MAULA BAKSH AND CAPTAIN HAROLD MEIK
The Maula Baksh. Picture taken by photographer Malcolm Cranfield on April 1, 1976 while the ship was on the Kiel Canal in Germany.
Over the last day or so, there were a couple of maritime post on the “I Want my Old Karachi Back” page. In keeping with the nautical theme, I decided to share my own family’s lengthy maritime connection, which I would like to share with our “Karachi Past and Present” readers . I have attached a couple of images of the Maula Baksh shown below. My Great Uncle (Grandfathers younger brother) Harold Meik was Captain of this ship. The ship was built in 1915 and was bought by the Baksh family to add to their fleet of general cargo ships for their company United Oriental Steam Ship Company based in West Wharf Karachi. With the Korean war in full swing, most shipping companies had boycotted those waters, and with China desperate for our cotton, the Baksh family seized the opportunity, and 1952 onwards, used the ship mainly for exporting cotton from Karachi to China, but also made regular jute runs from Dacca to Karachi. When the ship was eventually decommissioned it broken up at Gadani Beach in Karachi in June of 1981.
A little bit about Harold himself, he was born in Calcutta, West Bengal on Dec 7, 1899 to Lorenzo and Alice Meik. Big for his age at fifteen, in 1914 he signed up with the British Core of Royal Engineers as a sapper at the beginning of WWI. Although being in several perilous situations, he miraculously survived the war, but lost his cousin of the same name, who was taken prisoner in Belgium, where he died in custody on July 31, 1917. He was buried at the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial Cemetery in Belgium along with nearly 55,000 other casualties of that war.
Harold’s father Lorenzo Alexander Meik (my Great Grandfather) who was born in 1846 in Calcutta, worked for The Asiatic Steamship Company aboard their cargo and passenger vessel the SS Maharani, which was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast Northern Ireland and completed on June 5, 1879. I have attached an image of the ship as well. The company sold the ship in 1927 to a Japanese cargo shipping company called Machida Shokai in Kobe. During WWII in 1941, the Japanese Government requisitioned the vessel as a military cargo ship, renaming it Boko Maru. On August 9, 1944, the US submarine Barbel torpedoed the ship and sank it just north of Okinoshima Japan.
After the war Harold went to school to become a Marine Engineer, and on graduating, joined the Merchant Marines. While still a student, just short of his 20th birthday, he married his childhood sweetheart Winnifred Joseph on November 17, 1919 in Kidderpore, Calcutta. Over the next several years, he joined a number of different cargo shipping companies always staying close to home because of his family, until he finally achieved the post of Captain in 1927. The image of him was taken on January 21, 1927 on board his vessel in Rangoon Burma. After partition he eventually came to work for the United Oriental Steam Ship Company, and in 1952 was handed over the Maula Baksh to Captain.
In 1957, he was to bring the Maula Baksh into Karachi port to their West Wharf location, where the ship was to undergo a transformation from steam to an oil burning vessel. Harold had never met his nephew (my Dad), also named Harold after him, and had found out that he was stationed at the Pakistan Air Force base in Mauripur. He radioed ahead, with a message for my Dad to pick him up from the docks, as he wanted to reconnect with the family. There was a warning in the message that he was an extremely large man and needed a big vehicle to transport him. Dad went looking for the largest taxi he could find, a 1955 Chevy. The Taxi driver was asking Dad “Saab who can be so large that you need such a big car?”, Then he saw Uncle Harry at nearly 350 lbs walking towards the taxi with dad, mom and my sister and brother, and told Dad, “Saab, yah to pura circus ah gia”. He managed to squeeze into the front seat with difficulty, so after that Dad would take one of the Air Force Dodge Power Wagons or a 1957 Chevy Cameo Pick Up truck to get him.
In 1961, he was on board the Maula Baksh on one the Jute runs, he had not been feeling well during the journey, so he called for his First Officer and told him if he were to die on board his ship, he wanted to be buried at sea. As the ship was pulling into Dacca Harbour, he passed away peacefully. in his sleep. They waited for his family to arrive the next day, and as per his final wishes they had his burial at sea.
My Dad himself in 1940 at the age of just sixteen ran away from school with his friend Seaton, they bluffed their ages and joined a British Navy minesweeper that patrolled the mouth of the Ulhas River near the Gateway of India, where they had laid down submarine nets to prevent German and Japanese submarines from entering the river systems. However, during an altercation with a senior British officer their actual ages came up in the investigation, and they were thrown out of the Navy. Dad immediately lied about his age again and joined the R.A.F., opting for Pakistan after partition., where he was with the P.A.F. until 1974.
My Great Uncle (Grandfather’s younger brother) Captain Harold Arthur Meik taken on board his ship in Rangoon Burma on January 21, 1927. He was born in 1899 in Calcutta, West Bengal, and died on board the Maula Baksh while she was entering Dacca Harbour in 1961. He was buried at sea, as per his final wishes.
This shows how big Uncle Harry’s really was, at 6’4″ and nearly 350 lbs, he dwarfed everyone around him. Taken in 1957 at the house on the P,A,F, Mauripur base in Karachi.
This is an advertising poster for the SS Maharani, a cargo and passenger ship which was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast Northern Ireland and completed on June 5, 1879. My Great Grandfather Lorenzo Alexander worked on this ship.
My Great Grandfather Lorenzo Alexander Meik, born in 1846 in Calcutta, West Bengal. He worked aboard the SS Maharani
My Dad Harold Arnold Meik, photo taken in 1940 at sixteen years of age, when he ran away with his friend Seaton from boarding school. They bluffed their ages and joined a British Royal Navy minesweeper in Bombay
My Dad Harold with friend Seaton in the middle, both at sixteen years old at the time in 1940. The boy in front was two years older than them. They were on shore leave in Karachi at the time