Henry Brownrigg

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Henry Brownrigg

From The Flower Raj Encyclopaedia

HENRY CHRISTOPHER QUINN BROWNRIGG (born Malta June/July 1943 - died at home, Fulham 22nd December 2016).



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I was sitting with Henry the last 6 days of his life. His surviving family the Lindsays (children of his sister Jennifer) asked me to recommend a few close old friends to attend the funeral and even to attend the small family reception at a house in Balham,afterwards. I would have recommended you for both select events had you replied. THere were 24 people at the funeral...many more were told that it was "family" only and that there would be a Memorial Service in March to which all could come. THe memorial Service will be in St James Piccadilly with a reception afterwards at the Travellers

This was from Christopher his Nephew with whom he traveled to Italy a few months ago. Khaled is his friend from Kuwait who was at the Crematorium but not at the do in Balham. RUbin is a political activist from Kerala and also runs the Indian equivalent of the Hay Festival. Rubin was in the U.K. 5 months ago visiting H but this time H was too ill to drive Rubin to Wales .

Sent: 24 December 2016 08:46:33 To: Khaled al-Sabah Subject: Henry like Medieval Saint

Dear Khaled, Yesterday (on Thursday) I was helping Henry pack to go to Hambrook when he started getting tired. Soon it was clear he was too tired to travel so I prepared his bed for him, but he was even too tired to raise himself from the chair to the bed. While holding his hand, with Alexander at my side, there was a moment when we could not tell if he was still breathing. Henry had passed. Within two hours we had the most beautiful impromptu service beside his bed. The lady vicar from All Saints had stepped out of the 17th century. A picture of elegance with a cream cashmere scarf like a stock and a long slender black coat with an upturned collar she managed to find the perfect words asking "Almighty God, accept our friend Henry with all his eccentricities, his enthusiasms, his openness to new ideas and his encouragement of young people". We gave thanks for his life and prayed that he would be joyfully accepted into heaven to rejoin friends and family who have gone before. Henry was lying in his bed, like a Medieval Saint. Propped up on many pillows, white linen up to his chin, a priest and family beside him, the Brownrigg portraits on the wall above him. It was a scene that could have occurred any time in the last five hundred year. It was polished, spontaneous, and massively civilised and happened less than two hours after his passing. It was a shock that he left us so soon and I had hoped to help him complete more unfinished business such as his Kerala project. However, this early end has spared him many indignities of ill health and he had the comfort of his oldest and dearest Oxford friend staying with him the his last five days after he left hospital. We've not made arrangements yet but the current idea is to have the funeral the second week of January and Memorial service sometime in March.

Dear Khaled, too many deaths now... the grief is heavy and we need to find the strength to accept it. If you scroll down you may be interested to read a tribute from Henry's Indian friends that explain why he was an important figure in Kerala. In sorrow, Christopher

Dear Christopher,

Rubin rang me up last night to tell me of Henry's passing. I am really sad and my condolences to you, Guilia and all others in the family.

Here is what I wrote in a group where Henry was also a member:

Regards, Chekkutty

Henry's untimely passing is indeed a very sad news.

He was such a great friend, a wonderful guide and a man with a tremendous sense of humour. His love affair with India seems to have began some time in the late 1970s when he came to the country as representative for the Anglo-American company, that had many gold mines in all parts of the world. The article he wrote in the company journal some time in the late 80s about India's love affair with gold is a wonderful study on the social, cultural, economic and political significance of the yellow metal in this country. Still, as he passed it on to me for reading, he expressed the worry it was tinged by the old orientalist mindset of the European writers on India and its traditions.

Henry was really part of a different tradition--of the Indophile scholars and writers like Mark Tully who made effort to understand this country and its traditions and present it in an objective and sympathetic manner. He made efforts to get closer to people and places-- he was fiends with people like photographer Pepitha Seth and Indologist Asko Porpola and quite a number of people living in Kerala.

And he had travelled all over the place. Some time ago, I was trying to find someone who might take me to the solitary tombstone of an Englishman who had drowned in Chaliyar river in 1920 or so, off Nilambur in deep forest. Henry had already been there and had all the records on the gravestone, as he had kept records and photographs of many old cemeteries and gravestones and memorials all over the Malabar coast.

That was one reason I got very close to him. In the past six years he has been of tremendous help to me in my researches into the European heritage in Malabar and was instrumental in the production of the three volumes that deal with the five hundred years of contacts between the Europeans as individuals and the people here.

He chronicled all this in his long tours-- photographing the mosques and churches and temples and other monuments that bring out this symbiotic tradition in our culture. He has a huge collection of mosques in Malabar --spread allover the entire north of Kerala and many of them look just like our traditional temples as there are striking similarities in architectural patterns. This is true with many old Christian churches also. What is significant here is this symbiotic relations that are now fast being eroded as the old mosques and churches are being pulled down to be replaced by modern monstrosities. He is one person who made efforts to keep a record of this old Kerala which might prove to be a great asset for us in our efforts to cement a sense of unity and cultural fraternity in the trying times we are bound to face very soon.

I am sorry he could not complete his project to bring these works into some sort of a book. I was working on a small blog that was hoped to bring together this Malabar works and, only last month, he had sent me a collection of of his mosque pictures--a large number of slides and photographs but I really do not know what to do with them because he could not look at the digital images I had made and give me his comments and descriptions of each as we had planned to do. It is indeed a great loss.

My sincere condolences to his family and all his friends and I hope his memory will prove be an inspiration for many of us.


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