John Sullivan the founder of modern Nilgiris - the government should honor him with a permanent memorial

John Sullivan, founder of Nilgiris and

During the colonial rule both under the English company and later under the Raj after 1858 the Europeans, being adventurous as they were,  discovered lots of  hill resorts to take refuge from hot winds and searing heat on the plans in the summer season. Over a period of time they discovered as many as  65 hill station, invariably most of them were in the Sub Himalayan hill of northern states.  Attracted by the  comfortable climatic conditions and  vast tracks of unexplored,  diverse  and green wooded areas, the British  began  building sanatoriums for the ailing people from the army, military  stations to train cadets in different terrains, schools for their children and summer houses to relax with their families.  In 1864, Shimla (now the capital of the Himachal Pradesh) was declared as the summer capital of British India. This place was very much loved by Lord Curzon, builder of  the  Victoria Memorial, a marble edifice in Kolkata. 

Ooty hill station, TN and the narrow gauge train.

Except the residents of Nilgiris District, people from rest of Tamil Nadu and other states may not be aware that  the Nilgiris hills and Ooty town  were first discovered by John Sullivan, then the District Collector of Coimbatore.  Ooty is one of 65 hill stations established across India by the British. To be on the  hills under the cool shadows of the trees  in the summer recess gave the Europeans  a big relief from the  scorching sun.  Across India Ooty was known as “the queen of the hill stations” set  at  an elevation of  over 7000 feet above the MSL in the midst of  luxuriant forests, tea and coffee. plantations. 

Two years ago  231st birth anniversary of John Sullivan, the founder of Modern  Nilgiris hills  was celebrated  on 16th June  2019 by the district administration. The officials led by the Collector Ms. Divya paid homage at the Sullivan Memorial at Kenneri Mukku village, Kotagiri.   After garlanding the statue, the collector paid a rich tribute to him. 

statue of John Sullivan, founder of Nilgiris and

Above image: The bust of John Sullivan, the founder of modern Nilgiris in Ooty.  Having joined the East India Company in 1804 in Madras  as a writer in 1807, he  was promoted as an  assistant to the chief secretary in the  political and foreign department. Two years later he was posted as  the Resident at Mysore.  Before becoming collector of Coimbatore in 1815, he had a brief stint in Chingalput as the District Collector for a year. He held the post in Coimbatore  till  1830. In 1835, he became a senior member of board of revenue. Subsequently, in 1841 he retuned to England after  death of his wife Henrietta (he married her in 1820) and one of his children in Ooty (both were buried there). He died in London  on January 16, 1855.  One of his  sons Henry Edward Sullivan became collector of Coimbatore in 1869..........,,,,,,,,,,

The officials of the   Nilgiris  Documentation Center (NDC) on the occasion of his birth anniversary  availed  themselves of the opportunity of  requesting the  the Governor's intervention to set up a permanent  official memorial for Sullivan at Ooty in the form of a museum on his contribution to Nilgiris and his life so that the youngsters  could take inspiration from his biography.  

Location. ooty, Tamil Nadu state.

Sullivan took up the job of  the District collector of Coimbatore  in 1815,  and 4 years later  on 2 January  1819 he began taking steps to undertake a reconnaissance survey of the then unknown Nilgiri hills after getting necessary permission and  official orders  from the English company in Madras. He was always inquisitive and ready to face challenges in pursuit of exploration of near-by areas.  Soon he wrote to the EIC's office in Madras  informing them about the unexplored Nilgiris hills and the prevalence of cool and congenial weather quite  reminiscent of the English country side.  He also hinted about the other potentials of that place. 

Once on the hill, the serene beauty and the pleasant climate attracted his attention and in 1822 he bought a piece of land from the local tribes Todas and built a stone house for him and his family. Today it is the oldest building  ever built by an European in the town he founded at “Ootacamund”(shortened to Ooty). In the early stages the British used this place for convalesce and later as a summer resort.  

Ooty lake, Nilgiris, TN.

His discovery of Ooty and his subsequent stay up on the hill made him an immortal figure. The Ooty lake owes its origin to him. Between 1823 and 1825  he developed the Ooty lake, a   lively tourist spot; it stretches 2.5-km-long body of water, hedged by beautiful trees on the far side.  The Europeans started the golf club and  gymkhanas  and in 1941 the Ootacamund Club came up.

Ryotwari System introduced by Thomas

The NDC of the district administration in 2019  made references to two important  lasting legacies of  John  Sullivan -  One is the Ryotwari system which is now an integral part  of Indian agriculture. it was introduced by Thomas Munroe in Madras, Assam  and other places and Sullivan was an ardent supporter of this system.   The other one being Ooty, the first hill station of the entire British empire.  

NDC also suggested  that the life of Sullivan could be entered into the school text book so that students will get to know him and  his vital role in Nilgiris. The  memorandum also made a request that the Indian postal department could come out with a postal stamp in his honor which he deserves. Because the discovery of Ooty was his pioneering  singular achievement  despite odds.  He not only developed the economy of this region but also the  welfare of the Tribal population.  On his early arrival, the tribes were of great help to him.  Keenly interested in the tribal welfare of  Todas, he specifically made a request to the English company  to respect their way of life, belief and tradition and the development  in Nilgiris should not be at cost of  uprooting the tribal community.

Sullivan  was personally responsible for the promotion and growth  of horticulture and introduction of western vegetable plants on the hills of Nilgiris.  He indirectly opened the doors for tourism in this part and and the hidden potential of tea and coffee plantations on the hills under suitable climatic conditions. In the hot summer seasons people in thousands make a beeline to Ooty  to escape from the

.ooty tea plantation.

Oldest tea factory, Munnar 1880.

unbearable hot summer. Besides  he brought to light the potential  of hydroelectric power production in this part.  For more than two centuries, the Nigiris tea (introduced in 1835)  and coffee have been famous in many parts of India and the world.  The Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (KDHP), tea estate factory which was  owned by Tata Tea plantation, Munnar  dates back  to 1880. 


Sullivan's grave in the UK.

Above image: The grave of John Sullivan, the then District Collector of Coimbatore, TN and the founder of the Nilgiris Hills and summer hill station Ooty  at St. Laurence Church,  Upton near Heathrow airport in the UK,