EIC history provides evidence of the more unseemly side of Anglo-colonisation, and those families who gained from it. Some of them were in effect ‘out of control’, most notably Richard Wesley/Wellesley, whom a recent author has described as breaking ‘just about every treaty with the Indian rulers’. He, along with his two brothers, embarked on such military excursions between 1798 and 1805 that they effectively led the company into bankruptcy for family self-aggrandisement. Lord Castlereagh was closely associated with this for he was president of the board of control of the company in 1801–6, and it has been suggested that he only took the job as a stepping stone in his personal advance. By 1805 it was too late to undo the damage done to the EIC by these autocratic men. Some possibly had held high-level positions in Freemasonry. Perhaps the greediest rogue of all was Robert Clive, of whom James Mill said that he was ‘never inattentive to his own interests’. He acquired an Irish barony with an estate near Limerick, as well as large houses in Surrey and Berkeley Square, but it was 60 years later before his reputation was rehabilitated by Lord Curzon in another period of Anglo-assurance.
In the great political battles waged within and without the EIC, between the royalist and progressive factions, there were others of significance with connections to Ireland: T. Babington Macaulay, chief secretary to the board of control of the company; Edmund Burke, leading the anti-royalist faction, showing concern for the Indians, with support from R.B. Sheridan and C.J. Fox; George Canning, president of the board, whose father was a ‘penurious scion of an Anglo-Irish family’ and whose son Charles married the niece of another president, H. Dundas, became president himself, and later viceroy of India; Eyre Coote, appointed by Clive to run his military arm, described as ‘an irascible Irishman’, with an ancestor claimed by US statesman Colin Powell, from Coote’s time serving in the West Indies; Mountstuart Ephinstone, who served as the EIC’s envoy to Persia at a critical time, and was followed there by his cousin General W. Elphinstone; H. Gough, who took on the Sikhs unnecessarily in battle in 1849 ‘because they put my Irish [sic] blood up’; E. Empey, first chief justice of the Indian supreme court; the Lawrence brothers, four sons of an obscure colonel in Ireland who spent many years in India, to great effect; W. Macnaughten, who served the company for sixteen years, mainly as a the senior political adviser; F. Rawdon-Hastings/Lord Moira, who became governor-general of India as a heavily indebted gambling friend of the prince regent; R. Temple, who as Prime Minister Palmerston became obsessed about Russia invading India, an issue that Wellesley had exploited; L. Sulivan, president of the board, who attempted to restrain Clive’s personal greed.
Perhaps some of these Irish links to India were known to those who murdered the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. This may be of interest or offer potential to some scholar to explore it further, if someone has not already done so.—Yours etc.,
Sir,—I enjoyed the article on nicknames by Colm Walsh in the last issue (HI 18.3, May/June 2010). He states that the nickname ‘Bocky’ refers to injuries sustained by soldiers in the First World War. I would suggest that it derives from the Irish word bacach, meaning ‘lame’.—Yours etc.,