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A tribute to creator of Ooty Botanical Garden

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Enduring love: The Assistant Director of Horticulture, M. Prakasam, laying a wreath on the grave of McIvor at the St. Stephens Church in Udhagamandalam on Monday. —
Enduring love: The Assistant Director of Horticulture, M. Prakasam, laying a wreath on the grave of McIvor at the St. Stephens Church in Udhagamandalam on Monday. —

D. Radhakrishnan

Udhagamandalam: Led by M. Prakasam, Assistant Director of Horticulture in-charge of the Government Botanical Garden (GBG), a motley group of people visited the Saint Stephens Church, near the Collectorate, here on Monday.

They stood around a tomb stone in the upper part of the cemetery attached to the church and recalled with pride and gratification the achievements of the person who lay underneath.

The grave was that of William Graham McIvor, the architect of the internationally renowned GBG and the occasion was his death anniversary. Only a couple of days earlier, it had come to be known, thanks to the efforts of the Kotagiri-based Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC) that McIvor had been buried near the Saint Stephens Church.

With Mr. Prakasam laying a wreath and the Presbyter of the Church Rev. B. Jerome offering a prayer, the services rendered by McIvor, despite lack of facilities and hostile weather, terrain etc were recalled.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Prakasam said that he would cherish lifelong the opportunity provided to him to acknowledge with flowers the contribution of McIvor in creating the most popular tourist attraction in the Blue Mountains.

The Director, NDC, Dharmalingam Venugopal, hoped that those in charge of the garden would install a marble plaque at a suitable place to acknowledge McIvors role in enhancing the prestige of this hill station by creating such a garden.

The GBG came into being over about 55 acres thanks to the encouragement of the then Governor of Madras the Marquis of Tweeddale and the skill and dedication McIvor, a gardener who was brought from the Kew Gardens near London. Arriving in 1848, he converted a dense jungle into a fascinating garden. In the process both horticulture and botany received a huge boost.

Prior to his arrival a part of what is now the garden was used by the English residents to grow European fruits and vegetables.

McIvor recommended the introduction of various useful trees, shrubs, herbs etc from different parts of the world.

Both horticulture and botany received a huge boost when the Ootacamund Government Botanical Gardens were formed.

In the early years the garden concentrated on expanding the ongoing efforts of the Nilgiri residents in growing European fruits and vegetables.

McIvor recommended the introduction of various useful trees, shrubs, herbs etc from other countries.

He also brought out many publications for promoting horticulture. The distinction of first carrying out experiments in tea inside the garden also went to McIvor.

McIvor is also credited with the introduction of cinchona in the Nilgiris and in 1861 he was given additional charge of the cinchona plantations of the Government.

Born in Dollar, Clackmannan, Scotland, in 1825 McIvor began working as a gardener at Kew in 1845 before being sent to India in 1848 at the age of 23.

He died at the age of 53 on June 8, 1876.

Governor Charles Trevelyan, in a tribute to McIvor in 1859, wrote: He deserves great credit for the manner in which he has laid the garden outIt has been formed from the commencement by McIvor with great industry and artistic skill out of a rude ravine.

Mclvor, for his part, never forgot the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, and regularly sent it not only botanical information about the flora of the Nilgiris but also, over the years, 54 species of plants found in the Blue Mountains.

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