CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 1162
TitleYule family and Napier of Magdala papers
Date1838 - 1890
Extent3 boxes (0.99 linear metres)
Creator NameNapier, Robert Cornelis, first Baron Napier of Magdala (1810 - 1890), army officer
Yule, Sir Henry (1820 - 1889), geographer
Administrative HistoryRobert Cornelis Napier, 1st Baron Napier, was born in Colombo, Ceylon on 6 December 1810, his second name commerating the role his father, Major Charles Frederick Napier of the royal artillery, played in the storming of Fort Cornelis in Java on 26 August 1810. After training at the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, Napier received his commission as second lieutenant in the Bengal engineers, eventually being sent to India as first lieutenant in November 1828. He worked in the irrigation branch of the public works department on the Eastern Jamna Canal before succumbing to illness in 1835 and, in April 1836, he was granted three years leave. During this time he went to Europe and visited various civil and military engineering works, becoming acquainted with Stephenson and Brunel, and improving his knowledge of irrigation. On his return to India he coordinated the establishment of a new settlement at Darjiling and was appointed to Sirhind in 1842, where he successfully established a new cantonment, developing an arrangement which came to be widely adopted by the government in other cantonments in what became known as 'Napier's system'. He served with distinction in the first and second Sikh wars of 1845 and 1848, before being appointed as civil engineer to the board of administration of the annexed province of the Punjab, carrying out a series of important public works, including the construction of a 275 mile high road from Lahore to Peshawar. He again served with distinction in two frontier expeditions in 1852 and 1853, before returning to his role as head of the public works department of the Punjab. Napier relinquished this post in late 1856 and went on leave to England, but with the outbreak of the Indian mutiny in May 1857, he was appointed military secretary and chief of the adjutant-general's department under General Sir James Outram. Napier played an important role in the relief of Lucknow, but was seriously wounded and remained in hospital for several weeks, before returning to assist in the recapture of Lucknow in March 1858. He became second in command to Sir Hugh Rose of the Central Indian force after the rebel army took possession of the stronghold at Gwalior, and following its recapture, pursued the 12,000 strong rebel force led by Tantia Topi, capturing his guns, ammunition and baggage, with only 700 men. Napier continued to play a major role in quashing the remaining rebel forces, being made a K.C.B. for his efforts. In January 1860, he was appointed to the command of the second division in the successful expedition to China, being promoted to major-general as a result, and in January 1861 he became a military member of the council of the governor-general of India, helping to oversee the amalgamation of the army of the East India Company with the British army. For a short while, he acted as governor-general following the sudden death of Lord Elgin and in 1865 was appointed commander-in-chief of the Bombay army. His crowning achievement came with his skillful handling of the expedition to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in January 1868, whereupon he embarked on a 420 mile march to Magdala (Amba Mariam), defeated the opposing force and released the British prisoners held captive there by King Theodore. Napier had proved himself to be an outstanding commander and he returned to Britain to great acclaim, being awarded various honours and bestowed the title of Baron Napier of Magdala in July 1868. He was appointed commander-in-chief in India in January 1870 and made fifth ordinary member of the council of the governor-general in the same year. He finally left India on 10 April 1876 to join the government of Gibraltar, becoming governor in September 1876. He was appointed a member of the royal commission on army reorganisation in 1879 and made field-marshal upon retiring from the government of Gibraltar in 1883. Napier was married twice: to Anne Sarah (d.1849) on 3 September 1840 and to Mary Cecilia on 2 April 1861. He had three sons and three daughters by his first wife and by his second wife he had six sons and three daughters. Lord Napier died on 14 January 1890. A medallion owned by Miss A. F. Yule was the original model for the marble memorial of Napier in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Sir Henry Yule (1820 - 1889), geographer, youngest son of Major William Yule of the East India Company and his wife Eliza, was born at Inveresk, near Edinburgh and was educated at the high school in the city. After training at Addiscombe, where he graduated as head of the college, he spent a year at Chatham before being appointed to the Bengal Engineers in 1840 and posted to India. Between 1843 and 1849 he worked on the restoration and development of the irrigation system in the North-West Provinces, serving with, among others, Robert Cornelis Napier. Yule was also involved in the Sikh wars of 1845-46 and 1848-49 after which he took a period of leave, lecturing at the Scottish Military Academy and publishing a volume entitled 'Fortification' and a pamphlet 'The African Squadron Vindicated'. In 1855 he was appointed under-secretary to the newly formed public works department in India, and produced a report to government entitled 'A Narrative of the Mission to Ava in 1855' while acting as chronicler to Colonel Phayre's friendly embassy to Burmah. Yule retired from the army in 1862, being made C.B. in 1863, and moved to Palermo where he concentrated on writing a series of well-received books. The publication of ''Mirabilia descripta. The Wonders of the East', by Jordanus' (1863), 'Cathay and the Way thither' (1866), and 'Marco Polo' (1871) led him to receive the gold medal of the Geographical Society of Italy and the founder's medal of the Royal Geographical Society and contributed to his reputation as an outstanding geographer. He returned to England after his first wife's death in 1875, becoming a valued member of the Indian council and President of the Hakluyt Society. Despite suffering from poor health he continued to write, producing 'Hobson Jobson, a Glossary of Anglo-Indian Colloquial Words and Phrases' (1886) and the 'Diary of Sir William Hedges' (1887), while also contributing to the 'Encyclopedia Britannica' and various Asiatic and geographical journals. His writings proved influential in awakening interest in the geography, medieval history and archaeology of Central Asia in the late 19th century and he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Edinbrugh in 1884 and was created K.C.S.I. in 1889. He was married twice, to his cousin Anna Maria (d.1875) in 1843, and to Mary Wilhelmina (d. 1881) in 1877. Henry Yule, who served under and was a life-long friend of Robert Cornelis Napier, died on 30 December 1889.

Robert Yule (1817 - 1857), brother of Henry, published the treatise 'On Cavalry Movements' (1856). After serving in Persia and Afghanistan he was killed in action outside Delhi while leading his regiment, the 9th lancers, in action against rebel forces.

Summaries from entries by Colonel R. H. Vetch, DNB, Vol. XL, 1894 (pp.75-81) and Coutts Trotter, DNB, Vol. LXIII, 1900 (pp.405-407).
SourceThis material was formally in Tarradale House and was deposited in the University Library with printed books from Tarradale in 1959. Tarradale House and its land on the Black Isle, near Beauly, Inverness, first belonged to the Mackenzies of Applecross, and then, by a family connexion, to the Murchisons. The estate was sold to Baillie of Dochfour in 1818, but the Murchisons maintained a connexion with the house. In 1900 Miss Amy Frances Yule, a relation by marriage of the Murchisons, purchased the estate, after being tenant there from 1896. She remodelled and renovated the house, added a walled garden, outhouses and library block, and died in 1916. She had travelled with her father Henry Yule and made a point of collecting books as she went, and was an excellent linguist and scholar. The library she established was huge, and strong in natural sciences, military and Scottish history. Her will established the Murchison of Tarradale Memorial Trust to preserve the house and grounds for the nation with provision for her grave and that of her cousin Harriet Murchison to be properly looked after on the site. The house was lent to Scottish universities for research projects but the conditions of the will allowed no experiments on live animals there. Members of the public could also stay in the house, but they had to be British, Christian, of good character and in good health to stay, and should preferably be students and of Scottish descent or birth. In 1958 the Trust, finding that upkeep was difficult, conveyed the endowment to Aberdeen University as a field centre, and it was renovated and still used as such at least up to 1985.
DescriptionLetters and papers of the Yule family, Tarradale House, Ross and Cromarty (1850-1890): Sir Henry Yule, his brother Robert Yule, and daughter Amy Frances Yule, including papers relating to the death of Robert Yule; Biographical studies of Robert Cornelis Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala, including record of his military career (c. 1880); Letters and papers of Robert Cornelis Napier, including a number of letters to his mother Catherine, his first wife Anne, and to Amy and Henry Yule (1838-1889). The collection also includes a number of military reports, including a manuscript copy of an account of the siege and defence of Lucknow (1857), a report on army reorganisation (1881) and a memorandum concerning the British military position in India (1875).
AppraisalThis material has been appraised in line with normal procedures.
AccrualsNone expected.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialMS 2547, MS 2548, MS 2548, MS 2549, MS 2550, MS 2551, MS 2552, MS 2553, MS 2554, MS 2555, MS 2556: Tarradale Papers (1814 - 1925);
MSU 1430: Murchison of Tarradale Memorial Trust (1917 - 1960);
MS 3272: James Grant papers (1837 - 1883);
MS 2860: Sir Henry Yule collection
MS 2884: Chalmers family papers.
Add to My Items