My Cousin Ralph

IN AN EARLIER POST (December 24) I talked about my Inn of Court, Middle Temple. Well, a distant cousin on my father’s side, one Judge Ralph Reynolds Garlick, was a member of Inner Temple. So let’s say something about Inner Temple – it has a fine Hall which, although originally dated back to the Middle Ages, had been demolished in 1868, just before the birth of Cousin Ralph. It was rebuilt only to be destroyed by bombing in the last war (as was Middle Temple) and then rebuilt again to an impressive standard in 1952.

Inner Temple Hall today

Anyway, let me tell you about Cousin Ralph. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1876 and was educated at the King Edward VI School and went on to study a BA at Pembroke College, Oxford. He was admitted as a student to the Inner Temple on the 7th April 1910 at the age of 34 (a late starter like me – nothing wrong with that). So he would have witnessed Inner Temple Hall as the 1868 rebuild. Having qualified as a barrister, he went forth to India in 1900 and served in Bengal as assistant magistrate. Five years later he was transferred to Eastern Bengal and Assam, but returned to Bengal in 1912 and, a year later, became a district and session judge. In 1928 he held an appointment as an officiating judge of the Calcutta High Court.

The medieval Inner Temple Hall – being taken down here in 1868 and replaced by a larger Gothic Hall which was later destroyed by enemy action in 1941

In December 1930 in Calcutta, a Bengali rebel, Dinesh Gupta, murdered Lieut-Colonel Simpson, the British Inspector General of Prisons (admittedly infamous for the brutal oppression on the prisoners in his jails). Gupta was captured after trying to shoot himself and, in February the following year, Cousin Ralph was a member of the tribunal that sentenced Gupta to death by hanging.

Dinesh Gupta 1.jpg

Dinesh Chandra Gupta (1911-1931)

Sometime in mid-July 1931, Cousin Ralph received a letter threatening his life. As a result two police sergeants and several detectives were stationed in his courtroom. Ralph was undeterred by such threats and resolved to carry on his work regardless.


Cousin Ralph in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to India

On the 27th July, in Alipore, Calcutta, Judge Ralph returned to his courtroom after lunch to resume an earlier case. As he did so, Bimal Das Gupta (a Bengali architect) drew a revolver and fired at the judge from the far end of the court. The shot missed its mark but Gupta rushed up the court to the witness-box and fired again killing Cousin Ralph instantly with a bullet to the head.

The trial room, Alipore Sessions Court

According to the newspaper reports the police opened fire and the assassin was killed on the spot, although one policeman was injured. Bimal Das Gupta was a ‘wanted’ man following the murder of a somewhat unpleasant Mr James Peddie, district magistrate at Midanpore, in April.  A letter found in Gupta’s pocket stated that the murder was intended as a reprisal for the sentencing to death by Mr Ralph Garlick of Dinesh Gupta (Dinesh was Bimal’s mentor). The letter simply read, “Thou shalt be destroyed. This is the reward for the injustice done to Dinesh Gupta” and was signed by Bimal.

A short time before Cousin Ralph had decided to apply for leave preparatory to retirement and would have been coming home in the not too distant future.

The Court House at Calcutta (Illustrated London News)

William Wedgwood Benn, 1st Viscount of Stansgate, Secretary of State for India, (and father of Tony Benn – remember him?), read a telegram in the House of Commons announcing the murder: “Regret to have to report that Judge Garlick, Session Judge, Alipore, was shot dead to-day in court by assassin at present unknown, who was himself killed by guard.”  Benn added, “The House, will, I am sure, desire to express its sincere sympathy with the relatives of this officer.”

William Wedgewood-Benn.jpg

William Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India, 1929-31

Interesting the telegram said ‘assassin at present unknown’.  As late as 18th September 1931, The Straits Times (‘India, Burma and Ceylon Week by Week’) ran an advertisement saying:    “MR GARLICK’S MURDERER   Rs. 500 for identification of photograph.     A reward of Rs. 500 is offered for the identification of the photograph of the murderer of Mr R. R. Garlick, late District and Sessions Judge of 24 Pergannas.  The amount originally announced was Rs. 150, but it has now been increased to Rs. 500.”

Bearing in mind the authorities were already looking for Bimal Das Gupta for the suspected murder of Peddie and found the aforementioned note referring to revenge for the death of Dinesh Gupta in Cousin Ralph’s assassin’s pocket, it all rather pointed to Bimal. And the newspaper reports clearly blamed him at the time. However, Bimal’s father denied that the body of the assassin was his son’s – hence the offer of the reward.

In fact, in a 2012 report, The Revolutionaries, by Rhituparna Basu, it appears that Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) volunteered to assassinate the head of the European Association at the Writers’ Building (an anti-Indian independence organisation). Bimal only wounded his target and was arrested and tried for the murder of Peddie. Although no witnesses came forward he was still found guilty but spared the death penalty and sentenced to life-imprisonment on the notorious Andaman Islands penal colony. The report does not mention the date of the incarceration but goes on to say that Bimal was set free in 1939 when political events led to a release of political prisoners.

So, who shot Cousin Ralph?

Well, according to Manoshi Bhattacharya (in her books, Chittagong: Summer of 1930, published 2012; and sequel Eye of the Tiger: Chittagong, published 2014) it was Kanai Bhattacharya who pretended to be Bimal Das Gupta (Dasgupta) and killed Ralph Garlick.  Also she says the assassin was not shot by the police but died by taking a cyanide pill before he was overpowered. I’m not entirely sure what Kanai hoped to achieve by this deception. But that’s politics – or something.

Although I followed Cousin Ralph’s footsteps to Oxford and to the Bar as a barrister, I’m not planning to follow them any further by becoming a judge (no point in pushing my luck ….)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is an extract:

I had advertised for a new undergraduate researcher in archaeology for my College. I was reaching the end of the interview with one young hopeful, fresh out of university, when I asked him, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” He replied, “In the region of £60,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

I replied, “Well, what would you say to a package of ten weeks paid vacation, full medical and dental care, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a Porsche Boxster?”

The young lad sat up straight and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?”

I responded, “Yep, but you started it.”


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