1845 Colin was physician to the Rajah and in medical charge of the Nair Brigade (the nominal
Travancore army with 1783 men). He retained both appointments for a number of years and was
promoted during this time to full surgeon. It is noteworthy that Colin was the physician to Swathi
Thirunal during Swathi’s last years. Colin’s private papers are of historical importance as they are sure
to throw light into the mysterious death of Swathi Thirunal.
Sometime during these years Colin married Harriet Annette Ross the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel
John Ross of the Madras Army. Harriet was born in Madras around 1832; her mother was Harriet Daly.
Harriet and Colin had at least four children; Mary Annie Cullen born in Madras in 1849, Caroline
Campbell born there in 1851, Colin Archibald born around 1854 in Ootacamond (Ooty) and George
Quintin born around 1855 in Bangalore.
In 1851 it is seen that Colin was removed from the postion of Physician to the Maharaja. The Dewan
Krisna Rao wrote to Major General Cullen expressing Maharaja’s regret at Colin’s removal from his
post as the Rajah’s physician
3. The Medical Report
The manuscript titled “The annual medical report of the Travancore Residency for the year 1842,
stationed at Trevandrum’’ is a handwritten document, a copy of which is in the possession of one of the
authors. The report covered a wide range of subjects including climate, wildlife, populace, food and
diseases. The report does not confine itself to Trivandrum, but briefly describes the geography and
some other details of other major towns of Quilon, Alleppy, Cottayam etc.
The report begins with ‘Miscallaneous Observations’ which starts off with the topography of Travancore.
The opening paragraph and parts of the succeeding paragraph are mostly a reproduction from Horsley’s
work . This is however followed by a detailed description of life within the fort, complementing
Horsley’s descriptions. The section on ‘British residency’ actually describes the observatory more. The
‘Public school’ is described as the ‘Trevandrum Public Seminary supported by the Sircar’. The number
of boys studying is mentioned as from 80 to 100 boys (principally natives) and the subjects taught are
mentioned as English, writing, arithmetic, geography and mathematics. The aim of the school also is
revealed by the statement that ‘under their able Master Mr Roberts which may in time fit them for
holding office in the various departments of the state’.
The major focus of the report is on the diseases widely prevalent and the treatments administered. This
is perhaps the first documentation of the practice of western medicine in Travancore. Swathi Thirunal’s
brother – Marthanda Varma – is well known to have attempted amateurish practice of European
medicine. Considering the fact that Marthanda Varma attempted to revert the recall of Colin Paterson
(as quoted above, in the letter 13 Oct 1851), it is possible that Colin Paterson served as a tutor to
Marthanda Varma in this regard.
It is interesting to note that some of the drugs administered by Paterson, like quinine were popular
world over during that time. An amusing fact is that drugs are seen administered with dilute sulphuric
acid ! Mercury and antimony were also administered liberally to patients. (In 1846, a few months
before Swathi’s demise, it is known from a number of advertisements that appeared in London Times,
that Colin Paterson administered a drug marketed by Holloway on Swathithirunal. For instance, The
Times, London, dated 8th December 1846 (Tuesday), in page 8, carries the following, classified as an
The Raja of Travancore and Holloway’s ointment—On the 11th of July 1846,
Professor Holloway was honoured with an order for six of the largest pot sof
Holloways ointment from no less a personage than his Royal Highness the Rajah, or
reigning sovereign of Travancore, through the eminent firm of Messers J. Cockburn
and Co, East India merchants, No 15, New Broad Street, London. The ointment, it
appears, is for the personal use of the rajah, and will be employed under the
superintendence of his private physician. Holloways ointment is sold all over India,
being a certain cure for ulcers, wounds, sores…
Of 28 years standing and may be obtained of the proprieter….London, and of every
Holloways ointment is known to have been created by Thomas Holloway, who termed it a ‘cure
anything’ ointment, and made him rich. It is also today known that Holloways medicines contained aloe,
myrrh and saffron, which are unlikely to cure anything in the modern view. However, the diseases
claimed to be cured are pointers to the medical conditions of Swathi Thirunal and requires further
research by medical practioners).