August 5, 2017
Udhagamandalam: ‘If it was a Civilian Collector, Mr. John Sullivan, who was the first to bring the Hills prominently to notice and to rest their value in respect of climate and of soil, it was a Civilian Governor who first made them the permanent abode of Europeans, and placed their reputation as a seat or sanitaria and as a field of European enterprise almost beyond dispute.’
Thus sums up Compiler Mr. H. B. Grigg on his chapter about Mr.S. R. Lushington, in his monumental work, ‘A Manual of the Nilagiri District in the Madras Presidency,’ and nothing better could have been said or written about the man who was remembered albeit by a few on his death anniversary today.
Born in Godmersham, Kent, Mr. Stephen Rumbold Lushington (6 May 1776 – 5 August 1868) is well known for his tenure as Governor of Madras from 1827 to 1832, and for the keen interest he showed in the development of this district.
Within thirty days of assuming office, he is known to have addressed the Ootacamund Station Committee comprising Mr. Sullivan, Dr. Haines and Captain Macpherson, regarding accommodation, establishment of bazaars, food prices, agriculture, population, and so forth.
It was based on these replies and the deliberations that followed that the government decided to establish Ootacamund as the sanitarium of Madras, a move which under Mr. Lushington’s fostering care, resulted in the opening up of the passes ; the establishment of Traveller’s Bungalows ; the opening of a 50 bedded hospital for invalids ; the formation of the native bazar at present day Charing Cross, the Ootacamund Cantonment, and the Convalescent Depot.
Indeed the Coonoor and Kundah Ghats can be considered to be highlights of his tenure. It was the opening of the former that paved the way for the township of Coonoor and the first European Bungalows being built by and for the ‘Pioneers’ engaged in road work.
Mr.Lushington is also credited with having laid the foundation stone of the St. Stephen’s church, the oldest in this district in 1829, whilst residing here and actively supervising the various works being undertaken.
Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Lushington appear to have got along quite well and agreed on most points.
According to Chronicler Mr. P.J.Vasanthan the credit for the rapid expansion of Ootacamund goes to Lushington.
It even caught the eye of the Bombay authorities, who established their own public quarters for their invalid officers at what is presently known as Bombay Castle.
Mr.Lushington left the Hills never to return in 1832, and as a final act of munificence placed the bungalows and gardens which he had purchased in the hands of the Collector of Coimbatore and the Commanding Officer of the Ootacamund Cantonment, for use by ‘subordinate ranks of the service.’
Dr.Vasanthan lamented that very few of the present residents of this hill station are aware of the debt they owe to Mr.Lushington who was this district’s illustrious, enlightened and early benefactor.He had introduced Europe into Asia.