By H. E. W. Braund
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Extra resources for Calling to Mind. Being Some Account of the First Hundred Years (1870 to 1970) of Steel Brothers and Company Limited
By 1937 the quantity had reached thirty-one millions, equivalent to some 470,000 tons of milled rice. In 1931 operations were hampered by the Burma rebellion, and it was thanks entirely to a loyal staff that paddy buying was possible at all. On one occasion, indeed, a buying station clerk and his sub ordinates captured a gang of rebels intercepted while trying to steal paddy. Another benefit from the jungle buying system was the considerable scope for promotion for Burman head clerks which it opened up.
Now, from the paddy fields and the deltaic waterways, we come to the mills and their colourful history. Burma's rice-milHng story goes back as far as 1864, when a small mill was built on the Poozoondaung creek near Rangoon. Two more had been added by 1867, and by 1872 there were twenty-six, including William Strang Steel's first. Of this latter it is written that it was "built in 1871 by Mr. Strang Steel as a cargo rice mill to which white rice milling plant was added in 1888. Mr. Strang Steel enlarged the mill in 1895, when it became the glory of all the rice-milling units in Burma, with a production of 1,000 tons cleaned rice in twenty-four hours.
With our transport so assured, we set out next morning in fine weather and made good progress. We were away to an early start—it was a gruelling march, and a steady uphill path climbing to 4800 feet, passing more corpses. T h e mud was pretty grim at times, pockets being knee deep, and understandably this form of walking was very exacting for most of us, who were pretty tired before we ever set out on the walk, and most of us were suffering from tummy trouble, no doubt brought on by poor food and cooking, damp and exhaustion, though on the other hand the majority of us in ourselves felt reasonably fit.