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Presidency's feeder

S. MUTHIAH


IT'S ANNIVERSARY time in the city this month, with several well-known institutions beginning their celebrations. One of them celebrated its centenary in 1952 and so is a bit tardy in celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. But better late than never when recalling your past. And I'm glad that that's exactly what The Hindu Higher Secondary School on Big Street, Triplicane, plans to do.

The fact is the beginnings of that venerable institution are lost in the mists of the past. A Dravida Patasala for Tamil boys and a Hindu Andhra Balura Patasala for Telugu boys are spoken of as existing in the area in 1852. Amalgamated in 1860, they became The Triplicane Andhra Dravida Balura Patasala, which in 1873 was re-named The Triplicane Anglo-Vernacular High School. For all its Tamil and Telugu roots, English is what was stressed by M.A. Singarachariar, Head Cashier of the Bank of Madras (one-third of the roots of the SBI) who was co-opted as the Secretary-Treasurer of the school in 1869 to pull the institution out of the dumps, when it was down to 48 students and a Rs. 80 deficit. And pull it out he did.

It was in 1897 that the core of the red brick school building on Big Street — then Viraragava Mudali Street — was inaugurated. That great builder of public buildings in Madras, Namberumal Chetty, did the Rs. 57,000 work on a "no profit" basis. The following year, the school changed its name yet again and became known, as it is today, except for the upgradation, The Hindu High School. A two-floored additional construction converted an `L'-shaped building into a `T'-shaped one in 1906. And two years later, the driving force behind all this growth, much of it funded by himself, Singarachariar, passed away. But by now the school had sunk firm roots — and over the next two decades was to grow considerably with acquisition of new properties.

The Presidencian in 1892, in its first issue said, "Presidency College had one well-known feeder to it. It was the Triplicane Anglo-Vernacular High School... founded and managed by a few generous and public-spirited Hindu gentlemen, among whom some well-known Mandayam Iyengars of Mysore figured prominently. Its strong points were discipline and splendid teaching. Dr. Duncan owned publicly to a great predilection for the admission into his College of boys from this institution... `they are the purest gems of which this College has always been proud'." Dr. David Duncan was Principal of Presidency College in those days when it was the premier college in the South. He went on to become Director of Public Instruction in which capacity he, in 1895, laid the foundation stone for the School's first permanent building which stands to this day. It was a building designed by Henry Irwin.

That great teacher tradition in the Triplicane School was thanks to the leadership headmasters provided. Those founding fathers of The Hindu, M. Veeraraghavachariar and G. Subramania Aiyar, began their careers here as teachers. The latter went on to be Headmaster before starting the newspaper. A few years later, in the first years of the 20th Century, V. Srinivasa Sastriar was to become its Headmaster and during his seven years left a memorable stamp on the institute. P.A. Subramania Iyer built on this from 1916 to 1938.

Of Sastriar a student in later years wrote, "His command of the English language was admirable and was the envy of one and all. He held us spellbound by the mellifluous flow of his language. He took pains to explain idiom and grammar. Sometimes he took a whole hour to explain an obscure grammatical point... He made his pupils feel unconsciously but surely attached to the characters he discussed." What was said of Sastriar could have been said of any teacher at Triplicane High of that era. That's a memorable reputation the teachers of today are heir to.

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