was not a very active trade, I was able to buy the girls dresses, and after