13 - The Official Biography



1835 - 1887

by Margaret du Plessis

Official Biography by Commissioner Railton [1]

reat sympathy for Commissioner Tucker will, without doubt, be felt by every reader of the “War Cry,” on hearing of the death of his wife, and we venture to hope that this deepened feeling of interest and an intelligent understanding of Mrs Tucker’s share in his self-sacrificing devotion to India will result in bringing reinforcements both in men and women, and so bring to his heart some consolation for the serious loss which he has had to bear.

Mrs Tucker has been comparatively little known and perhaps still less understood in this country (England). During her last visit here in the summer of 1884 she was in an utterly shattered state of health, so that, with one or two exceptions, she was never able to appear in public. Repeated fevers and illnesses told so severely both upon body and mind that while on one hand she was unable to demonstrate here that devotion to the war which was so striking in India, on the other hand she sometimes spoke and acted in a manner which she herself would, we are confident, have most of all regretted in brighter days, as giving an altogether false impression.

While the Commissioner was in the Indian Civil Service, Mrs Tucker took a very warm interest in the missionary work, which, so far as their opportunities allowed, they carried on amongst the natives. She accompanied him on his famous journey to this country (England) to get a knowledge of The Army. Although she did not at first approve of his relinquishing his position, which in her opinion gave him great advantages in influencing the native population, yet, later on, when he, for the same object, broke from the last vestiges of Europeanism, she went most heartily with him, and might be seen barefooted in the streets of Indian cities, frequently recognised by the very persons who had known her before in all the splendours of Government service.

Mrs Tucker’s start for India was remarkable indeed. Amid the hurry of the last packing arrangements some confusion had arisen as to a conveyance to the railway station, and, rather than risk being too late, Mrs Tucker mounted a greengrocer’s cart, with some of the baggage, and so road in state through the City of London to Fenchurch Street railway station. This same energy of character and action, this same readiness to adapt herself in a moment to circumstances, described her throughout all her Indian experience.

She not only shared in the large meetings held on arrival of the party in India, but when the police persecutions she was found with the little few who would insist on marching through the streets, and although not arrested herself, continually encouraged her husband to brave imprisonment rather than give way, and visited him when in prison.

It is needless to follow Mrs Tucker through all the story of those first years in India, suffice it to say that she was always found ready for any duty that came to hand, whether it were to share in the marches and meetings amongst the poor, to represent the The Army in select meetings of the wealthy, or to toil at office work in order that her husband might be left more free for travelling.

For a long time Mrs Tucker had a great deal to do with the editing of the Indian “War Cry,” for which she frequently composed songs, many of them of an extraordinarily striking kind. Some of them were published in book form, under the title “Heart Warblings,” and they certainly showed in almost every sense how intensely Mrs Tucker’s heart went with every movement of The Army in India, especially in those very steps which were most opposed and ridiculed by the enemy.

She was a most persistent and successful “War Cry” seller and beggar, both in the streets of Bombay and in the railway station, where she might often be seen making her way about from carriage to carriage, and pressing a “War Cry” upon all who would purchase it, very often with the result that a larger coin than was required would be given for it, with the remark “No change.” To understand how much of self-abasement this required, you must try to picture a squire’s (pastor’s) wife doing it, dressed in the very cheapest Soldier’s uniform, and there will then be wanting something to represent the Indian heat, the sore-footedness and weakness of body under which all this was continually done.

The circumstances of Mrs Tucker’s last illness and death brought out this same extreme of self-denial as fully as anything that had gone before. During a visit to Ceylon she somewhat recovered her health which had been in a very unsatisfactory condition for many months.

On her return to India she soon became worse again, and ere long was reported to be dangerously ill. Under the circumstances she insisted upon going into the hospital rather than involve The Army in any greater expenditure. When convalescent, but extremely weak, though removed from the hospital, she was un willing to have the attendance of a nurse until the Commissioner insisted upon it, her constant wish being to share to the very fullest extent his life of poverty and devotion to the poor.

After a time we were gladdened by the news that she was recovering, and then came the sad telegram announcing her death, (editorial comment - her husband was not with her to the last). We have not yet received any particulars with regard to her last days, but we cannot doubt that she died as she lived, with no higher wish than to assist her husband in the great work to which they had given their lives, and in which he now deserves all the greater sympathy and help.

It must be borne in mind that at the time Mrs Tucker began to dress and live like a native of India she was no longer in the vigour of youth, and that, therefore, the sorrows and sufferings and labours through which she passed told upon her in a way we trust they will not affect those who have gone into the thick of the fight in their youth. But, oh! For more young people of education and position – who will humble themselves unto the dust and labour as Mrs Tucker did for the world’s Salvation.

We have said nothing of the aching heart which we think had more than anything else to do with Mrs Tucker’s illness and premature death. She saw the millions of India perishing around her, and loving them intensely she must have felt more than any pen or tongue can describe of agony in seeing her husband toiling continually for their good; so many to sneer at him, and so intense a struggle to obtain the needed funds.

She lived, thank God, to see our English and American Officers by scores offering themselves on the altar for India; but would to God that others in this country (England) and in America may take up some share of her anxiety for the support of the work; and whilst with a happy heart rejoicing in God may these lighten the dear Commissioner’s burden as Mrs Tucker would have wished them to do, with ample supplies of money help.

Our Indian Fund is already £200 overdrawn, and no one could more appropriately testify their appreciation of this devoted life, or their wish to comfort the Commissioner in his bereavement, than by sending help for this needy part of the field.”

R. [2]



[1]     Published in the International War Cry,12 March 1887
 [2]   Commissioner Railton