Renaming of Lady Willingdon educational institutions of Chennai - a contentious issue!

With respect to institutions named after Lady Willingdon in Chennai, there was a discussion and debate over retaining the name Lady Willingdon, wife of the then Governor of Madras Lord Willingdon who came to Madras after having served as the Governor of Bombay Presidency. Lord Willingdon who  had a  successful career of more than 23 years in the area of administration.

Lady Willingdon Training School, Lady Willingdon Ladies’ Recreation club and willington Nursing home were named after her who arrived in Madras in 1919. They are functioning on a vast campus comprising 16 acres of prime land once owned by C,V Singaravelar, a freedom fighter, famous trade unionist and social worker promoting class-less 

The Madras High Court observed: ....famous Marchioness (Lady Willingdon) is now no more than a landmark in the country's oldest corporation . The court was in favor of dropping her name 

Efforts were on to rename Lady Willingdon Institute of Advanced study training overlooking  Marina after C,V Singaravelar original owner and freedom fighter

Lady Willingdon

Above image: Marie Adelaide Freeman-Thomas, Marchioness of Willingdon, (24 March 1875 – 30 January 1960)? was the daughter of Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl Brassey. On 20 July 1892, she married Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon (12 September 1866 – 12 August 1941), the future Governor General of Canada and Governor of Bombay and Madras and Viceroy of India........... ..

Lord Willingdon

Above image: Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon (12 September 1866 – 12 August 1941);  the Earl of Willingdon between 1931 and 1936 - Gov. of Bombay and Madras,& Viceroy of India

The couple who were popular in the colonial time, the latter being a social worker working for women's empowerment, became a subject of debate for several reasons.

01.  One Sister R.S. Subbulakshmi, a social worker   started an exclusive home and training institute /school for widows and destitute women on the Ice house campus.It was deliberately shifted to the present site and renamed as  Lady Willingdon School and later college and the Lady Willingdon Institute of Advanced Study in Education

02. The vast campus covering  16 acre of prime property, was owned by  M. Singaravelar, a trade unionist and patriot;  sprawling area from Vivekanandar Illam up to the end of the college campus. 

03. The British govt.  under the administration of Willingdon  seized the land from Singaravelar. Reason: He was a trade unionist working against the interest of Binny and Mills. Being a patriot he never failed to fund the freedom fighters  and supported their clarion call for freedom from the british yoke. 

04. The institutions named after lady Willingdon came up on the  estate of Singaravelar  which is   administered by the high court’s administrator general and official trustee (AG&OT) .

05. “Lord Willingdon was not an effective administrator and spent much of his time with the high strata of the society but he enjoyed top positions in the empire from governor to viceroy of India and Gov. gen of Canada. 

06. Acceding to Chelliah sr. advocate, Chennai. Gov. Willingdon was against the idea of discussing equality with freedom. It appears to him 'freedom to natives is an anathema.'   

07. During his reign as the Viceroy of India  Civil Disobedience Movement on 4 January 1932 became a serious issue for him.  He outlawed the Congress, rounded up all members including Gandhiji  of the Working Committee and the Provincial Committees and put them behind the bar,

08, When part of Maharashtra - Kheda region was reeling under famine like condition Gov. Willingdon not only forced the farmers to pay  taxes but hiked it by 27%. This forced Gandhiji and others like Patel to go for Satyagraha (1918).

09. In 1921 over 10,000 workers in the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills of Madras city organised for six months a general strike.The  non-cooperation movement was on and it created two factions and riots. Gov. Willingdon had to quell it with police intervention. 

10. Hailing from a rich aristocratic family in England, both Willingdon and his wife were status and wealth conscious. As for the first lady, she  was sympathetic to the plight of Indian women and at the same time she had a weakness for lovely things like jewelry   possessed by others, be they Indian Maharajahs or filthy rich people. Apart, she believed in self promotion. In 1920 she founded a Nursing Home for women in Chennai  and  expected the donors to name it after her.,_1st_Marquess_of_Willingdon