Ooty's founder remembered


Udhagamandalam: January 16, 2007 was the 149th death anniversary of John Sullivan, the famed founder of Udhagamandalam.

Though the day passed without anything significant being done to pay homage to the Englishman who had toiled to put the Nilgiris on the road to progress, some remembered him in silence.


Mr. Sullivan, who was the Collector of Coimbatore (to which the Nilgiris belonged then) between 1815 and 1830, worked for the economic welfare of the Nilgiris and for developing Udhagamandalam into a hill station.

He first came in 1819 and camped at Dimhatty near Kotagiri. It was love at first sight.

The healthiness of the climate in the hills so captivated him that he made a strong case to the East India Company to make the Nilgiris a sanitorium for sick European troops in India. The recommendation was accepted and in 1827 the sanitorium was set up.

A view of long time residents here is that the people of the Nilgiris owe a lifetime's debt of gratitude to Mr.Sullivan for the far-reaching changes he introduced in the agricultural economy.

He introduced vegetables like potato, beetroot, turnip, raddish and cabbage besides new varieties of oats, wheat and barley, besides fruits like strawberry, peach and apple.

Flowers and trees including laburnum, spraxis, roses, oak hemp and flax came to the Nilgiris thanks to him.

Tea cultivation

He also suggested the suitability of the Nilgiris for cultivating tea.

He opened the first school in the Nilgiris in the Badaga village of Denadu around 1820. He created the Ooty lake.

He retired in 1841 and returned to England where he died on January 16, 1858. His birthday is not known.

While his wife and daughter are buried at the Saint Stephen's Church here, his son is buried at the Saint Thomas Church.


His Dimhatty (now Kannerimukku) camp has been renovated and an oak tree that he planted near the Stone House (now Government Arts College) in Ooty in 1823 still survives.

His admirers feel that steps should be taken to preserve the tree and his efforts to develop this hill station should be acknowledged in an appropriate manner, preferably by putting up a memorial at a suitable place.

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