Eric Milner: Tea from the Past

E. Milner,center, 1915 - 1969

My father traversed an interesting path, one of travel, adventure and creativity. Born in England, he studied botany and horticultural science at Wimbledon Technical College. He worked as a student gardener at the John Innes Horticultural Institution in London.

In a letter dated October 1st, 1937, it says:

“Mr. E. Milner came to us on Sept. 16th 1935 as a Student Gardener. Since that time he has spent 4 months in the Fruit Department, 2 months in the Rock Garden, 8 months on general outdoor work and 10 months under glass. His experience with us has included the propagation and maintenance of stove, glasshouse and herbaceous plants, all of which we grow in considerable variety.”

After completing his courses, he moved to India to work on a tea plantation around 1937.  He remained in India during the second world war serving as a translator.

In a letter dated 7th May, 1946 from the India Office, Whitehall, it says:


“Now that the time has come for your release from active military duty, I am to convey to you the thanks of the Secretary of State for India and of the Government of India for the valuable services which you have rendered to your country at a time of grave national emergency.

At the end of the emergency you will relinquish your commission, and at that time a notification will appear in the London Gazette (Supplement), granting you also the honorary rank of Captain.  Meanwhile, you have permission to use that rank with effect from the date of your release.”

He returned to England in 1946 and shortly thereafter immigrated to Canada where he met and married my mother.  Together they owned a pair of flower shops for a few years.  My father later managed a nursery in my hometown of London, Ontario.

Lucky for me his hobbies included photography and the careful assembly of albums, like the one pictured below.  I remain fascinated all these years later of his time in India and his work planting and propagating tea in the Darjeeling region.

Photos from my Father's Album

Planting Young Tea
photo by E. Milner

Tea Grows in India, 1939
photo by my father E. Milner

13 thoughts on “Eric Milner: Tea from the Past

  1. How wonderful that you have such a well-documented collection of memories of your father and his remarkable life. Thank you for sharing so eloquently such an intimate part of your life. You are a living tribute to your dad, and are honoring him most beautifully.


  2. Pingback: Tea: It’s Not Just for Drinking | gardeningnirvana

  3. Wonder story Alys. What an interesting life you dear dad enjoyed. You’ve obviously inherited the green thumb, and come by it honestly. Have you seen the movie ‘The Darjeeling Limited”. Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Swartzman. Three brothers travel across India by train after their father dies. We saw it at our local Arthouse Theatre since it wasn’t wide release. It’s very quarkie, but I enjoyed it. I thought the scenery was stunning and you might enjoy that. I do love that style of coloniale India, full of romantic notions and adventure….stuff good books (and movies) are made of.


    • Thanks for tracking back and reading the link, Boomdee. You are the best!

      I remember hearing about the movie but didn’t see it. I love Owen Wilson in most things, too. I’ll have to put it in our Netflix cue. Thanks for the tip.


      • Your welcome, I love seeing what I missed. I really liked the movie, while Jim, ehhh, not as much. But I tend to like off-beat movies. Like Tim Burton…his movies are the best, so creative and whimsical.


        • You and I would be great movie partners as well. Mike and I like about 80% of the same movies. He likes to see what I call “boy movies” the summer blockbusters which are high on action, low on plot. So…I send him on his way.


          • ditto…we take turns picking movies. Of course it works out about even as far as ‘could’ve missed that one’.

            oh man, early news tonight showing ‘snow’ in Calgary last night. It won’t last on the ground but still. They’re nearer the mountains but farther south.


            • Wow! Snow already. I”m stunned. We’ve had unseasonable heat this week in the mid-nineties. It’s been oppressive. We finally have winds blowing through, cooling everything down.

              Snow…I can’t get over it.


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