Descendants of John Sullivan, founder of Udhagamandalam, to take part in Nilgiris bicentenary celebrations

Oriel Sullivan and Jocelyn Mary Smith will arrive in Udhagamandalam on May 18; several generations of their ancestors served in the colonial government in T.N. and were responsible for a number of development measures

May 15, 2023 02:56 pm | Updated 04:39 pm IST - COIMBATORE

John Sullivan. File

John Sullivan. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Oriel Sullivan and Jocelyn Mary Smith, fifth-generation descendants of John Sullivan, the founder of Udhagamandalam and modern Nilgiris, have been invited by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. M.K. Stalin to take part in the bicentenary celebrations of the Nilgiris. They will arrive in Udhagamandalam on the evening of May 18, 2023.

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Ms. Sullivan is a professor of sociology of gender at University College London, having previously been a professor at the University of Oxford.  Ms. Smith is a teacher, social worker and yoga expert.

The Sullivan sisters carry a legacy of six generations of their family’s goodwill and involvement in the development and welfare of Tamil Nadu and the Nilgiris., says D. Venugopal of the Nilgiris Documentation Centre. 

The Sullivan family’s connection to T.N.

Laurence Sullivan, a kinsman of theirs, who was the chairman of the Board of Director of the East India Company twice, was responsible for changing the aggressive policies of the company and making it more humane. He had served, and later married, in Bombay. He recommended John Sullivan and his two brothers to the Madras Civil Service of the East India Company. Sullivan was a Resident at the court of Raja Serfoji at Tanjore. He started the first batch of English-medium schools around Tanjore, which ultimately led to English being made the language of education and administration throughout India.

His son, John Sullivan, founded Udhagamandalam and built a modern Nilgiris. He also introduced the Chitta, Patta system of land ownership. He introduced tea and English vegetables in the district.

John Sullivan’s son Henry Edward Sullivan, was also a distinguished member of the Madras Civil Service, having served as Collector of Coimbatore for some time. He played a key role in tackling the Madras famine of 1870 which killed crores of people in the presidency. It was on his recommendation that the departments of forestry, fisheries and cooperation were established. The public distribution system too, was his contribution.

Henry Edward‘s son Henry Ethelwyn Sullivan served in the Indian Police Service and was a Superintendent of Police in Cuddalore. He died in 1940. With him the Sullivans’ connection with Tamil Nadu ended.

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