BACSA Logo, from 'Chowkidar'The British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia


This association was formed in October 1976 to bring together people with a concern for many hundreds of European cemeteries, isolated graves and monuments in South Asia.

There is a steadily growing membership of over 1,700 drawn from a wide circle of interest- Government; Churches; Services; Business; Museums; Historical and Genealogical Societies; Family & Ordinary members. More members are needed to support the rapidly expanding activities of the Association with the setting up of local committees in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka Malaysia etc., and the building up of a Records Archive in the Oriental and India Office Collections in the British Library; and many other projects for the upkeep of historical and architectural monuments.

As a life member of BACSA I was drawn to this society by the history of the graves and the people therein in various parts of Asia. From the Raj in India and the Indian Mutiny to the Boxer Rebellion etc.

The stories about the assortment of religious teachers, prophets and martyrs as well as Soldiers and their families and servants who perished in the service of their country and attempting to make a part of a very foreign country a " Little bit of England " are sometimes nearly unbelievable but are very true.

The Society publishes a magazine called CHOWKIDAR meaning Gatekeeper which asks, receives and publishes much information about families and memorials from members and interested parties, lots of which is historical information first hand. It also contains many very old photographs some from as far back as The Cemetery at Lucknow before 1857

Chowkidar is distributed free to all members twice a year and contains a section for 'Queries' on any matter relating to family history or condition of relative's graves etc. There are also many other publications both on cemetery surveys and aspects of European social history out East.

The membership details of this unusual but very interesting society can be reached by contacting:-


The British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia

T.C. Wilkinson.
The Hon Secretary of BACSA.
761/2 Chartfield Avenue,
Putney.
London. SW15 6HQ.

 


Chowkidar Articles

I have included three article extracts for your perusal so that you may see the quality of items information published in CHOWKIDAR and as it happens they all come from the Spring 1997 edition. Each is different yet each gives a good example of the sort of articles which appear in the news letter in spring and autumn. There are many more!!.


1. The little cemetery at Kathmandu

The Nepalese Cemetery at Kathmandu. After the treaty of Segauli in 1816 the first British Resident was allotted a dismal site for the residency, an outlying area called Lainchaur, which was locally believed to unhealthy and inhabited by spirits A Christian cemetery was needed within four years for the burial of Robert Stuart Esquire. Died 14th March 1820. He was assistant to the 1st British Resident at the Court of The Raja of Nipal.

His successor Brian Houghton Hodgson, FRS. eventually became Resident in 1833 and although he never married he "lived with" a Muslim lady, who he treated as his wife, had two children who were raised by his sister but died young and have a memorial at Petersham Church, Richmond, Surrey. This lady was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Kathmandu which has long since disappeared.

Captain William Boyd Irwin, 10th Regiment Native Infantry, and his wife Elisabeth Mary left an infant Alice there in August 1869.

20 year old Hastings Young of the 83rd Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry succumbed 31st March 1840. Philip Henry Oldfield aged five in 1869. (Son of the Residency Surgeon.)

The 19th Century tombs and memorials were handsome structures with fluted column, pyramid and Gothic steeple.

One of the latest to be buried there was Boris Lissanevitch who ran a Kathmandu hotel for many years and died in October 1985.

It is reported that the cemetery is still in remarkably good condition, with a sturdy wall, a resident Chowkidar and all burial records are intact in the British Embassy.

An acknowledgement is given at the end of this article to the Journal of The British Nepal Society.


2. The Sexton's House at Rajahmundry near Pimlipatam. & 3. The plaque on the wall of the Sextons House.

The ruined gatehouse of the cemetery at Rajahmundry had stood roofless for years though the walls were strong. Bacsa made a donation for its repair and a sturdy thatched roof of palm fronds was put in place and to mark Bacsa's gift the plaque was also added.


4. The tomb of Raja Ram Mohun Roy. Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol. England.

This gentleman left home and "sought knowledge by his extensive travels." Mastered ten languages, encouraged the study of english in early 19th century India and was a journalistic pioneer in India. He came to England in 1830 to plead the cause of the Mughal Emperor AkbarII (who gave him the title of Raja), died three years later and was buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol.

A large monument was erected above his remains in 1842 and this is now in perilous state. It is estimated £25,000 will be needed to restore it and The Bristol General Cemetery Company, which has taken over the cemetery will not carry out the work because no money was left for its upkeep. As this is the 50th anniversary year since India's Independence it is suggested that it could be financed by the Lottery Heritage Fund thus symbolising the synthesis between the two countries.


Other articles in the same magazine are about The explosion of SS Fort Stikine 14th April 1944 in Bombay Docks. A British lady Mrs Robertson who was burnt on a funeral pyre at Kasauli. The Mill Hill Missionaries and Father Kilty's grave at Leh in Ladakh. Information required about the Chittagong armoury raid of 1930, and someone researching the subject of Wolf children in India.(Children carried off and reared by wolves!!)

A very interesting and varied selection of items.




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