200 years ago, the Church of Scotland petitioned for a place of worship to be built in Madras to serve Scottish soldiers stationed in and around the city. The foundation stone was laid in 1818 and it was consecrated three years later. The design is sumptuous - inside and out - and the church stands in spacious grounds which add to its imposing presence.
This looks to be much more than a squaddies' church. But then the Scots' role in Empire was much more than 'poor bloody infantry' - they were often the officers, doctors and administrators ... and the missionaries too.
St Andrew's is still universally known as the Kirk - indeed its website address is http://www.thekirk.in/ - and insists that it remains in the Scottish Presbyterian tradition. The Scottish church is famous for its schisms. The Kirk does not seem to be affiliated with the Church of South India, with which the Church of Scotland has an association. Nor does it appear to have links with the 'Wee Frees', as the Free Church in Scotland is sometimes known.
The Kirk's first Indian pastor was appointed as recently as 1983. There's clearly a large and active congregation and the building seems to be splendidly cared for.
Amid the memorials, there's one from the 1850s that particularly caught my attention. The sculptor was Scottish, Sir John Steell, and it was crafted in Edinburgh. The likeness is not that of the man in whose memory the monument was erected, Lt Col Robert Gordon, but of an Indian soldier mourning him - as this very useful article explains.
And another, much simpler, memorial also made me reflect on the lives of those who worked and died here during British rule. I've been able to find out nothing more about Charlotte Andrews from Glasgow - she must have made quite an impression to be so memorialised.
If you want to know more how the European presence and influence is reflected in the buildings and urban landscape of Chennai, then do take a look at this excellent article. The Kirk is among the buildings featured.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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