Sunday, November 4, 2012
Once upon a time, this statue was situated at a prime location, where Pallavan Salai joins Mount Road. It was unveiled at that location by Sir Arthur Lawley, the Governor of Madras, in 1911. After standing there for about 36 years, this statue of Hungerford Tudor Boddam was moved, canopy and all, to a corner of Napier's Park, where it stays on, ignored by the morning walkers and yoga-makers, who go about their business unmindful of this man in their midst.
That a statue of this man should have been built up is in itself surprising. It is said that, as a Judge of the Madras High Court, H.T. Boddam set some kind of record in the number of judgements being reversed on appeal. When he realised this, he decided that his notes of evidence were private property and refused to release them for the appellate courts to review. He was known to be partisan, pre-judging cases before listening to the evidence and favouring specific members of the Bar. There seems to be little record of him before his tenure as a Judge. He was born in 1850 in Dacca (Dhaka, in today's Bangladesh). He seems to have gone over to England to study, for there is a mention of his having served as Recorder of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1890. And then, there he is in 1896, being appointed as a Judge of the Madras High Court; a position that he was abysmally bad at, that the lawyers refused to accord him the ceremonial farewell from the Bar.
And yet, he was not a bad guy. He was the first President of the Madras Pinjrapole, the home for abandoned castle, having helped with getting it off the ground as well. The statue itself was subscribed to by several citizens of Madras. Boddam seems to have had no particular fondness for Madras. Almost as soon as he retired, he set off for Bombay, hoping to catch the steamer back to England. Unfortunately, he died on the way to Bombay and his body was brought back for a formal burial in Madras. And he continues to stay here ever since!