In connection with the Madras Day/Week events, I went to a heritage walk on “Marshalls Road (Rukmini Lakshmipathy Salai), Egmore” conducted by Ms. Sudha Umashanker.
First we visited the Willingdon – Ladies Recreation Club which once occupied many acres in and around Raja Muthiah Hall, and is still functioning in a building behind it. The Willingdon was established in 1911 by Lady Carmichael, the then Governor’s wife. Opposite to Raja Muthiah Hall is the Mayor Sundarrao Naidu park, established more than 50 years ago.
The Marshalls Road in Egmore was renamed as Rani Lakshmipathy Road to honor the freedom fighter and the first woman Health Minister of Madras Presidency. Since we were joined by a few of her family members in the walk, we got to know some interesting info, including that Rani Lakshmipathy is the mother of Ramamurthy – the pioneer neurosurgeon of India.
The Rajarathnam Stadium is an important landmark on this road in Egmore. It was established in the ’50s and is named after the then IG who was an enthusiastic sports person. This ground is used by the police for their parades and by schools for conducting sports day/events. I remember participating in a couple of sports day events in this stadium almost 25 years back! Opposite this stadium was the first AIR Madras station – East Nook, established in 1938.
Next we visited the Second Oldest Eye Infirmary in the world – Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, established in 1819. This hospital was initially in Royapettah but later shifted to the current location in 1894. The Lady Lawley ward, shown in the first photo, along with the other buildings are heritage buildings. The hospital receives 700-1000 patients per day now, and offers MS/PG courses in Ophthalmology. There is a 24×7 Eye bank here.
The first eye bank was setup here (1948), the first cornea transplant was performed here, the virus that causes ‘Madras Eye’ was identified here, among other firsts.
There is an Elliot’s (Eye) Museum within this campus. Public and Doctors are allowed to visit, but with prior permission. This museum houses many old case histories, specimens, models, instruments, etc. connected to eye diseases and treatment.
Next we visited St. Anthony’s Church, also a heritage building. This was initially established as a Parrish in 1873 and then as a Church in 1921. It is named after St. Anthony – a Portuguese Priest, and is modeled on the lines of St. Anthony’s Church, Padwah, Italy.
Next to this building is the St. Anthony Anglo-Indian School started by the Church in 1917 as a Primary School. Later, they sought the help of Vepery Sisters to maintain and develop it into a full-fledged school. This is one of the oldest educational institutions in Chennai.