Monday, February 26, 2007



I have Pages 43, 44, 45 & 46 extracted from a souvenir or magazine of probably the DBU. But there is no indication of from where these have been extracted. These 4 Pages comprise two articles – one by Wilhelm Woutersz and the other by Mrs. Christobelle Oorloff who was a Past Principal of Lindsay Girls School, Colombo (wife of the late Mr. Cedric Oorloff CCS, Past Principal Wesley College, Colombo and Trinity College Kandy). Mrs Oorloff indicates in her article, a copy of which I will give to Fazli when I meet him so that he can post it in the genealogy website he hosts, her age as 91. She passed away in 2004 just after her 97th birthday. Hence, both articles would have been published around 1998. I am reproducing the Woutersz article which I believe may be of interest to many.

Mr. Wilhelm Woutersz was a career Foreign Service official in Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry having served as Ambassador in Italy and as Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the tail end of his career. He crossed the great divide sometime ago.


The DBU, the spiritual home to the last bastion of the “beleagured” Burgher community, soldiers on in a last Dutch stand. But the weaponry for survival is culinary, not military, a legacy of the old Dutch East India Company, the VOC - Breudhers and their lesser floury satellites of Fuggetti, Koekjes and Poffertjes. In this formidable arsenal the Breudher stood supreme.

“When good Burghers make Brueudhers the raisins don’t sink to the bottom”, my maiden aunt observed with some asperity. It was a recipe that defied description and you looked for it in vain in any cookery book. A good Breudher must rise and the secret of the “resurrected” Breudher was not a matter of virtue but the virtuosity of the Burgher Grand Dames who got off their rocking chairs each Christmas, rolled up their raglan sleeves and got down to their seasonal trade of “making Breudhers”. They did not bake or steam them. They simply made them, pure miracles with dough and yeast, a perennial part of the Sri Lankan X’mas Board, enduring and endearing.

This lasting legacy is a Burgher birthright invested with its own innocent snobbery in a genealogical culinary line stretching from Altendorff to Zieglaar with stops along the way to accommodate the lineage of Bartholomeusz, Holdenbottle, Keegal, Vander Straaten and perhaps a Woutersz or two - the line is unending.

The respectful company of breudher maker grows smaller, passing away or “passed” to Australia or surviving to rejoice in a Christmas Cantata at the DRC. But the passage from Mount Lavinia to Melbourne and Bambalapitiya to Brisbane is half-hearted and temporary. The heart lies closer home in the corner of a not so foreign field that is forever Sri Lanka with its magnetic pull at Christmastime and here the home spun philosophy abides - by their breudhers ye shall know!

article submitted by
Branu Rahim
Colombo, Sri Lanka
February 2007

Email response to the above article on Lankan Friends Forum on Googlegroups by Elisabeth Leembruggen-Kallberg on Feb 26 2007:-

Thanks, Branu, Caryll, for sharing the article and the comments about my cousin, Wilhelm. He was wonderful, warm, witty and all those other lovely compliments you showered on him...a bit of cheeky rascal as well ;-)

He was several years my senior; I still see him in my mind's eye puffing away on his pipe, telling a joke or two, charming those around him. You would have loved his wife, Des, as well. There was something quintessential 'Sri Lankan' about both of them. Yes, they were Burghers, but they were more than that--I think he/she embodied the essence of Lankans, our warmth, our hospitality. I know I'm biased.

We spent far too many years apart, but his last posting to Italy meant my favourite 'coz' was closer than he'd been geographically in a long time. He is still sorely missed. And this article--which I had lost in my travels, Branu so thanks--is so 'Wilhelm'.

I can only second Branu's suggestion, Faz. (And maybe you see that this sort of story telling runs in the family ;-)

Thanks again and best regards,

Beth Leembruggen-Kallberg
(aka Liz)
-- Dr. Elisabeth Leembruggen-KallbergDocent,
ATHVrije Universiteit

Date: Fri Feb 23, 2007

Hi Everyone,

My name is Branu Rahim. Although a Malay (and Muslim) my friends have
christened me a "Burgher Muslim" because of my unorthodox lifestyle.

Pls find as an attachment an article which I believe would be of interest to

Machang Fazli --- Why don't you post this on the genealogy website?


Branu Rahim
Sri Lanka

From the Ceylon Daily News, June 22nd 1937

A Sinhalese writes of


We cannot think of Ceylon without them

By T. Max Perera

I have a great predilection towards Burghers. Not only because I have many bosom cronies in that community, but because I have spent some of the happiest years of my boyhood in their homes.

The finest lady that I ever knew was a Burgher. The most select gentleman of my acquaintance is a Burgher; and if some unfortunate Sinhalese girl fails to discover me, I could still discover both intelligence and beauty in a Burgher girl and - marry her.

This is merely a personal outburst, because a fair face seldom fails to floor me. But the Burghers are not only fair of face � in truth, along with an attractive complexion they have, in addition, such a broad sense of fair play and fair dealing that they are the easiest to get on with in the world.

We have been brothers and sisters in blood for we have tasted more things than salt together, and I never set eyes on a Burgher but I take an instant liking to him or her.


They are a Western graft upon an Eastern tree, but so well have they acclimatized and endeared themselves to the native soil that we cannot think of a Ceylon without Burghers.

Wellawatte would be a dull strip of sand; Bambalapitiya a barren wilderness of wind; Colpetty and Dehiwala gloomy haunts of melancholy, if there were no Burgher girls to scatter radiance on the way.

With their good looks and musical voices they give a definite zest to social life, dancing with hips of rhythm and crooning melodies that are filled with moonlit dreams. The sparkle of life is in their eyes and the tremor of love is on their lips.

They have captured all the romance in the world and shut it all to themselves, that no Matchmakers can enter into their lives with deceitful talk of daughters and of dowries; and so they believe in marrying for love and believe also in all the sacrifices involved in the one great adventure of Love.


They wear their hearts on their sleeves and in the frank lustre of their eyes one can read their very souls. Faithful as friends and forgiving as enemies, they are always too good-natured to be obstinately malicious and too easy-going to bear any rancour.

They are the descendants of all those Portuguese who came along with Lorenzo d'Almeida or of the Dutch who arrived with Joris Van Spilbergen. The former held the land for 134 years and the Hollanders for over 156, and although their governments have disappeared, the two nations remain with us as - Burghers.


Theirs have been some of the greatest intellects of the land. The past has given us Dornhorst and Lorenz; the present has Blaze and Schneider.

The only Ceylonese Bishop in the island was a Burgher. Maartensz and Wille are men of the age we live in; and in the field of sport as in the realm of music, Kelaart, Foenander, Arndt and Zilwa are names of high repute, while the Van Langenbergs are men of wide renown.

Remains also with them the blessed light of Christianity that they brought into the Island; the Roman-Dutch Law ; the forts that they built and the canals they constructed. Those forts may crumble and the canals run dry but Portuguese or Dutch we have always in our midst our tried friends the Burghers.

"The Government officers", explains the well-known Dutch Burgher historian of Ceylon, "were known as Company's Servants and the non-officials as Burghers or Viyburgers (free Burghers)". From these Burghers were appointed officers for the Burgery, an armed force composed of Tupasses, (people of mixed Portuguese descent). When the rule of the Company ceased in 1796 there could be no Company's Servants any longer and all the Dutch people in Ceylon became Burghers.

They are the sponsors of western art and fashion in our midst. They are a vivacious Occidental group in a sedate Eastern land. Cocktails and Fox Trots will not join the Dodo as long as there are Burghers in the country. Besides, is not music the greatest passion of their lives and beauty their common heritage ? Great Race, this, the Burghers.


Politics do not flutter them; they like the men of the land and the men of the land are fond of them and these happy bonds of love are often drawn closer together with a ring of beaten gold and a vow before the Altar.

They are certainly not an effeminate people: The heroic spirit of Constantine de Sa and the martial spirit of Azevedo still linger in the hearts of their descendants, so, in every branch and walk of life have proved themselves to be an honour to their country and community.

Whether in the learned professions or in the Government service or lower down in the humbler crafts which the poorer ones follow for the sake of their living, they have singularly distinguished themselves by their honesty and integrity, just as wherever they go they must have, in their own characteristic manner and according to their lot in life, their feasts and musical festivals.

They fill a very big place in the social life of the country and if we Sinhalese have not quarreled with them and have found them to be the pleasantest of friends, it is mainly because of their savoir faire and good breeding and of the winning ways of their men as of the smiling charm of their ladies.

Daily News Features Page, Thursday July 19 2007

Is it extinction of the Sri Lanka Burgher community?
A commentary on the Burgher birthrate:

J. B. Muller

Burgher Population: The Burgher Community in Sri Lanka faces extinction. In less than another 50 years the Burghers of Sri Lanka would be found only on the Internet and perhaps in a few books and in the archives of newspapers. Surprised? Shocked to learn that you are on the endangered species list? You may well be.

The net birthrate of the Burghers is abysmally low on the one hand and both the net emigration rate and death, on the other hand, is working against Burgher numbers. Whilst the population of Sri Lanka has been growing since the first census in 1871, the numbers of the Burghers has always been below 50,000 souls.

Burgher numbers have not been growing with the rest of the population. Further, Burgher girls have been constantly marrying outside the Community and their offspring have been quietly assimilated into other, non-Burgher ethnic communities. Burgher boys, too, have been marrying outside the Community and the process of assimilation (and eventual extinction) goes on apace.
The leadership of the Burgher Community must take concrete steps to encourage Burghers to marry members of their own community in increasing numbers to ensure that their numbers do not dwindle to the point of extinction!

Indeed, economic factors impinge heavily on this suggestion; however, there is a way out through focused and concentrated education and training to enhance the economic status of the Burghers. It is quite apparent that the Burgher population is ageing rapidly and that few younger Burghers are to be seen in any significant numbers at any gathering.

Economic uplift and development mean that economic status would improve raising living standards to the level that Burghers could afford to have larger families. In my own family, there was a member of the Ceylon Civil Service who had 24 children out of two marriages, 16 + 8. My father was the eldest son out of 15 children. This is not to say that Burghers go for such large families but that they should have at least five children to replace the ageing and those who die every year.

Burgher leaders have also come to an impasse over which to count as part of the Burgher population — a question necessitated by the increasingly porous nature of Sri Lankan society and the Community’s generally high rates of intermarriage.

Are those counted as Burghers only those whose male parent is a Burgher of original European ancestry or whose female parent was of original European ancestry also? For example, should an individual raised in a cultural milieu that is non-Burgher be considered a Burgher if he or she had one Burgher parent?

What if one born with one Burgher parent and raised in a non-Burgher cultural milieu asserts identification with the Burgher Community? What about the increasingly common situation of a non-Burgher not married to but living in the same household with a Burgher man or woman?
What about the children and the grandchildren of intermarried Burghers? If they were not raised as Burghers, should they nevertheless be considered part of the Burgher Community?
If there is any debate within the Burgher Community over absolute numbers, there is far wider agreement on the patterns of behaviour within the Burgher population. Two trends are particularly telling. First, in terms of median age, Burghers are older than other Sri Lankans. Second, even by the most cautious figures, at least half of all marriages involving a Burgher are to non-Burghers. Neither trend suggests demographic vitality.

There is considerable evidence pointing to the relatively advanced age of the Sri Lanka Burgher population. Among Sri Lankans of all kinds Burghers have the fewest number of siblings, the smallest household size, and the lowest number of children under eighteen at home.
Burghers marry later than other Sri Lankans with the greatest disparities occurring in the age group between twenty-five and thirty-four. For Burgher women in particular, late marriage means lower rates of fertility compared with other Sri Lankan women.

The fertility gap is especially enormous among Burgher under the age of thirty-five; even though the gap narrows considerably over the course of the next ten years, at no point do Burgher women attain the fertility levels of their non-Burgher peers or bear children in numbers sufficient to offset population losses from natural causes.

It is true that low fertility rates among Burgher women are not a new phenomenon. Economic advancement, the availability of birth control, and rising educational achievement caused Burgher fertility to start dropping as long ago as the middle of the 20th Century.
Nor, as is well known, is the phenomenon limited to Burghers, or to Sri Lanka. In the U.S.; in contemporary Europe and Japan, it has reached proportions that threaten catastrophe to those nations.

Still, Burgher women in Sri Lanka are significantly less fertile than their other Sri Lankan counterparts. This fact is attested to by the significantly better rates of educational achievement among Burgher women, who spend significantly more time than their non-Burgher peers in learning employable skills. For many of them, still more childless years follow as they work to advance their careers.

Add to all this the losses sustained through the high rate of intermarriage. Once upon a time, it was thought by at least some sociologists that intermarriage could prove to be a demographic boon. In the aggregate, said the optimists, it would take fewer intermarried Burghers producing children identifying themselves as Burghers to result in a net gain. But nothing of the sort has happened.

Not only does the birth rate among intermarried Burghers tend to be even lower than among those who marry within the Community. Nearly all of the children raised within intermarried families go on to marry non-Burghers themselves, and only a small percentage of these raise their own children as Burghers.

As for their links with Burgher life, only a minority of children raised by dual-religion parents identify themselves with Christianity or with the institutions of the Burgher Community.
In two generations, the process of assimilation would be complete, erasing the unique ethnic, social and cultural character of the Burghers. Although a number of adult children of intermarriage do express “somewhat” of a connection with the Burgher component of their identity, such feelings are rarely translated into behavior.

Like their parents, most tend not to affiliate with a church, contribute to Burgher causes, or participate in a Burgher event nearly as much as do the adult children of those who have married within the Community.

Advocating larger families would certainly beg the question of how to support a larger family when Burghers are (like everyone else) battling with an ever rising cost-of-living? The answer to that lies in better training for better-paid employment and in being competitive in the sense of doing better things with the resources we already possess.

As mentioned earlier, the key to increasing Burgher numbers is first, education and training. Every support should be given to Burghers to have larger families. The other part lies in the hands of the leaders who should motivate the Burghers to do what needs be done and to pursue education and training with single-minded purpose.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A classmate from days gone by sent me the link to your blog and reading it unleashed a flood of happy memories. Thank you.
I gleefully remember a prank played by some Peterites on one of their big cricket match days. A horde of them - two of my brothers included - tossed their bicycles and themselves over the back wall of Holy Family Convent and rode en masse, around and around the tennis and netball courts, waving clackers and tooting horns. The nuns chased after them, their veils billowing in the sea breeze, looking like a fleet of small boats in full sail. It was priceless.
Unfortunately for the boys, their timing was a bit off because if they had waited for ten more minutes, the lunch bell would have sent all of us girls outdoors rendering the poor nuns helpless! Math was in progress at the time the din erupted and as we crowded around the windows to watch the fun, Miss Monica Strange, our unflappable teacher said "Now girls, get away from the windows and stay calm. The problem will soon be solved". She was very good at solving problems and rumour had it that she could also read our minds, may God rest her soul. The lunch bell was delayed until the last of the intruders high-tailed it onto Retreat Road and the gates were locked. Those were wickedly carefree days.

Shortly thereafter - a week at the most - the wall was raised by about two feet and big shards of glass were embedded on top for good measure.
For the sake of my high profile bothers - I mean brothers - who are highly successful businessmen and pillars of their communities, I shall remain anonymous.