Govt Workshop Roorkee links to 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and more | Dehradun News

Roorkee: With huge British-era structures across 103 bigha lands, Government Workshop Roorkee (GWR) certainly has an interesting past and a vital connection to the Sepoy Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Established in 1843 by Sir Proby Thomas Cautley, the GWR was intended to facilitate the construction work by the East India Company of the Gangnahar Canal and roads through the region. But as the revolt spread from Meerut on 10 May 1857, its impact also reached Roorkee. Some native soldiers stationed in Roorkee rebelled and reportedly set fire to a barracks, which was based on the current campus of IIT-Roorkee. The barracks had been used as the residence of some British military students who had enrolled at the local Thomason College of Engineering (TCE).
Incidentally, a senior officer of the local Bengal Sappers and Miners Corps (now BEG&C), Major R Baird Smith, who happened to be a Superintendent of Canals at Roorkee, hastily settled the British women and their children in the several workshops of the workshop. ‘magazines’ (basements) for their safety. Among them was the wife of Colonel R MacLagan who had given birth to a son in one of those dark, drab rooms.
A plaque recounting this incident is still alive on the wall. Col MacLagan was the first Director of TCE at this time. TCE, which was founded as Roorkee College in 1847, is today IIT-Roorkee. The plaque here reads: ‘In this room, during the mutiny of 1857, Mrs. MacLagan, wife of Colonel R MacLagan, gave birth to a son. Colonel MacLagan was for many years Principal of Thomason College. ”
Colonel MacLagan, who had four sons and two daughters, rose to the rank of general during his last years of military service and his youngest son, Edward Douglas MacLagan, who also became a general in the British Army like his father, had established MacLagan. Engineering College, Lahore in 1923, which is now known as the University of Engineering and Technology (UET)-Lahore in Pakistan.
Accounts of the immediate effect of the Sepoy mutiny on Roorkee are well documented in two books. One is “God’s Own – The Bengal Sappers” by Col RB Khanna and the other is “History Of Thomason College Of Engineering” by KV Mital.
According to these two books, only two to four sapper companies remained at Roorkee after May 10, 1857, and “on the night of May 13-14 a barracks occupied by British student soldiers of the TCE was burned down. by the rebels. Frightened by this development, Smith and MacLagan saw the fortified compound of the Canal Foundry Workshops (now GWR) as a “safe haven” for families of the local British community who numbered in their fifties.
Mital in chapter 4 of his book states that “here in the workshops MacLagan and Baird Smith have been blessed with a son and a daughter, respectively”.
Interestingly, the birth dates of the children are missing not only on the plate but also in Mital’s book. “Since there is no written documentation available in the archives of our establishment (workshop), everything that was available for our predecessors had been put in place as information on the plate,” said Shishir Gupta, executive engineer at GWR.
An online archive from the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge shows that night patrols by sappers were increased on May 15 and on the same day women and children were sent to the workshops. And Patricia, wife of Col MacLagan, gave birth to a son on May 22 in the workshop and they finally returned to their cabin on June 8. About 10 days later, the child was baptized as Charles Patrick Dalrymple.
Thus, the stories of TCE, Bengal Sappers and GWR are intertwined. But while the history of Bengal Sappers and TCE is well documented, GWR’s is not. “The GWR is a living monument of industrial archaeology. This majestic entity should be further developed as a tourist spot for our future generations,” said local architect Mujeeb Malik, 62.


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