Meer Khan Indian Hawker In Southwest Victoria

Meer Khan Indian Hawker in Southwest Victoria

© Len Kenna and Crystal Jordan

Photograph Meer Khan courtesy of K. Drayton-Korda Geelong Hist. Soc.

On the 24 November 1944 Sir Raghunath Paranjpye arrived in Melbourne becoming the first Indian High Commissioner to Australia thus establishing formal relations between the two countries.  This was an important moment  in the history of our two countries.

In February 1947 while making a farewell tour of Victoria a Civic Function was held for him at the Geelong Town Hall, hosted by the Mayor of Geelong, Cr. James J. Young.  When the Civic party stirred Meer Khan, who had been waiting in the foyer, made his presence known declaring, “I have come here to welcome a fellow countryman.” After the reception Meer Khan was photographed with the official group.  Earlier when he was presented to Sir Raghanath in the Mayors room he asked, “How are you getting on?” and shook hands heartily.  When asked by Sir Raghunath how he fared in Australia, he replied, “All right, thank God, how are you?”[1]

In Australia this episode would appear unremarkable and shows the lay back approach of Australia and the egalitarian nature of Australian society and the lack of pomposity. Whereas Meer Khan aka Charles Meer Khan,[2] would have been blocked from approaching such a high ranking official and treating him as an equal in India.

From Left: High Commissioner for India in Australia, Sir Raghunath Paranjpye, Dr. V. V. Gore, Private Secretary, (centre), Mr. K. R. Damie, Official Secretary and the High Commissioner’s daughter Shaku, with her daughter, Sai. His daughter was to be her father’s hostess during his term of office in Australia. (Courtesy of The Argus Melbourne, Vic. Sat. 25 Nov. 1944.)

Apart from this incident little is known of Meer Khan except that he was born c. 1869 in India and died 1 September 1949 at the approximate age of 80.[3]

He was well known in the Geelong, Buckley[4] and Colac districts where he commenced foot hawking in the late 1890s and graduated to hawking drapery and clothing with a horse and wagon. In December 1900 he was one of over seventy Indians who applied for hawkers’ licences at the Colac Police Court, all but eight were for foot licences.[5] In harvest time he stayed at Meltham grazing property, at that time Meltham was owned by the Lamb Family, while he was there Meer helped with the harvest. 

He was a good student of horse flesh winning several prizes in local Agricultural Shows, he also was mentioned as selling a mare at the Inaugaral Geelong Sale Yards in the Haymarket Reserve, for £20/11/- ($50.10,) it must have been a well bred good looking horse to fetch such a high price.[6] His pride and joy was ‘Baron Leigh’ by ‘Vanquisher,’ when the colt won first prize at the Royal Agricultural Show, where it was described as; ‘a nuggety colt, somewhat away from the Clydesdale type, yet nearer to it than the others.’[7]

Meer Khan was not frightened to stand up for his rights when his Clydesdale mare was awarded second place at the Geelong Spring Show in 1912, he challenged first place won by Mr. Gooden’s brood mare. After investigation by the Agricultural Society, it was found that Mr. Gooden had not adhered to the conditions of entry and his horse was disqualified, Meer’s case was upheld, and his mare was awarded the winner.[8]

In later life Meer Khan lived at Stonehaven, he wore spectacles and suffered from Diabetes.  When he died from Diabetic Gangrene and Diabetes, at the Geelong Hospital, Herbert Stewart Lamb, was named as executer of his Last Will and Testament, and he was known to the Lamb Family as Charlie Meer Khan, however, with the passing of time the Lamb descendants believe his name was Charlie Meet Khan.

Meer Khan’s funeral was conducted by Arnold Max Hepner, the undertaker, and he is buried at the Geelong Cemetery under the name Charlie Meer Khan.

Charlie Meer Khan’s grave at Geelong Cemetery. Courtesy of findagrave.com.

[1] “Uninvited Guest Steals The Show.” The Herald Sun, Melb. Vic. Mon. 10 Feb. 1947, p.7.

[2] “Horses.” The Australasian Melb. Vic. Sat. 30 Sep. 1916, p. 7.

[3] Khan, Charlie Meer, Death Certificate Reg: No: 20807/1949 Vic.

[4] “Horses.” The Australasian Melb. Vic. Sat. 30 Sep. 1916, p. 7.

[5] “Hawkers Licenses Colac.” The Herald, Vic. Fri. 14 Dec. 1900, p. 3.

[6] “Horse Sale.” Geelong Advertiser, Geelong, Vic. 25 Nov. 1911, p.7.

[7] “Horses.” The Australasian Melb. Vic. Sat. 30 Sep. 1916, p. 7.

[8] “Geelong.” The Age Melb. Vic. Fri. Mar. 1912, p. 8.