Inder Singh A Sikh Cane Farmer  At Redlynch FNQ 1897

Inder Singh a Sikh Cane Farmer at Redlynch FNQ 1897

Indur Singh also known as Inder, was born in 1873 at Chak Kalan Village, Nakodur Tehsil, Jalandhar, Punjab, India.  He was a tall thin man who wore earrings. He arrived in Cairns Australia in 1897 where he worked as an itinerant labourer and canecutter. In 1898 he began working on the Mossman and in 1902, at the beginning of the cane cutting season, he was a Ganger for a team of 18 Itinerant canecutters. Some of the men included in Indur’s Gang were; Herman Singh, Harrie Singh, Talkar (Tarka) Singh and Sunda Singh.

“Ganger” is a term used to describe the head of a sugar cane cutting gang. A team of canecutters came together at the beginning of the season and they were usually assembled by a recognised leader known as the “Ganger,” on the understanding that the team would stay together for the seven-month season. The team usually consisted of eight or nine men, often young, fit single males.  After motorised vehicles were introduced they travelled by truck from cane farm to cane farm, cutting the harvest by hand and at piece-work rates or for an agreed sum of money for the whole crop. The success of a full season depended upon very the success and organisational ability of the Ganger. He had to fulfil many functions:

  1. To be able to bargain with the cane farmers on the team’s behalf.
  2. To make sure that the pay and working conditions were satisfactory.
  3. Make sure that the barracks supplied for the living quarters were of reasonable standard.
  4. On the team level, he would need to ensure the team was well-fed and on most occasions a cook usually travelled as a member of the team so that they were kept as fit and well as possible, and that the morale of the team wasn’t undermined by the loneliness and circumstances of their nomadic life. Once a leader was known for these qualities, he would be classed as a top Ganger.

Indur knew that there was a heavy wet season every year in the Cairns and Mossman districts except for 1902, which was a comparatively dry year so he took over a contract for Sunda Singh who had entered into the contract with Mr. Thomas Ryan, a sugar cane grower of Mossman; to cut the brush, fall trees, clear, burn off, and make cane holes on the land known as Marr’s Selection. However, after a portion of the work was completed rain prevented Indur and his Gang from finishing the contract. They tried to burn off but couldn’t because it was too wet, so they had a verbal agreement with Mr. Ryan to camp for a while, and they were given an additional six weeks to complete the work. However, Mr. Ryan later ordered Indur and his Gang from his property without allowing them to finish the work.  Mr. Ryan then refused to pay for the money owing on work that was done.  Indur had the confidence to take Mr. Ryan to Court and the decision was that Indur’s Gang’s work was impeded by the wet weather which was deemed to be an “Act of God” and the Judgment was for £94/10/- and costs to be paid by Mr. Ryan to Indur Singh.

Indur purchased a 100 acre sugar cane farm at Redlynch.  On 18 September 1934, after Indur had lived on the farm for over 20 years, he died at the Cairns District Hospital, aged 61, from a heart failure. His cremation took place on his own farm by the side of his house at Redlynch.  The cremation was organised by his countrymen and the undertaker was Edward M. Svendsen from H.M. Svendsen Pty. Ltd.