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 – WS Swamy Naick. Born in the 1760s, WoodayagiriSingadivaukkum 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.
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 VV Giri doing the honours. The Old Pic is a photo taken on that occasion, sourced from Krishnaswami Naidu’s autobiography, My Memoirs. The New, taken by me on one of my heritage walks, shows the memorial as it is now, safely inside protective railing. Sawmy Naick still needs security and we are still debating vaccines.