The little brown tombstone in Tranquebar

Our visit to Tranquebar in the summer of 2014 took us to every corner of the small historical town. Our ‘My Danish India’ research team picked up lots of interesting information on the life of the people during time of the Danish in India (1620-1845) and even after. We had many memories to carry back, but there was one that I had mentally bookmarked to revisit sometime. This was a little brown tombstone in the compound of the 18th century Zion Church on King Street.

Zion Church

The Zion Church was sanctified in 1701 and was the place where the first five Indian Protestant converts of the Danish Mission were baptised in 1707. Plaques within the church indicate that it was rebuilt in 1792, and that alterations and renovation work in 1839-1840 resulted in the present Danish church with Indian architecture elements in its parapet, pinnacles and vaulted constructions.

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Zion church fm fort

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THE LITTLE BROWN TOMBSTONE

Brown tombstone

ANNIE HAMILTON PERCIVAL
AGED 16 YEARS 11 M AND 17 DYS
AND
SIDNEY HIGHT PERCIVAL
AGED 13 YEARS 8 M AND 14 DAYS
FELL ASLEEP IN JESUS, THE FORMER DEC 26TH 1877,
THE LATTER JAN 6TH 1878.

Lovely and pleasant in their lives
In their death they were not divided.
All thy children shall be taught of the Lord
And great shall be the peace of thy children.
Isai 54:13

From their names and time period one could tell that these two teenage sisters, who died within days of each other were not Danish. British. The current priest at the Zion Church did not know what had happened to the ‘Percival sisters’, the daughters of Rev Samuel Percival, and where they had actually been laid to rest. Were they ill? Were they being treated with Citta medicine? Or were they in an accident? I haven’t been able to find out, but whatever, their brother and sisters would have missed them dearly.

A family tree on Geni.com reveals that Samuel Percival and Flora Robertina Percival had eight children, born from 1860 to 1870, the first three in India and the rest in Australia. The family seems to have spent a few years in Australia, before they returned to India. Samuel Percival served as Reverend in Tranquebar, where he died in 1881. He was the eldest son of Dr Rev Peter Percival, a British missionary and educationist who spent much of his life in Sri Lanka and India. Peter Percival, like the Danish King’s emissary to Tranquebar, Ziegenbalg, was a linguist and is credited with a Tamil dictionary. His daughter Elizabeth Ann Percival married his good friend archeologist Robert Bruce Foote, who is often considered as the “Father of Indian Prehistory”. Both Peter Percival and Robert Foote have been subjects of interest to Indian historians.

The little brown tombstone in Tranquebar… the history it holds!

Pics taken in Tranquebar, May 2014

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