Madras Cricket Club Daniel Richmond
Madras Cricket Club (representational photo). Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

“O Scotia! My dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
And O! May Heaven their simple lives prevent
From Luxury’s contagion, weak and vile!
Then, howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d Isle.”
- A Cotter’s Saturday Night by Robert Burns

Our story begins in the village of Lochwinnoch, situated in the historic county of Renfrewshire, of the west central lowlands of Scotland, as far removed in locale and ambience from the steamy environs of erstwhile Madras in southern India as chalk and cheese, yet linked together through the medium of a series of remarkable events spread over the best part of a century.

The chronicler acknowledges with a deep sense of gratitude the insights he has gained about the history of the Richmond family of Lochwinnoch from the untiring research carried out by Graham W Robinson, who has made it his mission to unearth the detailed genealogy and achievements of various members of this Scottish family over the years.

The 1851 Scottish census mentions one Robert Richmond, a farmer, and his wife Jane as being residents of the village mentioned above. They had already been blessed with a son, possibly in 1850, whom they had named James, a very popular Scottish name for baby boys, and indeed, to be found in third position out of the hundred most popular male names of the country.

Robert had subsequently moved on with his family to Glasgow, where he was described as being a “manure agent” at a time when chemical or artificially manufactured fertilisers had not yet come in vogue, and when one of the principal means of enriching the soil for agriculture was animal manure.

The next part of the narrative takes us to Spanish Town, Jamaica, described in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as lying southeast of central Jamaica, about 10 miles west of Kingston. Originally known as Santiago de la vega (St James of the Plain), this Spanish town used to be the capital city of Jamaica from 1692 to 1872, and consequently, an attractive place for a young, energetic, and adventurous Scottish lad to explore with a view to making his living, and perhaps, his fortune, there.

A document entitled Who’s Who In Jamaica 1916 mentions James Richmond as having come out to the country quite early in his life to be with an uncle who was at the time a contractor in the Jamaican Railways. An enterprising young man, James had then secured a situation in the local Public Works Department, subsequently becoming an engineer attached to the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works in 1874.

By 1890, the industrious James was Assistant Director of Public Works. In 1900, by which time the government had taken over the Railways, he became the Director of the department. During his tenure with the Railways, he strained every sinew in converting the largely non-profitable concern into a profit making department of the Jamaican government.

In 1906, James Richmond was invested with the Order of St Michael and St George, a British honour in recognition of exemplary and dedicated non-military service by British nationals holding high positions and serving in a foreign country. In 1909 he was nominated as a Member of the Privy Council. The wide-eyed Scottish lad from Lochwinnoch had come a long way.

After a full life dedicated to the development of Jamaica, he retired from Public Service in 1913, and passed away from a painful disease in London on March 20, 1914. Along the journey of his life and his busy schedule in Jamaica, James Richmond had found the time to enjoy wedded bliss by marrying Emma Fanny née Davy, daughter of Sir James Stewart Davy, Assistant Secretary and Chief General Inspector of the Local Government Board of Jamaica from 1905 to 1913.

The couple was gifted a son on October 29, 1879 at Ensom Pen, in the parish of St Catherine of Spanish Town, Jamaica. Although the child was christened Robert Daniel, he was universally known simply as Daniel, a situation that was to cause some confusion in later years, as he was to name his own younger son Daniel, giving rise to a dilemma of identity for historians and chroniclers of the family annals.

William Harpur, a 16th-century merchant from Bedford, having amassed a large fortune by dint of hard work, had later moved to London, eventually becoming a well-known philanthropist and the Lord Mayor of London in 1561, being knighted by Elizabeth Regina I in 1562. In his high office as Mayor, Harpur and his wife, Dame Alice, took it upon themselves to endow certain charities which came to be known collectively as the Harpur Trust. One of the beneficiaries of the Trust was Sir William’s old school, Bedford School, and was intended for the “poorechyldersther to be nurryshed and enformed [sic].”

The Bedford Modern School, a Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference independent school, separated from the parent body in 1764, the new name coming into force in 1873 to signify the modernisation of the curriculum to keep abreast of the times. Comprising a Junior School (ages 6-11) and a Senior School (11-18), Bedford Modern School catered principally to the children of the local gentry, but extended their services to the children of those in colonial and military service desirous of giving their children a good all-round British education.

Considering the reputation of the institution, James Richmond decided to send young Robert Daniel, growing up happily in the relaxed atmosphere of Jamaica, to Bedford Modern School, to be educated according to the traditional British system. Daniel’s globetrotting career thus began at a fairly young age.

Having completed his studies, Richmond joined the erstwhile Indian Forest Service in 1898, under the auspices of the Imperial Forest Department established by the British in 1864.He underwent training at the Royal Indian Engineering College, Cooper’s Hill, London, followed by a stint at Germany, before joining his duties at Madras in 1901. He was promoted to the post of District Forest Officer, Madras Presidency, in 1903, before assuming the office of the Principal of the Madras Forest College in 1913.

Richmond’s career in the Colonial Service of British India was a long and distinguished one, first as an Assistant Inspector-General of Forests to the Government of India, from 1919 to 1922; then as a Member of the Madras Legislative Council in 1923; followed by the post of Chief Conservator of Forests in 1927; and finally retiring from the Indian Forest service in 1932. He was invested with the title of Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1932, and was created a Knight Bachelor in 1936.

If the documentation on Richmond’s cricket career is anything to go by, the traditional British summer sport seems to have come his way as a relatively young schoolboy, still a couple of months shy of his 17th birthday, and we find him turning out for Bedfordshire against Surrey Second XI at his school ground in 1896. He seems to have done rather well for one so young, scoring 61 and 25 while opening batting in both innings.

Sir Arthur Alexander Priestley, an English politician affiliated to Liberal Party and a well-known cricket aficionado, had taken a team of amateurs on a tour to the Caribbean Islands in 1896-97. Comprising 13 members, the squad was a fairly strong one and played 16 matches, 9 of the games being attributed First-Class status.

While on tour, the tourists had arrived at Jamaica in the middle of March and had played two matches there in the first instance, the first being a 12-a-side affair (though classified as First-Class), followed by an 11-a-side contest at Sabina Park. The latter marked Richmond’s First-Class debut.

The visitors were dismissed for a round 200, with Drewy Stoddart (100) scoring exactly half of the total. For the home team, Gilbert Livingston captured 7 for 49. The Jamaican innings was over in a trice, as it were, as they were dismissed for 68, Richmond scoring 4. The second innings ended at 163 on the second day, with Richmond top-scoring with 60. Billy Williams took 7 for 47 to complete the rout of the home team. Priestley’s XI won the game by 10 wickets. This was to be the first of only 2 First-Class matches Richmond played for Jamaica, scoring a total of 74 runs.

Richmond’s pursuit of cricket then entered a state of abeyance for about five years after the games mentioned above as he concentrated his energies in securing and qualifying for his colonial service with the Indian Forest Service. Having already had the experience of playing First-Class cricket in exotic and far away Jamaica, he was cordially welcomed into the fold of the cricket loving British expatriates staying in southern India at the time, and it did not require any great effort on Richmond’s part to get back into the swing of things.

The story of the gradual development of the game of cricket in southern India, particularly among the Indian population, is inextricably woven around one Moddaverapu Dera Venkataswami Naidu, , an affluent businessman with an enlightened and progressive mindset who had originally come to Madras from Nellore. Being associated with the famous Parry & Company of Madras as a dubash (a colloquial version of the Sanskrit word dwi-bhashi — one who has knowledge of two languages), he was proficient in both Tamil and English, shared a cordial relationship with the British populace of erstwhile Madras of the times, and amassedenormous wealth over a period of time.

MDV Naidu had only one daughter, who was married to B Ramaswami Naidu, and the couple had five sons. Naidu took upon himself the responsibility of his grandsons, ensuring that their educational and sports upbringing were of a high standard, and at par with prevalent British standards, going to the extent of having English governesses brought over from the Home Country for the benefit of the boys. His eldest grandson was born in 1868 and named Venkatamahipathi, popularly known as Buchi Babu Naidu.

Young Buchi Babu seemed to have a natural ability for sports, being proficient in many, but excelling especially at cricket. In a short time, it became quite evident that his cricketing skills and technique could well match those of the local British cricketers, and he quickly acquired the reputation of being the best indigenous cricketer in erstwhile Madras.

Having no male offspring, Naidu adopted Buchi Babu. Upon the death of MVD, 65% of his estate was bequeathed to the youngster as part of the will of the deceased. After graduating from Presidency College, he worked for a short while as the dubash of Parry & Company, before forsaking all commercial activity to live a life of leisure as a young man in the possession of a very large inherited fortune.

It is reported that Buchi Babu had invited the sons of many prominent and wealthy Madras families of the times together and had explained to them the idea and the importance of forming a club of their own. On his own initiative, he had then proceeded to secure a site on the Esplanade where the ground had been levelled at his expense, converting it to a ground suitable for cricket. Not for nothing was he revered as being the Father of Madras cricket, and one of the greatest patrons of the game in the south of India.

Thus, when the Madras United Club was established in 1888 to foster indoor and outdoor sports among the Indian population, the 20-year-old Buchi Babu was one of the pre-eminent founder-members. Apart from cricket, the Club engaged in football, hockey, tennis, and badminton, later encouraging billiards and bridge.

The early group of cricketers who represented the club included Buchi Babu himself; his sons, Venkataramanujulu, M Baliah and Cotar Ramaswami (who played both cricket and tennis for India); and others like B Subramanian, Vasu Naidu and BS Ramulu. Around this time, there were two largely British clubs in Madras, the Madras Cricket Club, and the Madras Gymkhana Club.

Like many other visionaries before and after his time in history, Buchi Babu had a dream. He aspired to transcend the class barrier in Madras cricket and dreamt of the time when his pet MUC would be strong enough in cricketing ability and high enough in esteem to elicit an invitation from the Europeans-only Madras Cricket Club to a cricket match between the two premier cricket clubs of Madras, the match to be played at Chepauk, the home ground of MCC.

Percival Walter Partridge, a partner in the legal firm of King & Partridge and captain of Madras CC at the time, fell in with Buchi Babu’s plan for a game between MCC and MUC at Chepauk. Buchi Babu had a proviso, however, that the MUC team members be allowed to lunch in the MCC pavilion, something that was quite unthinkable in those days, the usual custom being for indigenous team members to have their meals under the trees outside the pavilion.

Partridge, with his legal training providing him the necessary persuasive and oratorical skills, argued the case on behalf of MUC among his fellow-members of MCC with a fervour that would have made Demosthenes proud. The silver tongue of Partridge worked wonders and it was arranged that a separate table would be set up in the same dining-room in which MCC members would dine, the only difference being that the usual occidental cuisine, unfamiliar to the tongues of the Indian members of the MUC, would be replaced by Indian-style food that MUC members would be comfortable with.

After all arrangements had been made for the first encounter between the premier European and Indian cricket clubs of Madras, Buchi Babu himself passed away suddenly on December 19, 1908 at the age of 40, apparently of a “heart attack”, bringing to a grim conclusion a series of mishaps that had befallen the family since the beginning of the year.

B Subramaniam, a friend and faithful assistant of the late Buchi Babu, took upon himself the task of making his late mentor’s dream come true by organising a Second-Class game between the ‘Presidency’ Europeans and the ‘Presidency’ Hindus at Chepauk from December 29, 1908, with Partridge leading the European team and Ramulu in charge of the Hindu contingent. Winning the historic toss, the Hindus batted first and reached a reasonable total of 265. The first day ended with the Europeans on 24 for no loss.

The heavens opened up after that and there was no further play in the game. It was as if Olympus was in collective and sympathetic mourning at the passing of the great pioneer and benefactor of Madras cricket. In continuation of the initial rain-interrupted match of 1908-09, a match was played in 1914-15 at Chepauk between MCC and MUC, the former winning by an innings and 112 runs.

Subramaniam, the devoted protégé of the pioneer, was to organise an annual Buchi Babu Cricket Tournament from 1909-10 onwards, with games being played between local sides. The tournament is still in vogue, although the games are not accorded First-Class status.

A Second-Class cricket match was arranged in 1901-02 between the visiting Oxford University Authentics, often referred to by the more familiar name of the ‘Tics’, and a team calling itself Madras Presidency, at Chepauk, the ground of the British Madras Cricket Club. Thus it was that, after a fairly long hiatus away from the game, Richmond found himself taking field along with the other Madras Presidency team members.

The “Tics” opted for first strike. Despite scoring only 85, with Albert Hornby (son of ‘Monkey’) top-scoring with 37, the ‘Tics’ won the game by 109 runs. Skipper Hubert Hollins scored an unbeaten 185 in the second innings to lead the charge for victory. Richmond’s contributions were modest scores of 2 and 1.

Richmond, busy with his official duties in and around Madras, could only put in sporadic appearances on the cricket field for some Second-Class games till he played his third First-Class match, this time for the Europeans against the Indians at Chepauk in 1915-16, in what was to be the first official Madras Presidency match in history.

This first Madras Presidency match, however, was not a mere clash between two cricket clubs. The contestants were the Europeans, under Robert Daniel Richmond, then Principal of the Madras Forest College, whilst the other team, the Indians, was led by Subramaniam.

Winning the toss, the Indians batted first. The total came to 199, the defining knock being that of the wicketkeeper NN Swarna (70). Skipper Richmond then opened batting for the Europeans, top-scored with 74, and added 119 runs for the first wicket with Reginald Green (43). The total came to 296, with Charles Plumer (66) and William Newsam (54) adding valuable runs down the order.

The Indians batted with much greater resolve in the second innings and were able to declare at 304 for 7, CR Ganapathy (57*) and Baliah (70*) adding an unbroken 138-run stand. The match ended in a draw with the Europeans on 53 for 1.

In all, Richmond played 5 matches for the Europeans, scoring 307 runs at a healthy average of 43.85, his 74 in the above-mentioned game as his highest. He also had identical scores of 60* in 1918-19 and 1927-28, the latter being his final First-Class game. He captured 22 wickets for the Europeans in his 5 matches at 22.45 with best figures of 5 for 73 in the Madras Presidency game of 1916-17, by which time the match was being played over Pongal. The aforesaid Partridge made his First-Class debut in this game, leading the Europeans.

On a more personal note, despite his busy schedule, Richmond found the time to woo and marry Monica Mary, nee Davy, in 1909. Monica happened to be the niece of Emma Fanny Richmond (née Davy), Robert Daniel Richmond’s mother. In a sense, then, Richmond had married a cousin of his. The couple were blessed with a son rather late in their married life who was born in 1919 in India and christened Christopher James. This child was to die a premature death in 1921.

They had another son, also in India, on January 13, 1924, whom they called Daniel. This Daniel was to grow up to be an automobile engineer attached to Downton Engineering, the makers of the iconic automobile model still very much sought after by automobile enthusiasts, called the Mini Cooper. In later years, Daniel and his long-time companion,a widow named Veronica Ritchie Whitaker, nee Romer, better known as Bunty, were to own Downton Engineering.

Richmond was President of Madras CC before severing his ties with India permanently. Having retired from his position in India, Richmond took his family to England and there are references to his playing a light-hearted cricket game for the Old Boys at Bedford Modern School as late as 1939.

Robert Daniel Richmond forsook his worldly ties on May 1, 1948 at Lymington, Hampshire, bringing to a conclusion the saga that the family had begun in a small Scottish village almost a century ago. He was about 69 at the time.