Royal Reels: Gambling


This fine mourning cover has been made of very thin almost translucent paper, and it is addressed to J. Price Esq., Lushingtons (sic) Gardens, Sydapett, Madras, India. It has a pair of the pale lilac 6d (perf 13) N.S.W. stamps, postmarked with 2 duplex B/ OC 5/ 78/ SYDNEY postmarks associated with the N.S.W vertically placed obliterator, within an oval of 4 rings (Figure 1).

The reverse has a printed rose at the apex of the flap and has a transit mark DELX/ MADRAS/ NOV. 14 as well as an arrival at SYDAPETT/ NOV. 14 postmark (Figure 2).

Madras in modern days is known as Chennai and its position is seen on the south east coast of India (Figure 3).

Sydapett, the site of Lushington Gardens, is an area within the bounds of Chennai, is now known as Saidapet and the vast area of Chennai, which lies along the Bay of Bengal, is shown in the map (Figure 4).

Lushington Gardens, this building whose classical lines are wasted on the backdoors of the homes surrounding it, probably owes its name to Charles May Lushington, a civilian who became a Member of Council in 1838. There is, however, also a land grant with reference to the site in 1796 to Stephen Rumbold Lushington, another civilian who later served as Governor of Madras from 1827 to 1832. Lushington Gardens was in later years used as the residence of the Collector of Chinglepet.

Before the Lushington Gardens house was built, probably in the 1830s, the whole area was known as Anderson’s Nopalry. Dr. James Anderson, the physician-general, was an ardent naturalist who in 1786 recommended to the Government the opportunity that the cochineal insect provided for the manufacture of a red dye. He urged the Government to provide the land for him to plant the Nopal shrub from Mexico, a natural host on which to cultivate the insect commercially.

Anderson and his nephew Dr. Andrew Berry started the Nopalry going by 1791, but Anderson’s attention was later diverted to another botanical gardens elsewhere. Thus the Nopalry never took off and by 1793 it was decided to devote a part of the land to a government botanical gardens, where experiments were done with growth of the rubber tree. The botanical gardens were later transferred by Lord Clive to Bangalore, the Nopalry was declared a failure, and what was left of the land in Saidapet was subdivided and sold for development.

The home associated with the Lushington Gardens in Saidapet survived into the 21st century, across from the Veterinary Hospital, the golf links and Leith Castle. The Right Honorable Stephen Rumbold Lushington is confirmed at several websites as the Governor of Madras in 1827 to 1832, but no additional information has been found on him. The recipient of the mourning cover, J. Price Esquire has not been identified, but identification may have been easier to perform if the three-lettered initials after his name could have been confidently recognised.

Categories: Mourning Covers, Postmarks