regarding the RBGE Burma Expedition (1961-62).
GB235 BUR/01 Typed letter, 200x300mm, from H.R. Fletcher, RBGE Regius Keeper, to W.V. Wastie, Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, dated 05 April 1960, proposing an expedition to Upper Burma (Myanmar) in 1961 with estimates of costs.
GB235 BUR/02/1-3 Three hand-written lists, 190x240mm, from James (Jimmy) Keenan to Mr Castle, dated 09 January 1961, detailing prices for tools for the Burma expedition.
GB235 BUR/03 Typed letter from R. Murray to J.C. Blair, 170x205mm, dated 05 December 1960, in which James Keenan and Andrew Grierson agree not to be paid in advance of the 1961 expedition to Burma.
GB235 BUR/04/1-2 Two typed letters, 170x205, from J.C. Blair to Messrs Keenan and Grierson dated 13 February 1961, confirming they have been given special leave to go to Burma on expedition.
GB235 BUR/05 Typed memo, 160x100mm, from J.C. Blair to R. Murray, dated 01 February 1961, in which is requested confirmation of final day at RBGE before leaving for Burma on expedition.
GB235 BUR/06 Requisition form, 210x165mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to the Ministry of Works, Granton, dated 02 March 1961 regarding the transport of three cases of goods for Burma Expedition.
GB235 BUR/07 Carbon copy of a letter, 210x165mm, from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to Granton garage, dated 26 April 1961 regarding the five cases of goods for shipment on the S.S. Salween, Glasgow.
GB235 BUR/08 Carbon copy of a consignment form, 200x320mm, from Thos. Meadows shipping agent, Leith to James Keenan, undated, regarding the three cases for Burma expedition to be shipped on the S.S. Yoma, Glasgow.
GB235 BUR/09 Carbon copy of a letter, 210x165mm, from Miss Blair to R. Murray dated 13 April 1961, regarding James Keenan’s final day of service at RBGE before going to Burma.
GB235 BUR/10 Typed letter, 200x160mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to James Keenan, dated 12 April 1961 regarding confirmation of James Keenan’s special leave date.
GB235 BUR/11 Handwritten air mail letter, 250x185mm from James Keenan, Rangoon to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, postmarked 19 June 1961 providing his 1st report from Burma in which Keenan worries about problems regarding access and visas. It’s difficult for him to get further north than Myitkyina. The British Embassy was helpful but the power rests not only with the Central government, but also the States governments. Keenan was able to send shipment of orchids via BOAC to London. Access to Tenasserim in the south was difficult, he would need to negotiate with both local military and insurgents. The monsoon makes daily life difficult and he’s finding it rough living and eating with locals. There is dense jungle. Only one ship a month from Rangoon to Tavoy adds to his frustration. Keenan requests a telephoto camera lens for taking pictures of plants high up in jungle trees. He expects better flowers in July.
GB235 BUR/12 Handwritten air mail letter, 250x185mm from James Keenan, Rangoon to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, postmarked 25 July 1961, providing the 2nd report from Burma [Paug …..] in which Keenan relates further problems. His colleague, Andrew Grierson has access to Tenasserim. Keenan was offered the North Shan States, the Chin Hills [Kennedy Peak] and Myitkyina up to the 26th parallel but Kuman still elusive. Keenan was asked by the Secretary of the Frontier Area Administration if he could survey the Putaa [Fort Hertz area], during 1962-63 and the North Naga hills to the Tibet border and North Kentung. Keenan is alone again delayed between Tavoy and [---] collecting orchids. People from the Forestry Department are with him exporting live plants which is fraught with difficulties. Rule is arranging an orchid reception house in the British Embassy garden. They are paying for it. Keenan has now got 300 orchids representing 40-50 species and has 10-15 good specimens of each. The Burmese Government has agreed that 50% of the plants are to be retained in Burma. Transport is difficult and expensive, and the rivers are running high. The local power station has limited electricity. Keenan has collected few fungi as the ants eat them and there are no containers for them. Are they any use dried? There is incessant rain, 90% humidity and therefore problems with mould and the camera. The telephoto lens is not useful. Living and eating with the locals is hard due to language difficulties. He also has to contend with local fauna being dried in his living quarters for taxidermy. His hut is of bamboo with a palm leaf roof. He met a bear; B. asiatica infrequent. Begonia and a nice Impatiens—[an Ixana?] which he has seen before?
GB235 BUR/13 7 sheets of air mail, single sides, 200x255mm, from James Keenan [Near Tavoy?] to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 14 August 1961, providing the 3rd report in which Keenan provides details of collecting, problems of logistics and survival. He has made 500-600 gatherings of orchids. Upwards of 100 different kinds from an area 20 miles round. Growing centre at Residency now set up from which he hopes to dispatch specimens. Rule a great boon and help. The same specimens form different heights between 800-11000 ft., comprehensively recorded. Flowering beginning. Today Keenan found teeny orchids in flower- Epiphytes gathered. Tomorrow being lowered down cliff to take a solitary Spattiglottis. He’s finding hiring labour difficult as the locals dislike the monsoon and jungle, and are reluctant to climb trees or cliffs and ask for high rates of pay. Drying process at base ok but otherwise difficult. Keenan has collected duplicates in hopes of recouping expenses for the North. He plans to donate sets of plants to Harvard, Edinburgh and Kew. This collection [5-6000] would be profitable but is diverging from the real purpose. Has got Buitl? Some of his [Gesuen?]I’ve sent him some things for comment. Tell Ian [Hedge?] I have got, at 3000ft, a Nepeta [Duacacephalum] [Dracocephalum? Leucocephalus? LP]. At this height one can see ridge after ridge of forest to the horizon. I’ve seen Buddleia asiatica and nearly wept. Insurgency makes movement difficult, possibly trekking 20 miles to speak to a headman and then wait a week for permission to proceed. The river collection is postponed due to high river levels and no villagers available as helpers. Possibly go in September but due to go north then. Rangoon gives one a chance for sores to heal inflicted by bamboo and leeches. Have sent a bear cub to the Embassy. Locals ply me with creatures of all kinds both live and dead. I have 3 dogs which accompany me on trips. My bearer has fallen and badly cut himself: had to get him to Tavoy hospital across flooded, and turbulent rivers. A 40 mile trek. 15 inches of rain on 3 successive days.Roads impassable. Had to walk 8 miles to collect Rule before breakfast. I find river crossings frightening, up to one’s neck sometimes. Camera still troublesome but tape recorder invaluable for getting words translated when back at base. Can usually find a villager who can speak a little English. Little to collect in seeds due to capsule plants discharging seeds before the monsoon. Are you interested in fruits? It is difficult to dry berries… The zones here seem to be three fairly well marked ones. This brings you up to date.
GB235 BUR/14 One double sided typed letter, 160x210mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to James Keenan, Rangoon, dated 13 September 1961 responding to Keenan’s 3rd report. Issues warnings regarding money. Fletcher understands Keenan’s frustrations- Yes, we can pay freight for any plants other than orchids if Kew will pay for orchids. Please supply names of shipping agents. Are there enough funds for Andrew to join you if his permission comes through? He says there is £700 left. Where has the money gone? Suggest you get return ticket now. Have you yet got permission to go north? If not what will be the reactions of Royal Soc. and other benefactors? Meanwhile, I am sure you will make the most of your time [scientifically]. We have a visit by a Treasury official. One tends to distrust them? Keep well…
GB235 BUR/15 Typed letter of Four pages, seven sides typed from James Keenan, Rangoon to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper & George Taylor, Director of Kew, dated 22 September 1961, comprising a formal progress report covering the period July-September. In July, reached Hpaungdaw near Myitta [c.20 miles from Tavoy] Need for safeconducts due to insurgents and military, confused further by communist bands. Why Govt suggested this area? Maybe in the hopes that I would give up. Rule joined me in July with Forestry Officer. He has no freedom of movement so both stayed at base camp. Weather bad, operational costs 4 times higher than normal. By September realised unable to work within original budget. Have sent off 500 living orchids to Rangoon, took more than a month to get there. In Sept returned to Rangoon to sort out expedition to North Found much of my earlier gatherings had rotted. I blame the Forest Officer there. He is arrogant, brash and contrary to departmental regs. Has been disseminating political material. He has been sacked. Results so far: Living: 1000 number of orchids, ferns, Lycopods, Aeschynanthus, Hoya, Agapetes, etc. Dried: 10-12000 I am sure that many of these not been collected before. Sets for Kew , Edinburgh ,Harvard and 2 for Burma. I would suggest that the Tenasserim venture is a self-contained project and may pay for itself. Some difficulties: I’ve lost lots of equipment, photos, notebooks, accounts mainly due to flooded river crossings. I keep a bank account with the Heinde Mine to facilitate local money transactions. Finance: 2/3 of the total finance went towards equipping and air fares leaving 1/3 for field operating costs . This would have sufficed if we had gone directly up North. Prolonged stay in Rangoon and high costs in Tenasserim have eaten much of that money. Basic daily rate [Civil Service] is fixed at 77 Kyats a day [13 K =£1] Black market makes everything much more expensive. Rule’s £750 was welcome but it was intended for the North. His enforced stay in Rangoon and air fare down here consumed most of it. The need for the Tenasserim expedition to pay for itself essential. The Ambassador can account for all my actions. If the permission to go North had not arrived by Oct. I had intended to request permission to return to UK. Difficulties relating to moving north: Rule’s is only allowed in Tenasserim and that finishes in Dec. Note: Rule is an excellent companion, hardworking, etc, but has little initiative on his own. This may affect future plans. In Tenasserim I have a good base camp, the area botanically interesting, flora rich. A pity I can’t stay for the good weather. Had considered leaving Rule there and going North on my own. For£200 I could fly back to Tenasserim from Myitkina for 3-4 weeks in Jan. for profitable collecting thus enhancing the value of my stay here I could do this if Grierson held the fort in the North. I intend sending Rule home Nov.-Dec. with consignment of Live orchids for Kew. Propose moving North now subject to a meeting which should affect freedom of movement. Establish myself in the Kumon Range with the minimum of equipment. After 3 years war experience the North will be a picnic compared to the conditions in the south. Relations with ministers through their officials have been good , In the last 6 months hve built up a stock of goodwill via ambassadorial contacts . Have declined trips with officials but I sent Rule on some to collect plants. Security dept. still a problem. In the north costs should be lower. Hope Grierson will be here by Dec. Joint effort far more valuable than solitary. And would help repay his costs. I need £2000 more. Costs could be redeemed by sale of plants. Problems: Poor photographic results due to high humidity; Rule’s dodgy tummy; A rat plague consumed a lot of papers and notebooks; my legs ulcerous but can still walk 20 miles a day. Psychologically the worst thing is continuous frustration: still takes 3 weeks to get Customs and export licences !.. The Frontier Administration anxious that I collect in their areas in 1963. Most interesting area and Govt. has asked me to advise on commercial export of orchids We have a good record with them and personal contacts invaluable. Therefore I urge that you send out duplicate Burmese plants to the Forestry Dept. I have arranged that they make duplicate collections for us. If the Brit. Mus. Could supply a list of determinations of the last Ward Collections it would soothe a sore point. 2 herbariums in Rangoon: Forestry and University. I advise cooperating with Forestry.
22/9/61 having read Dr. Fletcher’s letter… Returned to Tavoy 16/9. Insurgents have moved in and area occupied by the military. Base camp in a mess. Now re-collecting material. No point in moving gear ‘til mid Oct. Flooding—250 inches this year. Left Hpaungdaw to walk to the coast. At Wagon damaged leg but got a lorry to hospital. 5 days later returned to Tavoy to airfreight 8 crates of orchids and epiphytes and flew back to Rangoon. The Hpaungdaw area borders the confluence of the Tenasserim and Banchang rivers. Heavy cultivation then 2 miles steephills and granite cliffs. Up to 1000ft mainly bamboo. Xylia dolabriforms Eugenia species the dominant trees, also Scitamenae, Elephant and Lalang grasses. Above 2500ft. Oak and Chestnut trees. Fewer orchids but abundant Hoya and Aeschynanthus , clumps of Dendrocalamus giganteus frequent. Begonias , Ruellias. Difficulties of keeping specimens alive due to damp rot. This strengthens my desire to be here in the dry season. Problem of Grierson. May manage by saying that he will replace Rule. I will have to obtain permits personally. Security difficult and any slipups would return me to the UK. I consiser it essential that Grierson joins me: neither Rule or Forestry Officer very effective. I can cope with local conditions and food and travel light: less expense. Results to date: 10-12000 specimens. In living plants should get 150-200 different taxa. Some 500 living plants to Kew. Have done 6 month’s work in a much shorter period. Details of finance difficult. Grierson can supply expenses up to leaving UK, equipping and travel also how much he has sent out to me. I have no knowledge of Ward’s budget but I know he never collected the volume of dried material that I have. One other point we were equipping 3 people from scratch. Let me have your early reactions to all the above.
GB235 BUR/16 Typed letter, single side 210x295mm from George Taylor, Director Kew and H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 9 October 1961, responding to Keenan’s report [doc 15]. Keenan has obviously had bad luck. We should give him support. Most people would have given up. His report is somewhat dramatic but has resulted in a cash shortage. Hasn’t yet got to North Burma for which the funds were allotted. Need to know precisely the financial position. Can we prune costs? Keep Grierson at home and return Rule. Keenan seems able to cope well on his own and has indicated difficulties in getting Grierson entry permits. Keenan should go north on his own with necessary helpers. Am prepared to ask R.H.S. for £500 and seek another £500 from Bentham-Moxon Trust but must have a firm financial statement beforehand. Could you do this?
GB235 BUR/17 Unsigned handwritten letter, 2 sides, undated, listing points arising from Keenan’s memo and the apparent situation regarding money.
GB235 BUR/18 Handwritten letter of 2 single sheets, 120x170mm from B.L. Burtt to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, undated, outlining B.L.B.’s 1st thoughts regarding Keenan’s situation. Difficult to see a clear picture, but need to let Keenan know of Kew’s and Edinburgh’s decision.
GB235 BUR/19 Single typewritten sheet 160x 200mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to James Keenan in Burma, dated 18 November 1961 responding regarding the financial situation having discussed the situation with Grierson and the Director of Kew. Reminder that Keenan is employed by Kew and Fletcher is responsible for Keenan’s actions.
GB235 BUR/20 Hand written air letter, 185x245mm, from James Keenan in Burma to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 20 December 1961 outlining progress regarding the expedition to the north Kuman range. Forester has gone north to set up base. Difficulties regarding the weather and getting permits for Keenan. He intends going north anyway. Further financial information for Taylor at Kew. The southern collection [Tenasserim] is ready for shipment to the UK.
GB235 BUR/21 Single typewritten letter, 165x200mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to James Keenan in Burma, dated 16 January 1962. There is no news regarding funding. Fletcher has sent Keenan’s financial summary to Taylor at Kew. Hopes that Keenan is now in the Kuman range.
GB235 BUR/22 Typewritten carbon letter, 160x200mm from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to George Taylor at Kew, dated 27 December 1961. Refers to Keenan’s letter regarding finance and is sorry that Taylor is landed with having to gather more funds for the Expedition.
GB235 BUR/23 Single typewritten sheet 200x295mm from George Taylor at Kew to James Keenan in Burma, dated 18 January 1962 relating news of additional finance. Approval of extra funds from the R.H.S., Bentham-Moxon Trust and Percy Sladen Trust which makes up £700 to cover a further six months expedition.
GB235 BUR/24 Single typewritten letter, 165x200mm, from H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper to George Taylor at Kew, dated 22 January 1962. Good news regarding funds. Money is to be sent to National Bank Scotland as the Burmese account is overdrawn by £180.
GB235 BUR/25 Single typewritten letter, 150x200mm, from George Taylor at Kew to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 24 January 1962 acknowledging funds and confirming that they are available.
GB235 BUR/26 Single typewritten letter, 160x200mm, from George Taylor at Kew to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 29 December 1961, stating he is preparing submissions for additional funds. Letter refers to Keenan’s financial statement set to Taylor. See previous letters 17, 18, 19. etc.
GB235 BUR/27 Hand written airmail letter, 185x250mm, from James Keenan in North Burma to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 22 February 1962, detailing frustration over wasted time and effort. There was a row between the Kachin Government and Burmese Intelligence. Keenan avoided the military and set off for Sumprabum and on to Bumpha Bum – a march of 15 days. The Forestry officer has deliberately miscalculated rations which are now not sufficient to complete the journey, but Keenan intends to try again. There is snow and ice from 7500ft. Acer, betula, scorbus daphne. Conifers above 9000ft. Returned to Sumprabum and hitched lift to Myitkyina [19 hour trip] Plane to Mandalay and road to Rangoon. Got new forestry officer and returned to Bumpha Bum. Food is scarce, weather bad, health not good. Should be out by the end of March / April.
GB235 BUR/28 Hand written airmail letter, 185x250mm, from James Keenan in Bumpha Bum, North Burma to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 4 March 1962. Keenan has reached high mountains. Snow 4-6ft deep, blizzards. Small bamboo reaches top. 4 specimen Rhododendrons. No birch, but a few maples. Withdraw to Chingwin Bum which is snow free. Only way out is by flooded river bed. Area only workable [for seed from now [March] to October. My party consists of eight men and four women. They are from different tribes and don’t understand one another or me. We all live together. Seed collection is difficult. Was told of herd of rhinoceros [becoming very rare]. Has raging headache and feels fuzzy.
GB235 BUR/29 Hand written letter of two pages, 200x330mm from James Keenan in Rangoon to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 10 April 1962. Keenan regrets letters having gone astray but the conditions in Burma are unstable. Have sent to Rangoon approximately 1500 collections of living plants. Most have reached Kew. Photos show my working conditions [No pictures in file]. The Forestry Department will send on the remainder of plants after Keenan has left for the UK.
GB235 BUR/30 Handwritten memo, 160 x120mm from James Keenan in the UK to H.R. Fletcher, Regius Keeper, dated 7 June 1962, making a request for the restoration of his outstanding leave.
GB235 BUR/31 Typewritten report: 13 pages each, 200x330mm, from James Keenan at RBGE to his Sponsors at Edinburgh and Kew, dated 25 July 1962, Interim report of Expedition to North Burma 1961-62, Comprehensive description of whole of Keenan’s experiences on the expedition with contents list.
GB235 BUR/32/1-2 Two press-cuttings in envelope, 200x130mm, dated 24 September 1962, regarding James Keenan’s trip, Scottish Evening News and Daily Mail.
GB235 BUR/33 Typed Memo, 170x210mm by the [RBGE?] Accounts Officer, dated 28 August 1964, outlining the stores discrepancies; Items lost during the 1961 Burma expedition.