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Vol. XXX No. 19, February 1-15, 2021

Heritage Watch

Remembering a Vaccinator

At a time when vaccines are the topic of discussion and the debate rages on whether to be injected with them or not, it is time to remember a pioneering vaccinator of our city – W.S. Sawmy Naick. Born in the 1760s, Woodayagiri Singadivaukkum Sawmy Naick was employed as a native dresser in the Madras Army. In the early 1800s, he was appointed Native Superintendent of Vaccinations on a salary of 25 pagodas a month. He fulfilled this responsibility with dedication even though the locals viewed him with great suspicion. A group of Madras Armenians even waylaid and assaulted him but Sawmy Naick was undaunted. He retired as Chief Medical Practitioner of the Vaccine Department in 1829.

Old

New

The WS family, by the late 1800s changing their surname to Naidu, were residents of Langs Garden Road, Pudupet. Justice WS Krishnaswami Naidu, a descendant, was instrumental in 1963 in getting a memorial to his ancestor unveiled on Harris Road (now Adithanar Salai) with V.V. Giri doing the honours.

Our Old is a photo taken on that occasion, sourced from Krishnaswami Naidu’s autobiography, My Memoirs. Our New, taken by our editor on one of his heritage walks, shows the memorial as it is now, safely inside a protective railing. Sawmy Naick still needs security and we are still debating vaccines.

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