Has the founder of Mussoorie been completely forgotten?

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Has the founder of Mussoorie been completely forgotten?

Friday, 24 May 2013 | JASKIRAN CHOPRA | Mussoorie

Frederick Young, the Irish Army officer, who founded landour and Mussoorie, died 139 years ago in Ireland. On Friday (May 24) is his 139th death anniversary.

He has been forgotten by the people of this hill station who show no mark of remembrance towards this illustrious soldier who worked tirelessly to give Mussoorie a great beginning. The new generation of Mussoorie’s residents is not even aware of the life and times of Young. And most tourists to the hill station have no idea about its founder. As the peak summer tourist season is now underway in this hill station, the need for documenting and highlighting the glorious history of this nearly 200 years old town comes to the fore with greater force.

A short hunting trip for an Irish Army Officer became a giant leap for history. In the early 19th century, lt Young came to these hills for the sole purpose of bagging some game, peculiar to the hills. He was so enamoured of the surroundings that he decided to build a hunting lodge (shooting box) for his convenience.

The shooting box had been set up in 1823 by Young and FJ Shore, who was the Joint Magistrate of Doon, on the Camel’s Back Road. This can be called the first construction in Mussoorie.

lt Young then suggested to his superiors in the Army and civil establishment to build a convalescent home for the tired and sick Army personnel in the salubrious environment of these hills. In 1827, the Company’s Government established a convalescent depot for British soldiers at landour.

After that, Young built his residence in landour and named it “Mullingar” after the city of this name in his native Ireland. It still exists. Building after building, roads joining other roads, one civic facility following the other came to be installed in what must just be a couple of villages initially, but later on came to be called by the  name of Mussoorie.

During the two centuries of its existence, Mussoorie has played host to millions of people from India and abroad. They all come, admire its beauty, enjoy its climate and go away, without sparing a thought for the lieutenant (later a General) who began building the town.

Young was one of those multi-faceted personalities that East India Company kept producing from time-to-time. He combined a successful Army career with excellence as a civil administrator.

Mussoorie will soon be two hundred years old and has a rich and intriguing history which can fascinate tourists. But there is no way that they can come across it. An interesting and little known fact is that originally ,the town was called Masuri after the Mansur plant that grows here but was later changed to Mussoorie to match with Mullingar’s nine letters.

Young went on to raise the first Gurkha regiment (made up of the brave survivors of the Nepali forces), made the Doon valley his home, and introduced the potato for the first time in the Himalayas. Young’s daughter, l Hadow Jenkins, spent her first five years in Mussoorie and Dehra Dun, and in her memoirs she recalls the potato garden, the ride up to Mussoorie from Rajpur, the parades on Dehra Dun’s  huge parade-ground, and the house her father built in a meadow off Rajpur Road where the St Joseph’s Academy stands now.

Frederick Young was born on November 30, 1786, at Green Castle, Moville, in the north of Ireland. He became a military cadet at the age of 15. Under the aegis of the East India Company, Ensign Young arrived in Calcutta in 1802.

During the Anglo-Gurkha war in the Doon valley, Young became the captive of the Gurkhas for about a year. He became conversant with their language, studied their religion, their manners and customs, gaining their friendship and admiration. When the war was over and the remnants of the Gurkha Army had finally surrendered, Young immediately went about enlisting these disbanded soldiers in what was to be known as the Gurkha Brigade or Sirmur Rifles.

In 1825, Young married the beautiful Jeanette: “Colonel Frederick Young, Colonel of the Sinnoor Battalion of Gurkha Rifles, married Jeannette, the daughter of Colonel and Mrs Bird.” So went the official announcement. Young’s tenure in Dehra ended in 1844, and after serving briefly in Darjeeling and Dimapore, he came home to Ireland as a General. Young spent his last years in Ireland, where he died at the age of 87.

Sadly, there are no memorials to Young in Mussoorie but in the Dehra Dun cantonment, there is still a Young Road on which are located the Rashtriya Indian Military College, the ONGC headquarters (Tel Bhavan) and the Cambrian Hall School.

There is also a Shakespeare Road, named not after the poet, but after one of Young’s successors, Colonel Shakespeare.

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