NDC has recorded the incident in the ‘Nilgiris chapter’ of Macaulay, based on a book ‘Reminiscence of an Indian Judge’ by Francis Lascelles, who served as a judge in various places in India including Ooty. According to these records, in 1834, Lord Macaulay was carried on a palanquin for seven days from Madras to Ooty to be present when Lord William Bentinck, the governor of Calcutta, was sworn inthe first Governor General of India at Ooty Club.
Macaulay stayed in Ooty for about three months, during which one of his palanquin bearers got into a relationship with a local woman. While returning to Madras with Macaulay, the palanquin bearers were near St Stephen’s church in Ooty when a mob of men and women stopped them and dragged out the bearer who they said had promised to marry the woman. NDC says Lascelles was a witness to the incident and mentions it as a first person account in his book.
Lascelles writes, “I was proceeding somewhat late on a Sunday morning in the month of April 1834 to the Church at Ootacamund, which is situated on the road to Madras, when my attention was attracted by the sight of two palanquins passing the church, surrounded by a mob of men and women, who were endeavouring to arrest the progress of the first palanquin.
“At the end, the bearers were forced to take another direction and take the palanquins to the office of the commanding officer of the district. Here a gentleman stepped forth from the first palanquin and followed by several persons entered the office. On enquiry, I learned that in the palanquins were Mr. Macaulay and his servant,” Lascelles writes.
Rs 100 could buy 100 acres of land in Ooty
Lascelles writes: “In a short time, the gentlemen and those who had followed him came out. He re-entered his palanquin and was borne away on the road to Madras while the mob quietly returned up the hill, the way they had come. I accosted one who appeared to be the leader and asked him what had taken place. He replied, ‘Tom Macaulay Saib is a very good gentleman … he gave 100 rupees’.” Those days one could buy 100 acres of land in Ooty with ₹100.
There were several versions of the incident. The judge says, “Scarcely had breakfast commenced when his lordship, addressing his secretary said, ‘Well, so Macaulay is gone’ and added to the surprise of all, ‘And pretty exit that was he made … you think no one knows anything that is going on, except yourself; pray who tells me everything but Tom, the barber … Tom got 10 rupees for assisting in Macaulay’s exit’… on the whole it was a very silly affair’. From that day, as the Lascelles says, “Macaulay was styled ‘Silly Tom’ instead of ‘Lucky Tom’ in the gossip on the Neilgheri hills.”