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  3.14 Capt. Alexander Foulis in Tippoo Saib's Prison  


©National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
Capt. Alexander Foulis in Tippoo Saib's Prison; c.1780-84

Pencil, pen and ink
28 x 22.2 cm

Unknown Artist

ccording to Sir Walter Scott, Capt. David Baird's mother, hearing that he had been imprisoned after the Battle of Pollilur in 1780, exclaimed 'pity the poor man who is chained to Oor Davie.' Prisoners were frequently chained to each other - dead or living - and if a prisoner died, his body was lashed to a bamboo and taken outside as food for tigers. Unlike Baird, many prisoners did not survive these oppressive conditions.

Another drawing in the National Library of Scotland (Ms 3998 fol 47) shows a deputation of prisoners, headed by General Goldie and including Capt Foulis and Lieut. Reid. According to the inscription, 'They are requesting Dr. Wm Rayne to return again to the prison, despite the fact that his life had been threatened by a person called Dupris, who had attempted to reveal a projected attack on the fortress of Bangalore. The rest of the prisoners had resolved to put Dupris to death, but refrained from doing so because they had no means of secreting or disposing of the body.'

By contrast, the anonymous Officer of Col. Baillie's Attachment recorded in his Narrative, Tipu's prisoners, 'recollecting we were Britons, we endeavoured to resume our usual gaiety of mind, determined by the help of Providence, to live out every difficulty.' The same Narrative lists 'Expenses of fitting up a Prisoner newly arrived at Seringapatam', including:

'One piece of coarse cloth, which makes two shirts'
'Leather and tape for galligaskins*'
'Straw for pillows'
An earthen chatty to eat off'
Half piece of Dungeree, for pillow cases, towels, etc' *The galligaskins are made of leather, and wore under the irons to preserve the skin'
'Articles of Luxury, only to be obtained by the Opulent after a Length of Saving' include a pen knife; paper; sweetmeats 'per stick'; limes, oranges, guavas and mangoes; 'dressing a hubble-bubble per week'; keeping a pair of pigeons, per week; paint, paper, paste etc for making a pack of cards.

Elaborate methods were devised of smuggling messages between prisoners and to the outside world. Last words were scratched on utensils, scraps of paper sewn into cloth buttons, and tightly rolled messages concealed in quill pens. Lt.Col. Alexander Maitland successfully concealed his letter of 16th July 1783 in this way. Writing from Bangalore prison, he asks for money, and for news of the French peace, and add that 'Lt. Fowles in 8th (ie. Capt. Alexander Foulis) left this place about four months ago in good health.' Two hundred years later, this tangible link with Tipu and his captive Scotsmen is still preserved in the National War Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle.

National Museums of Scotland (National War Museum of Scotland), Edinburgh Museum No: M. 1996.52


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