Keay, John Seymour (DNB12)

KEAY, JOHN SEYMOUR (1839–1909), Anglo-Indian politician, born at Bathgate, Linlithgowshire, on 30 March 1839, was younger of the two sons of John Keay (d. 15 July 1841), minister of the Church of Scotland, of Bathgate, by his wife Agnes Straiton (d. 3 June 1864). Educated at Madras College, St. Andrews, Keay was apprenticed in 1856 to the Commercial Bank of Scotland, and in 1862 went to India to manage branches of the Government Bank of Bengal, which was recently started to develop the cotton trade between India and England. He next entered the service of Sir Salar Jung, minister of Hyderabad. After a successful public career he opened a private banking and mercantile business at Hyderabad, and founded the cotton spinning and weaving mills now known as the Hyderabad (Deccan) Spinning and Weaving Co. Ltd.; he remained a director of the company until his death.

After twenty years in India Keay returned to England in 1882, and busily engaged in both home and Indian politics. In an exhaustive treatise entitled 'Spoiling the Egyptians, a Tale of Shame told from the Blue Books' (1882, three editions) he warmly protested against the claim of the Indian government to the province of Berar in Hyderabad, and his voluminous protest was loudly upheld by the radical party in England (cf. H. M. Hyndman's Record of an Adventurous Life, 1911, p. 170). He sympathised with the native Indian cry for a larger share in the government, and was a member of the British committee of the Indian National Congress. In 'The Great Imperial Danger : an Impossible War in the near Future' (1887) he deprecated the fear of war with Russia, and discussed with first-hand knowledge the Afghan frontier question. As an advanced liberal, he unsuccessfully contested West Newington at the general election in Feb. 1886, but he won a seat at the bye-election for Elgin and Nairn on 8 Oct. 1889. Keay constantly intervened in the debates on the land purchase bill of 1890, concerning which he published an elaborate 'Exposure,' and won the reputation of a bore (cf. Lucy, Diary of Salisbury Parliament, 1892, p. 371 seq., with sketch portrait by Harry Furniss). He was re-elected at the general election of 1892, but was defeated after a close contest in that of July 1895, and was again unsuccessful in the Tamworth division of Warwickshire in January 1906, when he attacked tariff reformers in 'The Fraud of the Protection Cry,' He had a country residence at Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, and was president of the Stroud (Gloucestershire) liberal club. He died on 27 June 1909 at his London residence, 44 Bassett Road, North Kensington, and his remains were cremated at Golder's Green. He married on 22 Oct. 1878 Nina, second daughter of William Came Vivian of Penzance. She died on 16 Jan. 1885, leaving two daughters. A caricature by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' (1892).

[The Times, 29 June and 24 Aug. 1909; India, 2 July 1909, p. 3; Thacker's Indian Directory, 1910; Gloucester Journal, 28 Aug. 1909; Linhthgowshire Gazette, 2 July 1909; Hansard's Parl. Debates, 1889-95; Dod's Parl. Companion, 1890; Debrett's House of Commons; F. H. McCalmont, Parl. Poll Book, 1910, pt. 2, 81; Who's Who, 1909; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

C. W.