Thursday, April 01, 2021

Alas, Capt. Colby was et by a tiger ....

I write now and then about the influence of Welsh coal miners in Lucas County, including the production of John L. Lewis, one of the leading lights of organized labor in the United States. So it seemed appropriate on this auspicious morning to share a story from the homeland, plucked from the Twitter feed of one of my favorite organizations, Friends of Friendless Churches. This is an organization that adopts and cares for significant church buildings in the UK that have been abandoned and are in danger of destruction.

The story involves a tiger that came to be buried in the church yard at Manordeifi, Pembrokeshire. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin ...

Capt. Charles Colby of Ffyone, Monmouthshire, served with the 98th Regiment of Foot. After some time in China he was stationed to Rawalpindi, by 1851 the largest garrison town of the British Indian Army (now in Pakistan).

On a day off from duty, he decided to go hunting (a pastime recommended for soldiers as a distraction from women and alcohol). After a while he caught sight of a large male tiger.

He fired at the beast, and then, believing it to be dead, dismounted from his elephant.

However, the tiger, still alive and not at all keen on being a trophy on Captain Colby’s wall, "sprung upon him and mutilated him dreadfully," The 32-year-old soldier died on 27 March, 1852.

Bck in Wales, Colby’s family was informed of his demise. However, they believed he had been killed in action. They requested that his body be returned to Wales for burial.

When the coffin arrived, it smelled odd (surely not surprising for a coffin that’s been on a ship for months?) and moreover was an unusual shape. Perturbed, the family decided to open the coffin.

A shocking sight confronted them. Instead of their beloved relation, the coffin contained the remains of a tiger.

They immediately sent a telegraph to India explaining there must have been a mistake.

However, a return telegraph read simply: "Tiger in box. Sahib [Captain Colby] in tiger."

Fair warning: It is the 1st day of April.

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