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06 September 2018

Murray the Escapologist

It is not unusual when looking through archives to find something unexpected.  This entertaining leaflet for Murray the Australian Escapologist was among the private papers of Sir John Gilbert Laithwaite, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943.  It was in a file of brochures and pamphlets he had collected on his various tours of India.

F138-57 Murray the EscapologistIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F138/57


Born in 1901 in Melbourne with the exhausting full name of Leo Norman Maurien Murray Stuart Carrington Walters, he not surprisingly shortened it for his stage act to Murray the Escapologist.  His interest in magic and escapes had been kindled as a boy by seeing other magicians, including the famous Houdini.  Having saved for a pair of handcuffs, he practised escapes by handcuffing himself to his bed every night so that he could not go to sleep until he had freed himself. 

Murray the Escapologist 3Leeds Mercury, 24 December 1926 British Newspaper Archive

Murray worked hard and travelled the world building up his act.  He often worked as a crew member on ships during the day, and performed his act in the evening wherever the ship docked.  In this way he travelled to America, Singapore, India, and South America, before reaching Europe, arriving in England in the mid-1920s.

Murray the Escapologist 2Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 13 January 1937 British Newspaper Archive

Some of his stunts sound particularly hair-raising, such as hanging upside down in a straight-jacket from Blackpool Tower, being thrown out of an airplane over the Bristol Channel while locked inside a mailbag, being locked in a safe and thrown into the sea, or being manacled and thrown into the lions’ den at Olympia.  In 1926, he told a correspondent of the Dundee Courier that the feat he was most proud of was being secured to the track of the Peking-Shanghai Railway ten minutes before the Shanghai Express was due to leave the station.  He escaped when the train was only 100 yards away.  Such acts did not always win approval from the authorities. In Japan the police refused to allow him to give a public performance because he would set a bad example. 

In 1939, Murray was touring Germany, and performed at the Wintergarten Theatre in Berlin where he entertained Adolf Hitler.  On the outbreak of war, he had to quickly flee the country leaving his props and costumes behind in order to avoid being interned.  As the leaflet shows, this experience became a part of his subsequent act.  To build up his show again, he travelled to India where he performed successfully in Bombay.  In India, he performed with Madam Gillian, the Woman with the X-Ray Eyes, who had the “uncanny ability of rendering startling and truthful character analysis through her magnetic eyes”.

Murray the EscapologistBirmingham Mail, 13 January 1939 British Newspaper Archive

Murray continued to amaze audiences until his retirement in 1954, when opened a magic shop in Blackpool called Murray’s Magic Mart, which he ran until a couple of years before his death in 1989.

 John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
Miscellaneous booklets and pamphlets on monuments in India, collected by Sir J G Laithwaite, during his tours of India, 1937-1943 [Reference Mss Eur F138/57]

David O’Connor, “The Magic of Murray” on the ‘Magic for Kids’ website, 24 November 2015

Barry McCann blog post Magic Murray, Blackpool Museum Project 

Article in the Dundee Courier, Wednesday 29 December 1926; Robert E Vivian, article in the Evening Despatch, Wednesday 18 January 1939  

04 September 2018

Unsung Souls: William Skeyte and the English Reformation

The singing priest, William Skeyte, suffered the misfortune of losing a ‘job for life’ not just once but twice, first in consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and again within ten years as the English Crown drove the Reformation yet harder with the abolition of chantries and free chapels.

Cantate Domino - St Omer Psalter f103r ‘Cantate domino’ – singing priests in the St. Omer Psalter [Yates Thompson MS 14 f.103r]

Christchurch Priory (then in Hampshire, now Dorset) was surrendered to the Crown in November 1539 (its cartulary survives at the British Library in Cotton MS Tiberius D VI).  The life pension of £6 subsequently granted to William Skeyte was typical of those received by all of the Priory’s former canons: in modern terms, this might be equivalent to annual income of about £33,000.

The manorial free chapel of St Anne at Hinton Admiral, just three miles from Christchurch Priory, is absent from the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291-2 (Harley MS 591), and so was probably established after that date.  Its endowment in 1448, by the foundation of a chantry within the chapel, provided a salary of 63s 4d for a cantarist, and Skeyte is likely to have taken up this post only after his duties at the Priory had been abolished.  In order to reduce the time they would spend in purgatory, Skeyte would be required to sing daily prayers for the souls of a long list of founders and their family, friends, and benefactors, but primarily for the souls of Elizabeth St. Omer and her third husband, John Syward.  The psalter pictured above was produced initially for a member of her family, and it was from Elizabeth’s second husband that their daughter, Joan, inherited the manor of Hinton Admiral in 1394.
 

BL MS Add.37049 f.24vThe relieving of souls, ‘drawne up oute of purgatory by prayer & almos dede’ [BL MS Add. 37049, f.24v, early 15th century]

After the closure of the chantries on Easter Day 1548, Skeyte continued to receive his salary in the form of an additional life-pension.  The chapel itself was turned to other uses within the manor.  Its assets, seized by the Crown, amounted to no more than ‘one litle Belle’ weighing about 20 pounds and valued at just 2 shillings, together with ornaments valued at 9 pence and plate at 2 pence.

TNA E 101-75-14 (detail) TNA E 101-76-15 (detail) Accounts showing the payment of just a half of Skeyte’s pensions during the year of his death [TNA E 101/75/14, E 101/76/15].

Among Skeyte’s possessions, listed in an inventory taken after his death in January 1551 by the mayor of Christchurch, were a surplice, and a saddle and bridle, all of which had presumably been in daily use for his visits to Hinton.  Curiously, he also owned a sword and spear.  Administration was granted to his brother, Thomas Skeyte, a husbandman of Downton, Wiltshire.
 
Inventory p1

Inventory p2Inventory of the Goods of William Skeyte [Hampshire Record Office: 1551U/091]

The chapel is the subject of ongoing research, which has already established that its structure may have survived until the early 19th century, close to the site of the present-day war memorial at Hinton Admiral.  A century earlier, the manor house across the road was replaced by another elusive building, Hinton Place.

Stephen Gadd
University of Winchester

Further reading:
Alixe Bovey, Death and the afterlife: how dying affected the living
Cotton Ms. Cleopatra E v, f.142: Bishop of Worcester's writing on purgatory, with notes by Henry VIII
Crown and Church: How did reforms in religious practice in the mid 16th century affect the people of Britian?
A broader picture and a list of source material is given by Alan Kreider, English chantries: the road to dissolution (Harvard University Press, 1979)
Details of the elaborate dining and shaving routines of the canons in Christchurch Priory before its dissolution can be found at Cotton MS Tiberius D VI, II ff.67-68, published in Katharine A. Hanna, ed., Christchurch Priory Cartulary, (Winchester, 2007).
The Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music has a growing collection of music of the sort that would have been familiar to William Skeyte.

 

30 August 2018

Hints for the general management of children in India

Hints for the general management of children in India in the absence of professional advice by Dr Henry Goodeve was first published in Calcutta in 1844.  The book proved to be very popular and ran to several editions.

Henry Goodeve was an East India Company surgeon in Bengal.  He became Professor of Anatomy at the Calcutta Medical College in 1835 and then specialised in obstetrics.

  GoodeveDr Henry Goodeve from C Grant, Lithographic Sketches of the Public Characters of Calcutta 1833-1850 Noc

The Hints were originally printed for private circulation only. But a friend wrote about it in a public paper and this sparked a general demand for the book.  It was meant to help British families in India who were living at a distance from doctors.

Newly born babies should be washed, dressed, and given a dose of castor oil to purge them.  Goodeve told his readers that teething and irritation of the bowels were the two most common complaints amongst babies. Gums should be lanced when there was the ‘remotest cause to apprehend that teeth are coming through’.  Bowels must be cleaned out before medicines were administered.

Goodeve stressed that that the chief cause of all diseases in young children was error in their diet, with more infants dying from improper feeding than any other cause.  Babies should depend upon breast milk until about six months old.  At nine or ten months, provided four teeth had been cut, the child might be fed on chicken broth with bread or on 'pishpash', a soup or stew containing rice and small pieces of meat.

Children should be vaccinated within three or four months of birth if possible. Goodeve believed that vaccination was rarely effective in months of hot weather and rain.

Childhood diseases such as lung complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery could be alleviated by a change of air:  ‘The sea especially, possesses a peculiar charm, and if possible, should always be resorted to where diseases prove uncontrolable by medicine’.  Fresh air, light, and exercise in the open air were very important, although exposure to the sun should be avoided.  Children should be allowed to run about instead of being carried in the arms of servants or in carriages. Horse riding was very good exercise.

On the question of sending children to Europe, Goodeve believed that it might be best for a delicate child to leave India once weaned.  Although some children ‘apparently’ thrived in India until ten or twelve years of age, as a general rule children in ordinary health should not stay after the age of six.

India Muir family c13866-71Group portrait in India  including Sir William and Lady Muir Photo 793/(59)

The Hints list common childhood complaints, giving symptoms, treatment, and dietary advice for fever, coughs, croup, whooping cough, diarrhoea, dysentery, protrusion of the bowel, colic, cholera, worms, thrush, sores, boils, abscesses, ringworm, scarlet fever, measles, chicken pox, jaundice, inflamed eyes, stoppage of urine, convulsions, bites, burns and scalds, fractures, ruptures, and birth deformities.  Treatments included emetics, purgatives, leeches, quinine, mustard plasters, castor oil, hot baths, lotions of turpentine and brandy, tonics, and opiates.  However Goodeve gave warnings about some of these remedies – ‘young infants have not infrequently died from the bleeding of a single leech being permitted to continue unchecked for some hours’, and babies could be poisoned by a single drop of laudanum.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
H H Goodeve, Hints for the general management of children in India in the absence of professional advice,  2nd edition, (Calcutta, 1844)

 

28 August 2018

Hazards when crossing the Atlantic in the early 19th Century

Charles Kingsley’s maternal grandfather, Nathan Lucas FLS, owned plantations in Barbados and Demerara.  Lucas left Liverpool in the Barton (Captain George Chalmers) on 4 January 1803.  She had two decks, three masts and displaced 212 tons.

Liverpool c13872-60The Port of Liverpool taken from the opposite side of the River Mersey. Drawn and engraved by William Daniell. G.7043 plate 39 Images Online

On 19 January, off the coast of Spain, he wrote in his journal: ‘At 5am a mountainous sea broke upon the Ship from head to stern, carried away our booms – one of our boats – stowed the other – all our stock washed overboard.  The ship was thrown on her beam ends, & did not right again! … she was entirely unmanageable, & could not wear round – but cut away the Mizen Mast, without any effect … we then cut away the main mast; & thanks to God she righted a little & we got her before the wind – immediately she was pooped, the windows all broken in, & the Cabin a sea of water.  As we had no masts, sails or boats, we did not think proper to put to Lisbon, fearful of being wrecked on a lee shore.  Madeira was out of the question & we kept on to Barbados … Got in a Jury Main Mast, made from the Derrick – we have no more spars, except foretop gallant mast & foretopsail yard – we are busy in making some from planks sawn and nailed together – busily employed in making sails, rope &c’.  The voyage to Barbados lasted 51 days. 

BridgetownBridgetown – engraving by Samuel Cope reproduced in West India Committee Circular Vol.XXVIII no.38, 6 May 1913

England and France were at war when Lucas returned on the Ash (master James Reed).  ‘A convoy for England being appointed, I determined to take the advantage of it, for safety of convoy, not expedition; for who has sufficient patience for the delays of a convoy! I have not, I candidly confess; but it is the lesser of two evils; & a prison would detain longer than a fleet.’  Twenty ships sailed from Barbados on 21 July, and eventually there were 176 ships escorted by HMS Courageous and HMS Venus. Lucas recorded six ships sinking:  “September 17th: We hear that the Betsey of Dublin foundered in the late gale, & all hands lost.  The unexpected & unfortunate War in which we are engaged, by keeping many tender vessels abroad, to wait convoy, instead of getting home as fast as loaden, & of course getting a winter’s passage, has been the cause of all the disasters in the fleet.”  The voyage to Bristol lasted 70 days.

On 18 August 1811 Lucas left Falmouth for Barbados on the Swallow (Captain Morphew). On 4 September they were boarded by the French frigate La Clorinde sailing from Madagascar to France. ‘It was soon rumoured that the Vessel would be given up to us, & the men &c exchanged on Cartel … They were in the greatest distress for provisions & water, though they had removed all from the Prizes they had made, but were now so low, they could not detain us.  Our private property was secured to us, tho’ they took away my Petite Neptune Francais.  Everything else was carried off, stores, rigging, sails, provisions &c … we really thought there were no provisions & water left; but we afterwards found some Pork & Potatoes.” They returned to Falmouth, where Lucas joined ‘the Express, Capt. Bullock, with Mails for the Windward Islands’, arriving in Barbados on 10 November. 

Peter Covey-Crump
Independent researcher

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive 

 

22 August 2018

Emergency Rations in the India Office during the Second World War

In February 1939, tensions in Europe were running high, and in the offices of British Government departments thoughts were turning to the possibility of war with Germany.  One issue raised was what provisions existed for the staff working in Government buildings in Central London in the event of air raids.  A file in the India Office Records at the British Library contains interesting correspondence on the subject.

Essential Staff - TelephonistsIOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc

A sub-committee set up to enquire into the matter decided that it was not necessary for large stocks of food to be held by Government Departments, but that the Luncheon Clubs in the various Government offices should arrange to increase their stocks sufficient to provide meals for 50% of their regular customers for a 48 hour period.  The response of the India Office was put in a secret letter of the 15 May 1939 to the Treasury.  This states that the India Office Luncheon Club was a small business run a by a caterer named Miss Lane, who served about 230 lunches a day to staff from the India Office, Foreign Office and Colonial Office.  She had made assurances that she had a stock of supplies sufficient to meet the sub-committee’s requirements, and that she was alive to the necessity for keeping fresh supplies.   

India Office Luncheon ClubIOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc

A year later, in June 1940, the Treasury informed the India Office that this arrangement had been reviewed in light of the new situation, and that Departments would be issued with a number of “Voyage and Landing Rations” by the Army Authorities.  The aim was to provide an emergency ration for essential staff who may have been required to remain at their offices or who were unable to obtain meals in the normal way.  The allotment to the India Office was 100 such rations for one day.  The following order was shortly received from the Army Supply Reserve Depot at Deptford, and carefully stored in the basement: 36lb preserved meat, 75lb M&V (meat and veg) rations, 75lb biscuits (Spratt’s), 6lb tea in tins (Brooke Bond), 14lb sugar (Tate & Lyle), 8lb margarine, 13½lb cheese in tins, 14lb of jam (Tickler), 12½lb chocolate (Cadbury, Fry), plus 20 tommy cookers (a small portable stove issued to British troops).

Ration Voucher (1)IOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc

Ration Voucher (2) IOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc

As London and other British cities were battered during the Blitz, the arrangements were adjusted accordingly to provide sleeping accommodation and food in the event that essential staff could not return to their homes. In July 1941, it was decided to store enough rations for three days.  Under the new arrangements the scale of rations for one person for one day was 6ozs preserved meat or 12ozs meat & vegetables, 8ozs biscuits, ½oz tea, 2ozs sugar, 2ozs condensed unsweetened milk, 2ozs cheese, 2ozs jam and 2ozs chocolate.

Daily Scale of RationsIOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc

The rest of the file is mostly taken up with correspondence on the regular return and replacement of expired rations.  However, it also contains a fascinating War Office booklet from 1943 on the use of special ration packs, and a press cutting from the Daily Express on self-heating soup!

   War Office booklet croppedIOR/L/SG/8/524 Noc



John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
File E/1022 Provision of emergency rations for India Office, 1939-1945 [Reference IOR/L/SG/8/524]

 

20 August 2018

World Mosquito Day 2018

August 20th is World Mosquito Day, commemorating the day in 1897 when Ronald Ross confirmed that the malaria parasite was carried by the mosquito.

The Library’s Archives and Manuscript collections contain a wealth of material regarding mosquitoes, malaria, and other mosquito-borne diseases. The records of the East India Company and India Office are particularly rich in information on research into malaria transmission, prevention and treatment, and hundreds of relevant records have been catalogued and are being digitised as part of the India Office Medical Archives project.

Mosquito imageIOR/R/15/2/1062 Anti-malaria measures (1939-1947). See the complete digitised file at the Qatar Digital Library.

The work of Ross and other scientists, including Indian Medical Service colleagues, are often documented in records known as the Government Proceedings, found under reference IOR/P. This series consists of over 40,000 volumes, and information on military and civil health and sanitation within the Proceedings series has been made more accessible through item-level cataloguing.

PseriescropA volume from the Proceedings and Consultations of the Government of India and of its Presidencies and Provinces, IOR/P. One of c46,500 volumes. See an introductory catalogue entry for the entire run here.

Malaria was long thought to be caused by miasma from rotting vegetation and foul waters, and thought to be a particular risk in hot and humid climates. The earlier records contain Medical Topographies prepared by Indian Medical Officers to designate ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ areas to inform the construction of hospitals and barracks.

RossmansonlettercropExcerpt of a letter sent by Ross to the Government of India, relaying the observations and theories of Patrick Manson, and making the case for Ross's further study of mosquitoes. IOR/P/5185 Mar 1897 nos 141-45 

Drugs derived from the cinchona plant were used as a remedy for malaria. The records document the establishment of cinchona plantations in India in the mid-19th century with trees and seeds taken from the Andes, as well as studies into the production and effectiveness of different preparations.

  CinchonalabelcropSpecimen instruction label for a Government-issued dose of quinine, derived from the cinchona bark. IOR/P/6579 Oct 1903 nos 119-23

Treating malaria and its symptoms is only one part of the battle against the disease. Once the transmission vector was identified, attention turned to preventing its transmission through the destruction of mosquitoes and their habitats. The records document the establishment of Mosquito Brigades and the development of Government sanitation policies in colonial India.

PreventivemeasurescropDetails of preventive measures recommended by the military authorities. IOR/P/7053 Jun 1905 nos 200-04

Further resources

You can find more by searching Explore Archives and Manuscripts using the terms mosquito, malaria, or India Office Medical Archives.

 The National Library of Scotland’s Medical History of British India pages contain digitised reports into medical research in British India from 1850-1950.

The UK Medical Heritage Library provides access to over 66,000 digitised European medical publications from the 19th century, including many on mosquitoes and malaria.

Alex Hailey

Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

16 August 2018

Photographs of Dhofar Province

An India Office Records file that was recently catalogued by the British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership programme contains a number of photographs showing the biodiversity of what is now the Dhofar Governorate, in the Sultanate of Oman.


In 1947, Brian Hartley, Director of Agriculture in the Aden Protectorate, was invited by the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Sa‘īd bin Taymūr Āl Bū Sa‘īd, to visit Dhofar, in order to carry out a survey of the conditions there, and in particular to provide advice on the growing of sugar cane in the region. Hartley’s resulting report, 'A Preliminary Survey of the Land Resources of the Dhufar Province, Sultanate of Muscat and Oman', which was completed in March 1948, covers water supplies, crop production (specifically sugar cane), hill cultivation, animal husbandry, irrigation and livestock improvement, mountain farming, and fisheries. A selection of photographs from Hartley’s visit, which appear in the file at the end of the report, can be seen below, along with Hartley’s original captions.

IOR_R_15_6_282_f_56_2IOR/R/15/6/282, f 56 2: Photograph of Dahaq, 1948 Noc

 

IOR_R_15_6_282_f_57_1IOR/R/15/6/282, f 57 1: Photograph of sugar cane, Rizat Irrigation System Noc

 

IOR_R_15_6_282_f_58_2IOR/R/15/6/282, f 58 2: Photograph of a palm grove, Salalah Noc

 

IOR_R_15_6_282_f_59_1IOR/R/15/6/282, f 59 1: Photograph of the Northern Watershed of Al Qutun Noc

 

IOR_R_15_6_282_f_60_1IOR/R/15/6/282, f 60 1: Photograph of a herd of Cattle on the Qutun Uplands Noc


The remaining photographs, together with Hartley’s report, will be made available on the Qatar Digital Library website later this year.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
'File 8/90 II ECONOMIC, Agricultural & INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT IN MUSCAT TERRITORY', IOR/R/15/6/282

 

14 August 2018

Recommendations for Life Pensions in Colaba, India

A file in the collections of the Board of Control, part of the India Office Records, gives some brief but fascinating details of those living in the former Indian Princely State of Colaba which had come under British control in the 1840s. On annexing the territory from the ruling Angria family, British officials faced the responsibility for the financial maintenance of members of the Angria family, their dependants, and those who had loyally served the Colaba State.

ColabaView of Colaba by Jose M. Gonsalves from Lithographic Views of Bombay published in Bombay 1826 Online Gallery  Noc

The file contains lists of persons who had received a pension under the previous rulers and those newly recommended for a life pension due to their past service. The recommendations were submitted to the Bombay Government by I M Davies, Political Superintendent of Colaba.

P7270117 croppedIOR/F/4/2075/95768 Noc

Here are some examples of the entries (spellings as given in the file):

• Luxumon bin Baboo Meetbhowkur, aged 13: This boy’s father was accidentally blown from a gun at the marriage of one of the Chief’s daughters in March 1840. His son was pensioned, and was in the receipt of 2½ rupees monthly when the State was attached.

• Tsanag Dubboo, alias Dzomaee, aged 70: Widow of an old servant in the ‘Armarr’, or department of vessels. Has received an allowance for many years, in consequence of the death of her son caused by falling off the Flag Staff in the Fort of Colaba.

• Annundrow bin Crishnarow Dhoolup, aged 36: A great grandson of the famous Mahratta Admiral, Dhoolup. Received a pension from the Chief, Raghojee Angria in 1836/37. He resides at Viziadroog and is a very respectable person.

• Wasdeo Babjee Pitkur, Pooranick, aged 70: A servant of the late State, of upwards of 40 years standing. He accompanied Baboorow Angria in Hindustan from 1805 to 1812 and has since resided at Alibagh, where he was entrusted with the duties of Officer of the Adawlut. Under the Political Superintendent he has been employed in the same capacity and is one of the Assessors of the Superintendent’s Court. He enjoyed a liberal maintenance under the late State.

• Appajee Bajee, aged 75: Served as a Puntojee, or teacher, in the Chief’s family for upwards of 40 years. He has for some years past been dependent upon the charity of the Ranees. It is recommended that a pension of 5 rupees per mensem be assigned to him.

• Manajee bin Luxman Lar, aged 45: An old Shingara, or horn blower. He lost his eye sight from smallpox and was 8 years employed in the Artificer’s shop as bellowsman. He received in that employment 8 annas per mensem and 1½ maund of bhat. Being very destitute I beg to recommend that he be allowed a pension of 1½ rupees per mensem during his life.

• Sheik Ismael Gohundaz, aged 100: An old sepoy who has served the State upwards of 70 years. He is still borne upon the books as a sepoy of Saughurgur Fort where he has been for upwards of 40 years. I beg to recommend that a pension of 3½ rupees per mensem be allowed to him during the remainder of his life.

P7270116IOR/F/4/2075/95768  Noc

In submitting his recommendations, Davies assured the Bombay Government that he had been as frugal as he had been able to suggest. 

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further reading:
A list of persons recommended by the Political Superintendent of Colaba for life pensions, 1844 [Reference IOR/F/4/2075/95768]