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John William Ricketts

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John William Ricketts
Description Founder of the school
Birth 1791
Death 1835
Spouse Sarah Ricketts

John William Ricketts was the son of Lieutenant John Henry Ricketts, and Bibi Zenut Ricketts. Nephew of Vice Admiral Sir Robert Ricketts.[1] In 1823, he conceived the idea of a school to meet the educational needs of the growing British and Anglo-Indian community in Calcutta. At the instigation of Ricketts, Archdeacon Corrie founded the school which started functioning from May 1, 1823, as the Parental Academic Institution and would eventually gave way to St. Paul's School, Darjeeling. [2]

Personal Life[edit]

John William Ricketts was brought up in the Upper Military Orphanage of Kidderpore (for the children of British officers and Indian mothers) after his father's death at Seringapatum in 1792. Then sent to Amboyna as a clerk where he fathered an illegitimate daughter, Amelia. He decided to become a Baptist missionary and was closely involved with the Serampore cause all his life. Ill health caused his return to Calcutta and take up a career in the Board of Customs. He was the prime mover of Eurasian social, educational, and political activity in the 1820s, and representative for the Parliamentary Petition of 1830s.

He was appointed a civil court Judge on his return to India, and was Principal Sadr-Amin (This is a title for a chief commissioner or arbitrator, a native civil judge) at Gaya until his death. He was buried in the old Gaya cemetery at the foot of the Ramsila Hill. He was survived by his wife Sarah (believed to be the Eurasian daughter of a British Surgeon), six of his seven sons, and two daughters.

One of the four houses in the Frank Anthony School, Calcutta is named after Ricketts.

Role towards the Anglo-Indian Community[edit]

John William Ricketts figures prominently in the book by (the founder of The Frank Anthony Public School, Kolkata) Frank Anthony "Britain's Betrayal in India: the Story of the Anglo-Indian Community", first published in 1964 and reprinted in 2007 by the Simon Wallenberg Press ISBN 1-84356-010-0. See Chapter IV entitled "The Age of RICKETTS and DEROZIO" (pp 46-53).

In 1791, the HEIC (Honourable East India Company) ruled "that persons of Indian extraction were precluded from employment as officers in the civil, marine or military services". In 1825, another ruling of the HEIC "excluded all Anglo-Indians from service in the army except as fifers, drummers, bandsmen and farriers, that is as non-combatants". Thus within a few years, the Anglo-Indians were "reduced to the status of a proscribed and downtrodden race" (Anthony, p. 12).

In 1829, Ricketts, representing the Anglo-Indian community went to England to petition the British Government to ease these restrictions. He was only partially successful, in that the Charter Act of 1833 proclaimed "that all persons without reference to birth or color were eligible for the Civil and Military Service of the Government" (Anthony, page 52). "Ricketts' efforts were warmly appreciated by the Anglo-Indian community." (Anthony pp. 52 & 53).[3]

Frank Anthony's book is a very good source of the history of the Anglo-Indian community. It was out of print for many years, and only in 2007 it was reprinted. Unfortunately, like many other older books it does not have a subject index, so it is not easy to quickly find persons cited in his book.


  1. Link to Facebook Post
  2. History of St. Paul's School#1823
  3. Famous Anglo Indians