Jaipal Singh


Jaipal Singh was the son of a Bihari adivasi (tribal) farmer. He studied at St Paul's School in Ranchi (Bihar) and was taken under the wing of the Principal, Canon Cosgrave. He was baptized and in November 1918 accompanied Canon Cosgrave back to England - the Canon having retired from the Ranchi school to take up the parish of Darlington. Jaipal Singh arrived in England in the aftermaths of the First World War and initially stayed in Darlington with the Canon. Three wealthy unmarried women, the Forsters, helped to take care of Jaipal Singh financially. He was sent to St Augustine's College in Canterbury to train for the priesthood, but after two terms, Bishop Arthur Mesacknight, the warden, sent him to Oxford - using his connections with Dr James, the president of St John's College.

Jaipal Singh matriculated at St John's College, Oxford, in Michaelmas 1922. He was awarded the Hertfordshire Scholarship of forty pounds by Bishop Knight and the Forsters bore most of the rest of his Oxford bills. Jaipal Singh studied PPE and was awarded a 4th in 1926. He was elected Secretary in 1924 and then President in 1925 of the St John's College Debating Society. He was a member of the Essay Society, a member of the college football XI in 1925-6, and the college hockey XI throughout his time at the college. Jaipal Singh also represented the University Hockey XI in Varsity matches from 1924 to 1926 and hence was awarded a hockey Blue. Jaipal Singh started the Oxford Hermits - a sports society for 'Asiatics' in Oxford - they mainly played hockey. Jaipal Singh then took the Indian Civil Service (ICS) exams, and was a probationary student at St John's.

In the meantime, Singh was involved in Indian students' hockey tours of Europe and the formation of the India Hockey Federation. In 1928, he captained the India Hockey Team at the Amsterdam Olympics. They won all their games without conceding a goal, and were awarded the gold medal. He often frequented Veeraswamy's restaurant in Regent Street and the victorious team were also feted at the restaurant and at 21 Cromwell Road.

Having taken part in the Olympics, Singh's ICS training was delayed and he then decided to quit the ICS. Through the Darlington MP, Lord Pake Pense, Singh was introduced to Viscount Bearstead, Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading Company who arranged for a job for Singh with the Burnham-Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company of India. He was the first Indian to be appointed to a covenanted mercantile assistant in Royal Dutch Shell group, and after a probationary period in London was sent to Calcutta. In Calcutta, Singh met many British officials, clergymen and Indians through his contacts from his time in Britain. He met and married Tara Majumdar, the daughter of P. K. and Agnes Majumdar and grand-daughter of W. C. Bonnerjee. Singh took up a number of educational posts, including a position teaching commerce at Achimota College, Gold Coast, and then soon got involved in politics back in India. Singh presided over the All-India Adibasi Mahasabha, an organization that campaigned for tribal rights. After Indian independence the party became the Jharkand Party and saw their aims realized in 2000 when Jharkand was designated a separate state from Bihar.  

Date of birth: 
03 Jan 1903

Canon Cosgrave (mentor), Verrier Elwin (friend from Oriel College), Lord Irwin (congratulated him personally through telegram for his olympics' success), Iftikhar Ali Khan (Nawab of Pataudi), Janaki Agnes Majumdar (mother-in-law), J. C. Masterman (brother of the historian, who 'godfathered' Singh when he was at Oxford), Lilamani Naidu (daughter of Sarojini Naidu, who was also studying PPE at the same time as Singh; they often sat together - she was at Lady Margaret Hall).

Contributions to periodicals: 

Wrote hockey reports for the Isis (Oxford University journal)


See reports of Oxford hockey matches and the olympics in various newspapers, including The Times

Secondary works: 

Katyayan, Rashmi (ed.), and Singh, Marang Gomke Jaipal, Lo Bir Sendra: An Autobiography (Kokar, Ranchi: Prabhat Khabar, 2004)

Archive source: 

St John's College Debating Society minute book, Essay Society minute book and Hockey XI photos, St John's College Archives, Oxford

City of birth: 
Takra Pahantoli, Bihar
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh


Darlington DL3 7TH
United Kingdom
54° 33' 0.3888" N, 1° 33' 40.644" W
St John's College, Oxford, OX1 3JP
United Kingdom
51° 45' 23.076" N, 1° 15' 32.6412" W
St Augustine's College CT1 1PF
United Kingdom
51° 15' 57.888" N, 1° 4' 43.3056" E
Date of death: 
20 Mar 1970
Location of death: 
Delhi, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Dec 1918
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Subscribe to RSS - hockey