COONOOR: As the country gears to celebrate the ‘National Cooperative Week’ beginning from Wednesday, only a few in the present era knew that for Sir Frederic Nicholson, known as ‘Father of the Cooperative Movement’ in the country, Coonoor hills was his home where he lived for three decades after retirement, and died there.
The Nilgiri Documentation Centre (NDC) here remembers the contribution of this tall order bureaucrat of British era. Detailing this, Director of NDC, D.Venugopal, said, the Madras famine of 1876 devastated the Madras Presidency killing an estimated 10 million people and plunging the entire farming community into large debts.
The government took a number of steps including setting up a Famine Commission. In 1892, the Governor of Madras, Lord Wenlock, directed Sir Frederic Nicholson, then Collector of Madras, to study the problems of farmers. Nicholson, who was earlier the Collector of Tirunelveli, was considered an expert on agrarian economy in the Madras Presidency.
The report took five years of research and writing, and was finally published in 1895 which paved the way for the ‘Cooperative movement’. By 1904, cooperative agricultural credit societies and cooperative banks were to be established in many districts on the lines which existed in Germany and Italy.
Sir Frederic Nicholson was hailed as the pioneer of the cooperative movement in India, he noted. Sir Frederic Nicholson was also the ‘Father of Fisheries’ in the Madras presidency. Nicholson sent proposals to the government for the initiation of a small ‘Bureau of Fisheries’ for Madras with the aim of increasing fish production, promotion of fish-based industries and improvement of socio-economic conditions of fishermen.
By establishing a ‘Bureau of Fisheries in 1907’, the Madras Presidency became the pioneer in India.
Sir Frederick Nicholson, was born in 1846 in the UK and joined the I.C.S. in Madras in 1869. He served as Collector of Tirunelveli, Madras and Coimbatore. He was the author of the ‘District Manual of Coimbatore’.
After retirement in 1904, Nicholson lived in Coonoor with his family. His family stayed in ‘Surrendon’ which is now the guest house of the ‘Salvation Army’.
Nicholson was a member of the century-old ‘Coonoor Urban Cooperative Bank’ and remained active in local activities. He died on 18-6-1936 at age 90, and was buried in the ‘Tiger Hill’ cemetery at Coonoor, noted Venugopal, and wanted that a suitable memorial be erected for Sir Nicholson, at Coonoor.