The Viceroy who was Stabbed to Death by a Pathan in Andaman

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Lord Mayo was among the most nomadic viceroys in India, as a fourth viceroy, Lord Mayo travelled nearly 20,000 miles during his three-year tenure in India. Most of his journey was on horseback. He could travel 80 miles per day on horseback. During his tenure in India, he used all the available modes of transport at that time. He travelled on steamers, railways, elephants, yaks and even camels.


J H Rivet Carnac writes in his book “Many memories”, “Once in Central India Mayo got to know that only a bullock cart could be used to go to a particular place. He wore a coat over his pyjamas and slept over the straw on the bullock cart. The next morning upon reaching the destination, he announced that he slept very well, came down and wore his uniform.
In the year 1872, Lord Mayo decided that he will travel to Burma and Andaman Islands. At that time, Britishers used to keep dangerous prisoners in Andaman jails. No Viceroy or Governor-General ever visited Andaman before.

However, in 1789, Lieutenant Blair wanted to settle in Andaman. But the British had to leave the island in 1796 due to malaria outbreak and resistance from local tribes.
In the year 1858, the British started sending dangerous prisoners there. The first batch of 200 dreaded prisoners arrived in January 1858. When Mayo reached Andaman, the total population was 8000, among which 7000 were prisoners, 900 women and 200 policemen.


Mayo’s Andaman journey began on February 8, 1872. His ship reached Port Blair sharp at 9 in the morning. He was welcomed with a 21 gun salute. The same day he visited European barracks and prisoner’s camp on Ross Island. Around sunset, he decided to go and see Mount Harriet.


Sir William Wilson Hunter who accompanied Mayo on his journey, writes in Mayo’s biography, “Life of Earl of Mayo, “Mount Harriet was at an altitude of 1116 feet. The climb was straight and very tight. Climbing in the harsh sun was hard, and most of the team was exhausted. But Mayo was so refreshing that he refused to climb on the Mare. On reaching the peak, he enjoyed the sunset for 10 minutes.


By the time Mayo’s crew descended to return, it was dark. A ferry on the hop ton jetty was waiting for the viceroy. Some people with torches were walking in front of Mayo. On his right was Major Owen Byrne, his secretary and on his left was Andaman chief commissioner Donald Stewart. Meanwhile, a Pathan who was hiding in the bushes attacked Mayo with the knife.
Mayo lost his life in this attack. The name of the man who stabbed Mayo was Sher Ali. Sher Ali was the resident of Teera valley in the North-West Frontier province. He worked in cavalry police of Punjab. Ali was sentenced to death on the charge of killing his cousin in Peshawar. However, on appeal, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Andaman.
However, Sher Ali was hanged for killing the viceroy. In his statement given before hanging, he said that he did not consider killing his cousin a crime. But because he was convicted, he vowed to avenge the sentence by killing high-ranking Englishman.


This incident shook the British Empire. It was not discussed for a very long time. Lord Mayo’s body was brought to Calcutta by the same vessel Glasgow on which he went to Port Blair. After reaching Calcutta on February 17 1872, his body was brought to the Government House from Princep Ghat. Almost every English man living in Calcutta attended his funeral. He was then flown to Dublin via Bombay where he was buried in a churchyard with state honours on April 25, 1872.

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