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Friday, August 22, 2014

Madras turns 375 .... Nathaniel Higginson, the first Mayor..

Have read about Terry Alderman (Cricketer) – only in trying to post something about Chennai 375, read more about Alderman as a titular post.  Today, 22nd August is a very important day for the city as it marks the 375th year of the oldest city .  Chennai aka Madras was founded  on August 22, 1639- some voluntary Organisations have already  begun celebrating Madras Week from Sunday by dedicating seven days to the history, culture and traditions of the city.

Chennai, then Madras was born when a small piece of land was handed over by the local Nayak rulers to the British East India Company.  One of the most important events during the Governorship of Yale was the institution of a Mayor and Corporation for the City of Madras. The important of the creation of a Corporation of Madras, which is the earliest of its kind in British India.  In Sept. 1688, the Corporation of Chennai  was inaugurated - Nathaniel Higginson, an English politician and a scion of the Higginson family of Salem, Massachusetts  was the first Mayor of Madras.

The history of Madras (modern day Chennai – olden Madraspatnam) is one of three centuries of growth and tons of historic significance, though no big battles were fought here.  Obviously, the present day expanded City and Greater city had existed before in the shape of scattered villages and settlements – but not under a common name or rule. Along the coast, people moved in Coehrane’s canal, then known as North river and Coovum river – these with exception of Adyar river are no longer navigable rivers – more of stagnant pools of water at places. 

Many places which were referred to by colonial names, have slowly faded into oblivion – example being Geroge Town area. Streets like Godown street which perhaps had its origin from the bulk traders have remained more or less the same. The colonial rule spread with the obtaining of small villages, later acquisitioning other areas in the vicinity. 

An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law.  The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, literally meaning "elder man", and was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires. The Court of Aldermen is an elected body forming part of the City of London Corporation. The Court of Aldermen is made up of the twenty five aldermen of the City of London, presided over by the Lord Mayor (who is one of the aldermen).

The charter of George I in Sept 1726 provided for the development of the town anciently called Chinapatnam and Fort St. George.  A Body Corporate was accordingly authorised to consist of a Mayor and nine Aldermen, of whom Mayor and not less than 7 Aldermen were to be natural born  subjects of British.  The Mayor and aldermen were to be a Court of record authorised to try all civil suits.   Elihu Yale  was the Governor of the East India Company settlement in Fort St. George, at Madras  under whose regime,  Corporation for the city and Mayor to head the same were instituted. The idea of a Municipal Government of Madras was reportedly begotten from the Dutch Government in the East Indies.

On the appointed date, 29th September 1688, the Corporation was inaugurated with all due solemnity, the Mayor and others taking their respective oaths.  Nathaniel Higginson (1652 –1708) was an English politician and a scion of the Higginson family of Salem, Massachusetts served as the first Mayor of Madras, and later as the President of the colony from 1692 to 1698. Mr. Higginson served only six months as Mayor and resigned.

Terence Michael Alderman, the right handed medium pacer from Perth played with distinction for a while.  He played in 41 Tests and 65 ODIs taking 170 and 88 wickets respectively.  In 1989, he had Graham Gooch as his bunny repeatedly removing him cheaply.  He was out of the Aussie team twice, first due to a shoulder injury sustained in an invasion and once a rebel tour to South Africa in 1985.  That squad of 16 had John Dyson, Rodney Hogg, Kim Hughes, Rod McCurdy, Carl Rackemann, Steve Rixon and Graham Yallop.  During that apartheid time, those tourers earned much more than what their colleagues did in regular games.  In 1981, sharing the new ball with Dennis Lillee, Alderman took 42 wickets in the 6 test series. 

The building that you see at the start of the Post is – ‘Public Works Department’ (PWD) building in Beach Road.  It  is the oldest department in Tamil Nadu, founded during British Raj during 1800. It became a government body in 1858.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd Aug 2014.

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