Thursday, 13 November 2008

The lost Scots of Kolkata

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by Kathryn Hadley


On November 8th, a team of archaeologists, architects and members of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands Council travelled to Kolkata to survey its Scottish cemetery and to begin a restoration project.

The cemetery is dependant on St Andrew’s Church, which was the first Church of Scotland to be built in Kolkata. The cemetery has become derelict, overgrown and snake-infested and many of the tomb stones are damaged.

The headquarters of the East India Company were based in Calcutta in the eighteenth century and the city was the capital of India until 1911. Many Scots played a prominent part in the work of the company and in the administration of British India. It is estimated that over 80% of the headstones in the cemetery mark the graves of Scots who worked in Kolkata as tea planters, sea captains, jute traders, missionaries and civil servants, for example. Studies of the Register of Interments reveal a majority of recognisably Scottish names such as Anderson, Campbell and Ross. Many other graves belong to Christian Bengalis. James Wilson, who introduced paper money in India and founded The Economist magazine is also believed to be buried in the cemetery.

The principle aims of the project are to restore the cemetery buildings and tombstones, establish a computerised record of those buried there, to maintain the site as a green area for the benefit of the local residents of Kolkata and to found a local centre for building skills necessary for the future maintenance of the site.


For more information on the British in Calcutta, read our The Ghosts of Calcutta

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