The death in England on Friday of John Ulick Knatchbull, also known as John Brabourne or the 7th Lord Brabourne, ends another link between Britain and pre-Independence India.
Brabourne was born in Bombay in November 1924, a year after his father, the 5th Baron Brabourne, was appointed Governor of the city. In 1938, the 5th Lord Brabourne spent four months as India’s youngest Viceroy, and young John would later become the son-in-law of the last Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
The Brabourne name lives on thanks to the Brabourne Stadium. Built on reclaimed land in 1935, Lord Brabourne sold the 90,000 square yards to the Cricket Club of India at £1 per sq yard. when the ongoing rate was almost 10 times as much, just so that the stadium would be named after him. The price was being haggled over until, according to CCI secretary Anthony De Mello’s account, he went to meet the Governor at his summer residence at Ganeshkhind near Pune and told him: “Your Excellency, which would you prefer to accept from sportsmen — money for your government or immortality for yourself?”
The stadium was inaugurated on December 7, 1937 with a match between CCI and Lord Tennyson’s XI. The first Test played here was in December 1948, against the West Indies, and the last Test was in February 1973, against MCC. John spoke Hindi fluently until age 10, when he sent to Eton and later, Oxford. He excelled in cinema, and produced movies such as Sink the Bismarck! (1960), Death on the Nile (1978) and A Passage to India (1984), the David Lean effort which won two Oscars, and was nominated for nine.
Brabourne’s links with India were cemented by his marriage to the elder of Lord Mountbatten’s two daughters, Patricia, in 1946 (the younger was named India) and they stayed married for nearly 60 years. Brabourne is survived by his wife and six children.