John Joseph Murphy, Father of Indian rubber honoured

January 19, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

John Joseph Murphy , Father of Indian rubber plantationKerala, January 18, 2013: Nearly 56 years after he died at Yendayar, a village he established on the foothills of the Western Ghats, an Irish gentleman will be officially honoured. The Rubber Board has decided to raise an official memorial for John Joseph Murphy, the father of Indian rubber plantation industry and the one who founded India’s first commercial rubber plantation, in 1902.

Known as JJ among his friends and fondly called ‘Murphy saipu’ by locals, Murphy (1872-1957) was a man of many parts — a zealous colonialist, a staunch Irish Catholic honoured by Pope Pius XI, and an avid racer.

His colonial counterparts considered him a legend, as the man who successfully carried out rubber cultivation in an organised manner in Kerala for the first time. The present generation will remember ‘JJ’ as one of the founding fathers of organised plantation industry in Kerala.

Like all pioneers, Murphy had an eye for spotting an opportunity in every adversity. While other planters hesitated to undertake big projects on account of the conflict in Europe, Murphy forged ahead with his plans for expansion. His estates in Yendayar, the village he built near Kanjirappally, became one of the major sources of the strategically important natural rubber during the war years. Murphy arrived on the Kerala shores at the dawn of the 20th century from neighbouring Sri Lanka, where he worked at a plantation. His first efforts were to raise cardamom, so far a wild produce, into an organised plantation. The thick forest canopy, one of the major hurdles in raising any crop on a plantation, was a blessing in disguise, as cardamom needed heavy shade. Though his colonial cousins left the country after Independence, the pioneering planter stayed on at his beloved village till his death. Murphy died on May 9, 1957 and was laid to rest at the Matumala cemetery beside his workers.

While the enterprising rubber plantation community has raised memorials in honour of the founding father, it is for the first time that the Rubber Board has decided to build an official memorial.

As part of its effort to raise a lasting memorial, the Board will take over nearly six cents of land that holds his tomb at the Matumala cemetery, on lease. The plan is to erect a befitting memorial at his grave.

John Joseph Murphy is the father of Indian rubber plantation industry and the one who founded India’s first commercial rubber plantation, in 1902.

– statesman

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