An Irishman's Guide to
the History of the World
In part one of What Did the Irish ever do for India/Pakistan, I wrote about the influence of Irish-founded schools on the political leadership of the countries of the Indian subcontinent; the prominent role of Irish women in the struggle for Indian independence; the co-operation between Irish and Indian nationalists and the fact that the Indian National Congress was on two occasions led by Irish people (a man and a woman).
The story continues below.
India’s “De Valera”
- India & Pakistan
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897–1945) was one of the most renowned
leaders of the Indian independence movement, president of the Indian Congress
Party and Head of State of the Provisional Government of Free India during
World War Two. According to Bose’s biography The Indian Struggle, he saw
Ireland as the best example in the 20th century of a national
struggle for independence and said that “there is so much in common between us
that it is only natural that there should be a deep bond of affinity and
comradeship between the Irish Nation and ours”. He supported the Irish armed resistance against British rule
during the War of Independence. He agreed too with the Irish republicans’ opposition
to the subsequent Treaty with its partition of Ireland into two states and
their opposition to dominion status within the British Empire. According to Anton
Pelinka in his excellent book ‘Democracy – Indian Style’, Bose recognised that
these two issues (partition and dominion status) presented a danger that the
Indian Congress Party must avoid at all costs. He closely identified with Eamon
De Valera, leader of the anti-Treaty Sinn Féin movement, who later became
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish Free State in 1932. De Valera was his political role model.
He met him three times. Bose visited Ireland in 1936 at the invitation of De Valera
who treated him as if he was the official representative of India. He met him again in 1938 when the Irish
leader was in London to negotiate with the British government over partition,
British naval ports in southern Ireland and economic issues. It was at that
time that a British newspaper labelled Bose as “India’s De Valera”.
When Bose established an Indian Government in exile
in 1943 in Japanese occupied Singapore to oust Britain from India, De Valera
sent him a congratulatory note.
First Indian Restaurant & Shampoo Clinic in UK
introduced by an Indian from Ireland
In 1810, Sake Dean Mahomed established the first
Indian restaurant in British. It opened as the Hindoostanee Coffee House on
George’s Street in London. In 1814 he and his wife set up the first commercial
shampooing masseur bathhouse in England whose celebrity clientele included
British royalty. It is interesting to note that the term shampoo is derived
from a Hindi word meaning to soothe/press. Made from herb extracts, shampoo was
used since ancient times in India to clean hair.
But whilst Dean Mahomed was born in Patna in India, he
came to England from Ireland where he had married and held a position of high
social status amongst the landowning colonial elite. He was only ten years of
age in 1769 when his father, who worked with the British East India company,
died. But he was taken under the guardianship of Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish
Protestant officer. Thirteen years later Baker resigned his military commission
and left India accompanied by the twenty three year old Dean Mahomed who became
a manager on his estate in Cork. In 1786 he eloped with Jane Daly, a 16 year
old girl from a local wealthy Protestant family. But he soon became a pillar of
the local community and it was whilst he was in Cork that he published The Travels of Dean Mahomet, the first
book in English to be written by an Asian.
Fictional Son of an Irish Soldier becomes an Imperial
Icon of the Raj
Kim, one of the best loved English novel’s of the 20th
century, written by Nobel-prize winner Rudyard Kipling features as its main
character the orphaned son of an Irish sergeant in the British Army and his
Irish wife who worked as a maid in the house of a British officer.
His full name is Kimball O'Hara,
a beggar boy who lives by his wits on the streets of Lahore.
Indian & Irish Literary Greats - The Connection
Rabindranath Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in
Literature. This achievement was helped by the fascination that William Butler
Yeats, then Ireland’s greatest poet and an internationally recognized star of
Western literature, had with Tagore’s manuscript collection of poems entitled Gitangali:
Song Offerings, which he first read in 1912 shortly after the Indian writer had
arrived in England. Upon reading it,
Yeat’s felt that Tagore was far superior to himself or to any other living writer,
that the lyrics “display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my live
[sic] long . . . a tradition, where poetry and religion are the same
thing.” He became the Indian
writer’s most passionate supporter and wrote the introduction to Gitangali when
it was published in March 1913. By November of that year Tagore was awarded the
Nobel Prize solely on this one anthology. Yeats recognised a strong cultural
essence between his spiritual homeland of the rural West of Ireland and that of
Tagore’s native Bengal as it was portrayed in his poetry. Both cultures held a
strong affinity between nature and religion which appealed to him.
interest in the religions, mysticism and mythologies of India go back much
further, to 1885 when at the age of 21 he had invited Mohini
Chatterji, a Bengali Brahman, to Dublin.
An Imperial Gaelic Army in India
“India was the great prize of a Gaelic-speaking army
recruited by the East India Company exclusively in Ireland under Irish
So said Donegal born, former imperial administrator in
India and Liberal MP C. J. O’Donnell in 1913.
There is much truth in this statement as it is
recognised by historians that the Irish were the largest ethnic group in the
British Army during the nineteenth century, probably forming between 40%-45% of
the membership. It was likely that it was a similar situation in the army of the East
India Company before its duties were taken over by the British state after the
Indian Mutiny of the 1850s.
In order to escape endemic poverty and for a love of
foreign adventure many Irish Catholic peasantry and urban dwellers enlisted as
infantry. The sons of the predominantly Anglo-Irish Protestant landowning elite
of Ireland also served in the British military but as cavalry and officers, an
aristocratic tradition that goes back to medieval times. Due to religious and
racial discrimination, Irish Catholics were very rarely able to gain admittance
to the upper echelons of the British military.
There is no doubt then that many Irish served as
members of an army of occupation in India, brutally repressing rebellions by
the indigenous peoples.
It is also the case that the majority of the
Anglo-Irish officers during the Raj were proud imperialists who probably viewed
both native Indians and the Catholic Irish as racially inferior beings whose
destiny was to be ruled by the morally and intelligently superior English.
Amongst the Anglo-Irish who served in the British military and
administration in India were Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington (Dublin); Sir John
Cradock (Dublin) commander-in-chief of the Madras Army, who in 1806 enforced
the removal of turbans, beards, bodypainting and jewelry from Indian soldiers
which lead to a major uprising against British rule; Major-General Sir Robert
Rollo Gillespie (Down), who co-commanded a British invasion of Nepal in 1814; Brigadier-General John Nicholson (Dublin) who during the
Indian Mutiny of 1857 employed the terror practice of tying mutineers to the
mouths of exploding cannons; Sir
Michael Francis O'Dwyer (Tipperary), who as Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab
in1919 sanctioned General Dyer’s
actions which became known as the Amritsar Massacre when an estimated 1000
non-violent protestors we killed.
Irish Regiment’s Mutiny praised by Indian Nationalists
The Connaught Rangers (formerly the 88th foot) was one of
the most famous regiments of the British Empire. Its regimental headquarters was
at Renmore in Galway city.
In 1920 the regiment was stationed in the Punjab. Angered by reports of
atrocities being committed by British forces on the civilian population in
Ireland, C Company of the 1st Battalion at Wellington Barracks in Jullundur
(Jalandhar) on June 28th decided to protest by refusing to obey
orders. The commanding officer was
informed that the men would not return to their duties until all British
soldiers had left Ireland. 400 soldiers became involved and an Irish republican
tricolour flag of green, white and orange, stitched together from cloth
purchased in local bazaars, was run up the flag post in place of the Union
Jack. The mutiny was peaceful. Messengers
were sent to two other Ranger companies based at Solan and Jutogh. At the
former barracks, two mutineers were shot trying to take control of the armoury.
The mutiny ultimately failed. Fourteen of the mutineers were sentenced to death by firing squad, but the only soldier
whose capital sentence was carried out was Private James Joseph Daly from county Westmeath.
One of the
leaders of the mutiny Joseph Hawes stated that they as members of an occupying
foreign army were doing in India what the British military were doing in
Ireland (Professor Tom Bartlett). Indian nationalists at the time viewed the
mutiny as a show of solidarity and common cause in the struggle against
imperialism. Professor Michael Silvestri mentioned that the “Fateh newspaper of
Delhi praised the mutineers’ actions as an adoption of Mahatma Gandhi’s
principles of civil disobedience and an illustration of ‘how patriotic people
can preserve their honour, defy the orders of the Government, and defeat its
Last Viceroy of India assassinated by IRA
Lord Louis Mountbatten served as the last British Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor General of the independent Dominion of India (1947-'48).
After the death of his wife Lady Edwina in 1960, Lord Mountbatten spent his summers staying at this family's estate of Classiebawn Castle at Mullaghmore in county Sligo in the Irish republic.
On August 27th 1979 whilst he was out fishing off the coast of Mullaghmore, his boat was blown up by the Provisional IRA. He and three others onboard died from the blast.