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Friday, January 21, 2011

Remembering Conolly - the Malabar Collector between 1846 and 1855

Maddy has, in a recent post, mentioned the contributions of H.V. Conolly, Malabar Collector between 1842 and 1855 – a brilliant career which was cut short at the age of 49 when he was brutally killed by some fanatic Moplahs. He is today remembered mainly on account of the Conolly Canal, an old project which only his leadership and drive could make happen. The teak forest of Nilambur is another standing monument to the vision of this great administrator.
specimen of Conolly's signature
 on a passport issued by him at Calicut

We had occasion to recall his tact and secular credentials in an earlier post. He had persuaded the Mambram Thangal to voluntarily emigrate to avoid bloodshed. Ironically, this event was later used to build up a case against him by fanatics, leading to his being hacked to death in the presence of his wife.

We have obtained his record during training and probation (as published in the Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and foreign... Vol 23) which shows that even as a probationer, Conolly had shown promise of growing into a competent officer. Even as a young recruit, the officer had shown dedication and a high degree of intelligence which marked him out later in his distinguished career.

Conolly joined the Madras Civil Service at the age of 18 and was trained at the College of Fort St. George, Madras which used to train the provincial civil servants. He was admitted in September 1824 and passed out in June 1826, standing first in Marathi and Hindustani. The record of the College needs to be reproduced at length to prove Connolly’s diligence as much as to show how the East India Company took great care to groom its civil servants:
Several weeks previously to the examination, Mr.Conolly met with a serious accident, which materially interrupted his studies, and was the occasion of his being examined under great disadvantage; the result has nevertheless been highly satisfactory.

In Mahratta, Mr.Conolly has attained a very high degree of proficiency: he is well acquainted with the idiom of the language, and with the principles of its construction, and possesses a very extensive knowledge of words, which he used with readiness, and applies with judgment and discrimination. Mr. Conolly’s translation of a difficult Mahratta paper was remarkable for its fidelity; the meaning, not only of every sentence, but of every word of the original, with one single exception, being fully expressed. Mr. Conolly was equally successful in translating from English into Mahratta. In conversation he expresses himself with correctness and propriety, and with a good pronunciation. He is also acquainted with the style of familiar and official letters.

Mr. Conolly’s proficiency in Hindostanee is equal to that which he has attained in Mahratta; he executed translations of the most difficult exercises, both into and from the language, in a manner die (sic) most creditable. He converses on various subjects with fluency and propriety, and explained with ease an original urzee written in an obscure style.

Mr. Conolly has already obtained the highest allowances of the institution; and he is fully qualified for the transaction of public business in two languages, we recommend that he may now be employed on the active duties of the public service. We beg leave further to state our opinion, that his acquirements in Mahratta and Hindostanee are of so high an order as to entitle him to the honorary reward of 3,500 rupees; and we have much pleasure in recommending that this distinction may accordingly be conferred upon him.

The Government House, Fort St. George, 1798 Th. Daniell
 The Madras Governor accepted the recommendation of the College at Fort St. George and ordered accordingly:
The Hon. The Governor in Council has observed, with much satisfaction, that the general results of the examination lately held at the College is highly creditable to the students attached to that institution, and is pleased, agreeably to your recommendation, to confer on Mr.Conolly the honorary reward of 3,500 rupees for his proficiency in the Mahratta and Hindostanee languages, and on Mr. Porter the highest rate of College allowances from the fourth inst.
Mr. Conolly and Mr.Gardner will be permitted to enter on the duties of the public service.
(sd.) Acting Secretary to Governor


  1. In the assassination of Mr. Connelly,we have lost a great visionary and a genuinely interested administrator who was keen in developing this part of India. If he continued to live, we in Malabar would have benefited a lot. Connelly canal's contribution to trade and commerce is immense.

  2. As I mentioned earlier it was not just Connolly but all the Connolly kids who lost their lives in India..But well, that is how it is ...This was the only brother who ventured south.

  3. thanks for this nice post 111213

  4. You have one of the blogs that I just LOVE reading..I never took the pains to tell you how much I appreciate your writings! :D Thank you!

  5. Canolly . you wrote he was collector of Malabar up to 1855 .

    Then how is that he was killed by moplas during riots ?
    Mappila riots was started during 1921.


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