|A folio of Tazkirat al-umara by Skinner,1830,.en.wikipedia.org|
Above image: A folio of Tazkirat al-umara by Skinner,1830, depicting Portrait of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, Punjab.............................
His father put him initially as an apprentice to a printer in Calcutta. As he did not like the job, he left it after just three days. His Indian heritage - because of mixed parentage put him at disadvantage and at sixteen he could not get a job as an officer with the East India Company army. He eventually found a job with the Mahratta army as an ensign under Benoît de Boigne, the French commander of Maharaja Scindia's forces of Gwalior State. Boigne was not only impressed by his talents but also that of his family ancestry. On his fraternal side, the Skinners had served William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Once taken in, Skinner soon showed military talent. Through hard work, he became commander-in-chief of Sindhia's army after Boigne's retirement, until 1803. Soon he lost the job after the second Anglo-Maratha War as all Angelo Indian officers were dismissed from the military services.
|James Skinner CB (1778–1841), Probably from Thomas Metcalfe's book-1843..en.wikipedia.org|
His military experience stood him in good stead and later he got a job with the Bengal Army of the East India Company under Lord Lake,Commander-in-Chief of British India in 1801. While with the army, Skinner took interest to develop a regiment under his care and later on 23 February 1803, he raised a regiment of irregular cavalry called "Skinner's Horse" or the "Yellow Boys" because of the color of their uniform. This regiment earned a good name because of well-planed training under Skinner. Later it was considered as the most famous regiment of light cavalry in the British Indian Army. This regiment still exists today as part of the Indian Army. After the siege of Bharatpur, in 1818 Skinner was granted a jagir of Hansi (Hisar district, Haryana), that fetched him a revenue of Rs 20,000.00 a year, a whooping amount in those days.
Skinner was quite fluent in Persian and could communicate with the natives . Being shrewd, he could read the psychology of other people and had gained a good knowledge of the characters of the people of India from various regions. His knowledge of the Indian people was considered as an asset by successive governor-generals and commanders-in-chief. He commissioned paintings in the Company style on a large scale. Taking advantage of his skill in Persian, Skinner wrote a volume of memoirs in Persian of his military expeditions. Skinner died in December 1841 at the age of 64.
St. James' Church:
St. James' Church or Skinner's Church in Kashmiri Gate, Delhi is a famous landmark and majestically stands as a testimony to Skinner's contribution in the subcontinent. This church is going to be repaired and restored pretty soon because it is the oldest surviving church in Delhi. This church was commissioned by Skinner in fulfilment of his vow to build a church if survived, when facing near - death in the battlefield of Uniara in 1800. It was built at his own expense and its main architect was Major Robert Smith . It was built between 1826-36 to a cruciform plan, with three porticoed porches and a central octagonal dome. It was consecrated on 21 November 1836 by the Right Reverend Daniel Wilson D.D, the Bishop of Calcutta, Skinner is also believed to have built a temple and a mosque, though details of them are quite vague.
01. Skinner was a fluent writer in Persian, the court and intellectual language of India in his day, and wrote several books in Persian, including "Kitab-i tasrih al-aqvam" (History of the Origin and Distinguishing Marks of the Different Castes of India), now with the Library of Congress. Other works included 'A folio of Tazkirat al-umara by James Skinner, 1830, depicting Portrait of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Punjab. This included family biographies, of princely families in the Sikh and Rajput territories and 37 portraits of their current representatives. First translated from the original Persian by James Fraser and Skinner's Horse party Folio from 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi’, an album by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, 1843.
|St. James' Church or Skinner's Church, Kashmiri Gate, |
|Col. Skinner's tomb, James Church, Delhi.en.wikipedia.org|
04. His brother Robert Skinner also served as a Major in the army of the E. I. company.