India has been shamed in front of the world, thanks to crumbling bridges and cracking ceilings at the Common Wealth village. But, about 200 years ago the same Indian hands built for the British empire a warship which still stands tall.
By Ashish Vashi / Times News Network
The oldest surviving British warship — HMS Trincomalee— was built by Surti boat builders, the Wadia family, in Mumbai.
Earlier this week, the warship was incorporated into the new National Museum of the Royal Navy of
United Kingdom. Built in 1817, HMS Trincomalee was brought to Hartlepool in 1987, where it took more than 10 years to restore it. It is now the main attraction at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience and attracts 54,000 visitors a year.
"In 1816, work began on HMS Trincomalee at the Wadia Shipyards at Bombay, near the teak forests of Malabar. Master shipbuilder Jamsetjee Bomanjee Waed dia supervised the construction — one of 14 ships he would build for the Royal Navy during his life. In accordance with Zoroastrian tradition, an engraved silver nail was hammered into the keel to ensure the vessel’s wellbeing. Little did they know how well it would work," according to details provided by the HMS Trincomalee Trust.
The ship was built at the cost of £23,000. The Wadia family migrated from Surat at the behest of the East India Company as it wanted to develop Bombay as its main business hub. If Mumbai emerged as a strategic port for the British, much of the credit goes to Wadia family. Lowjee Nusserwanjee Wadia, a skilled ship builder from Surat, was roped in for the assignment and was made master shipbuilder of Bombay in 1736.
Along with his brother Sorabji, Lowjee built India’s first dry dock at Mumbai in 1750. "In 1735, master builder Lowjee Nassawanjee Wadia came over from Surat and founded this government dockyard. He was made a master shipbuilder and ever since that date the appointment has been in the Wadia family, descending regularly from father to son. The salary is Rs 700 a month besides perquisites," reads one historical account.