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In search of the Stanley name



The bridal group (Left to right) Seated, Lady Beatrix Stanley, the Bride, the Countess of Derby; Standing: the Bishop of Madras, H.E. the Governor, the Bridegroom, Capt. Goschen (best man), the Earl of Derby. The bridal attendants are (left to right) Miss and Master Greig, Miss Platts and Miss Conran Smith. (This was a picture from the Madras Mail that Hugh Buchanan brought with him)

Hugh Buchanan and his son James were a little late in that season when many from Britain — or with British connections — come in search of old family ties. But the heat did not put them off as Buchanan the elder, who had been here in 1969, took James Stanley Buchanan around to show him where the Stanley name remained in Madras.

The Stanley whose name was being searched for was Sir George Stanley, who was Governor of Madras from 1929 to 1934 and who briefly acted as Viceroy just before he left. Capt. Sir Charles Buchanan of the Highland Light Infantry, who had served as ADC to Governor Lord Goschen, was invited to continue as ADC to Sir George. That was when he met Barbara Helen Stanley, the daughter of Sir George and Lady Beatrix, and, as the saying goes, won her hand.

Their marriage was celebrated on February 23, 1932 in St. George’s Cathedral, where the ceremony was, according to The Madras Mail, a “Harmony of Music, Colour and Sentiment”. Among the guests were the Earl of Derby, Sir George’s brother, and the Countess, and “Susan, a hunter who had come from home with Miss Stanley.”

Indeed, horses — as befitting members of the Derby family — and dogs were great favourites of all the Stanleys. Sir George owned racehorses, and in 1932 won the then Blue Riband of the Madras Turf, in effect presenting the Governor’s Cup to himself!

Hugh Buchanan was the second son of the Charles Buchanans and, thus, the grandson of the Stanleys. So, the journey to show the next generation the places where the George Stanley name survives or has links in Madras.

Off they went to Stanley Medical College and Hospital, where they were spotted by the organisers of a farewell function to the Dean of the College while they were examining a bust of Sir George in the premises. They were whisked to the function and Hugh Buchanan was invited to remember the Stanley connection. Stanley Viaduct was then crossed and it was on to Banqueting (Rajaji) Hall and Government House, which still had enough standing to help them recall the splendour of the past. And finally, to the Museum to see Sir George’s portrait (done by Oswald Birley in Madras) in the Government Museum, now no longer where it had been, Banqueting Hall.

St. George’s Cathedral on the next day gave them the opportunity to peek at the Marriage Register and note that the Stanleys, the Derbys and Chief Justice Sir Owen Beasley were the witnesses. Next, Lady Beatrix’s favourite house in India, “the house in Guindy” (Raj Bhavan), where she painted so much flora and fauna, opened its doors to them quite serendipitously and graciously.

And then it was time to leave. Stanley Reservoir and Government House, Ooty, were not visited due to lack of time. But the Buchanan’s being intrepid travellers — the last time Hugh Buchanan was in Madras was when he shipped his car from Sydney to Madras via Penang, the last leg on the S.S. State of Madras, and drove all the way to England. At that time, he had heard that a gardener his grandmother had brought from England to supervise the gardens of the various Government Houses was living somewhere on the coast south of the Adyar, but he couldn’t trace him. I wonder whether any old-timer remembers a retired old English gardener in Madras.

With them, the Buchanans brought several pictures of the Stanleys and the Government Houses. I understand Raj Bhavan is bringing out a coffee table book on its history and was planning an appeal for pictures of Government Houses and Government House/Raj Bhavan functions of the past as well as recollections of those who have visited these gubernatorial residences. But before the appeal could be made, the book received its first treasure trove from the Buchanans, one of whose contributions is published here today.

S. MUTHIAH

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