In 1819, two members of the Madras Civil Service gave the Government a scene of magnificence which their wondering eyes beheld. The place was Neilgherries, so long having escaped notice. Awakened to a sense of the blessings of an asylum within reach to which the communities might resort to “with every probability of advantage and recovery”, it eventually led to the district becoming the Sanatorium of the Presidency of Madras. It was brought under Coimbatore district.
Years hence, the district had grown rapidly in population, importance and popularity. The native population had advanced in numbers and wealth. In August 1868, it was separated altogether from Coimbatore. Mr. J.W.Breeks took over the administration as the first Commissioner of the Nilgiris. (On his death a memorial to him took the form of Breeks Memorial School). In the administrative history of the district, the year 1882 is an important one since the district got a Collector as its district head, on par with other districts.
The Collectorate building was erected in 1866 at a cost of Rs.44,820. Before this, the Public Offices were stationed in the present Head Post Office. In 1902, the upper storey was added at a cost of Rs.19,685.
Some years prior to 1856, it was the practice that each official had a flag denoting when he was in office that was hoisted when he arrived there, and brought down when he left. The red and white (stripes) denoted the presence of the Commissioner and the blue and yellow (quartered) the Assistant Commissioner. In post-independence days, the white ambassador car with a red light denoted the presence of the Collector.
Before the Commissioner and Collector it was the Commandant of Hills who ‘lent a ready ear’ to public grievances. This is what Baikie chronicles of Com. Pauletto Cameron: “He is equally respected and admired for his urbane and gentlemanly deportment towards all classes of society and his equanimity of temper when loaded with multifarious and conflicting duties imposed upon him, occupying him from earliest dawn to the close of day, will merit the universal approbation he enjoys…”
The Collectorate is the centre of protection and guardianship of the people of the district.
Historically, it was a Collector who sent his assistants to discover the district and to establish its headquarters. He discerned the ‘capabilities of a tract of country which is luxuriant and salubrious to make it the Summer Secretariat’. This was John Sullivan. He was the Collector of Coimbatore.
The rest is history.
- R Kamala