Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Tirunelvelithe biggest of the Dioceses that formed the Church of South India in 1947, is the consummation of the labours from time to time of Missionary Societies in the West – SPCK, CMS, SPG. For very long the name ‘Tirunelveli’ has been known all over Christendom as that of a field most congenial to the sowing of the Gospel and very responsive to the missionary effort. Surveying it in 1857, Dr. Caldwell wrote with just elation, “there the eye and heart … are gladdened by the sight of the largest, the most thriving, and the most progressive Christian community in India.”

Tirunelveli Dioceses

George Uglow Pope was born on 24 April 1820 in Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia. His family migrated to England when he was an infant. Even as a child he cultivated many a language. He left for South India in 1839. It was at Sawyerpuram near Tuticorin.

is a town panchayat in Tuticorin district, Tamil Nadu, India. Since missionary Dr. G. U. Pope ministered in this place the population is predominantly Christian. This place is an historical and religious place. It was first a settlement of persecuted Christians on land provided by Mr. Sawyer, an Anglo-Indian layman in the employ of the East India Company. The village thus formed in 1814 was gratefully named after him as Sawyerpuram. The Christian settlers quickly organized themselves, and by 1838 had built for themselves a small church and a school attended by 10 children. However, it was with the advent of intrepid young Dr. G. U. Pope in 1842 that Sawyerpuram shot into prominence in the annals of missionary history. He established in 1844 the renowned “Sawyerpuram Seminary”, which for a long time was the nursery of hundreds of Indian clergymen, teachers and catechists. The esteem in which this reputable centre of learning was held can be seen from the fact that the Oxford University contributed to the formation of a suitable library within its walls. Dr.G.U Pope is a Tamil Patron.
"The Student of Tamil" bloomed into a scholar of Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. Pope setup several schools and taught Latin, English, Hebrew, Mathematics and Philosophy. As he was a martinet he was always in trouble. Of him Bishop Caldwell said: "The chief drawback to his success was the severity of his discipline which led, after a succession of petty rebellions, to his withdrawal". Pope believed in the theory: "Things have tears". He worked with the motto: "Conscience within and God above". He completed his translation of Tirukkural on September 1, 1886. His "Sacred Kural" contains introduction, grammar, translation, notes, lexicon and concordance. It also includes the English translation of F.W.Ellis and the Latin Translation of Fr. Beschi. It is a tome of 436 pages. He had, by February 1893, translated Naaladiyaar. His magnum opus, the translation of Tiruvachakam appeared in 1900. Of this he says: "I date this on my eightieth birthday. I find, by reference, that my first Tamil lesson was in 1837. This ends, as I suppose a long life of devotion to Tamil studies. It is not without deep emotion that I thus bring to a close my life's literary work". The much coveted Gold Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society was awarded to him in 1906. He passed away on 12 February 1908. The services of this great soul to Tamil and Saivism defy reckoning by weights and measures. In his last days he was a mature Saiva Siddhanti, with his faith as ever rooted in Chiristianity. He delivered his last sermon on May 26, 1907.
Dr. G U Pope’s efforts were equally directed to the extension of the Church. He built the All Saints Church at nearby Subramaniapuram enduring extreme hostility and insult. The lovely red-brick Holy Trinity Church at Sawyerpuram was built by Rev. Huxtable and Rev. Sharrock and dedicated on 11 November 1877 by the Most Rev. Johnson, Metropolitan of India.


HENRY CONSTANTINO HUXTABLE was born in 1825 at Bristol. He was a Theological Scholar and Associate of King's College, London. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London in 1849, and went out to Madras and worked as a missionary at Christianagram from that date till 1852, when he became Principal of the Sawyerpuram Seminary. He was invalided home in 1857. He was Curate-in-charge of Hendford, YeoviL 1858-59, and Rector of Bettiscombe in Dorset, 1859-67, when he was appointed Secretary of the S.P.G. in the island of Mauritius. In 1870 he was nominated and consecrated to the Bishopric of the island. In 1871 he died.
REV.JOHN ALFRED SHARROCK, MA(Rev.J.A.Sharrock) (1853-1932)

Rev John Alfred Sharrock, MA (1853-1932), youngest of three sons of Rev James Sharrock. Sedbergh School, Yorkshire. Rustat Scholar at Jesus College, Cambridge (Hon Maths Tripos) 1873-77. Idaiyangudi 1878-79, Ordained Deacon by Bishop Caldwell 1879. Sick leave following malaria 1879-80. Curate, North Ormsby, Yorkshire 1880-81. Principal SPG College, Sawyerpuram 1881-83. Principal Caldwell College, Tuticorin 1883-94 (his wife, Ida née Hay, and baby daughter, Gwendoline, died Tuticorin 1893). Cuddalore 1894. Tiruchirappalli ('Trichy') 1895-1909 (vice Joseph Wyatt): Sick leave 1899-1900 (while acting as curate to the vicar, his brother William, at Driffield, Yorkshire); Combined his post as superintending missionary at Trichy with Principal of the SPG College there (later 'Bishop Heber College') 1907-09. Home leave and retirement after 31 years in India 1909-10. Published: "South India Missions" (SPG) 1910, "Musings of a Missionary" (Roffey & Clarke) 1921. A clever, highly practical man (a mathematician) of great mental and physical energy, and capable of a huge work rate. Described as "a man after Dr Johnson's heart", he had immense courage, was never afraid to speak his mind, but was handicapped by a pugnacious temperament which caused him much trouble.
Sawyerpuram was also the venue of the first experiment in “Medical Evangelism”. From the small beginning of a clinic set up in 1854 there sprang up St. Raphael’s Hospital, which became increasingly popular and did signal service during the outbreak of epidemics following the famine of 1877-1879.

It is significant that Dr. Pope’s Seminary blossomed into a College and was affiliated to the University of Madras in 1880. Rev. Sharrock was its first Principal. Bishop Caldwell thought it good to shift the College along with the High School to Tuticorin, leaving Sawyerpuram with a Middle School in 1883. Again the school got developed and at present it is a Higher secondary school with a history of more than 160 years. Many educational institutions were also developed and Sawyerpuram is well known in southern districts of Tamilnadu for its educational institutions. These include; the Holy Trinity Church, the Pope Memorial Higher Secondary School, Popes College, Dr. G.U Pope Engineering College , St. Mary's Girls' Higher Secondary School and B.Ed college Sawyerpuram.
H. A.Krishnapillai (1827 - 1900)
Henry Alfred Krishnapillai (1827 - 1900) was a well known poet in Tamil language. He was born in a Vaishnavite Hindu family, but later converted to Christianity. Even after his convertion, he ratained his Hindu surname. He was an accomplished Tamil teacher and hence after his conversion sought to work on Tamil literary works. After his retirement he worked on his magnum opus, Ratchanya Yaatrigam. This work was based on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, although not a translation. The work itself took 16 years to complete and is considered as one of finest work of Tamil literature of the nineteenth century.
Krishnapillai is well known to use analogies from Hindu text in his Christian writings. His Christian hymns are still popular among Tamil Protestants. These hymns are said to be similar in style to Hindu text Tevaram. He is sometimes referred to as "Christian Kamban" for his work on Tamil Christian literature.
Early life
Krishna Pillai was born in 1827 at Karaiyiruppa, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu. He was born into an orthodox Hindu family belonging to Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism. He received his early education in Tamil grammar and literature in the village.
Conversion to Christianity

In May 1853, he moved to Sawyerpuram, a Christian hamlet. The settlement was founded by the Society for Propagation of the Gospel.There Krishnapillai was appointed as a Tamil teacher by Bishop Robert Caldwell.It was in Sawyerpuram that he first encountered Christianity through his friends and eventually was baptised an Anglican in the St Thomas Church in Mylapore, Chennai. He was christened Henry Alfred through his baptism but he still retained his Hindu name Krishna Pillai. Later in 1875, he was appointed as a Tamil pundit at Church Missionary Society (CMS) college at Tirunelveli.
Tamil Christian literature

After his retirement, Krishnapillai aspired to write Tamil Christian classics along the lines of Hindu epics. Hence, he spent the 16 years writing the book Rakshanya Yatrikam (the journey of salvation, 1894). This work was modeled after John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Nevertheless, it was not a translation but an adaptation of the story in Tamil.[1] This work is considered as his masterpiece. He had read the Pilgrim's Progress even before his conversion and had planned to retell the story in Tamil verses. However, he started working on it only in 1878 to appear serially in Friendly Instructor. He fell ill with malaria in 1879, and then, with encouragement from his friends, Krishnapillai decided to compile the work in an epic form similar to the Tamil Ramayana. After 16 years, it was sent to print in 1894 and is considered one of the most significant Tamil poetry works of the nineteenth century.
In addition to this masterpiece, Krishnapillai wrote several other books in Tamil on Christianity. Although he was a converted Christian, he used many analogies from Hindu text in his work.[1] He is sometimes referred to as Christian Kamban. Some of the hymns he composed are still prevalent amongst Tamil Protestants. His hymns were based on Hindu texts such as Tevaram.


  1. really a good work to compile all this materials with photo. good work. congradulations

  2. weldone Jasker sir for providing very rare photograph on essay about Dr G.U.Pope.

    BY JOE
    Pope Memorial Hr. Sec. School

  3. Sawyerpuram Choir 1941

  4. great work and great compilation