Walker, Alexander (DNB00)

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WALKER, ALEXANDER (1764–1831), brigadier-general, born on 12 May 1764, was the eldest son of William Walker (1737–1771), minister of Collessie in Fife, by his wife Margaret (d. 1810), daughter of Patrick Manderston, an Edinburgh merchant. He was appointed a cadet in the service of the East India Company in 1780. He went to India in the same ship as the physician Helenus Scott [q. v.], with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. On 21 Nov. 1782 he became an ensign, and in the same year took part in the campaign under Brigadier-general Richard Mathews directed against Hyder Ali's forts on the coast of Malabar. He was present with the 8th battalion at Mangalore during the siege by Tippoo, and offered himself as a hostage on the surrender of the fortress on 30 Jan. 1784. In recompense for the danger he incurred he received the pay and allowance of captain from the Bombay government while in the enemy's hands. Some time afterwards he was appointed to the military command in an expedition undertaken by the Bombay government with a view to establishing a military and commercial port on the north-west coast of America, whence the Chinese were accustomed to obtain furs. After exploring as far north as 62°, however, and remaining a while at Nootka Sound, the enterprise was abandoned, and Walker rejoined the grenadier battalion in garrison at Bombay. On 9 Jan. 1788 he received a lieutenancy, and in 1790 served under Colonel James Hartley [q. v.] as adjutant of the line in the expedition sent to the relief of the rajah of Travancore. In 1791 he served under General Sir Robert Abercromby [q. v.] as adjutant of the 10th native infantry during the campaign against Tippoo. After the conclusion of the war a special commission was nominated to regulate the affairs of the province of Malabar, and Walker was appointed an assistant. In this capacity he showed ability, became known to the Indian authorities, and received the thanks of the Marquis Wellesley. When the commander-in-chief of the Bombay army, General James Stuart [see under Stuart, James, d. 1793], proceeded to Malabar, Walker became his military secretary with the brevet rank of captain. On 6 Sept. 1797 he attained the regimental rank of captain, and in the same year was appointed quartermaster-general of the Bombay army, which gave him the official rank of major. In 1798 he became deputy auditor-general. He took part in the last war against Tippoo, and was present at the battle of Seedaseer in 1799 and at the siege of Seringapatam. At the request of Sir Arthur Wellesley, he was selected, on account of his knowledge of the country, to attend the commanding officer in Mysore and Malabar.

In 1800 Walker was despatched to Guzerat by the Bombay government with a view to tranquillising the Mahratta states in that neighbourhood. His reforms were hotly opposed at Baroda by the native officials, who were interested in corruption. The discontent culminated in 1801 in the insurrection of Mulhar Rao, the chief of Kurree. Walker took the field, but, being without sufficient force, could do little until reinforced by Colonel Sir William Clarke, who on 30 April 1802 defeated Mulhar Rao under the walls of Kurree. In June Walker was appointed political resident at Baroda at the court of the guikwar, and in this capacity succeeded in establishing an orderly administration. On 18 Dec. 1803 he attained the regimental rank of major, and in 1805 gained the approbation of the East India Company by negotiating a defensive alliance with the guikwar. In 1807 he restored order in the district of Kattywar, and with the support of Jonathan Duncan (1756–1811) [q. v.], governor of Bombay, suppressed the habit of infanticide which prevailed among the inhabitants. On 3 Sept. 1808 he attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and in 1809, after he had embarked for England, he was recalled to Guzerat to repel an invasion by Futtee Singh, the ruler of Cutch. Order was restored by his exertions, and in 1810 he proceeded to England. In 1812 he retired from the service. In 1822 he was called from his retirement, with the rank of brigadier-general, to the government of St. Helena, then under the East India Company. He proved an active administrator. He improved the agriculture and horticulture of the island by establishing farming and gardening societies, founded schools and libraries, and introduced the culture of silkworms. He died at Edinburgh on 5 March 1831, soon after retiring from his government. On 12 July 1811 he married Barbara (d. 1831), daughter of Sir James Montgomery, bart., of Stanhope, Peeblesshire. By her he had two sons: Sir William Stuart Walker, K.C.B., who succeeded to the estate of Bowland in Edinburgh and Selkirk, which his father had purchased in 1809; and James Scott Walker, captain in the 88th regiment. While in India Alexander Walker formed a valuable collection of Arabic, Persian, and Sanscrit manuscripts, which was presented by his son Sir William in 1845 to the Bodleian Library, where it forms a distinct collection (Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Libr. pp. 347–8).

[Annual Biogr. and Obituary, 1832, pp. 24–50; Gent. Mag. 1831, i. 466; Grant Duff's History of the Mahrattas, 1873, pp. 562, 563, 626; Dodwell and Miles's Indian Army List; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

E. I. C.