Colonel Patrick Stewart

1832 - 1865

Engineer. Born at Cairnsmore House, near Newton Stewart (Dumfries and Galloway), Stewart entered the East India Company's Military College at Addiscombe (London) in 1848, where he gained several prizes and was certainly the most proficient of the cadets in his year.

He arrived in India as a Second-Lieutenant in the Royal Bengal Engineers in 1852, and in the following year was appointed Acting Superintendent of Telegraphs to assist in the construction of a telegraph system linking Calcutta, Lahore and Agra. In 1853, he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor of the North-West Provinces.

Stewart particularly distinguished himself during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, becoming known as Pat Stewart of the Mutiny for his heroic exploits. Through his initiative and energy, he maintained telegraphic communication between the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Colin Campbell (1792 - 1863), and Viscount Canning, the Governor-General, often at considerable personal risk. Stewart was present at the Relief of Lucknow, and promoted to Brevet Major.

Subsequently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Director-General of the Indo-European Telegraph in 1863, with responsibility for organising and laying the first telegraph cable between Karachi (now Pakistan) and Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). The first attempt to lay a cable between Karachi and Aden, via the Red Sea, in 1859 had been a failure and Stewart was determined to avoid its mistakes, particularly to ensure effective insulation and protection of the cable. His remarkable submarine cable was constructed in London in four sections: a total length of 1250 miles, weighing 4 tons per nautical mile.

Despite the logistical problems and difficulties with local rulers, the whole submarine cable-laying operation from Bushire to Fao was completed in a mere 2½ months in 1864 without a hitch - a triumph of meticulous organisation and engineering. The tiny Telegraph Island off the Musandam Coast (Oman) was the essential relay station, re-transmitting messages yet ensuring that it took only an average of 45 minutes for messages to reach London.

Stewart died of fever in Istanbul, aged only 32. The news of his death was one of the first messages sent over the telegraph cable which he had supervised throughout its length. He is buried in Uskudar (formerly Scutari, in Turkey).

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