Philip Dundas

Philip Dundas (baptised 7 May 1762[1] – 8 April 1807) was a Scottish East India Company naval officer, president of the East India Marine Board, and superintendent of Bombay. He returned to Britain and became a member of parliament and returned to the Far East to become governor of Prince of Wales Island,[2] now known as Penang.

Early lifeEdit

Philip Dundas was the fourth son of Robert Dundas of Arniston, the younger, and his second wife, Jean, daughter of William Grant, Lord Prestongrange.[3][2]

East India CompanyEdit

Dundas joined the East India Company Navy and rose to become captain of Melville Castle from 1786 until 1792.[4] Through the influence of his politically well connected uncle, Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, he was promoted from captain to president of the Marine Board and superintendent of Bombay from 1792 until 1801 (see Admiral-superintendent), during which time "he had £10,000 a year and accumulated £70,000 or £80,000, with which he returned to England".[5]

Member of ParliamentEdit

On returning to Britain Dundas stood as a member of Parliament for English constituency of Gatton and having won the seat after a contested by-election (during which he was elected with a single vote cast) entered Parliament on 24 January 1803. He would remain in parliament for a little over two years, and although he remained a silent member, like other members of his family he voted in favour of measures that brought Addington administration to an end. In April 1805 he vacated his seat, leaving it at Pitt's disposal.[6]

Prince of Wales IslandEdit

Very shortly after leaving Parliament, Dundas embarked on a voyage to the East Indies to take up the governorship of Prince of Wales Island. His uncle the Viscount Melville had long hoped to establish a naval arsenal.[7]

The newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Penang, arrived at the newly created Presidency of the British East India Company, between 18 and 24 September 1805, together with his Council and the subordinate officials, including his Deputy Secretary, Stamford Raffles, who would form his new government.[citation needed]

The status of Penang (comprising Prince of Wales' Island and Province Wellesley) at this time, was such that it was on an equal footing with the three great Presidencies in IndiaCalcutta, Madras, and Bombay. Dundas was Governor of Prince of Wales Isle (Penang) from 1805 to 1807.[8][9][citation needed]

Grave of Philip Dundas (left), at the Protestant Cemetery, Penang. The grave next to him is of John Hope Oliphant, a councillor of Penang who was married to Dundas's sister-in-law.

He created a red-light district so that he could control disease without having to discourage business.[10][citation needed][11] On board HMS Belliqueux, in the Bay of Bengal, he died on 8 April 1807 just two years after he arrived,[12] ill health from unsanitary conditions taking him,[2] and was buried in Penang a few days later.[13]


Dundas was married twice. In 1790 he married Penelope Ford Lindsay of Dublin.[14] She died in 1802. They had no children.[2]

On 5 May 1803 he married Margaret (died 1806), [12] daughter of John Wedderburn of Ballendean (1729–1803) (and sister of Sir David Wedderburn, 1st Baronet (1775–1858)). They had two sons:[3]

  • Robert Adam, who assumed the surnames of Christopher and then Nisbet-Hamilton. He became a Conservative Member of Parliament.
  • Philip Dundas (1806–1870), colonel in the army. On 30 October 1858 he married Lady Jane Charteris (died 1897), daughter of Francis, 7th Earl of Wemyss and March. They are buried together in the Old Kirkyard, Lasswade. They had no children.[15]


At least three ships were named for Dundas. See: Philip Dundas


  1. ^ Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564–1950
  2. ^ a b c d Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645.
  3. ^ a b Burke 1863, p. 1085.
  4. ^ Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645 cites C. Hardy, Reg. E.I. Co. Shipping, 149.
  5. ^ Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645 cites Farington, iv. 254.
  6. ^ Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645 cites Add. 38368, f. 206; SRO GD51/1/198/21/25; SRO GD51/1/68/1.
  7. ^ Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645 cites Add. 37283, f. 264.
  8. ^ Brooke, Dr. Gilbert E. (1931) One hundred years of Singapore : being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on 6 February 1819 to 6 February 1919 Vol I. London: John Murray pp 17, 73–74
  9. ^ Parkinson, Cyril Northcote (1937) Trade in the Eastern Seas 1793–1813 London: Cambridge University Press, p 55
  10. ^ Milton James Lewis, Scott Bramber and M. Waugh. Sex, Disease, and Society: A Comparative History of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. Greenwood Press. 1997.
  11. ^ "In the following decade, the governor, Sir Philip Dundas, restricted prostitutes to a brothel quarter on the outskirts of George Town. The governor's action amounted to an official toleration of prostitution, grounded in a pragmatic assumption that it served a necessary social function in an overwhelmingly male community and equally that any attempts at suppression would encounter enormous difficulties [Lewis, Bramber and Waugh 1997: 156]."
  12. ^ a b Wedderburn 1898, p. 293.
  13. ^ "At Penang, in Prince of Wales' Island, John-Hope Oliphant, esq, first in council; at which time the governor, Philip Dundas, esq., was so seriously indisposed as to be incapable of attending his duty, and died on-board the Belliqueux man of war, on 8 April" (GM staff 1807, p. 1075).
  14. ^ Thorne 1986, pp. 644, 645 cites Gent. Mag. (1790), ii. 763.
  15. ^ Wedderburn 1898, p. 294.


  • Elliott, Catherine, Dundas of Arniston, Dundas ' of Clobemon Hall, archived from the original on 14 April 2012, retrieved 1 December 2011
  • Burke, Sir Bernard (1863), A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the landed gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2 (4 ed.), Harrison, p. 1085
  • "Deaths:23 March", The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 77, A. Dodd and A. Smith, 1807, p. 1075
  • Thorne, Roland G. (1986), "Dundas, Philip", The House of Commons 1790–1820, History of Parliament, Boydell & Brewer, pp. 644, 645, ISBN 978-0-436-52101-0
  • Wedderburn, Alexander Dundas Ogilvy (1898), Wedderburn book: a history of the Wedderburns in the counties of Berwick, and Forfar, designed of Wedderburn, Kingennie, Ester Powrie, Blackness, Balindean, and Gosford; and their younger branches; together with some account of other families of the name, 1296–1896, vol. 1, Printed for private circulation, pp. 293, 294
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Dashwood
Sir Mark Wood, Bt
Member of Parliament for Gatton
With: Sir Mark Wood, Bt
Succeeded by