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Saturday, May 1, 2021

when Trams and boats ran in Thiruvallikkeni ~ Know : ‘Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville’

The roads in Triplicane are narrow and traffic often gets struck … Big Street at places is in fact a small lane…  the road that runs from D1 Police Station in Wallajah road to D3 Police station in Ice House is – Triplicane High Road   …. Old timers would refer this to as ‘Tram road’ ….yes,  referring to a unique form of transport that existed more than 6 decades ago.

A tram (tramcar) is a rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public roads.  Tram transport in India was established by the British in the 19th  century ~  the first electric tram service was started in Madras in 1895 and went out of reckoning in 1953 in Chennai – it however, still continues to run in Kolkatta even now. The earlier trams were reportedly horse-drawn. The one that were running in Madras (as also the ones seen in Kolkatta)  run on electric and have overhead traction lines. 

The description as given by those who occasioned to travel by tram – was that they moved very slowly – sort of people can enter and get down whilst it was moving ….those perhaps were days when the life itself was leisurely paced – not the ones that you see in OMR or mad drive to Pondy in ECR – and those were the days, when you had little traffic on roads – not much of two wheelers and auto-rickshaws … more used public transport and most of them waited patiently – in fact thinking of people going by Pallavan Transport – people used to wait for a single bus on that route and would not even explore much of possibilities of going to a place with better connectivity – Beach, HighCourt, Parrys, Sowcarpet –  Central, Egmroe - Triplicane, Mylapore, T Nagar, Guindy …. some prominent places which were well connected …..

One cannot be faulted for not knowing – ‘Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville’ (1823 – 1889) and his Madras connection ! – he was   a British soldier, politician and administrator of the 19th century. He was a close friend and subordinate of Benjamin Disraeli and served as the Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1867 to 1868 and Governor of Madras from 1875 to 1880.

Brill is a village and civil parish in west Buckinghamshire, England, close to the border with Oxfordshire. Brill's name is tautological, being a combination of Brythonic and Anglo Saxon words for 'hill' (Brythonic breg and Anglo Saxon hyll).

The world's first passenger tram was the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, in Wales, UK. The Mumbles Railway Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1804, and this first horse-drawn passenger tramway started operating in 1807. It was worked by steam from 1877, and then, from 1929, by very large (106-seater) electric tramcars, until closure in 1961. The Brill Tramway, also known as the Quainton Tramway,   was a six-mile (10 km) rail line in the Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, England. It was privately built in 1871 by the 3rd Duke of Buckingham as a horse tram line to help transport goods between his lands around Wotton House and the national rail network. Lobbying from the nearby village of Brill led to its extension to Brill and conversion to passenger use in early 1872. Two locomotives were bought but trains still travelled at an average speed of 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h).

In 1883, the Duke of Buckingham planned to upgrade the route to main line standards and extend the line to Oxford, creating the shortest route between Aylesbury and Oxford. Despite the backing of the wealthy Ferdinand de Rothschild, investors were deterred by costly tunnelling. In 1888 a cheaper scheme was proposed in which the line would be built to a lower standard and avoid tunnelling. In anticipation, the line was named the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad. In 1933 the Metropolitan Railway became the Metropolitan line of London Transport. The Brill Tramway became part of the London Underground, despite Quainton Road being 40 miles (64 km) from London and not underground.   In 1935 the Brill Tramway closed. The infrastructure was dismantled and sold. 

Getting back to that man - Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville – was the , 3rd Duke of Buckingham.  Buckingham was the only son of Richard Temple-Grenville, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He joined the British Army, eventually rising to become a colonel. Buckingham entered politics, as Lord Chandos, in 1846 when he was elected unopposed from Buckinghamshire as a candidate of the Conservative  party. In March 1867, he was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies and served until December 1868. He  served as Governor of Madras from 1875 to 1880. As Governor, he handled the relief measures for the victims of the Great Famine of 1876-78.  He died on 26 March 1889 at the age of 65.

Buckingham’s tenure as  the Governor of Madras from 1875 to 1880  was plagued by deteriorating socio-economic and health conditions. In 1876, the Great Famine of 1876–78 broke out in Madras Presidency. By August 1877, the famine had spread all over the Presidency and over 18 million people were affected.  To make matters worse, the rains failed in parts of Madras and Mysore. Large quantities of grain were shipped from Bengal to Madras port, and through his efforts, famine relief was distributed to 839,000 people in the Madras districts, besides 160,000 in the Bombay Districts and 151,000 in the Mysore districts.

The Governor appealed to the principal cities of England, Scotland, Ireland and India for assistance. At Buckingham's suggestion, the Lord Mayor of London collected relief funds.  Though the famine eventually came to an end in 1878, the issue had far-reaching effects. As a part of the famine relief work, Buckingham had commenced the construction of a navigation channel between Madras city and the northern part of the Madras Presidency so that transportation of supplies to the interior in cases of emergency would be easy. More than 715,000 people were employed as labourers in Madras to assist with the relief work. Opened in 1878, this canal was named after Buckingham as Buckingham Canal. Buckingham Street in Penang, Malaysia was also named after him by the Tamil labourers who were brought there during the British colonial period.

Displeasure of the tribes of the northern part of the Presidency over the stringent taxation schemes of the British government erupted in the form of a major rebellion in 1879. The rebellion was eventually suppressed through a joint operation of the Madras police and army and the Hyderabad army, and the captured prisoners were sent to the Andamans. Many of the stringent taxation laws were repealed. Later  William Patrick Adam was appointed Governor of Madras and he succeeded Buckingham in December 1880.

The Buckingham canal so built no longer remains a canal – the waterway in which once boats ran and was a fresh water channel from Godavari basin to Marakkanam, sadly  is a stinking drain at places and a stagnant pool at places! – and here is a photo of the canal nearer  Thirumylai & Triplicane MRTS station taken a couple of years ago !! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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