The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada's Colour Bar. Page 37, note 3

3 In filling out his personal data sheet for the Department of the Interior, Hopkinson gave his place and date of birth as Hull, Yorkshire, England, 16 June 1880, although he was born in Delhi as the baptismal records of the India Office show. His parents were William and Agnes Hopkinson, then residing in Allahabad, but Agnes may have been the European name of an Indian wife. The obituaries that appeared after his death say, incorrectly, that he was brought out to India as a child. They also add four years to his age. Fred Taylor, who at one time shared an office with Hopkinson, told me that he was part Indian. I asked how he knew and Taylor said that you could see it by looking at him. Sharon Pollock, in her drama The Komagata Maru Incident, builds much on the assumption that Hopkinson was a half-caste and the worse for it. B. A. McKelvie, who was a police reporter in 1914, tells us that Hopkinson occasionally would disguise himself as a Sikh and occupy a shack in South Vancouver where he would keep an ear to the ground for information: Magic, Murder and Mystery, p. 47. The story is embellished in Ferguson, A White Man's Country, pp. 157-9. Perhaps, when in San Francisco, Hopkinson attended Har Dayal meetings wearing a turban, but he was too well known to Sikhs in Vancouver to have maintained for long a disguise when amongst them—especially if he tried to get close to his quarry, the members of the revolutionary party. The game would have been up the moment he opened his mouth because he did not speak Panjabi well. Rahim tells us how relieved Hopkinson was when he got a chance to switch from Panjabi to Hindi: The Hindustanee, 1 Feb. 1914, p. 7. The Sikhs complained to the government that Hopkinson did not understand their language: petition of 130 Indians, Immigration 808722(1). Hopkinson turned to others for translation of materials written in Panjabi: Hopkinson to Cory, 9 June 1914, Governor- General's Numbered Files 332 B. When Hopkinson examined the Komagata Maru passengers, he put the questions in English and his assistant, Harry Gwyther, translated: Minutes of Board of Inquiry, 25 June 1914, Immigration 879545(3). If we are to believe Gurdit Singh, Hopkinson was a corrupt official open to bribery, willing to land the passengers for £ 1,000 in advance and £ 1,000 after they were ashore. Gurdit Singh says that he would have paid, but Hopkinson wanted him to swear on the Guru Granth Sahib never to mention it to anyone and this Gurdit Singh says he would not do: Gurdit Singh, Komagatamaru, pt. 1, pp. 50-1. The story does not ring true because Hopkinson did not have it in his power to do so. There was too much public and official attention focused on the ship. However, it was a good line for Gurdit Singh to give the passengers to keep them behind him. I draw this conclusion even though Kartar Singh, when interviewed on 25 Sept. 1976, and again on 22 June 1977, told me that he had heard Hopkinson say that he would get them all off for 6,000 rupees. Kartar Singh also said that Hopkinson took a pound each from the twenty men who were landed. But it was Hopkinson's job to go on board to ask each passenger to show his money and to explain that those with less than $200 could not be landed under Canadian law. It would have been easy enough for Gurdit Singh and his lieutenants to represent this as a demand for a bribe.

Title: The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada's Colour Bar. Page 37, note 3

Subject: Bird, J. Edward; Boards of Inquiry; Budge Budge riot, 1914; Conditions on the ship; Confrontations with passengers; Dayal, Har, 1884-1939; Ghadar Party; Hopkinson, William Charles, 1880-1914; Immigration regulations, Canada; Johnson, Charles Gardner, 1857-1926; S. S. Komagata Maru; Kumar, Guran Ditt; Murder of W. C. Hopkinson; S. S. Panama Maru; Rahim, Husain; H. M. C. S. Rainbow; Reid, Malcolm R. J.; Singh, Gurdit, 1858-1954; Stevens, H. H. (Henry Herbert), 1878-1973

Creator: Johnston, Hugh

Publisher: UBC Press

Date: 1995

Display date: Vancouver : UBC Press, 1995, c1989

Type: Text

Format: Image/jpeg

Identifier: note-37-3

Language: eng

Rights: These images are provided for research and reference use only. Written permission to copy, publish, or otherwise use these images must be obtained from UBC Press, www.ubcpress.com.

Level1: Books and theses