George Uglow Pope
Born24 April 1820
Died11 February 1908 (aged 87)
Resting placeSt Sepulchre's Cemetery, Jericho, Oxford, England
Mary Carver
(m. 1841⁠–⁠1845)
Henrietta Page
(m. 1849)

George Uglow Pope (24 April 1820 – 11 February 1908), or G. U. Pope, was an Anglican Christian missionary and Tamil scholar who spent 40 years in Tamil Nadu and translated many Tamil texts into English. His popular translations included those of the Tirukkural and Thiruvasagam.

He later took to teaching, running his own school in Ootacamund for while and then moving to head the Bishop Cotton Boys' School in Bangalore and after returning to England worked as a Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. A statue on the Chennai beach recognizes him for his contribution to the understanding and promotion of the Tamil language.


Statue of G. U. Pope in Triplicane, Chennai

George Uglow Pope was born on 24 April 1820 in Bedeque, Prince Edward Island in Canada. His father was John Pope (1791–1863), of Padstow, Cornwall, a merchant who became a missionary, who emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1818, and Catherine Uglow (1797–1867), of Stratton, north Cornwall. The family moved to Nova Scotia, St. Vincent's before returning to Plymouth, England in 1826 where John Pope became a prosperous merchant and ship-owner.[1] George Uglow Pope's and his younger brother William Burt Pope studied at the Wesleyan schools in Bury and Hoxton and at the age of fourteen George joined missionary service in southern India.[2]

He left for South India in 1839 and arrived at Sawyerpuram near Tuticorin(now Thoothukudi) with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Pope started studying Tamil as a teenager in England and during the voyage to India and Pope later turned into a scholar of Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. In 1841 he was ordained by the Church of England and he married Mary Carver, daughter of another Anglican priest. Pope worked in the Tirunelveli region where he also interacted with other missionaries like Christian Friedrich Schwartz. In 1845, Mary died at Tuticorin and Pope moved to Madras(now Chennai). He married Henrietta Page, daughter of G. van Someren and they left for England in 1849. During this period he worked with many figures in the Oxford Catholic movement including such as Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop Trench, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop John Lonsdale, E. B. Pusey, and John Keble.[2]

Returning to Tanjore (now Thanjavur) in 1851, teaching at St Peter's School, he found himself in conflict with other missionaries. In 1855, a Tamil priest Vedanayakam Shastri who was a disciple of Schwartz and a poet in the court of Maharaja Serfoji was flogged publicly resulting in a separation of Tamil church free of the Anglican church leading to the resignation of Pope. He founded a seminary at Sawyerpuram for training Anglican Tamil clergy but this too ran into trouble and he decided to move to Ootacamund (Ooty) in 1859. Here he founded a grammar school for European children (which ran from 1859 to 1870) which is now home to the Government Arts School and Stonehouse. The grammar school at Stonehouse cottage was opened by the Bishop of Madras on 2 July 1858 with Pope as Principal. The school moved elsewhere as the building was sold to the Trustees of the Lawrence Asylum in March 1859. Stonehouse cottage was then used to house the male asylum inmates and the Grammar school moved to new premises in Lovedale on 1 April 1869.[3] He also founded Holy Trinity Church in Ooty.[2] Pope was referred to with respect by the Tamilians as Pope Aiyar.[4]

Pope became famous for his strictness and in 1870 he was made principal of Bishop Cotton Boys' School at Bangalore.[2] He was also the first pastor of the All Saints Church at Bangalore.[5] In 1881, Pope left India and settled in Oxford where he made a mark as a lecturer in Tamil and Telugu (1884). He received an honorary MA in 1886 and a Gold Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1906.[2]

He died on 11 February 1908. He delivered his last sermon on 26 May 1907. Pope was buried at St Sepulchre's Cemetery, located in Jericho, central Oxford, England. After his death, his second wife, Henrietta, and two daughters received pension. Henrietta died on 11 September 1911 and is buried beside Pope. Three of their sons continued to work in India. John Van Someren Pope worked on education in Burma, Arthur William Uglow Pope served as a railway engineer in India and China; while Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Henry served in the medical service as a professor of ophthalmology at the Madras Medical College.[2]

Contributions to Tamil studies

Pope was along with Joseph Constantius Beschi, Francis Whyte Ellis, and Bishop Robert Caldwell one of the major scholars on Tamil. His first work was A Catechism of Tamil Grammar (1842). His most famous work is the translation of the Tirukkural which he completed on 1 September 1886. His Sacred Kural contains introduction, grammar, translation, notes, lexicon and concordance. It also includes the English translation of F. W. Ellis and the Latin Translation of Constanzo Beschi with 436 pages. He had, by February 1893, translated Naaladiyaar, a didactic work of moral sayings in quatrains, 400 in number in 40 chapters, each by a Jain ascetic, according to a Tamil tradition. His magnum opus, the translation of Tiruvachakam appeared in 1900. Of this he said: "I date this on my eightieth birthday. I find, by reference, that my first Tamil lesson was in 1837. This ends, as I suppose a long life of devotion to Tamil studies. It is not without deep emotion that I thus bring to a close my life's literary work". He dedication this last work to Benjamin Jowett who had been a friend while serving as chaplain at Balliol College (1888).


Pope has occasionally been criticised for over-emphasising certain texts from ancient Tamil literature while downplaying, or even dismissing, others, both ancient and more recent.[6][page needed] Rajiv Malhotra has been critical of the work of Pope. In Malhotra's book Breaking India, he writes of Pope's attempts to undermine Tamil spirituality. He writes of Pope's claims that all Tamil works are of Christian origin, and that Tamil culture has nothing to do with Indian culture, thereby forging a Dravidian identity that previously never existed.[7]: 68 

See also


  1. ^ "Uglow Family History". Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Frykenberg, Robert Eric (2004). "The Dictionary of National Biography - William Burt Pope". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35572. Retrieved 20 October 2016. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Price, Frederick (1908). Ootacamund. A History. Madras: Government Press. p. 20.
  4. ^ Thurston, Edgar (1909). Castes and tribes of southern India. Volume I-A and B. Government Press. p. 19.
  5. ^ Rizvi, Aliyeh (29 December 2014). "Resident Rendezvoyeur: A natural state of grace". Bangalore Mirror. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  6. ^ Trautmann, T. R. (2006). Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras. Yoda Press. ISBN 978-0-520-93190-9
  7. ^ Malhotra, Rajiv; Nilakantan, Aravintan (2011). Breaking India. Princeton, NJ: Amaryllis. ISBN 9788191067378.