Up very early this morning for a walk round the old Madras Club - and then by chance, a visit to the new Madras Club (which is older than the old one). Confused? Read on - I'll explain.
The heritage walk - which included an excellent breakfast - was conducted by Sriram V, whose expertise on Madras/Chennai's history is matched by his enthusiasm. It took us round the original twenty acre site of the Madras Club, founded in 1832 as a men-only Europeans-only club and the oldest in India after Calcutta's Bengal Club.
The club has long gone from this city centre site, which is now occupied by the vast Express Avenue shopping mall. Only the faintest traces survive. On independence in 1947, when it became clear that many of the club's members were leaving India never to return, the club sold the site to R.N. Goenka, also owner of the Indian Express, and moved to (slightly) more modest premises.
This laundry facing the site of the club - and set up to serve its members - is one of the few institutions left which bear witness to what was known as the 'Ace of Clubs'. The British Library has some photos of the club from 1901-02 which give some idea of its grandeur.
These magnificent colonnaded pavilions have gone, but the Madras Club goes on - and very much in the old style. In the early 1960s, it merged with a similar institution, the Adyar Club - this was when Indians became eligible for full membership for the first time - and is housed in premises every bit as magnificent as the original buildings.
Indeed, the club's new premises are older than the old ones. The building is known as Mowbray's Cupola and was built in around 1792 by George Mowbray, an English trader who was variously sheriff and mayor of Madras. It's overlooking the Adyar river and in nine acres of grounds.
Hi, I lived in Madras in the late 60's, my Father worked for Amoco, they built a fertilizer plant, Madras Fetrilizers Ltd, it's still operating. We were on Satyanarayana Ave, not to far from the grounds.. As part of a deal to allow Amoco expats to join the club, Amoco built their pool. I have many fond memories enjoying the pool with my friends, learning to play tennis, watching the weekly movie on the veranda and getting walloped by my dad playing billiards. The weekly curry lunch was a formal affair. Mulligatawny soup originated at the club.I could o on and on.
Hi paul. Where in Sathyanarayana avenue did you stay?
Hello there Mandy and greetings from the Drimers ...I remember you and your brother. My sisters (Melanie, Helen and Karen) are all in Australia, and I'm in between places. Went and stayed at the Club on my honeymoon in '85, and noticed the Times had been replaced by the Hindu on the newspaper stands, haha. Drop me a line - my full name at gmail dot com.
'95 I meant. Harry Miller still wandering around in a cloud of cigar smoke
Hi Mr.Drimer. Greetings. Could you please share a photograph of the club taken during '85 or before, if you have one. Thanks.
I lived in Madras for many years. I attended Kodaikanal International school and University of Art in Madras. I spent a lot of time at the club swimming and going to movie nights and costume parties. Many Sundays we had breakfast out there. I loved the club and am so glad its still there. I lived in India from 1970 to 1976. My father worked at the American Consulate. I loved sitting out on the lawns, sipping lemonade and watching huge groups of macaws and green parrots fly from tree to tree.
Does Sriram V still give tours of "old" Madras? if so, how can he be contacted. Thank you.
Have been a member since the late 60's and still use the club every day ! Knew Clive Griffiths and many others very well. Feel free to contact me for any details and I shall be happy to help. Ramesh
How's it going Ramesh ? Pretty sure I remember you. You would have known my dad and mum, Morris/Rita Drimer I think. Rgds Simon
Sorry about the very late response. Yes, I remember them all very well, Simon. Still visit the club every single day! Have a lockdown at the moment, so, looks sad and unused, but hope to be back in a few weeks. You can update your info on the last 50 years by reading an online version of my book. Link is:
Hi. I'm Harry Miller's daughter, Nisha. My father died in 1998. Most of you who were members of the Madras Club would have known us. I live in Anna Nagar these days, as our beautiful house, "The Frogs" was sold. Do get in touch with me. My email id is my full name @ yahoo dot com. Would love to hear from any of you.
Hi Nisha, I was just telling my grand daughter (funnily enough her name is India) of the fond memories I have of your dad from our late 60s and 70s years at the Madras Club! It made me google the Club and there these comments were, bringing back such great memories
Of course I remember Rita and Morris. And, Nisha, nice to hear you are doing well. I have quite a collection of pictures of Clive, Harry and of the old days in the club and will be happy to share them with anyone who would like them. My email ID is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes, I do remember him. I was a member of the Club Committee from 1982, so did meet him often. Ramesh
How good to see all these reminiscences from so long ago. We stayed at the Club several times in recent years ( facilitated by Mr Lulla) and have always been made very welcome and enjoyed excellent service from all we met. Breakfast on the front terrace was always a great start to the day.
Remember finger chips and fresh lime juice? Yum!
Have just completed my Book on the Club and you are welcome to the Ebook version, if you send me your emaiID at email@example.com
Hello Ramesh. I was a member in 1980 and 91 when I was working for the International Red Cross. How does one get a copy of your book.
Recall meeting you, Bob. If you are in town, would be happy to share a copy with you, but, am happy to share the Ebook link with any of you who might be interested. Or your Email ID please and I shall forward to you. Regards, Ramesh
In the mid 1950s, My mother, Evie, and father Lt Col Jack Hamilton, a medical Doctor, were members. Both Irish. I was fortunate to be brought there for the summer. Later, in 2009, I led a cricket team on tour and some of us stayed there a few nights. Wonderful memories.
Yes, I remember Col Hamilton very well, both my Son’s being delivered at The Lady Willingdon, under his care! Fine man. Have been a member for 51 years, so knew most of the members then.
My father in law Sir Alexander Happell(inspector general of police southern India) lived in Madras for most of his adult life and the “club” was a large part of his life. My husband was born in Australia but his brother is 88 and remembers Madras where he lived as a child. Our women’s club in Melbourne might like a reciprocal club in Madras. Would the M Club be suitable still?
I was born in 1946 at The Lady Willingdon and stayed 'til I was eight having gone to The Convent College in Kodai. I returned from the UK for a couple of summer school holidays until my father Bill Bryson (not the author) retired in1961. He was a member of the Madras Club, The RMYC and Boat Club
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