James Douglas.

Glimpses of old Bombay and western India, with other papers online

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By the kindness of the proprietors of the Calcutta Review,
Pioneer, Times of India, and the Bombay Gazette, tlie papers
of which this volume consists are now published, after revision,
in a collected form. They are mostly on Bombay and Western
•India, as were the two volumes under that title published in
] 893. Humanly speaking, this is the last stone I shall heave
on to the cairn of Old Bombay, Now that all the parts of the
contribution are brought together, they appear to me to form
a crude and heterogeneous mass, whilst their defects are
•accentuated. But the labour of research and preparation has
been one of love, a delightful pastime for many years in the
intervals of a busy life ; and my hope is that the investiga-
tions I have made will encourage a young and rising generation
to follow up this attractive study, while the minds of others
may be refreshed by stories of the olden time.

To the many friends (and their name is legion) who have
assisted me in various ways I tender my wannest thanks.

To the native and the European, but chiefly to the latter,
Bombay is a city of temporary habitation. Men and women
come here and go away, and the place that knew them knows
them no more. There is little of the continuity of tradition
from father to son. Take the plague, for example. No one
by tradition knows anything about it — contrasting with the
knowledge upon the subject in Venice, or Genoa, or in

With such a fluctuating population, here to-day, there
to-morrow, there is little pride of place. The removal of
ancient landmarks and monuments cannot always be avoided ;
yet there are doubtless many things that we inherit from
past ages which ought to be sacredly guarded, but are often


thoughtlessly destroyed. It is not the plague only which
drives the ,tourist away from Bombay — it is also the want of
objects of interest, and the difficulty of seeing such as exist.
You will now seek in vain, for example, for the bungalow,
" Surrey Cottage," which was the home of Arthur Wellesley
when he resided in Bombay. Where is the room (and it
probably exists) in which Jonathan Duncan died ? Child's
grave was here, but it is as unknown as is General Aungier's
at Surat. Jacquemoiit's tomb is now a cenotaph, for his
bones were given many years ago to the French nation.
The Yoni, or Stone of Eegeneration, through which Sivaji
wormed himself, has disappeared. He will be very clever
who could make out the site of "Belvedere," Eliza Draper's
abode at Mazagon. For the disappearance or demolition of
every one of these objects of interest there are, no doubt,
most just and sufficient reasons.

Everybody knows that Government House at Parell is now
a plague hospital. The Cooperage is doomed, and it seems
but yesterday that the children of the Duke and Duchess of
Connaught were gambolling on its greensward. The birth-place
of Kipling, and that of Farrar, Dean of Canterbury, are levelled
with the earth. The old Court House, which resounded with
the eloquence of Mackintosh, is the dining-room of a hotel.
The Oriental Bank, whose financial voice was once as lusty
as that of the East India Company, is now a boot and shoe shop.
I am sure if Dr. Wilson were to revisit us he would have
great difficulty in recognising his old bungalow, " The Cliff."
Parell has one memorable room, that in which the Prince of
Wales slept, on the wall of which, by loving command of
the Queen, was hung, during his sojourn here, a portrait of the
Princess of Wales. There need be no difficulty in identify-
ing it. These instances are illustrations of the changes going
on in Bombay, and show how much need we have of the
written record, and the necessity also of keeping a sharp
outlook upon such relics as we possess.

To add to our objects of interest has been my aim, and I
have repeatedly called the attention of the powers that be to
the duty of their preservation, and a movement in that
direction was never more needed than at present. Already


the ploughshare of the Improvement Trust is driving deeply
through the material framework of Bombay, and the men
who have put their hand to the plough will not look back, for
the genius of Sanitary Eeform is inexorable, and brooks neither
delay nor obstruction. A Burns' Cottage at AUoway Kirk, or
even a Holy House of Loretto, is not of much consequence
when men are dying by thousands. You must clear the ground
for the living, and let the dead look after themselves.

I suppose Elephanta and Kanheri are Bombay acquisi-
tions. They are first-class antiquities, for they were constructed
before Columbus discovered America. They are not now in
danger, and may safely be left to the caretaker, though it was
once proposed that the former should be converted into a ball-
room and drinking-shop.

We have still the Cathedral. Its preservation to our
time is merely the result of an accident ; for, had it not been
built within the walls, it would inevitably have gone by the
board, like the first Eoman Catholic Cathedral and the first
Temple of Mombadevi. Let no new edifice ever supplant the
venerable building, which is hallowed by time and sacred

Bombay Castle requires to be popularised ; but you need
not give up its secrets to the Eussians. To the public purview
it maintains a feeble existence. Ask a European or native
resident. He knows it not — has never seen it ; and probably
not one in a thousand who passes through the city has even
heard of it, or knows of its existence, except that the name
appears in the heading of the Government Gazette. Something
ought to be done to make the Hall of Audience (where so
many early Governors were conspicuous) an object of attraction
to the passing traveller, as well as to our citizens, native
and European.

Stone and lime, however, are not everything. There are
some men whose reputations are impervious to the touch of
time, and do not need monuments to commemorate the deeds
that have made them worthy of the memory of mankind.
They rest on an imperishable basis. The " three mighty
men," for example, who made Western India a kind of soldiers'
playground in their youth, until Divine Providence transferred


them to a more exalted arena, in which they changed the
destinies o4 the world, need neither brick nor mortar to keep
their memory green —

"No sculptur'd marble here, rior pompous lay."

We need scarcely say that Bombay holds the record of their
earliest years as one of her most cherished possessions. That
record is engraven with a pen of iron in the Book of History,
and can never be disturbed. The names of Clive and Nelson
and Wellington are emblazoned on Bombay's shield of arms
for evermore.

Equally imperishable are the beauties with which Nature
herself has bestowed upon the place of our habitation. The
cincture of her embattled walls is gone ; but a new City of
Palaces has taken its place, and the sea, the sky, and the
everlasting hills will be a joy and a rejoicing to many genera-
tions yet unborn.

J. D.

lioMBAY, September 28t}i, 1899.



ruKFACE vii



(1) Domestic Ann'ai.s, 1800-1810 1

(2) Domestic Aknals, 1810-1893 13

(3) Bombay, Social and Convivial, duriso the Past Hundred

Years 44

(4) Some St. Andrew's Dinners 62

(5) A Bombay Hotel Fifty Years Auo 68

(6) Bombay Hotel Scraps 70

(7) Some Cathedral Monuments . 72

(8) Some Statues and Portraits 81

(9) Garrison of Bombay, 1845 83

(10) Bombay, 1857. — A Forgotten Chapter 92

(11) Bombay Street Notes, 1810-1860 97

(12) The Black Death . 101

(13) The Wild Beasts of Bombay 107


(1) The Old Bank op B)Mbay 110

(2) Bank of Western India 113

(3) Oriental Bank 117

(4) Bombay before Joint-Stock Banking 119

(5) Some Merchants of 1845, and their Methods op Business. 124

(6) The Good Old Days in Bombay 131





(1) The Makers of the Red Sea Steam Navigation. . . . 134

(2) Waghobn 142

(3) The Fikst P. & O. Through the Canal from Bombay . . 146

(4) Across India in a Palkee 149


(1) A Bombay Golf Club 157

(2) Bombay Yacht Club in 1856 158

(3) Byculla Club, Early Days 159

(4) Byculla Club, 1856 164

(5) A Masonic Legacy 166


(1) Albuquerque 172

(2) Aqua viva 179

(3) Kino, the Pxrati; . 188

(4) Sterne's Eliza 196

(5) Sterne's Eliza's Last Letter to Daniel Draper . . . 200

(6) Private Life of WarbEN Hastings 205

(7) Was Nelson in Bombay? 210

(8) A Forgotten Trial ... 220

(9) Sir Bartle Frere 229

(10) The Men of Bombay in 1837 237

(11) People whom India has Forgotten 249

(12) A Bombay Obituary 261





(1) IlEnoDOTUs IN Mesopotamia 269

(2) The Macedonian Invasion 278

(3) Strabo on Egyft and India 286

(4) OSTIA TO OZEIN, A.D. 68 29 1

(5) Indian Notes on Pliny 305

(6) Indian Notes on the Crusades 313

(7) Mahratta Ballads, and Others 320

(rf) Brocken and other Spectres 327





(1.) BOMBAY DOMESTIC ANNALS, a.d. 1800-1810.

Three important events — Extent of Bombay at the beginning of the century
— Spasmodic charity — Noted friendships formed in Bombay — Public
spirit — The Bombay Fencibles — Merchants — Amusements — Storm of
November, 1799 — Crimes and offences — Mackintosh's address to a
Grand Jury — Obituary.

" I1IOR a century and a half Bombay has been of little
JJ importance to the Company. Till very lately did the
establishment and all its interests appear with those in other
parts of the Company's territories, and a settlement on the
coast of Africa could scarcely have been a subject of less con-

This was written in 1825. In 1780 Sion and Sewree were
our two frontier posts of dominion in Western India. The three
great events which made Bombay what it is, are the Treaty of
Bassein, the Annexation of the Dekhan, and the opening of
the Suez Canal. The first destroyed the Mahratta confederacy,
the second gave us the Bombay Presidency nearly as it exists,
and the third made Bombay the gateway of India. When night
closed in, on December 31st, 1802, on the tents of Sir Barry
Close at Soopara, as the last rays of the setting sun gilded the
pinnacles of the Bassein Cathedral and a cold mist swept up



the Creek, enveloping everything in its ample folds, I dare say
he scarcely realised w^hat he had done on that fatiguing day
of betel-nut, pan-supari and rose-water. The Treaty of Bassein
was the thin end of the wedge, which split asunder an immense
fabric of misgovernment and imposture.

Here is a list of our proud possessions in 1799, taken from
Government notice and emanating from Bombay Castle: —
" L. Cockran to be Judge and Magistrate of the Islands of
Salsette, Caranja, Hog and Elephanta, with revenue jurisdic-
tion over the Island of Bombay and its ancient dependencies
of Colaba, Old Woman's, Cross and Butcher's Island."

To-day this reads like a caricature. Think of Cross Islet
with its gibbet, and Butcher's Island with its Lazaretto,
furnishing a revenue to the Government of Bombay ! Judge
and Magistrate of Elephanta seems strange in these latter days.
However, this notification shows the small kernel out of which
grew the tree which now overshadows the Konkan plain, the
Dekhan plateau, and some of the rich province of Guzerat.

One has only to look at the English journals which devoted
themselves to Asia in the early part of the century to see how
small a space, compared with Bengal, or even with Madras,
Bombay occupied. Take the year 1810 for example ; the pro-
motions in the Civil, Military and Naval Departments for
Bengal and Madras occupy nine and twelve closely-printed
columns respectively of an octavo Beport. Bombay is satisfied
with one! Madras was then urhs prima. The "obscure
corner," so described in IMackintosh's Diary, was no figure of
speech It was an understood thing. A record of 1805 tells
us that Bombay " could muster only three old musty chariots,
Mr. Collet's equipages, and half a dozen Parsee buggies." You
may fancy, then, Bombay, in the first decade, a place of
150,000 inhabitants, with a few English residents, some of whom
Were very rich, ibr Bombay was then strong in the resources
of money. On October 7th, 1810, I find the following : — *' At
-a meeting of the Bobbery Hunt on Sunday last " (you see, the
better the day, the better the deed) " the subscription for the
orphan children of that most respected and lamented officer.
Major Carter, was introduced, when, with a liberality that
reflects the highest honour on the members of that society, and


which is, indeed, above all praise, upwards of Rs. 10,000 were

In 1802, when a sailor-boy had his leg taken off by a shark
in the harbour, £280 was immediately raised for his behoof.
Such things could not happen here in 1892. Spasmodic out-
bursts of charity arrest attention, but it is well to remember,
if we can trust the lists made up in the present year, that not
one of our charitable or philanthropic institutions existed in
those days ; so, when a case of clamant misery came before the
Nabobs, there was more chance of turning on the tap of special
beneficence than in our so-called degenerate days, when the
good deeds of a few individuals have expanded into the benevo-
lence of many. Charity nowadays filters in many unseen
channels, and does not need Bobbery Hunts or the jaws of a
shark to quicken its pulsations. This leads us to speak of
friendship — not the colourless thing we sometimes hear of, but
such fast friendship as stands men in good stead and lasts for
life ; tlie friendship, for example, of Wellington and Malcolm,
made up in India about this time, or of Mountstuart Elphin-
stone and the Stracheys, also of this date ; and of an earlier
period, of John Hunter and James Forbes of the Oriental
Memoirs. I dare say the reader recollects their introduction
(1766), when, on Forbes (cetat. 17) entering the dining-room
in Bombay, Hunter, leaving his midday meal, took the bashful
youth by the hand and (wonderful expression) " did not let it
go for forty years." Forbes is very minute as to the details of
this visit. It made a deep impression on him ; and well it
might, for to Hunter he owed his post at Broach, where he
made most of his money. He tells of his host becoming
Chairman of the East India Company and buying an estate in
Hertfordshire, but gives no other clue to his name. We have
often wondered who he was. The following note, however, for
the modern reader, solves the mystery.

"December 6th, 1802. — Died at Bath, John Hunter. He
made a princely fortune in Bombay. Became Director of
E. I. Co., purchased estate of Gubbins in Hertfordshire, devoted
to agriculture, and received a gold medal from the Horticultural
Society for his plantation of oaks. Age between eighty and

B 2


It is impossible to deny the public spirit of the men of
Bombay at this period. A subscription, for example, was
opened for the Patriotic Fund, which Jonathan Duncan headed
with Rs. 25,000 and General Stewart with Rs. 35,000 ; and
£35,000 sterling was at once sent home to assist in carrying on
the war. As Napoleon was in Egypt, and the fear and dread
of him on all men (Arthur Wellesley excepted), something
here may be set down to the motive of self-preservation. It
was public spirit, all the same. Two of the most costly
monuments in Bombay belong to this period, those of the
Marquis Wellesley and Lord Cornwallis. Neither of these
two men, I suppose, was ever in Bombay. It gave a sub-
stantial contribution to the statue of William Pitt in London ;
and the battered hulk of the St. Florenzo was no sooner
signalled from Malabar Point than a subscription was opened
to commemorate, by a monument in the church, the heroic
death of Hardinge, who fell in the moment of victory.
The subscription amounted to £2,000 to commemorate an
action off Cape Comorin, a thousand miles away. The first
statue ever erected to Robert Burns owes its existence to the
same noble spirit.* The movement for the Pitt and Burns
statues is destitute of every atom of human selfishness or local
pride. But everything at this period, in these parts, was done on
a magnificent scale. The gold vase presented to Arthur Wellesley
by the officers in the army of the Dekhan cost 2,000 guineas.

However, at this critical time men were willing to act as
well as to pay. No laggard or half-hearted feeling animated
the volunteers of these days. The Bombay Fencibles were
commanded by the Governor himself, and in March, 1799, a
vast concourse assembled to see the presentation of colours
and listen to the speech of Mrs. Eivett which accompanied
it — given with all that lady's "accustomed gracefulness and
ease." Mrs. Rivett w^as a lady of great beauty. Including
the Mahim Division of the Portuguese Militia, there must
have been 1,000 volunteers in Bombay.

The Bombay merchants, though few in number — I mean, of
course, the English merchants — were, as I have said before, mostly

• It is in tho Edinburgh National Gallery.


very rich, and no wonder. It was their good fortune to be in
the place before it was exploited. Their trade was not only
large for the time (indeed for any time), but very lucrative. I
call an export ad valorem of ten millions sterling of our money
in two and a half years, from 1806 to 1808, to China alone, a
big trade ; and I say that it was a rich trade when I see that
their merchants admitted to Sir Edward Pellew, in 1806, that
his convoy to China had saved the Bombay underwriters
£316,000! "What a chance for an Income-tax Commissioner!
I say, moreover, that they were an enterprising body of
men, when I see that, in spite of great disasters (ebven of their
ships were lost in eighteen months on its shores), they continued
to prosecute a large trade with the Red Sea. Exchange was
2s. M., or eight rupees to the pound sterling, and that they
were cautious, I gather from Mr. Eemington's expression about
mines. " Mines," he says, " into which gold and silver are
being thrown, instead of being dug out."

And they had their amusements. The Bombay Theatre, on
the margin of the Green (not far from the Times of India
office, 1892), dated from 1770 and was the oldest in India, so
we are told. The players were amateurs, and the purpose was
charity as well as amusement. Gaiety culminated in 1804,
with Arthur Wellesley, after his splendid victories. General
Bellasis gave a dinner to him in the Theatre, and Colonel Lechmere
and the officers of the Fencibles a magnificent fete in the same
place. Dinner at seven. Illuminations all over the Green, far
and wide. The Governor gave a grand ball at Pareil, when
that sheet of water, to which succeeding generations of wearied
dancers have repaired to recruit their exliausted energies,
became a fairy scene of gorgeous fireworks, which blazed away,
far into the night and early morning, over the faces of fair
women and brave men. The Duke, though a man of few
words, was not callous to these ovations. It was the first
blast of that mighty trumpet of praise which, in successive
bursts, was to sound over him for the next fifty years. " The
approbation of this Settlement is a distinction which will afford
a permanent source of gratification to my mind, and I receive
with a high sense of respect the honour conveyed to me by
your address." And much more to the same effect.


Here is an amusement that has not been seen in our day in
Bombay. The date is January, 1800, when a great number of
genttemen and some ladies attended on a Saturday at the
Riding School, to witness the baitjng of a horse, a wild boar, and
some buffaloes by a leopard. The first object of attack was
a dummy man, which leopardus tore to pieces in a twinkling.
He then essayed the wild hog, for which he soon showed a
Muslim aversion, and " backed," with his tail between his legs,
which did not suit the spectators, who goaded him into fury by
squibs and crackers until the brute, becoming exasperated by
its tormentors, suddenly, by one tremendous leap, alighted on
the edge of a high bamboo palisade which divided the spectators
from the arena. You may well believe that, as he hung in
mid-air, there was a great consternation. The account says that
" each waived all ceremony in the order of his going, to establish
his own right of precedence." The riding-master, who happened
to have a loaded pistol in his hand, was equal to the occasion,
and shot the leopard dead on his perch, his body falling with a
thud into the enclosure, while the crowd flew helter-skelter.
> The staple of amusement in these days was, no doubt, balls,
dinners, reviews, and launches. The driving of the silver nail
when the keel was laid down was always a big day. When,
on May 4th, a ship of 1,250 tons, the Bombay, was launched,
and christened, by Sir Edward Pellew, with a bottle of good
English porter, the affair drew the principal people of the
Settlement. But some more expensive liquor, was, no doubt,
used at the launch, in 1810, of the Minden, of seventy-four
guns. That was an event of which Bombay was very proud,
according to the CJironicle : " Bombay has the singular credit of
being the first place out of the British dominions at which
a British seventy-four was ever built." The Duncan Dock
was completed on June 23rd, 1810 ; and it is a singular fact
that the Minden' s keel was laid down while the dock was being
constructed, the two works going on simultaneously.

Then as to reviews. On June 4th, 1801, the old King's
birthday, still sacred at Eton, the 74th Regiment marched past
the Governor, their war-worn colours, which they had carried
for fourteen years in Asia, on many a battle-field, waving in the


The night of November 4th, 1709, was one long re-
membered. A storm blew with terrific violence, and, when
day broke, a spectacle of appalling ruin was revealed. The
shore from the bunder-head to Mazagon, far as the eye could
reach, was piled with wrecks. Under Hornby's Battery, round
the Castle sea face, as far as Fort George, were great heaps
so completely dashed to splinters that not a trq,ce tjould be
discovered of any individual ship. The Resolution,, sliip of war,
went to pieces under the Castle walls, and more than 100 craft
and 500 lives were lost.

In 1802 a young man of the nanxe of Maw arrived by the
Scales!) 1/ Castle, and immediately raised an action against
Learmonth, the commander, for the hard treatment he had
experienced during " Neptune's rites " on crossing the Line,
having been soused, and shaved with dirty water, and otherwise
tumbled about by the officers and sailors. The captain was
fined Es. 400. Fines like this soon put an end to the custom.

On August 12th, 1799, Government ordered that no
European should travel without a passport. But, with or
without a pass, four officers, in 1800, crossed over the harbour
to Pan well, and proceeded to Chowk, twelve miles. Here a
surprise met them. At a turn of the road they beheld six
headless men suspended by the legs from a tree — dacoits,
.suspected of waylaying treasure from Poona. The Peishwa's
amuldar had settled the matter by cutting off" their heads !
Without mentioning Matheran, they note that it was " a
beautiful country of hill and dale."

Another adventurous individual made his way, the same
year, to " Carachee." There he found a population of 10,000,
mostly in mud huts, and a fort garrisoned by twenty men,
" conspicuous by their poverty and insolence." Think of this,

Online LibraryJames DouglasGlimpses of old Bombay and western India, with other papers → online text (page 1 of 30)