Friday, August 21, 2009

Male preserve

In over a century of its presence in the city, the Madras YMCA has established only 8 branches. Considering that two of the branches are the "Boys' Town" near the Fort St George and at Kottivakkam (which also houses the YMCA Working Women's Hostel), one assumes that the Young Men have been rather selective about where they would like to be present, even if they have been rather open minded about providing facilities for women.

Though the movement started in England, it is surprising that the request for an expert to help set up a YMCA in Madras was passed on to a certain David McConaughy in the USA. In response to that call, McConaughy arrived at Madras in January 1890 and within a month, the Madras YMCA was in operation. Though he was close to 70 when he arrived in Madras, he was not content with that one achievement. McConaughy set about organising the National Council of YMCAs of India and within a year, he had accomplished that, too. The National Council of YMCAs of India was formed in Madras on February 21, 1891. That was quite some speed, but you must remember that David McConaughy, for all his advancing years, was no doddering old man. He was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln, and had passed on vital information about Confederate troop movements to the Unionists, thereby playing a crucial role in the defeat of General Robert E. Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war, he not only organised the Gettysburg chapter of the YMCA, but also bought up land on Cemetery Hill, which was later to become the National Cemetery, at the dedication of which President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. In all likelihood, David McConaughy returned to his native Pennsylvania in early 1891; Madras does not appear to have held any fascination for him.

That tale has diverted attention from the building in the photograph, the headquarters of the Madras YMCA, overseeing the 8 branches int the city. Not included in the list of the branches of the Madras YMCA is the College of Physical Education, which was initially in this building, but went on to its own space at Nandanam. That is another story and will have to keep for another day!

2 comments:

Jerich said...

We'd like to request permission to use the photo of YMCA - central building at Esplanade in an upcoming publication which will be a reference book for decades to come. The book is an Encyclopedia of Christianity in India. If you could let us know if you have copyright for the photo and also if you could give us permission to use it in the said publication, we'd be grateful. Thank you.
Warm regards,
Jessica Richard, Project Manager, Dicitonary of South Asian Christianity

Shantaram said...

@Jessica: Please do send me an email: whytellme@indiatimes.com. Thanks!