Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pycroft, Thomas

PYCROFT, Sir THOMAS (1807–1892), Madras civil servant, born in 1807, was eldest son of Thomas Pycroft, of Pickwick, Wiltshire, barrister-at-law, and brother of James Pycroft [q. v.] Educated first at the Bath grammar school, and then under private tutors, he matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, on 13 May 1826. He held an exhibition there from 1826 to 1828, and in 1829 competed successfully for an Indian writership presented to the university in 1828 by the Right Hon. Charles Wynn, then president of the board of control. The degree of honorary M.A. was then conferred upon him by the university. He sailed for Madras in 1829, and served in that presidency in various subordinate appointments in the revenue and judicial departments until 1839, when he returned to England on furlough. On again settling in India in 1843, he served first as sub-secretary and afterwards as secretary to the board of revenue, whence he was promoted in 1850 to be revenue secretary to government, succeeding in 1855 to the chief secretaryship. In 1862 he was appointed a member of the council of the governor, and he retired from that post in 1867. He was made a K.C.S.I. in 1866. On the occasion of his retirement a eulogistic notice of his services was published by the government of Madras in the ‘Fort St. George Gazette.’ ‘His excellency the governor in council deems it due to that distinguished public officer,’ the notice ran, ‘to place on record the high sense which the government entertain of his services, and of the valuable aid and advice which they have invariably received from him at the council board.’

Gifted with an enormous capacity for work, extremely shrewd in his judgment both of men and of measures, and wonderfully free from prejudice, Pycroft was an invaluable adviser to those with whom he was associated in public business. One of his most useful qualities was his great accuracy. This was noticed by the examiners who awarded to him the writership in 1828, and it characterised his work throughout his public life. He may be regarded as the first of the competition wallahs, for he was the first man appointed to the Indian civil service on the result of a competitive examination. He died at Folkestone on 29 Jan. 1892. He married, in 1841, Frances, second daughter of Major H. Bates, R.A.

[Personal knowledge; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886.]

A. J. A.