METRO PLUS

When the postman knocked...

I'VE HAD several responses to the thoughts I expressed on March 17 about the absence of historical material about the Indian families of Old Madras. I've received brief published memoirs, the scripts of lectures, and what might be described as `biodatas' — the common response accompanying these being that I could use the material as a starting point for research leading to biographies of the eminent ancestors of all those who sent me material.

While thanking them for the material and promising to use some of it in this column and elsewhere, I must point out that my suggestion was for others to get down to writing such biographies and not a request for material for me to work on. I'm always glad, however, when my library benefits from such contributions.

Another contributors to my library has been James Patrick Campbell (Miscellany, February 17), who has sent me a whole lot of material and photographs of his grandfather Sir Archibald Campbell, I.C.S., a former Chief Secretary, popularly called — including by his wife — `XYZ', because of his "prowess in mathematics". Apparently mail addressed to `XYZ, Madras' would reach him wherever he was. As Revenue and Irrigation Member of the Executive Council, he was responsible for the Mettur dam's construction.

Outside office, he was president of several orphans' asylums in the city, revived the Madras Amateur Dramatic Society, was Master of the Hounds in Ooty and was dedicated to freemasonry. And the picture above, sent to me by James Campbell, is a classic out of the past: Archibald Campbell with the freemasons of the lodge he founded, the first to have an Indian and European membership.

All the freemasons in the picture are in full regalia, but note the varying, be it formal, attire of the Indian membership — not to mention the naamams.

S. MUTHIAH

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