Legal Spankies in Colonial India

Spankie silhouette (from Veitch) (2)Who wins the prize for best name in colonial Indian legal history?

For years, I had an easy answer. It was Mr. Justice Robert Spankie, a judge of the Allahabad High Court in the late 19th century. Of course!

But recently while reading Bhavani Raman‘s work on martial law in South India, I came across another Spankie: an Advocate General named Serjeant Spankie from the early 19th century.

It turns out there was a whole family of legal professionals by the name of Spankie.

“The name seems inherently improbable, yet it happens to be true,” tittered the elder Spankie’s biographer in 1931.

Mr. Serjeant Spankie (Robert) was the father of Mr. Justice Spankie (also Robert).

Another son of Spankie Senior–James Shiels Spankie–was a magistrate in India. A son of Robert Spankie Junior also followed a legal career in India. George Theophilus Spankie was a barrister and law reporter whose name you’ll find on the Indian Law Reports Allahabad series from 1899.

The elder Robert Spankie (1774-1842) was a Scot whose marriage into a wealthy merchant family paved the way for his career in India. As a young man, he was a journalist, “gaolbird” (for political activity), and barrister in England. He then went to India and rose quickly. He was a member of the Calcutta Bar. He became Advocate General then Attorney General in Bengal. He later returned to Britain, where he was a member of the order of Serjeants-at-Law, a Member of Parliament, and  counsel in colonial Indian cases before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The younger Robert Spankie (b.1823) became a judge not by becoming a lawyer or barrister first, but by moving up through the ranks of the Indian Civil Service. He was a magistrate and collector in Agra, Benares, Cawnpore and elsewhere. He became a judge of the Allahabad High Court in 1867, where he delivered judgments until his retirement in 1882. Mr. Justice Spankie often dissented from his brother judges’ opinions. You could say disapproval was built into his name.

So it’s settled. The Spankies gave the competition a beating, and entirely legally.