S. Muthiah

Subbiah Muthiah, MBE (13 April 1930 – 20 April 2019),[1] was an Indian writer, journalist, cartographer, amateur historian and heritage activist known for his writings on the political and cultural history of Chennai city.[2] He was the founder of the fortnightly newspaper Madras Musings and the principal organizer of the annual Madras Day celebrations. Muthiah was also the founder-President of the Madras Book Club.

Subbiah Muthiah
Muthiah (Derivative).jpg
S. Muthiah speaking at a Madras Day 2015 presentation on "The story of photography in Madras"

(1930-04-13)13 April 1930
Died20 April 2019(2019-04-20) (aged 89)
EmployerT. T. K. Maps
Known forbooks on the History of Chennai, conservation activities
Spouse(s)Valliammai Muthiah (1950–2013) m. 1969 till her death

Early life and educationEdit

Muthiah was born in Pallathur in the Ramnad district of Madras Presidency, British India in a Nagarathar family on 13 April 1930.[3] Muthiah had his early schooling in Ladies' College, S. Thomas' Preparatory School and Royal College in Colombo[4] and completed his matriculation in India in 1946. Between 1946 and 1951, Muthiah studied arts and engineering in the United States of America and returned to Ceylon after obtaining his master's degree in International Relations in 1951.

With The Times of CeylonEdit

On his return to Ceylon, Muthiah took up a job with The Times of Ceylon and served the newspaper for 17 years eventually rising to the second position in the newspaper's hierarchy and heading the weekly Sunday edition.[5] When the citizenship laws of the country were amended in 1968, Muthiah, who was not yet a citizen of Ceylon lost his job and had to move to India.[3][5]

In IndiaEdit

Muthiah settled down in the city of Madras and took up a job with T. T. K. Maps, a newly formed cartographic division of T. T. K. Healthcare Ltd where he was tasked with preparation of tourist guides and books on South India.[3][6] In 1981, Muthiah wrote his first book Madras Discovered based on the research he had done to prepare tourist guides on Madras city.[3][7] He followed it with two more books on Madras and one each on Parry's and Simpson's Ltd.


On his retirement from T. T. K. Maps in 1990, Muthiah took up writing full-time and founded the fortnightly newspaper Madras Musings.[3] Muthiah also involved himself in heritage activism for Madras city and wrote regular columns for Indian newspapers most prominently The Hindu.[8][9] In 1999, Muthiah co-founded Chennai Heritage, a foundation for heritage conservation in Chennai. Muthiah was also one of the brains behind the annual Madras Day celebrations held in Chennai city on the anniversary of the founding of the settlement of Fort St. George by Andrew Cogan and Francis Day on 22 August 1639.

In 2011, Muthiah published the book Madras Miscellany, a collection of articles from weekly columns of the same name that he had written for The Hindu since November 1999.[8] Muthiah also volunteered to edit the gazetteer on Chennai that was commissioned by the British Council through the Association of British Scholars, India Chapter. Volume one of the 3-volume gazetteer titled Madras, Chennai: A 400 year record of the first city of Modern India on "The Land, People and Governance" and volume two on "Services, Education and the Economy" were published in 2008 and 2014 respectively and a third on "Information, Culture and Entertainment" is under preparation.


On 7 March 2002, Muthiah was made a "Honorary Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire".[10][11] The award was presented to him by Michael Herrige, British High Commissioner to India at a function in Chennai.[10] The citation read that the award was presented for "service by those who are not British citizens but who have pursued ideals which Britain values and shares".[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Muthiah's father, N. M. Subbiah Chettiar (1905–2002)[12] was a stockbroker and politician who served as a mayor of Colombo, British Ceylon and was one of the founders of the Ceylon India Congress formed in 1939.[13] He even stood for elections for the House of Representatives of Ceylon from the Nuwara Eliya constituency in 1947 and lost.[13]

Muthiah married Valliammai Achi (1950–2013) in 1969.[14] The couple had two daughters Ranjani and Parvathy.[14] Valliammai worked as a Company Secretary till her death in 2013.[14] Muthiah lived in Chennai where he spent most of his day on his desk. After spending the evening at the Madras Club, he used to retire to his home, where he had two glasses of Indian whisky before dinner.


At the inauguration of the 2009 edition of the Chennai Book Fair, M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu regretted the fact that Muthiah's book Madras Rediscovered did not make even a passing mention of the tenures of C. N. Annadurai or himself.[15]


  • Muthiah, S. (1981). Madras Discovered. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Ramaswami, N. S.; Muthiah, S. (1988). Parrys 200: A saga of resilience. Affiliated East West Press Pvt. Limited.
  • Muthiah, S. (1987). Madras discovered : a historical guide to looking around, supplemented with tales of "Once upon a city". Affiliated East-West Press.
  • Muthiah, S. (1989). Tales of old and new Madras: the dalliance of Miss Mansell and 34 other stories of 350 years. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S. (1990). An atlas of India. OUP
  • Muthiah, S. (1990). Madras, the gracious city. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S. (1990). Getting India on the move: the 150 year saga of Simpsons of Madras. Higginbotham's.
  • Muthiah, S. (1990). Madras, its yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Association of British Council Scholars, South India.
  • Muthiah, S. (1991). Words in Indian English: A reader's guide. Indus.
  • Muthiah, S.; Khullar, Rupinder (1992). The splendours of South India. UBS Publishers' Distributors.
  • Muthiah, S. (1993). A planting century: the first hundred years of the United Planters' Association of Southern India, 1893–1993. Affiliated East West Press.
  • Muthiah, S. (1995). Madras, its past and present. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-81-85938-24-0.
  • Muthiah, S. (1995). At home in Madras. Overseas Women’s Club.
  • Muthiah, S. (1997). The Spencer Legend. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S. (1998). The spirit of Chepauk: the MCC story, a 150 year sporting tradition. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S.; Ramnarayan, V. (1998). All in the game, a pictorial history of the Madras Cricket Club. The Madras Cricket Club.
  • erera, S. S.; Muthiah, S. (1999).The Janashakthi book of Sri Lanka cricket, 1832-1996. Janashakthi Insurance.
  • Muthiah, S. (2000). Looking back from "Moulmein": a biography of A.M.M. Arunachalam. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S. (2000). Madras that is Chennai, Queen of the Coromandel. Palaniappa Brothers.
  • Muthiah, S. (2002). The ace of clubs, the story of the Madras Club. The Madras Club.
  • Muthiah, S. (2002). B.S. Abdur Rahman – a visionary with a mission.
  • Muthiah, S.; Kalpana, K., Schiffer, Frank. (2003). Madras : the architectural heritage. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
  • Muthiah, S. (2004). 60 landmark years. L&T and ECC.
  • Muthiah, S. (2004). Madras Rediscovered. East West Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd.
  • Muthiah, S. (2004). Changing Chennai: a symposium on the queen of the Coromandel. Singh.
  • Muthiah, S. (2004). The Indo Lankans, their 200-year saga. Indian Heritage Foundation.
  • Muthiah, S. (2005). Madras that is Chennai, gateway to the South; Ranpar Publishers.
  • Muthiah, S. (2006). 150 Years of excellence, a pictorial history of the University of Madras. University of Madras.
  • Muthiah, S. (2006). The Chettiar heritage, The Chettiar Heritage.
  • Muthiah, S. (2006). A tradition of Madras that is Chennai, the Taj Connemara. The Taj Connemara.
  • Muthiah, S. (2006). A work of genius, the Senate House of the University of Madras. University of Madras
  • Muthiah, S. (2007). Overcoming challenge: the 125 year saga of Chennai Port, the harbour that men made. Chennai Port Trust.
  • Muthiah, S.; Gopalan, K. N. (2008). Moving India on wheels: The story of Ashok Leyland. Ashok Leyland.
  • Muthiah, S. (2008). Born to dare: the life of Lt. Gen. Inderjit Singh Gill, PVSM, MC. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-670-08188-2.
  • Muthiah, S. (2008). Madras, Chennai: a 400 year record of the first city of modern India, Vols. 1, 2 and 3; Association of British Scholars; Vol. 1 came out in 2008 and Vol. 3 in 2019.
  • Muthiah, S. (2009). The school in the Park, a hundred years of the Sacred Heart School.
  • Muthiah, S.; Sathyanarayanan, S.; Satish, Swapna; Sathasivam, Kumaran (2009). The Raj Bhavans of Tamil Nadu. South Zone Cultural Centre.
  • Muthiah, S. (2010). Down by the Adyar. Madras Boat Club.
  • Muthiah, S. (2011). Madras Miscellany: a decade of people, places and potpourri. East West. ISBN 978-93-8003-284-9.
  • Muthiah, S. (2012). Walkabout in Oz. Ranpar Publishers.
  • Muthiah, S. (2012). A Kodaikanal icon, the 125 year old history of a Kodi landmark (the story of the Kodaikanal Club). Ranpar Publishers.
  • Muthiah, S.; Maclure, Harry. (2014) The Anglo Indians, a 500 year history. Niyogi Books.
  • Muthiah, S.; Meyyappan Junior. (2014). A Chettiar album. The Chettiar Heritage.
  • Muthiah, S. (2016). The Madras Musings silver jubilee book. Chennai Heritage.
  • Muthiah, S. (2016). T.T. Vasu – The man who could never say no. Ranpar Publishers.
  • Muthiah, S. (2016). Office chai, planter’s brew. Westland.
  • Muthiah, S. (2016). The magnificent Shevaroys. Ranpar Publishers.


  1. ^ Rao, manasa (20 April 2019). "Master chronicler of Madras no more: S Muthiah passes away at 89". Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Chennai". lifeinchennai.com. Retrieved 27 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e Gautam, Savita (3 November 2002). "Crusader for Chennai". The Hindu.
  4. ^ Muthiah, S. "GO, THORA, GO; THOMIANS BECOME ASIAN SCHOOLS ROWING CHAMPIONS" (PDF). St Thomas' College, Gurutalawa.
  5. ^ a b Ghosh, Bishwanath (4 April 2011). "Muthiah Discovered". The Hindu.
  6. ^ Kolappan, B. (20 April 2019). "S. Muthiah, chronicler of Chennai, is no more". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  7. ^ Kolappan, B. (21 April 2019). "The man who loved Madras, and Chennai loved back". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b Alexander, Deepa (23 April 2019). "A history lesson every Friday". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  9. ^ V, Sriram (22 April 2019). "S Muthiah and the writing of Madras Miscellany". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "Muthiah Honoured". The Hindu. 8 March 2002.
  11. ^ Chennai Online
  12. ^ "Obituary : Wednesday, June 05, 2002". The Hindu. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Subbiah Muthiah". Viator Publications. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009.
  14. ^ a b c Sriram, V. (18 September 2013). "The chronicler loses his companion". The Hindu.
  15. ^ "Chief Minister inaugurates Chennai Book Fair". The Hindu. Retrieved 1 January 2010.