An Enigmatic Enameled Indian Mutiny Medal
It is impossible to discuss this medal without reference to the
exceptionally well researched and scholarly article concerning it
written by Cliff Parrett and published in the Summer 1985 issue
of the journal of The Indian Military Collector’s Society. Mr.
Parrett’s article is source for all of the evidence and ideas
expressed herein and as a result, I am deeply indebted to him.
The medal at issue is the Indian Mutiny medal with clasp for
Delhi named in the correct official impressed style to Lt. C.W.
Fairlie, 3rd L.C.
The extant medal roll for the Indian Mutiny medal for the 1st
Bengal European Light Cavalry does not list a Lieutenant C.W.
Fairlie. The closest match is Lieutenant C.H. Fairlie. The medal
has been embellished by the privately commissioned services of a
highly skilled jeweler, to wit:
The clasp has been removed and reaffixed by brazing the lower extremities of the clasp lugs to the top edges of the scroll
suspenders, the ground around the word “Delhi” had been filled with blue enamel and the scroll from a miniature Mutiny medal
has been brazed to the lower edge of the clasp. The obverse has been machined down and all of the original details and the
rim edge have been milled without interfering with the original impressed naming. The background has been filled in with blue
enamel and the Union Jack on Britannia’s shield has been outlined in red and blue enamel. All surfaces, including the obverse,
reverse and suspension clasp have all been lightly gilded. The medal still swivels and the suspension profile is unchanged.
As no Lieutenant by the name of C.W. Fairlie appears to have served in the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry during the relevant
period, the question becomes just whose medal is this? The initials are incorrect for Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie, the
initials and rank are incorrect for his brother Captain James Fairlie, and the names of the regiments are incorrect for the
other two Fairlie brothers who served during the Indian Mutiny and received the Mutiny medal.
Thus, it appears the most likely alternatives are: i) that this is the medal of the Captain James Fairlie, forwarded as noted on
the medal roll by officials to his brother Charles Hay Fairlie, who then had it altered as a memorial to his late brother James,
or ii) that this is a duplicate medal issued to Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie with a typographical error in the initials when
named by the Mint.
Cliff Parrett in his article mentioned above concludes (and while acknowledging my bias, I must concur) that this is a duplicate
medal issued to Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie, which Charles then had altered, probably as a gift to his wife or a member of
his family. The abbreviated arguments are as follows:
1) It is unlikely that the Mint would have confused the single initial J (for James) for the initials C.W. in naming the
medal in question and also have incorrectly impressed James’s rank as Lieutenant, rather than Captain as listed on the medal
roll of the 1st E. B.L.C.
2) The initials C.H. (for Charles Hay Fairlie) are obviously more likely to have been misread by the Mint from the medal
roll as C.W., making Charles Hay Fairlie the far more likely the recipient. Most collectors of Victorian campaign medals have
seen numerous examples of this type of naming errors made by the Mint, particularly with regard to the recipient’s initials.
3) Although there is extant an Indian Mutiny medal with Delhi clasp named to Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie in the 1st
Bengal European Light Cavalry, there are numerous recorded instances of European officers receiving duplicate Indian Mutiny
medals as a result of duplicate claims being made on their behalf by their original regiments which had mutinied and regiments
they ended up serving in during the Mutiny (see, for example, the recorded group of medals to Lieutenant A.G. Webster, who
received duplicate medals named to him in the 3rd B.L.C. and the 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry, the same combination of
regiments on the possible duplicate issue of medals proffered as the solution to the instant question.)
Thus, a preponderance of the available evidence suggests that the medal in question is that of Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie.
However, regardless of the actual recipient, the medal is an outstanding example of an enameled Victorian campaign medal,
which I have been advised was probably done by one of the Birmingham firms that at the time specialized in enameling coins
and medals. As a collector, it is unfortunate that an outstanding Indian Mutiny medal was altered in an irreparable manner,
but one must accept that during the Victorian era, this was a not uncommon practice. While some collectors disdain such
anomalies, dismissing them as mere curiosities, I was quite pleased to have acquired Lieutenant Charles Hay Fairlie’s Indian
Mutiny medal and then this medal about two years apart in the early 1990’s from two different dealers, the two medals having
become separated sometime after they left Cliff Parrett’s collection.
|Follow this link to Lt. Col. Charles Hay Fairlie's Mutiny medal
Lt. C.W. Fairlie, 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry