By Kulbhushan Kain
No country can attain greatness if it ignores its history. But in a technological world , that is precisely what is happening– ignoring history. Morever, even history that is taught in schools and universities has a strong bias and by and large lacks honesty, objectivity and transparency. What is taught is largely “Delhi-centric”. The first thing that must be taught
in schools should be the history and geography of the region in which the school is located – regional history. We were never taught the history of Uttarakhand – neither its geography. It’s fine to know where the “Kicking Horse Pass” is – but one should also know about the Mohand, Kansroa and Timli passes. Its fine to know about Queen Victoria – but one should not be ignorant of Rani Karnavati. That is precisely what happened to me, who walked in and out of the palatial building built by Captain Frederick Young in the 19th century – but I was unaware of it. By the time I became aware of it – the building had
been modified beyond recognition! More of that later – first about who Captain Frederick Young was.
Most of what we know of Frederick Young comes from his biography, written by his daughter, Louise Hadow Jenkins. He was born in Donegal, Ireland in 1786 and came to India at the age of 14 to take up a career in the British Army. He rose up the hierarchy to become ADC to Major General Sir Rollo Gillespie.
In 1814, Sir Rollo Gillespie and Lt Young were sent to defeat the Gorkhas who had captured Dehradun, and had begun threatening British interests in India. They were assigned the task of dislodging the enemy from a strategic fort at Khalunga, near Nalapani. As Rollo Gillespie led his men in a head on charge at the fort, a Gorkha sniper shot Sir Rollo through the heart. He died in Lt Young’s arms just 27 metres from the palisade.
Over the next six weeks, Young watched with mounting admiration as the Gorkhas within the fortress steadfastly refused to submit.In the ding dong battle for supremacy, he was captured – even though ultimately the British won the battle. This is what his daughter (Louise Hadow Jenkins) wrote after he was captured. I quote: “Lieutenant Frederick Young raised himself off the wet green grass, drew his sword and prepared to die. The leather-clad Nepalese herdsmen slowly closed in, their curved khukri knives raised high. Behind them, Young could still make out the fleeing uniforms of the irregulars- Indian soldiers who like him – were employed to fight for the British East India Company. The difference was that the irregulars had run away when the
Nepalese attacked. Not all of them had escaped. Red blood gushed through the marshlands and flowed towards the Gorkha fort towering above. As Young awaited the flashing steel, one of the Nepalese soldiers stopped abruptly and spoke in English.
‘Why did you not run away too?’
‘I have not come so far in order to run away,’ replied Young! (Unquote)
(However, early histories of the Nepalese War refer to the defeat of Young’s Irregulars, but there is no mention of his capture in any of the key sources. The account is from his biography written by his daughter Louise Hadow Jenkins.)
Greatly impressed by his fighting zeal, the hill men took him prisoner. During his year in captivity, he learned an incredible amount about Nepalese society and the Gorkhas, in particular. He mastered their language, their customs, and their military techniques. In 1815, he used this knowledge to become the founding father of the fearsome Sirmoor Regiment which was formed from disbanded soldiers of the Nepalese Army after the Anglo Nepalese War. In fact, the age of the Sirmoor Battalion and the present town of Dehradun is more or less the same. The troops’ barracks were around what is now the
Forest Rangers’ College and the open area next to it was the Parade Ground of the troops. The area near the present clock tower was called “Lashksar” ( a cantonment in Persian). The name Paltan Bazaar is obvious – a bazaar for the regiment!
Fredrick Young was made Assistant to Shore under whose tenure the Gorkha War had been fought. He had also assisted Shore in subduing the rebellious chieftains and bandits in and around Dehradun.
With the departure of Shore, Frederick Young, armed with a wealth of knowledge of the terrain and its customs, succeeded Shore as an Assistant to the Commissioner of Kumaon and the Superintendent of Dehradun.
Young is also generally regarded as the founder of Mussoorie and introduced tea and potato cultivation into the region. He built a mansion in Mussoorie called “Mullingar”. This is the other building that I walked in and out of without being aware of its history.
In the ’80s, one of my paternal uncles who had lived his life in Landour as a government overseer in the cantonment board retired. He had to vacate his government accommodation and shifted to Mullingar, which was then a hotel. I used to go and meet him at Mullingar Hotel – little knowing that in its premises once lived Captain Frederick Young!
He retired with the rank of Major General in 1854 (promoted to General in 1865 to live in Fairy Hill, Bray, Ireland).
I think its time that the history of Uttarakhand should be taught in schools. Of course that does not mean that the history of India should be ignored! But it will ensure that schoolboys will be aware of the buildings they studied in and the towns they grew up in.
(Kulbhushan kain is an award winning educationist with more than 4 decades of working
in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at email@example.com)