It is today known as the Arignar Anna Poonga but for long it was Robinson Park. The man after whom it was named was Sir William Rose Robinson, KCSI, of the Madras Civil Service. At the time the Indian Charivari carried his caricature and profile, he was the acting Governor of Madras, following the sudden death of the incumbent Governor, Lord Hobart
Born on June 28, 1822, Robinson graduated in 1841 from Haileybury College, the institution from where so many of the empire’s administrators graduated. He joined the Madras Civil Service in 1842 and according to the Indian Charivari, his first assignment was as Assistant Magistrate, Canara. From there he moved up the ladder, becoming in 1856 Acting Magistrate, Malabar. Known to be a hard-working officer, his career may not have risen out of the ordinary had he not been suddenly appointed Inspector General of Police for the whole of Madras Presidency in 1858. He found his true calling and thoroughly remodelled the force, making it the best in India. Reward was swift, for he became Member, Board of Revenue, Madras and Additional Member, Viceroy’s Executive Council as Representative for Madras. Thus it was that when Hobart died, he was asked to step in as Governor. His tenure, however, according to Charivari, was marked by masterly inactivity.
The assignment was in any case temporary and he handed over charge in December 1875, to the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos. This was apparently not without a pang as Charivari would have it, for Robinson had hoped to be officiating Governor when the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, came visiting in December that year. Charivari dealt more kindly with his wife, saying she was known for her good works. Born Julia Thomas, she was the daughter of another old Madras hand, James Thomas of the Civil Service.
Robinson was knighted in 1876. Shortly before he left Madras in 1879, Robinson laid the foundation stone for the park that would be named after him. It had a fine botanical garden and a large fernery presented by A. Armoogam Mudaliar. The management of Robinson Park, which still offers a green lung in Washermenpet and Royapuram, was transferred to the Municipality on February 1, 1899. It was in this park that on September 18, 1948, Arignar Anna declared the formation of the DMK. The park is now therefore named after him.
On retirement, Robinson settled in London, near Hyde Park, where he passed away on April 27, 1886.
This article is part of a series on prominent men of Madras profiled in the Indian Charivari, a magazine brought out in the 1870s. The first part can be read here