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Festivals of Midnapore District
Festivals of East and West Medinipur (Midnapore)
Books on Midnapore (Medinipur) District
The Diary of the Wolf-Children of Midnapore
Economics of Mat Industry - A study of P.S. Sabang, Midnapore
Anselm Beaumont - Bangal Merchant (By Dr. P A K Covey-Crump)
Life of an English Memsaheb in India in the late 19th Century (By Rajeswari Chatterjee)
LAL JAL Rock Painting

Life of an English Memsaheb
in India (Midnapore) in the late
Nineteenth Century


An artical from

Lifescapes of India

A History of the People
of the Subcontinent of India
In a Nutshell

Rajeswari Chatterjee

This book was prepared as part of Lifescapes, a life writing program sponsored
by the University of Nevada Department of English, the Washoe County Library
System, and the Nevada Humanities Committee.

Copyright © 2003 by Rajeswari Chatterjee

Frandsen Humanities Press
University of Nevada
Department of English
Reno, Nevada 89557


The title “Memsaheb” was given to
the wife of a high ranking British officer
working in India during the
British rule of India in the nineteenth
and the first half of the twentieth
century. “Mem” is the short

form of “Madam” and “Saheb” is the
word in many Indian languages, especially
languages of North India,
meaning “Master.” A similar word
used in South India especially in the
Tamil speaking areas is “Doresani”,
The husband of “Memsheb” was “Saheb”,
and that of “Doresani” was
“Dore”, “Dore” meaning “King.” Even
today, these words are used by people
of the older generation who had
served under the British Government
officers. These words are used today
for Indian officers of high rank and
their wives. British officers do not exist
any more.
Once the British East India Company
acquired large pieces of land in
different parts of India, either by
conquest or as gifts, the company appointed
their own officers to rule
these parts. At the head of a province
was the Governer, and under him
were the Commissioners in charge of
districts, then collectors of tax, assistant
commissioners of smaller ares
called tahsils or taluqs, judges, subjudges
etc. In the beginning of British
rule, all these positions were
filled by British men (certainly not
women) who had earlier served the
East India Company. Slowly, as more
and more Indians obtained English
education, the lower posts were filled
up by these Indians. Even right up to
the time of India’s independence in
1947, many of the top officers were
the British who had passed the Indian
Civil Service Examination, and
certainly all the Governers of the
provinces were all British men appointed
by the Crown in England.
Many of the families of these British
civil officers served India for several
generations. The children of
these officers were usually born in-
India and after spending a few years
of their childhood with their parents
in India, they were packed off to either
boarding schools in England or
to stay with relatives to finish their
education. They used to see their
parents only when the parents went
to England on their furlough. So
these children became a class of their
own, and many of them had a love
and longing for India where they had
spent their childhood, and where
their parents lived. So, when they
became adults and were ready to
earn their living, they preferred to
take up jobs in India which the British
Government could offer to them.
Those who could not enter the civil
service took commissions in the British
Army and served in India. So
generations after generations of British
men and women lived in India
and came to love the country as if it
was their own. They were called “Anglo-
Indians” in the earlier days,
though that name now applies to
people of mixed Indian and European
blood. In the earlier days, the people
of mixed European and Indian blood
were called “Eurasians.”
Those were the days when very
few women worked outside the home
all over the world. So the British
women who married these British
men who worked for the British government
in India were almost all of
them housewives. While Their husband’ss
worked in small towns which
was their office headquarters, and
had to tour around the districts or taluqs
in their work with the Indian
people of these areas, what did his

wife who was the memsaheb do ? Of
course she had to take care of her
household duties, cooking, washing,
ironing, making clothes and taking
care of her children and her husband.
Those were the days when family
planning was not heard of, and every
family had many children. Many
children were born, and some of
them died of childhood sicknesses, or
of epidemics like cholera, smallpox,
plague, typhoid or influenza. In each
fairly large town of the province,
there were quite a few British families
of similar standing. So these
women had to entertain each other’s
families in the evening.
I will try to descibe the life of a
typical British memsaheb in those
days from the time of the Indian Mutiny
till the independence of India.
Her name was Nancy Elmwood.
She was forty –five years old, and her
husband Henry was fifty years old.
She was born in 1880 at Midnapore,
a district town in the Bengal Presidency.
Her mother was Ann who was
the wife of Charles Thompson, who
was the Collector of Midnapore district.
An English doctor, Dr, Harris
attended at her childbirth which took
place in their home, and he was assisted
by an Eurasian nurse whose
name was Dulcie Carey. The delivery
was normal and she was seven
pounds at birth. She was the third
child of her parents, and she had an
elder sister Margaret six years old
and a brother Alfred three years
old. The two older children were
thrilled to have a baby sister.
Ann stayed in her bedroom with
the baby for about ten days, and the
nurse Dulcie who was a very sweet
tempered woman of thirty years old
took care of her. There was also an
Indian woman whose name was
Mary, whose family were converted
to Protestent Christians by the missioneries
of Serampore which is
about thirty miles north of the big
city of Calcutta which was not only
the capital of the Bengal Presidency,
but also the capital of The British
Indian Empire. Sometimes in the
day, the two older children were led
into the mother’s bedroom so that
they can have a look at their lovely
baby sister. They could stay only a
few minutes, because they could
bring germs in which could make the
baby and mother sick.
Slowly, the mother gained
strengh, after being fed chicken or
beef soup and bread and butter and
milk. The baby was put in a small cot
which could be rocked. The cot was
light and was made of cane, and it
had a soft cotton matress and a British
soft woolen blanket. It also had a
curtain made of mosquito netting
cotton cloth imported from England,
and which was hung from small bamboo
poles at the four corners of the
baby bed. This was to prevent mosquitoes
from biting the baby. The
mother’s bed also had a much bigger
similar mosquito net. The mother
nursed the little baby at regular intervals
according to the doctor’s advice,
and the baby got stronger day
by day. The baby was moved to a
room next to the mother’s, and the
ayah Mary and the nurse also stayed
in that room to take care of her.
The house in which they lived was
a large bungalow with several rooms
and having a sloping wide veranda

which surrounded it on all sides. The
veranda shielded the strong sunlight
and the heat from getting inside.
Each room had punckas (ventilators
made of a fragrant dried grass which
was sprinkled with water several
times a day), and which was pulled
back and forth by ropes by a young
Indian servant boy named Hamid, so
that there could bea gentle cool
breeze in the room. All the rooms in
the bungalow had this cooling arrangement.
The bungalow was situated in
very large grounds with a formal
garden consisting of mango. coconut,
pipal, banyan and bamboo trees, and
small formal garden near the house
with mud pots filled with ornamental
ferns, crotons and seasonal flowere
like phlox, cosmos, nasturtiums, zinnia,
dahlias, chrysanthums, and
marigolds. This garden was taken
care of by two Indian men malis
(gardeners) supervised by the mistress
of the household. The older
children used to love to play in the
garden supervised by their Eurasian
For two or three hours a day, an
English governess named Miss Evelyn
Goodhart came to the bungalow
to give the two older children lessons
in reading and writing English, and
simple English nursery rhymes accompanied
by the piano.
On the back side of the bungalow
were outhouses, one of which was the
kitchen which was presided by an
Indian Christian man named George
DeCruz and his assistant Muhammed
Salim. There was a butler
named Joseph De Cruz who was the
younger brother of George De Cruz.
The food cooked was a combination of
English and Indian foods. For breakfast
they had porridge (wheat or
rice), eggs, toast, butter and sausages
and tea. Lunch was meat (beef, mutton
or fish), bread and butter, and
pudding. Afternoon tea consisted of
sandwiches, bread and butter, cakes
and tea. Dinner was the big meal
consisting of several courses consisting
of meat or chicken, fish, boiled
peas or carrots or any other vegetable,
and a dessert (pudding or cake).
The food was more spicy than real
English food, because the Indian
cooks would love to use garlic, onions,
pepper, cardomom, cloves, turmeric,
mustard, cumin and so on.
Probably, salads were absent, but p
tatoes and boiled vegetables were
served. Fresh fruit like mangoes,
pineapples, lichis, bananas were
probably served as dessert sometimes.
Of course, drinks like whiskey,
brandy, scotch, ale and others were
served to the adults. There was
proper seating arrangement at the
dining table and interesting and
brisk conversation. The children had
to be seen but not heard. Victorian
social behaviour was very important.

After the family ate their dinner,
the servants could eat their dinner in
the kitchen.
The only Indians the members of
the family could meet in their home
were the servants, and most of them
could speak what was called Butler
English. After having stayed for
many years in some region of India,
like Bengal in this case, the adults
had a rudimentry knowledge of the
local language Bengali which they
could use with the servants. In addi-

tion to these servants who stayed the
whole day and who lived in servant’s
quarters, the darzi (tailor) who made
all their clothes by hand before the
advent of the sewing machine, came
very often and did his work sqatting
on the floor of the veranda and was
supervsed by the memsaheb. He was
usually a Muslim. A barber also
came when he was required, and he
was probably a Hindu belonging to
the barber caste. The barber and the
tailor did not eat in the memsaheb’ s
Nancy grew up in this bungalow
with her parents and her older
brother and sister till she was about
six years old. She was pampered and
also discipled by her Ayah and her
nurse. As she grew a little older, she
started to play with her older sister
Margaret and her older brother Alfred.
When Margaret was nine years
old and Alfred was six years old,
their mother Ann took them by ship
from Calcutta to England for a visit
of six months, and Nancy also went
with them. The journey took more
than a month in the Indian Ocean,
the Persian Gulf, Egypt, Alexandria
and the Mediterrean sea. They arrived
in England in June and it was
very good weather. They stayed in a
suburb of London with Ann’s maiden
sister Susan in a small subarban
house which had a tiny garden. The
children missed the big garden of
their bungalow in Midnapur, and
their nurse and Ayah and all the
other servants. The mother Ann and
aunt Susan made some enquiries
about good boarding schools for Margaret
and for Alfred, but could not
find any suitable one near enough to
aunt Susan’s home. Susan finally
suggested to her sister that she will
keep the two children with her and
get them educated by employing
good tutors for some years before
Margaret could be put in a good finishing
school, and Alfred could go to
a good public school. This suggestion
seemed to be the best arrangement,
and Ann agreed to send enough
money to her sister at frequent intervals
for the expenses of the children.
Ann was very grateful to her
sister for this arrangement and for
her large heartedness to agree to to
take care of her two children.
The children slowly got used to
the new atmosphere and the beginning
of their English education in
England which was supposed to be
their mother country. They were a
little confused why England was
their mother country, and why not
India which was their country of
birth and which they loved so much
during their care-free childhood.
They missed the warm sunshine of
Midnapore, the big bungalow which
was their home and all their servants
who loved them so much !
After six months of stay, Ann and
her younger daughter Nancy were
ready to return to India. Her sister
Susan and her two older children
Margaret and Alfred came to the
London docks where the big ship was
waiting to leave for India with Ann
and Nancy. There was a very tearful
goodbye, and the ship slowly left the
docks. Margaret and Alfred used to
cry themselves to sleep every night,
in spite of all the love shown to them
by aunt Susan. They grew up slowly
and forgot India and their parents

also slowly, in spite of the affectionate
letters from the parents. They
also sent childish letters to their parents.
When Nancy came back to Midnapore
after one month, she was very
happy to see her father and all the
old servants welcoming her, but she
was the only child in the big bungalow.
But very soon, a little sister
named Evelyn was born and she
started taking interest in the growing
up of this little sister. By this
time she was seven years old.
Evelyn Goodhart who was the
governess for her older sister and
brother started coming to the house
to give lessons in English and the piano
to Nancy, in a month or so, and
that kept her happy. Also her Ayah
Mary used to tell her many many
stories of Bengal, and she spoke only
in the Bengali language. This helped
Nancy to learn the Bengali language
fairly well. Nancy was very clever not
to speak Bengali in front of her parents,
because she thought that they
would scold her. In fact, she could
share her thoughts better with Mary
than with her own parents. She
would love to sit on the floor by
Mary’s side and put her head on
Mary’s lap which was covered by
folds and folds of Mary’s soft cotton
sari, and listen to her stories till her
eyes closed and she had a short nap
in the hot afternoon. Very soon, she
became familiar with a lot of Bengali
When Nancy was eight years old,
her father got his furlough of one
year to have a holiday in England. So
the whole family, that is, father,
mother, Nancy and little Evelyn left
Calcutta docks in a ship for England,
This time, they stopped in Egypt to
see Alexandria, Cairo and the famous
pyramids. Finally, they arrived in
Marseilles on the southern coast of
France. After a day in Marseilles,
they left for Paris by train. Nancy enjoyed
the French country side in
summer and it was not as cold as the
England she had remembered during
her last visit. They saw all the sights
in Paris, and finally left for Calais on
the seacoast facing England. Here
they got into a ship which crossed the
English Channel and arrived very
soon at the small port of Dover on
the southern coast of England. Here
her sister Margaret, brother Alfred
and her aunt Susan were waiting at
the quay side to receive them. Both
Margaret and Alfred had grown tall
and they could not recognize them at
once. After many huggings and tears,
they went to a small restaurant to
eat some sandwiches, biscuits and
hot tea. Very soon, they were on the
train to London, and then on another
train to aunt Susan’s home in the
Father and mother had a lot to
talk with Susan, and later on with
their older children. They had to decide
on which finishing school to
which Margaret had to be sent, and
the public school for Alfred where he
could finish his high school education.
This time, Susan had collected
all the information ready for them, so
that very soon, they could make their
decisions. Also, Susan had come to
know her neice and nephew very well
and she could understand their likings
and requirements well.
While the older people were busy

with all these discussions, Nancy felt
very lonely, and she was missing her
Midnapore home and her Ayah Mary
and her stories very much.
Since it was summer and the
weather was warm and comfortable,
the family took outings in the countryside,
and father Charles showed
Nancy all the wild flowers and weeds
and trees in the country side, and
made her appreciate their beauty. It
was the first time that Nancy came
to know her father a little better, because
in India, he was so busy with
his work and evening parties, that he
had no time for spending a little time
with her and talking with her. So
very soon, she did not miss her Ayah
Mary very much. When she went to
sleep at night, after roaming around
the English countryside, she had
dreams of her Midnapore home and
its gardens and of Mary’s Bengali
Aunt Susan was really a very nice
person, and soon Nancy fell in love
with her. She knew very well that
she would have to spend thenext few
years with her, the way her brother
and sister had done.
When the time came for parting
with her parents at the end of his
furlough, it was again hugs and
tears, but very soon Nancy forgot her
Midnapore home and her Ayah, and
was busy with her lessons with tutors
that her aunt had found for her
A few more years passed by, and
Nancy became fifteen years old and
was ready for the finishing school
which her sister Margaret had attended.
By this time, Margaret had
gone back to India and was living
with her parents in Faridpur district
where her father was transferred to.
Faridpur was in East Bengal (in
what is called Bangladesh today) and
was nearer the big city of Dacca and
not near Calcutta. It is in the area of
the huge delta of the Ganges (Ganga
of today) and very near the big river
Padma which is the second branch of
the river Ganga in the delta region,
and which is wider and bigger than
the mother river itself. There were
many many rivers in this region
which form the different branches of
the mother river. Except for small
distances, people had to travel in
small boats and in small steamers on
the big river Padma. The father
Charles Thompson was most of the
time on tour with his assistants going
to remote places in the district,
travelling by boat crossing rivers,
and on horseback on dry land, to inspect
and give advise to the minor
officials in these small towns and villages.
These minor officials were
mostly Indians who had English education,
and who knew their own language
Bengali very well, so that they
could interpret what the farmers and
others had to tell the collecter.
.Arrangements were made for the
stay and for the comforts of the collector
Thompson Saheb and his assistants
in the traveller’s bungalows
called dak bungalows. Sometimes,
Nancy’s mother Ann, her daughter
Margaret and little two year old
Dick (Richard) who was born after
some interval accompanied Charles
Thompson on these tours, when
there was good weather, so that they
could have a little change.
After she came back to India,

Margaret was busy helping her
mother in supervising the servants
and also in arranging evening parties
for English friends in Faridpur, both
men and women. They had high tea,
tennis parties, dances accompanied
by music and so on, in their house
and huge garden. This way, Margaret
could meet some young English
men who were either in the civil service,
army or police or in the Indian
Railways, or in the Posts and Telegraphs.
This was the time during the
second half of the nineteenth century,
that the British rulers of India
built railways with the help of Eurasians
all over the country connecting
large and small towns, and also established
communication by telegraph
all over the country. Telephones
came to India a little later.
No Indian officers were invited to
these parties, even if they held important
positions under the Collector
Saheb. There were similar parties in
the homes of other British officers,
and the women enjoyed these parties.
In bigger cities, there were exclusive
British clubs into which Indians
and dogs were not allowed.
After a few years, after Nancy finished
her finishing school, she came
back to India, and at this time her father
was posted in Calcutta, the big
metropolitan city, the capital of India
and of West Bengal. They lived ina
big mansion on Harrington Road,
which was surrounded by a small
formal garden. Here, the family consisted
of her parents, herself, young
brother Dick who was seven years
old and ready to be packed off to
England for his education. Margaret
had met a charming Captain Cox of
the Indian army at Faridpur and got
married to him, and had moved to
the big army centre of Bangalore
Cantonment in the native state of
Mysore in South India. They were receiving
loving letters from Margaret
very often, and she was asking her
parents to send her younger sister
Nancy to Bangalore for a holiday, so
that she could meet charming English
army officers of the British army
Ann and Charles Thompson found
a young couple named Edward and
Phyllis Haines who were going to
Bangalore in June of that year. Mr
Haines was being posted at Bangalore
to work in the office of the British
Resident in the native state of
Mysore, and whose office was in
Bangalore. First class reservations
were made in the train leaving Calcutta
for the big southern city of Madras
which was the capital of Madras
Presidency. Further first class reservation
was made in the night train
from Madras to Bangalore for the
next day. Nancy was thrilled about
this journey which would make her
see a large part of this vast country
of India, which in her inner thoughts
was really her home.
.The train started from the big
Howrah Railway Station of Calcutta.
They went in a horse drawn Victoria
carriage from the house to the station,
and they had to cross the big
Howrah Bridge across the river
Hooghly which is really the main
branch of River Ganges or Ganga,
and on which Calcutta stands. The
railway station was crowded with
hundreds of Indians, men in white
dhoties(man’s loose dress in Bengal

as well as in many other parts of India)
and women in white or coloured
saris, and children in bright coloured
cotton clothes. They were rushing to
enter the standing train into the
crowded third class carriages, The
men were carrying their luggage on
their heads, and women were carrying
little babies.
Nancy and her English friends
Edward and Phyllis Haines were
dressed in sober cotton clothes suitable
for travel, and their lugggage
was carried by their servants who
found the reserved first class carriages.
When they entered their reserved
carriage, they could settle
down on the comfortable stuffed
leather seats, and the luggage was
placed under their seats. As there
was stiil half an hour before the train
left, Nancy’s father Charles Thompson
had ordered hot Tea and sandwiches
to be brought from the first
class European restaurant in the station,
to be served in the compartment.
The tea and sandwiches refreshed
everybody. When the Eurasian
guard blew his whistle, there
was a quick goodbye and hugs between
Nancy and her parents.
The train slowly left Howrah station,
and Nancy was looking eagerly
out of the window to see the scenes.
Bengal being the delta region of the
mighty river Ganges, was green with
paddy and fruit trees everywhere.
There were a number of ponds which
bred fish,. The small villages had
thatched mud huts surrounded by
big fruit trees, mangoes, coconuts,
jackfruit, bananas and so on. The
train sped on, and finally reached
Midnapore station, where Nancy had
spent her childhood. Memories came
back to her of her Ayah Mary and the
Bengali stories she used to tell her.
The next big station was Kharagpur
where there was a railway workshop.
By this time it was dark and
about eight’oclock in the evening.
When the train stopped, trays of hot
dinner arrived from the Restaurant
car, which they enjoyed, because they
were feeling hungry.
In the Kharagpur station, the Indian
passengers were running
around to get their dinner from the
Indian restuarants. Also peddlers of
food, hot samosas, hot tea in small
clay cups, fruit and sweets were
shouting their wares, and people
rushed to them to buy. There were
also sellers of sweet coconut water
from the green coconuts, and this
was really a very good refreshing
After dinner and a game of cards,
Nancy and her friends spread their
mattresses on the seats and covered
themselves with thin bed sheets and
tried to sleep. The movement of the
train sort of lulled them to sleep.
When the morning light peeped
through the windows, they got up
and went to the bathroom, nd when
they came back, the train was entering
a big raiway station, and the
nameboard in English told them that
its name was Waltair. The name
written in the Indian language below
the English letters did not look like
Bengali letters which they were used
to see in Bengal and in Calcutta. The
language that the people were talking
on the railway platform also did
not sound like Bengali. When the
Eurasian ticket cllector came to

check their tickets, he told them this
was the Telugu speaking area of the
big Madras Presidency, and the language
Telugu was one of the South
Indian Dravidian languages. Then a
bearer came in and put three buckets
of hot water in the bathroom. One by
one, the three of them took their hot
baths, and were dressed in fresh
ironed cotton clothes, and soon arrived
the hot English breakfast and a
big teapot with steaming hot tea,
which they were very eager to consume.
After breakfast, the train slowly
pulled out of Waltair station and
gathered speed and was heading in a
southerly direction. After stopping at
a few small railway stations, they arrived
at a fairly large station called
Rajamundry which is still in the Telugu
speaking area. Here hot English
lunch appeared, which they were
happy to consume because they were
hungry. People eat a lot more on
train journeys than at home, because
there is nothing else to do.
Leaving Rajamundry, the train
crossed the wide river Godavari
slowly, and entered beautiful farm
land growing rice, tobacco, coconuts,
other fruit trees, interspersed by
small huts where the farmers and
their families lived. They could see
the farmers working in the rice fields
with their bullocks and wooden
ploughs, and the women pulling out
weeds and transplanting rice in the
rice fields. The women wore bright
coloured saris and the men were in
white dhoties. It was a beautiful
scene, and how Nancy longed to get
down and walk in the fields.
Next morning, the train entered
the big station of Bezwada (Vijayawada
of the present Andhra
Pradesh of today), where breakfast
was served. Then they crossed the
big Krishna river and headed south
again. In the evening, they could finally
arrive at the Central station of
Madras(which is Chennai, capital of
Tamilnadu of today), which was almost
as big as Howrah station of
Calcutta. This was the terminus of
their railway journey. They were
tired, but Nancy was so enthralled
with all the sights she had seen on
the way.
They got down from the train, and
with two or three coolis (porters) carrying
their luggage, went up the
stairs to the big well furnished first
class retiring room. Here they could
all have a good hot bath and a
change of fresh cotton clothes. A delicious
hot English lunch was served
on a clean table covered with a snow
white tablecloth, which they enjoyed
very much. Then it was time for
them to go down to the platform,
where the train for Bangalore was
waiting. Again, they got into their
first class reserved compartment and
settled themselves for the night.
Early, next morning, they arrived at
the Bangalore Cantonment railway
station, where they had to get down.
Here they were received by
Nancy’s sister Margaret and her
husband Captain Cox who welcomed
them, and every body was
happy at the end of the journey. The
air was crisp and cool and so pleasant
after the heat of Calcutta, the
train journey and of Madras. Edward
and Phyllis Haines bid them goodbye
and left for their home.

When they came out of the railway
station, a Victoria horse carriage
was waiting for them, into which all
of them got in with their luggage.
The carriage started and went into a
narrow railway underbridge next to
the station, and entered Miller Road
on either side of which were big
bungalows with their huge compounds
with beautiful trees and formal
gardens. Then they crossed the
railway line again, and entered the
area called Frazer Town. This was
one of the areas where many of the
British people lived. They finally arrived
at a beautiful bungalow on
Spencer Road, where they all got
down, and entered the house. The
house was cool and nice and well
furnished. This was the house of
Margaret and Captain Cox. Margaret
took Nancy to her room and made
her feel comfortable. Nancy was surprised
to see that there were no
punckas in this house, because they
were not necessary, because Bangalore
was at a height of 3000 feet
above sea level. and remained cool
most of the year.
Margaret talked to her younger
sister and told her all about Bangalore
and how the British people loved
it and what a wondereful time they
had here. It was a big military station,
and there were many posh clubs
like the Bangalore Union Sevices
Club which had parties, dances, tennis
courts and a good dining room.
Nancy started looking forward to all
the lovely parties she could attend
here and the interesting people she
could meet. When she tried to talk to
the servants in Bengali, they could
not understand her, and then she
very soon realized that this place
was nearly 1000 miles from Bengal.
The servants could speak Butler
English fairly well, and their own
mother tongue Tamil. Nancy wondered
why English children could not
be taught a little more about India
and its people, its languages, its literature
and its culture. After all.
people like her were born in India,
and spent most of their useful lives
in India except for a few years of
their childhood and adolescent years
in England for their education. She
tried to discuss these things with her
sister, but she found out that her sister
was not interested.
Time passed by very soon with
the parties at the club and at home.
They sometimes went shopping to
South Parade where most of the English
shops were there. Sometimes
rich Indians and Eurasians also
shopped here, but she noticed that
the shopkeepers who were English
gave first preference to the English.
The shop assistants were Eurasian
men and women who were darker in
complexion and with Indian features
in English clothes, who spoke fairly
good English with a slight accent.
When Nancy took walks by herself
on the streets of Frazertown, she
saw some streets with smaller bungalows
where these Eurasians lived.
These people did not come to the
BUS (Bangalore Union Services
Club), but had their own club called
the Bowring Institute on St.Mark’s
On Sundays, they went either to
St.Marks Cathedral on South Parade
or to St.Andrew’s Church, where
English Protestent pastors preached,

and where most of their English Protestent
friends went. In Frazer Town,
there was also a big Roman Catholic
church called St.Francis Cathedral
where many Eurasians went and a
fairly large number of Indian Roman
Catholics went. Very near this
church was St. Francis Xavier School
for girls, where the Eurasian girls
went to school, and there was a
boarding home for them. This school
was managed by European nuns.
Very near this school was St. Germain’s
school together with a boarding
home for Eurasian boys managed
by European Catholic priests.
On Promenade Road close by, a new
school called Goodwill Girl’s School
was being started by English Protestent
women missionaries for the
Indian Protestent Christian girls,
where the mother tongue Tamil was
also taught to the girls in addition to
English and other subjects.
During these walks by herself in
Frazertown, Nancy ventured to talk
to two English nuns standing near
the gate of the Francis Xavier School,
who took her inside the school and
showed her the classrooms where
the Eurasian girls were being taught
English history. The girls wore uniforms
and were listening to the English
nun teaching them with attention.
Nancy asked the nuns whether
Indian history was also taught to
these girls. The reply was that Indian
history was taught as a part of
English history. When she asked the
nuns whether these girs had any
chance of going to England, the reply
was that there was no chance of their
going, unless they married an English
officer of a very high rank and
from a noble family, but even then,
she was doubtful about her being
welcomed in English society. After
some years, Eurasians were called
Anglo-Indians, and that is the name
they go by in modern independent
India. They all have English and
European surnames, showing that
they are descended from European
men who married Indian women
some generations ago.
The European nuns invited her to
visit their school sometimes.
Nancy thought that this suggestion
of the nuns was very welcome to
her, but she was afraid that her sister
Margaret and her husband would
not like it, and certainly not her parents
if they came to know about it.
However, she took the courage to discuss
this matter with Margaret who
was very much older than her. Margaret
was sympathetic, but she was
afraid of the opinions of English society
in Bangalore. When Margaret
told her husband about it, he was
also sympathetic about the idea, because
he had mixed with Eurasians
and Hindus and Muslims in his office
and he felt that the English people
should not be so rigid about mixing
up socially with the Indians including
the Anglo-Indians. After the
great Indian mutiny, the British Indian
Government became strict and
instructed British officers and their
families not to socialize with the Indians,
because the Mutiny had made
them afraid of another Indian rising.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth
century, the Indian National Congress
was born, and they held meetings
at many big cities all over the
country critisizing the British Gov-

ernment policy in India, though the
Congress was founded by an ex British
civil officer of the British Government.
However, Margaret and her
husband thought that innocent visits
of Nancy to the school managed by
the European nuns was not very
harmful. This pleased Margaret very
much, and she started visiting the
schlool more often when the nuns
gave her permission to do so. She
used to talk to the girls during the
recess and took part in teir extracurricular
activities like sports, dramatics
and music. She found that
some of the girls had a good musical
talent, and they could sing and play
on the piano well. In addition to the
nuns, the teachers were mostly
Eurasian women. A few of the students
were Indian girls, but they also
wore the uniform which consisted of
a navy blue skirt, a white blouse and
a navy blue tie. As the annual school
day was approaching, she took part
in training them in acting in a play,
may be Shakespeare’s “As you like it
.” Nancy was certainly having a
grand time.
Though she had made a large
number of friends at the club, she
was not yet attacted to any young
man well enough to consider marriage,
though she was more than
twenty years old. After a year
passed, she and Margaret made a
short visit to Calcutta to see their
When they came back, her sister
was expecting a baby, and Nancy had
to take care of some of the dometic
duties of her sister. When the baby
girl named Gertrude was born, they
were all very happy. In the meantime
she had met Henry Elmwood who
was working as a junior officer in the
British resident’s office in Bangalore.
She found that Henry had the same
interests that she had, namely the
interest to know the Indian people
better. They became very good
friends, and when Henry proposed to
her, she eagerly accepted the proposal.
The marriage took place quietly
in Saint Andrew’s church, and
her parents had come down for the
wedding. Her parents were going for
their furlough in England soon after
the wedding. Henry had found a good
bungalow with a pretty garden on
Lavelle Road which was nearer to
South Parade and not far from his office.
Henry could walk to his office,
instead of riding or going in a horse
carriage. Nancy was very happy to
settle down in her own house, but
there was still that lurking wish to
know the Indians better. She was
about twenty-five years old, and
Queen Victoria had died and Edward
VIII was King of England. She used
to find about an hour in the morning
and sit with her Tamil Christian
Ayah Susie and try to learn to speak
Tamil. Susan’s house was not far
away, and one day, she and Susan
walked to her house. In the house
were her parents John and Anthoniamma,
and many younger brothers
and sisters. There was only one chair
in the small house which they offered
Nancy to sit on. All the others sat on
reed mats on the floor. Nancy could
use her elementary knowledge of
Tamil to converse with them The father
knew a little English so that he
talked to her more. It was a thrilling
experience for Nancy. They gave her

some hot tea and some spiced savouries
to eat The younger children
brought their friends from the
neighbouring houses to see her.
When she went home, she told
her husband Henry about the visit.
Though Henry thought that there
was nothing wrong about it, he only
told her not to do it too often, because
his bosses in the office may come to
know about it and may not like it.
Next year a little baby boy named
Edward was born to Nancy and an
English woman doctor did the delivery
assisted by a Eurasian nurse.
Nancy was very busy taking care of
the baby with the help of her ayah
Susan who was by this time was
married and her husband Francis became
the cook’s help in the kitchen.
When Edward became two years old,
she put him in a perambulator and
she and Susie pushed him in the
beautiful park nearby called the
Cubbon Park. Edward enjoyed it very
much. Bangalore’ weather was most
of the year cool and cloudy, that it
was very pleasant to go out. One day
Nancy and Susie walked across the
park and reached a church called
Hudson Memorial Church where a
service was going on. Nancy became
curious to know what type of service
it was, and she and Susie entered the
church and sat in the last row with
Edward on Susie’s lap. An English
pastor was speaking in English, and
after him an Indian pastor was
speaking in an Indian language
which was not Tamil. Susie told her
that the name of the Language was
Kannada and that she could understand
it a little. After the service, as
everybody was coming out, both the
English and Indian pastors talked to
them in a pleasant manner, and
Nancy was very pleased to talk with
them. The Indian women were wearing
nice saris and some of them could
speak English.
When Nancy told her husband
about this incident, he explained to
her that the Bangalore British Cantonment
was only a part of the bigger
Bangalore City which belonged to the
native State of Mysore whose people
spoke Kannada which was also an
important South Indian language,
and Hudson Memorial Church took
care of the needs of the Kannada
speaking Christians. The Cantonment
area of Bangalore had mostly
Tamil speaking people, because the
Kannada speaking people did not
wish to do the menial jobs for the
British. The Kannada speaking people
had their loyalty to their Maharaja
who lived in Mysore City 80
miles away.
In October of that year, Henry
and Nancy Elmwood received an invitation
from the Maharaja of Mysore
for the Dasara festivities in Mysore,
Nancy was thrilled, and started
packing up her best clothes and the
clothes for the baby. Susie also had
to travel, because she had to take
care of baby Edward. Nancy gave
Susie an old but still good suitcase of
hers to pack her saris, blouses and
petticoats. The day arrived for them
to leave for Mysore. The whole family.,
that is Henry, Nancy, Edward
and Susie got into a horse drawn Victoria
carriage and arrived at the
Bangalore City railway station,
which was bigger than the Bangalore
Cantonment station. Two coolies

(porters) carried their luggage and
they made themselves comfortable in
their reserved first class compartment.
Since the journey took only
about four hours, they did not take
any food for the journey, except some
biscuits and milk for the baby. This
train was a metre guage railway
train, and slightly smaller than the
broad guage trains in which Nancy
had travelled earlier. In Mysore, they
stayed in Hotel Metropole, which was
very near the Railay station, which
was filed up with many other British
families who were invitees of the
After taking a day’s rest, the next
day, they visited the beautiful garden
called Nishat Bagh, and little Edward
was happy to play on the beautiful
lawns with a rubber ball. He
also tried to make friends with Indian
boys of his age who were also
playing barefeet. He tried to remove
his baby shoes, and be like the other
boys. Susie did not allow him to remove
his shoes, because English
children always wore shoes when
they went out, unlike Indian children
who always ran around in bare feet.
The next day, they visited the zoo
which was situated in another beautiful
park, and little Edward loved to
watch the monkeys and beautiful
birds, but was a little afraid to see
the roaring lions and tigers and cheetas.
He was thrilled to see the tall giraffe.
Then all of them had a ride
around the park on a big elephant
which Edward liked very much. This
was the first time his parents Nancy
and Henry had an elephant ride.
The third day was the Maharaja’s
durbar for British invitees, and
Henry and Nancy went to the Maharaja’s
palace to be presented to His
Highness the Maharaja of Mysore.
The Maharaja was one of the very
important native princes of India. He
had a very able Dewan, and he himself
had been trained by very well
qualified English tutors in addition
to training in the old Indian classics
and religious books like the Vedas,
the Upanishads, the Ramayana and
the Mahabharata, in addition to a
good knowledge of the very old and
modern Kannada literature, Kannada
being his mother tongue. He
was probably one of the most learned
and accomplished of the Indian native
princes those days. Of course,
the durbar was a very formal affair,
where each invitee was introduced to
the Maharaja, and after bowing to
him, the person who was introduced
gave a siver rupee (the Indian coin of
the highest denomination) to the
Maharaja. The British resident in
Mysore under whom Henry worked
had to meet the Maharaja and his
Dewan very often to discuss many
matters about the state.
During this time, little Edward
stayed with his Ayah Susie outside in
the big open area in front of the big
balcony of the palace, and could sit
on a chair in an an area specially
meant for the British, and could
watch wrestlers, jugglers and all
sorts of other Indian entertainment.
Edward was thrilled to watch this.
There were thousands of other Indian
people who could watch this entertainment,
and many of them had
come from other parts of the state,
and also from other parts of India.
The last day called Vijadashami

(meaning Tenth day of Victory) was
really very grand. The Maharaja was
seated on a beautifully decorated
elephant and went in a procession
through the main streets and finally
reached a place called Banni Mantap
outside Mysore City, where he cut
with his sword a tree called the
Banni tree which was symbolic of his
conquering his enemy. After this,
there was a torch light parade in an
open ground, where the Maharaja’s
cavalry on their horses had a parade
and finally saluted the Maharaja.
Nancy, Henry and Edward had reserved
seats to watch all this grand
revelry. This was a festival which
had been celebrated for more than a
thousand years from the time of the
great Vijayanagar empire.
After the durbar, Nancy and the
other British women invitees were
taken inside the palace to a hall
where the Maharani (wife of the Maharaja)
was seated with her daughters
and women attendents, and the
British women curtsied to the Maharani,
one by one. The women wore
georgeous silk saris with gold and
siver woven into them, and a large
number of gold, diamond and other
So the life of Nancy went on like
this for many more years till the first
World War lasted from 1914 –1918.
During that time the Indian NationalMovement
gained momentum under
the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi
and other dynamic Indian leaders.
If some Englishman called Mahatma
Gandhi the “Half-naked Fakir”,
the Indians called him “Mahatma”(
meaning “Great”). It became
more fashionable for Indians to wear
the Handspun Khadi Indian clothes
(loose white Khadi Pyjamas and
Kurta and a white Khadi Gandhi cap
for men, and Khadi sari and blouse
for women). Every where Indians
burnt piles of Lancashire cotton
clothes, and shouted “Mahatma
Gandhi ki Jai.” Nancy read about all
this in the newspapers, and the British
rulers became more afraid and
told their people to keep themselves
more and more aloof from the Indians.
This made a few English people
like Nancy sad.
By the time the second World
War started in 1939, Henry had to
retire from the Indian Civil Service,
and he decided that he and Nancy
should go back to England, while
their sons Edward and George who
had joined the British Indian Army
had to stay in India till the time they
could leave the army honourably.
Nancy was really very unhappy,
because she hardly knew England,
but she had to face the future
bravely. They went back to England
which was geared to tremendous war
effort under the Prime Minister
Winston Churchill. Both of them volunteered
for war work, and were so
busy that they had no time to think
of anything. After their experience of
huge Indian bungalows with so many
Indian servants, they had to be satisfied
with a small apartment in London,
and with one part-time maid.
Their two sons were sent to the Middle
East where war was going on, and
then to the Far East to face the Japanese.
One of them was killed in Burma,
and that added to their sorrow, but
they had to face all these sorrows like
anybody else in England.

In 1947, when India became independent
and was broken into two
countries India and Pakistan, Nancy
and Henry became very sad, and had
a dream of visiting Bangalore after a
few years when things settled down,
and if possible meet all their old servants
to relive their Bangalore experience.
The above story is fictional, and
depicts the lives of the British rulers
in India who lived their own British
lives without knowing much about
the people of India, and even their
servants whom they knew were
known to them in their own British
homes, and they had no opportunity
to know how their families lived and
what their culture was.
On the other hand, the English
and other European missionaries
who went to India and who were not
very much supported by the British
rulers, came to know the Indians
with whom they came into contact
very well, and some of them appreciated
the Indian culture, and were
cultural ambassadors between England
and India, like C.F. Andrews
and Marjorie Sykes, and many others
like Miss Slade who became who became
a disciple of the famous Hindu
religious leader Swami Vivekananda,
and took the name Sister Nivedita.
14.6 A Real Story of Margaret Murray, famous British
Archeologist and her Mother in Calcutta
Margaret Murray was born on
July 13th, 1863 in Calcutta in India,
five years after the great Indian Mutiny.
Her great-great-great grandfather
was David Philips who was employed
by the East India Company,
lived in Calcutta, and his wife’s name
was Sarah. When he visited his first
great-grandchild, he put into the
baby’s hands four silver four anna
pieces (an Indian custom, an Indian
rupee (coin) consisting of twelve annas
those days). The Indian belief
those days, was that if the baby
clutches the coins firmly and holds
them tightly he will be very thrifty,
even miserly, if he lets the coins fall
at once he will be generous and openhanded.
Beebee Philips, as his wife
Sarah was called (the word “Beebee”
meaning wife) lived till 1850, when
she was over eighty and she thought
that “Death had forgotten her.”
David and Sarah had two daughters
named Elinor and Elizabeth. Elinor
married at the age of seventeen William
Clark, and Elizabeth married at
the age of twelve William Thompson,
who was a Hooghly pilot. These
Hooghly pilots were very brave and
famous, and Rudyard Kipling spoke
of them as a masterful breed. Calcutta
was the chief port and commercial
centre for the eastern part of India
and for the trade with East Indies
and China. The only access to
Calcutta was the ninety miles from
the Bay of Bengal, along one of the
most treacherous rivers in the world,
the river Hooghly, the main branch

of the great river Ganges (Ganga) in
its huge delta. The safe transport of
the trade depended on the knowledge
and skill of the pilots of the river
Hooghly. The danger of the river lies
in the sudden and yet continual
change in the sandbanks, the shores,
and the landmarks. It was a strict
rule among the Hooghly pilots that if
a pilot had for any reason been offduty
for three weeks, he was not allowed
to take charge of a ship until
he had made the double trip, once up
and once down, under the command
of a pilot who had the most recent
William and Elizabeth Tompson
had two children, Phoebe (Margaret’s
grandmother) and James. James
went to college in England, when he
was old enough. The voyage was
around the Cape of Good Hope, and
the first letter he sent was from the
Cape and it reached his family six
months after he sailed from Calcutta.
It would be a year before they could
hear of his arrival in England. James
did not return to India till he took his
Holy orders after he finished his college
Phobe was brought up entirely in
India, and grew up to be a small
sized beauty and was called a pocket
Venus, because of her small size. At
the age of sixteen, she married John
Murray, who was ten years older
than her. He died at the age of
thirty-one, leaving her with three
small children and a fourth coming.
He had no savings, and so Phoebe
went back to live with her parents.
Within another six months, her father
William Thompson died suddenly.
The family then consisted of
Beebee Sara Philips, her daughter
Elizabeth Thompson, Elizabeth’s
daughter Phoebe, and Phoebe’s four
little children, and Phoebe’s brotherin-
law, Charles Murray.
Phoebe taught the children of her
friends together with her own children,
and she had quite a flourishing
nursery school. This added to the
family finances, and it really helped.
When the eldest boy James left
school and and began to earn a good
salary, he brought his mother and
his grandmother into his own home.
By that time his great grand mother
Beebee Philips had died.
On her father’s side, Margaret
Murray had heard of her ancestor
Murray who was a “conductor” in the
East India Company’s army, and his
battery was quartered in Calcutta in
the late Eighteenth Century., His
wife was Mary May, daughter of
Charles May who was the principal
English tailor in Calcutta. May was a
great man of character, and he hated
all missionaries whole-heartedly, especially
Cary, Ward and Marshman
of Serampore, and he had said that
he would go anywhere any time to
see the whole lot of them hanged.
Fortunately, he was not alive when
his only daughter married the son of
missionary Marshman, and what
would he have said if he were alive at
that time!
John Murray and Mary Murray
had three children, Margaret and
John (Margaret’ grandfather) and
Charles. The Murray and Marshman
families were on very affectionate
terms, even after Margaret’s death
and John Marshman’s second marriage.
The two Marshman’s sisters

Rachel and Hannah, were lifelong
friends of Phoebe Murray. Rachel
married the great botanist
Dr.(afterwards Sir) Dietrich Brandis,
the founder of the Indian and Forests
Department. Hannah married a
young army captain named Henry
Havelock, who became famous in the
Great Indian Mutiny. Margaret’s
grandmamma and Lady Havelock
remained close friends until death
separated them.
The archeologist Margaret
Murray’s mother’s family was from
the English Scottish border. The
name of the family was Carr. Her
grandmother Carr never went
abroad, and was brought up during
the Napoleonic wars. Her family believed
about all the wickedness of the
French nation. They later on moved
to Newcastle –upon-Tyne, where
grandmother Carr grew up. Grandpapa
Carr went to Canada for emigrating,
but he died there before he
could send for his wife and children.
Margaret’s mother was the second
child, and her younger sister Alice
married George Easton, a master in
the Martiniere School for boys in
Calcutta. George Easton later on
joined the Bengal Secretariat, and
when he retired he and hs wife went
to Tasmania to settle there.
Margaret’s mother grew up in
England in the early part of the nineteenth
century, when the great philanthropists
were rousing the nation
to a realization of the misery and
poverty in the whole country, a condition
which was probably caused in
great measure as the result of the
Napoleonic wars. She worked in
many of the organizations which
were being started for the relief of
the grinding poverty, especially in
the education of boys and girls, so
that they could have better means of
subsistence. She worked for some
time with Mary Carpenter of Bristol.
Here, her mother realized the importance
of raising the moral standard
of the women, and that reforming the
women was more important than
that of men.
After working both in Bristol and
in London, her mother decided to go
to India as a missionary, and so in
1857 she left England by ship for
Madras, where she arrived after
fourteen weeks. The first news she
got as soon as she arrived in Madras
was of the massacre at Caunpore
(Kanpur in the present state of Uttar
Pradesh). After four weeks, they
reached the mouth of the river
Hooghly, where the pilot who came
abroad told them that Havelock and
Outram were quelling the Mutiny
Margaret’s mother started her
missionary work with an unorthodox
approach, because she did not talk of
religion at all till friendly relations
were established with the poor ignorant
women. The Zenana system
(keeping women inside the house and
not allowing them to go out anywhere
without being covered from
head to foot and accompanied by a
close male relative) was very strict
those days that it was impossible for
an English woman to obtain entrance
inside the Zenana.
It took a long time for Margaret’s
mother to be able to visit a zenana.
The first time she could visit a
zenana was after she got married.

She soon collected a few zenanas she
could visit. She was surprised that
the women of these zenanas had very
empty lives, and she began by teaching
them to do woolwork on canvas
and to knit with brilliantly coloured
wools. The husbands insisted that
no book on Christianity should be
taken into the house. They hired a
Bengali teacher to teach the women
how to read and write. There were
even some letters and articles written
to an English newspaper in Calcutta,
that an English lady was in
the habit of visiting zenanas, those
sinks of iniquity into which no decent
woman should set foot. It was
probably written by Englishmen in
Calcutta who were highly prejudiced
against the Indians and their culture.
They only wanted to be in India
generation after generation only to
trade and make money from the Indians,
and certainly did not wish to
learn anything about their culture.
They only thought that Christianity
was the only proper religion, and
other Indian religions like Hinduism
and Islam were abhorable. It was
this attitude of the English that
made Indians suspect them and they
did not wish to socialize with them.
The English were living happily,
and at the same time probably suspiciously,
in a country inhabited by
people with a different religious and
cultural background, and they were
in a miniscule minority and they
were the rulers. Before the Mutiny,
they did not suspect the Indians and
were not afraid of them. But the Mutiny
opened their minds to suspect
them, and their only consolation was
their belief that they belonged to a
superior nation with a superior culture
and a superior religion. Very few
of them cared to learn the old history
of India, its religions and cultures, so
that they could understand why the
Indians of the eighteenth or nineteenth
century were living the way
they were living. Those visits to the
zenanas were the first lifting of the
Margaret’s mother’s attention
was drawn to one neglected part of
the population, that is, the poor
Eurasians, who were the most difficult
to help. Their pride in their
European ancestry prevented them
from taking any work considered as
menial. There were, of course, many
educated Eurasians who had been to
school and held good posts. Below
them, there was a stratum of the
desperately poor. They were Christians,
and as the main aim of the
missionaries was to convert the Hindus
and the Muslims, the missionaries
neglected them. These people
were despised by both the Europeans
and the Indians. They had no education
of any sort, and they were not
trained in any type of work, and so
they were unemployable. The Hindu
caste system had for hundreds of
years specified the type of work that
each caste or subcaste could do, and
so there was a strict training in each
household of the work that the sons
learnt from the father, and of the
work learnt by a daughter from her
mother in addition to household duties.
This helped the Hindus to follow
their own professions generation after
generation without much help
from any body else. This was later on
disturbed by the British increasing

their imports from England, so that
the local trades which had existed for
hundreds of years could not survive
due to decrease of demand of the local
products like cloth and many
other items some of the Indian subcastes
were producing for the consumption
of the Indian people. The
British Government did not wish to
give any attention to this aspect of
the Indian economy, because they
were only interested in allowing their
British business to flourish. The
Muslim tradesmen also suffered, because
they were experts in manufacturing
beautiful cotton fabrics like
the Dacca muslims, and they also
were experts in other trades which
the Hindu subcastes were not involved
Since neither the Hindus nor the
Muslims considered the Eurasians as
one of the other groups acceptable by
their society, and since the Eurasians
had developed a false superiority
complex for themselves because of
their European descent, naturally,
the poor Eurasians suffered quite a
lot. To a certain extent, this is true
even today after India’s independence,
due to some false snobbishness
of these people.
Margaret’s mother Mrs Murray
and her friend Mrs. Lindstedt who
was married to a Swedish businessman
of Calcutta of those days in the
latter half of the nnineteenth century,
started a small society called
the Friend in Need, and opened two
little workrooms in a house in the
poor part of Calcutta. At first only a
few Eurasian women came and they
were taught sewing by a sewing
teacher. When they were trained,
kitchen cloths and household linen
were hemmed by them which were
sold, and they were paid their wages,
which could be only a few pice (One
rupee being equivalent to twelve annas
and one anna being equivalent to
twelve pice). Even this small wages
made a difference in their lives, because
of the large number of children
(no family planning those days, and
most of them were Roman Catholics).
Their husband’s’s had only probably
low paid manual jobs in the railways.
They brought their lunch from home,
and Mrs Murray usually added a
large biscuit and a cup of hot tea.
After many years, when Margaret
was working in a Calcutta Hospital
as a nurse, she was talking to a
woman patient who was just leaving
and who told her that she could now
go back to Friend in Need. Margaret
then told her that her mother was
one of the ladies who started Friend
in Need. The woman cried with tears
in her eyes and said, ” Oh, Mrs
Murray, she good lady. We all loving
Mrs Murray, and Mrs Murray she
giving us one-one-cup of tea. ”
Though Friend in Need Socity
was first run by private funds, Mrs
Lindstedt who was Mrs Murray’s
partner secured the contracts of making
the white uniforms of the Calcutta
police, the Society was put
firmly on its feet. For a long time in
British India, the Friend in Need Society
was one of the best known and
one of the most important charities
in Calcutta.
Mrs Murray’s next venture was
started in 1875 when the whole family
went back to Calcutta after a
holiday in England. The church had

at last realized that the large and
poor Christian population in Scott’s
Lane needed help. There was a small
church with a harmonium, and an
attached orphanage for poor girls,
which was taken care of by a matron,
but there were no voluntary helpers.
Mrs Murray became the voluntary
inspector of the orphanage. She took
her two daughters Mary and Margaret
with her wnen she visited this orphanage,
and Mary who was a good
musician trained the girls to form a
choir accompanied by the harmonium.
The church attracted more
people, and later on became an important
In 1880, Mrs Murray found that
most of the activities for the poor
Christians including the poor Eurasians
were well organized and did
not need any more help from her. So,
now she decided that she should return
to her first love, that is, social
intercourse on an equality between
the two races, that is between the
British and the Indian. Since Mrs
Murray belonged to the upper crust
of British society in India, because
her husband was a big business man
of Calcutta, she only thought of contacts
with an equivalent strata of Indian
society in Calcutta. So her attempts
were made with highly educated
Indian Families (mostly Bengali)
and of rich Indian businessmen.
This was the time, especially in
Bengal, when the educated Indians
were being roused to the realization
of their own backward state compared
to the British. India was
asleep for a few hundred years, and
the knowledge of the English language
and contact with the English
speaking people made her understand
and study her own great heritage.
Margaret and her mother were
witnessing the awakening of India,
and all classes were becoming aware
of their right to freedom, including
the Indian women. They also noticed
that these people wished to understand
and study their own heritage.
In fact this period may be called the
Indian Renaissance perid, and it had
its beginning in Bengal and quickly
spread to other parts of India. The
Brahmo Samaj was founded in Bengal
and it was a very radical religious
and social movement. Its leaders
were Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Debendranath
Tagore and others. At
the same time, a Widow Remarriage
Society was started. Similar awakening
started almost at the same time
in Bombay Presidency, and its leaders
were Gopal krishna Gokhale,
Bala Gangadhar Tilak and
Mrs Murray started giving parties
to ladies from the English educated
families, but there were difficulties.
The Hindus, especially of the
higher castes would not accept any
food from a beef eating family. Also
the Indian ladies were not used to
sitting on chairs, and the English
and European women were not used
to sitting on the floor. All male servants
had to be ordered not to enter
the house when a ladies party took
place. The low class woman Ayah
could not serve the food. The Indian
ladies were allowed to bring their
own women servants, Also the
knowledge of English of many of the
Indian women was very inadequate,

Till that time, Mary and Margaret
were tutored at home by English
tutors in Calcutta in different subjects.
When they went to England
with their parents on a long holiday,
they had other tutors. So, both of
them had a haphazard type of education,
but had learnt well whatever
they were taught.
so that useful conversation could not
be carried on. The English and European
women did not know enough
Bengali. So, you can imagine how the
party went on !
There were also mixed parties
that Mr and Mrs Murray gave to
which both Indian professional men
and their wives as well as British
professional men and their wives
came. The Indian women who knew
English fairly well could talk to British
men more easily than to Indian
men who were not their close relatives.
Indian men those days were
not used to talking to Indian women
who were not their close relatives.
For holidays in India, their parents
took them to the hillstations of
Mussorie andDarjeeling in the Himalayas
and to the Nilgiri mountains
in the Madras Presidency. These
trips were very enjoyable.
In between, they went to England
a few times, when Mary and Margaret
attended lectures given at the
Crystal Palace in 1977 on all sorts of
subjects. Though Mary passed all the
examinations, Margaret did not pass
any of them.
This kind of situation has
changed quite a lot in modern India,
where Indian women are as well
educated as the men, though may be
in smaller numbers. But in modern
India, even the less educated women
in the rural areas are taking the lead
in social reform, in spite of opposition
from the men,. though it is still a
mainly male oriented society.
When Margaret was twenty years
old, she wanted to have a career.
Those days there were no careers for
women, whether they were English
or Indian. But, slowly hospital nursing
was coming into favour in England.
Margaret wished very much to
go into the Calcutta General Hospital
and be trained as a nurse. Her
mother supported her, but her father
was all against it. He was a true Victorian
gentleman, and felt it was
rather a slur on him that a lady of
the family should go out to work, and
that ladies should live on an adequate
income supplied by father,
husband or son. A lady might increase
her income by work done at
home but not by going out into the
world to do it. Her mother pointed
out that she should go out as a volunteer
and not be paid, but finally the
Margaret stayed in India till
1893, when she was thirty years old.
Her father died in 1891, and when
her sister Mary married cousin
Charles Slater and went to live in
Madras, Mary went and stayed with
her when Mary had her first baby. At
that time, Mary read out from the
newspaper “The Times” from England
that Flinders Petrie, the famous
Egyptylogist was going to hold
classes for Egyptian hieroglyphs in
London at University College, and
told her younger sister that she
should attend the classes. Mary
would have liked to go herself, but
she had to take care of her baby.

convincing argument was her own
strong conviction that Margaret had
received a call for work. Finally, her
father gave a grudging consent, “
You may go there for three months,
but not a day more.” Her sister
Mary’s objections were that hospital
nursing was done by servants, the
patients were always the scum of the
earth, and you are always exposed to
every kind of horrible contagious diseases.
On looking back, Margaret felt
that she was actuated by the sheer
boredom at home and anoverwhelming
desire for some active occupation.
Margaret finally entered the Calcutta
General Hospital as a lady
probationer. She paid thirty English
pounds and the training lasted for
one year. Her hours were from 8a.m.
to 8 p.m.. She slept at home, had
breakfast, and reported at the hospital
ward at 8 a.m. sharp and worked
there till 12noon. Then she walked a
considerable distance to the Sister’s
quarters, where she was served
lunch in a room set apart for her. she
had to report at 2p.m. at the ward
again, and she had to work till 8 p.m.
Then she went home, had a bath and
had dinner.
As afternoon tea had not been invented
those days, the long and hot
afternoons were very trying for Margaret
in the hospital. The Indian
milkman used to come into the ward
at seven P.M. to pour the boiled milk
into the cup which stood on the bedside
table of every patient, and he
was kind enough to save one cup for
her also. Margaret admired the service
given by the hospital sisters of
the Anglican sisterhood of Clewer
and the way that those sisters coped
with the conditions in the hospital.
Small operations were done in the
open ward with or without screens.
Operating rooms were the best that
could be devised in the circumstances.
There was no airconditioning
and even the lighting
was not adequate. The rooms were
carefully disinfected according to the
knowledge that existed at that time.
The buildng was hot, and flies and
mosquitoes could be kept out if the
windows were shut.
The germ theory of disease was
not known, and most diseases were
attributed to bad air, smells and so
One evening, a disreputable looking
Englishman walked into the hospital
with an English woman about
the same age as himself. She was
wearing oversized clothes and big
men’s shoes. When she was put on a
bed, and Margaret saw that she was
brutally beaten up, and that she was
only a sixteen year old girl. Her
mother had died about two years ago,
and it was her father who had
brought her to the hospital. The girl
was in a very serious condition, and
the following morning the police
came. Those days, the police officers
were mostly Britisah and at the
lower ranks Eurasians. They found
out that the father was a drunkard,
and in order to get money for his
drinks, he had sold his daughter to
an equally disreputable Indian man.
The girl was a subnormally developed
girl, because of undernourishment,
and she refused to go to the
Indian man who had bought her. The
father beat her up, and next when he
realized what he had done, he

brought her to the hospital. Margaret
took good care of this girl, but after a
few days, the girl died. The father
was then arrested, and stood his
trial. He was put in jail for two years,
because he pleaded that he was too
drunk to know what he was doing.
The great number of patients in
this hospital were sailors who had
accidents and malaria, and sunstroke
after walking in the hot sun after
heavy drinking. In fact, one of the
evils that existed in the lower strata
of British people in India of those
days was over drinking. The Muslims
of India were prohibited from drinking,
and also the upper castes among
the Hindus. Some of the Mughal emperors
like Shah Jehan drank, but
they were emperors. It is unfortunate
that the poor Eurasians (called Anglo
Indians in present day India) who
were descended from the British and
other Europeans from the male side,
are suffering educationally and economically
due to this over drinking
In the spring of 1886, Margaret
and her mother came back to England,
and in 1887, her father retired
from his business in India, and the
whole family lived in a eighteenth
century house at Bushey Heath. Both
Mary and Margaret taught in Sunday
school in a church nearby.
It was in January 1894, that
Margaret became a student of Egyptology,
when she was more than
thirty years old. At that time, there
was no training for the students of
this subject except at Oxford University,
where there was only a
course in the the language as a group
of three Oriental languages, the othe
two being Arabic and Hebrew.
At University College in London,
where Margaret started taking her
course of Egyptian Hiero glyphs
given by Dr Flinders Petrie, Petrie
was away for half the academic year.
In the autumn, he gave lectures once
a week on archeological subjects in
the autumn session, and in spring he
gave six lectures on his winter’s excavations.
Petrie was inspiring if one were
working by oneself and required
help, as he would take endless pains,
and his clear mind and rapid grasp of
a subject would make the difficulties
disappear. Margaret was brave
enough to ask him if she could help
him in his work. She was asked to
ink in some pencil fascimiles of inscriptions
and some drawings for the
Koptos volume. When that was finished,
he asked her to trace the descent
of property in the Old Kingdom.
At the end of this work, she
wrote an article which he got published
in the Proceedings of the Society
for Biblical Archeology. Thus
Margaret’s career as an Archeologist
She continued working with Mr
Griffith and Dr. Walker on hieroglyphs,
and slowly started teaching
the classes.
Archeology can be described as
anthropology in the past. Some of
Margaret’s papers in the Proceedings
of the Society for Biblical Archeology
and her first book s“The Osireion of
Abydos” and “Saqqara Mastabas” attracted
the attention of the Anthropologists
like Seligman and Haddon
who asked her to attend the meetings
of Section H of the British Asso-

ciation. The main business of Section
H was to draw up a memorial to the
Government, pointing the immense
importance of giving some training in
anthropology to all Government servants
who were to go out to the British
posessions overseas. This was to
help the adminstrators in these
posessions to have a knowledge of
the religions and the social conditions
of the inhabitants of the region,
and to avoid the offence and antagonization
these officers could create
among the natives. Margaret tried to
impress on this group the importance
of the training of the women also in
addition to the men who went to the
British posessions. But some of them
had very old fashioned ideas about
women, and did not want the women
to study archeology or anthropology.
However, Margaret continued her
work in Egyptology and was also engaged
in the training of students. After
Dr. Walker died in 1914, Margaret
worked with Dr. Petrie. She was
able to run the department during
the absence of Dr.Petrie on his field
trips to Egypt. The 1914-1918 war
stopped almost all academic work,
because everyone was desirous of doing
some kind of war work. But Margaret
was over forty years old, and
the authorities thought she was too
old to do war work. So she concentrated
on work on the Witch Cult in
Western Europe which resulted in
the published book on the subject.
This book received a hostile reception
from many strictly Christian sects.
Her second book on the same subject,
which is really the survival of pagan
beliefs and rites under a veneer of
Christianity was the “God of the
Witches.” At that time, this book was
a flop, but it was during the 1939-
1945 war that interest was again revived
in the book.
When she retired from the University
College, she went out to
Petrie’s dig in Palestine, and managed
to conduct a short dig for him at
Petra. The result was two books,
“Petra, the Rock City of Edom” published
in 1939, and “A street in
Petra”, published in 1940. To Petrie’s
description of his last dig at Tell
Ajjul, Ancient Gaza, Vol.V, she contributed
one chapter on certain
pierced stones which had been
clearly preserved on account of their
magical content.
When World War II started, Margaret
could not go to Palestine, and
she vecame a lecturer in the organization
which sent lecturers to isolated
camps of anti-aircraft guns and
of search lights, whose local
headquarters was at Cambridge. At
this time, she also made a careful research
into the history of Cambridge
Town under the Tudors and Stuarts,
using the town records preserved in
the Guildhall and Downing College
and other records availabe in the
town. This study was not published.
Since the end of World War II,
her publications have included two
best sellers, “The Splendour that was
Egypt” which was published on her
eighty-sixth birthday, and the second
edition of “the God of the Witches.”
In 1954, “The Divine King of England’
came out. In her centenary year
of 1964, came out "“he Genesis of Religion.”
In 1963, her book “My First
Hundred Years” came out.
I have given a brief story of Dr.

Margaret Murray who spent her first
more than twenty-five years of her
life in Calcutta in India, and started
her academic life at the age of thirty
years old in the very important field
of Egyptology, and could work with
the famous archeologist Dr Flinders
Petrie in his original work in Egypt
and Palestine. She had accompanied
him many times to Egypt, and other
places in that part of the world, and
helped him in his diggings, the first
time being in 1902 and 1903, and
later on in 1920 and in 1931. She was
an unusual woman of her times,
spending her early life in India and
trying to understand the Indians and
Indian women in particular with the
help and understanding of her
mother Mrs Murray. Did her understanding
of India and of Indian
women help her do her very important
work on the understanding of
ancient Egypt ?
As compared to the British
Memsaheb of India of those days, she
did not develop any predujices about
India and of Indians.
After Margaret Murray, came
English people like C, F, Andrews,
Mr and Mrs Cousins, Dr. Annie Besant,
Miss Marjorie Sykes and others
who lived with the Indian peiople
and gave them encouragement in
their struggle for not only independence
of India, but also for independence
of thinking on all aspects of life.

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