Sunday, November 28, 2021



Honoria Lawrence's role in shaping the character and temperament of Henry Lawrence was immense as also her contributions to his literary and philanthropic work. This of course included establishing the Lawrence Aslyums for the children, especially orphans, of British soldiers posted in India. 

The Lawrences first thought about setting up asylums for the children of British soldiers in India when Henry was the Resident in Nepal from 1843. 

An interesting fact is that Lady Lawrence was probably the first white woman to step into the remote kingdom of Nepal. 

Frederick Gibbon wrote, "As Major Lawrence and his wife sat in their balcony at Khatmandu, drinking in the pure bracing air and rejoicing in the beauty around them, their hearts went out to the little ones in the plains, the children of the European soldiers who were being dragged about from cantonment to cantonment , their strength and energy sapped by the sun, wasted by fever, sickening in the stifling night time; and their desire to benefit and safeguard the children now began to take definite shape " Source:  "The Lawrences Of The Punjab",by Frederick Gibbon,: published by J M Dent & Co, 1908. 

                                                         Henry Lawrence (1806-1857)

                                                 Honoria Lawrence ( 1808-1854) 

They developed the idea and saw their dream come true with the establishment of the first Lawrence Asylum in Sanawar in 1847. Naturally, this got the most attention from Sir Henry and Lady Lawrence as it was planned and built in their lifetime.  

Sir Henry and Lady Honoria were largely instrumental in framing the rules for this asylum, including determining the priority list for admission covered in the previous blog post.

Ed: While we refer to them as Sir Henry and Lady Honoria, for convenience, it must be clarified that he was actually knighted in 1848

The Lawrence Asylum at Sanawar was formally inaugurated by Lord Hardinge, the Governor General and Viceroy of India on October 28, 1848 . Sir Henry was closely involved in its management till his death in 1857. This, the oldest of The Lawrence Asylums, continues till this day as the Lawrence School, Sanawar.

 Sir Henry moved to then Rajputana as The Governor General's Agent in 1853. He and his wife actively oversaw the establishment of The Lawrence Asylum at Mount Aboo (present day: Mount Abu) till tragedy struck in January 1854. Lady Honoria Lawrence passed away on January 15, aged 45. The Asylum was formally inaugurated on December 12, 1854, almost as a memorial to her. It was the smallest of The Lawrence Asylums and finally closed down in December 1950. 

His next assignment saw Sir Henry move to Lucknow as the Chief Commissioner of the Oudh province. It was here that he died in 1857. The Asylum in Ootacamund established in 1858 was the first to be set up in his memory. He had always wished that an asylum be set up in the Nilgiri Hills in South India similar to the ones set up in Sanawar and Mount Abu. This, today, is Our School- The Lawrence School, Lovedale. 

The fourth Lawrence Asylum in British India was established in Ghora Gali near Murree in 1860, again in the memory of Sir Henry Lawrence. This went to Pakistan following the Partition of India in 1947. It continues till today as  The Lawrence College. 

Sir John William Kayne wrote about Sir Henry: " There is a monument to his memory in the great metropolitan cathedral of St Paul; but the grandest monument of all is to be found in the Asylums which bear his name."

Source:  “Lives of Indian Officers: Major D’Arcy Todd; Sir Henry Lawrence; General Neill; General John Nicholson” by Sir John William Kayne; published by David Bogue, 1880 

The monument referred to by Sir John is the one made by J G Lough in St Paul's Cathedral, London. It shows Sir Henry and Lady Lawrence welcoming orphan children with open arms. 

This picture is from The Victorian Web: Literature, History, and Culture in the Age of Victoria. published with the kind permission and courtesy of Dr Jaqueline Banerjee. 


Thursday, November 11, 2021



Sir Henry Lawrence, aided and abetted by his wife, Lady Honoria Lawrence, established The Lawrence Asylums in India with the aim to better the life of children of British soldiers serving in India, especially the orphans of soldiers who had died in service. 

As we have seen in Book 1 of "Glimpses of a Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale":-

"For growing children, especially orphans, there could be few places worse than the barracks of the East India Company scattered across its various cantonment towns in India in the first half of the 19 th century. The British soldier led a rough life and though the Church of England did its best to teach him to follow the faith and live by it, many British soldiers were prone to bouts of depression, drunkenness and womanizing. These resulted in a rather sordid barrack room life for the orphans of British soldiers who died in the course of duty, either on active service under the Colours or due to bouts of diseases which frequently took their toll resulting in clusters of graves and tomb stones dotting dusty remote parts of a land far away from what old India hands called Home. 

British society in India had a well-defined pecking order. While the officer’s wife, the “memsahib” enjoyed the luxury of living in well-kept bungalows with servants at her beck and call, the soldier’s wife lived in far worse conditions in barracks amidst ribaldry and blasphemy. While the barrack room boys were expected to join the regiments as soldiers or as tradesmen such as farriers and blacksmiths, the girls had far less opportunities and faced greater hardships. Considering the very low proportion of English women in India in those days, the barrack room girls invariably got married at young ages, often in their teens to soldiers far older than them. 

 It was common for young British girls, often widows, to marry older widower soldiers. Rudyard Kipling, the eminent British poet of his times, has captured this so beautifully in the old barrack room ballad, "Soldier, Soldier."

Children were born to these young girls and often they found themselves widowed early in life as soldiering was a hard occupation for the ordinary British soldier. He could as easily fall to an enemy bullet as he could to disease and illnesses that haunted them. The young widow then frequently re-married or simple lived with another soldier. Some women went back to England as ladies maids after a spell in India. Here too the Standing Orders mentioned earlier warned the troops of this eventuality. “Many cases of the greatest distress having occurred in consequence of the wives of soldiers being induced when in India, to come home as servants to ladies, trusting to get a free passage back, the Commandant feels it necessary to warn the women for their own sakes against such a practice, as the East India Company will of course not be the expense of sending them out a second time.” 

All in all, life in the barracks was rather squalid and shocked Lawrence and his wife’s sense of dignity.

They established the first Lawrence Asylum in Sanawar, near Kasauli  in  present day Himachal Pradesh in 1847.  This was followed by the one at Mt Abu in present day Rajasthan in 1854. .

After Sir Henry's death in 1857, two more Lawrence Asylums were established in his memory. The one at Ootacamund in the Nilgiris in 1858 and the last in 1860 in Ghora Galli , near Murree in present day Pakistan. 

Who were entitled to admission to the Lawrence asylums? It was clearly stated that the Principal would decide keeping in mind prescribed conditions. Children should be between the ages of 5 and 12 with preference being given to children of pure European parentage. 

First priority was to orphans of British officers and soldiers who have died on field service. 

Next was to orphans of British officers and soldiers who have died on the active list. 

The third priority was to children of serving British officers and soldiers on the active list. 

Troops of the East India Company's Bengal Army 

Since presumably many ex-servicemen joined the police, the next priority was for the Children of British officers and soldiers in Police service. 

Then came Orphans of British officers and soldiers who had died as pensioners or since their transfer to the reserve, followed by children of British officers and soldiers who were pensioners or transferred to the reserve. 

The last priority was to children of officers and soldiers of the Auxiliary Forces which comprised Europeans and Eurasians, mainly Anglo-Indians.

For a quick overview of the Armies of the East India Company, read this article from the National Army Museum.

Cadets at the Company's Military Academy at Addiscombe 1859

What was the life of the British soldier in India like in those far away years? 

This article in Find My Past is about life on board a troop ship used to ferry soldiers out to India in the 1890s. Tommy Atkins (often shorted to just Tommy) is the usual name given to the ordinary British soldier.

Another interesting book to read is "Armies Of The East India Company, 1750 to 1850 " by Stuart Reid. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021



In his lifetime, Sir Henry Lawrence, aided by his wife, Lady Honoria Lawrence, established The Lawrence Asylums at Sanawar and Mount Abu.

The third Lawrence Asylum, and the first in South India, was established in Ootacamund on September 6, 1858 in his memory. 

We have tried out a new experiment in this blog post. We have a podcast on the relevant extract from "Glimpses Of A Glorious Past". Do listen to this, and let us know if you would like more extracts from Glimpses as audio podcasts.

It would be great if more OLs come forward to read extracts from "Glimpses.." as podcasts.  If you are interested, please write to us at; 

The bicentenary of the Nilgiris was celebrated in 2019.

For those interested, the Facebook Page of The Tourist Information Centre of the Nilgiris  has some wonderful pictures of Ootacamund in the days of the 19th century. These old black and white pictures were taken by Sam Bourne, who was one the most popular of official photographers during the British Raj.

Here's another picture of the unspoiled Ooty dating back to 1880. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


 PROLOGUE & INTRODUCTION TO "GLIMPSES...." ( Published in May 2017) 

The Gods have been kind. It’s a perfect day in May 2016 and the visitors who have thronged to the Nilgiri Hills for the 158th Founder’s Day of The Lawrence School, Lovedale bask in the mild sunshine. They breathe in the clean mountain air with the unforgettable scent of the eucalyptus and the pines. Covering a small fraction of the sprawling 750 acres, perhaps the largest space available to any school in India, the red-brick main School buildings stand as firm as they did when they were first erected in 1869. Soaring 130 feet into the air, the iconic clock tower looks majestic in the background of clear azure blue skies. The green lawns are impeccable and the flowers, yellow, red and blue, add to the feast of colour.

A young gentleman takes in the scene. He is as excited as only a proud parent coming up for Founder’s for the first time can be. He smiles at the grizzled old man wearing the School tie. He simply has to share his excitement with someone, “My first time here for Founder’s. Kids joined the school this year. Lovely place. Long history, over 150 years I am told. Was it always like this, I wonder?”

“There have been many changes over the years but the soul of the school remains the same,” replies the older man.

“Do you come here often?” asks the parent politely. The parent does not know that the man he is talking to has been part of Lovedale lore for long.
“I have been here for the better part of my life,” replies the 82 year old Denzil Prince. “I started here as a snotty kid way back in 1944 and was the Head Boy in 1954.”
“How interesting! An honour for me to meet someone like you. The parade this morning was most impressive. I especially enjoyed the bands playing so beautifully. Do you sometimes remember your school days?”
“Oh, yes, I do!  Since you spoke of the band, I was the bandmaster here for nearly twenty years. After a few stints elsewhere, I am now back in Lovedale, the place I love more than any other in the world. Word went around the Old Lawrencian community, 'The Prince of Lovedale' is back where he belongs!” Prince says with a laugh.
Seizing what he saw was a great opportunity, the eager parent asks, “My boy is 11 years old and new here. What would you advise him to do? I am so keen he should be happy here and shine in his future career.”
Prince tells him with a half-smile playing on his face, “Tell him not to sing the School Song by rote but to imbibe its true spirit.”
Seeing the perplexed expression on his listener’s face, Prince keeps aside his rich baritone and recites softly,
“At the dawn of life’s endeavor
With our hopes held high we stand
In our childhood’s home which ever Spreads wide her bounteous hand
Here a glorious inspiration From our founder we’ll surely win
And with strong determination
Play the game and “Never Give In”
“That’s it. Ask him to absorb the glorious traditions of his alma mater. Ask him, as is expected of every Lawrencian, to play the game and 'Never Give In'”.

As is well known The Lawrence School, Lovedale was founded in 1858 in memory of Major-General Sir Henry Lawrence, KCB, (1806-1857). 

Our endeavour, an informal history of the School, we believe differs significantly from other books about the School. We find it inexplicable though that no book was written about the School, not even in the heydays of the British Raj. 

It was only in 1983, to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the School that travel writers Hugh and Colleen Gantzer, not OLs themselves but parents of an OL wrote, “Never Give In." This slim volume was based on extracts from the school archives and the school magazine, "The Lawrencian." 

 A few years later, in 1988, another book was published and a very different one at that. Max Cocker (Class of ‘39) wrote “Lovedale: The Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, South India: A Personal Account”.  This was wholly based on his personal reminiscences, during his period at Lovedale from 1931-1939.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the School, in 2008, Ashok John Koshy, (Class of '67), an internationally renowned photographer, was commissioned to develop a coffee table book on the School.

In 2013, Nitya Cherian Matthai, (Class of '77) (and more about him later) with his collaborator on the Lawrence School Staff, Mr. Thomas George, got privately published a colourful book on the School titled, “At the Dawn..."

We are not aware of any other publication. 

Nitya Matthai's association with the School is unique. After nine years in School, (Class of '77) he did MA and returned to his alma mater in 1983 to teach History & Social Sciences for the next 33 years. He was also the School Archivist which placed him in the best position to research material for a book about the School. 

This project has been a long time in the making. During Founder's 2010, Wing Commander Joseph Thomas, VM, IAF (Retd) (Class of ’57) and Beena Belliappa, nee Elizabeth Tharakan (Class of '70, and a former Secretary of the OLA) came to know that Nitya was working on a book about the school along with Mr Thomas George, who taught English in the School. They felt the OLA should pursue this project to reach a wider audience. 

In 2014, Prem Rao, Class of '67 decided to write a book on the history of the School based on reminiscences of OLs. He wanted this to be ready by 2017. He started a Facebook Group called, " Glimpses of a Glorious Past" as the first step towards this initiative. 

Joseph and Beena, invited Prem to meet with Nitya in May 2015 to discuss the "School Book Project" after which Nitya and Thomas sent across the material they had put together to  Prem. The team then obtained contributions from OLs and their family members, apart from Prem's extensive research on published material, to produce this book. 

 How is this book different from the others on the School? 
1) It is based on archived material supplemented by reminiscences of a number of Old Lawrencians (or simply OLs as they are generally called)  from across the world. We trace historical events that took place over the decades supplemented by anecdotes and period photographs.
We have tried all through the book, to the extent we could, to enable you the reader to see The School through the eyes of those who experienced “Lovedale”, as the School is often simply called, as students, staff and parents. This is neither an authoritative tome on the school nor is it a picture filled coffee table book. “The picture alone, without the written word leaves half the story untold,” said James Lafferty the American TV actor, director and producer.  

2) This book is not designed to be read at one go. Indeed, it should not! In an age where everyone is strapped for time, it is for the OL to dip into and read a few pages from time to time at their convenience. We trust it will arouse in them a sense of nostalgia and pride for their alma mater.

3) Our approach of posting this on the website of the Old Lawrencians Association enables you to read it on-line whenever you want to do so, wherever you are in the world. This approach is more current and lends itself to the contents being modified in the future in a highly cost effective manner.

We are indebted to Nitya Cherian Matthai, an Old Lawrencian himself and a former teacher and Archivist at the School, and Thomas George, of the School’s Dept. of English for sharing their material which forms the foundation of this informal history. This material is made up of extracts from the School Archives and from the School Magazine, “The Lawrencian”.
 We are grateful to the authorities of The Lawrence School, Lovedale and, in particular to the Headmistress, Ms. Sangita Chima,  for supporting this venture and permitting us to use material from the School Archives and The Lawrencian.

Also to Rukhmini Reddy Krishnan, (Class of ’61) President of the Old Lawrencians Association for her push to enable this project to see the light of day. 
To Wing Commander Joseph Thomas (Class of '57) for dreaming of this project and making it come true. 

To Prem Rao (Class of ’67) for editing the mountains of material and giving shape to the story.

(For the statistically inclined, "Glimpses " in all three Volumes has about 216,252 words in 808 pages! Book 1 is in 91 pages with 27444 words; Book 2 in 212 pages with 57262 words; and Book 3 in 505 pages with 131, 546 words!!) 

They could not have asked for anything more to celebrate their 60th and 50th anniversary of leaving School during Founder's 2017.

Last but not the least, we are grateful to Old Lawrencians from across the world, cutting across different generations for their support.  OLs who made significant contributions are Moira Breen (Class of ’39), Norman Minus ( in Lovedale from 1936-42: through his daughter, Sharman ), Peter Forkgen (Class of ’46), and Kevin Phillips ( Class of ’56) 
We live today in 2017 in a world vastly different from that of 1858. While many things have changed beyond description we would like to think that some things have, in essence, remained the same.
The spirit of Lovedale and being an Old Lawrencian, is one amongst them.
An earlier reference to our Founder, Major- General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, KCB and the School Motto, “Never Give In” provides us with the most appropriate way to begin our story….

Updated Notes:

1. Since the book was aimed to be published in 2017, the Prologue was set in Founder's 2016 
2. Mrs Beena Belliappa is currently the Vice President of the Old Lawrencians Association 
3. Our world of 2021 as this is updated is so very different even from the one of 2017 because of the COVID 19 pandemic. But the spirit of being OLs remains stronger than before. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021



"Glimpses...." was formally launched by Rukhmini Reddy Krishnan, President of the Old Lawrencians Association during the AGM held on May 22, 2017.

Pictures on this page are through the courtesy of : Wg Cdr Joseph Thomas (Retd) 

Rukhmini Krishnan and other senior OLs before the start of the AGM 

We present below the relevant extracts :-

Minutes of the Old Lawrencian Association Annual General Body Meeting, held at 2:30pm on 22nd. May 2017 at the Prep Hall, Junior School, The Lawrence School, Lovedale

11) OLA President’s address –

The School history book ‐ “Glimpses of the past” was the brain child of Nithya Mathai (1977), and Mr. Thomas George. Both were teaching staff at the time; Mr. George still is. They researched and sought material from the school archives and the “Lawrencian”magazines. It was for them a passion and though painstaking work, in addition to their teaching responsibilities, the material was collected and sent to Prem Rao (1967). Prem collated the masses of material, rearranged and edited it, adding considerable supplementary material. Joseph Thomas (1957) stepped in and was instrumental in contributing researched information on Sir Henry Lawrence, on which subject he is an expert. JT dreamt that this project see the light of day; today his dream and that of the team will be fulfilled.  Beena Belliappa (1970) encouraged the team and motivated them to carry on, when they were about to give up. 

Then it was the turn of the OLA to assist and we suggested the book be uploaded the OLAwebsite. So, almost ten years later, the first 50 years of “Glimpses of the past” is to be launched. In a little while we will launch the book

12) Book Launch – “Glimpses of the Past.”Nitya Cherian Mathai (1977) presented a brief introduction to the book and thanked all theindividuals who were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.The book was launched by Joseph Thomas (1957), who gave an overview. Currently, only Part 1 of the book has been hosted on the OLA website. The other parts are to be hosted in due course. At the end of this book launch, Nitya Mathai was made a Honorary Member of the OLA bythe OLA President.

Thomas George, Nitya C Matthai and Joseph Thomas 

17) Vote of Thanks – Paul Sabapathy – 1957 thanked all attending OLs and wished them the very best. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021



From the time of its launch during Founder's of May 2017 by Ms Rukmini Reddy Krishnan, the then President of the Old Lawrencians Association (OLA) ,  " Glimpses Of A Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale " found a home in the website of the OLA in the form of a ebook.

In keeping with the changing times, we now present to you,  "Glimpses..." (or "GGP" as it is popularly called by my younger friends) in the blog format.

We see these advantages in the new format :-

  1. Now and over time, we can add hyperlinks, videos, podcasts  and images to enhance the reading/viewing experience for our audience. 
  2. This format leads itself more easily for updating, editing and revising the text of the e-book
  3. Likewise, we expect more engagement in this mode from the Old Lawrencian community through their comments on the blog posts and their contributing their own blog posts. 
It is common for a series of blog posts to be combined and made into a book. Our challenge here is to present a book in a series of blog posts! We will not therefore publish the book in its entirety in the form of blog posts but will publish interesting extracts from time to time. 

For the convenience of those who prefer to read the book in it's current form, we have Book 1 (1858-1908), Book 2 (1908-1958) and Book 3 (1958 to 2017) as pdfs for your easy reading. These are in three separate posts here in this blog. 

Since May 2020 the OLA has organized the "OL Assembly", a monthly Virtual Entertainment Show by the OLs for the OLs broadcasted over YouTube and Facebook on the second Saturday of each month.  It was decided to use the OL Assembly as a platform to present "Glimpses..."in November 2020. 

Since then in every OL Assembly there has been a segment devoted to "Glimpses...". In this we have traced the history of the School since it was founded in 1858, in memory of Major General Sir Henry Lawrence KCB. 

Effective October 2021, "Glimpses..." is being spun off from the OL Assembly and will be broadcast in YouTube and Facebook as a separate show.  

The Journey of "Glimpses..."! :

How " Glimpses..." came to be written is covered in the OL Assembly of November 14, 2020.
Here, Wing Commander Joseph Thomas, Retd, (ex ARV 1957);  Prem Rao, (ex- NIL 1967; Nitya Cherian Matthai, ( ex-Sum1977) and Mr Thomas George of The Lawrence School, Lovedale's Dept of English explain how the project was initiated and completed. 

2010: Wg Cdr Joseph Thomas & Mrs Beena Belliappa nee Elizabeth Tharakan (EX- DEO 1970)  met Mr Nitya Cherian Matthai during Founder's. They learnt that he and his colleague, Mr Thomas George had prepared a manuscript of material about the School sourced from the Archives and issues of The Lawrencian dating back to 1911.

2014 : Prem Rao planned a book on the School hopefully to be ready for the 50th year of his batch in 2017. In April 2014, he started a Facebook Group called "Glimpses of a Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale". This group currently has over 850 members. 

2015: J T and Beena arranged a meeting with Nitya and Prem in May 2015, and that's where the project began. NCM and TG shared the material they had put together with Prem. 

The team then got contributions from many OLs across the ages (including JT himself, Kevin Phillips, Peter Forkgen, Moira Breen, to name a few) and "Glimpses..." was put together in book form by Prem after he added material that he had researched. 

2017: :Glimpses..." was released as a ebook in 3 volumes by OLA Presiden, Rukhmini Reddy Krishnan, (Head Girl, 1961) during Founder's 2017. Book 1 was released on May 22, 2017 and the other two some time later.

2020: "Glimpses......" appeared for the first time in the OL Assembly in November 2020

2021:  OLA's Glimpses Blog created in October 2021
          "Glimpses" spun off from OL Assembly as a stand alone show on social media in October 2021

Monday, October 4, 2021

Book 1-1858 to 1908 : "Glimpses Of A Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale"


Book 1-1858 to 1908; "Glimpses Of A Glorious Past: An Informal History of The Lawrence School, Lovedale"

The first 50 years of the School, then called The Lawrence Asylum, is covered in the first of three volumes that make up, " Glimpses Of A Glorious Past....". 

During these years, the School was administered by Principals who were, without exception, ordained clergy of the Church of England. It had the bearings of a military asylum set up primarily for the orphans and children of British soldiers who died in service in India. 

Here's the link to Book 1 - 1858 to 1908 in pdf format.

The main buildings of the School were designed by the renowned architect Robert Chisholm and were built in the 19th century. Largely completed in 1871. The Lawrence Asylum then shifted from Ootacamund to the new campus at Lovedale. 


 SIR HENRY, LADY LAWRENCE & THE LAWRENCE ASYLUMS  Honoria Lawrence's role  in shaping the character and temperament of Henry Lawrenc...