Michael Fry continues his 40-part history of Scotland with the bloody retribution that followed the Indian

Mutiny. 'Use the bayonet,' the Highlanders were told, 'the cowardly sepoys cannot face cold steel'.

ON Saturday, July 25, 1857, the soldiers of the 78th and 84th Highland regiments had a job they enjoyed - revenge. They were at Cawnpore by the river Ganges, under the command of their 47-year-old colonel, James Neill. During the operations to suppress the Indian Mutiny, they had a week before helped to retake the city from the sepoys, the rebellious native troops.

As the scots advanced along the river, they reached a mansion called the Bibighur. This was the scene of a

massacre, just a day before relief arrived, of British soldiers' families held hostage there. Neill described it himself: ''I saw that house when I first came in. Ladies' and children's bloody torn dresses and shoes were lying about. and locks of hair torn from their heads. The floor of the room they were all dragged into and killed was saturated with blood.

''One cannot control one's feelings. Who could be merciful to one concerned? Severity at the first is mercy in the end. I wish to show the natives of India that the punishment inflicted by us for such deeds will be the heaviest, the most revolting to their feelings, and what they must ever remember.''

In fact, the sepoys of Cawnpore had refused to have anything to do with the butchery, which was carried out by men from elsewhere. That saved nobody now. The revolting punishment Neil had in mind was to drag captured insurgents into the fouled room of the Bibighur and force them to lick up the gore.

Since this had congealed and hardened on the floor, to resemble red leather it was said, the task would be physically difficult, apart from loathsome, and soldiers stood ready to flog anyone who flagged. A few did what they had to do with an air of sullen defiance. Neill and his men better relished dealing with others who gibbered for mercy, gagged at the task and howled as the whip cut into their bowed backs.

Right outside a gallows waited. The idea of this was that Hindus would have lost caste polluting themselves and be launched into their next, presumably miserable, incarnation before they could perform any rites of purification.

But in his lust for revenge Neill was none too scrupulous in dealing with those he doomed. He sent down fat

subahdars and solemn civil officers along with the sepoys. ''The Word of God gives no authority to the modern tenderness for human life,'' he said grimly, and it seems clear he did condemn some innocent men.

If a doubt occurred to any of the Scots soldiers, it never deterred them. One, William Munro, recalled: ''I had never seen a human being hanged before, and, though at any other time I would have avoided such a sight, on that occasion I remained to look on without the least feeling of pity or compassion.''

The terrible retribution did not lack apologists elsewhere. The Rev Alexander Duff, foremost missionary in

Calcutta, wrote that Neill, ''though naturally a mild, gentle, quiet, inoffensive man, seems to have irresistibly felt that an exhibition of stern justice was imperatively demanded. ''His Scottish Bible training had taught him that justice

was as absolute an attribute of Deity

as mercy.''

James Chalmers, a nephew of Rev Thomas Chalmers working in the East India Company, figured among many whose rumour-mongering in letters home excited high emotions: ''Thousands of Europeans have been murdered in cold blood; European ladies violated, publicly exposed, and then tortured to death. Soldiers have amused themselves by pitching European children from bayonet to bayonet.''

His colleague George Campbell was one of the few to keep a cool head: ''Afterwards Neill did things almost more than the massacre, putting to death with deliberate torture in a way that has never been proved against the natives. If these people had been really guilty of the massacre it would have been disgusting enough, but Neill does not say that they were found guilty of the murders. I can never forgive Neill for his very bloody work.''

Of the other stories, Campbell remarked: ''I think it was eventually admitted that no mutilated person has ever been found, and most people will admit that no case of the dishonour of a European woman has been proved.''

From Cawnpore, Neill hurried to the relief of Lucknow, where British soldiers and civilians were holding out under siege in the residency. There he was killed leading an attack. ''Hot work, this,'' he said to his subaltern just as a bullet hit him in the head. His 30 years of Indian military service came to a heroic end.

In this fierce battle the 93rd regiment,

the Sutherland Highlanders, played a major part. Their

earlier landing in Calcutta, straight from combat in the Crimean War, had caused according to Munro, ''quite a sensation in the city of palaces, for a kilted soldier had never been seen there before. The natives gazed in silent awe at the peculiar dress and the stalwart figures of the new sahibs, or gagra wallahs (petticoat men) as they called them''.

The corps was a stronghold of the Free Church. Once, while stationed in Canada, it had refused orders to parade on a Sunday when the service was to be conducted by a chaplain of the Church of Scotland. The men did not share, however, the usual evangelical views on temperance. Complaining that the climate of Calcutta made them ''gey an' drouthy'', they let the many Scots residents ply them with beer. Lady Canning, wife of

the Governor-general, noted with disapproval the drunkenness of the troops rushed to India, and observed that ''the Highlanders have been by far the worst''.

At Lucknow, Colin Campbell, Glaswegian commander of the relieving force, had to start by taking the Secunderabagh, an enclosed garden with strong walls held by the sepoys as an improvised bastion outside the city.

He told his Highlanders how to do it: ''When we make an attack you must come to close quarters as quickly as possible. Keep well together and use the bayonet. Remember that the cowardly sepoys, who are eager to murder women and children, cannot look a European soldier in the face when it is accompanied by cold steel. 93! You are my own lads. I rely on you to do the work.''

Cannonades battered a hole in the rampart, but the first soldiers to attempt entry, from the Punjab Rifles, were shot down. Campbell turned to John Ewart, colonel of the 93rd, and cried: ''Bring on the tartan!''

With superb skill, his troops infiltrated the narrow breach. One by one, they forced their way in, each holding the defenders at bay while he let the next one through. When enough had managed it, they set about the grim task entrusted to them by their general.

In four hours, and for a loss of 76 officers and men, they destroyed 2000 of the enemy, most in systematic slaughter to yells of ''Cawnpore!'' A silent, well-read Highlander, known to his mates as Quaker Wallace, bayoneted 20, reciting verses of the 116th Psalm as he drove his blade into their bodies. The Scots were astonished to find themselves up against female negro slaves who ''fought like wild cats'', but these they cut down along with the rest.

Ewart emerged from the carnage, covered in blood and powder, to report to his commander: ''I have killed the last two of the enemy with my own hands, and here is one of their colours.''

''Damn your colours, sir!'' snarled Campbell. ''It is not your place to be taking colours. Go back to your regiment this instant!'' But when it was over, and they surveyed the corpses piled 5ft high, they felt hugely proud of themselves. ''We had done something to avenge Cawnpore!'' wrote one trooper, William Alexander. They struck up The Campbells Are Coming on the pipes to hearten the defenders of the residency only a mile or two away.

How had it come to this, in a land which the Scots knew and loved like none save their own?

Since the Union of 1707, and even before, they had been going out to India. Henry and Robert Dundas, Viscounts Melville, made their political careers not only as Tory political bosses in Scotland but also as directors of Indian affairs in London. This was, apart from anything else, an endless source of jobs for the boys. They were mainly Scots boys. In the early nineteenth century Scots accounted for two-thirds of all British subjects in the East. At first they

went just to make their fortunes, and many a big house or improved farm at home was owed to that. But they mixed more easily with natives than the English did. They settled down with Indian women and fathered sons they called Donald or Fergus.

Scots also took a closer interest in Indian culture. By the end of the

eighteenth century they were translating and writing Indian history. They mastered and classified Indian languages, ancient and modern. They codified Indian law. They made Indian mathematics known in the West. They pioneered Indian archaeology. They catalogued Indian architecture. Above all, Scots ruled India, in the central administration in Calcutta, as governors in the provinces, as residents in the native states. From about 1800 there arose a remarkable generation of rulers, usually Tories, too, who had been trained in the principles of the Scottish Enlightenment and, almost as philosopher kings, transferred them to this exotic setting: in Madras, Thomas Munro, in Bombay, Mountstuart Elphinstone and John Malcolm, and others besides.

They were typical orientalists, to use the term fashionable today. They wanted India to prosper and advance but they also revered and mourned the old India steadily succumbing to European dominance. So they tried as best they could to bring about progress on Indian terms.

Elphinstone issued a famous instruction to his taxmen: ''Maintain the native system; levy the revenue according to the actual cultivation; make the assessments light; impose no new taxes, and do away with none unless obviously unjust; above all, make no innovations.'' To men like these, India was a sacred trust, to be cherished and preserved for posterity. Yet now, by 1857, others of their compatriots were engaged in wanton killing and destruction, under the orders of governors convinced that

Indian culture was despicable, that ignorant Indian opinion could be laughed off, and that it were the sooner the better for this alien, barbaric country to be subjugated and transformed

by Europeans.

It was a Scotsman who had formed this antithesis of orientalism. James Mill was born in Angus and went to the Edinburgh University. Though straightaway he took the high road south, in many ways he remained an archetype, even the caricature, of a Scottish philosopher,

full of conceit and arrogance, obsessed with the great processes of history,

subduing stupendous masses of fact to his theories.

But his real, crucial role in the intellectual history of his country was to cross its philosophy with the utilitarianism of his friend and mentor in London, Jeremy Bentham, author of the mechanistic doctrine that the world could be perfected by calculating the greatest happiness of the greatest number. They and their friends were the philosophic radicals who believed their science would transform Britain and the Empire.

Mill never visited India but devoted himself to writing the first complete history of the country in English, published in six volumes in 1817. It was qualification enough to win him a senior position in the East India Company. He held his job for nearly 20 years till his death in 1836 and became the major influence on British policy.

Despite his literary labours, Mill acquired no sympathy for India or the Indians. To him this was a land and a people of superstition, tyranny, privilege, and caste, which kept their religion, government, law, and learning in a primitive state.

Their only future lay in westernisation, by application of principles borrowed from British radicals to sweep away the deformities of the past and usher in a new era. The orientalists' silly, sentimental admiration of despotism, benevolent or otherwise, was to be dispelled. Obstructive Indian customs were to be swept away. The sub-continent was to be opened up to the winds of change.

Mill influenced the conduct of Scots in India in two main spheres, in religion and politics. He struck a chord among evangelical Christians, especially the missionaries. Till 1813 they had been banned from India by the Dundases, on the grounds that it was no business of the British to disturb the natives in their immemorial way of life.

Once missions were allowed in, the Church of Scotland inaugurated its own one in 1830 by sending out a pair of its brightest young men, John Wilson to Bombay and Alexander Duff to Calcutta. They formed a stark contrast. Wilson was still an orientalist, who preached in Marathi, published learned works on India, held amicable disputations with holy men of other faiths and presided benignly over the Literary Society of Bombay.

Duff was the opposite. He never even bothered to learn Bengali, which he all the same declared incapable of coping with complex ideas. He insisted that in church and school the language must be English. He detested native culture, most vehemently where it was bound up with Hinduism, to him the vile and savage work of the devil.

He intended to westernise, starting with the highest caste, the brahmins, who in Calcutta responded eagerly to the philosophy and science he brought with him from Scotland, where he had been Chalmers's most brilliant pupil at St Andrews. His aim was to train them to help the British in ruling the masses.

While Duff was at work in Bengal, there arrived a Scottish Governor-general who pursued a parallel and equally intense secular mission. This was James Ramsay, Earl of Dalhousie, scion of the Scots Tory Nobility.

He made an early mark, first as MP for East Lothian before succeeding to his title and then, under Sir Robert Peel, as President of the Board of Trade, where he tried to cool down the railway mania of the time by proposing nationalisation. Peel rejected it out of hand, and Dalhousie had to get to India before he could try it.

When the Government collapsed, with the Tory split over the Corn Laws, the Whigs angled to recruit this rising star. In 1848 it was the new Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, that appointed Dalhousie to India at the age of 36, the youngest Governor-general ever.

His influence in India persists to the present. He embarked on a huge programme of public works, which gave the sub-continent systems of railways, canals, posts and telegraphs in advance of most European countries of the time, and of almost all other non-European countries even today.

He launched industrialisation by developing resources of coal and iron. He improved agriculture by schemes of irrigation, with encouragement for the cultivation of tea and for forestry. He made all ports free, and removed internal barriers to trade. He founded India's first three universities.

All the same he was at one with radical opinion at home in wholly lacking sympathy for Indians. Opposition from them was crushed, normally with annexation of any native states involved. In traditional India he appeared to be turning the world upside down, and his success impressed the people he meant to benefit only with a sense of defeat.

Thus were the fires stoked which broke out with such fury in the Indian Mutiny. Though the rebels were annihilated, they left the way open for new forms of resistance from the educated middle class which the westernisers were gradually creating. These were the people who founded the Indian National Congress in 1881 (with a Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume, as its first president) and set off on the long road to independence in 1947.

The history of the Scots in India is full of paradoxes, and perhaps the situation at home helps to explain them. A generation earlier than 1857, many Scots had still wanted to preserve the old Scotland just as they wanted to preserve the old India. These were swept aside in the national quest for progress by rivals oblivious of tradition except in sentimental form.

The evangelical Christians offer an example. In India, neither Wilson nor Duff nor any other presbyterian missionary hesitated a moment before going over to the Free Church at the Disruption. In Scotland this was in many respects a curiously reactionary event, but more obviously it hallowed the quest for progress, since it also represented an effort to meet and solve the problems of industrial society. For that purpose, it demanded a counterpart in secular action. The religious mission to an India defined by evangelicals as corrupt and degraded implied in the same way a secular mission. Scots equipped by their faith to change the world would in practice fulfil that aim by applying their scientific knowledge and their technical skill, driving India - for her own good, of course - along the road they had traversed at home.

The respective missions were two sides of the same coin, espousing the same aim: to wipe out one culture and replace it by another, in Scotland as in India.