Saturday, January 2, 2010

John Mackillop and the Great Mutiny India 1857

John Mackillop, son of George and Jean Mackillop, was born probably in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1827. George Mackillop was a merchant and he made his money trading in India. Searching newspapers from the 1820s to the 1860s show advertisements for trading firms - Cruttenden, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop & Co; Palmer, Mackillop, Dent & Co; Mackillop & Co; Mackillop, Stewart & Co - in which George and / or his brother James were partners. George was also involved in real estate and advertisements can also be found for properties that he sold in Scotland, England and Ireland.

With this background it is not surprising that John became a Civil Servant in India. The 1841 England census shows a John Mackillop, aged 14, attending Bibsworth Manor House School at Finchley, Middlesex. More research is required to check that this is our John Mackillop. However he did attend the East India College (later Haileybury) at Hertford Heath from 1844 to 1846. The college was established in 1806 to provide general and vocational education for youths 16 to 18 years who had been nominated by East India Company Directors.
An article in The Times 2 July 1846 p8 describes a graduation and prize giving ceremony at the college mentioning Mackillop as one of the 'highly distinguished' term three students. After completing his studies John Mackillop served in India and was stationed at Cawnpore where he was killed in the Mutiny of 1857.
The college website carries the following memorial -
John Robert Mackillop. Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore; a brave unselfish man. When the English entered what were called the intrenchments, which were hastily thrown up earthworks, affording little or no shelter to the besieged, Mackillop took it upon himself to draw water for his comrades from a well exposed to the fire of the rebels. He did not long carry on this dangerous duty, but soon fell victim to his unselfish bravery, pierced by the bullets of the enemy. No man yielded his life better than "Jack" Mackillop.

In 1978 Christopher Hibbert, in his book The Great Mutiny India 1857 wrote a history of the mutiny recording not only the events of the uprising but investigating the causes. Chapter 9 deals with the events at the siege of Cawnpore in June. The following paragraph on page 184 describes the events leading to John Mackillop's death . -
There was only one well within the entrenchment, and as it was in an exposed position it was extremely dangerous to draw water there by day. Even at night the creaking of the tackle would usually call forth a storm of musketry. It was not long before the machinery, like the brick framework, was shot away; and thereafter it was necessary to haul the bucket up by hand from a depth of over sixty feet. John Mackillop of the Civil Service, in his own estimation 'not a fighting man', appointed himself 'Captain of the Well'. He survived in office for a week until killed by grape-shot in the groin. Before dying he expressed the wish that a lady to whom he had promised a drink should not be disappointed.

The book includes a number of photographs, a chronology of events, detailed notes and references for each chapter, a bibliography and an index. The two books referred to by Hibbett providing information on the Mackillop incident are Thomson, Captain Mowbray. The Story of Cawnpore (London 1859) and Trevelyan, G O. Cawnpore (London 1865) - the State Library of Victoria has a copy of the second title.

Obviously the death of John Mackillop is a minute event in the overall story of the Indain Mutiny in 1857 but it is an example of the detail provided by the author in unravelling the account of the tragic events that occurred in India during 1857 and 1858.

British newspapers from the second half of 1857 are full of reports of the events occurring in India including news stories, letters from survivors and death notices. The Times 5 October 157 p1 recorded the following death notice -
At Cawnpore, on or about the 25th June, in the 31st year of his age John R. Mackillop Esq., of the Bengal Civil Service, and Joint Magistrate of Cawnpore District, son of George Mackillop, Esq., of Bath, formerly of Calcutta. His death was occasioned by grape shot wound, received when assisting in the heroic defence of General Wheeler's entrenched camp.

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