Servants sailing from India with the East India Company
Our recent post about passengers on East India Company ships mentioned the regulation that a deposit had to be made for each ‘black’ or ‘native’ servant carried to England. There is a register in the Company’s maritime records which names some of these people and gives a glimpse into their lives.
Male and female Indian servants accompanied military and civil employees or their wives and families. Here are some examples from the register -
John Lewis with Colonel Thomas Munro on Lord Melville 1803
E. Manuel Rebeira with Surgeon Robert Hunter on Bencoolen 1820
John Steppen with Mrs Munt on the extra ship Batavia 1817
‘Portuguese servant’ William Ross with the family of Mrs Stephen on Woodford 1824
‘Portuguese servant’ Joaquim Dias with the son of Major George Ogilvie on Triumph 1828
Mary Manuel, a Christian native of Bombay, with Lady Grant on Earl of Hardwick 1839
Imaum Ayah with the daughter of J Curnin on Exmouth 1839
Mariam with the child of the late Captain R W Smith on Inglis 1840.
European servants are also named. In 1808 George Maidman paid a deposit for Jane Walker who was accompanying his children to England. Mrs Walker sailed on Lord Hawkesbury from Madras in February 1808 with Lucy aged seven, William Richard five, and Isabella three. Their sister Maria, born in 1806, went to England later.
On 13 January 1809 the Court of Directors in London gave permission for Jane Walker to return to her husband in Madras with no expense to be incurred by the East India Company. The Maidman children all returned to India as young adults. Lucy sailed to Madras in 1821. William Richard secured a cadetship in the Company’s army in 1817 and served in the Bengal Artillery. Isabella and Maria travelled together to India in 1825.
Some familiar names appear in the register. In 1805 a deposit was paid on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick whose children with his Indian wife Khair un-Nissa were going to England with a servant named as Mahomed Durab. Their ship was listed in the register as the Devaynes but they are included in the passenger list of Lord Hawkesbury – William Kirkpatrick aged 3 years 6 months, and Catherine Kirkpatrick aged 2 years 7 months. They were also accompanied on the voyage by a European servant Mrs Jane Perry. The Court of Directors sanctioned her return to her husband in India on 17 March 1807.
There are also unexpected entries. In 1839 the vakeels or agents of the Raja of Satara deposited money for the Indian servants accompanying them to England. The Raja was in dispute with the Bombay Government and he sent vakeels to put his case to the Company in London shortly before he was deposed. The vakeels and their servants stayed for two years, struggling from lack of funds. British newspapers criticised the East India Company’s poor treatment of the Raja’s representatives. The Company responded to an appeal from the men in 1841 by advancing £4,000 to pay their debts and to enable them to return home. As the Raja was still in power when his vakeels left for England, the Company instructed the authorities in India to recover this money from Satara.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
IOR/L/MAR/C/888 - Register of deposits on account of native servants who have come to England.
IOR/L/MAR/B/323G - Journal of Lord Hawkesbury 1804-1806.
IOR/B/144 pp.1326, 1345 - Permission for Jane Perry to return to India, March 1807.
IOR/B/148 p.1011 - Permission for Jane Walker to return to India, January 1809.
IOR/E/4/767 pp.717-719 - Letter to India regarding the Raja of Satara’s vakeels, 25 August 1841.
Michael H. Fisher, ‘Indian Political Representations in Britain during the Transition to Colonialism’, Modern Asian Studies Vol. 38, No. 3 (Jul., 2004), pp. 649-675.
British Newspaper Archive (also available va Findmypast) e.g. Sun (London) 23 August 1841.