John Login

John Login
  • Born:

    Stromness, 9 November 1809

  • Died:

    Felixstowe, 18 April 1863

  • Father:

    John Login

  • Mother:

    Margaret Spence

  • Married:

    Lena Campbell

  • Children:

    Spencer, Henry Metcalfe and others

John Login's father was a ship-owner and agent, whose early death, along with the loss of some of their ships, left the family in difficulties but John's mother Margaret was a redoubtable woman, of good Orcadian stock - she was a Spence from Kirbuster in Birsay and her mother was a daughter of Edward Groundwater from Orphir. She became the Hudson Bay Agent in Stromness and kept the inn, across the street from the famous Logins Well. John wanted to go to sea but his parents didn't want him to go. A compromise was reached and it was decided that he would become a naval surgeon. To encourage him in this course, and probably to remove him from the temptation of the ships visiting Stromness, he was allowed to go to university in Edinburgh when he was only fifteen.


He gained his diploma as a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in June 1828 four years later, still too young to become an MD. He worked as a house-surgeon at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, working with the Visiting Surgeons Robert Liston, later famous for performing the first operation under anaethesia in 1846, and John Lizars, professor of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1829-30 he was Physician Clerk in charge of the medical wards at the Royal and in 1831 he was finally old enough to become a doctor. Dr Thomas Shortt, his superior at the infirmary, was asked to recommend a young surgeon to care for Lord Chief Commissioner Adam, who was dangerously ill. Login was recommended and when Adam recovered he was so grateful that he obtained for Login a commission as an assistant-surgeon in India. An opportunity like this wasn't easily come by and offered such prospect of advancement for him, and possibly other members of his family, that it couldn't be turned down.


According to his brother, Rev William S Login, who went on to become a pioneering minister in Australia, John Login spent 8-10 weeks at home that autumn and decided the Stromness roads needed to be improved. He collected subscriptions, hired labourers and worked with them himself. From an early age he clearly believed in getting the job done. Another trait that would be apparent later, enjoying the absurdity of life, is also illustrated in his brother's memoir of the dinner given before John's departure for India. All the notable figures of Stromness society were there: doctors, baillies, lawyers, ship captains, intent on imparting words of wisdom to the young man about to make his way in the world. John decided this was all far too serious and organised a game of Blind-Man's Bluff, leading to the "grave and potent seigniors tearing about in excitement". His brother wrote, "He left on my youthful mind an impression of one born to command. There was no resisting him."


On reaching India, Login became surgeon to the 1st Brigade Horse Artillery and in 1836 joined the personal staff of Sir Charles Metcalf, Governor of the North-West Provinces, stationed at Agra. He wasted no time in attempting to alleviate the conditions he found there, organising a dispensary for the poor and an orphanage and superintending the development of a Famine Relief Society.


In 1838 he became acting Residency-Surgeon at Lucknow and Postmaster General at Oude. A public subscription had been raised for famine relief and Login was asked to superintend its distribution. He personally supervised the Poor's House to lodge and feed the destitute and reorganised the native hospital.


In August 1839 he took charge of two thousand poor in Herat. He re-established the carpet weaving, for which Herat had been famous, but which had declined to such an extent that only two or three men knew anything about it. He was in charge of the commissariat and the post office. A fellow officer wrote of, "...his benevolence equaling his zeal and his capacity."


In a letter to his brother-in-law, John Beatton, in 1840 he wrote, "Within the last month we have lost many promising officers, among them Broadfoot of the Engineers, an Orkneyman."


The British Mission had to leave Herat because of threats from the local ruler. Login moved to Candahar, then to Cabul and accompanied Major Eldred Pottinger to Kohistan, where he met a Caithness man, Lt Sinclair of the 13th Light Infantry. They raced sailing boats on the lake there and Login observed that Sinclair, "knows the merits of the Stromness boats built by the Wards, the Moores and Louttets."


He was recalled to Cabul as Private Secretary to the Envoy and then returned to Lucknow. This was regarded as one of the plum positions in the army in India, such was the potential for personal enrichment. Previous holders of the position had been handsomely paid for treating the local ruling-class. However, Login believed it was inappropriate for a British officer to do this. He treated the Indians, both rich and poor, but refused to accept payment. Instead he urged them to spend the money on local improvements.


Lena Campbell came out from Scotland to India with her sister and brother-in-law, Major Hope Dick, Commanding Officer of the 56th Native Infantry and met Login in 1842. They were married in July of that year. She wrote the two books from which most of this information comes, Sir John Login and Duleep Singh and Lady Login's Recollections.


When Login went to the local palaces to treat the women there, his wife went too. She learned the local language and made friends with the women in the zennanas. He, of course, wasn't allowed to see the women, as they were in purdah. Instead, they would put a hand or tongue through a hole in a screen. Grateful patients sent deeply unsuitable gifts, which the Logins had to exercise great tact in refusing. Two baby elephants attended by young negro slaves were bad enough but large hunting-cats, intended as playmates for her two young sons must have strained even Mrs Login's powers of diplomacy.


Major General Claude Martin died in 1800 and left his large fortune to establish schools in Lucknow, Calcutta and France but litigation tied up the bequest until 1839. Login became the Honorary Secretary of the Martiniere College in Lucknow and the most active member of the Board of Management. He drew up all the rules of the college and "had the satisfaction of setting it afloat under its first Principal, Mr Clint." It was to "teach young men the English language and Christian religion if they felt inclined". It is now a Christian non-denominational school which teaches students irrespective of religion and race. Girls are taught now as well, but in a separate building. During the Indian Mutiny pupils defended part of the Residency for five months, while continuing their schooling and their school became the only one in the world to be awarded battle honours. It is regarded as one of the best schools in India and many boys receive scholarships which pay for their tuition, clothing, board and lodging.


Login succeeded in securing good positions for two of his brothers, which they both took full advantage of. Tom went to work on the Ganges Canal and ended as the Superintending Engineer of the Punjab and James became Residency-Surgeon in Nepal. He was selected by the Prime Minister, Jung Bahadour, to accompany him on a state visit to Britain but died of cholera shortly beforehand. In 1849, John Login wrote to his wife, "I have not heard whether Tom has succeeded in turning the river from its course three-quarters of a mile as he has undertaken to do. He does not stick at trifles and I hear he is highly thought of at Roakee so I think I may consider him safely launched." The Institute of Engineering and Technology includes him in their list of Famous Scottish Technologists and Scientists. His sisters also came out to India and married Colonel, later General, Joseph Graham, and Captain, later General, Alfred Wintle. Wives were in such demand in India that Lady Login wrote of a girl she knew, newly arrived in India, receiving seven proposals at her first ball.


Lady Login's anecdotes of this time include the occasion when her horse, Black Satin, came looking for her and his sugar-cane tit-bit. Large doors stood open to the veranda and she only became aware of the horse's presence in the drawing-room when it reached over her shoulder and swallowed an antimacassar whole.


In 1848 his wife and children returned to England and Login joined the Horse Artillery. He fought in the Second Sikh War but after engagements he searched for enemy wounded and brought them back to the hospital for treatment.


The British annexed the Punjab and deposed the eleven year old Maharajah, Duleep Singh. On 2 April 1849 Login was appointed Governor of "the Citadel of Lahore and all that it contains". His superiors must have had an astonishing, and as it turns out entirely justified, faith in John Login's talents and honesty. The scope of his responsibilities and the extent to which he was left to use his own judgment, are quite breathtaking. The list included the jewel-house, all military stores and stud establishments but also numberless people - thirteen political prisoners, the court establishments of all the maharajahs of Lahore, including six sets of courtesans and five full bands of musicians, and thirty-three ranees and one hundred and thirty concubines. As if that wasn't enough, he was made Postmaster General of the Punjab.


He soon formed a bond with Duleep Singh and was careful to look out for his interests and help him adjust to the vast change in his circumstances. He also did what he could to educate him for the life he would now lead. He wrote to his wife, "I told him that now you had gone to take my little ones to England I was left alone and wanted someone to care for and be kind to." He asked her to send a paint box and materials, mechanical toys, geographical puzzles and dissected maps.


Login had an opening made between his apartment and the Maharajah's. This was a small hole with a drop of several feet. According to Lady Login, when her husband showed this to Duleep Singh and jumped down through the hole, Duleep sprang down into his arms. At this, his whole retinue, "some of them stout elderly courtiers, punctiliously followed suit as in duty bound, looking as solemn as if assisting at a court ceremonial"


Duleep Singh's father, Ranjit Singh had been fabulously wealthy and the Jewel House was made up of rooms full of gold, silver, jewels, cashmere shawls and the Koh-i-Noor. Login had to catalogue, value and sell the contents, keeping for the young Maharajah what he thought was appropriate. He disapproved of the Koh-i-Noor just being taken by the British and given to Queen Victoria. He felt that the people of the Empire should buy it and give it to Victoria as a gift. He accepted that its full value couldn't be paid but suggested that £200,000 should be used in "making the Punjab bloom like a garden" by employing 100,000 men to build roads, bridges and canals and by establishing schools. He felt this would show that the British were "above taking anything from them in a shabby way and convert the Koh-i-Noor from a curse to a blessing".


Just as he earlier refused to accept payment for treating members of the native courts, he was absolutely punctilious in refusing to benefit from the position in which he now found himself. When he went out riding with the young Maharajah, he refused all suggestions that he should use a horse from the royal stable. Duleep Singh gave him a horse as a birthday present, which he couldn't refuse, so he paid for its upkeep but continued to ride his own. He wrote to his wife that he would probably come out of it poorer, as the pay wasn't quite as high as in his previous position. He wrote, "I may be too scrupulous, but I feel happier in my independence."


However, he enjoyed spending the Maharajah's money. Following their religious beliefs, a certain amount had always been given to charity. Login commissioned a list of the lame, blind, old and infirm in the city, so that the money could be given to them, rather than the professional beggars who were the usual recipients.


He had to calculate settlements for all the womenfolk and Mrs Login's cousin, Robert Adams, wrote to her of his amusement at seeing her husband,

"Busily employed inspecting some hundreds of queens and their female attendants... to write down their portraits and fix the rates of their future allowances! What fascinations they must have employed to induce him to take a liberal view of their merits."


Whenever Login conferred with his superiors, they told him, "Just do what you think is right and proper". He wrote to his wife, "I ought to be vain, if flattery could make me so, for I don't think anybody has had such a pat of butter administered as I have lately." When Lord Dalhousie, who was to take the Koh-i-Noor back to England, met Login he told him that "he had effected more than could have been expected from anyone."


At Login's earnest request, his wife returned to India, leaving their three children in Edinburgh and assisted him in his supervision of the young maharajah's upbringing. Then, in 1854, the Logins received permission to bring Duleep Singh to Britain, where Queen Victoria took a great interest in him. She ordered a full-length portrait by Walterhalter, for which Duleep Singh, accompanied by Mrs Login, went to Buckingham Palace twice a week for sittings. In the same year John Login was knighted.


An anecdote in Lady Login's second book, Lady Login's Recollections, shows that life among the upper classes in England may not always have been as we picture it. Lady Login was indisposed and asked Mrs Partridge, wife of Queen Victoria's portrait painter and,

"a very elderly, and, as I imagined, most staid and proper, lady to act as hostess in my place. I heard a tremendous commotion in the drawing-room after dinner!"

She discovered next day what had caused it. Dinner had been so boring and the men had been so dull, that when the ladies withdrew to the drawing room, leaving the gentleman to their port and cigars, Mrs Partridge proposed a game of Follow-My-Leader over the furniture. According to Lady Login,

"Mrs Partridge vaulted over the chesterfield with ease. Lady Gomme, an enormous woman of masterful disposition had attempted to follow, got stuck on top and required the united efforts of the whole party of ladies to get her hauled off again, just as the door opened and the gentlemen solemnly stalked in."

A few years later Lady Login was looking down from a gallery in St James Palace at a crowd making their way in through roped enclosures when she saw Lady Gomme,

"in defiance of gentlemen-at-arms, gather up her train and fallals most skillfully, take a run, and deftly leap over one of the barriers, all standing! Her diminutive husband, in full uniform, creeping under the ropes, unable to emulate the hardihood of his Commander-in-Chief. Evidently her ladyship had gone into training since her former performance."


A letter written by Sir John at this time raises the question of what Stromness would be like now if he had brought his intelligence and energy back to Orkney. He clearly still took an active interest in his native town, though he could only have a limited effect from a distance.


To John Stanger Esq

James Laughton Esq Magistrates

And to the Members of the Town Council of the Burgh of Stromness Orkney


Dear Gentlemen


In accordance with my communication of the 1st October I have the pleasure to acquaint you that I have this day forwarded to your address a Report and Survey by Messrs D & T Stevenson Civil Engineers, on such improvements as they consider necessary to be made at Stromness to facilitate the transmission of the mails and the shipment of goods and passengers by the steamers and the vessels which may frequent the port to meet the increasing traffic of the County.


It will appear from their report that although it would be very desirable to carry out simultaneously all the improvements they recommend - for which the estimated outlay would be £5000 - exclusive of the purchase of property - the most essential portion may be completed for little more than £3000 -


As on this amount of outlay a fair dividend may in time be expected - in the event of a moderate rate of landing dues and Market and Town duties being established, under the authority vested in you by the Charter of the Burgh, I am led to entertain a hope that the proposed improvements may meet with your favourable consideration and lead to the revival of commercial life in our native town.


As the general establishment of Steam Communication throughout the world - the improvement in the sailing qualities of our trading vessels, and increased facilities in navigation, have deprived Stromness of much of its former importance as a convenient harbour for the resort of shipping, attention cannot be too soon or too strongly directed to the fact that the future prosperity of the Town is mainly - if not entirely - dependent upon the agricultural prosperity of the County - and upon the intercourse with the South, and with different portions of the district which will arise therefrom.


Although from various causes, some of which are unfortunately not yet removed, improvement in Agriculture has not kept pace in the Orkney Islands with its progress in the other Northern Counties of Scotland / the advancements in the ratios(?) of rental in Orkney within the last 200 years being only at the rate of 850 per cent while that of Caithness has been upwards of 2700 and Inverness 3200 and more / there are not wanting indications of very rapid advancement in this respect within the last few years and there is little doubt that with the removal, by compromise with Lord Zetland, of the many vexatious burdens which now press heavily on the agricultural interests of Orkney - entailing endless litigation - the increase of resident proprietorship - and greater facilities of intercourse with the different portions of the County and of the South, the trade of Orkney will ere long be very largely developed, in a ratio truly equal to that of any other County in the North.


With the view of drawing as much of the increasing produce of the County as possible for shipment at Stromness it is necessary that facilities should be afforded for the traffic - and every encouragement given to the farmers and landed proprietors to export their produce from the Town - The construction of a new road between Kirkwall and Stromness - and eventually I hope to Sandwick, Birsay, Harray & Orphir - together with the improvement perhaps of Boat Communication on the Loch of Stenness and Harray - will no doubt be most useful in drawing traffic to Stromness - especially if at the same time regular communication be established with the South Isles and a weekly market held in the Town; but unless, along with these improvements, facilities are afforded for shipping and landing produce and passengers at all times of tide, very much of the advantages will be lost.


It appears to me to be very desirable that the improvements designed by Messrs Stevenson should be undertaken by the Town Authorities in their official capacity - money being raised for the purpose by assigning the Town Market and landing dues - as security for the same - but should any difficulties be experienced in effecting this - I have little doubt that men of enterprise may be found who are willing to undertake the improvement and carry it out within a specified time, provided the privilege of collecting a certain fixed rate of duties for a specified number of years be granted to them.


Having to leave Scotland about the 20th inst I shall be very greatly obliged by your giving early attention to this question as in the event of the proposition for the creation of a jetty and market place being favourably entertained, arrangements may be made with the Leith and Aberdeen Steam Shipping Co to send the steamer which goes weekly to Thurso to call at Stromness / on which days it may possibly relieve the Royal Mail - or enable the latter to bring goods and passengers from the South Islands to the Weekly Market / - and thus bring the Orkneys in direct steam communication with Aberdeen and Granton twice a week.


It is also proposed, I understand, to run another steamer weekly from Lossiemouth to Wick Thurso and Stromness - and both might touch at Orphir or Scapa if jetties were erected there.


As you have not considered it provident to move in the matter of the Electric Telegraph, I have requested that my name may be entered as a subscriber to the General Guarantee Fund for the County of Orkney.


I am very glad to learn that you have determined to erect public lamps in the streets of Stromness - and I trust that they may show you the way to still further improvements - With best wishes - Believe me


your faithful friend & townsman

Castle Menzies J. S. Login

Nov 8th 1856


In 1857 the Logins were desperately shocked and saddened to hear of the Mutiny in India, in which they lost many of their close friends. Still in touch with many friends in India, Sir John became one of the main sources of information on the situation there for the British government. He served on a committee set up to investigate reports of atrocities on both sides and, having interviewed passengers from ships returning from India he was satisfied that, bad as things had been, they were not as appalling as had been feared.


Sir John Login's guardianship ended in January 1858. Duleep Singh wanted to make some recompense for the financial losses Login had suffered because of his guardianship but the Court of Directors of the East India Company would not allow it.


Lady Login was asked by Queen Victoria to become guardian to one of her god-daughters, Victoria Gouramma, daughter of the ex-Rajah of Coorg. Although reluctant, the Logins felt unable to refuse and moved to Church House in Kew with the princess. Login continued to advise Duleep Singh and look out for his interests.


In 1862-3 he visited India again, in connection with the establishment of railway lines there and, when he returned to Britain in April 1863, he fell seriously ill. On medical advice, the Logins moved to Felixstowe and Sir John seemed to have recovered but he died suddenly in his sleep on 18 April 1863.


Sir Charles Phipps, Queen Victoria's private secretary, wrote,

"You are well aware of the high opinion which the Queen entertained of your excellent husband, my valued friend. Her Majesty had frequently shown this, not only in the honour bestowed upon him, but in the confidence so often reposed in him, and never disappointed. He was a thoroughly good, conscientious man.

At the funeral, Lord Lawrence, Viceroy of India said,

I never met another man who so perfectly combined the most straightforward truthfulness with perfect courtesy of manner,"

and Duleep Singh, who was one of the chief mourners, said

Oh, I have lost my father - for he was, indeed, my father, and more than my father."


His coffin was carried by the local coastguards, who had requested the honour. Lady Login wrote,

Though barely four moths had elapsed since he first came to Felixstowe, as everywhere, the time had proved long enough for him to make an extraordinary impression on the people of the place, his own early training, and sea-faring instincts, causing him to take a special interest in the lives of the fishermen and coastguards, and he loved to question and exchange ideas with them during his daily rides along the beach. The memories of his amphibious boyhood revived with the smell of the sea-weed and the salt water, for he was an Orcadian, and a sailor by instinct and had narrowly escaped volunteering for Sir John Franklin's last fatal expedition.

The coastguards insisted on paying their last respects in full uniform and carrying the coffin shoulder-high for the mile-long journey to the church.


Fittingly, the white marble cross on his tomb became a landmark for sailors. The text on the tomb was chosen by Queen Victoria,

"The memory of the just is blessed".