Madras miscellany Chennai

A scandal of Hope

A barely known scandal of seventy-five years ago has just emerged from the pages of The Times, London. It focuses on the way Sir Arthur Hope, Governor of Madras (1940-46), suddenly quit office in 1946.

Sir Arthur, who felt he was a cricketer of sorts, held up the Madras Cricket Club Bar throughout his stay. Whether, as Patron, he settled his bills is not known, but, that he did not settle his gambler’s debts amounting to over £40,000, it was suspected. An avid punter at the racecourse, Sir Arthur borrowed freely to continue betting on betting. Some of his borrowings were from Indian Princely Houses, but the major portion of it came from James Doak of Madura Mills. Doak, soon afterwards, got a knighthood and many of the Indian lenders received favours.

The British Government decided that Sir Arthur must be quietly removed, but, that was not going to be easy. Governors were above the Law. However, if Sir Arthur quit while he was still in India, he could be sued and arrested over his debts before he could board a ship for England. But, a sudden medical certificate helped Sir Arthur to get away. ‘Tropical Neurasthenia’ is what it was for – ‘an ailment’ that affected white Europeans who disliked the Colonial climate and wanted to go Home. Worse was to follow Sir Arthur’s unsung departure.

Sir Archibald Nye, Hope’s successor discovered that money given to Sir Arthur for the Indian Red Cross had not been passed on. Prime Minister Clement Attlee approved a cover-up using public money to settle a part of this unsavoury debt.

The Times report concludes, “The imperial hush hush operation over the crooked Governor of Madras seems to have been a success. Sir Arthur’s obituary in The Times fell for the cover story stating ‘Sir Arthur was compelled by ill-health to resign… before his extended term of office was complete.’”

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End of an era

The passing away of Noel Netto, ‘Bully’ to all, brings to an end an era in the recording of Anglo-Indian Hockey in Madras. You couldn’t find a gentler person than Bully or a more memorable raconteur of Hockey the Anglo Indian way in the City than Bully Nitto.

I owe much of my knowledge of early Madras Hockey to Bully Netto. One of the earliest matches he talked of, from his records, was the 1925 game between the Anglo-Indians & Europeans against the Indians. The Anglo-Indians included J Francke of Telegraphs, A Ealing, E Skip and R Nailer of Anglo-Indian Sports Club (AISC), O Xavier, N S Tremenheere and H Gardener of Madras and South Maratha (M&SM) Railways, and B Lewins from Madras Medical College. Of these players, Ealing and Nailer, an exceptional cricketer too, were the pick for any Madras team. None of them, however, got a look in on the All India front because the Indian Hockey Federation, formed in 1925, a year after an Indian Hockey Association had been founded, both without any representatives from the South as there was no Madras Hockey Association or any similar body in this part of the country, even though such an Association had been discussed in Madras as early as 1919.

The formation of the Federation, the plans to send a team to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games and the trials held in Calcutta for that team aroused Madras – described as being “usually behind the times” – to action, perhaps as a consequence of the exhortation that “hockey enthusiasts in particular should not permit this to be said of Madras Sport.”

The Anglo-Indian Sports Club had taken the lead prior to this in trying to get Madras and mofussil clubs that were interested in Hockey to explore ways and means of forming a Madras Hockey Association. The AISC pointed out, “It is a matter of great regret that at the Provincial Hockey Trials to be held at Calcutta shortly, to choose an All India Team… for Amsterdam, Madras is not a competitor. One reason is the deplorable fact is that there is no representative organisation in this city to further the cause of such matters. Our chagrin is all the greater when we hear from competent authorities that many Madras Hockey players will stand a good chance of inclusion in the All India Hockey team.”

The AISC’s case was not backed by the Madras Cricket Club (MCC), hockey pioneers in Madras, because of a couple of incidents during its tournaments in 1926, ’27 and ’28, with the Anglo-Indians involved in all of them. It was eventually December 1930 before the MCC reacted favourably to a proposal put forward by the Madras United Club.

Adding fuel to fire in one of these games was a letter to The Madras Mail from the AISC. It read in part “… in any case, even supposing that this player did violate the rules of Hockey to the extent as reported in your columns, may I remind you that there were two Umpires on the field to decide on these unfortunate incidents and, if this player was really to blame, how is it he was never warned by either of the Umpires. They even had the power to order a player ‘off the field’ for repeated offences of the rules; may I ask why then was he not ordered off the field? How many times during the game were various MCC players pulled up by the umpires for their barging methods?”

During this period, beginning in 1906, Hockey was dominated by the Anglo-Indians, playing first for the Madras Volunteer Guard and then spreading out to the Anglo-Indian Sports Club, The Telegraph Recreation Club and the M&SM Railways. Willam Goodsir-Cullen an Anglo-Indian studying at the Madras Medical College, was eventually the first player from Madras to be picked for India – for the 1928 Olympic Games.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 6:50:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-scandal-of-hope/article26898467.ece

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