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The Conolly’s in British India

Posted by Maddy Labels:

And their tragic lives

Many have asked me questions about the Conolly family and over the years I had been trying to gather as much of detail as I could find. While I came across a reasonable amount of information on the father and his four sons, it was not really possible to go on any further in time, other than get a confirmation from a line of that family, presently resident in India, Australia and England, that they are indeed connected to the illustrious Conolly's of the 19th century.

Nevertheless it would be a good idea to take a look at the men of that family who lived a good part of their lives in India in the last half of the 18th and the first six decades of the 19th century. It was a family which as is prophetically stated in India, one which carried a curse resulting in the premature deaths of four distinguished Conolly offspring, in India. This is the story of Valentine Conolly the father, and his six sons - Captain Edward Conolly, Captain Arthur Conolly, Captain John Conolly, James Conolly ICS and Lt Henry Valentine Conolly. One of them were killed in action and two of them murdered. Captain Edward of the 6th Bengal Cavalry was killed by a sniper during battle in Afghanistan, October 1841. Captain Arthur Conolly was kept captive till his death and murder at Bokhara in 1842. Captain John Conolly was killed (or died in captivity) at Kabul in 1842, these three brothers perishing in Afghanistan within a year of each other. Henry Valentine was the last of the four brothers who served the British Indian establishment. He had entered the India service in 1824 and was posted to Calicut in 1840-41 only to meet an ill-fated death in 1855. James did well though. Valentine had one other son and a three daughters, but I do not know anything about them and information gathering was tough also because some of the family members spelled their name Connolly, while others used the version Conolly.

Perhaps the curse which the offspring carried on their head had something to do with the way in which their father had profited, from the miseries of his patients, or perhaps it was the Kohinoor curse. And that is a story which needs to be retold.

Valentine Conolly - The recorded story of the Conolly family in India starts with Dr Valentine Conolly, son of William Conolly (Bengal Civil Service), who arrived at Madras around 1788. As records put it, Valentine Conolly was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the Madras Medical Service on 16th June 1788 and a Surgeon on 1st June 1796. He also took part in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and was present at the capture of Seringapatam in 1799 and the death of Tipu Sultan, for which he won a medal (which was only recently actioned off in the UK) in the process. As the number of English who went nuts (dolally in British terms – one which I will explain in a separate article for that is a tale by itself) in historic Madras increased, he became the first to institute the premier lunatic asylum of South India sometime in Feb 1793, when he became secretary to the medical board. It was privately owned by him and the forerunner for the asylum in nearby Kilpauk. While he is listed and hyped up as the founder of the first asylum, public opinion of his involvement in this business of running a madhouse is divided between mention of personal profit on the one hand and public benevolence on the other. Anyway, as the story goes, Assistant Surgeon Valentine Conolly, of Fort St. George, saw business sense in the treatment of the mentally unsound and laid before the Madras Government in 1794 'Proposals for Establishing at the Presidency a Hospital for Insane Patients'. The business plan also covered the very important aspect of how ‘extremely beneficial the adoption of it would be to the Community at large by affording Security against the perpetration of those Acts of Violence which had been so frequently committed by unrestrained Lunatics'. So Conolly suggested the establishment of a home for mentally unsound Europeans and Eurasians (not natives) so that ‘those poor creatures’ could be confined to specialized houses and ensure at the same time ‘a good deal of peace and order’ and be rid of such public nuisances as were perpetrated by lunatics’.

He proposed something in the lines of a similar establishment in Calcutta - I purpose then, Sir, and hope my proposal will obtain the sanction of your Patronage, to erect at my own expense a commodious Hospital for the reception of Lunatics, consisting of sixteen separate and airy apartments, with warm and cold baths, and every other necessary out-office: the whole surrounded by a wall of a sufficient height in conformity to the plan which accompanies this address…That Government do take a lease of the House so to be erected for a certain time not less than ten years, at a rent proportionate to the expense that may be incurred in building it and the probable repairs during that period. The premises, for which the government paid a lease for Rs. 825 per month, comprised 45 acres of land rented to Conolly at a nominal quit rent of 51 pagodas per annum, and commenced operations in 1794.

Pending approval by the Court of Directors, Sir Charles Oakeley sanctioned the scheme on condition that the maximum monthly rates payable for each patient should be Pagodas. 30 for an officer, Pagodas. 25 for 'a person not in the Service but coming under the denomination of a Gentleman,' and for non-commissioned officers and privates the amount of their pay and batta. A 45 acre area in Puruswalkam was allocated to him and the madhouse was thus built (close to today’s Kilpauk). The villagers were to be compensated by Conolly for the land and inconvenience. This structure stood at the junction of Pursewaukum High Road with Brick Kiln Road. It was marked 'Lunatic Hospital' in the map of 1816, and 'Lunatic Asylum' in that of 1837. The edifice was eventually demolished when the asylum was transferred to larger premises in Kilpauk.

Madras Asylum 
Only one year after the opening of the asylum the first lunatic was reported to have been restored to sanity and Conolly's skill and attention were positively remarked on. Conolly went on to make a good profit from this venture, but towards the end of the century (around 1795) he felt it was time to retire and move back to England, as a wealthy ‘nabob’. The lease was in the meantime, extended due to its good performance and it passed hands at a price (Rs 26,000) three times the building value to either one J Goldie and perhaps later to Surgeon Maurice Fitzgerald who held charge till 1803 (or the other way around). Dr. Dalton, a later owner rebuilt it and from then on it was called ‘Dalton's Mad Hospital’. When he retired, 54 inmates were being cared for in its premises. As is recorded, all of these gentlemen profited handsomely from the treatment of the insane, and this continued to be so till it was finally decided by the EIC that a private asylum was not quite appropriate (it was due to public opinion and pressure from Britain). Did Conolly carry back a curse from his patients and peers? Perhaps!

The wealthy Valentine Conolly (after having been made a mason at the lodge in the meanwhile) married Matilda, the daughter of Sir William Dunkin (Judge, Bengal) and settled down in London at the turn of the 19th century after a final burst of excitement with his participation in the siege of Seringapatanam of 1799 and collecting a medal for it. His wealth was instrumental in comfortably seeing his five sons through education in prestigious British schools colleges and thus preparing them for promising careers - as military officers and members of the civil service in India. Valentine Conolly passed away in 1819, a few days after his wife expired.

Now it is time to get to know his illustrious sons.

I believe the eldest was Mr. William James Conolly, who arrived as a writer in 1822 and served for the revenue offices at Patna, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, and was appointed as the magistrate, opium agent and collector of Bareilly 1832-36 and later at Sehrunpore. He was later promoted as the commissioner of revenue and then to the Rohilkhand division, Bareilly and finally as an agent to the lieutenant governor in 1842. It appears he retired to the Cape of Good Hope, in 1845. All in all, he appears to have been a very efficient and scrupulous ICS man, but not involved with anything remarkable or dangerous, in his life.

Without doubt, the most famous of his sons (he was the 3rd son) was the devout Arthur Conolly (1807-1842), British Captain of the Indian Army, explorer of Central Asia, and one who penetrated Afghanistan, Khiva and Bokhara several times from 1829 to 1842. He is the man behind the popular usage ‘the great game’ and a pioneer in the intrigues and British attempts to secure control over the khanates of Afghanistan and build a buffer between India and Russia. This once shy youngster who hated his school days at Rugby, and who had failed in love, then sought excitement in the mountains and the arid terrain of the Afghans. He attempted to create a confederation of states in order to resist Russian expansion after the British had been evicted unceremoniously from Kabul. He tried hard to reconcile the three quarreling khanates of Khiva, Bokhara and Khokand but was fated for the worst death ever.

Often travelling in disguise, he used the name "Khan Ali" in a word-play (Con Olly) on his true name. By late 1829, he left Moscow for the Caucasus and Central Asia, arriving in Herat in September 1830 and in India in January 1831. In 1834 he published an account of his trip, which established his reputation as a traveler and writer. In November 1841 he was captured while on a rescue mission to free fellow British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart, held in Bukhara. The two were executed by the Emir of Bukhara, Nasrullah Khan, on 24 June 1842 or 1843 on charges of spying for the British Empire. They were both beheaded in the square in front of the Ark Fortress in Bukhara. I will retell this macabre story in greater detail, some other day. He wrote a lot - The white-haired Angora goat, Journey to the North of India through Russia, Persia and Afghanistan (2 Vols.) were some of his works. The connection with the Kohinoor merits another article,

Captain Edward Barry Conolly (1808–1840), of the 6th Bengal Cavalry was killed by a sniper during battle in Afghanistan, October 1840. He was killed by a shot from the fort of Tootumdurrah, in the Kohat, north of Kabul, when acting as a volunteer with Sir Robert Sale, in an attack on that place on 29 Sept. 1840. William Kaye records - On the 29th of September, Sale invested the enemy's position. The resistance was very slight. The fire of our guns and the advance of the infantry column soon compelled its evacuation, and the place was speedily in possession of the British troops. The success was complete, and would have been cheaply purchased; but one fell there, who, mourned in anguish of spirit by the Envoy, was lamented by the whole force. Edward Conolly, a lieutenant of cavalry, one of three accomplished and enterprising brothers who had followed the fortunes of their distinguished relative, Sir William Macnaghten, and obtained employment under the British Mission, had on that very morning joined Sale's force as a volunteer. He was acting as aide-de-camp to the General; when, as the column advanced, he was struck down by a shot from the enemy's position. The bullet entered his heart. "My mind was in too disturbed a state all day yesterday," wrote the Envoy on the 1st of October, "to admit of my writing to you. Poor Edward Conolly (Arthur's next brother) has been killed by a dubious hand at a petty fortress in Kohistan. Never did a nobler or a kinder spirit inhabit a human frame. Poor fellow! he was shot through the heart, and I believe he was the only individual on our side killed during the operations of the 29th, when three forts belonging to the chief rebel in the country were taken.

The following papers from his pen and recording his exploring jaunts appeared in the 'Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal;' 'Observations on the Past and Present Condition of Orijein or Uijayana,' vol. vi.; 'Discoveries of Gems from Candahar,' 'Sketch of Physical Geography of Seistan,' 'Notes on the Eusofzye Tribes of Afghanistan,' vol. ix.; 'Journal kept while Travelling in Seistan,' vol. x.; 'On Gems and Coins,' vol. xi.

John Balfour Conolly (d. 1842), lieutenant 20th Bengal native infantry, a cadet of 1833, was afterwards attached to the Kabul embassy. He was involved together with Macnaghten on at three least assassinations, of which two were Meer Musjedee and Abdullah. He died of a fever while a hostage in the Bala Hissar, Cabul, on 7 Aug. 1842. It was his final will and testament that led me to his eldest brother whom nobody had so far mentioned as a family member. I.e. William James Conolly, of Bareilly, in the Presidency of Agra, a member of the Civil Service of the East-India Company, was stated to be the eldest brother of deceased.

The Conolly’s had at least three sisters, Ellen Conolly, being one of them, was married to Francis, the brother of Sir William Hay Macnaghten, the British envoy with Shah Soojah in Afghanistan. Matilda Frances was another. I could not get details of the remaining sister and a less illustrious son, the last also said to have been serving in India. Note here that John Conolly the psychiatric doctor of Madras is not a direct relation to this family.

Now let us spend a bit more of our time on Malabar’s collector Henry Valentine Conolly. Henry Conolly was born on 5 December 1806 to Valentine and Matilda Conolly at 37 Portland Place, London. He was, like his elder brother Arthur Conolly, educated at Rugby School, Warwickshire before moving to Madras, India and become a writer in the Madras Civil Service from 19th May 1824. He then started his next phase of education at the College of Ft St George Madras where he excelled in Indian studies. The June 1826 college reports states – Several weeks previous to the examination, Mr Conolly met with a serious accident, which materially interrupted his studies, and was the occasion of his being examined under great disadvantage; the result has nevertheless been highly satisfactory. In Mahratta, Mr. Conolly has attained a very high degree of proficiency, but his pronunciation of Hindustanee is defective, and he still wants practice in the colloquial use of that tongue. So in 1826, Mr. Conolly and Mr. Gardner were permitted to enter on the duties of the public service and he moved to Bellary for his posting. Varied postings followed, and one was as a cashier in the government bank!

He was the only one to stray south after his father, and was first married in 1831 to Jane, the eldest daughter of W Mooreson, June 24 th.  Unfortunately she passed away in 1835. In 1840 he arrived in Malabar as acting collector officiating in the place of Collector Clementson who went on leave. In 1841 he became the collector and married in 1841 Anne Birch the daughter of Chris Birch. Two sons and a daughter were born to them in Calicut during the period 1842-45. After his murder in 1855, Connolly was survived by wife Anne who returned to England. Some Rs 31,000 collected by way of fines from the Moplah locales was paid to the widow as compensation (she also received a pension). The family in total had four children of which two were sons, one of whom I read was named Edward and who became a lawyer. More details of the family are not available. Anne Elizabeth Conolly (not entirely sure if it is the same as HV’s wife) married a young man named Charles Valentine Smith who it seems was soon arrested and sentenced to prison for bigamy since his first wife was still living.

While we mentioned HVC’s connections to the Moplah insurgency of that period and his involvement in setting up the teak forests of Nilambur as well as the establishment of the Conolly Canal, we did not dwell much on some his other activities. He worked hard to improve the lot of the un-seeable un-touchable Nayadis of Malabar. A Basel mission article mentions this - A humane gentleman, of the name of Conolly, deeply sympathised with the miserable condition of the Nayadis, in the forests beyond Ponani. Mr. Conolly applied to the Basel Mission for assistance, and Missionary Fritz was sent to the chief town of Malabar, and a native catechist stationed among the Nayadis. These poor people rank in the community even below purchased slaves. They live only in the jungle like wild animals, they sleep in the branches of trees, and at the most only build the poorest hut for themsleves. They are looked upon by other branches of the community with the greatest contempt. If a Brahmin comes in their way, they must move off at least sixteen paces; and they must never dare to touch any one of a superior caste. Mr. Conolly formed a plan for drawing some of this degraded class within the bounds of civilisation. He built them houses, set apart some ground for them, and gave them fields to cultivate. The Government after a time relinquished this effort, and the Basel missionaries took it up.

Samuel Heibich the missionary records - Mr. H. V. Conolly was at that time Collector of Malabar; he proved a warm friend of the undertaking, which he supported with all his great influence. He had already been in correspondence with the mission, in the interests of a race called Naiadis—a small tribe, scarcely above the brutes in the scale of civilization. Mr. Conolly felt that the British government was bound to attempt the redemption of these poor savages from their degradation; as, however, he failed in getting the duty recognized and acted upon, he made it his own care, but did not live to see the result of his endeavors.

But he also shook up the British government when he suggested that they employ the lower castes for labor, at a time when they were frowning upon slavery in Malabar and were facing a restless issue of the Shannars in Travancore. A mention in the book Social Legislation of the East India Company: By Nancy Gardner Cassels, goes thus - In response to government requests for suggestions for improving the situation of the slave caste of chermars in Malabar, Conolly observed that inasmuch as Act of 1843 was to all intents and purposes a law for the abolition of slavery in its territory, the government might consider the the employment of emancipated cheramars on public works at the same rate as free laborers and with schools for their children and administered by a native Christian or Moplah (i.e. a person free from caste prejudice).

He was also very much involved in the improvement of the lot at the Laccadive Islands, pushing for a legal system there, helping out with natural disasters and sorting out certain issues involving the Bebee of Arakkal. The referred source as well as P Anima’s article will provide a lot of details to those interested.

HVC tried hard to get a collegiate school sanctioned to Calicut – P Anima writing in Hindu explains - When it came to starting the collegiate high school in the Malabar, there were a few contenders. While Kozhikode was earlier on mentioned as the definite option, two other names surface in later letters — Tellicherry and Cannanore. In a letter written in 1842 written by Conolly and his colleague Strange, they advocate Kozhikode. They write, “Calicut appears more suited for the purpose than either of the stations just named with reference to geographical position, population and importance, the latter of which will be much increased within the next five to six months, by its becoming the headquarters of all the civil establishments.”

After his passing away, two scholarships were instituted for the scholars of Calicut, one of which, designated the Junior Conolly Scholarship, was tenable in the Provincial School, and the other, designated the Senior Conolly Scholarship, was tenable in the Presidency College, and was to be conferred once in three years on the student who may pass first on the list of Malabar students at the university entrance examination. The first examination for the Junior Conolly Scholarship was held in July 1857, when it was awarded to Ramen Nair, a pupil in the Provincial School.

It should have been easy but tracing HV Conolly’s line down any further proved to be too difficult for it is mentioned that he had four children. I did get connected to his great great great granddaughter who lives in England and understood that her sister is the well-known actor and animal welfare/Greenpeace activist Amala Akkineni. Their mother June Conolly is the daughter of Samuel Conolly who served in the 2nd world war at Alexandria. I also got in touch with Vanya Orr of Nilgiris who provided me with copies of correspondence her great grandfather had with Henry Valentine Conolly, on estate matters.

But I cannot leave this without a tail piece. Many famous people were Conolly scholarship beneficiaries, but I have to name one person who was educated at Calicut and benefited from a Conolly scholarship. He was none other than Dewan Seshadri Iyer, the founder of Modern Bangalore. Iyer, a native of Palghat, was a recipient of the scholarship while (1863) at the Provincial school in Calicut. He went on to become the Dewan of Mysore and is credited with the establishment of the Victoria hospital, the glass house in Lalbaugh, the waterworks, the Shivasamudra hydel power unit, the Indian institute of science, the extensions at Basavangudi & Malleswaram to name a few. Shesadripuram is named after him.

So the next time you visit ‘namma ooru’ Bengaluru, spend a moment thinking about Iyer and Conolly….

Madras Lunatic Asylum: A Remarkable History in British India – Saumitra Basu (Indian Journal of History of Science, 51.3 (2016) 478-493)
The Madras Lunatic asylum in the early 19th century – W Ernst (BulI.lnd.lnst. Hist. Med. Vol. XXVIII~19.98 pp13 to 30)
The rise of the European lunatic asylum in colonial India (1750-1858) - Waltraud Ernst (Bull. Ind. Inst. Hist. Med. Vol. XVII. pp. 94-107)
The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry, Volume 3 - Ed William F. Bynum, Roy Porter, Michael Shepherd
Life of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan of Kabul: By Mohana Lāla (Munshi)
Report on the Laccadive Islands - By W. Robinson, esq.
Activists: Lessons from my Grandparents - Lisa Croft
When the Malabar Collector pitched in strongly for theCanolly Canal

The ICS Collectors of Malabar

Posted by Maddy Labels:

British Governance - Calicut

There is a furor at Calicut these days resulting from the transfer of a benevolent collector popularly known as ‘collector bro’ and it appears that this resulted from the differences in opinion between bro and a member of parliament. I am sure much debate and argument will continue over this, but then again, it has always been like this. These positions of administrative bureaucracy though very important for any district are unfortunately at the mercy of the politicians. One only needs to look at the career of Malabar’s premier administrator William Logan. He was moved in and moved out of the Malabar Collector’s position no less than 7 times between 1869 and 1887 till he finally threw in the towel.

For a while, I have been toying with the idea of checking out the life and times of various collectors who spent a while administering British Malabar. Starting from 1800 (1801 to be more precise) almost 60 British individuals ruled, sitting in that position and mostly living at the East Hill Collector’s Bungalow. Eight of the initial administrators were actually called ‘principal collectors’ and the lot starting with the eminent HV Connolly were titled ‘district collectors’. I will list the lot (though I have not been able to get a list of those between 1932 -1943) and mention about the contributions of some of the more popular of those ‘gora sahebs’ or sayips. Strangely enough not one of them put their personal experiences in Calicut to paper, though Logan came close by accounting much of his observations into a district manual. Robert Rickards was another who mentioned his time in passing, in his huge twin volume book on India.

But first I think we should spend a while understanding the ICS, what was popularly known as the heaven born service and its responsibilities, during that era. It was in a way just that and for most Indians the ICS officer personified the British administrative arm. Before the advent of British rule we had the East India Company and a college which would secure aspirants a position in India. That was the HEIC’s East India company college in Hailey which started in 1806. In fifty years it trained over two thousand so-called "writers" or Haileybury men to administer the Indian subcontinent. The curriculum was wide, detailed, and targeted to the career responsibilities. It included political economy, history, mathematics, natural philosophy, classics, law and humanity, Indian languages and philology. In 1855, the British Parliament passed an act "to relieve the East India Company from the obligation to maintain the College at Haileybury" and the King's College, London, hosted the first open competitive examinations for appointment to the Indian Civil Service. The open examination which ICS aspirants had to undergo was nothing short of a month long, vicious, viva voce which Hilton Brown an ICS man characterized as – a solid month of answering questions, skilled torturers can devise with the knowledge that a single inadequate answer may ruin your chances for life!!

Thus the Indian Civil Service governed the British imperial possession through an elite and sparsely manned network to govern some 250 Indian districts, was a close well-knit administrative service, designed to maintain stability and continuity of the British power. The lower ranks were manned by British as well as Indians, hand selected by the ICS officer. Interestingly Indians who may have qualified could either not foot the bill to travel to London or would not, for fear of losing their caste. Satyendranath Tagore, the elder brother of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first Indian to qualify the ICS in 1863. What many of you may not know is that postings to districts of the Madras presidency were considered lowly compared to the exotic locales of the North. Officers in Madras acted singularly and not always in synchronism (characterized as slow, cumbersome and reactionary) with the center, promotions were slow and red tape quite amply manifested. The collector in the South reported directly to the Madras government and had much higher responsibilities.

Many of you would still imagine that these officers had a fascinating time, only people who have lived as expatriates in another country would understand their difficulties and challenges. I am confident that many a reader would have imagined that the life of an officer typically began with his waking up and stretching his hand for his cup of tea held at a ready by his chaprasi, then going about on a morning ride on his magnificent stallion, or his Morris minor or whatever car, taking care of issues along the way, sorting out matters even handedly, listening to the wah wah’s from the lowly Indian peasant populace, coming back and signing off on land issues and criminal cases, going off to shoot a tiger or deer, or even an elephant, supervise its skinning, having a pint or two and supping at the club as the sun set, and lounging at home and writing his journal or a few poems before a bath, eventually retiring to a camp bed and dreaming of his younger days in the Scottish highlands. Well, in reality it was far from that and was unflattering, for he had to work with very tight budgets, face disease, a rough climate not suited to them and sometimes hostile people, a large number of corrupt, bureaucratic, opinionated and self-serving superiors who hated the land they had to govern and its people. On top of all that they were not well rewarded and that is why many were prone to building up their own retirement nesteggs and making hay while the sun shone.

Then again, there were many such as ACS Thorne the Malabar Collector who governed during placid times and who did live that kind of a life, as recorded by SK Chettur. Chettur writes - Thorne awoke at 6AM, and started with a ½ hour bird watching session until 730. After breakfast at 8, he started work at 830 and briskly moved files until 1PM, after which he took lunch and had a short ½ hour nap. Two more hours in the office, tea at 415PM and local inspection tours followed until 630PM. To end the day, he would settle under a petromax lamp to read. In between and during trips or weekends, he found the time to swim and do some snipe shooting, taking his new protégé along. Etiquette was very important to him and Thorne was a smalltime poet in his spare time.

But the case of a collector in the North during the early days of the 19th century would be vastly different – John Beames explains - a hard, active man in boots and breeches, who almost lived in the saddle, worked all day and nearly all night, ate and drank when and where he could, had no family ties to hamper him, and whose whole establishment consisted of a camp bed, an odd table and chair or so and a small box of clothes such as could be slung on a camel. Nevertheless while life at the outpost was difficult, the posts at the headquarters and presidency secretariats was quite different. This was where bureaucracy was born and perfected. Ridiculous practices re-developed: letters were placed in docket covers and their contents 'summarised' at greater length than the original; documents were printed only to be sent a few yards down the corridor. As we can readily imagine, officers often rose by seniority, connections and relations, rather than by merit.

By the end of the century and into the first decade of the 20th the conditions had changed and exams for ICS were also held in India (Allahabad 1922). The money earned was not commensurate to living expenses, the officer’s dowry market had declined, the fishing fleet had dried up and a push was on to get more Indians employed in the service. Even the pension of a thousand pounds became meaningless when the exchange rate for the rupee crashed following the First World War. The complex requirements and problems after the war were no longer some a limited set of officers governing at times by goodwill could handle. And then to top it all, Gandhi had arrived.

But that was not the subject we started with and so let us hasten to the district headquarters, to Calicut to be precise. The original district collector’s bungalow was in West hill and it was moved to East hill only after the terrible murder of Collector Connolly Sayip. Mr. W. B. Dewinton, late Chief Engineer of the P. W. D stated in 1905 ‘I wish we could devise something like it now-a-days. It takes the form of a central single storied block containing a large drawing room (40'x 25') and a dining room with wide verandahs (17') round drawing room, and entirely distinct blocks (1) for occupants and (2) for guests’.

It was from this abode (and later from the Bungalow at East hill, the Krishna Menon museum these days), that the figurehead of the British Empire ruled the erstwhile district of Malabar, devoid of any pomp. Let’s take a look at some of those collectors, a topic which PK Govindan had covered briefly in a thin booklet which I have not had the opportunity to access or peruse and one which Calicut Heritage had mentioned, some years ago. The British PM David Lloyd George once said of the ICS that it was "the steel frame on which the whole structure of our government and of our administration in India rests". Chettur borrowed that popular usage to title his memoirs.

Some might ask - Why were Britons willing to go to India if they faced sudden reversals of fortune and rampant epidemic disease? Ruby Daily’s explanation is that it was demographic: the period of 1760 to 1860 saw a huge population growth in Britain, with birthrates rising by up to 18 percent. The average elite woman of the early nineteenth century could expect to give birth to around eight babies, whose infant survival rate was around 90 percent. Upper-class families were reaching unprecedented sizes at unprecedented rates. Desperate to find careers for so many children, families looked to the East India Company, whose administrative and military staffing needs grew constantly as they took over more territories and instituted more taxation. Because many people were propelled by their families into Indian colonial service, it is unsurprising that these connections remained important after they arrived in India as well. Family networks could provide recommendations for jobs, practical advice, places to stay on first arrival, and moral support (extract courtesy Ruby Daily’s Digital collection, Newberry library) 

The position of the Principal collector of Malabar was originally created in 1801 after the first Pazhassi rebellion broke out and the British found it difficult to manage the revolts from Bombay. You may recall that Malabar was originally under the Bombay presidency and run through a military authority. Lord Clive wanted to ensure establishment of a civil administration and Major William Macleod was appointed the first principal collector with 3 supporting subordinate collector’s (Strachey, Hodgson and Keate) wef 1st Oct 1801. His fist act was to capture Kannavat Nambiar and he then followed it up with an order for all Nairs to lay down and surrender their arms. He then manipulated the exchange rates between local coins and rupees to the gold and silver fanams, fourfold based on totally wrong revenue estimates and this led to huge discontentment. As the public rallied against these orders or totally disregarded it, Macleod resigned and handed over charge to Judge Rickards. Rickards wisely reverted to the original rates, but the rebellion continued and Panaramam, a military outpost was attacked as the Pazhassi rebellion continued. Rickards gave way to Thomas Warden in 1804 and it was under him that Thomas Baber the sub collector excelled and worked to bring about the demise of the Raja and the end of the Pazhassi revolt.

Macleod was also involved in many of the Murdoch Brown activities as well as the man behind the infamous Macleod Seer. The MacLeod seer or grain measure is defined as a liberally heaped measure and its concept and comparison is interesting. In fact his name is also given to a land measure of that time. In North Malabar, an extent of land is known as so many Macleod yedangalies, and it is supposed that the acre ranges from 55 to 72 Macleod yedangalios, 60 being generally assumed as the average. As a gain measure, 4 nauzhies = 1 yedangaly or Macleod seer. 10 such seers yields one parrah. The seer introduced by Mr. Macleod in 1802 contains, when liberally heaped, 130 tolahs of rice. It was used in Chirakkal, Kottayam, Cooroombranaud, Valluwanad and Palghat. In Calicut and Ponnany, Macleod's half seer liberally heaped and containing 65 tolahs was used. The ' parrah' varies from 61 to 10 Macleod seers. So much for that.

Rickards went on to pen a set of books on India where he also covered his experiences on land administration in Malabar.During Warden’s strict and what is defined as straightforward rule, the Zamorin of Calicut became a malikhana receiver of a fifth of the revenue collected from their districts, as security for their good and dutiful behavior towards the company’s (British) government. In 1809 the administration of Cochin was transferred to the resident at Travancore and by 1813, the Anjengo factory was closed. In 1817 Mahe was given back to the French and in 1819, the Calicut loge was also handed over to the French together with certain other minor territories.

Then came James Vaughan who was behind the Emman nair episode, one which I had covered
earlier. During his tenure we note again the restlessness of the Moplahs of Malabar after whom Sheffield took charge, followed by Huddleston and both these chaps tackled the thorny issue of land and tax assessments in Malabar. In 1834, Karunakara Menon was sent to Coorg as an EIC emissary only to be imprisoned and this led to the Coorg war. Clementson and Thomson followed, as the Eranad area became the hotbed of discontented Moplahs. Thompson was the last of the Principal collectors. In 1841 Henry Valentine Connolly, the first of the benevolent collectors of Malabar took charge and did some real good with his teak plantations, water canals and many other export related activities. However as we studied before, his involvement in the Moplah outrages resulted only in his getting hacked to a brutal death in 1855.

Clarke, Robinson and Grant followed him and spent brief tenures as collectors. Robinson was the first to get involved with the Laccadive Islands taxation issues and was responsible for bringing W Logan into the scene for the first time in 1857. Grant on the other hand loved Malabar elephants and tried hard to build a sanctuary for them. In 1862, GA Ballard took charge at East Hill. An able administrator, he was also very interested in fishing, he recorded and translated day to day legal correspondence in Malayalam into a couple of very interesting books, and these books remain to portray Malabar life in the late 1880’s.

People arrived in Calicut those days by ferry and the exalted were driven to the bungalow. Mary Carpenter who visited during the time of A Ballard, writes “It was a long drive to my new abode, but very beautiful; we passed along a road bordered with palm trees, forming a canopy through which the bright rays of the diamond-looking stars could hardly penetrate. The residence of Mr. Ballard, the collector, is on a bill, three miles beyond the town. From thence the morning rays revealed a splendid view over extensive woods of cocoanuts and richly cultivated land, to the grand range of the Western Ghauts…. Mary continues - Though Calicut has the elements of British civilization introduced into it by the presence of the various official gentlemen connected with the Government—a collector's office, various institutions, an excellent High School, a factory, etc., yet these do not appear to have produced as much effect on the general habits of the educated portion of the community, as in the Presidential capitals; but, on the other hand, there is not that air of dirt and dilapidation, which was so painfully depressing and repulsive in many parts of the empire which I had already seen.

After Ballard left, Hannyngton, Thomas and Alexander McCullum Webster, were collectors. Then came the ever famous William Logan in 1869. We traced his story in a previous blog, but what I did not mention then were his seven transfers, perhaps for his forthrightness and refusal to toe the line. During Logan’s tenure, Empress Victoria’s 50th year of reign was celebrated at Calicut like it was, in many other district capitals.

Many came after Logan and have their names recorded in the annals of history. Some names that people may remember are Dance, Tottenham, Pinhey, Hall, Evans, Thomas, Ellis etc. If you recall, I had written in detail about JA Thorne earlier.

Two names which deserve singular attention are CA Innes and Knapp. The former prepared the popular gazettes and went on to become the governor of Burma. The second is the ‘knappan’ governor Arthur Rowland Knapp, who left behind the ever popular usage ‘knapp’ on colloquial Malayalam. In his first posting in Malabar at a young age of 21, Knapp set in motion various administrative, policy and police reforms that were at best, quixotic in nature. His efforts were futile, garnering no benefits despite looking good on paper. The word Knapp-'an' which describes a person who is incompetent and a failure, lives on to this day. However even though Khapp gave way to Francis in 1907, he was called back in 1921 as the Moplah revolt raged, to the appointment as special commissioner of Malabar. Perhaps he was hated by the populace though revered by the British. Nidheesh has an article on the very subject

By 1871, only four Indians had joined the service. By 1883, the total number of Indian ICS were 12 and in 1915, exactly 60 years after the first competitive examination of ICS, only 63 Indians had joined the ICS. In the late 1890s, JN Tata set up a scholarship/loan fund for Indians to study abroad, which included as a condition that they appear for the ICS exam (by 1924, over a third of all Indian ICS officers were Tata scholars). The upper age limit for the ICS exam always remained 24 years from 1855 to January 1943 - when the last exam was held. However, the lower age limit varied from time to time. The only Indian to top the ICS examination in 88 years was Kumar Padmanabha Sankara (KPS) Menon who stood first in the 1921 batch. In the 1920 batch of ICS, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose stood fourth. Bose reported for training but resigned in April 1921.At the time of India's Independence, there were 980 ICS officers in pre-Partition India.

An old article in Keralaforum records the work of a later Malabar governor Lawrence, in 1943. Many of the ICS fellows of those days had personal integrity and ability, though they were (rightly from their side) loyal to the British Empire. People could approach them with justifiable causes. We give one example: In the village of Engandiyur, Trichur District, there was no high school during 1943 period. People were mainly farmers of low castes (which mattered those days). A few educated people joined and submitted a memorandum to the Malabar Collector for a school. Mr Lawrence who was the Malabar Collector at Calicut immediately responded. "Yes, you get a high school, but first you must collect a sum of 10.000 rupees for the initial expenses of the building etc)!" This was a large sum of money those days, when 100 coconuts brought probably not more than 10 rupees. But the people collected this money and the school was granted! (Recall no third class politician is involved here, unlike now). This is the National High School. When this happened, the local Church submitted a request to Mr Lawrence. Another high school was granted. So the village had two high schools within 700 meters, something unthinkable in a village those days. The main point here is that there was no politician, no bribe, nothing of that sort was involved here!

One should not forget administrators TH Baber and Charles Whish though Baber officiated from Tellicherry and Whish spent long periods in South Malabar. You can obtain details of these fine gentlemen from my previously poste and linked reference articles.

While HW Bouchier was the last of the tailenders, he was on leave during August 1947. Thus it was Welshman John Calvert Griffiths who held the position as the last white man to rule Malabar on the eve of independence in 1947. On 15th August, John Griffiths sub collector of Malappuram was in charge as the acting Collector of Malabar. Ironically, his first task was to arrange the Independence Day celebrations at Calicut. He remained in Malabar and did not go back to Britain, wanting the freedom to be his own man and be with the Indian ICS. He said - I felt myself a part of a long line that started with Vasco Da Gama and passed through Clive and Munro and the old collectors of Malabar and ended with me. He lowered the union jack at Calicut and took it with him, to be buried with him when he passed away, and made a formal speech praising the contributions of Indian leaders, Gandhi and Nehru. It was a non-event in Calicut and the only two Brahmin lawyers dressed in conventional black and dancing down the aisle in suppressed excitement set an exception to an otherwise orderly and matter of fact kind of day. After a couple of years, he moved to Malaya, Rhodesia and finally Hong Kong to continue working for the British government.

The first native collector of Malabar following Indian independence was NS Arunachalam. The next in order were, R Prasad, ICS, NES Raghavachary ICS and V V Subrahmaniam ICS. Interestingly, both Prasad and NES became advisors to the Governor in 1956 when the new Kerala state was formed. The first Kozhikode district collector (after Kerala integration) was Mr. P K Nambiar, IAS.

Malabar manual – William Logan
A people’s collector in the British Raj – Arthur Galletti – Brian Stoddart
The last days of the Raj – Trevor Royle
The steel frame and I – SK Chettur

Note: Malabar history enthusiasts will remember A Galletti’s ‘Dutch in Malabar’, a source of excellent information. A good amount of information on the workings of an ICS man’s life and his many tribulations can be gleaned from Stoddart’s book, profiling Arthur Galletti. Galletti was quite chummy with Sir CP and Chettur SK Nair. Though Galletti never administered Malabar, he was close to getting appointments at Travancore and Cochin as a Dewan, efforts which were scuttled by his superiors, as he was considered a recalcitrant ICS man. Chettur SK Nair’s accounts, books and stories also present interesting reading and an Indian’s insight into the ICS of later years.

Many thanks to Mr CK Ramachandran, IAS who provided me with information on the native collectors appointed after independence. People who want to study the responsibilities of that office today may refer to the book ‘Community development Administration in Kerala’ by KK Panikkar.

Tail noteMuthiah’s article on SK Chettur provides an insight of the transition of an ICS officer 
working under a native Indian government – Chettur says - "I have been often asked whether it was pleasant to work with ministers after `ruling the roost' in the old I.C.S. autocratic set-up. My answer has always been that the I.C.S. man has been trained to accept the discipline of his `Superior Officers'. In a democratic regime, I made the transition easy by the tacit principle that elected ministers responsible to the public were my `Superiors', however much I may have doubted their individual intellectual superiority to me. I regarded them as the bosses who were in the position to give the orders, and while I had the right to offer advice to them (based on my own knowledge and experience) I had to accept and implement the orders even in cases where my advice was over-ruled. And I took very good care to record my views very clearly and unmistakably so that they could know exactly what they were up against in over-ruling me. I found that my refusal to be a `yes-man' had a most salutary effect on ministers. Apart from the respect it created for me personally, they knew they could get genuine advice from me and that I would not lightly let them down. As a result, I got on very well with them and when they found that I had the sense of discipline to implement orders, once I had been over-ruled or differed from, there was no difficulty at all in our relationships. And that is as it should be."