The Peacock Throne and the Grosvenor

A Mughal throne in Pondoland?

Many years ago, I wrote about the peacock throne and touched upon this very topic at the tail end of that article. The story has not died despite the musicologist, historian and Grosvenor investigator Percevial Kirby’s empathic statement that the ship never really contained the kind of treasure it seemingly sailed with. Revisiting that story was a thought which had slipped in and out of my mind for some time now. The other day, I was staring absently at some of the books in my steadily growing home library over the years, and I saw the title ‘Caliban’s shore’ which I had purchased during my Peacock Throne research days. I then got hold of both of Kirby’s books on the Grosvenor and got to work unearthing the hoax behind this whole thing. So read on….

The Grosvenor an East Indiaman which sailed out of Madras in March 1782 destined for English shores, stopped for a few weeks at Trincomalee in Ceylon and on its home run to England, ran aground into rocks at the ‘bay of muscles’ on the uninhabited Pondoland coast of South Africa. The ship had a crew of 132 and 18 passengers (12 adults and 6 children) and substantial cargo. Of the 123 survivors, only 18 reached Cape Town. A 1783 report on British newspapers pointed out that the ship’s cargo was valued at around £300,000 signifying the size of its salvage value. But neither the British Crown nor the EIC did anything to locate or salvage the ship or track down the survivors. How come? 

Numerous stories on the fate of the survivors and the treasure being carried in the wrecked ship whirled around for many decades without satisfactory explanations. Many salvage attempts headed by treasure hunters to get to the sunken ship with a hope of recovering the purported treasure-trove failed. Was it all a legend, a hoax? Let’s check.

Interestingly, the indomitable Mrs Fay who once wrote about her confinement by Hyder Ali at Calicut, too had considered sailing on this trip in the Grosvenor, but could not afford the fare demanded.  

Anyway, the ship eventually left a nervous Madras (which had been waiting for an attack by Hyder Ali any time), with some £60,000 worth coast goods, passenger’s personal wealth worth £65,000 and diamonds worth £10,000, destined for a 2 month stopover at Trincomalee in Ceylon and from there to England. The voyage was eventful, the Grosvenor narrowly avoided a sea battle between the French and British near Ceylon. Two months later, at the break of dawn on 4th August 1782, the ship stuck an undersea rock off the Pondoland coastline (some 135 miles north  South of Durban) and ended up as a marooned wreck. The survivors with little food and sustenance decided to trek some 250 miles towards Cape of Good hope, but it did not quite work out as some died and the remaining survivors drifted into the tribal regions of Pondoland. No real account of their travails are available, but it is presumed that the surviving women were taken by the Zulu and the men merged with various tribes in the region. Three of the surviving white women passengers of the Grosvenor were perhaps taken as wives by Zulu chiefs. While reports surfaced now and then of seeing white persons and half castes in black tribes, there was no concerted effort barring one in tracking them down. It is said that the Abelungu pale faced Pondoland clan points out that during the 200 or so years some of these survivors blended with the Zulus.

It was in 1880 or thereabouts, that a man named Sidney Turner stumbled upon some wreckage and chanced on some gold mohurs and star pagodas. The press came up with a sensational news to report ‘that the Grosvenor had much gold bullion on board” which started the stream of treasure hunts. The next was one Alfred Raleigh who using a medium (a child named Andy) and hypnosis to divine the wreck, declared that the ship was full of gold and silver. In 1896, one Alexander Lindsay found some 340 coins. Local kaffirs fanned the blaze of rumors with their belief that a box of treasure had been buried close to the wreck when it beached ashore near the mouth of the Tezani River.

In 1905 Lindsay formed a company called ‘the Grosvenor recovery syndicate’ which brought in a steam winch and a dredger. The story floated was that the crew departing the wreck had dragged and buried much of the treasure (some £1,000,000 worth) on land and had drawn the map which this syndicate had a copy of. Equipment was brought in to bring up the sunken treasure and the shipwreck which was supposedly covered by mounds of sand. Other than news of the rusting away of the winch and the dredger Duiker (and a sailor perishing in the attempt) running aground, nothing was obtained by way of treasure. There was a lull after this event due to the tragic outbreak of WW1.

It was in 1921 that Martin and David Webster established the Grosvenor Bullion syndicate floating 700,000 shares, after publishing copies of the captain’s log and a bill of lading, listing the treasure. The treasure according to them comprised 19 boxes of precious stones worth £517,000, 720 gold bars worth £420,000, 1450 silver bars, and coins worth £717,000.The value of the wreck was pegged at £1,714,710 and it was stated that the wreck was just under 18’ of water with 10’ of sand over it. The promoters claimed that they had a solid plan of boring through the sea bed to the hull of the submerged ship.

A full 1,000 (or 2,000) shares were purchased by Arthur Conan Doyle and a letter from him was added part of the company’s prospectus. He said – ‘Distance prevents me from taking a more active part in your enterprise, but it seems to me to be approached in a very workmanlike manner and to offer every prospect of success. . . . There are obvious risks, but the stake is a large one, and it seems to be a good speculative venture’.  

The scams continued milking greedy investors off their money. A spurious letter purportedly issues by a port Captain Bowden about the wreck and unsuccessful attempts of getting to the bullion, lent further credence. Two years later, perhaps seeing no return or wreck, another share holder even suggested that Conan Doyle being a spiritualist be asked to divine the location of the ship. After 8 years of no activity other than digging a hole in the ground, the company wound up.

It was around this time that a newspaper article came out stating that the ship had been carrying the two peacocks from the Mughal peacock throne worth £5,000,000, embedded in concrete and placed in brass chests. One CBAC Chase mentioned it for the first time in the periodical ‘overseas’ titled ‘the world’s biggest treasure hunt’ in Sept 1921. He stated ‘It is said that in addition to the treasure actually known to have been in the Grosvenor, were two wonderful golden peacocks, encrusted with gems, that were parts of the famous golden peacock throne of Delhi, India.’

The western Argus 13 Mar 1923 declared - Stored in its stronghold were boxes of emeralds and rubies, bars of gold- specie to the value of considerably, over half a million, bars of-silver, and other treasure. It was an open secret that a large portion of the looted Crown jewels of India was on board, chief of which were the two Golden Peacocks which were valued at an enormous figure. There is (or -was) over 11 tons of gold aboard, and; today the value of the treasure is something like £2,000,000.

In Sept 1923 the story was rereleased by the Daily representative and Free Press to revive interest in the Syndicate. The story went on to say that the pieces of the throne valued at £5,000,000 finally ended up in Calcutta and added further mystery by stating that it had in fact been smuggled onto the ships hold in secret! That was when the story went viral. From a £60,000 manifest, the treasure had ballooned to millions of pounds!!

What about these peacocks? Bernier had previously described them - The construction and workmanship of the throne are not worthy of the materials; but two peacocks, covered with jewels and pearls, are well conceived and executed. They were made by a workman of astonishing powers, a Frenchman by birth, named..... who, after defrauding several of the Princes of Europe, by means of false gems, which he fabricated with peculiar skill, sought refuge in the Great Mogul's court, where he made his fortune. Tavernier stated - The underside of the canopy is covered with diamonds and pearls, with a fringe of pearls all round, and above the canopy, which is a quadrangular-shaped dome, there is to be seen a peacock with elevated tail made of blue sapphires and other coloured stones, the body being of gold inlaid with precious stones, having a large ruby in front of the breast, from whence hangs a pear-shaped pearl of 50 carats or thereabouts, and of a somewhat yellow water. On both sides of the peacock there is a large bouquet of the same height as the bird, and consisting of many kinds of flowers made of gold inlaid with precious stones.

How about Conan Doyle’s involvement in all this? We do know he was a shareholder and promoter of the syndicate. Well, as it occurred during the Boer war at the turn of the 20th century, Arthur Conan Doyle serving for England in S Africa as a doctor came to hear about the potential treasure. He added fuel to the fire by remarking in his memories and adventures published in 1924 that the Grosvenor carried the old crown regalia from Delhi! That is how Delhi got connected to the Grosvenor and now news reports grandly stated that the Grosvenor treasure included the loot from the sack of Delhi.

He wrote thus, attaching a cryptic picture - Buried treasures are naturally among the problems which have come to Mr. Holmes. One genuine case was accompanied by a diagram here reproduced. It refers to an Indiaman which was wrecked upon the South African coast in the year 1782. If I were a younger man, I should be seriously inclined to go personally and look into the matter.

The ship contained a remarkable treasure, including, I believe, the old crown regalia of Delhi. It is surmised that they buried these near the coast, and that this chart is a note of the spot. Each Indiaman in those days had its own semaphore code, and it is conjectured that the three marks upon the left are signals from a three-armed semaphore. Some record of their meaning might perhaps even now be found in the old papers of the India Office. The circle upon the right gives the compass bearings. The larger semi-circle may be the curved edge of a reef or of a rock. The figures above are the indications how to reach the X which marks the treasure. Possibly they may give the bearings as 186 feet from the 4 upon the semi-circle. The scene of the wreck is a lonely part of the country, but I shall be surprised if sooner or later, someone does not seriously set to work to solve the mystery—indeed at the present moment (1923) there is a small company working to that end.

But the syndicate collapsed and ceased operation in 1924 after spending some £12,500 leaving behind an incomplete tunnel to what was believed to be the hull of the Grosvenor.

The legend died down for a while but it was in 1927 that American millionaire Pitcarin, primarily interested in restoring the peacocks to their rightful owners (??) acquired the syndicate. He spent £25,000 in efforts but stopped thereafter for religious reasons! In 1938 the Grosvenor treasure recovery company was formed and a new story crept in, that Hyder Ali’s treasure worth £3,000,000 was also on board. WWII intervened and interest sagged. It was at this point that Prof Percival Kirby a renowned musicologist and authority on African music and races, published his first Grosvenor book which revealed that this was all fantastic nonsense.

After more hunts and attempts, the throne came back to news in 1950, 1954 and again in 1957. Prof Kirby published his second book (True story of the Grosvenor) in 1960 which emphatically rubbished the treasure stories. Kirby also wrote – I also hope that in future the rather juvenile legend will be allowed to die, but I fear that this may not happen. The treasure hunts were finally called off, with the public no longer believing in the treasure, but well, as you can imagine such myths and legends do not die.

Percival R. Kirby who passed away in 1970, stated: `undoubtedly the Grosvenor was a richly laden vessel, but the visions of bullion (if by that is meant hundreds of bars of gold and silver), and of scores of chests of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and the like … are but idle dreams’. Tony Carnie reporting in 2000 concludes succinctly   ‘But that's all it was, a legend. An extravagant falsehood invented to tantalize fortune-seekers to invest in the Grosvenor Bullion Syndicate Ltd in 1923, along with several other syndicates and salvage companies formed over the past several decades’. 

Interestingly there was one unfortunate soul who did find some treasure from the Grosvenor. In 1927, a small time prospector named John Bock found a bunch of 1038 diamonds. The rightful man reported the find, but was charged under the Diamond trade act for having found locally mined stones and placed them elsewhere near the Grosvenor wreck (to salt the find). Even though expert’s stated that these were not South African, pointing to an Indian origin (and thus the Grosvenor), the diamonds were confiscated and Bock instead of enjoying his days, counted prison bars for 3 years.  What an unlucky man!

It is time to go back to Delhi and check what happened to the Peacock throne. As we know the real peacock throne was part of Nadir Shah’s loot which he took back to Persia. On the way back, he had to battle Afghan and Kurdish tribes and the throne was ransacked with only a portion of it reaching Persia eventually. After some years, succeeding Moghul kings built another throne and even Bahadur Shah used it until he was deposed.

After the Sepoy mutiny and the sacking of Delhi by the English, this peacock throne was the target and Captain Tytler, the officer left in charge of the palace, managed to save two of the four pedestals which supported this platform. Some years after his death, his widow sold one to the South Kensington Museum. This lady died early in 1908, when Sir Purdon Clarke purchased the remaining marble pedestal from her estate, for the New York Metropolitan Museum. The picture shows what can be seen at the museum, but Lord Curzon who spent years tracing the story of the throne testified that this was not part of the original peacock throne, but belonged to the later throne.

Back to Port Grosvenor, we see that in 1982 Steve Valentine a diver in Cape Town discovered a lot remains from the wreck at a location some 600 yards north of where hunters had originally concentrated. A few buckles, coins and cutlery came up. Archeological excavations on the Grosvenor wreck site continued since 1999. Small number of rupees, silver coins, gold mohurs, various artifacts and personal belongings were collected over time. No treasure, at least not yet!

The legend and the myth of the peacock throne did not die. Sheelagh Mccay Antrobus takes us back to the legend with a 2010 article mentioning that the peacocks may have lain hidden in the heart of the Hella Hella Valley near Richmond. She narrates that before the loot of Delhi by the British, the Shah tried to avert war by offering the peacock throne to King George III of England.

As the story goes, tribesmen from a remote Xhosa clan found a big wooden box in the days following the Grosvenor’s sinking and on breaking it open, found themselves staring at the glittering glory of the Peacock Throne. It took 25 men to carry it to their chief, who thence sat on it grandly for many decades.

The neighboring Chaka Zulu chief heard about it and sent 300 men to retrieve it for himself. They defeated the Xhosa in a bloody battle and sped away with the Peacock Throne through the Hella Hella Valley. As some of them rested on a hilltop, guarding the Peacock Throne, they saw that their comrades were being set upon by the remnants of the Bhaca tribe whom they had previously attacked. The eight Zulus fled with the Peacock Throne, hiding it in a deep pool on a river before fleeing back to Zululand to request support from the chief Chaka. But in the intervening period Chaka had been killed and his position taken by his brother Dingaan. The eight men kept silent about the throne for they had no allegiance with the new chief. They died and the story should have died with them, but it did not for one of them had told his great grandson about the throne. He narrated the story to a farmer named Stone and came to an agreement that he would show him the location of the throne the next day in return for 11 cows. But in a twist of fate, the Zulu simply vanished the next day, never to be seen again. Nevertheless, , it seems that a wood carving of the peacock throne dating back to Zulu times can be seen in a museum somewhere in Zululand, made perhaps by one of the 8 who buried it.

Another version of this story (50 years of Umko 1966-2016) goes on to state that Pondo tribesmen found the shipwrecked “Peacock Throne” and transported it to the local chief’s residence where it was used by him and his descendants. Around 1828 the Zulu raided the village and found the Peacock Throne. When the return party reached the vicinity of Hella Hella they left the heavy throne hidden in a cave. The story goes on like the previous one and now the grandson of the Zulu is on an expedition back to Hella Hella to find the treasure. He found the throne stowed away in a large cave, secured to the roof. But while attempting to take it down the weakened ropes gave way, the heavy throne fell crushing them to death. So it is still there or somewhere, as the Zulu surmise, hidden in a cave.

Legends never die, as Kirby concluded…..

If you recall I mentioned about the 25 Indian lascars and maids on the ship. A Dutch rescue team found 10 of them, 8 lascars and 2 maids and they were shipped back to India. Unfortunately five of the lascars and one of the maids drowned on their return voyage when, in a cruel twist of fate, the ship they were traveling in, the Nicobar, sank, East of Cape Agulhas. The remaining maid and 3 Lascars arrived at Calcutta, never to tell their tale, in fact nobody asked them. So there you go, of the 140 who left on the Grosvenor, only eight Europeans, three lascars and 1 maid made it back home.

What about the Calcutta barrister and emissary of Warren Hastings, the eminent Charles Newman who was a passenger of the ship and the secret documents which he was carrying to London? Hastings deputed Charles Newman to Madras to conduct the inquiry into the alleged corruption of the Company's servants and Newman collected a lot of information which the EIC did not want exposed. Newman wanted to deliver these secrets only to superiors in London and that is why he was sailing back on the Grosvenor. His secrets also died with the Grosvenor mishap for he never made it out of the Pondoland forests. What could he have found about the 1776 revolution attempt by the Nawab of Arcot? Was he the reason why the EIC did not bother to track down the ship and its survivors? Was that why the Indians were never interrogated? That my friends is another mystery waiting to be unearthed. We’ll see..

The Story of the Peacock Throne – Maddy's Ramblings 
The true story of the Grosvenor - Percevial R Kirby
 Source book of the wreck of the Grosvenor - Percevial R Kirby
The Great treasure hunts – Rupert Furneaux
Caliban’s shore – Stephen Taylor
Zulu Journey –Carel Birkby
The doctor and the detective – Martin Booth
The Wide World Magazine Vol 50 -The search for the Grosvenor treasure – EB Dawson
The peacock throne legend -The Witness, 5 Apr 2010 - Sheelagh McKay Antrobus
Memories and Adventures – Arthur Conan Doyle

Pics: Peacock throne, Grosvenor wreck – Wikimedia, Signs – Conan Doyle M&A, Throne base (The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 10, Oct 1908)


Dr Barnard – The X-Ray man at Madras

Perhaps Dr. Christian Barnard’s blazing trail with his work on open heart surgery during the late 60’s eclipsed the valuable contributions of another, the Captain Thomas William Barnard, O.B.E., F.H.A., F.R.P.S., M.S.R. who refined X-Ray techniques some three decades earlier, during his tenure at Madras. That he made a world standard institution of it at Madras would not be known to many and so I thought it a good idea to share some of TWB’s experiences and his charming insights with you all.

Prof Arcot Gajaraj wrote - Captain Barnard belonged to the category of great men who had a modest beginning, but by dint of hard work, perseverance and foresight brought laurels not only on themselves but also made valuable contributions to the welfare of mankind. He was not a product of any medical school and began his life as an ordinary X-ray operator hardly 10 years after the very discovery of X-rays. What is even more astounding, as our esteemed Madras Chronicler S. Muthiah explained, is the fact that Radiology came to Madras in 1900, when the General Hospital got an X-ray unit a mere five years after Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery and before such facilities, it is claimed, were established in much of Europe and the rest of the world. As time went by and the first world war wrought tribulations on much of the western world, this invention was to bring about rapid developments in correct diagnosis of diseases, orthopedic issues and go on to impact medical sciences immensely. Let’s now trace the voyage of both man and equipment, their chance meeting at Bombay and see how it impacted the history of Indian medicine.

But before we get to Barnard and his X-ray work, we should hasten to find out how the first X-ray unit reached Madras so early. It appears to have been installed during the days when senior surgeon and Professor Lt Col John Maitland served at the GH. We are given to understand that it was a primitive unit, run from a small set of accumulators. The radiologist who handled the equipment did not quite remain upto date with technology and was not well regarded, so avenues for private investment were opened and Dr. P. Rama Rao filled the void and set up his own X-Ray institute at Kilpauk. One could conclude that Rama Rao and the unit at the GH, managed various patients of the Madras presidency, with Rao sharing a larger percentage of the clientele. As the anxiety of the Asst Surgeon General Dr Govindarajalu Naidu peaked with this deplorable state of affairs, he started a search for a qualified and experienced radiographer.
GH Madras
Captain Barnard’s entry into this dangerous field was deliberate. Why dangerous, you who have been under an X-ray machine so many times, would ask! In those days, the apparatus to produce these all seeing rays was quite crude compared with that now used. It consisted of induction coils with various types of interrupters and many gadgets and devices and well, the naked X-Ray Tube had to be kept cool by various means. Earlier machines were single phase self-rectified x-ray machines with air-cooled rectified valves, cones and cylinders. The tables were mechanically or manually operated with crude spot film devices, etc. There was but little protection against Radiation and Electrical dangers and the risks "X-Ray Operators" (as the staff were named in those days) were called upon to incur were many. Most of the early operators lost limbs and developed dermatitis and other related injuries.

T. W. Barnard joined the staff of the X-ray department of the London Hospital, Whitechapel in 1908. One aspect he picked up quite early was that even with poor equipment, one could obtain good results by dint of hard work. Quoting TWB from his memoirs “Although I used a 'naked' X-Ray Tubes with no protective shield, I escaped serious injury apart from damaged finger nails, as I took precautions ignored by my Seniors, the most important being to keep a safe distance from the X-Ray Tube when it was in action; I attribute the fact that I am alive today being due to my use of a length of insulated flex by means of which I switched the Tube mounted on my Ward apparatus "on and of' from a distance of about 10 feet”! Now you should also note that it was not a quick flash like you see today, but the patient was subjected to prolonged exposure for over 15 minutes to get a good image, so it was indeed a lot of radiation!
The equipment at Mudros
When the WW1 started in 1914, there was a great demand for X-ray operators and initially TWB was not allowed to go to the war fronts but had to stay on at the ‘London’ hospital. It was in 1916 that he was deputed to the Cumbala hospital in Bombay. Reaching there he found no X ray unit to work with but just a leaky room filled with a number of packing cases.How those cases reached there is another interesting story, which I pieced together from diverse sources. If you recall, one of the fiercest losing conflicts fought by the British was with Mustafa Kemal’s Turkish army at Gallipoli, one which left so many Australians, Brits and Indians dead. There had been virtually no x-ray service in the Dardanelles, and its lack was keenly felt. 1 ASH at Mudros was the only medical facility on the Island of Lemnos which possessed an x-ray machine, and this had to serve one Indian and three British hospitals as well as meet its own needs. When the British retreated finally, this X-Ray unit which had provided yeoman service to these soldiers, was packed up (hurriedly) and sent off to Bombay.

A friendly electrician and the ‘mad sahib’ TWB decided to install and commission this condemned system from Gallipoli, it use having been served at the war front. As the story goes, when powered up, the top of the gas tube promptly blew up due to moisture ingress. After scouring the Bombay bazaars for repair material, the duo patched it all up and after finding a willing patient, powered the system again only to see sparks flying all around the bewildered and terrified patient, who promptly fled.

It was from these humble beginnings in Bombay that TWB learnt so many important lessons such as cooling the film bed which usually could not withstand the X-Ray heat or earthing the system (an invention wholly his, but something he never bothered to patent) to drain leakage currents. After moving to a hospital at Colaba and authoring a few papers, he found himself appointed as ‘Radiologist to the Government of Madras’. Barnard was enthusiastic because, as he stated - Madras has always had a good reputation for its Medical facilities and its high standard of Medical Education (I must add, my late father Dr Viswanatha Menon was a Stanley Medical College Alumni from the 50’s and would have warmed up to this statement!). By then, there was another X-Ray unit in Tanjore and a second private clinic in Madras. Would you believe that the prime mover of the generator powering the Tanjore unit was run by a bullock trotting around?

Anyway, Dr TWB quickly got the new department (not the bullock) into a gallop and he was to remain there until 1941 as Chief Officer of Radiology Services with supervision of all X-ray services covering an area three times that of England and a population of 50 million. During that period Captain Barnard opened some twenty new X-ray departments in the state and developed the services in the Madras General Hospital and Medical College as a major teaching center for South India. T. W.B. then established the Madras Government Institute of Radiology, which to his surprise was named after him on the day of the official opening in March 1934 as the Barnard Institute of Radiology.  The center had a primary GE supplied Victor XP4 X-ray unit and a secondary screener unit and it became a major center in South India with the initial cost of this section contributed by Dewan Bahadur M. R. Subbiah Chettiar.

Barnard, who continued on as Director of the Institute till 1940, used the 400KV X-ray unit installed in 1934 for the first time in India on his wife’s hand, just as Roentgen had done the first X-ray ever on his wife’s hand!
H Miller explains in his obituary of Capt Barnard - There was nothing like it in India or in South East Asia, and not much like it in the USA or Great Britain at that time. It was a two storey building around a courtyard where playing fountains formed part of the air-conditioning plant of the X-ray diagnostic department. Its therapy unit housed a 400 kV apparatus, three 200 kV units, two superficial and two contact sets. It had a radium department including a radon plant for supplying radon for up-country hospitals. It had a physics department and laboratory, a physiotherapy department and a clinical photography unit. With its protected walls of locally made brick loaded with barium it had a layout so far in advance of its time that for a generation it remained the outstanding radiological center of South East Asia. The equipment has been kept up up-to-date by adding new units such as the Convergent Beam, Pendulum and another type of moving beam Therapy apparatus - long before important centers in England received such Units.

Captain Barnard ‘Cappy’ remained with the Institute until he left India in 1940 and under his guidance a number of courses for the Diploma of Medical Radiology and for Certified Radiological Assistants were instituted with Captain Barnard serving as the President of the Board of Examiners for both diplomas. Though he had no basic medical qualifications, he was instrumental in initiating several research programs, in collaboration with medical colleagues, such as estimating the age with radio-graphic examination of epiphysis and the study of endemic fluorosis poisoning.

Captain Barnard's had varied interests, he was associated with the Madras Boy Scouts Association and was a keen collector of art objects. But of course, his case files present the more interesting insight to his life and times. As an invention which could see though body tissues, it found instant acceptance with the London police who with Barnard’s help collared a thief who had swallowed gold sovereigns, he later used the same method to catch a Madras thief who had snatched a girl’s chain and swallowed it. Other instances involved the seizing of stolen jewels secreted inside cheek cavities of a woman member of a gang of robbers, a few involving gemology and identification of gemstones, uncovering the sleazy tricks of some charlatans, catching smugglers, determining the age of certain persons (process called epiphysis),  and so on.

Captain Barnard finally called it a day in 1940 and moved back to England. Tracing his later days, H Miller continues - In November 1942 Captain Barnard took charge of a tiny office in the Sheffield Royal Infirmary as Secretary of the Sheffield National Centre for Radiotherapy. From that time until he retired in 1964 his influence on the development of radiotherapy services in Sheffield was immense.

He worked with upcoming technologies such as megavoltage therapy, isotope facilities and started a new radiotherapy hospital. In 1946 T.W.B. began negotiations with MIT about building a 2 MV Van de Graf generator for Sheffield, the first commercial installation of such an equipment. Age never mattered for when he started all this in Sheffield, he was 58!

He passed away in 1978, aged a ripe 93 years old.

Life has come a long way, nobody bats an eyelid thinking about the radiographer o radiologist. But I am sure many are aware that global radiology requirements these days are mostly outsourced to and handled from India, something Barnard can be proud about. The concept has even got a new name, tele-radiology, though it relates not to the X-ray work, but studying the pictures and sending the diagnosis back taking advantage of time differences and having a report ready by the start of the next working day.

But you may wonder how I stumbled into researching Capt Barnard’s life in Madras. Well as it happened, some months ago, my good friend Nick Balmer from the UK sent me a link from the British Library suggesting that it could present an interesting challenge. The archives department was trying to unearth the story behind a letter received by Capt Barnard in June 1923, a letter sent by 4 girls from a small village near Trichur in Kerala, requesting monetary help. I tried as hard as I could to find some information, but only succeeded in figuring out that the girls belonged to St Mary’s school in Chenagloor. Did Capt Barnard visit that area with a mobile Xray or something or did he just pass by the Trichur area and the school? He must have visited Malabar just after he got to India, so was it a pleasure trip, a vacation or on an X-Ray camp??I could find no details at all, but the fact that he did many such camps. S Muthiah put out a clarion call in his ‘postman knocked’, but I doubt if anybody answered. If I do hear something, I will update this page.

The letter reads:
Jesus Mercy.
The good God rewardeth even a cup of Cold Water given in His name to one of His little ones.
O.J. Annie, Mary, Catherine and Elizabeth. Poor Students. Chemgaloor, Pudukad Post, Malabar
Most Honred Sir,
We, four poor student girls (Mary and Catherine are orphans) most respectfully and humbly beg to state that we are in great difficulties and distress. We are badly in need of food and Clothes. We are promoted to our new class. We have not got new books. We most humbly pray you will be kind enough to send us some help. We pray you will not refuse our humble prayer. Thanking you in anticipation, we beg to remain
Yours most obedient and humble servants.
O.J. Anne and others

One thing is clear, Capt Barnard made an impression on those little girls at Trichur as you can make out from the picture attached. OJ Annie, Catherine, Mary and Elizabeth remain ghosts from the past. I don’t know if they received the food, books and clothes they requested, but I believe they did since Capt Barnard treasured this letter and stored it in his collection till he died. The letter itself is remarkable and bordered with all the used stamps the girls could find, of Cochin Raja’s, Travancore,

On that note, I will conclude, happy that I chose to spend some time researching yet another luminary, about whom you would otherwise never hear of…

Obituary - Captain T. W. Barnard, 0.8.E. 1885-1978 London - Madras – Sheffield, H Miller - The British journal of radiology, Vol 51, # 611, Nov 1978
Obituary – Capt TW Barnard – Prof A Gajaraj, Indian journal of Radiology, vol 32, issue 4-5, 1978
X rays – Personal Recollections, Capt TW Barnard, Journal of Medical Physics / Association of Medical Physicists of India. 1995, vol 20, issue 3
Hindu Articles – The radiologist from Chipstead S Muthiah, April 4, 2010
British library request - Karen Stapley, Curator, India Office Records

Note: The title states Dr Barnard. He was not a doctor licensed with a medical degree, but was virtually considered one by dint of his meritorious service and the knowledge he possessed about his own field.

pics - Capt TWB - courtesy - Journal of Medical Physics, X-ray unit - I I and P magazine