Untold lives blog

318 posts categorized "Work"

26 October 2021

William Shakespeare’s family in Calcutta

At the start of the 19th century, Bengal became the home for the Shakespear family of Calcutta, whose ancestry dated back to close relations of William Shakespeare.

Shakespear tombs in Calcutta’s South Park Street CemeteryShakespear tombs in Calcutta’s South Park Street Cemetery - author's photograph

In Calcutta’s South Park Street Cemetery, one can still find two Shakespear tombs. One of them belongs to John Talbot Shakespear, born in 1783 to John and Mary Shakespear in England; the other belongs to his wife Emily.  Shakespear arrived in Calcutta during the early 1800s as an East India Company official, marrying Emily Amelia Thackeray in 1803.  She was the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray senior, who was the grandfather of the more famous Calcutta-born author William Makepeace Thackeray.  Emily’s brother, Reverend Francis Thackeray, married John Talbot Shakespear’s sister Mary Anne.  Another brother, Richmond, arrived from London around the same time to become the Secretary to the Board of Revenue.  He married Anne Becher and their son, William Makepeace Thackeray, was born in 1811 at Thackeray House in Alipore.  Clearly, the eminence of the Thackerays seems to have overshadowed the lineage of the Shakespearean relative in their midst.  Thus, Thackeray’s father’s name Richmond also became the name of the youngest son of John Talbot and Emily Shakespeare, Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear.  He would later acquire renown as an agent to the Governor-General of Central India and a Companion of the Bath.  Another son of John Talbot and Emily was named William Makepeace Shakespear.

But what do we know about John Talbot himself, and how does his ancestry trace back to Shakespeare?

John Talbot Shakespear was appointed by Richmond Makepeace Thackeray as the assistant to the Collector of Birbhum.  John’s brother Henry also served in the Bengal Civil Service. John’s own successful career at the East India Company was truncated by his death at sea on board the Rose in 1825, a few months after the death of his wife.

Extract from John Talbot Shakespear's will specifying burial in a grave he had purchased next to his wife'sExtract from John Talbot Shakespear's will specifying burial in a grave he had purchased next to his wife's IOR/L/AG/34/29/37 p.46

 

Memorial inscriptions for John Talbot and Emily Shakespear from South Park Street CemeteryMemorial inscriptions for John Talbot and Emily Shakespear from South Park Street Cemetery recorded in The Bengal Obituary (Calcutta, 1851)

We cannot ascertain whether the Thackerays knew about John Talbot’s illustrious relative.  The oldest recognizable discovery of John Talbot’s lineage dates back to George Russel-French’s Shakspeareana Genealogica (1869), later reproduced by Charlotte Carmichael Stopes in Shakespeare’s Family (1901).  Despite the variant spelling of this ‘Shakespear’ branch (without the ‘e’), it belonged to the Stepney (or Shadwell) Shakespears.  They had either descended from William Shakespeare’s brother Gilbert, or his uncle Thomas.  Russel-French claimed that this family tree was supplied to him by Lieutenant Colonel John Davenport Shakespear, a nephew of John Talbot.  Key evidence to the linkage between the Shakespeare and Shakespear families was two-centuries old ‘drawing on a parchment of a coat of arms, pronounced by an eminent herald’ which is exactly the same as the coat of arms granted to William Shakespeare’s father in 1596.  John Davenport Shakespear possessed this in the 1860s.

India has been generous to Shakespeare, adopting his works.  However, John Talbot has not been recognised, as his and his wife’s tombs languish in oblivion.  Recently, there have been reports of former British prime minister David Cameron’s lineage dating back to John Talbot Shakespear.  But historians are yet to take note of the Shakespear in question being a significant leaf on a stem of the bard’s family that branched out to India.

Arup K. Chatterjee
Teacher at OP Jindal Global University, India, and author of The Purveyors of Destiny: A Cultural Biography of the Indian Railways (2017), The Great Indian Railways (2018), Indians in London: From the Birth of the East India Company to Independent India (2021) and The Great Indian Railway Saga (2022)

 

14 October 2021

Diary of a Lumber Jill

‘Lumber Jill’ was the name given to women who worked in the oft-forgotten Women’s Timber Corps (WTC) during the Second World War, who have only begun to receive proper recognition for their service the past two decades. Initially a sub-division of the Women’s Land Army (WLA), members volunteered – or were conscripted into – working in forestry, carrying out duties previously done by men, such as sawing, felling, measuring, loading cargo, and driving tractors. This was often heavy manual labour, and could also be dangerous, but many women enjoyed it. Vera Lloyd compiled her experiences of the WTC into a diary in 1953, which found its way to our Modern Archives collections.

Opening page of diary showing Timber Corps logo

Opening page with Timber Corps insignia, Add MS 70609

Vera began her journey in Gloucestershire, with working hours typically starting at 7.45am in the morning until 6pm in the evening, with a half-day on Saturdays. During summer, work was daily and often never ending. It was not all hard labour though, early on in the service she rode her first pony, saw another give birth in the wild, and even had the time to fill in the head-sawyer’s cap with sawdust.

After nine months on the job, aged only 23, she was sent to Jacobstowe to lead a group of men at a sawmill – and here encountered some resistance to her leadership. A man named Fred was slacking on the job, often arriving late in the morning. She reflects, ‘It was, I suppose, [a] rather excusable reaction against being under a mere woman, but after a fortnight I decided to act’. Despite never sawing herself before, she worked for two hours before Fred arrived, putting in a significant amount of work. He ‘then eyed me with approval. “Shake” he said, holding out his hand’. She had little trouble from him thereafter.

Diary entry with a sketch showing Vera entering the upstairs window of the house via a ladder

Diary entry with a sketch showing Vera entering the upstairs window of the house via a ladder, Add MS 70609

In 1943 she was relocated further south-west to Baconnoc, to become sub-foreman for 80 workers, a significant increase of people under her charge. She writes a relatable experience of forgetting her keys and having to break into her house. While doing so her landlady returned, at which point she explained the ‘awkward situation with famous tact acquired since employed by Ministry of Supply, but am bowled over by information now imparted that key was under mat.’ We’ve all been there.

Of course, forestry work was perilous too. Early on, she writes that when walking through the forest a tree began to fall, which she dodged ‘with expert skill’. Worse, a few years later a boy came into her office bleeding over the floor. She explains how he had ‘placed [his] thumb too near [the] circular saw and is not the lad he was by quite a large bite’. 

After the War ended she stayed in the Corps to help rebuild, but disliked the office work she was assigned, longing for the manual labour and companionship in the fields. So she ‘rejoined the ranks of civilians, the richer by over five years of happy comradeship with the people of the West Country’. Vera received two recognitions of her service, which she kept in the diary.

Triangular red long service badge pasted into the diary, presented by HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945

Triangular red long service badge pasted into the diary, presented by HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945

'Personal message' of appreciation signed by Queen Elizabeth 

'Personal message' of appreciation signed by Queen Elizabeth 

Jack Taylor

Doctoral researcher at the Open University. His CHASE-funded research explores sexual violence between men in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Vera Lloyd’s diary is part of the Life on the Home Front display in the British Library’s Treasures Gallery from 14 September until 11 December 2021. More information can be found at https://www.bl.uk/events/life-on-the-home-front.

Further Reading:

Add MS 70609 - Vera Lloyd: 'Timber Corps Diary', a calligraphically written account of episodes from the author's service in the forestry section of the Women's Land Army during World War II (6 Feb. 1941-15 May 1946).

Emma Vickers, ‘”The Forgotten Army of the Woods”: The Women’s Timber Corps during the Second World War’, Agricultural History Review 59, no. 1 (2011): 101-112.

Joanna Foat, Lumberjills: Britain's Forgotten Army (Stroud: The History Press, 2019).

 

07 October 2021

Gunner George Fish of the Bombay Artillery Part 2

We're continuing our story about George Fish.  Two complementary sets of private and official letters spanning 30 years provide a glimpse into the life of one family separated between two continents.

On 5 April 1841 Gunner George Fish married Eliza Folkers at Bombay.  Eliza was the daughter of Albert Folkers, an East India Company Army pensioner who died in 1835, and his wife Mary.

Marriage of George Fish and Eliza Folkers at Bombay 5 April 1841Marriage of George Fish and Eliza Folkers at Bombay 5 April 1841 - British Library IOR/N/3/15 f.106 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

George and Eliza had a son Philip Charles born on 29 November 1849.  I have been unable to find any other records about Philip.

During the 1840s George transferred to the Ordnance Department and served as Laboratory Man and then Store and Park Corporal, rising to the rank of Sub Conductor.  He died on 18 September 1850.  His widow Eliza married Daniel Sullivan, a Post Office clerk, on 14 October 1850 at Karachi.  She died in 1854.

In June 1860, George’s daughter Mary applied to the India Office in London for the value of her late father’s effects as his only legitimate child.  Mary was a silk weaver living at Pits Oth Moor, Patricroft, near Manchester, the wife of James Lomas, a striker for a smith.  It appears that someone wrote the letter on her behalf as she marked a cross on her marriage register entry and  on an India Office form.  She enclosed the first letter George had sent to his father and mother in 1830 in which he complained about his daughter being baptised as Mary because he had intended her to be named Jane after his grandmother.  Mary had fifteen more letters which she could share.  The last letter received by the family was dated 7 January 1848 in Karachi.  She said that if her father had married in India, he had committed bigamy since her mother Elizabeth was still alive.

The War Office forwarded to the India Office in February 1861 an application from Mary for George’s effects which she had sent to the Duke of Cambridge.   There is an India Office annotation that the estate was valued at Rupees 80 – 3 in the Bombay Government Gazette of 1851.

Amount of estate of George Fish reported in the Bombay Government Gazette of 1851

Amount of estate of George Fish reported in the Bombay Government Gazette of 1851 p. 1209 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Mary wrote again to the India Office in April 1861, reporting that her mother had drawn the sum of £2 14s 7d from the Bank of England in Manchester.  She asked when the balance of £5 9s 2d would be paid.   She hoped that her parents’ marriage certificate and her father’s letters, which she had sent as evidence for her claim, would be returned to her as soon as possible.

Letter from Mary Lomas to the India Office  June 1861Letter from Mary Lomas to the India Office  June 1861 - British Library IOR/L/MIL/2/1521 No. 2883 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In June 1861 Mary asked if anything more was owed above the amount of £8 3s 9d now received.  Several men who had served with her father had told her that George was a very steady man and thought to be in possession of a gold watch and chain, with more ready money than the amount paid.  The Military Department informed her that nothing was owed beyond the sum already given to her mother.

Reply to Mary Lomas from the India Office  June 1861Reply to Mary Lomas from the India Office  June 1861 - British Library IOR/L/MIL/2/1521 No. 2883 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In September 1861 Mary questioned whether her father was entitled to any prize money, batta, or medals for his war service. The chain of correspondence between Mary and the India Office appears to end here.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur F751 Papers of George Fish, Gunner in the Bombay Army – unavailable at present, awaiting cataloguing.
Baptism of Eliza Folkers at Bombay 3 August 1828 (born 9 July 1828) IOR/N/3/8 f.267.
Burial of Albert Folkers at Bombay 29 November 1835 IOR/N/3/12 p.342.
Marriage of George Fish and Eliza Folkers at Bombay 5 April 1841 IOR/N/3/15 f.106.
Baptism of Philip Charles Fish 23 December 1849 (born 29 November 1849) IOR/N/3/23 f.229.
Marriage of Elizabeth Fish and Daniel Sullivan at Karachi 24 October 1850 IOR/N/3/24 f.279.
Burial of Elizabeth Sullivan at Karachi 16 August 1854 IOR/N/3/28 p.282.
Army appointments for George Fish in Bombay Times 10 January 1844, 11 March 1846, 24 June 1846, 21 October 1848 – British Newspaper Archive also availa ble via Findmypast.
Estate of George Fish IOR/V/11/2148 Bombay Government Gazette of 1851 p. 1209.
Correspondence of Mary Lomas with the India Office – IOR/L/MIL/5/362/3926; IOR/L/MIL/5/362/7252; IOR/L/MIL/5/363/3443; IOR/L/MIL/5/363/6989; IOR/L/MIL/5/363/8815; IOR/L/MIL/5/363/10426; IOR/L/MIL/2/1521 No. 2883.

Soldiers' References in the East India Company Military Department  IOR/L/MIL/5 

 

05 October 2021

Gunner George Fish of the Bombay Artillery Part 1

We were delighted recently to receive a donation of papers belonging to George Fish, a British private soldier serving in the Bombay Army.  These documents complement official East India Company records held at the British Library and give us a more rounded understanding of Fish’s life.

George Fish was born on 22 December 1807 at Stoke Damerel in Devon, the son of John and Flora Fish. The family subsequently moved to John’s home area around Bolton in Lancashire.  In September 1827 George married Elizabeth Gaskell.  Their first child Flora died in infancy in May 1829.  Her baptism record states that George was a collier.  A second daughter Mary was baptised on 25 July 1830.  George is now described as a soldier.

On 11 June 1830 George had enlisted at Manchester as a gunner in the Bombay Artillery for unlimited service.  The East India Company recruitment records give his age as 20 years 1 month and provide this description: long visage, dark brown hair, grey eyes, fresh complexion, height 5 ft 7 ins, and single.  He sailed for Bombay in the Buckinghamshire in January 1831 without his wife and daughter.

Photograph of George Fish in Army uniformPhotograph of George Fish in Army uniform - British Library Mss Eur F751 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

We can pick up the next stage in George’s story from his side of the correspondence with his family in Tyldsley.  The earliest letter in the collection is dated September 1831 at Admednagar.  The voyage from England took 3½ months.  He is in good health and says that the soldiers are provided with the best of rations and a daily dram of liquor (but George subsequently gave up drinking).  Although well-liked by all his comrades, he would be happier if his dear wife was with him.  He comments that ‘the Natives of this Contrey are all Verey Black but verey Rich and som of theme Makes houer Soulders good Wifes’.

First page of letter from George Fish to his family in England September 1831First page of letter from George Fish to his family in England September 1831 - British Library Mss Eur F751 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The next letter dated 1832 says that George is content with his situation but wishes Elizabeth and Mary were with him as they would want for nothing.  A woman came to her husband in India by asking her parish overseers to apply to ‘Indey House’ in London.  Young ladies coming to India would bring Elizabeth as a servant, so perhaps Mary could be left with his father.

In June 1833 George reports that he has spent four months in hospital with a pain in his side but is now recovered.  He is glad that his parents are caring from Mary whilst Elizabeth works in the coal pits.  George thinks that he will see them again soon.

Writing from Bombay in September 1837 George speaks of being hospitalised with a severe fever which has affected large numbers of soldiers.  He can send letters home every month now and hopes that his father will write more often.  Mary is thanked for the few lines she sent, which made the tears run down his face.  George promises to make amends for all his past failings and asks for a lock of Mary’s hair as a keepsake and comfort, enclosing one of his 'grey' curls for her.

The last letter in the collection was written to his parents and daughter from Hyderabad in September 1845 and talks of preparing for war against the Punjabis.

We shall continue George’s story in our next post.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Mss Eur F751 Papers of George Fish, Gunner in the Bombay Army – unavailable at present, awaiting cataloguing.
East India Company register of recruits IOR/L/MIL/9/9.
East India Company Artillery depot list IOR/L/MIL/9/30.
Embarkation list  IOR/L/MIL/9/77.

 

30 September 2021

An examination guide for Bombay Army officers

In 1868, Captain Newman Burfoot Thoyts of the Bombay Staff Corps published A guide to candidates for admission into the Staff Corps (Native Infantry Branch), being a series of questions and answers in nearly every subject on which they are usually examined.  Under General Orders issued in Bombay on 16 July 1864, officers seeking admission to the Staff Corps in the Native Infantry branch had to undergo ‘an examination of a somewhat searching character, consisting of not less than fifty questions and answers’.  Officers had to demonstrate knowledge of the systems operating in the Native Infantry - the way of investigating and dealing with offences, complaints, and petitions from the men; the manner of keeping rosters for furlough and guard; the pay and accounting system; every piece of equipment used, with the cost and method of carrying them.

Front cover of A guide to candidates for admission into the Staff Corps (Native Infantry Branch)Front cover of A guide to candidates for admission into the Staff Corps (Native Infantry Branch) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The guide was divided into thirteen sections:
• Articles of war for the Native Army
• Pay and allowances
• Pension and unfits of short service
• Clothing and necessaries, and equipment
• Compensation
• Furlough
• Transports and foreign service, camp equipage, carriage and conveyance by rail
• Hutting rules
• Medals
• Schools
• Ammunition
• Arms and accoutrements
• Miscellaneous

The section for clothing and equipment makes interesting reading.  Native officers and other ranks were supplied with a tunic and a pair of serge trousers every two years.  Once worn for a year, these garments became the property of the soldier.  Every four years havildars and fife majors received a worsted sash, and drum majors a silk sash.  Extra equipment was issued when troops were embarking on foreign service – two flannel banians [jackets or shirts]; two pairs of flannel trousers; one pair of boots; one country blanket; one canteen; one haversack.  These became the property of the soldier once his foreign service was completed.  Knee caps were provided.  Greatcoats reaching six inches below the knee were supplied at the men’s own expense and had to last six years before they were renewed.

List of regimental equipment and the cost of each itemList of regimental equipment and the cost of each item

Soldiers were issued with a ‘set of necessaries’ or equipment: clothing, footwear, brushes, cooking utensils, and bedding. Deductions were made from pay for replacements.

Indents for clothing were submitted on 1 April each year.  Size rolls were drawn up using measurements taken with great care.  Allowance was made for young growing men.  Clothing was seldom issued until twelve months after the rolls were prepared so failure to allow for growth entailed wasted expense.

Very precise instructions were given to ensure the quality of clothes issued. When packages of clothing were received, they had to be checked immediately to ensure they had not been tampered with.  If clothing was condemned by the Regimental Committee, it was checked again by a Station Committee of officers unconnected with that regiment.  Each article was examined separately and the Committees had to give a precise reason for rejection.

The clothing of native soldiers who died, deserted or were taken as prisoners of war was returned to the stores for re-issue.  Reasonable attention was to be paid to ‘the distinctions of family, tribe etc’, for example ’the tunic of a Purwarree or Moochee should not be issued to a Mahomedan or Purdasee’.  Invalids struck off the strength were allowed to take their clothing with them.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Captain Thoyts, A guide to candidates for admission into the Staff Corps (Native Infantry Branch), being a series of questions and answers in nearly every subject on which they are usually examined (Bombay, 1868) – British Library Tr. 448(b)

21 September 2021

Indian soldiers protest about the loss of extra pay

In December 1841 Indian private soldiers of the Madras Army stationed at Asirgarh and Secunderabad refused to receive their monthly pay.  The sepoys were protesting at the removal of their allowance, or batta, which had been paid to troops stationed at a distance from their home Presidency to cover extra expenditure.  They claimed that the amount of pay without batta was insufficient to maintain their families.

European officers and Indian officers and NCOs tried in vain to persuade the men to accept their pay without batta.  They warned that refusal would be regarded as mutiny.  At Secunderabad nearly 300 privates of the 32nd Regiment of Native Infantry persisted with their protest but obeyed when told to ground their arms.  They were then taken prisoner by a party of Europeans.  A similar situation developed with the 48th Regiment of Native Infantry.

Military General Orders  Choltry Plain  27 January 1842Military General Orders ,Choltry Plain, 27 January 1842 - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The most prominent men in the protest were selected for trial by Court Martial.  Good conduct pay was forfeited by those who had taken part but an amnesty was granted to the main body of offenders.  However native officers and NCOs were punished for having failed in their duty, either through ‘ignorance of any plan of insubordination so settled and matured’, or from having allowed it to proceed because they also stood to lose out from the removal of batta.  There were demotions and blocks on future promotions.

Military General Orders Fort St George 12 April 1842Military Department General Orders by Governor in Council, Fort St George, 12 April 1842 - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84997 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

General James Stuart Fraser, the Resident in Hyderabad, was sympathetic to the soldiers’ complaint and promised to recommend an enquiry into what they alleged about the cost of living.  Fraser collected data which he hoped would enable the government to judge whether the soldiers were justified in protesting.  Was pay without batta sufficient to maintain them and their families?

An estimate of monthly expenses was drawn up for food and clothing for three categories of Indian soldiers at Secunderabad living with a wife and two children: a ’Man of the Talinga or Malabar Caste’; a ‘Musselman’; and a ‘Native of Bengal’.  Costs were given for rice; inferior grain; meat; ‘dholl’; salt; lamp oil; ghee; firewood; betel nut and tobacco; ‘masalah’; vegetables; ‘goodaccoo’; cholum flour; and clothing.

Living expenses for different categories of Indian soldiers at SecunderabadAn estimate of monthly expenses for food and clothing for Indian soldiers at Secunderabad  - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995 p.430 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Other East India Company officials also recorded sympathy for the Indian soldiers.  John Bird of the Council of Fort St George expressed his regret that it had been found impracticable to issue pardons to the offenders, instead dismissing all the prisoners of the 4th Regiment.  He would have preferred the adoption of Fraser’s recommendation to transfer the men to other regiments. Bird also thought the treatment of the officers was too harsh and that innocent men would be punished.

Sir James Law Lushington, Chairman of the Court of Directors in London, also believed the punishments to be misguided.  The Court wrote to Madras in August 1842 stating that the directors would approve if men of previous good character could safely be shown leniency.

Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Madras, wrote of the bond of union between the sepoys and the European officers being cast aside in recent years.  At the same time as batta was being taken away from native troops at stations where it had long been in place, it was given to European officers based away from their home Presidency.  Elphinstone said the chasm between the officers and the native soldiers had widened.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Papers relating to the batta protests and the cost of living for native soldiers - British Library IOR/F/4/1952/84995-84998, IOR/F/4/1973/86723.
Hastings Fraser, Memoir and Correspondence of General James Stuart Fraser of the Madras Army (London, 1885)

14 September 2021

Memorabilia of Captain James Cecil Thornton

One of the most pleasing aspects of private paper collections is the small items of ephemera they often contain.  One example of this in the India Office Private Papers is a folder of memorabilia of Captain James Cecil Thornton (1888-1932), Royal Field Artillery, and Supply and Transport Corps, India and Mesopotamia.

Examples of memorabilia belonging to Captain James Cecil Thornton - tickets from Makinah Gymkhana Club and Baghdad Officers' ClubExamples of memorabilia belonging to Captain James Cecil Thornton - British Library Mss Eur D791 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The India Office Records also holds his Indian Army service file which gives some information on Captain Thornton.  Born in London on 22 August 1888, his nationality is listed as Scottish.  His father was George Thornton, residing in Eltham, Kent.  James Thornton joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1912 as a Second Lieutenant.  He clearly excelled in the role as he rose to be appointed a Captain in 1916.  In June 1917 he travelled to India, and in April 1918 was attached to the Supply & Transport Corps in Mesopotamia.  In January 1919, Thornton married Muriel Augusta Florence Hardwick, and they had a daughter, Rosemary Muriel Augusta, born at St George’s Ditchling, East Sussex on 2 November 1919.  The service record also notes Thornton’s language skills.  In February 1918, he passed the examination taken in Baghdad in colloquial Arabic.  He also had conversational Urdu and good colloquial French.

Front page of Indian Army Army service record for James Cecil Thornton Indian Army Army service record for James Cecil Thornton - British Library IOR/L/MIL/14/30321 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The folder of memorabilia shows the social life of an army officer.  It contains books of tickets for various clubs: Baghdad Officers’ Club, Makinah Gymkhana Club, and the Busreh Club.  There is also a programme of sports held by the 4th Brigade of the R.F.A. on 30 September 1917, and a programme for the R.F.A. Brigade Horse Show on 16 February 1918 at Samarrah.

Programme of sports held by the 4th Brigade of the R.F.A. on 30 September 1917Programme of sports held by the 4th Brigade of the R.F.A. on 30 September 1917 - British Library Mss Eur D791 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The folder also gives a glimpse into the tasks he performed as part of his duties.  There are two permits ‘to send goods up country’, dated Baghdad 26 October 1917.  The goods listed on the permits were a packet of Baghdad-made clothing articles, a bag of indigo, and 1 bale containing 61 packets of silk and other Baghdad-made articles.  There is also a statement showing the average rates paid for various articles including rice, wheat, barley, ghee, dates, millet, maize, lentils, firewood, sesame and onions.

Permit to send goods up countryPermit to send goods up country  - British Library Mss Eur D791 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

James Thornton left military service in 1922.  He returned to England to pursue a career as a solicitor in Brighton, where he was also responsible for organising the Horse Show for the ‘Greater Brighton’ celebrations in 1928.  In 1929, he suffered severe injuries in a tragic accident when he fell from his bedroom window.  The local newspaper reported that he was known to walk in his sleep.  He died in 1932.


John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Memorabilia of Captain James Cecil Thornton (1888-1932), Royal Field Artillery, and Supply and Transport Corps, India and Mesopotamia 1917-1922, British Library shelfmark Mss Eur D791.
Army service record for James Cecil Thornton, 1912-1922, British Library shelfmark IOR/L/MIL/14/30321.
Mid Sussex Times, 22 October 1929 and 29 November 1932, online in the British Newspaper Archive (also available via Findmypast).

 

09 September 2021

‘An unseemly squabble’ in Aden

An argument at a dinner party.  A guest drinking too much.  A brush with the law.   An evening which would end a 30-year friendship.

After Captain Robert Cogan retired from active service with the Indian Navy, he settled in Aden, working for a trading company.  Perhaps his choice of town was influenced by the presence of his friend Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines, who was the British Political Agent there.

Head and shoulders portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines with a full, dark beard and bow tieA portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines from a lithograph at the British Embassy, Aden. 

On 27 October 1846, Cogan and Haines, together with Haines’ wife Mary, dined at the house of Captain George James Duncan Milne.  By the next day, that 30-year friendship would be in tatters.

After dinner, the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room, and Cogan took up the subject of society in Aden, focusing on Mrs Haines’ role and mentioning one occasion where he believed she had been negligent.  The rest of the party disagreed, and this led to a heated argument between Milne and Cogan.  At this point, Haines stepped in to de-escalate the dispute.  The argument continued between Haines and Cogan at Haines’ house, where Cogan called Haines ‘a cold blooded being’, and Haines tried to calm him down and persuade him to go home.

Captain Haines’ version of events from the East India Company archivesCaptain Haines’ version of events, IOR/F/4/2203/108123, f 329. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Meanwhile, Haines, acting as the local magistrate, directed a policeman to watch Cogan unobtrusively that night, giving orders that if he seemed about to leave his house to continue the quarrel, he was to be forced to remain at home.  Haines also required Milne to agree not to pursue an apology that night.

The next morning a message came to Cogan from Captain Milne, requiring him to retract his offensive expression.  Cogan readily agreed, and Milne also withdrew his language.  Cogan wrote to Mrs Milne to apologise, and to Captain Haines, regretting his bad taste and the ‘unhappy events…[which] have given me much pain’.  However, he also objected to Haines’ ‘irritating’ manner.  Haines was not satisfied, and replied that Cogan’s ‘conduct and singular expressions of last night preclude the continuance of our acquaintance’.  Cogan, upset, intended to consult friends about the dispute and was in the act of mounting his horse at his door, when ‘for the first time in my life, [I was] publicly arrested by a Police Constable’.

Cartoon entitled 'The Modest Couple' - a man turning away from a seated woman, with another older, cross-looking man between them gesturing towards her.'The Modest Couple' from The Bab Ballads, with which are included Songs of a Savoyard ... With 350 illustrations by the author by William Gilbert, (London, 1898).  BL flickr

This was a misunderstanding, as Haines had only ordered Cogan to be prevented from going out the previous night.  He was freed once Haines had been informed of what had happened.  However, Cogan was outraged to discover that he had been under police surveillance as being ‘likely to cause a breach of the Peace’.  To add to his outrage, Haines refused to forward his complaint about the arrest to his superiors in India, and he had to send it to the Governor of India himself.

The Government took this complaint of arrest on insufficient grounds seriously, although ignored the ‘unseemly squabble’, and asked Haines for his full explanation.  However, they decided that Haines had acted properly as he was motivated by his public duty, especially as Cogan had previously requested that a guest of his was placed under similar guardianship a few evenings before.  It is unclear whether their friendship ever recovered before Cogan died the following year.

Anne Courtney
Gulf History Cataloguer -British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
The story of Cogan’s wrongful arrest appears in IOR/F/4/2203/108123.

 

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