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

No comments: