Saturday, December 27, 2014

In the name of the son

In 1749, the British laid siege to the fort of Devakottai and succeeded in taking it over. That was a battle in which a young Shropshire lad, Robert Clive, caught the attention of Major Stringer Lawrence, who was heading the East India Company's troops in Madras. It could possibly have been a quirk of fate that had Clive playing a lead role there; it is tempting to think that, had a note of dissent against the campaign been accepted, there would have been no Tanjore campaign. Without it, that mad soldier Clive may have been hard-pressed to find another theatre for his success and history may well have been different. 

But that note by Foss Westcott was not accepted; despite that, he was still considered a reliable enough civil servant for him to be appointed as one of the two - or was it three - Commissaries to speak for the Company in the treaty for the evacuation of Fort St George (effectively the city of Madras) by the French. He negotiated terms with Dupleix and took over the fort from the French. Foss Westcott remained in the service for only a short while thereafter, going back to England in 1756. 

Foss left behind him his first wife, Ann Pye, who he had married in 1743, and a teenage son, George Westcott. George followed his father into the civil service, joining as a writer. He, however, stayed on in the service for long, going on to become a senior member of the Board of Revenue in Madras. During his tenure in the service, he acquired property at Royapettah and in the manner of the times, the road leading up to his house came to be known as Westcott's Road. The house is long gone, but the road continues to retain the name, even if some liberty has been taken with its spelling!

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