Hidden histories Metroplus

The helping hand of M.G. Arogyaswamy Pillai

The Moses Gnanabaranam Eye Hospital.  

David Pillai was associated with the East India Company and he later became a tutor to the Raja of Thanjavur. Subsequently he became one of the ministers of the ruler. His descendent was Rao Bahadur M.G.Arogyaswamy Pillai (1857 -1929 ), a First Grade Pleader at Coimbatore whose father was Moses Gnanabaranam Pillai. Moses Gnanabaranam began his legal career at Messrs Boyson. He died in 1891, and his son Arogyaswamy (MGA) matriculated from Coimbatore in 1875 and graduated from Presidency College in 1880. He worked as a Sub Registrar for some time before taking up legal practice.

MGA became a member of the Municipal Council and was both Vice Chairman (1896 - 1899) and Chairman ( 1913 - 1916 ) of the Municipality. It was during his tenure that much attention was paid to hygiene and sanitation. He was the Secretary of the Coronation Park and also spearheaded the Victoria Town Hall Committee. He was a philanthropist and his contributions included, a ward in memory of his father at the Municipal Hospital in Erode, a substantial sum for the YMCA Auditorium, help for students who were in need of food, clothing and money, a library at the London Mission School (Now CSI Boys School), a Choultry for Indian Christians at Erode, TELC Indian Christian students Hostel and so on. He was also instrumental in building the Church opposite St.Francis Convent on Trichy Road.

Arogyaswamy was an active member of the Cosmopolitan Club, Vice President and President of the local banks Saswatha Nidhi and Dhanalakshmi Nidhi, member of the SPCA, President of the Coimbatore YMCA, Chairman of the City Co operative Bank, President of the Indian National Missionary Society, a moral instructor to the convicts in the Coimbatore jail, Member and Secretary of the College Council, etc.

He owned several houses and bungalows all around the city with a summer house at Kuniamuthur. MGA decided to build a hospital in memory of his father and the Moses Gnanabaranam Eye Hospital came into being in 1928 with the freedom fighter Dr.Gurupatham at its helm. Arogyaswamy Pillai gave away his bungalow, Arogya Vilas, opposite St.Michaels School on Big Bazaar Street for the Hospital. He also donated 10 acres in Podanur for the hospital.

Senior Rotarian Dr. Manohar David who has been associated with this service institution, says about it: “Those days, Dr.Gurupatham took the guidance of Dr.F.Kugelberg from Europe and worked tirelessly day and night. His wife was like Florence Nightingale! In the absence of electricity the good doctor used petromax lamps. Once they found several snakes on the premises and he stayed with the patients until the snakes were driven away. Sir Robert and Frederick Stanes gave Rs.250 annually to the hospital. C.S.Rathinasabapathy ensured that the Municipality gave Rs.1,500 annually. The other donors included T.A.Ramalingam Chettiar, Verivada Chettiar, V.C.Vellingiri Gounder, Pattagar of Palayakottai and Advocate Venkatarama Iyer who gave away all the windows and doors made for his new house. F.J.Stanes, A.T.Devaraja Mudaliar, S.E.Narayanan and Santhappa Pillai visited villages along with Dr.Gurupatham to treat patients. It was at that time that Dr.Pitchai Robert was recognized and he went on to do a lot of good work. The hospital had an early average of 350 out patients per day."

“Moses Gnanabaranam and his son Rao Bahadur M.G.Arogyaswamy Pillai perhaps owned thousands of acres of land and enormous urban property. However, MGA gave away much of his wealth for charity. His urge to help people benefited all the members of the society of his times and till now,” states his descendant Jacob Manoj Rajkumar of M.S.Manickam & Co.

Rajesh is passionate about his city and is always looking for ways of documenting its history.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 9:20:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-helping-hand-of-mg-arogyaswamy-pillai/article7434227.ece

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