The Story Behind a Petition

The Story Behind a Petition

In 1871, eleven year old Ramen was idling in the streets of Port Louis.   He bumped into the Reverend Boswell, an Anglican priest, who was carrying a pair of boots he had just purchased.  Boswell gave the boy an errand to run: to take his boots home for him.  Ramen had other ideas, however.  Once the boots were in his possession, the youngster returned to the shop where Boswell had made his purchase and managed to convince the credulous shop assistant that the worthy Reverend had changed his mind and wished for a refund.  The boy pocketed the money and went on his way.  Boswell informed the police of the incident.  The event was taken up by the colonial press who nicknamed Ramen the ‘Cute Boy.’ The police arrested Ramen and on 12 May 1871 the boy was convicted of petty larceny and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.  Worse was to come, for at the end of this time, he was sent to the Government Reformatory, or Borstal, for five years.  Ramen’s parents, Ramalingum and Allamel, understandably upset by this draconian punishment meted out to their young son, drew up a petition which they sent to the Protector of Immigrants, asking for the boy’s release.   Ramalingum was a barber by profession and had come to Mauritius from South India as an indentured labourer in 1852 when he was 20 years old.  He married Allamel in Mauritius, and they settled in Rose Hill where Ramen was probably born.  Ramalingum signed the petition in his native Tamil, and his wife affixed a cross.  


They wrote:

The humble petition of Ramalingum No 109,868, barber, and his wife Allamel, both of Rose Hill,

Respectfully sheweth,

That on or about the twelth day of May, of last year, your Petitioner’s son, named Ramen, aged eleven years, was condemned before the District Magistrate of Port Louis to three months’ imprisonment for a certain petty larceny, committed to the prejudice of Reverend Boswell, and at the end of his imprisonment, was sent to the Reformatory School for five years.  That such steps were then carefully taken by the aforesaid Magistrate, as there is no doubt that he was not aware that the boy had parents.

That whereas petitioners being in good positions and possessing the means of bringing up their children, humbly pray that your Honor will be pleased to order and authorize, (if it is in your Honor’s power) that the said Ramen be given over to them.

Petitioners, knowing your Honor’s kindness, trust, that in case their application is not of your resort, that you will be pleased to advise them, the way to follow, to get back their child, in order to be brought up by them.

And Petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray,



The first action of the Protector of Immigrants, on receiving the petition, was to ask the Inspector General of Police to inform him about the case.  The Reformatory Inspector was also called upon to report on the boy’s conduct while in that institution.  He declared that the boy’s character and conduct was not good, but in support of this could only cite one occasion when Ramen had been caned for “maliciously destroying plants”.   Ramen’s release was not recommended, and he presumably served out the full five years in the Reformatory, until he reached the age of 16.  from the Protector of Immigrants, who was the designated guardian both of Indian immigrants and of orphan children.  In this case at least, he failed to use his powers in the service of both those groups he was supposed to protect.