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Fascinating, hidden chapter of NZ history revealed

Saturday 20 June 2020 12:08pm

Kalimpong kids cover for webIn the early 20th century, 130 young Anglo-Indians were sent to New Zealand in an organised migration scheme from a mission school in Kalimpong, in the Darjeeling district of India. They were the mixed-race children of British tea planters and local women, and were placed as workers with New Zealand families from the Far North to Southland.

Author Jane McCabe is the granddaughter of Lorna Peters, who arrived with a group from Kalimpong in 1921. Her book Kalimpong Kids: The New Zealand story, in pictures will be published by Otago University Press in June.

‘In 2007 I visited Dr Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to look into my grandmother’s mysterious past,’ says McCabe. ‘I found a rich archive detailing the circumstances of my grandmother’s early life.’

She also uncovered a bigger story - of an extraordinary New Zealand immigration scheme that hardly anyone seemed to know about.

‘I’m one of many hundreds of descendants from Kalimpong now spread throughout New Zealand. Most grew up with little or no knowledge of their Indian heritage. The story of interracial relationships, institutionalisation – and the sense of abandonment that often resulted – was rarely spoken of when they were growing up.’

In her latest book, McCabe tells this extraordinary story in a compelling visual format, using photographs from the private collections of families descended from the Kalimpong migrants.

‘The survival of photographs from Indian tea plantations and from the school in Kalimpong across the ocean to New Zealand is a remarkable story in itself. This is a book that any New Zealander can relate to, exploring themes of family silence and secrecy; an imperial past connecting Britain, New Zealand and India; and the role of photographs in sparking our interest and engagement with family histories.’

For more information about Kalimpong Kids go to:

To arrange an interview, an extract or a review copy please contact OUP Marketing and Publicity Co-ordinator Laura Hewson at