Monday, 12 September 2016

Why does Scottish Cemetery, Kolkata need early restoration? some facts

Many Scots were buried there before the Scottish Cemetery was established in the c1820s.scottishcemeterykolkata.wordpress.com
The city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was once the thriving capital of the E. S. I and later the Raj utill 1911. During the colonial India, it  had  close connections with the Scots, who  worked for the Honorable East India company and later (after 1857) for the British Raj under direct administration. Waves of Scots landed in Bengal, exploring  job prospects, etc. This included  Scottish missionaries,  physicians, traders, and investors in tea, coffee plantations and jute industries. There were innumerable administrators, military commanders soldiers in the Colonial government. It was in 1707 Scotland joined England and after this union, Scots  had begun working  for the British government.

monifiethhistorysociety.co.uk
The Scottish Cemetery,2000monifiethhistorysociety.co.uk
The Scottish Cemetery is located on Karaya street in  Dalhousie Squareadjacent to  St. Andrew's Church in Dalhousie Square. Built in 1820, it  was active until 1940s and  after India's  independence, it slowly had lost its significance and became a dilapidated site. Reason: Because of loss of interest, negligence and lack of funds for maintenance.It is an additional burden to St. Andrew's.  

This historical site needs urgent repairs and restoration.  In 2008 initial restoration was done under the aegis of KSHT - Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust  with support from the Royal Commission of Ancient  and Historic Monuments for Scotland. According
to the article cited by the Kolkata Sottish  Cemetery (https://scottishcemeterykolkata.wordpress.com/) 
monuments and stones were in bad shape because of neglect. 
Initial repairs and clearance of wild growth of plants, etc were done in 2008 by the above team. It seems, it might take sometime for them to restore this site back to its old glory. According to Lord Charles Smith, Chairman of KSHT(vide his interview to Metro, April 2014) the progress on restoration was advancing on all fronts though inadequate funds were limiting their work. He wished he had the kind of support the Serampore Danish Initiative had (from the state government). The Scottish Cemetery at St. Andrew's church  is  an important record of Scotland's past and  should not be lost because of negligence or lack of funds. An important Indo-Scottish connection will be lost for ever beyond redemption, if like-minded people do not act now.

Interesting facts:


01. The Scottish Cemetery in  Kolkata, a historical site that links this city with Scotland, is not  yet declared "an historical heritage site of national importance"by the Indian government.

02. Kolkata was tagged as  a piece of Scotland by Scots.

03. Ninety percent of the people buried at the Scottish Cemetery were of Scottish origin. The Scots worked for the East India company, a proxy British government and after 1857 (Sepoy Mutiny) worked for the British Crown.

04. There were numerous reputed administrators,  military commanders, traders, investors in coffee, tea and jute plantations in Bengal. In addition, there were innumerable  Scottish missionaries who came here to preach Christianity. 

05. The cemetery is believed to be one of the largest overseas Scottish cemetery, stretching over 6 acres of land in the densely populated part of North Kolkata. 

06. There are 1600 burial plots and 2000 burials and monuments. It has 4000 graves. The cemetery has a strong Scottish  character.


07.  St. Andrews Church has 11 volumes of hand written leather-bound burial records that are in advanced stage of decay.


08. The overall plan of the cemetery is square with grid patterns and random tombs. 

09. The headstone are made of Aberdeen granite of Scotland. Further, they  bear inscriptions of their makers or sculptors, so, it is easy to conclude that  almost all were made in Scotland and transported here for use. It is believed most the stones were used as ballasts by the Kolkata bound ships. The epitaphs are fading. 

10. Scots  names such as  Anderson, Campbell and  Ross, 
McGregor, etc  are recorded  in the Register of  Interment  in the Scottish Cemetery records. The rest 10% are Bengali.

11. Economist James Wilson, who introduced Income Tax and Currency notes in Colonial  India was buried in this cemetery. Dr. Thomas Nelson Anandale, founder director of Zoological Survey of India was buried here.

12. A former British M.P. Tam Dalyell, it is reported, has 36 relatives buried here and they worked in India for 200 years.


Tam Dalyell British MP, his 36 relatives, it is believed, were buried in Scottish Cemetery, Kolkata. news.bbc.co.uk
13. In the early stages of the colonial rule, the mortality rate of Europeans  was very low as revealed by the cemetery records.The foreigners had to survive ravages of monsoon, hot summer days, dreaded diseases like smallpox, besides numerous poisonous snakes and wild animals.

14. In 1938, out of  five  large companies  four  were of  Scottish origin and they had under them 400 subsidiary companies from railways to  shipping to tea. The Indian company Tatas was a major conglomerate.

 15.  An extraordinary fact is many Scots were buried before the Scottish Cemetery was built in 1820. 

Presidency University has created a digital archive 
of the graves in the cemetery from its  foundation to  the 
beginning of the Raj (1858)  and this can be  accessed  at http://scotscemeteryarchivekolkata.com

Inside the Cemetery, one could find nothing but desolation all over the site with wild growth of plants, bushes and trees with strong root system. The main culprit seemed to be "root wedging"that became  more active soon after monsoon season. Hundreds of tombs had undergrowth of weeds, etc that damaged or obscured the tombs. Clearing was done in 2008 and since then, repair and restoration work  has been  slowly progressing. 
  
Tit-bits:

... Fearless Nadia (Mary Ann Evans; see my early post), a well-known vintage Indian actress was of Scottish Origin.  
fearless Nadia, Indian actress. www.junglekey.

... George Andrew Yule, a well known industrialist, founder  of Indian National Congress, Sheriff of Calcutta and President of Indian 

            George Andrew Yule,a well known industrialist, founder  of Indian National Congress  ww.telegraphindia.com

 Chamber of commerce  anAlan Octovian Hume, an ex ICS administrator  and one of the framers of Indian National Congress were Scots of great repute.

A. O. Hume,an Indian Civil Servant, he is variously called "Father of the Indian National Congress" or "Father of Indian Ornithologyherbariaunited.org
The governments - both Central and State should take initiative without any further delay and see to it this site is preserved for the posterity.

Ref:
wa://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Lost-history-unearthed-in-Scot-Cemetery/articleshow/46856194.cms

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140422/jsp/calcutta/story_18265483.jsp#.V9Ymhfl97IU