David Snellgrove interviewed by Sara Shneiderman and Mark Turin in Torre Pellice, Piedmont, Italy, on 20th September 2004

0:00:00 Born in 1920 in Portsmouth as father a naval officer; moved to Hampshire countryside; parents; brother also in the Navy but died during the war; got scholarship to Christ’s Hospital, Horsham; went to Southampton University to study French and German; war came and entered the army; went to India; got there by boat via Cape Town; officers and other ranks

0:04:55 Landed in Bombay in 1943; in charge of a reconnaissance group; sent to Barrakpore, Calcutta; working in intelligence; during leave went to Sikkim; at that time nobody went there; did tour on two occasions

0:07:00 Became interested in Tibetan religion; met the Maharaja of Sikkim and family; at that time simple Himalayan country but more advanced than Dolpo; attached to an American unit by the end of the war

0:08:12 Had been in touch with Sir Basil Gould who was in charge of the mission in Gangtok; applied to join Indian Civil Service to get into the political service to get into Tibet; back in England took examinations at India Office and accepted; lasted three months due to Indian Independence

0:08:55 With knowledge of India and Tibetan decided to continue academically; met Sir Harold Bailey in Cambridge; went to Queen’s to study Sanskrit and Tibetan; Bailey was tutor, he only had three students; had already past the Government of India examination in Tibetan; had learnt both to speak and write Tibetan with the help of a Lama who had been at Calcutta University; also had a Tibetan servant whom I found in Kalimpong; was my batman and accompanied me through all tours

0:12:20 Memories of Sir Harold Bailey; graduated and offered a post in London in Tibetan at School of Oriental and African Studies; post originally at Readership level but eventually got personal Professorship; started in 1950, before which went to Rome to study with Guiseppe Tucci for a year

0:15:08 First went to Nepal in 1953-4; large part of northern Nepal Tibetan in religion and culture; Tucci had been to Mustang and had travelled extensively in Western Tibet; Pasang personal assistant; first went to Solo Khumbu; in Nepal when Everest first climbed; in 1953 walked into Nepal over the hills; then Nepal an enclosed Himalayan Kingdom; large stocks of Sanskrit manuscripts in libraries, nothing comparable in India as all destroyed; had to get permission to travel within Nepal

0:20:31 Name of Dolpo unknown at that time, but wanted to explore in the Tibetan frontier area; Ekai Kawaguchi had been through it earlier and written about it but he thought Dolpo was name of one town, not the area; went there in 1956 with Pasang and back in 1960-1; Pasang had no problem in communicating with Dolpo people; never learnt Nepali properly but relied on Pasang; he could manage with any Tibetan dialect; had originally met him in Kalimpong where he was the disciple of a Mongolian Lama; had had trouble with my Christian servant and wanted to find a Tibetan as I had during the war; Pasang, a Sherpa, was recommended

0:23:45 To get to Dolpo walked all the way up the Gandaki valley; lack of maps; longest tour took 8 months in 1956; fortunate to be able to spend long periods on research leave

0:26:48 At SOAS could teach as I liked; never had to give general courses; did series of general lectures on Tibet with the British Museum