Untold lives blog

143 posts categorized "South Asia"

22 October 2019

Indian military widows

The terrible plight of the widows of Indian soldiers in the period before, during and after the First World War is revealed in a file from the India Office's vast military archive.

The earliest document in the file dates from March 1913, but the outbreak of war in the following year brought the issue to the fore.  A letter of 26 February 1915 from Viceroy Lord Hardinge to the Secretary of State for India Lord Crewe attempted to lay down rules for the granting of military pensions:

(i) The widow must be proved beyond doubt to be in straitened circumstances  ... Absolute destitution not to be a necessary condition for the widow of any person above the rank of a private soldier.

(ii) The deceased husband must have performed really good service ... Other considerations to be taken into account  ...will be (a) the rank subsequently attained, (b) the character and conduct of the deceased, and (c) the length of his service.

(iii) The date of marriage will be an important consideration. We propose that the rules should not ordinarily include widows who married after their husbands had retired ...

Indian soldiers forming the escort for the Gilgit Mission 1885-1886 from the album of George Michael James Giles Photo 104032 - detailIndian soldiers forming the escort for the Gilgit Mission 1885-1886, from the album of George Michael James Giles - detail from Photo 1040/32 Images Online

It is understandable that Imperial bureaucrats in London and New Delhi felt the need to formulate guidelines to deal with such matters, but the contrast with the appalling suffering touched upon in many of the cases cited throughout the file is stark.  Umrao Bi, thought to be aged about eighty, was the widow of Mutiny veteran Sowar Shaik Imamuddin, and in June 1914 she petitioned the British Resident at Hyderabad for assistance, stating that her husband's Mutiny medal had been lost during a flood in 1908.  The previous month Amir Bi, aged 95, widow of Mutiny veteran Sowar Azmuth Khan, applied for an allowance ' ... so that she may endure the remainder of her life without experiencing the pangs of hunger’.

The dismal theme is continued in a list of 9 June 1916 which provides brief details of 55 applications for compassionate allowances, with 26 containing the simple words 'Woman was destitute'.  The majority were widows of soldiers who had served on the British side in 1857-58.  Qamru Bi '... was 80 years of age, and was begging for a living’.  Hasharat Bi '...earned about Rs. 4 per mensem by sewing, but she was getting old and was partially blind’.  Firdaus Begum '...had a small income of about Rs. 2 per mensem out of which she had to support 2 female relatives.  She had incurred a debt of about 500’.  The children of several petitioners were themselves too poor to support their mothers.      

The sum allocated by the British authorities to cover all successful applications for relief between 1915 and 1927 was capped at a miserly Rs. 1500 per year.  Although more money was made available through the establishment of the Indian Army Benevolent Fund in September 1927, eighteen months later its administering Board had made a mere 197 grants out of 1160 applications received.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Team Leader

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/7/12143

 

17 October 2019

The Portuguese Militia in Bombay

An almost certainly little-used publication on the shelves of the Asian & African Studies Reading Room sheds intriguing light on the existence and composition of a non-British military force in Bombay in the first decade of the 19th century.
 
In the Bombay Kalendar and Register for the year 1806 can be found a ‘List of officers of Portuguese militia’, their Commandante being identified as Sir Miguel de Lima e Souza.  There follows the names of three Sub-Commandantes, eleven Capitaens, and forty Tenentes (Lieutenants), all bearing recognizably Portuguese names such as Antonio Nunes, Matheus da Silva, Aleixo Gonsalves and Manoel Pereira.  That they were wholly loyal to the East India Company can be deduced from the fact that the Colonel of the force was none other than the Honourable Jonathan Duncan, the Governor of Bombay, alongside Regulating Officer Captain William Green, Adjutant Lieutenant D. Stewart and Assistant Surgeon R.B. Perrin.
 
A volume of Bombay Military Statements contains a ‘Separate statement for the Regiment of Native Portuguese Militia’.   It reads: ‘This Corps is composed of the native Portuguese inhabitants on the Island of Bombay and consisted of 10 companies [on 30 April 1800]. They were there learning to Exercise and received no pay'.

Portuguese tailors D40013-62Portuguese tailors in Bombay - from WD 315 no.62  Bombay Views and Costume (1810-1811) Images Online


This is not to say that no expenses were involved.  A force of just over 1,000 men could not possibly have been called into existence without funding – 1 Commandant, 3 Sub-Commandants, 10 Captains, 20 Lieutenants, 40 Serjeants, 40 Corporals, 20 Drummers and Fifers, no fewer than 960 Privates and 2 Puckallies (water carriers).  The training of the troops was overseen by fifteen professional soldiers drawn presumably from the ranks of the Company’s Bombay Army, assisted by two carpenters, two smiths, a ‘hammerman’, a bellows boy, a polisher and a shoemaker.  The pay of these staff, together with other incidentals such as ‘tobacco money’, meant that the Company had to stump up almost 1,100 rupees.

Portugal had gifted Bombay to the British Crown as part of the dowry of Queen Catherine of Braganza in 1661.  The Bombay Portuguese Militia was first raised in 1672 and existed until 1827.  There was a similar, presumably smaller, Portuguese militia at Tellicherry further down the coast in the Madras Presidency.  However the archives yield tantalisingly little additional information about the Bombay force and it is not mentioned in the Military Statements after 1811.  Sir Miguel was awarded an annuity of 7,000 rupees by the Company, and this continued to be paid to his family after his death in 1808.
 
Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
Bombay Kalendar and Register, shelfmark OIR954.792
Bombay Military Statement for 1799/1800, shelfmark IOR/L/MIL/8/158
Annuity to Sir Miguel de Lima e Souza, shelfmarks IOR/F/4/289/6513 & IOR/F/4/415/10281
Surender Singh, Territorial army: history of India's part-time soldiers (2013), shelfmark YP.2013.a.6875

 

08 October 2019

Crystal chandeliers for the Shah of Persia

In 1819 the Persian Ambassador Mirza Abul Hassan Khan arrived in London on a diplomatic mission from the Shah of Persia.  He bore gifts of jewellery, ornamental swords, beautiful rugs, carpets and paintings, and Arabian horses for the King and Prince Regent - an image captured by the artist Henry Chalon. 

A Representation of the Persians in the Costume of their Country Attending at Carlton Palace with Portraits of the Horses Presented to His Majesty by the Ambassador from the Emperor of PersiaHenry Bernard Chalon, A Representation of the Persians in the Costume of their Country Attending at Carlton Palace with Portraits of the Horses Presented to His Majesty by the Ambassador from the Emperor of Persia  (1819?), Tate (T02357) digital image © Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Relations between Britain and Persia were cordial, the countries having signed a treaty of alliance in 1812, but the situation was sensitive due to the possibility of Russian expansion into Persian territory.  As part of the diplomatic dance, reciprocal gifts were commissioned for Fath Ali Shah.  ‘As a pledge of the continuance of our respect, we shall send by way of Bombay some of the productions of this Country, which … we trust will be accepted as a further indication of the sentiments with which we are impressed’ wrote the East India Company Court of Directors in March 1820.

Seal decorated in gold, from letter in Persian from the Shah of Persia to the East India CompanySeal decorated in gold, from letter in Persian from the Shah of Persia to the East India Company, 1819 [IOR/L/PS/19/189, f 4] Noc

Blades & Co., Royal glassmakers of Ludgate Hill, crafted 'lustres' or suites of candelabra to be delivered to the Shah, intended to decorate the newly refurbished Golestan Palace in Tehran.   At the behest of John Blades and with the permission of the East India Company, Edward James Matthews set sail from England to Bombay in October 1820, tasked with accompanying the cases of fine glassware.

Transporting fragile and highly breakable items to Persia was a tricky business.  Having arrived safely in Bombay, Matthews was instructed to take the eighteen cases to Bushire on the Persian coast.  He travelled on the Frances Warden, arriving in early August 1821.  Henry Willock, the Chargé d'Affaires at Tehran wrote to Matthews requesting that he oversee the onward transport of the glassware and installation of the chandeliers.  ‘I have to request that you will remain at Bushire until the arrival of the Persian Officer who will be charged with their Transport, and I have further to beg that you will accompany their progress to the interior and strive by every Act of Necessary precaution to secure their preservation’.

It is over 750 miles overland from Bushire to Tehran.  It proved impossible to transport the cases by cart, so Matthews arranged for them to be carried on men’s shoulders the whole way.  The journey took five months – ‘an undertaking of infinite difficulty… I may say danger’. Thankfully the glassware arrived intact, and was ‘most graciously received by the King.  His Majesty expressed his approbation and praise of the great care and diligence evinced by Mr Matthews’.   Letters of thanks from both the Shah and Mirza Abul Hassan Khan arrived back in London with Matthews, together with a gift to the Company of the Shah’s portrait. 

Letter in Persian from Mirza Abul Hassan Khan to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company, giving thanks for gifts of lustres sent to the ShahLetter in Persian from Mirza Abul Hassan Khan to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company, giving thanks for gifts of lustres sent to the Shah, [1823]. [IOR/L/PS/189, ff 23-24] Noc

The return leg of Matthews’ journey proved eventful. He travelled to St Petersburg via Tabriz, but was shipwrecked in the icy waters of the Baltic in December 1822.  Illness confined him to Oesel Island (Saaremaa) for 4 months, until he finally reached England in June 1823, a journey of ‘2 years, 7 months and 23 days’. 

Letter from Edward J. Matthews to the East India Company describing his experiences, dated 29 Jul 1823 Letter from Edward J. Matthews to the East India Company describing his experiences, dated 29 Jul 1823 [IOR/E/1/151, 603-604]  Noc

As a result of his efforts, Matthews was awarded the badge of the Lion and the Sun by the Shah, and Blades and Co. were awarded a Royal Warrant from the Persian Court.  Much of the correspondence from Matthews in the India Office Records pertains to his attempts to get the Company to reimburse him for his out of pocket expenses.  A warrant to pay him £368 and 7 shillings was finally made on 26 Sep 1823.

 

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
IOR/E/1/151: Miscellaneous Letters Received 1823
IOR/E/1/259: Miscellanies 1823 [Miscellaneous Letters Outwards], entries 1290, 1291 & 1838
IOR/R/15/1/25: Political Residency Bushire Vol 25: Letters Outward, 1822
IOR/L/PS/19/189: Correspondence with the Court of the Shah of Persia, 1819-1823

01 October 2019

East India Company private trade

Advertisements in the Calcutta Gazette of 12 March 1795 alerted readers to the arrival of the East India Company ship Royal Admiral with private trade goods to sell.   Private or ‘privilege’ trade was allowed to the captains, officers and crew of East Indiamen on a sliding scale of cargo space and value based on rank.  Mariners tended to concentrate mainly on items of high value but low volume.

Calcutta - ships near Smith's Docks 1820s'A view of the river, shipping and town, from near Smith's Dock' from Views of Calcutta engraved by Robert Havell - Shelfmark X644(18) [1824-1826] Noc
 Images Online 

The firm of Tulloh, Henchman, and Innes in Calcutta begged leave to inform their friends and the public that within the next few days they would be offering for sale on commission at their warehouse ‘the large, elegant, and well chosen Investments‘ brought from England by Essex Henry Bond, Captain of the Royal Admiral, and William Fairfax, his chief officer.

The goods offered by Bond and Fairfax consisted of:
• Claret from Carbonal, Paxton, Brown and Whiteford, Wilkinson and Crosthwaite
• Old hock and red port
• Ale and small beer in hogsheads and butts
• Cider and perry from Silas Palmer
• Hams; pickled tongues; red and pickled herrings; salted salmon; pickled oysters, French and Spanish olives; capers; Durham mustard; salad oil, with ground stoppers; pickles and sauces; white wine, elder and tarragon vinegar
• Cheeses – Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Berkley and Pine
• Bloom raisins; new currants; shelled almonds; Turkey figs; French plums; Sir Hans Sloane’s and plain chocolate; cocoa; pearl and Scotch barley
• Confectionery from Hoffman
• Books
• Elegant lustres [candle holders] and girandoles [chandeliers]; table and wall shades; milk bowls; butter dishes; sweetmeat cups; hookah bottoms; salt cellars; muffineers [small castors for sprinkling salt or sugar on muffins, or covered dishes for keeping toasted muffins warm]; Italian shades; tumblers; wine and water glasses; Madeira and claret glasses to match
• Beautiful prints from Macklin
• Looking glasses
• Mathematical instruments
• Plate and jewellery
• Silk and cotton stockings for ladies and gentlemen
• Irish linen; Manchester dimities; cambrics
• Cloth and cashmere; buttons
• Blankets and flannels
• Perfumery
• Stationery and Mogul cards
• Saddlery
• Cutlery
• Haberdashery
• Medicines
• Mahogany furniture
• Fowling pieces and pistols; shooting tackle
• Tin ware; iron kitchen furniture; garden scythes; ship chandlery; ironmongery; spermaceti candles; garden seeds; cork and cork jackets; gunpowder and patent shot
• Toys

Dring, Cleland and Co were offering by private sale Madeira wine imported in the Royal Admiral.  Bucking the trend for non-bulky goods, Steuart, Maudslay and Gordon alerted readers to the arrival of a number of elegant London-built carriages on board the Royal Admiral – chariots, phaetons, gigs and buggies.  They were also selling saddlery, superior in ’variety, taste and fashion’.

There are several advertisements in that issue of the Calcutta Gazette offering European goods just arrived in other East India ships.  The auction houses vied for custom and the buyers had the luxury of choice.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive
H V Bowen, ‘Sinews of Trade and Empire: The Supply of Commodity Exports to the East India Company during the Late Eighteenth Century’ in The Economic History Review, Vol.55, No.3 (Aug 2002)

 

19 September 2019

Solving a provenance puzzle: papers of Henry and Robert Dundas, Viscounts Melville

Archivists are sometimes required to be detectives.  Three volumes amongst the miscellaneous material in the India Office Records’ Political and Secret Department records contain fair copies of letters written 1807-12 by Robert Dundas, President of the Board of Control. 

Portrait of Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville by Charles TurnerNational Portrait Gallery: Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville by Charles Turner, after Sir Thomas Lawrence, published 1827 (1826). NPG D7851 CC NPG

There are letters from Dundas to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company, and letters to various correspondents, including Spencer Perceval, Lord Liverpool, Marquis Wellesley, and the Duke of York.  No mystery there.  But closer examination of the volumes furnished some interesting clues. Each had a number written in pencil - ‘45’, ‘78’ and ‘79'.  More unusually, each was annotated with a price – ‘£5’, ‘£5’ and ‘£1’.  If these were ‘official’ records of the Board of Control, then why did they have a price tag written on them and what suspiciously looked like a catalogue number?

Inscription on flyleaf showing priceIOR/L/PS/19/164: Inscription on flyleaf Noc

So began the hunt for information regarding the history and provenance of the volumes.  Provenance provides the contextual evidence for archives, their history, custody and authenticity. Archives with the same provenance - originating from the same source - are kept together, and arranged, described, and catalogued together.  So how had these particular volumes ended up amongst the Political and Secret Department records, and why?

Digging into the India Office Record Department led to a file on the Melville papers, which contained a bookseller's catalogue: 'The Melville Papers Original Letters and Documents Relating to the East But Mainly Concerning Bombay, Madras and Mysore 1780 to 1815.  From the Collection of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville'.  Did it contain numbers '45', '78' and '79'?  Yes, and these were the volumes now residing in the Political and Secret Department Miscellaneous Papers.

Copies of letters from Robert Dundas to the Earl of LiverpoolIOR/L/PS/19/166: Copies of letters from Robert Dundas to the Earl of Liverpool Noc

The Record Department of the India Office purchased the volumes from Francis Edwards Ltd of Marylebone in 1928, together with a number of other Melville papers in the catalogue.  Those other papers were originally given a place in the Home Miscellaneous series (IOR/H/818), before being transferred to the India Office Private Papers as Mss Eur G92 Robert Dundas papers and Mss Eur D1074 Henry Dundas papers.  Lost links between the collections have now been restored.

Portrait of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount MelvilleCC NPG  National Portrait Gallery: Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville replica by Sir Thomas Lawrence, circa 1810. NPG 746 

So how had the Melville papers come into the hands of a bookseller in 1928?  Both Henry and Robert Dundas, father and son, served as President of the India Board or Board of Control.  Their papers were generated as part of their work at the Board, but as was common at the time many would have been deemed to be 'personal papers' and removed when they left office.  In the 1920s the Melville papers were sold at auction in a number of sales at Sotheby's by Violet, Viscountess Melville.  Many items relating to India were sold on 23 February 1927 to individuals and institutions, and other lots were purchased by dealers and sold on.  The Melville papers were dispersed far and wide, and the outcry over this led to the extension of the work of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, ultimately leading to the current legislation regarding the sale of important archival material.  Although catalogues of the sales were published, it would be a herculean task to fully reconstruct whereabouts of the Melville papers.  By researching provenance and recording details of our findings, archivists can help to solve the puzzle, one little piece at a time.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/164-166: Copy Letters from Robert Dundas, later Lord Melville, Board of Control
Mss Eur G92: Robert Dundas Papers
Mss Eur D1074: Henry Dundas Papers
‘The Sale Room’, The Times [London, England] 24 Feb 1927. The Times Digital Archive
‘The Sale Room’, The Times [London, England] 27 Apr 1926. The Times Digital Archive
‘A Napoleon Letter’, The Times [London, England] 16 Jun 1924. The Times Digital Archive
William Welke (1963) The Papers of the Viscounts Melville. The American Archivist: October 1963, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 449-462 

 

15 August 2019

Gerasim Lebedev, a Russian pioneer of Bengali Theatre

Whilst browsing through a list of inhabitants of Calcutta in the 1790s one particular entry caught my attention.  In June 1794 a Russian musician by the name of Gerasim Lebedev was listed as a resident of Calcutta.  As it seemed unusual to find a Russian in India at that time, I was intrigued to learn more.

List of European Inhabitants in Calcutta June 1794IOR/O/5/26 – Gerasim Lebedeff’s entry in a list of European Inhabitants in Calcutta, June 1794 Noc

Lebedev was born in Yaroslavl Russia in 1749, the eldest son of a church choirmaster.  The family later moved to St Petersburg where Lebedev sang in the choir, performed in theatre and began to learn English, French and German, also teaching himself to play violin.

In 1792 Lebedev accompanied the new Russian Ambassador to Vienna as part of a musical group.  However he left this employment shortly afterwards and began to tour Europe, earning a living as a violinist.

By February 1785 Lebedev was in England.  He sailed for India aboard the East India Company ship Rodney, arriving in Madras in August 1785 where he obtained the patronage of the Mayor, Captain William Sydenham, and earned a living putting on musical programmes.

In August 1787 Lebedev moved to Calcutta where he was to live for the next ten years, and where with the support of a Russian doctor he was able to establish himself as a musician.  Lebedev was interested in Bengali language and music and he is considered to be the first person to perform Indian music on western musical instruments.

In 1791 Lebedev was introduced to a teacher named Goloknath Das who taught him Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali.  He used his new language skills to translate plays into Bengali and in 1795 he opened the first drama theatre in Calcutta.  The two plays he translated were Love is the Best Doctor by Molière, and The Disguise by M. Jodrelle.  They were performed on 27 November 1795 and again on 21 March 1796, with music composed by Lebedev himself and lyrics from a Bengali poet Bharatchandra Ray.

Poster advertising Lebedev’s first performances of his plays on 27 November 1795Poster advertising Lebedev’s first performances of his plays on 27 November 1795. Image taken from Wikimedia (Public Domain)

The shows were very well received and Lebedev received great encouragement from Calcutta society, including the Governor-General Sir John Shore.  The performances are today considered to be the first performances of modern Indian Theatre.  But Lebedev’s success was short lived as his theatre burned down shortly afterwards.

Lebedev was also involved in several disputes with both the British administration and one of his former employees and was asked to leave India in 1797.  Lebedev returned to London where he set about publishing works on the Indian Languages including A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed Indian East Dialects in 1801.

Lebedev returned to St Petersburg shortly afterwards and was still working there on publications on Indian languages in 1817 when he died at his printing house on 27 July 1817.

Plaque erected in Calcutta in 2009 to mark the location of Lebedev’s theatrePlaque erected in Calcutta in 2009 to mark the location of Lebedev’s theatre. Image taken from Wikimedia. Attribution: By Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0

In 2009 the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Cultural Department of the Russian Federation Consulate in Kolkata erected a plaque in Ezra Street, Kolkata to commemorate the site of the pioneering theatre Lebedev had opened there in 1795.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed East Indian Dialects, by Herasim Lebedeff (London, 1801) V4516.  (The introduction pp. i-viii gives a summary by Lebedev of his life up until the publication of this work.)
IOR/O/5/26 List of European Inhabitants in Calcutta, June 1794.

13 August 2019

Fourth ‘Queen’s Own’ Hussars in India

A small but unusual collection in the India Office Private Papers is a folder of ephemera of the British Army cavalry regiment, the Fourth Queen's Own Hussars.  The items in the folder are mostly related to the Regiment’s time overseas in the 1870s, and gives a fascinating glimpse into activities and entertainments when not on combat duties.

Ephemera collectionMss Eur C610 Noc

Raised in 1685 as Berkeley’s Dragoons as a consequence of the rebellion by the Duke of Monmouth, the Regiment would serve in many notable military actions, including Wellington’s Peninsula Campaign.  Renamed the Fourth Queen's Own Light Dragoons, the Regiment would spend 19 years in India between 1822 and 1841, and see action at the Battle of Ghazni during the First Anglo-Afghan war. 

Group of officers of Fourth Queens Own HussarsOfficers of the 4th (The Queen's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons, 1855.  Photograph by Roger Fenton (1819-1869), Crimean War, 1855 NAM. 1964-12-151-6-35

The Regiment also served with distinction during the Crimea War, and was part of one of the most famous events in British military history, the charge of the Light Brigade.  The Fourth Light Dragoons were in the second line of the charge on 25 October 1854 against the Russian forces at Balaclava.  Of the 12 officers, 118 men and 118 horses of the Fourth Light Dragoons, 4 officers, 54 men and 80 horses were killed, wounded or missing at the end of the charge.  One of the men of the Regiment, Private Samuel Parkes was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the charge.  The collection of ephemera contains a nominal roll of the officers and men of the Regiment who embarked on 17 July 1854, and Private Parkes is listed on page 7.  Parkes survived the charge and was captured by the Russians, spending a year as a POW. He was awarded his VC in 1857, and left the Regiment in December of that year.

Front cover of nominal roll of Fourth ‘Queen’s Own’ Hussars

Mss Eur C610 Noc

In 1867, the Regiment embarked on its second tour of duty in India.  Some of the most interesting pieces of ephemera in the collection from this period are programmes for ‘Evening Readings’ which the Regiment put on.  The programme for the evening readings for 26 February 1874, included the songs ‘They have laid her in her little bed’ sung by Private Fox and ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’ sung by Corporal Walmsley.  Private Elliot gave a rendition of the comic song ‘Betsy Waring’. 

Front cover of programme for Evening Readings
Mss Eur C610 Noc

Evening readings programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another occasion, an ‘Assault of Arms’ was staged displaying athletic prowess (dumb bell exercises, parallel bar) and combat skills (fencing, sword v bayonet, ancient combat), concluding with a boxing melée involving the whole company.

List of events for Assault of armsMss Eur C610 Noc

The Regiment left India on H.M. Indian troop ship Serapis on 6 December 1878 for the voyage back to England.  The collection includes the ship’s menu for Christmas dinner. 

Christmas dinner menuMss Eur C610 Noc

This included a soup course (mock turtle), starter of jugged hare, mutton cutlets or fricassee chicken, main course of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast mutton and red currant jelly, boiled turkey and oyster sauce, or roast goose and apple sauce, and finishing with plum pudding, mince pies and cherry tart.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Printed ephemera of the 4th Light Dragoons in India, including `Nominal Roll of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men,' programmes for evening readings and other entertainments, 1869-1878 [Reference: Mss Eur C610]
A Short History of the IV. Queen's Own Hussars, by H. G. Watkin, continued by T. W. Pragnell., (Meerut, 1923) [Reference: 8823.e.46.]
A Short History of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, by Major T. J. Edwards (Canterbury: Gibbs & Sons, 1935) [Reference: 8820.df.30.]
4th Hussar. The story of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, 1685-1958, by David Scott Daniell, etc. [With plates and maps.] (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1959) [Reference: 8840.bbb.7.]

Exploits of the Queens Own Light Dragoons

 

08 August 2019

Captain Henry Liddell’s recipe for spruce beer

Entered in the journal of the ship Fame for 1796-1797 is Captain Henry Liddell’s recipe for spruce beer which was believed to ward off scurvy:

Take 2 tablespoons of essence of spruce, add 20 or 21 lbs of molasses or coarse sugar with 20 gallons of boiling water.  When well worked together and frothing, add 1 bottle of porter or wine. Work them all well together, then let them stand until cool, keeping the bung closed for 12-15 hours.  When done working, it will be fit for use.

If the beer was given to the sailors on Liddell’s ship, it was not entirely successful.  On 24 December 1796 there were ‘from four to Six People sick for some time past, complaint is most Scurvey’.


British sailor from mid 19th centuryA British sailor from A collection of 111 Valentines HS.85/2 plate 15 (London, 1845-50?) Images Online Noc


The Fame had been chartered by the East India Company from Calvert and Co for a voyage to Bengal.  The ship was built for the West Indian trade and had recently undergone thorough repairs.  Henry Liddell commanded the ship, assisted by two British officers: John Cundill, first mate, and Giles Creed, second mate.  33 crew members joined the ship on 22 July 1796 – twelve British, twelve Swedish, six German, two Danish and one Spanish. Of these, three died at sea, one drowned, and nineteen deserted. 

The Fame sailed from England in convoy with a fleet of East Indiamen in August 1796.  The French Wars increased the dangers of the voyage and there are many sightings of strange sails noted in the journal.  The ship arrived in Bengal in February 1797.   On 19 March 1797, 32 crew were signed on for the return journey to England via St Helena – nine Swedish, eight Malay, and fifteen Portuguese (two of whom drowned the same day).  A cargo of 4,729 bags of sugar, 434 bags of ginger, 773 cases of indigo, and one case of cochineal was loaded.  Evidence of some plundering by the crew is recorded.  Rum, rice and paddy was delivered to the East India Company personnel at St Helena.   The Fame arrived in the Thames in December 1797.

The ship’s journal is written in more than one hand, with Liddell’s distinctive writing easily to spot.  On 7 November 1797 Captain Liddell composed a note complaining about his officers, particularly ‘everlasting Grumbler’ John Cundill who was ‘of such a Temper that if any thing of violence happens he has brought it on himself by his Capricious ways’.

The Fame made a second voyage for the East India Company in 1798-1799, this time to Bombay under Captain Richard Owen.  Unfortunately there is no journal for this voyage in the Company archives, although there is a copy of a memo by Owen about Company shipping.  He reports that there is very little news from India apart from the expectation of war with Tipu Sultan, with a Company expedition sent from Bombay to take Mangalore. Calvert and Co subsequently sent the Fame on slaving voyages captained by Diedrick Woolbert.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/242A  Journal of the Fame on a voyage to Bengal, Captain Henry Liddell.
IOR/E/1/100 no.155 Copy of memo from Captain Richard Owen to the East India Company’s agent at Deal.
Gary L Sturgess and Ken Cozens, ‘Managing a global enterprise in the eighteenth century: Anthony Calvert of The Crescent, London, 1777-1808’ in Mariner’s Mirror Vol 99 No.2 (May 2013), pp.171-195.

 

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