Thursday, November 30, 2017

More women of the Mutiny

Here is a selection of some newspaper items, mostly obituaries, about women with links to the Indian Mutiny. Whatever else I have been able to find out about them from available genealogical or other online sources are also included.

Each woman had her own unique tale to tell, such as being wounded at Lucknow or loading guns - and one remembered seeing her father write a letter in his own blood! (Intriguing, even more so if such a letter still exists.) A more prosaic story involves providing breakfast for Lord Roberts and the dashing and legendary John Nicholson.

There is always the likelihood that some of their names (or ages) were incorrectly recorded, that some of their reminiscences are exaggerated, or not even true, but they are all still interesting examples of the experiences of those from various social classes who negotiated the many dangers of life in 19th Century India and managed to reach old age. 


Woman wounded in Indian Mutiny
Death at Age of 95

A survivor of the Indian Mutiny, Mrs. Margaret Quaid, of Sandford Road, Aldershot, died last night at the age of 95.

Mrs. Quaid, who during the siege of Lucknow, was wounded in the shoulder, had spent 50 years in India.

Her husband served in the barrack department and when he died at Peshawar in 1872 he left her with four young daughters.

She spent many years nursing in India, and on her return to England 39 years ago the British Government granted her a free passage.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, 22 February 1933

A very detailed interview with Mrs. Quaid describing her family connections appeared in 1910 in the Australian newspaper, The Daily News, Perth and can be read on this TROVE link.

Eastward Ho, Henry Nelson O'Neil,
a famous image of troops departing England in 1857 for India


Saw Father Write Letter in Blood
Woman Survivor of Indian Mutiny Dead

Mrs. Emma Osborne of Kimberley Road, Gillingham Kent, whose funeral took place to-day, had no more thrilling experience in all her 93 years than she had in India as a girl.
She was an Indian Mutiny survivor.

Daughter of Captain Wilkinson, who died during the Mutiny, she was one of a party of refugees who were driven underground to await relief by the Gordon Highlanders.
She once saw her father write a letter home in blood taken from his arm.

When she was 17 she was brought to Britain by missionaries and given into the care of her grandfather.

Dundee Evening Telegraph 27 May 1936.

Emma Wilkinson married George Edward Osborn [without an "e"] in Kent in 1877. They had three children who lived until the 1950s-70s and one baby who died in 1881.

From various Census Returns, it is apparent they never moved from Gillingham and George worked as a Coal Wheeler or Stoker in the Gas Works. George died in 1935, a year before Emma.



Mrs. Skelton, widow of Canon Skelton, of Lincoln, who died at Horsell, near Woking Surrey yesterday, aged 88, was one of the few women survivors of the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Portsmouth Evening News 20 January 1922

This was Matilda Skelton born Matilda Linning Birrell in Calcutta in 1834. Her father, David Birrell, later became a General in the Bengal Army.
In 1859, she married Thomas Skelton, also born about 1834, in Bengal.
He had been a fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, and has the following entry:
1858-1859 Thomas Skelton, M.A., B.D. S.P.G. Missionary at Delhi. Professor and Principal of Bishop's College, Calcutta. Lecturer at St Augustine's College, Canterbury, Principal of the Missionary College at Burgh, Lincs. Rector of Hickling, Notts., Prebendary of Lincoln and of Southwell. d.1915.
In 1911, they both lived at "The Grove", Lincoln. They'd had five children, one of whom had since died. 


Lady Veteran of Indian Mutiny Dead

A lady veteran of the Indian Mutiny (Mrs. Glen) who has just died at Hastings, was eighty-two years of age.

Her first husband was Captain Goldsworthy, who at the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny was brigade-major of Lucknow and commissary-general to Lord Clyde.

The lady just managed to escape being shut up in Lucknow, but upon its final capture by Lord Clyde she was able to rejoin her husband and her brother, General Anderson Connor, who went through the siege. With Lord Clyde’s Army, she proceeded to march to Simla.

Eastbourne Gazette 29 September 1909.

Margaret Lillias [Lilian/Lilliss] Anderson was born in 1827 at Prince of Wales Island, Bengal (later to be known as the Straits Settlement and now just Penang). 

It appears she had at least two children by her first marriage to Fitz Thomas Goldsworthy - a daughter Lilly born in 1855 and son Thomas Clyde Goldsworthy in 1859, who also served in the Indian Army.

I can find no mention of anyone called Fitz Thomas Goldsworthy serving in the important positions mentioned at Lucknow although there is one Thomas Goldsworthy, a humble private, in the Indian Mutiny medal list. The real Goldsworthy at Lucknow was Sir Roger Tuckfield Goldsworthy who went on to have an illustrious colonial administration career and was married to someone else.

Nor does a "General Anderson Connor" appear anywhere either. Possibly this may be a mistake in reportage and should refer to Margaret's brother Thomas Carnegy Anderson who, according to his Probate documents of 1876, had been Barrack Master at Fort Calcutta.

There are a number of records associated with Margaret's second marriage to John Gray MacCowan Glen, of the Indian civil service, including 1881-1901 Census Returns showing they lived in Park Road, St Leonard's on Sea. They appear to have had just one son, who died in Cairo aged around 27.

This is evidence of either an old lady who got her facts mixed up, or someone else in the family not knowing who-was-who or even showing off to the reporter family connections that weren't correct.

Home Again, Henry Nelson O'Neil,
the 1858 companion painting showing the troops returning from India



Mrs. Jane Gordon Cotton, who died at Leyland, Lancashire, yesterday, was the widow of the late General Reginald Stapleton Cotton, at one time commanding the 47th Regimental District, Preston.

The deceased lady participated in the Indian Mutiny, being locked up in the Presidency at Peshawar. Her father in law, General Sir Sydney Cotton, commanded the North Western Frontier.

She was in constant association with Lord Roberts and General Nicholson, and provided breakfast for the latter on his departure of Delhi, where he was killed.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 9 January 1923.

A few errors in this report. Jane Gordon Inglis (born Scotland about 1831) was not married to General Reginald but to Lynch Stapleton Cotton (b. abt 1828 at Connaught Square, London, son of Sydney Cotton). Another similar obituary article correctly names her as Mrs. Lynch Stapleton Cotton, daughter of James Inglis of Fairley, Aberdeenshire, but gives her age as 98 when she was probably about 5 years younger.

Jane married Lynch S. Cotton of the 22nd Regiment of Foot in India, in 1855. 

Her father-in-law, Sydney Cotton, had an extensive record in service throughout the Empire, and is particularly remembered in Australia during the convict era, as per this entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography



The death took place at Pitlochry, Perthshire, on Wednesday night, of the Dowager Lady Outram, of Indian Mutiny fame.

Lady Outram was in her 99th year, and survived her husband by 48 years. She had lived under six sovereigns.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail 14 July 1911.

A reasonable summary of her connection to the Mutiny in this article from the New Zealand newspaper Evening Star of 22 September, 1911.

Margaret Clementina Anderson was born in 1813 in Lambeth, the daughter of merchant James Anderson of Bridgend, Brechin, Forfarshire.

She was married in 1835 to her cousin Sir James Outram and appears to have only had one child Francis Boyd Outram who had a large family of his own and thus many descendants. 
Sir James was so highly esteemed that he has a statue on the Thames Embankment and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

As is often typical of wives of important men of that era, Lady Outram seems to have lived out her long widowhood without drawing much attention to herself apart from her brief experience in the Indian Mutiny. A clergyman from of the era arriving in Lucknow described her as:-
 "... one of the best specimens of an English lady I ever met; so unaffected and natural; so glad to have a clergyman once more. She takes the greatest interest in everything for the good of the people - natives and Christians ..." 


Birmingham Woman’s  Great Age 

102nd Birthday Celebrated.

(Transcript) Mrs. Elizabeth Hyde, an inmate of the Western Road Homes, Birmingham, yesterday attained the age of 102 years. The Lord Mayor (Alderman Sir David Brooks) sent the following message to Mrs Hyde:- “I am pleased to hear that you are celebrating your 102nd birthday. I congratulate you heartily on attaining this ripe old age, and trust that you will live to hear peace declared after a victory for the Allied arms.”

Mrs. Hyde was born on September 24, 1816, and for the purpose of obtaining the Old-Age Pension secured the following statement which she treasures and proudly shows her visitors:- “Elizabeth Echo was born on the Alexandra Mary in the Welsh Dock on September 24, 1816, at 7.15 p.m., the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Echo. - (Signed) Dr Parry Gibbs.

Speaking to a representative of the press, Mrs Hyde said that her husband was a horse doctor, and after he was crushed so badly that he could work no more she worked as a “doctress” and midwife. She vividly remembers the Indian Mutiny, and took part in loading the guns for an officer to fire.

She can read German, French, Italian and Welsh, but confessed she “would want a few lessons before doing it in public.”

She retains all her faculties, and recounts with pleasure her many visits to China, India, Italy, Germany, France, and other countries as “the adopted daughter of a colonel in the Indian Army.”

Birmingham Mail 25 September 1918

In spite of the information in the article and a report of her death a few months later in February 1919, this woman proves to be a real mystery.

If it's true that she could speak many languages, including Welsh, it suggests her maiden surname "Echo" may have been spelled some other way or was incorrectly recorded in the statement signed by the doctor with which she claimed the Old Age Pension. (Cross-checking something that long ago was probably impossible at the time.) 

Also being born on board ship is a problem, said to be the vessel Alexandra Mary, but neither can a ship of this name be pinned down with any certainty, nor is it known which "Welsh Dock" applies as there was one at Bristol and also Liverpool, and possibly elsewhere.

Where her husband worked, or which unit he served in as a horse doctor is unknown, nor is it known where she loaded guns during the Mutiny.


She Remembered the Indian Mutiny
Woman’s Death at Cawnpore

Mrs. Amelia Margaret White, 83, who was four years of age when the Indian Mutiny broke out and had a vivid memory of the fighting, has died in Cawnpore, thus severing the last human link between that historic city and the 1857 revolt.

Mrs. White was the widow of a mutiny veteran. She herself saw the mutiny in Agra, and was sheltered with her parents and brothers in the fort there. She said that she remembered the firing of the first cannon shot from the fort.

It was a Sunday afternoon. Wounded soldiers were returning into the fort after the fight, calling for water, which I and other girls gave them to drink. My brother, Lowther, enlisted in the Agra Militia, and went out to fight the rebels. After peace was restored I returned home to Sikandra with my parents, only to find that everything was plundered - even my father’s two horses.”

Mrs. White’s husband, Mr. James Alfred White, who died in 1927, was the grandson of Mr John White, a veteran of Lord Lake’s army of Nepal.

Mr. J.A. White started his military career as a drummer boy in the 37 Bengal Infantry, in which was father was drum-major.

His regiment was at Benares when the mutiny broke out. It was disarmed, and Mr. White was sent with his father to Allahabad Fort and twice marched to Cawnpore with the relieving forces.

The Government of India granted Mrs. White a special mutiny pension of Rs.60 per month after the death of her husband.

Nottingham Evening Post 24 April 1935

Another woman on whom it is difficult to find much. Her maiden name is not given in this article and perhaps more can be found in India-specific genealogical sources.

She does appear in the 1911 UK Census Returns as a "visitor" born in Bombay, India and staying with the Jordan family in Leeds. Her age is given as 42, having been married 11 years, but she had no children of the marriage.

Her husband's connections to the 37th Bengal Infantry may have stretched way back into the 18th Century. Lord Lake, chief of the East India Company military, died in 1808. 


Mabel Lady Crossley Dies at Age of 90

Well known for her charitable work in Manchester and Altrincham, Mabel Lady Crossley has died at her home, Glenfield, Altrincham, at the age of 90.

Widow of Sir William John Crossley, founder of the well-known Manchester engineering firm and Liberal M.P. for Altrincham, she was one of the few remaining people who remembered the Indian Mutiny. Her father was Inspector-General of Hospitals in India, and her elder son, Sir Kenneth Crossley, told the Manchester Evening News today that his mother was rescued from a burning church during the mutiny.

She leaves another son, Major Eric Crossley. Mr A.C. Crossley, who was Conservative M.P. for Stretford and was killed in an aeroplane crash in Denmark, was her grandson.

Manchester Evening News 1 May 1943.

Mabel Gordon Anderson was born in Bengal in 1853. She is shown in the 1871 Census as a pupil at Hill House School in Belstead, Suffolk, an example of a child would have been sent "Home" from India at a young age to be educated.

Hill House School in 1873, by M. Conway

On 20 April 1876, she married engineering businessman and politician William John Crossley at Notting Hill, London, and had five children, two daughters who died in infancy and three sons. 

(One public family tree suggests that she had two children prior to marrying Crossley. This seems most unlikely as they would have been illegitimate and highly scandalous for the era - even more so considering the Crossleys were a devout Christian family. Searches of the General Register Office Indexes show no such children born to any Mabel Anderson or Crossley in the years shown ... and this is a good example of always checking the primary sources in connection with any family trees one finds online!)

Sir William J. Crossley was also known for his philanthropy. This extract from Grace's Guide to British Industrial History shows the extent of his, and his partner brother's commitment to their faith being " ... committed Christians and strictly teetotal, refusing to supply their products to companies such as breweries, whom they did not approve of. They adopted the early Christian symbol of the Coptic Cross as the emblem to use on their road vehicles.

Combermere Manor was the home of the Crossleys who were famous for their cars. One of Mabel's granddaughters was Fidelia, an early aviatrix - read about her here.

No image of Mabel herself can be found, but she did leave her mark on the Together Trust, which still continues in Britain today.

Foundation Stone, Together Trust


 Woman Who was in Indian Mutiny
 Saw her Relatives Killed, but lived to 98

Mrs. Fanny Rumley, one of the last survivors of the Indian Mutiny, has died in Bath at the age of 98.

She was the widow of Mr. Henry William Rumley, an Indian Civil Servant, and was in Cawnpore with her husband when the outbreak took place. She escaped the worst horrors of the Mutiny, but her cousin, Major Larkins, and other relatives were butchered by the Sepoys.

Her husband, who was the youngest son of General Rumley, of Sidmouth, died in 1857 on his way back to India.

Cheltenham Chronicle, 10 February 1923

Fanny Larkins was born about 1826, the daughter of William Larkins of Sidmouth, Devon, and there is a record of her marrying Henry William Rumley in Honiton, Devon, in 1851. 

(Her relatives were Major George Larkins, wife Emma Ewart (nee Carnochan) and three children who all died at Cawnpore during the most infamous massacre of the Indian Mutiny. Due to his wife Emma's last letter that survived the massacre and was widely reproduced in the press, the names of the Larkins family can be found in a number of reference works and books on the subject.)

From the Indian Medical Service listings as of 1841, some interesting information about Fanny's husband who was not just any civil servant, but a qualified surgeon, also that they were only married 8 years, as he died on his way home in Paris in 1859, and is buried at Montmarte.

1366.  Rumley, Henry William. b. 20 September 1817. M.R.C.S. 1839. A.S. 25 December 1840. Surg. 1 Feb. 1855. d. Paris 10 Dec. 1859. First Sikh or Sutlej War 1845-46. Mudki (horse shot), Firuzshahr, and Sobraon, medal with two clasps. Second Sikh or Panjab War, 1848-49. Ramnagar, Sudullapur, Chilianwala, and Gujrat, medal.

To conclude this collection, here is the letter written by Emma Larkins, reproduced in a series of British Empire newspapers in 1900:

Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934), Friday 14 September 1900, page 10

Mother's Farewell.Last Letter out of Cawnpore.
The following intensely pathetic letter, the last that ever got out of Cawnpore (says a London paper), possesses tragic interest. It was written by Mrs. Emma Larkins, wife of Major George Larkins, Bengal Artillery, and only reached England a year and nine months after it was written.The packet was intrusted by Mrs. Larkins to her ayah, who managed to escape out of Cawnpore and slip through the Sepoy lines. The ayah made her way to Calcutta, and went straight to the address given her. The gentleman to whom the letter was addressed was busy at the time and refused to see her, giving no credence to her tale.Bursting into tears the ayah drew forth the packet and gave it to the servant; then lifting up her arm she called Heaven to witness that she had been faithful to the trust her mistress had reposed in her, and had discharged her task. Weeping, she turned away, and was never heard or seen of more.The intense pathos of this tender mother's farewell to her children in England will touch every heart. We are indebted for this exquisite document to Mrs. Alice Pelly, the "Alice " of the letter."CAWNPORE, June 9, 1857."I write this, dearest Henrietta, in the belief that our hour of departure is come. The whole of the troops rose here and we took refuge in a barrack. We are so hemmed in by overpowering numbers that there seems no hope of escape. Only about 40 Europeans are left of 120 men! A sad, sad number to hold out against such an overpowering enemy. Many joined the cavalry and infantry, and they have six guns against us. The walls are going."This is an awful hour, my darling Henrietta. Jessie, Emily, and Georgie (her children) cling to us. Dearest George (her husband) has been well up to to-day, but he is, I grieve to say, now obliged to abandon his post. This is to me a grief. Many brave men have fallen to-day. The siege has lasted four days!"Oh ! let this be a warning to your Gov-ernment never again to place British officers and men in such a pitiable position; only 120 European soldiers at Cawnpore!! It is sad and painful to reflect on that our lives are tobe sacrificed in such a condition."Give my love to my sweet girls. Tell them that there is but one thing needful: Tell them to seek sorrowing that faith sure and steadfast, an anchor of the soul."Connie, darling, your mamma has longed to see and know you. (She had been left behind in England when aged 3 ½ years.) Seek your God and Heaven in spirit."Alice, my sweet child, remember your Creator in the days of your youth, seek Him till you can say 'I have found Him.'"Ellen, my little lamb, I must not see you again in the flesh, but remember I will look for you where sorrow and disappointment can never enter.""Harry, dear boy, my heart yearns over you. Oh! dear boy, if you saw the position your little brother and sisters are in at this moment you would weep over ever having pleased your own desires. Seek your God and heaven, and serve and please Him, and always hate whatever is sinful."Dearest Henrietta, we leave them all in the hands of God and your tender watching."My dear love to all my dear friends."Peace, dearest Henrietta, which passes knowledge be with you; my gratitude to you is unchanged."(In envelope): "I have given this to nun-nah who hopes to escape, and" —the rest is undistinguishable. 

The Angel of Cawnpore

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Jane Mulholland and her "Perils of Terrible Days"

Another woman who experienced the Indian Mutiny and personal tragedies, including the loss of infant children, was Jane Muholland (see Shields), wife of Sergeant Robert Mulholland, who was with the 3rd Bengal (European) Light Infantry, later known as the 107th Regiment.

Officers of the 107th Regiment 1865 (National Army Museum)

At the age of 90, she told her story to the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian, published on 1 March 1924, which speaks for itself:-

Thrilling Boston Story

Old Lady Survivor of Indian Mutiny

Perils of Terrible Days

Bedridden, and rather weak with the burden of her 90 years, Mrs. Jane Mulholland, a soldier’s widow, living at Glenhurst Villas, Brothertoft-road, Boston, can still remember her adventures in the terrible days of the Indian Mutiny, and has been telling them to a Lincolnshire Standard representative.

Mrs Mulholland lives with a daughter who was born on board ship on the return from India 55 years ago. The daughter is Miss Sarah Essex Mulholland, whose second name is that of the ship. Mrs Mulholland is the widow of Sergeant Robert Mulholland, of the 107th Regiment. He died 45 years ago. Sergeant Mulholland, who belonged to Glasgow, married his wife at St Anne’s Church, Belfast, on April 22, 1852. [Newspaper and Irish marriage records show this as April 23, 1852]. They had one child, six weeks old, when the call came for India.

They went out in the sailing ship Sir Robert Sale, following the route of those days round the Cape of Good Hope, and had not been in India long when the Mutiny broke out.

The 107th Regiment was stationed at Agra. It was a “John Company’s” Regiment. That is to say it was controlled by the East India Company, then the rulers of India.

Entrance Gate of the Taj Mahal, Agra, c. 1857-1858 (National Gallery of Canada)

“We were in barracks in Agra,” Mrs Mulholland told me, “but they were burnt down, and then we were all shut up in the fort. We were imprisoned in the fortress ten or eleven months.

“It was a terribly anxious time. The rebels were all round us. Many of them occupied bungalows and others boats, but our men had the big guns trained on them, and they were afraid to attack us in force.

“Colonel Riddle used to come round among us every night, walking about in his slippers to see that all was quiet and safe. He was a very kind gentleman, and did his best to comfort and reassure us.

“Three children were born in the fort at this time. One was mine, my daughter Mary. We got plenty of food. The native bakers made us hundreds of loaves, but there was danger even in the bread. The head baker was in league with the rebels outside, and poisoned the bread. This was detected, and the man was arrested. They tried him by court-martial at once, and handed him outside the Delhi Gate leading into the fort.

“ How did they find out that the bread was poisoned? One of the native helpers split on him, and a lucky thing it was for us, too. They also poisoned the wells, but fortunately one was left untouched. That well was specially guarded all the rest of the time, and we had good water to drink.

“We had work to occupy us, chiefly sewing, but it was a worry in time. I have slept with my clothes on for a week on end.

“A crisis came at last. It was a Sunday morning, and we were ready for the church service when we - the women and children - were suddenly ordered to the quarter guard, and then to the hospital. The soldiers were present all had their firelocks, as we thought in readiness for the rebels. But something far different was intended. It was feared at that time that the fort would fall, and the Sepoys were expected among us, and - well our men were determined we should never fall into their hands.

“There was a large well in the hospital, and rather than that the natives should take us alive it was decided to kill us and put us down the well! It was terrible. Than[k] God the danger passed, and we went back to our old quarters.

“Soon after that we were able to leave the fort and return to the barracks, which had been partly rebuilt.”

After the Mutiny the Mulhollands moved with the regiment to Lando[u]r, in the Himalayas, where their only son was born. He was buried in the Indian ocean, on the voyage home in the Essex, when 4 years of age. The Mulhollands were in India till 1869, when the sergeant was invalided home, and died at Belfast at the age of 48.

Other children were buried in India, one in Belfast, and one at Boston, and only two are left. Mrs Mulholland receives a small pension from the Royal Patriotic Fund; at one time it was 7s. a week, but the old-age pension has reduced it to 4s.

The 1871 Census shows the family living at 13 Preston Street, Liverpool. Robert aged 39 was a Chelsea Pensioner and there are two daughters, Jean and Betsey, born in Agra Bougal, India, and the other, Sarah, who was born “on board ship in Indian Ocean”. 

Sarah appears to have been quite proud of being born at sea on the ship Essex and liked to travel around for work so is easier to track in subsequent Census Returns than her mother. In 1881, she lived with her older sister Amelia, who had married the curiously-named Cuttriss Creak or Crick at the remarkably early age of 13 in India, and was living in Boston. Lincs. In 1891, Sarah was a housemaid for the Managing Director of the Nottingham Patent Brick Company and in 1901 she was a housemaid in Hackney, London

In the 1911 Census, Sarah Essex Mulholland, was aged 42, single, and employed as a housekeeper for a brother and sister with surname Cartwright in Brothertoft Road Boston, Lincolnshire, presumably the same house as mentioned in the newspaper article. Sarah lived to a ripe old age herself, and died in 1961. Her mother Jane had died in Lincolnshire in 1927, aged 93.

The Palace at Agra, from History of the Mutiny, 1858

Monday, October 9, 2017

Elizabeth Mitchell, child of the regiment and a last survivor of the Mutiny

When Elizabeth Ring (nee Mitchell) died aged 90 in 1935, she was one of the last women to have witnessed the first outbreak of the Indian Mutiny.

Her life story is typical of that of a woman who had close connections to a particular battalion and regiment in the army during the mid-19th Century, in this case the 1st Battalion of the 60th Regiment, also known as the King's Royal Rifles.

Her father was George Mitchell, a regimental Master Tailor who would have been in charge of looking after the uniforms, and who had the good fortune to be allowed to take his family with him when he was posted to India.

Although the exact date of Elizabeth's birth is unknown, it was c. 1845-46 that she was born at sea on HMS Neptune. In that era before the construction of the Suez Canal, sailing ship voyages to India could take anything up to six months (Newspaper reports of the time confirm the 1st Battalion of the 60th Regiment sailed in HMS Neptune from Cork in July 1845.)

Elizabeth Mitchell was born on HMS Neptune (Illustrated London News)

When Elizabeth was just three years old her mother died - under what circumstances are unknown but the death rate for Europeans in India was notoriously high from diseases and infections - and so she became "a child of the regiment" which in 1857 was stationed at the cantonment of Meerut.

Child of the Regiment, c. 1854-55, John Everett Millais

Meerut had been established in 1804 and was one of the better places in India, with many delightful bungalows and well-established gardens and although its climate was marginally better than many other military towns, it could still turn hellish in the blistering Indian summer months.

On Sunday 10 May 1857, Elizabeth was about twelve years old. In the morning she may well have attended the 7 a.m. service at the local church, St. John's, one of the biggest and finest churches in all of India. * 

St John's Church, Meerut

In May, the temperature can often be well in excess of 40 degrees C for many days at a time, so it is unlikely the soldiers and their families would have been particularly active on that particular Sunday.

Meanwhile, unrest had been growing for some time in the sepoy ranks. Two months earlier, the sepoy known as Mangal Pandey went crazy and shot at two Europeans and was hanged at Barrackpore. He had many supporters who were angry that the new cartridges for their Enfield rifles were rumoured to be greased with beef and pork fat. As the men were required to bite off one end in order to use them, this was unacceptable, the cow being a holy animal to Hindus and the pig an unclean one to Muslims. 

Enfield cartridges c. 1858

On 24 April, the commander of the 3rd Bengal Light Calvary at Meerut, Lieut. Colonel George Carmichael-Smyth, who had been warned about the problem with the cartridges but chose to ignore it, ordered the sepoys to use them. When 85 men out of a company of 90 refused, Smyth stripped them of their uniforms, shackled them and ordered their imprisonment for 10 years. This humiliation was the last straw, the men mutinied and the police chief Dhan Singh Gurjar was faced with rampaging chaos. He joined with the rebels and released the imprisoned sepoys from the local gaol. And so began the revenge on the European officers of the East India Company. 

They were cut down wherever the mob found them. Some were just relaxing in the local bazaar at a "pop shop" drinking ginger beer and lemonade when they were set upon, shot, or hacked to pieces, with little time to raise the alarm, not helped by the fact the extreme heat kept many of the senior Europeans officers indoors and in an indolent state, completely unaware of what was happening.

From Illustrated London News, The Sepoy Revolt at Meerut, 1857

Even when told by their servants of the rampaging mob, they didn't believe them and it was only in the late afternoon and evening that the true and awful extent of what was happening was discovered, and with several more officers and civilians being killed by marauding sepoys and their followers when they ventured out to evening service at the church. Officers' quarters were looted and set alight.

Illustrated London News. Preparing defences at Meerut.
The women and children, most likely including Elizabeth, stayed in the building on the right.

In addition to army officers and their wives and children, several civilians were also killed in random acts of savagery. The large number of loyal Indians who tried to defend or hide their employers but were also murdered by the sepoys remains unknown.

It was a young regimental bugler called George Ring who was said to be the first to sound the alarm that the sepoys had mutinied. A few years later, Elizabeth would marry George and accompany him on other postings throughout the Empire.

Born in Corfu in 1838, George must have been a 60th Regiment child as well. He attested for the 1st Battalion at Limerick in 1853 at the age of 14 years 9 months. During his time in the army, he served in the East Indies (India) for 6 years 4 months, in Malta for 1 year 6 months, and in Canada for 9 years 3 months.

George left the army in 1877, aged 39. The varied birth places shown in the UK Census Returns for 1881 and 1891 for the children of George and Elizabeth, reflect the time they were based in Ottawa and New Brunswick. George retired as a Serjeant with good conduct badges, an Indian Mutiny medal and a 2nd class certificate of education, but he had suffered a number of demotions to episodes of drunkenness, not uncommon in soldiers' records of that time. As well as being a Chelsea Pensioner, George also worked as a Messenger for the War Office. He died in 1897.

In the Census of 1911, Elizabeth Ring, aged 65, was a widow, living at 37 Handforth road, Brixton, London S.W. She had given birth to 10 children, 3 of which had died. Living with her was one son, Henry, and two grandchildren, also a boarder, Henry Ellerington, aged 64, widower, who had the very modern job of a Licensed Motor Cab Driver, in other words, a taxi driver. 

(What Elizabeth's connection was to Henry Ellerington raises some interesting questions, as Henry was on trial at the Old Bailey for embezzlement the previous year 1910 and by 1913 he was reduced to living in the Lambeth Workhouse!) 

This article is from the Lancashire Evening Post of 27 May 1930:
Mutiny Memories of a Woman
In a quiet street off the Brixton road, a gentle, grey-haired old lady who lives with her daughter, spends much of her time gazing over the 85 years of her life to the thrilling days of her childhood.
She is Mrs. George Ring, who claims to be one of the few women survivors of the Indian Mutiny, in this country.Mrs. Ring was the daughter of Master-Tailor George Mitchell, of the 1st Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles, and was born on H.M.S. Neptune while the ship was on the high seas carrying the battalion to India.
Travelling to India was very different in those days from what it is now,” she said, to-day. “It took us over six months, and I remember on the return journey we were days without any water. My mother died when I was three years old, and I was brought up with the battalion. I was 12 years old when the Indian Mutiny broke out, and my father was stationed with the battalion at Meerut. I remember it all as clearly as if it were only yesterday. It happened on a Sunday afternoon, and the alarm was given by Sergeant George Ring, who was the bugler of the Quarter-Guard.” 
Mrs. Ring broke off here and left the most romantic part of her story for her daughter to tell. That little English girl who stood thrilled while Sergeant Ring sounded his call, afterwards became his bride.
During those weeks of the mutiny Mrs. Ring remained at Meerut assisting the nurses and even helping to carry the wounded and dead. Hanging on the wall of her bedroom in her Brixton home are the medals won by her father and her husband during the mutiny.

The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser of 15 May 1935 reports the death of Elizabeth:

Indian Mutiny Heroine Dead
Last woman survivor of the Indian Mutiny 78 years ago, Mrs. George Ring, of Handforth-road, Brixton, has died at the age of 90.
Mrs. Ring, who was at Meerut, later married the bugler who sounded the alarm for the rising.

* Click here for present day images of the churchyard, including some of the graves of the victims of Meerut, including that of Charlotte Chambers, the wife of a Captain in the 11th Native Infantry. The many conflicting versions of her death will be related in a subsequent blog post.