Friday, March 11, 2016



Rev. Daniel Poor

It was at a dinner the other night, when someone wondered why an eminent industrialist from Madurai had gone to Madras Christian College instead of American College in Madurai, that it suddenly struck me that the American missionary presence in this part of the world is 200 years old this year, causing me to interject with a non sequitur. The American Ceylon Mission sank roots in Jaffna not long after the Rev. Daniel Poor and his wife arrived in Colombo on March 22, 1816 together with two other missionary couples and a bachelor clergyman.

Poor opened the first American­run school in this part of the world when on December 9, 1816 he opened the Common Free School, now Union College, in Tellippalai, Jaffna. Seven years later, in Vaddukkoddai, Jaffna, he established another school that was to become the renowned Jaffna College from where came the first two graduates of the University of Madras (Miscellany, August 9, 2004 and October 29, 2012).

 It was amongst the second batch of American missionaries to Jaffna that there arrived Dr. John Scudder, said to be the first medical missionary in the world. After working in Jaffna from 1820 to 1836, Scudder, the grandfather of the legendary Ida Scudder of Vellore, was moved to Madras where he established the American Madras Mission that year. He was to move to Vellore in 1841 and found the American Arcot Mission there.

 But before the move to Madras, the Revs. Levi Spaulding, Henry Hoisington and William Todd and three Jaffna Tamil students (as translators) visited Madura in January 1834 to establish the American Madura Mission. They soon established two schools there but it was left to Poor, who moved to Madura arts, culture and entertainment history TOPICS in 1835, to found 37 schools in the district, including the one that became American College, Madura. He was its first Principal. He returned to Jaffna in 1850 and died there in the cholera epidemic of 1855. On June 28, 1915, one of the finest libraries in South India, the Daniel Poor Memorial Library, was opened in his memory. Its splendid new building, opened in 1926, was funded by a grand­daughter of Poor.

 The close connections between the American Missions in Jaffna, Madura and Vellore (the Madras Mission gave way to the numerous British missions then moving in) led to the development of Kodaikanal as an important hill station (Miscellany, September 4, 2000). A connection with Madras, however, remains. The American Ceylon Mission, being a constituent of a union of congregational churches in South India, is part of the Church of South India, headquartered in Madras from 1947.


 Jesse Mitchell’s charger 

 My ever­regular correspondent in Australia, Dr. A. Raman, having seen that unique picture of the Museum Tower (Miscellany, February 29) sends me another picture — but this, though many may have seen its focus in situ in the Madras Museum, I feature because it has a story to tell. It may be considered a memorial to the man who could well be considered the founder of the Connemara Public Library, one of India’s four national libraries, Capt. Jesse Mitchell. Raman had received this picture and the one believed to be that of Jesse Mitchell as well as other information about him from Chrissy Hart whose brother had been researching their descent from Mitchell.

 Another of those Irishmen to join the East India Company’s Army, Mitchell arrived in Madras in 1829 and was immediately sent to the Pallavaram cantonment. He records an abiding memory of his first days there spent in regaining his land­legs. During those days meant for rest and recuperation, he and fellow newcomers went through “the terrible ordeal of drinking a strong dose of salts and senna every alternate day for six days, (while) formed up in line in the presence of the doctor”. On the last day “we were informed that the salt junk eaten on board for 3 months was washed clean out of us, and we were now fit for our exile in India for 21 years, when we would be entitled to a pension and allowed to go back to our mother”. They were then posted to various regiments, Mitchell being sent to join the Madras Horse Artillery in Bangalore.

 While Mitchell was seeing action in China and different parts of India, the Madras Museum was inaugurated in January 1851 with Dr. Edward Balfour in charge. It was born through the efforts of the Madras Literary Society which petitioned the East India Company in November 1843, approval being given in 1846. After being located in the upper floors of the College of Fort St. George (Egmore) it moved into the nucleus of its present premises, The Pantheon, in 1853.

Why, when Balfour retired, Mitchell was chosen to take charge of the Museum cannot be explained, unless you take into account a couple of papers he wrote, ‘On the Influence of Local Altitude on the Burning of the Fuses of Shells’ and ‘Description of a Plain or Waxed paper Process in Photography’. Whether those papers justify the explanation that he was appointed part­time supervisor of the Museum because of his interests in microscopy and Natural Science is debatable. But once he was there he did a remarkable job. He acquired a variety of small fauna, shells and fossils from foreign museums in exchange for specimens from the Madras Presidency, started a collection of old coins and medals, and added to Balfour’s Amaravati collection of sculptures. In all he added over 72,000 specimens to the Museum’s collection before he passed away in 1872. One of those specimens that he added to the Zoology Gallery was the skeleton of the horse seen in my picture today, his regimental charger.

But perhaps the most significant thing he did was write to the Government in 1860 urging it to fund a library: “A few hundred rupees, judiciously expended every year, would place before the public a library of reference that would in the course of time be an honour to the Government.” His wish was fulfilled in 1862, when Government funding enabled the opening of a small library in June that year. This library evolved into the Connemara Library. Initially the library was supervised by the Museum, but in 1939, Dr. F.H. Gravely, the last British Superintendent of the Museum, had the Library separated from the Museum, each with its own head.

 Of Mitchell, still very much a part of Madras in St. George’s Cemetery, it was said, “He had very clear ideas of the functions of Museums; first to contain as complete a collection as possible of the natural production of the country and other parts of the world, duly named and systematically arranged as a means of encouraging the study of Natural History, and secondly, to do its share in the advance of Science.” Advancement of knowledge he saw through libraries — and made it happen. That was perhaps a more memorable an achievement of his than all his splendid work for the Museum.


 Setting things straight 

 My Irish visitor Aine Edwards writes to tell me that some of my detailing in the item on Sr. Loreto (Miscellany, February 22) needs correction and she clarifies that the Little Lambs School in Perambur “is a multi­denominational school with Christian moral teaching” and that it was founded by Maria Gislen, not Sr. Loreto. Aine Edwards had volunteered at the school and was introduced by a mutual friend to Sr. Loreto of the Presentation Order who has been “based mainly in Madras”.

My correspondent, quoting Sr. Loreto, says that the names of the first Presentation nuns to arrive in Madras were not those listed by the publication with which the Irish Embassy was associated. Then citing a website of the Presentation Order they gave me two names on my list as well as Mother Frances Xavier Curran, instead of Xavier Kearney, and a Miss Josephine Fitzsimon instead of a Johanna Fitzgerald. The website does not list Ignatius Healy. I also learnt that the Kellys we both listed died of cholera, Regis in 1844 and Martha 18 months later.

 But as usual I wonder about the accuracy of some of the material on the worldwide web. This time, the site Aine Edwards refers me to, says those first nuns moved to “what was once Robert Clive’s office, now to be the first Presentation Convent in India”. I can hardly imagine either of the Clives, Robert or son Edward, having an office in Black Town or the Catholics being given space in the Fort after 1749!

The information sent to me also indicates that the Presentation Order went beyond education in India. They helped with healthcare. In 1928, they staffed the railway hospital in Golden Rock (Trichy), in 1933 they established a hospital in Theni, and they opened a hospital at Manapad on the Fisheries Coast.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015



In the year 1963 I and K. Srinivasan, a lecturer in Chemistry of the College were at NCC OTS (Officers Training School, Kamptee, near Nagpur) undergoing our pre-commission training to become NCC officers of our College. A fellow trainee from a College in North India who got to know us well during those three months was curious about how the two of us (Hindu - Brahmins) could be working in a Christian College. I had to tell him that The American College is much different from many Christian Colleges in India. Besides its location in a predominantly Muslim area - Gorippalayam - with majority of students and faculty were Hindus. I told him that we were both students of the College. A special feature in the College is the dome of the College chapel shaped almost like (in shape and size) the dome of the mosque in Goripalayam the cross replacing the crescent as the only difference. 

In the year 1952 when I was in the second year in the College many of the Heads of the Departments were non-Christians - Prof. V. Subramaniam (English), Prof. Karnega Konar (Tamil), Prof. T. Natarajan (Mathematics), Prof. N.R. Krisshnamurthy Iyer (Physics), Prof. P.S. Lakshinarayanan (Chemistry). Mr. C. R. Narayanaan (Botany), Mr. P. Vanchinathan (Hindi), Mr. Gopala Pillai (Malayalam) were the senior most or the only members of their department. 

The Vice-Principal and Professor of Logic & Psychology Prof. Devaraj G Paul, the Head of the Departments of Economics and History Prof. C I Philip and the Librarian Mr. Solomon Physical Director Mr. John S Edward were the only Christians. 

This situation changed gradually and when I retired from the College in the year 1994 I and Prof. P S Srinivasan were the only two non-Christian Heads of the Department of PG and UG Physics in the College.. 

A small digression: Prof. Karmegha Konar used to ride to the College in his chauffer driven bullock cart that used to be parked near the Faculty room. Another interesting feature about him is three generations in his family, he, his son Prof. Krishnan and grandson Prof. K..Elango had served the college in the same department. 

The PG Chemistry Department is unique in its own way: Prof. M. Lakshmanan was the first Head of the Department. After his contract period was over Prof. P S Laksshminarayan was holding fort for a short time as the Cpllege tried three others (one from overseas, two from Kerala) as Heads of Department but they all lasted for short periods. I am sorry I don't now remember their names. The position was given to Dr. Mohamed Sheriff. who held the fort as Additional Professor-in-charge of the Department till Dr. A R Venkitaraman returned from overseas. When Dr. Venkitaraman retired Prof. C B Jawhar Singh was the Head of the Department. He was followed by Dr. P M Sundaram and Prof. Narayanan. 

The Department was thus ruled by Hindus and a Muslim for more number of years than Christians! 

Why I recall these is the secular nature of the College should not be forgotten. 


A small addition: In para 2 after the name of Prof. P>S>Lakshminarayanan please add: Prof. S.R. Mallikarjunan(Commerce). 



--------------------- ---------------

 Dear VS, 

I enjoyed reading what your active mind has dug up now from American College's history to discover it to have been a Christian institution of secular virtues, secular here in a positive, not pejorative, sense. 

Since you and I joined American College in the same year (1951), we are both privy to facts of the College then and thereafter. So I hope that I can make some corrections in the facts as remembered by you: 

1) Prof. Karmega Konar had retired in 1951 and his son, Mr. K.A.Krishnan, had forthwith joined his father's Department as a Lecturer while Prof.Jothimuthu had taken over the Headship. 

2) Prof.Mallikarjunan was the Professor-in-charge of the Commerce Department. I don't find his name mentioned in your write-up. 

3) Was not Prof. K.J.Joseph the Head of Zoology when we joined in 1951? If so, his name has to be added in the second paragraph. 

4) Prof.P.S.Lakshminarayanan opted for voluntary retirement in 1959 and so was not with the College when Prof.Lakshmanan retired in 1965 or so (?). 

5) Prof.C.B.J.Singh was followed by Prof.Stanley Edward, Prof.Narayanan, Prof.A.S.Rajendran and Prof.Thomas Jeya Bose as P.G.Heads of Chemistry before Prof.P.M.Sundaram's turn came. But I understand the context for your omission of the names that I have resurrected. 

With kind regards and greetings of the season to you and Raji, 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Dear Sam: 

Please include this news in American College web page you are maintaining. Thanks. Austin as a great friend of many in the College, a great sports man and an NCC officer though the news reporter describes him as a Professor. His wife Freda was the Physical Director in LDC. VS

ராமநாதபுரம் அருகே மனைவி இறந்த சோகத்தில் கணவரும் இறந்தார். ராமநாதபுரம் சிங்காரத்தோப்பைச் சேர்ந்தவர் ஆஸ்டின் வேதமுத்து, 88. முதுகலை பட்டதாரி. மதுரை அமெரிக்கன் கல்லுாரியில் பேராசிரியராக பணியாற்றினார். 

பெங்களூரூவைச் சேர்ந்தவர் பிரிடா , 84. முதுகலை பட்டதாரி. மதுரை லேடி டோக் கல்லுாரியில் பேராசிரியையாக பணியாற்றினார். இருவரும் காதலித்து 1956 மே மாதம் ராமநாதபுரத்தில் பெற்றோர் சம்மதப்படி திருமணம் செய்து கொண்டனர். இதன்பின் பணியில் இருந்து விலகிய இருவரும் 1968ல் கனடா சென்றனர். அங்கு ஒரு பள்ளியில் இருவரும் உடற்கல்வி ஆசிரியர்களாக பணியாற்றி ஓய்வு பெற்றனர்.

2006 லிருந்து ராமநாதபுரம் அருகே பிரப்பன்வலசையில் அவரது தம்பி ஸ்டீபன் ஜெயசீலனுடன் ஆஸ்டின் தம்பதியினர் வசித்து வந்தனர். வயோதிகம் காரணமாக இருவருக்கும் உடல் நலக்குறைவு ஏற்பட்டது. இந்நிலையில் டிச., 12 இரவு 8.30 மணிக்கு பிரிடா ஆஸ்டின் இறந்தார். நேற்று காலை 8 மணிக்கு உடல் அடக்கம் செய்ய முடிவு செய்திருந்தனர்.

மனைவி இறந்த சோகத்தில் இருந்த ஆஸ்டின் வேதமுத்து டிச., 13 இரவு 8.30 மணிக்கு இறந்தார். இருவரின் உடல்களும் ராமநாதபுரத்தில் அடக்கம் செய்யப்பட்டன.ஸ்டீபன் ஜெயசீலன் கூறுகையில்,“ காதல் திருமணம் செய்துகொண்ட தம்பதியினர் இருவரும் 59 ஆண்டுகள் இணைபிரியாமல் ஒற்றுமையாக இருந்தனர். இருவருக்கும் இடையே சிறு பிரச்னைகள் கூட வந்ததில்லை. குழந்தை இல்லாத குறை ஒன்றுதான். எங்கு சென்றாலும் சேர்ந்து சென்ற அவர்கள் இறப்பிலும் பிரியாமல் சென்று விட்டனர்,”

Friday, November 27, 2015



Occasionally I get lost in my thoughts of the good old days and I feel like putting down my thoughts and sharing with friends. My recent thoughts were on the variouss (S's) at PG Physics department of America College. The write up could be of interest to many.

Letter (initial) S and P G Physics:

1. It was SJS (Principal Savarirayan) who was responsible for the ceration  of the PGP the first S

2. Dr. Riesz's arrival confirmed the starting of PGP. The South Indian tongue could not pronounce the soft z and so he was called Riess and he becomes the second S

3. Prof. E.S. Moses the Head of UG Physics at that time did not wish to associate with PGP decided to stay with UG and offer all help and support to PGP is the third S.

4. Prof. A J Harris  with strong S in his name becomes the fourth S 

5. My self known as VS became the fifth S

6. P. S. Srinivasan of UG Physics though he remained as the full back for a long time occupied the Chair as Head of PG Physics before his retirement and is the sixthS

7G. Srinivasan who joined the PG during the second year of PG Physics and later became an internationally well known astrophysicist is the seventh S 

8. When GS left for USA and he was replaced by S. Srinivasan also from Madurai College the eighth S

9. Along with SS came T S Subramamyan also from Madurai College. Though his work was mostly in UG he spent all his spare time in PG with his friend SS and worked on odd projects of Prof. RPR and is the ninth S 

10. There was a fresh recruitment after advertisement in news papers. Dr. K. Srinivasan from Annamalai University, a second Ph.D in the department next to Dr. Riesz. at the time if his recruitment became the tenth S

11. Prof. S L Dart of Claremont Colleges, Claremont, California was in Madurai on two occasions for about one year each as head of PGP when Dr Riesz was away on 
 leave/furlough. Though no one knew what his initial S meant he is the eleventh S

12. K. Santosh  Rajkuma, an old student was made an exclusive demonstrator in PGP and later served the Department of Applied Sciences becomes the twelfth S  

13. I left for USA a K.S. Srinivasan, our old student, was appointed and he became the thirteenth S

14. There was a n expansion in the department, M.Phil was introduced. J. Sethuraman who later became Dr. JS through a faculty improvement program (FIP) of UGC became the fourteenth 

15. R. Simon another old student of PGP who later became Dr. Simon through UGC FIP is the fifteenth S

16. Sudhavadani another old student joined the Department of Applied Sciences under the umbrella of PGP became the sixteenth S

17. A.S.K. Moses another old student of PGP, son of Prof. E S Moses is the seventeenth with initial in his name.

18. S. Sowmianarayanan, another old student UGP and of Madurai College was with DAS for a short time is the eighteenth S.

Looking at this one could take a bet that if one has the initial S he or she had a good chance of serving PGP in those days.

M A Samy was the only exception to this rule. It was his choice.

DPJ, CMD, JJP, GB, KSN, KVK (K V Krishnan), AN (Arulraj Navamani). JD (J.  Danrita) and few others I might  have missed are exception to the S rule. They are less than 50% of those in PGP who were covered by the S rile.

How is this study without any record in my hand? Is my memory good? With kind regards. If any name is left please forgive me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015




My friend, student, colleague 


had passed away yesterday - 
12th Aug. after a hard struggle. 

My respects to him.
Share the grief with his family & friends.