The largest Scottish cemetery of Kolkata outside Scotland

Among the  colonial cemeteries of Kolkata the Scottish Cemetery was a popular one and is being visited by Scots whose forefathers were buried here centuries ago. Before the Scottish Cemetery was established in the 1820s  many Scots were buried here  as there was no place to bury the departed souls.  Countless Scots were in the employ of the English company and later under the Raj. Kolkata being the capital for a pretty long period until 1911  before Delhi had become the capital of the Raj many Scottish families lived in Kolkata.

Scottish cemetery, Kolkata.

Above image: The scottish cemetery of Kolkata is said to be the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world and the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and the Americas. Perhaps, the largest Scottish cemetery overseas........ 

The union of Scotland with England in 1707 provided better job opportunities for the Scotts , especially so in the later period when the English company had consolidated their base and begun to control Bengal and other regions in the subcontinent. In the colonial past waves of Scots landed in Kolkata for job with the British company, then a proxy government for the crown  and with private companies.  They were in various fields such as administration of the government, police department, military, business, banking, evangelism, etc. Also included were investors in tea, coffee plantations and jute industries.    

The Scottish Cemetery located on Karaya street, Kolkata

The Scottish Cemetery located on Karaya street adjacent to  St. Andrew’s Church in Dalhousie Square   had been active  till 1940s since its inception in 1920  and  after India’s  independence, it slowly had lost its significance and became a dilapidated site primarily because of  fund crunch, loss of interest  apathy on the part of  St. Andrew’s. The vast green space in the highly populated city serves no purpose  either for the city, or 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  in view of  decline in church membership and revenue. 

Scottish Cemetery, Kolkata.

Scottish cemetery, being in  a neglected state  in 2008,  dedicated efforts were taken by  KSHT – Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust  with support from the Royal Commission of Ancient  and Historic Monuments for Scotland.  According to the article cited by the Kolkata Scottish  Cemetery (https://scottish cemetery tombs and headstones were in bad shape because of neglect.  Initially in 2008 inside the Cemetery, one could experience   nothing but desolation all over the site with wild growth of plants, bushes and trees with strong root system that caused severe damages to nearby graves.  Hundreds of tombs had undergrowth of weeds, etc that damaged or obscured the tombs.  Initially, they  were cleared   to make the interior of the cemetery easily accessible.  Initial steps were taken to restore the Scottish  cemetery and according to Lord Charles Bruce Chairman of KSHT (vide his interview to Metro, April 2014) the progress on restoration on all fronts was going at a slow phase due to declining funds. Bruce was a descendent of Lord Elgin, Viceroy of Bengal Presidency

The Scottish Cemetery at St. Andrew’s church  is  an important legacy of Scots in this part  and the historical and cultural record of  Scotland’s past should not get lost primarily due to inadequate funds.  At St. Andrews Church 11 volumes of hand written leather-bound burial records  are in an  advanced stage of decay due to utter negligence  and they must be saved and preserved for the posterity.

If this famous cemetery and the record books are  left neglected and remain unrestored, it is a big historical blunder. An important Indo-Scottish connection will be lost forever beyond redemption and the posterity will never come to know about the Scottish connection with colonial India.  It is imperative to take some kind of step on par with  the Serampore Danish Initiative has to be taken to restore the Scottish Cemetery of Kolkata back to glory. The cemetery is said to  be one of the largest overseas Scottish cemetery, stretching over 6 acres of land in the densely populated part of North Kolkata with about  1600 burial plots and 2000 burials and monuments. It has 4000 graves. The cemetery has a strong Scottish  character and the Indian government should declare that the "Scottish Cemetery is an historical heritage site of national importance”

According to  inscriptions,  most of the headstones were made of   Aberdeen granite of Scotland  and transported to this site for use. It is believed most the stones were used as ballasts by the Kolkata bound ships. The epitaphs on them are almost worn out or  fading due to climatic changes. In 1938, among  the five  large companies  four  were of  Scottish origin and they had under them 400 subsidiary companies from railways to  shipping to tea. A former British M.P. Tam Dalyell, it is reported, has 36 relatives buried here and they worked in India for 200 years at various periods.'' Well-known Scots who were buried here include   economist James Wilson, who introduced Income Tax and Currency notes in Colonial  India, Dr. Thomas Nelson Annandale, founder director of Zoological Survey of India. Indian film actress Fearless Nadia (Mary Ann Evans, Andrew Yule, founder of Andrew Yule Co of Calcutta and founder  of Indian National Congress,   Alan Octavian Hume, an ex ICS administrator  and one of the framers of Indian National Congress that was in the forefront of freedom    

In the early colonial period in india the mortality rate for the Europeans was pretty low as highlighted by the cemetery records.  . Ravages of monsoon, hot summer days, dreaded diseases like smallpox, besides numerous poisonous snake bites and wild animal attacks had an impact on the Europeans. 

Bitter memories of oppressive colonial rule, exploitation of resources, dishonest land-grabbing  and subjugation led  the people to expunge colonial vestiges - symbols, buildings, etc. post independence. However. efforts are being made by the Indian government to restore whatever colonial and historical  monuments are left behind to preserve the legacy for the posterity.