The Laidlaw Memorial School and Junior College, of St. Georges Homes, Ketti was founded in 1914 by the Late Rev. John Breeden, to provide a Home and sound liberal and general education, based on Christian principles, for children of the protestant European and Anglo-Indian Communities. It was generously endowed by the Late Sir Robert Laidlaw. The Institution began its life in Kodaikanal but moved to Ketti, its present home, in 1922.
The School is run on the lines of a Public School and provides a comprehensive, liberal education in English, for children of all communities. The emphasis is on a sound general education, on self-discipline and self-reliance. In view of the fact that a great many of the children in the School must perforce be separated from their parents for many months each year, every effort is made to give them a pleasant, comfortable and affectionate scholastic environment.
Without departing from the original aims of the School, its Constitution was amended in 1953, so as to admit to its portals children of all communities, from all parts of the country and indeed, of the world, as Boarders paying full fees.
Though the institution is essentially residential and co-educational, it also takes in a limited number of day-scholars.
Religious observances and instruction in the School are in accordance with the Protestant Christian tenets. However, there is provision for Roman Catholic worship, and exemption from worship and religious instruction for those desiring it (except for the Morning Assembly and School functions). Moral, as distinct from religious instruction, is compulsory.
It was in the year 1910, that the Rev. J. Breeden, a Missionary Worker, first thought of the establishment of a Home for Orphan and Destitute Anglo-Indian children in South India.
It was in October 1910, that the Rev. Breeden addressed the Madras Missionary Conference in Madras, and at the meeting, the first appeal for the establishment of St. Georges Homes, was made by him.
A committee of influential citizens was formed with the Rev. Breeden at its head, in order to raise the necessary funds for the establishment of the Homes. The committee unanimously voted that the most suitable location for the Homes was in the neighborhood of Kodaikanal in the Pulney Hills.
On February 10, 1911 the Government offered a site of some 900 acres in Kodaikanal, about 4 miles from the actual town. On March 16, 1911, H. E. Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras, became the first President of the Homes. Throughout the year 1912, appeals for funds were made both in India and in the United Kingdom. In November 1913 the Lancashire Committee was formed to collect funds for the maintenance of the Homes (This Lancashire Committee functioned magnificently for the benefit of the Homes until the year 1947). In December 1913, Sir Robert Laidlaw offered a proportion of the cost of building a Central School on condition of a building grant from the Government. In January 1914, H. E. Lord Pentland, Governor of Madras, became the President of the Homes.
On May 1, 1914, Glengyle, the first cottage for boys, was rented in Kodaikanal about 4 miles from the main Homes’ site. On May 18, 1914 the first “Workers” from England arrived, and on May 23, 1914, the first two boys Dick and Tommy Osborne, were admitted
Change of Location
At the close of 1913, over ‘ 8,700 had been guaranteed in England for the initial buildings of the Homes, including a promise of Rs.20,000 from Sir Robert Laidlaw towards the cost of the Central School.
Early in 1918, after the plans had been once again revised by Mr. S. B. Murray, Chief Engineer to the Government, and later approved by the Board of Management, the foundations of the six initial buildings (Blackburn, Preston, Lewis, Oakshott, Hesketh and the Principal’s bungalow) as well as the Central School, were laid, and construction commenced. The work of Homes were transferred from Kodaikanal to Ketti, this most complicated operation being undertaken by the Principal, Dr. A. Francis. Dr. Francis, through his own strenuous efforts, prevailed upon the South Indian Railway to carry out this shift, free of cost. In March 1923, the Buildings in Ketti were formally handed over to the Board of Management at a very impressive function which was presided over by their Excellencies, Lord and Lady Wellington.
The Yearly Location
Throughout the years 1914 and 1915, more and more children were admitted and three more bungalows in Kodaikanal, Fernhill, Blackburn and Preston were rented in order to accommodate the growing number of children
On May 23, 1915, the first Birthday of the Homes was celebrated with 33 children on the strength.
On February 17, 1916, the Second Annual Meeting of the Homes was held in the Museum Theatre, Madras, and was presided over by H. E. Lord Pentland.
By the end of the year 1916, there were 66 children in the Homes and this figure grew each year.
||No. of Children in the Homes
Consolidation and Expansion
In the early 1934, the Central Dining Hall was opened.
On October 12, 1935, the Foundation Stone of the Jubilee Cottage, which later was called Oldham House, was laid by the Hon’ble Mr. C. A. Souter, C.S.I., I.C.S. and this House was opened on November 2, 1936 by Lady Marjorie Erskine. On the same day, His Excellency Lord Erskine, Governor of Madras, laid the Foundation stone for another new House, to be called the Nursery Training School (now called “Smith House”). On April 6, 1938, the Ketti Nursery Training School was declared open by Lady Marjorie Erskine. The Ketti Nursery Training School was part of the program instituted by Mr. Smith for Vocational Training for the senior girls, who were given a thorough practical training in the care of babies and young children.
The School, which had been first recognized by the Education Department of Madras as a Free Primary School, was raised to the status of a High School in 1944. It was also during Mr. Smith’s time that Teachers and House staff were first recruited from India, and House Masters and Mistresses were introduced to replace the former House Mothers (upto 1932, all Staff were recruited from England).
Accordingly, in 1959, the following additional buildings were constructed, in order to enable Hesketh House, which had been the School Hospital and Office, to be made into a Boarding House to accommodate 40 young boys. The buildings constructed were a new School Hospital, a new Office Block (opened by Mr. R.F.Stoney, Chairman of the Board, in September 1959), an extension to the Dining Hall and provision of a Vegetarian Kitchen, and two new Classrooms. These extensions enabled the number of boarders to be raised to nearly 290.
The Changing years
In 1965 there was prolonged discussion on the pattern of the Education to be followed by the majority of Examination Boards. St. Georges has raised itself to a Junior College level, with a Plus 2 of the ISC being adopted. Steady progress in all spheres continued to be made throughout the year 1969 to 1973.
The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme was started in 1973, under the dynamic leadership of Mr. David Todd. In 1974, the new Science Block was completed, and for the first time in the Homes’ history matching up to the standards required by the ISC Council in Delhi. Between 1971 and 1974 there was an exodus many loyal staff, due mainly to superannuations. The retirement of such loyal colleagues was a severe loss to the Corporate life of the Homes.
A decision was taken by the Board gradually to phase out the long established Anglo-Indian High School Examination conducted by the Government of Tamilnadu, and to introduce the ICSE run by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination in New Delhi. The year 1974 was the Diamond Jubilee year, and the same was celebrated in a grand manner, with more than 80 past students present for the whole three days celebration.
The era of Mr. Hammick, student, teacher, headmaster and Principal, finally ended in 1976 when this dedicated servant of God retired to a life of peace and quiet with his wife and family to ‘ARCADIA’ – just down the road from the School that had been a virtual home for a life time – 62 years! Mr. E. A. Hammick’s part in the development and progress of these Homes can never be exaggerated. Subsequently, Mr. E. A. Hammick did serve on the Board of Management of the Homes from 1987 to 1990.
Since 1976 much has changed in the Homes. Mr. T. D. Walsh was Principal from 1977 to May, 1981 when he was succeeded by Mr. W. R. Gardner.
Computer Studies was introduced in the School in 1986 from standard 5 upwards. Later in 1988 it was introduced to standard 3 and 4 also. The 1988 batches of ICSE and ISC students sat for Computer Studies and did well. We have now built up a Computer Software Library and have our own Computers with color monitors constituting a separate Computer Department.
On the Boarding side the House system has been re-structured and is distinct from the Cottage system now. The old Principal’s bungalow where Mr. Hammick lived for so many years, has now been turned into a Cottage! The House system for Extra-curricular and Co-curricular activities is quite distinct. All House competitions are conducted and this has given an extra fillip to the competitive spirit and consequently improved standards all around.
On the Estate side things remained pretty much the same.
The School has come a long way since its inception and is to-day the leading Institution in the Nilgiris with a solid financial base. In the right hands and with the aid of the Almighty there is no limit to what this Institution can achieve.