The Story of Connemara

Robert Bourke, Baron of Connemara was the Governor of Madras from 1886-1902. He was a barrister at law and a Conservative party MP before coming to Madras as Governor. His brother Sixth Earl of Mayo was the Viceroy of India in 1869 and his father in law, Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of India in 1856.

By all records Bourke was an able administrator and was instrumental in establishing the East Coast Railway Line connecting Chennai to Kolkata. He laid the foundation stone for the public library that bear his name today, Connemara Library.

But the present Taj Connemara hotel, wasn’t named after him. It was after his wife, Lady Connemara (Susan Georgiana Broun-Ramsay), the first daughter of Lord Dalhousie.

Apparently, Lord Connemara was interested in playing the field and was having many an extra marital dalliance. His wife caught him during one of his liaisons, and deciding enough is enough, walked out on him. But where could she go? There was only one hotel for the English in Madras at that time, the Albany Hotel, which was earlier the house of the succesful English Merchant John Binny. So she moved in and stayed there before leaving to England alone. It created a scandal at that time.

She pressed for divorce for cruelty and adultery at the court. Lord Connemara was still in India and was not present in person, the court accepted her evidence and declared the marriage annulled. Lord Connemara resigned his position as Governor of Madras and sailed back to England.

One report says that Lord Connemara laid a counter charge that she was having an affair with Dr. Briggs, a former member of his staff. Both Lady Connemara and Dr. Briggs refuted the allegations. Lady Connemara and Dr. Briggs were subsequently married. Lord Connemara too married once again, and died without a progeny, thus bringing the Barony of Connemara to an end.

Geeta Doctor in The Hindu about Lady Connemara

A short history of Baron of Connemara, from site

A newspaper report of the divorce in 1890 (fifth paragraph)

1 Comment so far

  1. Ramki (unregistered) on April 21st, 2007 @ 1:26 am

    Wonderful article.. thanks Chenthil Nathan…

    Wonder what kind of articles would have come, if we had the likes of Ju Vee and Nakkeeran in those days..LOL.

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