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How Mumbai is linked to America's most famous song

November 06, 2010 17:12 IST
Close to where the Obamas will stay in Mumbai is the dock that launched the ship that gave America its most famous song.

Not far from the Taj Mahal hotel where Barack and Michelle Obama will stay in Mumbai on Saturday night is a place closely linked with The Star-Spangled Banner, America's national anthem.

The Star-Spangled Banner was written on a ship built by a Parsi shipbuilder in one of Mumbai's dockyards.

Jamshedji Bomanji Wadia -- whose descendants went on to own Bombay Dyeing and Go Air – built the HMS Minden, the first ship to be launched from Duncan Dock in 1810.

The Minden was the first ship commissioned by the British Royal Navy from India.

In 1814, Francis Scott Key, a Baltimore author and lawyer, wrote The Star-Spangled Banner while in captivity aboard the Minden when the British bombarded American forces at Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore on the night of September 13, 14.

When daylight broke, through the smoke, Key could see the American flag still fluttering from the fort which inspired him to write the poem In Defence of Fort McHenry which was adopted as the American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, in 1931.

America's motto 'In God We Trust' is also taken from this poem.

Duncan Dock, now part of the heritage Naval Dockyard, was named after the then governor of Bombay, Jonathan Duncan.

The Wadias were Master Builders for 150 years and built more than 400 ships, including the HMS Trincomalee, the second oldest war ship still afloat in Hartlepool, Great Britain.

The fine workmanship of Indian shipbuilders made the Bombay Dockyard an excellent location to build ships, says the web site of the Indian Navy which controls Duncan Dock.

In a report at the launch of the Minden, the Bombay Courier newspaper wrote, '...the Minden, for beauty of construction and strength of frame, may stand in competition with any man-o-war that has come out of the most celebrated dockyards of Great Britain'.

Named after a German town and the Battle of Minden of 1759 where the British defeated France in the Seven Years War, the ship was later converted into a hospital ship in Hong Kong.

Duncan Dock was a highlight of the walking tour of the heritage Naval Dockyard held on the first Sunday of every month, till the tour was discontinued over a year ago.

On their first visit to Mumbai, when the Obamas spend time in the city's beloved historic quarter, it would be worth their while to take a peek at the dock that launched the ship that gave America its most famous song.

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Rediff News Bureau