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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Major-General Thomas Monroe, Governor of Madras


MAJOR-GENERAL THOMAS MONROE was born in Glasgow in 1761, brought up in the Stockwell, and educated in the city. During the summer months his parents resided in North Woodside House, a venerable pile, beautifully situated near the bend of the river Kelvin, which long stood a little to the northward of the Great Western Road bridge, but which has now vanished from the scene, in the westward march of city extension and improvement. The days he spent in Woodside seem to have been, in his estimation, the happiest in his life; "youth’s morning march" being ever the most delightful of our earthly pilgrimage. His biographer, the Rev. Mr. Gleig, says:

"Young Monroe appeared to enter upon a new state of being as often as he visited Woodside. If he read, it was either seated upon a rustic bench which stood beneath a tall tree in the garden, or perched among the highest branches of the tree itself. If a fit of idleness took him, he indulged it by rambling, sometimes from sunrise to nightfall, among the woods; or he would fish the Kelvin with his brothers or companions, and when weary of that amusement, would refresh himself by swimming in the dam."

In after years, when pursuing the "bubble reputation in the cannon’s mouth," he makes frequent allusions in his correspondence to the haunts of his youth.

"Were I to go home to-morrow," he says in an epistle to his mother, "one of my first excursions would be to Woodside, to swim down Jackson’s mill stream."

And when, in 1808, after an absence of nearly thirty years, he who had gone out to the far east an unfriended cadet returned laden with honours, wealth, and fame, one of the first places he turned his steps to was the Kelvin. In a beautiful letter to his sister, who had invited him to visit her at Ammondel, the following fine passage occurs:

"A solitary walk is almost the only thing in which I have any enjoyment. I have been twice at North Woodside, and though it rained without ceasing on both days, it did not prevent me from rambling up and down the river, from Clayslap to the aqueduct bridge. I stood above an hour at Jackson’s dam looking at the water rushing over, while the rain and withered leaves were descending thick about me; and while I recalled the days that were past, the wind whistling through the trees, and the water tumbling over the dam, had still the same sound as before; but the darkness of the day, and the little smart box perched on the opposite bank, destroyed much of the illusion, and made me feel that former times were gone.

"I don’t know how it is, but when I look back to early years, I always associate sunshine with them. When I think of North Woodside, I always think of a fine day, with the sunbeams streaming down upon Kelvin and its woody banks. I mean to devote the first sunny day to another visit to Kelvin, which, whatever you may say, is worth ten such paltry streams as your Ammon."

Again and again he visited the spot, bathed in the dam, wandered through the woods, and, it is even said, climbed the aged tree on which he was wont to sit when a boy.

When he was in Glasgow, Sir Thomas paid a visit to an old schoolfellow, a worthy candlemaker of the name of Harvie, who had a shop in Stockwell Street.

"Well, Mr. Harvie," said Monroe, "do you remember me?" Harvie gazed for some time at the tall, gaunt figure before him, striving to recall his features. At last he said:

"Are ye Millie Monroe?"

"I am just Millie Monroe," was the reply; and the quondam schoolfellows then had a long chat about the days o’ langsyne. Sir Thomas was represented by his school companion as having been a hero of a hundred fights or battles of one kind or another; in short, the bully of his class, in which, from his proficiency in milling, he received the above nickname.

Afterwards he returned to India, where still higher honours awaited him, and where he remained in active service until 1819. In 1826 he received the honour of knighthood, and had the governorship of Madras conferred upon him. This distinguished position, however, he was not destined long to enjoy. He died of cholera at a place called Puttecondah, in the East India Company’s territories, on the 5th July, in the following year.

Among the numerous distinguished warriors and statesmen who have attained distinction in the vast Eastern Empire of Britain, there are few who deserve, or will obtain, more honourable mention on the page of history than Sir Thomas Monroe. George Canning, the celebrated statesman, said of him, "Europe never produced a more accomplished statesman, nor India, so fertile in heroes, a more skilful soldier."


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