Help in tracing an ancestor is also sought by reader Gwendoline Jeevanraj. She says she is descended from a Jeremiah in her mother’s line and from a Sydenham in her father’s. I’ve had no luck with Jeremiah, but there’s been better luck with Sydenham. William Sydenham joined the Army in 1768 and died in 1801 after he had risen to the rank of Major-General and was Commandant of the Artillery. In between, he was, for many years, the Town Major of Madras. The Town Major was a post created by Governor Pigot in 1755 to serve as a channel of communication between the Governor (as the then supreme commander of the military) and the Garrison. Despite the Company’s Directors disapproving of the appointment, the post survived till 1859, when the Garrison came under a specifically appointed Commander-in-Chief. Major-General Sydenham owned Sydenham’s Garden , near People’s Park, and Sydenham Road led to it from Poonamallee High Road. What, however, struck me as intriguing about this enquiry was the marriage of a Sydenham and a Jeremiah. Did they coincidentally come from the roads with those names that are so close to each other, virtually intersecting in Vepery? Sydenham’s Garden, it also strikes me, could well be what is called Kannappar Thidal nowadays.
In my reference last Monday to Fort St. George and the French ‘investing’ it, Reader D.V. Rajan thought I had got it all wrong and felt that what I meant was ‘invading’ it. No, what I meant was ‘investing’ it. The Concise Oxford, my Bible, gives a fourth meaning to ‘invest’ as “surround (a place) in order to besiege or blockade it.” It may be archaic usage but, then, many think I’m archaic.
A recent reference to Madras that is Chennai being 300 years old had a number of readers contacting me to find out whether that was indeed correct. I’m afraid that it isn't; all that it takes is a reference to the Tamil Nadu Records Office and Archives to confirm that the document granting Madras to the East India Company was dated 1639 and that the nucleus of Fort St. George was raised in 1640.
In fact, those who suggested a history only 300 years old might like to recall that the Corporation itself was founded in 1688 - and will be 325 years old next year.
Several readers have pointed out that if the Madras United Club was founded in 1888, it would be celebrating its 125th year and not its centenary.
I might have been thinking ‘quasqui-centenary’ and finding the first part a bit much let it slip from my mind. Mea culpa. I’ve since found the correct term is ‘quasiqui centennial.