Introduction to the project
This is the official blog for the team who are travelling to India on the 8th November to survey the Scottish Cemetery in Kolkata for The Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust. The survey team includes people from:
Simpson and Brown Architects with Addyman Archaeology
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)
The Scottish Highlands Council
Manish Chakraborti Architects
The aims of the project
The Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust has been established to commemorate and to build on the historic links between Scotland and Kolkata. Its Scottish Cemetery Project aims :
1. To maintain the Scottish Cemeteryas a managed green space which can be a ‘lung’ for the surrounding population. as inspired by the ideals of Sir Patrick Geddes.
2. To research and record of the cemetery and thereby improve the understanding of the site, its history and its genealogical importance. To make this information readily available.
3. To restore the cemetery buildings and as many of the monuments as possible.
4. To establish a centre for training traditional building skills necessary for the repair and restoration of the monuments as well as of the traditional buildings of Kolkata.
The Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust are actively fundraising for the project. At this stage donations and enquiries can be handled by the administration team – Elaine Thompson, Beverley Guild, or Arielle Juler at our office here in Leith (0131 555 4678 or e-mail as above); these will be passed on to the Trust.
The history of the cemetery
Kolkata, or Calcutta as it used to be, was the headquarters of the East India Company in the 18thC and the capital of India until 1911-12. Scots played a prominent part in the work of the Company and in the administration of British India . The development of the tea trade and jute trade with Dundee brought many Scots to Kolkata in particular.
The Scottish church in Kolkata, now part of the Church of North India, was St Andrews in Dalhousie Square, on which the Scottish Cemetery was – and is – dependent. In the Session Room of St Andrews hangs a large photograph of St Giles cathedral in Edinburgh! The cemetery has over 1600 headstones and monuments, some of Aberdeen granite, but many of brick and lime with marble tablets. The Register of Interments in the Scottish cemetery records the names of the many hundreds of Scots who died far from home and are buried there. Well over 90% of the names are recognisably Scots – names like Anderson, McGregor, Campbell and Ross – most of the others are Bengali, like Banerjea and Mukerjee.
Despite the efforts of the Superintendent, who lives with his family in the arched gatehouse, the cemetery is derelict and overgrown with snake-infested jungle twenty feet high. The monuments and stones which are visible are broken and decayed. The cemetery, which is a rare green space in a densely populated part of Kolkata serves no useful purpose, either for the City, for the local population or for the relatives of the people who are buried there. It has become a great burden for St Andrew’s and the church in general and a matter of concern for the City and State authorities. Yet it is an extraordinary record of the lives of generations of Scots, a part of Scotland’s heritage overseas and surely a site for which present-day Scots should feel some responsibility.
For news articles associated with the trip go to: