ABridget Hogan recently got in touch with me from London wanting to know whether I had any information about Joseph Fowke, one of the complainants against Warren Hastings in the events that led to the Governor-General’s impeachment. I’m afraid all that’s Calcutta and I can’t help much with that. But the Fowkes were a family connected with Madras for over 150 years and of those years, I know a little.

Randall Fowke arrived in Madras as an artillery man, presumably in the late 17{+t}{+h}or early 18th Century, and quit the service in 1703. He could well have gone into business thereafter, and made some money for he was able to later buy a house in Charles Street in the Fort which the Government acquired after his death in 1745. He was appointed a Factor in 1711 and five years later, was made a member of the Council which he served for 27 years. Two years later, he passed away, aged 72. His tombstone in St. Mary’s courtyard states that he served the Company for 40 years.

Those were years of exemplary service, for he made no money -- which almost everyone else did in that era -- and his tombstone states that “he spent his life with the character of an honest man.”

While serving the Council in 1724, he prepared a report on the garrison and the fortifications which was promptly acted upon; the manpower of the garrison was reduced and the fortifications that were in bad shape, restored and strengthened.

This was when he was Second-in-Council. In 1726, he was put in charge of a revenue survey of the western half of ‘Black Town’ and pointed out several leaks. A testimony to his character is the fact that when St. Mary’s had no Chaplain in 1727, Henry Randall was appointed Acting Chaplain.

In 1713, Randall Fowke married Ann May in St. Mary’s in the Fort. Was May a surname or was Ann May the name given to a converted Hindu? Only registering first names in such cases as the latter, was the practice at the time.

The Fowkes had three sons and a daughter, as far as I can trace. Edward and Joseph became members of the Madras Civil Service and rose to be Councillors, Francis became a free merchant, and their sister married an officer, John Holland, who was noted for his gallantry at the French siege of Fort St. David, Cuddalore, in 1747.

When Edward Fowke became a Civil Servant is not very clear, but he was one in the early 1730s. By 1746, he was in the Council and lending money to it to meet the official and personal ransom demands of Admiral de la Bourdonnais, who had seized Fort St. George for the French.

Joseph Fowke is referred to as being in the Civil Service and fleeing to the refuge of Fort St. David after Fort St. George was seized by the French; Edward had fled to Pulicat. After his return to Fort St. George in 1749, Joseph married Elizabeth Walsh who was kin of Robert Clive through marriage and, in 1752, became a Councillor.

In Fort St. David, Joseph Fowke had been publicly abused by the cantankerous Rev. Francis Fordyce (a story for another day) and Clive had taken up cudgels for him. Perhaps this relationship is what may have had him forging a Calcutta connection when Clive moved there. Joseph Fowke was Mayor of Madras in 1746, following in the footsteps of his brother Edward who had been Mayor in 1738.

What happened to the Fowkes family after the Madras years I have no idea.

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