Creator of Ooty Gardens: Hugh Cleghorn

Huge Francis Clarke Cleghorn, is considered as the Father of Indian Forestry.

He made an important contribution to Ooty by appointing McIvor to create the Botanical Gardens. McIvor was by nature quarrelsome, assuming and financially  shrewd and speculative. Yet Cleghorn appointed him over others; and quite rightly so as history proved later.)     

Huge Francis Clarke Cleghorn was born in Madras, but came to Scotland at the age of four to be raised by his aunts and grandfather.  His schooling was at the High School of Edinburgh and Madras Academy, followed by studies at the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he studied medicine. In 1842 he joined the East India Company as an Assistant Surgeon and returned to Madras. Illness forced Cleghorn back to Britain in 1848, where he stayed for three years, during which he wrote his important report for the British Association on the effects of tropical deforestation, and worked on Indian economic products for the Great Exhibition of 1851. After returning to Madras in 1851 he taught botany and materia medica at the Medical College and was secretary of the Agri-Horticultural Society.

In 1855 he was appointed by Lord Harris, Governor of Madras, to the new post of Conservator of Forests. Before leaving for a second home leave in September 1860 Cleghorn established a forest conservancy system in Madras.

After returning to India in 1861 the rest of Cleghorn’s career was largely spent working on forestry in the NW Himalayas. For a time he acted as Inspector-General of Forests and he has been considered to be the founder of Forest Conservancy in India.

On McIvor Cleghorn reported, ‘Honesty & Conciliatory manners remain grand essentials.  – Dr Wight (Robert Wight) & myself have been strong friends of McIvor and have befriended him in several difficulties, but it has been impossible to absolve him from blame in some matters, when a little suavity of speech would  have made all straight. He is now prosecuting an Officer of the Engineers in the Supreme Court’.

Considering the Herculean task of bringing a large piece of ground ( it was a bushy ravine in fact)  into order, where English experience was  of comparatively little use, and when soil, climate & situation were  entirely different,  Cleghorn recommended a younger man like McIvor whom  he described as a ‘practical Horticulturist & not a Scientific Botanist’.

Nilgiri Documentation Centre

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