30 Years
HomeMr. Indar Singh Gill (1901-1993)

Mr. Indar Singh Gill was born in 1901 in Jandali Village, near Ludhiana, Punjab. His elementary education was in Jandali and for his secondary education he went to the Arya School in Ludhiana.

At the age of 21 he left India and came to Nairobi, Kenya and then joined the Uganda Railways as it was then known. After his training he was posted to Njoro as Assistant Station Master. He also worked for a while at Kibos Station near Kisumu. He then transferred to Uganda where he was made the Station Master of Nesinze in Busoga Province.

His big decision was to leave the Uganda Railways and begin farming at Nakivumbi, Busoga Province. There, while he grew sugar cane, he started the business that eventually became known as ‘Sikh Saw Mills’ in Jinja. He first started pit-sawing of mvuli timber logs and this progressed to mechanised sawmilling. After a few years he also started cotton ginning and this activity extended to Tanganyika ( now called Tanzania). He started saw-milling in Kenya in 1943 and this activity was also extended to Tanganyika in 1947. Around this time he also started tea plantations in the Eastern Usambara Mountains in South Western Uganda.

In the late 1950s he pioneered the plywood industry in East Africa with factories in each of the member states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. At the inauguration of one of his plywood factories the invitation cards were made out of refined piece of pressed wood embossed with gold lettering.

‘Bwana Kubwa’, as Mr. Indar Singh was called, was a man of immense energy and strong personality. He settled in Jinja where he built a beautiful house overlooking Ripon Falls, the point at which the River Nile leaves Lake Victoria on its 4,000 mile journey through the Sudan, Ethopia and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. He was known for his sense of humour and particular chuckle, his long daily walks and swim.

Other than his business activities he was very interested in social service to the community. Hundreds, if not thousands, of children passed through the ‘Indar Singh Gill Nursary School’, including the author of this note! He also served as the President of the Hindu Community in Jinja.

After the nationalisation of private industry in Tanzania in the 1960s and the expulsions of Asians from Uganda in 1972 he lived in Nairobi, Kenya until he died in 1993 at the age of 92.