Of all the Viceroys in my time the most popular, officially, socially, and in every way, was Lord Mayo (1869 to 1872). He was essentially a ruler, a man of commanding presence and outstanding ability, a lover of sport of all kinds, in short a Governor-General in every sense of the word.
[Illustration: Present view of Medical College Hospital]
[Illustration: Photo. by Johnston & Hoffmann The Medical College Hospital.]
[Illustration: Scene in Eden Gardens.]
He never once allowed it to escape his memory, nor did he permit anyone else to forget, that he was the absolute and actual representative of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and that in him was personified the very embodiment of her rule and authority in India. He thoroughly understood the Indian appreciation of the spectacular, and this understanding was doubtless the reason for the punctilious dignity with which he invested all his public and semi-public functions, while the hospitality at Government House during his regime was truly regal. His statue on the maidan gives a good idea of his commanding appearance. It used to be one of the sights of the cold weather on State occasions, and a spectacle once witnessed not soon forgotten, to see Lord Mayo sally forth out of the gates of Government House. Seated in an open carriage-and-four, faced by his military secretary and senior aide-de-camp, wearing on the breast of his surtout the insignia of the Order of the Star of India, looking like what he really was, a king of men, and sweep rapidly across the maidan, almost hidden from sight by a dense cloud of the bodyguard enveloping the viceregal equipage, accoutred in their picturesque, long, bright scarlet tunics, hessian boots, and semi-barbaric head-dress, with lances in rest, and pennons, red and white, gaily fluttering in the breeze.
He was beloved by all who had the good fortune to be closely associated with him, and when he was struck down by the hand of a Wahabi life-convict on the occasion of his visit to the Andamans, in the cold weather of 1871-72, I have no hesitation in saying that all felt they had sustained a personal loss. I shall never forget the thrill of horror and grief that ran through the whole of the European community in Calcutta on receipt of the intelligence of his assassination, which was widespread, and which was also shared by the Indian element. His body was brought to Calcutta and landed at Prinseps Ghat, whence it was conveyed in State to Government House. It was a very solemn and affecting scene as the cortege slowly wended its sad and mournful way along Strand Road and past the Eden Gardens to the strains of the “Dead March in Saul,” amidst the hushed silence of a vast concourse of people, both European and Indian, who had assembled along the route to pay their last tribute of respect to their dead Viceroy. Many a silent tear was shed to his beloved and revered memory. On the arrival of the body at Government House it was immediately embalmed, and lay in State for several days, being then transported to England. Thus passed away one of the noblest, most gallant and true-hearted gentlemen who ever ruled over the destinies of the Indian Empire.