Those concerned with heritage matters will agree that it is a rather depressing interest to have. News invariably centres on demolishing of heritage buildings, vandalising of precincts and the theft of artefacts. And then, every once in a while along comes a miracle that keeps hope alive. One such happened yesterday.
I had written about the mystery of the Bulkley tomb on Tuesday (Hidden Histories, The Hindu dated 25th September) not really hoping to receive any information as to its present whereabouts. But I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from the Security Officer of the Archaeology Department of the Government informing me that the Bulkely tomb was alive (pardoning the inappropriate phrase) and well. He also offered to take me there.
On reaching the spot, I realised that I ought to have taken Henry Davison Love (Vestiges of Old Madras, 1913) more seriously. He had stated that the tomb was opposite the Madras Medical College and sure enough there it was. Only it was now safely behind a wall that cordoned off a defence area that now houses the Shaurya Army School, which stands opposite MMC, the intersection of Poonamallee High Road and Evening Bazaar Road. The wall would not have existed in Love’s time.
Bulkley according to Love, was buried in his own garden. And so the place where I was standing must have once been his residence. It is rather appropriate that the good doctor should be resting just opposite the MMC and the GH. He had after all, once presided over an earlier version of GH.
The tomb is even now enclosed by the railings that Love mentions, though parts of it have fallen off. Gone are the steps that Love says once led to the place, perhaps they are below the ground now. Bulkley lies under a massive piece of granite, rectangular in shape and on top is a detailed inscription in Latin giving details of his life. The tomb itself is in fairly good condition though the same cannot be said of its immediate surroundings. Nobody is sure as to whose jurisdiction the tomb comes under; the Army which owns the land or the ASI which ought to anyway take care of such ancient artefacts.
For the record, Bulkley died on 10th August 1714. On his death a funeral service was conducted at St Mary’s in the Fort and a sermon was delivered by the Rev William Stevenson. As per Love, a copy of this speech is preserved in the British Museum. As I walk away I reflect that the good Doctor must be getting very few visitors these days. Thankfully there appear to be no vandals either.