During the early days of British settlement in India, there was a time when Calcutta was the headquarters of the East India Company. In those days the Scots, including the soldiers, the missionaries, the Jute traders and the other businessmen, were attached to numerous enterprises in the area. Apart from that, they also played a vital role in the development and administration of the Company and took part in the administration of the British Raj. In the field of business, they contributed a lot, particularly for the development of the tea and jute trade with Dundee in Scotland, which in turn brought many other Scots to Calcutta in particular.
Located at the North Eastern side of the Writers’ Building, St. Andrew’s Church, was basically built to serve the Scottish Presbyterian community of Calcutta. The foundation stone of the Church was laid on the 30th day of November, 1815 by Marquis of Hastings and was completed in 1818. St Andrew's Church, also known as the Kirk, is the only Scottish church in Calcutta.
In 1820 the Kirk Session of St Andrew's Church urged the authority to provide a separate cemetery for the Scottish community in Calcutta, on the plea that everywhere in the world people of different community have always separate burial grounds for them. The appeal was heard and the Scottish Cemetery was finally opened in 1826, under the custodianship of St Andrew’s Church, covering an area of nearly six acres of land .The Scottish Cemetery, earlier known as the Scots and Dissenters’ Cemetery, is just across the road and a short walk away from the South Park Street Cemetery, which contains the tombs of many famous persons like, Sir William Jones, Rose Aylmer and others. However, today it is not very easy to locate the spot and one needs to turn into the rather narrow Karaya Road, once infamous as the European red-light area. A two-minute-walk down the road, past the motor-garages, leads to the deserted Scottish Cemetery of Calcutta.
The entire cemetery, with an estimated area of six acres, is enclosed by a high wall. It is roughly square in plan and contains over 1600 burial plots, with at least 2000 burials. The cemetery has over 1600 headstones and monuments, some of Aberdeen granite, but many of brick and lime with marble tablets. Most of the headstones of the tombs are made of Scottish sandstone or granite and as they bear the inscriptions of their makers or sculptors, it is easy to assess that almost all of them were made in Scotland and transported here for use.
The Register of Interments in the Scottish cemetery records the names of the many hundreds of Scots who died far from their home and are buried there. In addition to Scottish expatriates, there are also numerous Christians of other nationalities buried in the cemetery, including several prominent Bengalis.
The Scottish cemetery in Calcutta was utilized until the 1940s and was abandoned in the 1950s. Following India's independence, it became a neglected site and years of negligence and non-maintenance made it derelict and overgrown with insect infested jungle. The monuments and stones which are visible through the wild vegetation are broken and decayed. In fact, it was a great burden for St Andrew’s and the church in general and a matter of concern for the City and State authority. Finally, when the Kolkata Scottish Heritage Trust was set up in the city in 2008, as a Scottish Charity to commemorate and build upon the historic links between Scotland and India, the Trust decided to take up the task of restoring the cemetery as their first priority. They decided to completely renovate the cemetery to its original condition and to restore all the graves, headstones, memorials and other structures housed in it.
Accordingly, the vegetation, shrubs and bushes have already been cleared and re-growth prevented. This has revealed all the graves and ground layout and paths are now being established and renovation of graves, headstones and memorials started. Information on the work and what is planned are on display in the gatehouse where there is a copy of the Burial Register and a Visitor’s Book.