Untold lives blog

345 posts categorized "South Asia"

26 October 2023

The happiest days of your life?

While the India Office archives contain documentation about all aspects of colonial education policy, inevitably little is to be found about the experiences of those who were being taught.  The  British Library is therefore very lucky to have the published memoirs of someone who was a pupil in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Cover of Orchids and AlgebraCover of Denise Coelho, Orchids and Algebra: the story of Dow Hill School (1986)

Denise Coelho’s slim 71-page book Orchids and Algebra is about her seven largely happy years as a boarder at Dow Hill Girls’ School just outside Kurseong in West Bengal.  Illustrated with various photographs and sketches, it is arranged in 177 short chapters, the titles of some giving a flavour of the work:

21. Of Inkwells & Soggy Pellets.
67. Ripping Times.
80. Teachers’ Pets.
135. Mrs. Stewart & Vegetables.
139. Winifred & the Ball Gown.
152. Rosalind and the Bear that Didn’t.
163. Tuck Parcels.

Denise loved art and English, enjoyed biology, tolerated history, endured piano lessons, and disliked mathematics – ‘I hated, with some intensity of feeling, the originator of algebra and the fiendishly devious brain that had devised my perpetual torment at these classes in school’ – but recorded that ‘It was my very good luck that the compilers of the Junior and Senior Cambridge arithmetic papers in the years I took these important examinations, set me a few sums I was capable of tackling, and this helped me scrape through with the minimum requirement of forty-five marks’.

Side view of Dow Hill SchoolSide view of Dow Hill School showing main building, classrooms, porch, Principal's office, stairway to senior dormitories, lower school dormitories back right - from Orchids and Algebra p.19

As in the English public schools system the girls were arranged in Houses, named after important figures of British India – Hastings, Wellesley and Clive.  Denise was in Hastings (Colour: green; motto ‘As Much As I Am Able’), the House which usually won the Work Shield; Clive (red; ‘I Serve’) tended to do best with the Games Shield, both no doubt rather looking down on the hapless members of Wellesley (blue; ‘Thorough’).

The pupils’ relations with their teachers – Miss Mackertich (Scripture and Needlework), Miss Cooper (Art), Miss Bwye (English – nickname ‘Booey’), Miss Smart (History; ‘the strictest teacher in Dow Hill’, nickname ‘Smut’) – were generally cordial, not seriously damaged by the event that went down in school annals as ‘The Cryptomeria Rebellion’, a failed attempt to get an unpopular Head Girl replaced (chapter 91).  Everyone at the school was shocked when the mother of Miss George, the Music teacher, was knocked down and killed by a bolting horse (chapter 30).

Outside lessons, Denise was able to watch Hollywood films, liking Errol Flynn, Ronald Colman, and Laurence Olivier, finding ‘Cary Grant had a hesitant charm and Spencer Tracy was a great actor’ but resisting the charms of ‘Shirley Temple with her prissy bobbing curls and cute dimples’.  She also wondered – was ‘E’, the topmost dormitory, really haunted?

The final chapter contains the score and lyrics of the school song, the chorus of which is

‘Ring out the strain both far and wide
Make it resound from every side
The echoes long on the ear prolong
Of this our song at Kurseong.'

Sad to relate, the school was damaged in a fire in February 2016.

Hedley Sutton
Asian and African Studies Reference Team Leader

Further reading:
Denise Coelho, Orchids and Algebra: the story of Dow Hill School (1986) 
Victoria and Dow Hill Association

India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F351 - a collection of memoirs mainly from the 1930s and 1940s of female pupils from Auckland House School near Simla.

 

 

17 October 2023

Gerald Sidney Wilson, Indian Police

A previous post on this blog looked at the career of William Henry Wilson, an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps who had a distinguished career in the Bombay Police.  Another member of the Wilson family was also involved in law enforcement in India.  This was Gerald Sidney Wilson, William’s nephew, who served in the Indian Police in Bombay.

Photograph of Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli, 10 July 1932 Wilson giving a speech at Bardoli 10 July 1932 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.26

Gerald Sidney Wilson was born on 29 October 1880 in Hampstead.  He joined the Indian Police on 23 November 1901 as a 3rd Grade Assistant Superintendent of Police and was stationed at Dharwar.  Wilson had a long career, working his way up to Inspector General of Police for the Bombay Presidency from 1932 until his retirement in 1934.  He was awarded the King’s Police Medal in 1918 and the Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India in 1931.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930  with two policemen in the foreground.

Photograph of Women's Congress Procession in Bombay 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Wilson served in the police during a turbulent time in modern Indian history.  His papers include some fascinating material relating to the struggle for Independence.  He kept a scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers in 1930 that reported on many key events that occurred in the Bombay Presidency, such as the Congress flag salutation ceremony and women's Congress procession, the release of Vallabhbhai Patel from jail, Khilafat procession in Bombay, and demonstrations on Jawahar Day.  Wilson also collected several editions of The Bombay Congress Bulletin between 1930 and 1932.  These were propaganda sheets issued by the Congress Party in Bombay.  They reported on the activities of party activists and on demonstrations against British rule in India, and took every opportunity to denounce the British authorities.  As Wilson at that time was Commissioner of Police for the city of Bombay, he often came under fire in the Bulletin. The issue of 29 November 1930 reported that Wilson had failed to fulfil his vow to crush Congress: ‘Citizens of Bombay! You have quelled the puffed up pride of this Wilson and made him eat his words by your wonderful solidarity with the Congress movement’.

Bombay Congress Bulletin  29 November 1930  - artlcle about 'Proud Police Chief' WilsonArticle about 'Proud Police Chief' Wilson in The Bombay Congress Bulletin 29 November 1930 - Mss Eur F764/10/7 f.2

In 1932, Wilson had the task of arresting Gandhi.  His papers include his fascinating account of this, which took place in the early hours of 4 January at Mani Bhuvan, Gandhi’s home in Bombay.  When he arrived Gandhi was asleep.  ‘On being awakened Mr Gandhi sat up but uttered no word as it was his silence day.  I said to Mr Gandhi “It is my duty to arrest you” and showed him the warrant to take him to Yeravda Jail under the old Bombay Regulation of 1827.  I read out the warrant and touched his shoulder in token of having arrested him and told him that I would give him half an hour to get ready.  Asking for paper and pencil he wrote “I will be ready in exactly half an hour”.’

Congress stamps with Gandhi's image and the words 'Boycott British Goods. Non-Violence'.Congress stamps - Mss Eur F764/10/4

Gandhi described the arrest simply in his diary entry for that day: ‘Spun 190 rounds.  The police came and arrested me at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Left after reciting a bhajan.  Elwin, Privat, Mills and others were present.  Vallabhbhai also was arrested at the same time.  We met in the jail and are lodged together.  I may say I spent the day resting.  I could take a walk for the first time today after landing [Gandhi had recently returned from the Round Table Conference in London].  Started reading Will Durant’s book [The Case for India].  Ate no fresh fruit today.  Had two seers of milk’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Gerald Sidney Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.

Papers relating to the career of Gerald Sidney Wilson in the Indian Police, 1901-1933. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/3

Scrapbook of cuttings from Indian newspapers, 1930. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/4.

The Bombay Congress Bulletin, 1930-1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/7.

Account by Gerald Sidney Wilson of the arrest of Gandhi on 4 January 1932. Shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/10/9.

Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope by Judith M Brown (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1989).

The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol.49, January-May 1932 (Government of India Publications Division, 1958-).

 

10 October 2023

A case of bigamy

On 17 February 1816 Captain George Harrower, a free mariner with the East India Company, stood trial at the Old Bailey, accused of bigamy.

Newspaper report of Harrower's bigamy trial Madras Courier 13 August 1816

Extract from report of Harrower's bigamy trial Madras Courier 13 August 1816

It was claimed that on 5 February 1794 Captain Harrower had married Miss Mary Usher in Bombay, and that he had been married for a second time on 12 October 1812 in London to Miss Susannah Ann Giblet, despite knowing that his first wife was alive and well in India.

Marriage entry, Bombay, 5 February 1794, of Mr George Harraway [Harrower] and Miss Mary UsherIOR/N 3/3 f.389 Marriage entry, Bombay, 5 February 1794, of Mr George Harraway [Harrower] and Miss Mary Usher

The Reverend Arnold Burrowes, the East India Company’s Chaplain in Bombay in 1794 who was acquainted with both Captain Harrower and Miss Usher. was deposed to give testimony on the validity of the marriage.  The entry in the copy marriage register sent to London at the end of 1794 was produced as evidence.

Burrowes' testimony also included that he had visited Mrs Harrower in Bombay in November 1813 prior to his return to England, and had been given three letters for a Mr Giblet, a butcher in London.  He delivered these letters in June 1814 along with news of his visit to Mrs Harrower for both the Captain and Mr Giblet’s information, which is how Mr Giblet learned of his son-in-law’s bigamy.

Mr Giblet then visited Bow Street Police Station and requested that his son-in-law be arrested, but he could not be found, as Captain Harrower had fled to France in the company of a Mr Thompson as he ‘feared for his life because of false accusations of Bigamy against him’.

Mr Thompson gave testimony and during cross-examination admitted he had asked Captain Harrower outright whether his first wife was still alive, and that the Captain had admitted it.  He had then told several people what he had learned on his return to England.

Captain Harrower’s own testimony made no mention at all of his first his wife.  He spoke solely of his relationship with Mr Giblet, who was insolvent, and claimed had been extorting him for money having handed over £30,000 since 1812.  He also accused Mr Giblet of having stolen £10,000 that had been settled on his daughter as part of the marriage agreement in 1812.

The judge in summing up the trial observed that only two questions actually mattered. Was the accused legally married to Miss Mary Usher in 1794, and was his second marriage to Miss Giblet in 1812 therefore an act of bigamy?

The jury found Captain Harrower guilty of bigamy, and he was sentenced on 22 February 1816 to six months in Newgate Gaol.

According to the trial reports following the judge’s verdict Susannah Harrower/Giblet was ‘bathed in tears’ and had to be conveyed out of the courtroom.  Her father and Mr Thompson were subjected to much ‘hooting and hissing’ and Mr Thompson was even pelted with mud and dirt.

Captain Harrower lived with Susannah for the rest of his life, and in 1818 the couple petitioned unsuccessfully for his conviction to be pardoned.  They applied again in 1828 for the conviction to be overturned but were still unsuccessful.  It is likely the application was made knowing that Mrs Mary Harrower had died in Bombay in January 1826 and that Captain Harrower was now legally a widower.

Bombay burial register entry for Mary Harrower January 1826Burial entry for  Mary Harrower in Bombay January 1826 IOR/N/3/7 p.429

 George Harrower died in Edinburgh on 9 August 1829.  Susannah Ann Harrower was remarried In 1833 to John Hutchinson.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Madras Courier, 13 August 1816 accessed via British Newspaper Archive 21 September 2023.
IOR/N/3/3 f.389 – marriage entry, Bombay, 5 February 1794, of Mr George Harrower & Miss Mary Usher in Bombay (Captain Harrower is mistakenly recorded as Harraway in the entry).
IOR/N/3/7 p.429 – burial entry, Bombay, 9 January 1826, for Mrs Mary Harrower.

 

05 October 2023

What about the East India Company Women? Emma Roberts and East India Voyagers

In 1827 Emma Roberts published her first book Memoirs of the Rival Houses of York and Lancaster.  The following year she sailed to India in 1828 on board the ship Sir David Scott with her sister Laura who was married to Captain Robert Adair McNaghten of the Bengal Infantry.  The arrival in Calcutta of this ‘celebrated writer’ was announced in the local press.  India became a major focus of Emma’s writing from this point in her life.

East Indiaman Sir David Scott  at the entrance of the Straights of Sunda. February 1830East Indiaman Sir David Scott  at the entrance of the Straights of Sunda. February 1830, by E. Duncan, handcoloured aquatint published by W. J. Huggins, London, 1833 via Wikimedia

Emma published a book of poetry entitled Oriental Scenes, and edited and composed articles for the Oriental Observer in Calcutta.  Laura died in October 1830, and in 1832 Emma returned to London where she wrote on a wide variety of topics.  But in 1839 she travelled to India taking the overland route via France and Egypt.  She arrived in Bombay in November and quickly became very busy with writing, editing, and a project to provide work for India women.  Sadly she fell ill in April 1840 and moved to Poona hoping to aid her recovery, but died there in September.  Emma was buried on 17 September as a spinster, ‘years unknown’.

Burial register entry at Poona for Emma Roberts 17 September 1840Burial entry for Emma Roberts at Poona 17 September 1840 IOR/N/3/14 p.480

Emma’s book The East India Voyager, or ten minutes’ advice to the outward bound was published in 1839.  There were chapters on: Choice of Cabin; Ladies’ Outfit; Desultory Remarks; Domestic Economy, Diet, Clothing ; The Civil Service; Cadets; The Medical Service; Desultory Remarks upon the Office Of Chaplain; The Overland Journey; Journey from London to Bombay; Expenditure on Journey to Bombay.

The choice of cabin was not so important for young men on the ship as they spent the greater part of their time on deck.  But they were advised to secure at least part of a cabin, however economical they were trying to be, since a berth in steerage was particularly disagreeable.

Ladies, married or single, should opt for upper, or poop, cabins which were light and airy.  The ports seldom had to be shut even in the roughest weather.  The cuddy, where meals were served, was only a few steps away, so there was no need to go out on deck, avoiding the annoyance of a rolling vessel and the risk of meeting crew members.  The disadvantages of the upper cabins was the noise overhead – sailors trampling, ropes dragging, blocks falling, the banging of the hen coops, and the cackling of poultry.  But Emma thought this was good preparation for life in India, and ladies could stop their ears with cotton.

The cabin floor needed to be covered with carpet or mats, and a small rug was useful to put under the feet when eating in the cuddy where the boards were very cold.  The ship’s carpenter could be asked to put up swinging shelves and a piece of board with holes of different sizes for wine glasses, tea cups and tumblers.  Soap was useful as a gift for crew members doing odd jobs, as was brandy because many sailors did not like the rum provided.

Emma also gave advice on the care of dogs on board.  They needed to be brushed, and young dogs were to be given a cup of tea every day, preferably green, with milk and sugar.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator. East India Company Records

Further reading:
Emma Roberts, The East India Voyager, or ten minutes’ advice to the outward bound (London, 1839)
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Bombay Gazette 18 June 1828
For other works by Emma Roberts, search Explore the British Library

26 September 2023

Wonderful Rice

In 1928, Francis Graham Arnould retired as the Chief Engineer for the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway.  Born in 1875, Arnould had studied engineering at the City & Guilds (Engineering) College in London from 1892 to 1895.  On graduating, he had joined the B,B & CI Railway.  He worked on many important railway construction projects such as the Tapti Valley Railway and the Rewari Phulera Chord Line, gradually working his way up to Chief Engineer.  In 1928, he was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.).

Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould with a photo of him attending a flood on the railway in 1927Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould Mss Eur E403/2


His colleagues saw him off in style, with a grand farewell dinner at the Willingdon Sports Clubs, Bombay on Saturday 31 March 1928.  Guests were treated to a band playing a selection of popular show tunes of the time, such as ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’, ‘No, No, Nanette’, ‘Gonna Get A Girl’ and ‘The Blue Train’.  They ate well too with a scrumptious sounding menu:
• Oeufs au Caviar.
• Consommé au vin de Madère.
• Pomfret du Willingdon Club with Punch a la Romaine.
• Tournedos de Boeuf Bearnaise with Pomme Chippes.
• Pintade au Jambon Froid with Salade a l’Adeline.
• Poires a la Chantily.
• Laitances sur Croutes.
• Dessert.
• Café.

Letter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum about the Wonderful RiceLetter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum Mss Eur E403/3

However, there was probably one retirement present he was not expecting.  In June 1928, he received a letter from the Museum Darulfalah in Delhi, congratulating him on his C.I.E. and presenting him with a humble ‘present’ of a ‘Wonderful Rice’.  This arrived by separate post with a letter of explanation.  The ‘Wonderful Rice’ was a common seed of rice with the 'difficult and incredible skill of inscription' making it a ‘marvellous curio’.  In his letter, the Museum manager explained that it was inspired by 'the historical event of a verse in the Holy Quran being inscribed on a split pea of a gram, which was then presented to the Emperor Akbar.  The Emperor was extremely surprised and amused of it and rewarded the inscriber with Jagirs worth lakhs of Rupees'.

Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

Miniature writing goes back at least 4,000 years, with very small clay tablets written in cuneiform from ancient Mesopotamia.  It is thought that writing on rice began in ancient Anatolia and India, with artisans inscribing short messages using rice as a symbol of abundance and good fortune.

Inscription on the Wonderful RiceInscription on the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

The grain of rice sent to Arnould (No.7108) apparently had 102 English characters, saying ‘Long & happily live F.G. Arnould Esq., C.I.E., Chairman, Indian Rlys Confce. Assocn (Enging) & Chief Engineer, B.B. & C.I.Rlys, Bombay. 5.6.1928’.  Arnould also received a leaflet on the ‘Wonderful Rice’ which claimed that King George V had sent for one, and that the King of Siam had so admired his that he had given a donation of 300 rupees.  Arnould was also requested to send a donation to the Museum, as the Museum manager explained, ‘As the beginning of every work is difficult, so our work has also great many difficulties and the chief of them is the lack of capital, which is a hindrance to our efforts’.  The correspondence does not say what Arnould thought of his present and whether he did send a donation, and unfortunately we do not have the ‘Wonderful Rice’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers relating to the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1923-1927, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/1.
Papers relating to F G Arnould's retirement as Chief Engineer of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/2.
Letters from the Manager of the Museum Darulfalah, Sadar Bazar, Delhi, regarding presenting Arnould with the "Wonderful Rice", a grain of rice inscribed with words, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/3.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 June 1928 
Doris V Welsh, The History of Miniature Books (Albany, New York: Fort Orange Press, Inc. 1987).

 

21 September 2023

What about the East India Company women? Mrs Moore and Raja Chandu Lal

In the British Library, there is a portrait of Raja Chandu Lal, the famous minister to the Nizam of Hyderabad from 1809 to 1843.  He was an influential figure who was so powerful that the British suspiciously regarded him as the proxy ruler of Hyderabad.  The on-line catalogue entry for the portrait says that it was a gift from 'Mrs Moore'.  Who was she, and why did she have a painting of a man who Hyderabad’s British resident, Sir Charles Metcalfe, described as having 'the plausibility ascribed to Satan'?

Portrait of Raja Chandu Lal.  Three-quarter-length portrait, dressed in a white muslin robe and turban.British Library, Foster 16 – Portrait of Raja Chandu Lal (1809-1843) by John Godwin Williams (fl.1813-1837), c.1836.  Given to the India Office by Sophia Stewart Moore, née Yates (1808-1905), probably in the 1870s.

Sophia Stewart Yates was born at Madras in 1808.  Her parents, Richard Hassels Yates of the Madras Army and Benjamina, had ten children.  Sophia and her sisters were probably married off quite young, and her brothers would have been sent into the army.  On 29 July 1827, when she was 19, she married John Arthur Moore, an employee of the Nizam of Hyderabad from 1817 to 1838.  He began as a soldier in Hyderabad’s army, then served as the Nizam’s Military Secretary and Auditor of Accounts for 14 years.  He retired from the Nizam’s service for health reasons and returned to Britain with Sophia in 1839.

The painting of Raja Chandu Lal was printed in London as a mezzotint in 1841 by Charles Turner.  The caption below the mezzotint, written in English and Persian, celebrates Raja Chandu Lal as the 'Rajah of Rajahs… the devoted servant of Asuf Jah who is the Roostum of his Age'.   It is impossible to say why the mezzotint was commissioned, but it might relate to Raja Chandu Lal granting Major Moore a generous pension.

Portrait of Raja Chandu Lal.  Portrait, three-quarter length; seated to right in an armchair: wearing a jewelled cap and tunic, necklaces, bracelets on both wrists, and rings on the ring and little fingers of his right hand, resting on his lap. printed in London as a mezzotintBritish Museum, 1861,0810.148 – Mezzotint of John Godwin Williams’ portrait of Raja Chandu Lal.  Engraved in 1841 by Charles Turner, 50 Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, London.

Unfortunately, the East India Company’s directors in London blocked Major Moore from receiving the pension of 500 rupees a month, claiming that it was 'extremely inexpedient for the Local Government to allow British Officers to be pensioned by the Nizam’s Government or by that of any other Native Prince or Chief'.  Several 'influential men petitioned the Company to allow him to collect the pension, including Charles Metcalfe, the resident at Hyderabad who once described Raja Chandu Lal as 'Satan'.

John Arthur Moore died on 7 July 1860, when Sophia was 52.  Following the East India Company’s liquidation and absorption into the British state, Adolphus Warburton Moore (1841-1887), John and Sophia’s son, became the India Office’s Political Secretary in the 1870s.  He prompted his mother to give the portrait of Raja Chandu Lal to the India Office.

Sophia died in 1905, at the age of 97.  It is intriguing to think that Raja Chandu Lal, a man who the British caricatured as evil, was the subject of a portrait that John and Sophia Moore cherished.  One wonders if young Sophia, who moved to Hyderabad as a teenager and left in her early 30s, personally knew Raja Chandu Lal.  It seems he was kind to her and her husband.

CC-BY Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Account of John Arthur Moore’s service in India, including letters of support from Charles Metcalfe and Lord Elphinstone to receive a pension from the Nizam of Hyderabad. British Library, IOR/F/4/1780/73179, f.1v-5.
Archer, Mildred. The India Office Collection of Paintings and Sculpture (London: 1986), 47-48.
Foster, William. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Paintings, Statues, &c. in the India Office (London: 1924), 16.
Raja Chandu Lal. 'Translation of a note from the Minister, under date 27th November 1838 to the Resident'. British Library, IOR/F/4/1780/73179, f.19.

 

19 September 2023

William Henry Wilson of the Bombay Police

William Henry Wilson was an officer in the Bombay Staff Corps in the second half of the 19th century.  Born in Worcester on 13 September 1839, Wilson was appointed to the Indian Army in December 1856, and posted to the 18th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.  Present during operations against insurgents in the North Canara and Bedee Districts in 1858, he was awarded the Mutiny Medal.  He had a successful army career, and served in the Bombay Police.

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson  1891

Decorated scroll in praise of Wilson 1891 - Mss Eur F764/7/8

In 1870, Wilson was the Superintendent of Police for the Kaira District, and was called on to oversee police arrangements for the fair at Dakore held in April of that year.  The fair was a success and Wilson was commended for the judicious manner in which the arrangements were devised and carried out with due regard to the feelings of the people attending the event.  Wilson noted in his papers that, 'There was a tremendous concourse of people, especially women……The Maharajah wanted to give me a sword but I said government would not approve as I had only done my duty'.

Report of the fair at Dakore 1870  with the offer of a sword as a giftReport on the fair at Dakore 1870 -  Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1885, Wilson was the District Superintendent of Police at Nasik. I n October of that year, he had to deal with a riot that broke out at Malegaon in the District.  The cause of the riot seemed to be a dispute between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities who were celebrating the festivals of Dasara and Muharram.  The unrest lasted four days and 42 people were arrested.  At one point, a Hindu temple was attacked forcing the police guard to fire on the rioters wounding two men.  The Government commended Wilson and the local Magistrate Mr Frost for their promptitude and discretion.  In Wilson’s copy of the report on the riot, he noted in the margin that, 'It was a hot business' and that leading Muslim leaders had asked him to release the 42 men who had been arrested, to which he had refused.  They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment of between three to eighteen months.

Report of riot at Malegaon 1885 Report of riot at Malegaon 1885  - Mss Eur F764/7/2

In 1887, Wilson, serving as Superintendent of Police in the Poona District, was involved in tracking down a gang of robbers.  Wilson reported that, 'five of the Koli gang of dacoits have surrendered to Inspector Ganpatrao Malhar and that a sixth, who alleges he was pressed into the dacoit’s service against his will, has also given himself up' . Wilson recommended that the reward of Rs.500 should be increased to Rs.1000 and distributed to local villagers 'who have done so well and have suffered in the service'.

Report of the surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887  Surrender of a gang of dacoits 1887 - Mss Eur F764/7/2

Between 1888 and 1893, Wilson served as Commissioner of Police for the Town and Island of Bombay.  During that time, he met a number of visiting dignitaries, including Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1889.  The following year, he met Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Emperor of Russia, who was on a tour of India.  Wilson wrote that it was rather a responsibility for the Governor, Lord Harris, especially as the Indian Government 'were very jumpy'.  Of the Tsesarevich, Wilson wrote, 'He was very unformed in manners & never thanked me'. I n January 1893, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria visited Bombay as part of his tour of India during his trip round the world.  Wilson commented that Lord Harris 'found him a pleasant guest; and he specially thanked me at the railway station on his departure'.

 

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
William Henry Wilson’s papers are part of a recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room: Papers of the Wilson Family, Mss Eur F764 that charts the family’s connection with India over four generations.
Papers relating to the service history of William Henry Wilson, 1866-1914, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/1.
Official correspondence relating to William Henry Wilson's career, 1860-1893, shelfmark: Mss Eur F764/7/2.

 

12 September 2023

How to smuggle an elephant

The British government benefitted greatly from a number of structures and processes already in place in the region of South Asia.  An important but not very celebrated one was the use of elephants as a hybrid of machinery and workforce.  Not only did they serve to transport products, they were also essential in routine industrial work like loading and unloading ships.

Photograph of elephants at work in Rangoon, moving stone blocksElephants at work in Rangoon. Photographer Philip Adolphe  Klier (1845-1911) British Library Photo 88/1(22) 

Elephants at work in India, moving heavy objects

Elephants at work from Annie Brassey, The Last Voyage - to India and Australia, in the ‘Sunbeam’, New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1889, pp.131 (W51/1046)


Because of their crucial function in the carrying out of human plans, elephants were highly valued.  That made interest and research in those animals flourish and even encouraged the development of vaccines.  However, the knowledge produced was highly focused on productivity and disregarded most local knowledge.

Drawings of four elephants showing their diseasesElephants and their diseases: a treatise on elephants. British Library Or 13916 (f.2r)

The importance of elephants made them vulnerable not only to exploitation but also to smuggling and fraud.  A file in the India Office Records holds correspondence associated with the case of Mr Dalrymple-Clark, Superintendent of the Government kheddas, enclosures to tame and keep wild elephants.

Military officers supervising the rounding up of elephants in Ceylon Capturing elephants in Ceylon. c.1825. Military officers supervising the rounding up of elephants. British Library WD2096 

Ian Hew Warrender Clark was born in Chelsea on 1 December 1853, the son of Colonel John Clark and Charlotte Sophia Dalrymple.  He later changed his surname to Dalrymple-Clark.  On 26 November 1873 Dalrymple-Clark joined the Bengal Police Department.  He was promoted to District Superintendent in July 1886, and then appointed Superintendent of Kheddas in Burma in October 1902, a position of responsibility.  However Dalrymple-Clark apparently profited from selling government elephants privately under the name of a Mr Green.  Dalrymple-Clark was said to have reported that an outbreak of anthrax had killed 26 elephants, giving him cover to sell them to private companies in the region himself.  That resulted in him being chased in India and London by deputy superintendent Mr Soord.  Having retired to England, he was arrested in London in December 1909 under the Fugitive Offenders Act and prosecuted for breach of trust and falsification of accounts.

Letter concerning enquiry into Dalrymple-Clark - first page Letter concerning enquiry into Dalrymple-Clark - second pageEnquiry regarding Dalrymple-Clark IOR/L/PJ/6/504, File 456


In early 1910, Dalrymple-Clark returned to face trial in Rangoon.  In July, after a trial involving an elephant identity parade, he was found not guilty of criminal breach of trust.  In February 1911 he was cleared of falsifying elephant returns.  His assistant superintendent, John Briscoe Birch, and two Indian members of staff, Mukerji and Gupta, were convicted of criminal breach of trust and sentenced to five years in prison.

The India Office Records holds published and manuscript material from circa 1600 to 1948 and relating to the British experience in India, including both official and private papers.  The Legal Adviser’s Records (IOR/L/L) hold the records of cases of legal dispute in British territory in South Asia.  That material is invaluable in providing interesting insights into local entanglements between human, animal and environmental agents.

Bianca Miranda Cardoso
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
IOR/L/L/8/178 Correspondence associated with the case of Dalrymple-Clarke, prosecuted for breach of trust and falsification of accounts regarding Government elephants and arrested in London under the Fugitive Offenders Act, Dec 1909-Oct 1911.
IOR/L/PJ/6/1061, File 432 - Allowances for Mr Soord while on deputation to England in connection with the criminal prosecution of Mr Dalrymple-Clark.
British Newspaper Archive- many articles on the ‘Kheddah cases’
Colonizing elephants: animal agency, undead capital and imperial science in British Burma | BJHS Themes | Cambridge Core 2, 169-189. 
Saha, J. (2021). Vital Resources. In Colonizing Animals (pp. 51-82). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
How to ship your elephant 

 

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