Translation (from Dutch) of the  presentation speech on the occasion of Cyril H Birtwhistle’s retirement as Chief-Accountant of the “Pamanoekan and Tjiasem Lands”, Soebang, Java, in Nov 1941













Again an end has come to a prominent career on the Pamanoekan and Tjiasem Lands. Mr CH Birtwhistle, working in Soebang since 1920, and since 1936 chief-accountant of our company, has left our service on pension after having checked and recorded the result of labour of hundreds of workers on plantations and in factories in 22 balances during 22 years.


Figures have an intricate but undeniable language of their own and only a very few among us have the opportunity to see such a general view of the Company’s ups and downs as he, with whom for such a long period all strands would come together before being turned into a cluster so as to be presented to the Management in London as a thick, dependable cable.


The aspects often changed appearance, as life changes, sensitive as it is to the influences of conjecture of the whole world, andwhere it was his task to examine each strand conscientiously as to its quality before it could be spun into the cable, the departing chief-accountant has gotten to know the P&T Lands, the people who work there, literally everything that influenced the end-result, which is unparalleled.


He did not judge by the lifeless figures; he was too deeply convinced of the important part which the human factor plays, and so he frequently contacted the people who gave him the figures and thereby he knew very well that, in a manner of speaking, one strand would be damp with sweat, whereas another would grow with tropical speed into a thick but sometimes also weak rope. The rows of figures over the years taught him the difference between that which appears promising but proving untrustworthy, and the meagre beginning which grows to be a safe investment. Both as regards things and people. People especially, whom he judged with his penetrating eyes as to their inner strength, or, typically English, weighed as to their reserves, their “hitting power” for the last phase.


Compressed in his signature, which he placed as a guarantee on so many balances, a multi-coloured kaleidoscope is teeming with thousands of events which have promoted or damaged the results laid down in those balances, and which have matured, been taken apart and sieved in his head before they started their dance in regular rows on the table of the shareholders’ meeting.


He was one of those who hold the reins. Where most of us count by days he counted by years, for he belonged to that small group of people who are responsible for the solidity of the entire P&T structures. He was one of those who now lay the foundation for the appearances of the Lands in five or ten years time. Having become wise and prudent by the harsh lessons of many years, led by the experience that we must always go on building the future if the level reached is not to go down. As a good steersman he kept watch by the wheel, looking with a keen eye for the favourable tide, and always on guard for bad weather.


It cannot be avoided that this relentless work is not always pleasant for those involved. Where work is being done, sometimes hard words must fall, but whenever this was necessary it was always done with the sole object of saving ship and cargo.


At the farewell-night Mr Birtwhistle was presented with some lovely gifts by the staff as a souvenir of the time spent on the Lands, but the most beautiful memory he will take along with him of his long period of employment here will be the condition of the P&T Lands now. By this we mean the sturdy constellation of the Company, the favourable terms of employment under which we work, the attractive hoses in which we live and the many other things which pertain to the living element of the Company. Things which he, together with the other leaders, perhaps did not find, but certainly did bring to full flower in its present state. That is more than just a memory, it is a monument.


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On the farewell-night at the Club, which was preceded by a dinner in the Big House, Mr Birtwhistle was given two lovely crystal decanters in silver mounts and a silver cigar box on behalf of the staff. This was done by Mr Wigersma who, in an exceptionally heart-felt speech expressed his regret over Mr Birtwhistle’s departure, remarking how difficult it must be to leave the place where one has grown one’s roots over so many years. He ended by expressing his sincerest wishes for health, happiness and prosperity for him and his wife, wherever they may go.


Mr Birtwhistle expressed his thanks for the souvenirs in a short, witty address.