The Day Nilgiris became a Hill Station

The Day Nilgiris became a Hill Station
Dharmalingam Venugopal [Nilgiri Documentation Centre, Kotagiri]
Today is the day, 190 years ago,  Governor Sir Thomas Munro gave his stamp of approval to establish a Hill Station on the Nilgiris.
Though the Nilgiri mountains have been in the possession of the British since 1800, it was only  after Collector John Sullivan’s visit to the hills in 1819 that the idea of founding a station on the hills for revitalizing sick soldiers was formed.Sir_Thomas_Munro
A factor  that greatly helped this idea was the appointment of Sir Thomas Munro as Governor of Madras Presidency in 1820. Munro was a close friend of the Sullivans  and they were part of a progressive front to develop India.
From 1820 Sullivan made repeated requests to the Madras government to set up a hospital in the hills and did everything in his capacity to facilitate such a decision by building roads, houses and introducing English vegetables, trees and fruits.  Till that time sick soldiers and officials had to go to England or Mauritius or Capt Town for rest and recuperation.
However, the Board of Control in London was not convinced and turned down Sullivan’s proposal. They also rejected Sullivan’s plan to use Ooty lake waters to irrigate lands in Erode because the outlay of Rs.2000  estimated was too much !
The Board in London simply did not believe that so near to the Coimbatore plains was a cold and salubrious place which was the dream of every British languishing in the hot, disease ridden plains of India.
Munro finally visited the Nilgiris in 1826 and saw for himself what Sullivan had been eulogizing about for the past six years.
On May 28, 1827, Munro sent his recommendation to the Board stating that though the Nilgiris may not be suitable or viable for setting up a hospital, officers of the civil and military services should be encouraged to visit the hills on their own for recovery of their health. To facilitate that Munro proposed that the government could take on rent Sullivan’s  Stonehouse  which would  accommodate 8 to 10 officers.
To reinforce his proposal, Munro argued that a sum of Rs.170 lakhs had been spent in the previous three years on sending sick officers to England  and therefore “ If only a very small proportion of these Officers could be restored to health by a temporary residence on the Hills instead of a Voyage to Europe the charges incurred by Government would be amply repaid”.
Stating further that the healthfulness of the Nilgiris had not been correctly assessed by the young medical officers who had  spent only a short time on the hills, Munro recommended, “It would probably require a long continued course of medical and scientific observation conducted by a competent person with the assistance of an adequate establishment of servants and the proper meteorological apparatus to determine fully on the capabilities
of the climate of the Nielgherries”
“It seems therefore advisable that we should station permanently on the Hills a Medical Officer qualified to make the necessary observations on their climate. I propose that Mr. Haynes be selected for this purpose and be appointed to the medical charge of the Nielgherries with a salary of Rupees 350 and the usual Palenkeen allowance for servants and Medicine”, Munro added in his recommendation.
It was a tragic irony that Munro’s recommendations were accepted by the Board of Control at London on July 6, 1827, the day on which Sir Thomas Munro met his untimely death at  Pattikonda in Andhra Pradesh.
Very interesting and informative.  Thanks for sharing. – Raminder Chowdhary
I think that at some point Sullivan began to make daily weather observations to back up his case. – Paul Hockings
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3 responses to “The Day Nilgiris became a Hill Station

  1. Dear JP Sir,
    Thank you for highlighting the early days of The Nilgiris and Stone House.
    Wg Cdr
    C 366

    Like

  2. Sumathi Halan

    Interesting …. thanks for sharing.

    Like

  3. Fascinating. We could do with someone like Sullivan to save the UK NHS!

    Like

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