Posts Tagged ‘Sir Hector Munro’

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Thomas Munro 1st Baronet
27 May 1761 – 6 July 1827


Thomas Munro

Munro was born in Glasgow on 27 May 1761 to a merchant called Alexander Munro. Thomas’ grandfather was a tailor, who prospered by successful investments in American tobacco. After working as a bank clerk, Alexander Munro joined the family’s prosperous tobacco business, but was ruined by the collapse of the tobacco trade during the American Revolutionary War. Thomas was also a direct descendant of George Munro, 10th Baron of Foulis, chief of the Highland Clan Munro.

Thomas was educated at the University of Glasgow. While at school, Thomas was distinguished for a singular openness of temper, a mild and generous disposition, with great personal courage and presence of mind. Being naturally of a robust frame of body, he surpassed all his school-fellows in athletic exercises, and was particularly eminent as a boxer. He was at first intended to enter his father’s business, but in 1779 was appointed to an infantry cadetship in Madras.

He served with his regiment during the hard-fought war against Haidar Ali, serving under his older and distant relation Major Sir Hector Munro, 8th of Novar. Thomas also later served alongside a younger distant relation John Munro, 9th of Teaninich. Thomas served again with his regiment in the first campaign against Tipu Sultan. He was then chosen as one of four military officers to administer the Baramahal, part of the territory acquired from Tipu, where he remained for seven years learning the principles of revenue survey and assessment which he afterwards applied throughout the presidency of Madras.

After the final downfall of Tipu in 1799, he spent a short time restoring order in Kanara; and then for another seven years he was placed in charge of the northern districts ceded by the Nizam of Hyderabad, where he introduced the ryotwari system of land revenue.

After a long furlough in Britain, during which he gave valuable evidence upon matters connected with the renewal of the British East India Company’s charter, he returned to Madras in 1814 with special instructions to reform the judicial and police systems.

On the outbreak of the Pindari War in 1817, he was appointed as brigadier-general to command the reserve division formed to reduce the southern territories of the Peshwa. Of his services on this occasion Lord Canning said in the House of Commons:

He went into the field with not more than five or six hundred men, of whom a very small proportion were Europeans …. Nine forts were surrendered to him or taken by assault on his way; and at the end of a silent and scarcely observed progress he emerged… leaving everything secure and tranquil behind him.

In 1820, he was appointed governor of Madras, where he founded systems of revenue assessment and general administration which substantially persisted into the twentieth century. He is regarded as the father of the `Ryotwari system’.

His official minutes form a manual of experience and advice for the modern civilian. Munro was created a Baronet, of Lindertis in the County of Forfar, in 1825.

He died of cholera on 6 July 1827 while on tour in the ceded districts, where his name is preserved by more than one memorial. An equestrian statue of him, by Francis Legatt Chantrey, stands in Madras city. At his behest a Committee of public instruction was formed in 1826, which eventually led to the formation of Presidency College.


Statue of Munro by Chantrey

Mantralaya village in Andhra Pradesh is a place where the `Vrindavan’ of famous `Dvaita’ saint `Raghavendra Swami’ is located. When Sir Thomas Munro was the Collector of Bellary in 1800, the Madras Government ordered him to procure the entire income from the Math and Manthralaya village.

When the Revenue officials were unable to comply with this order, Sir Thomas Munro visited the Math for investigation. He removed his hat and shoes and entered the sacred precincts. Sri Raghavendraswamy emerged from the Vrindavan and conversed with him for some time, about the resumption of endowment.

The Saint was visible and audible only to Munro, who received Manthraksha (god’s blessing). The Collector went back and wrote an order in favour of the Math and the village. This notification was published in the Madras Government Gazette in Chapter XI, page 213, with the caption “Manchali Adoni Taluka”. This order is still preserved in Fort St. George and Manthralayam.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Hector Munro
1726 – 27 December 1805


Sir Hector Munro

The son of Hugh Munro of Novar, in Ross, Scotland, he was commissioned into Loudon’s Highlanders in 1747. Hector is said to have got his first commission in the army after helping the Duchess of Gordon who was found travelling alone in Sutherland. Hector took over from a drunken coachman and brought her to safety, the Duchess later used her influence to procure him a Lieutenant’s commission in the 34th Regiment of Foot. On the regiment’s disbandment in 1749 he transferred to the 48th Foot.

In 1754 Munro transferred to the 31st Foot as a lieutenant. Also in 1754, Hector Munro was ordered to Badenoch with three squadrons of Dragoons to apprehend certain rebels in that district, with special instructions to apprehend John Dubh Cameron, better known as “Sergent Mor“. Hector Munro successfully captured Cameron after he was betrayed by a local farmer. John Cameron was soon afterwards executed in Perth.

Munro was also tasked with capturing Cluny Macpherson, who took part in the Jacobite rising of 1745 to 1746. However Macpherson evaded Munro’s grasp and escaped to France. Macpherson tradition is that one day Munro, with a large party of soldiers, surrounded Macpherson’s house. With no means of escape, Macpherson dressed himself as a footman or groom, came forward and held Lieutenant Munro’s horse while Munro searched his house for him. On return Munro is said to have handed the groom a shilling and then rode off. Another version of the story, however, is that Munro of Novar actually knew Cluny quite well and winked at him as he threw him the grooms fee.

In 1756 Munro was promoted captain in the new 2nd Battalion, which became the 70th Foot in 1758. In 1759 he was appointed major in the newly-raised 89th (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

The 89th regiment embarked at Portsmouth for the East Indies in December 1760, and arrived at Bombay in November following. The Duke of Gordon was desirous of accompanying the regiment, but his mother, at the especial request of George II of Great Britain, induced him to remain at home to finish his education.

The 89th had no particular station assigned to it, but kept moving from place to place until a strong detachment under Major Hector Munro joined the army under the command of Major Carnac, in the neighbourhood of Patna. Major Munro then assumed the command, and being well supported by his men, quelled a formidable mutiny among the troops. After 20 Sepoys had been executed by Major Munro by blowing them off guns, and with discipline restored, he attacked the enemy at Buxar, on 23 October 1764 in what became the Battle of Buxar. Though the force opposed to him was five times as numerous as his own, he overthrew and dispersed it. The enemy had 6000 men killed, and left 130 pieces of cannon on the field, whilst his majesty’s troops had only 2 officers and 4 rank and file killed.

Major Munro received a letter of thanks on the occasion from the President and Council of Calcutta. “The signal victory you gained,” they say, “so as at one blow utterly to defeat the designs of the enemy against these provinces, is an event which does so much honour to yourself, Sir, in particular, and to all the officers and men under your command, and which, at the same time, is attended with such particular advantages to the Company, as call upon us to return you our sincere thanks.” For this important service Major Munro was immediately promoted to the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel.

Returning home, he was elected, in 1768, as member of parliament for the Inverness Burghs, which he continued to represent for over thirty years, though much of this period was spent in India, where he returned in 1778 to take command of the Madras army.

Later in 1778 Munro took Pondichéry from the French, but in 1780 in the Second Anglo-Mysore War he was defeated by Hyder Ali near at Perambakam near Conjeeveram, and forced to fall back on St. Thomas Mount. There Sir Eyre Coote took command of the army, and in 1781 won a major victory against Hyder Ali at Porto Novo (Parangipettai), where Munro was in command of the right division. Negapatam was taken by Munro in November of the same year; and in 1782 he retired to Scotland.

The Fyrish Monument was ordered built by Munro in Fyrish, near Evanton, Easter Ross, Scotland, in 1782. He did this to provide work for the local unemployed population.

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