John Pennycuick

John Pennycuick

On October 10, 1895, the Queen nominated him a Companion of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India. He served in Public Works Department till January 1896. During his six years of service in the PWD, Pennycuick served as Chief Engineer in the construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam and was awarded a medal for his participation in Abyssinian Expedition of 1867-68.

Pennycuick was nominated to the Madras Legislative Council in November 1893. He was the last president of the Royal Indian Engineering College at Coopers Hill. He also held the position of the President of the Sanitary Board and was a faculty in the University of Madras. He received Telford medal from the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Australian Government sought his advise for avoiding damage from flooding of the Brisbane river in 1899. He was also a keen cricketer.

Mullaiperiyar Dam

The first attempt at damming the Periyar with an earthen dam in 1850 was given up due to demands for higher wages by the labourers citing unhealthy living conditions. The proposal was resubmitted a number of times in 1862 and Captain J.G.Ryves, M.E., carried out a study and submitted proposals in 1867 for another earthwork dam, 62 feet high. The matter was debated by the Madras Government and the matter was further delayed by the terrible famine of 1876-77. Finally, in 1882, the construction of the dam was approved and Major John Pennycuick, M.E., placed in charge to prepare a revised project and an estimate which was approved in 1884 by his superiors.

Mullai Periyar Dam - Under Construction Mullai Periyar Dam - Present Stage

Though Pennycuick and other British Engineers went ahead with the construction, braving the nature's fury and the dangers of poisonous insects and wild animals, the construction works were disrupted by relentless rain. Large number of sand bags kept for the construction of the dam was destroyed due to severe flood. Since he could not get adequate funds from the British government, it is reported that Pennycuick went to England and sold his family property to mobilise money to fund the project, which was completed in 1895.Read More