Photograpy, India, Portraits, Anglo Indians, Family and me

Month: November, 2011

The family legend of James Scott Savory

My Grandpa told me that James Scott Savory became a circuit Judge in southern India and ‘Company records’ state that by 1806 at the unbelievably young age of 27 James had become the Judge and Magistrate of Dharapooran, Coimbatore.

In the seven years, between the years of 1803 and 1810, James and his ‘native’ wife had four children. Their first three children were girls whose names were Jane (born1803), Sarah (born 1804) and Mary who we have no birth date for. The couple’s last child was a boy and he was born in 1810, they named him Thomas.

It was during the baptism of the three children Sarah, Mary, and Thomas in Black town, Madras on 7th Nov 1824 that Thomas’s name was changed; we assume his name was changed by mistake. He became Thomas Savory Scott. His surname was swapped with his middle name by the registrar and the name of Scott has stuck with the family for the next century or so.

Our family have no records of where James Scott Savory and his wife and four children lived for much of their life but what we do know is that some thing must have happened in the year 1817.

On the 28th Jan 1817 it is recorded that a senior merchant James Scott Savory departed India from Madras on board the ‘Atlas’ bound for England leaving his four children behind in India. We can only assume that he left the Children with their mother but why would he leave?

Our family are also are aware of a boy who was born in 1817 in the Mount road area of Madras. This boy was named James Scott Savory Richardson. Coincidently it is the Mount Road area of Madras where the Scott family lived in an enormous residence called Erindale build by the HEIC architect and superintendent of Government buildings James Stringer I (born 6th Jan 1731 Lea-Marston Warwickshire). Was this mystery boy anything to do with James and his sudden departure from India? Did James ‘have’ to leave India?

After James’s departure in India we have found records of his children being brought up by the Reverend James Ridsdale in Madras, but the Reverend James Ridsdale did not arrive in India until 1820, we can only assume that their mother must have lived with them until her death when they were left in the care of the church.

What is not disputed is that there is a record of James Scott Savory’s marrage that is listed in ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ and the ‘Asiatic Journal, just six months after James Scott Savory left India. He married  Theodosia Yerworth on the 4th June 1817 in Southwark Surrey.

Not only does that make him a fast worker, but if he was married in India to a princess, does that make him a bigamist?

Just for the record, James had two children with Theodosia Yerworth but she died in childbirth in 1820. One year later at the age of 42, James married once more to Mary Anne Dark, a widow who was 16 years younger than he was. He then had 7 children with her. It’s not surprising that James never returned to India.

 By Jason Scott Tilley and Sue Trosser.

James Scott Savory and the Indian princess

Like many young  gentlemen  in the closing years of the 18th century, James Scott Savory had aspirations of prosperity and like all young men he would have confidently pursued his dreams, grasping at any opportunity of creating an interesting and inependent life for himself and so, like many young gentlemen of the day, James sought employment in the expanding Empire. After his schooling and perhaps harbouring a secret desire for overseas travel, James from the small village of Calne in Wiltshire found employment with the Honourable East India Company and in 1796 he took a position as a writer (clerk)  and after training he set sail for the Indian subcontinent just one year later.

James was born on 19th July in 1779, the eldest son of Richard Savory (born 15th Dec 1754-died 10th July 1825) and Sarah Scott (born 1757-died 18th Feb 1841). James would have been able to trace his family history back to his Great Grandfather Thomas Savory who had lived in Calne over a centenary and a half before.

When James set sail for India in 1797 King George III was on the throne and the English monarch’s madness had already become a problem for the country. Most of Europe had fallen under the dominance of the Revolutionary French Republic and Parliament with William Pitt the younger at the helm stood alone against the French in Europe.

Maybe travelling to an exotic overseas location seemed preferable to staying in England.  ‘The company’ also had their own army, a mixture of young European men and Indian sepoys and they were busy fighting territorial and trade wars against the French Republic in many of the Indian principality’s,. So did James just follow the example of many of the other young gentlemen of his era,  answering adverts and seeking  employment in the expanding East India Company and heading off to where  ever he could find work at that time. What ever the reason for James Scott Savory’s wanderlust, James landed on his feet and James has become a bit of a legend in my family.

James Scott Savory was my Great great great great grandfather and as a child I can remember my grandpa proudly telling a story  that he was descended from Indian Royalty. We were told that James had eventually married the daughter of a Jagirdar, a princess of Arni in a place called Arcot in 1802. Indeed after a brief period in 1799 in his first post as the second Assistant under the Collector of Taxes in Krishnagiri close to Mysore, it is recorded that James then became the assistant under the collector of Taxes in Arcot, south of the River Palar.

Tipu Sultan

Before James left the shores of England, the East India Company had been fighting a number of long and drawn out wars in the Carnatic region of southern India, the regions that are now called Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.  James’s timely arrival in southern India coincided with the suppression of Mughal rule in the south, a continuation of the pacification process of India. The great Muslim leader Tipu Sultan who defiantly and bravely stood up against the British was eventually killed in the famous battle at Seringhapatam on the banks of the Cauvery River in 1799. ‘The company’ seized this opportunity putting in place strict controls and new laws that kept the maharaja’s deep in ‘The Companys’ pockets, allowing these century’s old Indian dynasty’s great wealth and some rule over the population, but this rule came at the price of co-operation with ‘The Company’.

What is well documented and is not in any doubt is that James had four children with a local woman. This local woman is only recorded as ‘native woman unknown’. So the mother of James’s children and my Great great great great grandmother has become a bit of a mystery, an almost mythical figure. One half of our family, the Scott’s, who came from Bangalore  totally believed the tale of  James marrying into Indian Royalty, my grandpa often recounted to me, “we thought we were the bees knees” and the other side of the Scott family,  who lived in Madras, only ever referred to James’s  wife as. That Persian Woman! An oral history has been passed down the Scott line of the family from Madras that Thomas’s mother who was James’s fourth child and his first son in India was Persian, or more accurately Circassian and when Thomas’s mother was mentioned or a question was raised about her, the family would hush about it and speak in very low voices and if a direct question was ever raised about Thomas’s mother a vague response would only ever be given.

Could it really be possible that a young man from a small village in Wiltshire who was  an assistant  collector of Taxes for ‘The Company’ have found himself an Indian princess? Would the Union of  a man and a woman from different faiths  and backgrounds be welcomed or frowned upon by the Indian upper classes or by ‘The Company’ in the early 19th century? If they did marry in what faith would the ceremony have been held in and would the marriage have  been legally binding.

By Jason Scott Tilley and Sue Trosser

The wedding band man New Delhi 2004

The unbearable noise that had broken my sleep that Sunday morning sounded very much like a brass band whose musicians were holding their very first practice session just underneath my second floor balcony and window.  I was staying in a very cheep guest house and I had a room that faced directly out onto the Main Bazaar in the Paharganj district of New Delhi, some of the windows in my room did not shut properly and some were broken causing a draft and I had no heating in my room and contrary to popular belief, Delhi can get bloody cold at certain times of the year.

The winter months of November and December are traditionally the wedding season in India and musicians ply their trade constantly during  these two months. To the untrained ear these bands do sound like a mixture of a colliery brass band from North Yorkshire and Jazz musicians playing a funeral march in Americas Deep South.

I had originally and begrudgingly got out of my bed suffering with a chemical hangover which is always the after effects of drinking too much Hayward’s 5000 extra strong beer. I had the intention of politely asking who ever was making this noise to please go and make it somewhere else but when I got out side I was confronted with the glorious sight of group of middle aged men who were all dressed beautifully in pressed white uniforms and were marching up and down the dusty ally underneath my bedroom window.

Not one to miss an opportunity I went back to my room and picked up my camera and waited down stairs for them to finish. When these men had stopped playing I asked them if I could take someone’s portrait and this one gentleman was pushed forward. I asked him to stand by the brick wall. What you can’t tell by the photograph is that behind me there are about twenty of his band members yelling at him to straighten himself up and stand to attention, so it was his friends who directed the portrait, and I’m really pleased with their contribution. It’s worth noting the layers of jumpers that this man was wearing underneath his jacket, proof of just how cold it got in Delhi in 2004.

Portrait by Jason Scott Tilley