Sunday, March 05, 2006

The way the Cookie conquered

The way the middle class urban people of Ceylon kept home and cooked in the old days: (based on an interview conducted with a Burgher lady in Colombo whose Mum was 80 and living at the time). The lifestyle described applies to all middle and upper class urban communities of that bygone era in Sri Lanka.

1. What do you recall of your mother’s/grandmother’s dealings with preparing the meal for the household?

My paternal grandmother lived down High Street (now W A Silva Mawatha) in Wellawatte in Colombo 6. It was a very large and sprawling old house, very open and airy with big open Verandahs, and at the back of the house, was the Servants Quarters.

There was a cook, a houseboy, a driver and an "ayah" (maid). There was also the rickshaw man, and the tailor who lived in separate rooms outside. My grandmother would summon the cook, Jane, to her and would discuss with her the menu for the day, every morning.

I do not remember my grandmother ever doing much cooking herself, but when she wanted something special made (like her famous "Pol Kiri Badun” A coconut milk dish) which she always wanted made for her youngest child, my dad, she did it herself! Jane's was never good enough-- Jane herself told me this several times when she later worked in our home!!

2. Did they, as many of my relatives seem to have, sit down with a cook at the start of a day and decide what the meals for the day would be and then send the cook off with the money to buy the produce?

I think I have already answered that question by my answer above! I remember the driver being sent off to do the purchasing, but not daily. They bought quite a lot and stocked the fridges (referigerator’s). But probably they did so before fridges were a part of their lives.

3. Who dealt with the hawkers who came to the door?

My aunts remember that my granny was very particularly about the quality of the meat the cook brought home and wasn’t about sending her back to get something better.

My mother often told us of how her mother dealt with hawkers herself, and yes, she was so very particular about the quality. Mum used to say that the woman selling cashews would bring her entire basket of nuts to my grandmother (who was an expert sweet-meat maker) and Granny would choose all the biggest nuts. Of course they paid for the nuts by the 100 in those days. Also fresh live chickens used to be brought to the door by vendors, and Granny would chose the heaviest ones. The same with eggs and crabs etc My granny would make her famous Marzipans, Cheese Straws and Chocolate Fudge with the freshest of ingredients.

During the World War II, when nothing was imported, Cargills (and/or Millers) asked my Granny to supply them with her famous sweets to replace all the imported ones, and she became quite famous for it.

Furthermore, the older folk had the competitive knack of bargaining with the many vendors who used to call over at their doorstep on a daily basis. There were the fishmongers, of whom Martha Akka from Moratuwa was famous in Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte, the green “Keera” vendors, and the fruit vendors. They all carried wicker basketloads of produce on their weary heads and trekked all the way to Colombo from far corners, viz Panadura, Moratuwa, and even Gampaha.

Dealings with these vendors was done n Shillings (a legacy of the British Pound, Shilling & pence currency system of old), where One Shilling was equivalent to Ceylon Fifty Cents. The vendors were also smart enough to fix their prices according to the bargaining capabilities of the buyers and it was a cat and mouse game, so exciting to watch, every morning at these homes within the many towns of Colombo.

Then there was the broomstick vendor who trudged along on his four-wheeled contraption carrying all kinds of brooms, mops, Ekel Brooms for raking in the leaves, floor mats and cleaning equipment. On his footsteps came the Gotmaba Roti man in the evenings, clanging away his metal Gothamba ladle on to the sides of his cart making a din that could be heard a mile away. Complementing this gang was he Kadalai man, who carried his load in a basin on his head, filled with all varieties of spicy gram, chic peas, and nuts.

Gone are these door to door salesmen and saleswomen of yore who provided an excellent service of delivering fresh produce to almost every single home in the city.

4. Did they rely on the cook to cook the breakfast and the lunch, and have more of a hand in the dinner?

Yes! They did rely on the cooks to cook breakfast and lunch, but very often, they did the dinner themselves. Breakfast was always string-hoppers, hoppers, roti or other "local" food, mostly. I remember the “Ogurulang” (is that how it is spelt??) a kind of loose scrambled egg dish with lots of onions and dill seed which was always there with the string-hoppers and “kiri hodhi” (yelloe coconut milk gravy) and “pol sambol” (red hot chili-coconut scraping mix). The table was laid along with the teapot, full of steaming hot tea covered by a cloth tea-cosy on a separate wooden tray, along with the cups and saucers, sugar and milk and the tea strainer on a separate saucer.
Lunch always consisted of rice, beef curry and fish curry, three vegetable curries, a “mallun” (spicy green leaf mix), something fried, and several bottles of chutneys and pickles.

Fruit always followed.

5. Were there dishes that your mother/grandmother would never let the cooks make?

My Granny always made the Christmas cake, for example.

Of course! the revered Christmas Cake and Breudher were never made by anyone else! My maternal grandma did much more cooking than my paternal Nanna. Granny was a big strong Irish woman with her hair in a bun who did lots of cooking. Nanna was a petite genteel darling of a woman who married my grandfather when she was only 18 and the "Belle of Kalutara" and he a much older and previously married man. He wed her and brought her to Colombo and bought three houses for her, two in Wellawate and one in Colpetty. Needless to say, he spoiled her rotten, and she had servants at her beck and call, so did not do much cooking herself.

Granny on the other hand, did loads of cooking! She had her specials. Jewel like Marzipans which were laid out to "bake" in the sun, and looked too good to eat! Then she made her famous trotter stew-- heavenly! Then there was her Turkish Delight, Marshmallows, Chocolate Fudge, etc.

6. Did your family follow the common pattern of having rice and curry for lunch and a more European style meal for dinner? Whose recipes were used for the latter, or for any of the European style meals?

Yes, dinner was and still is with us, a more European meal. I remember my mother throwing her hands up in exasperation when once interviewing a cook who, when asked what "issaraha kaama" (“the first meal” or European food) she knew, she replied "Istew, Bistake, Cutlis"!! (meaning Stew, Beef Steak and Cutlets). Mother exclaimed "that is all they know to make". The dinners I remember in my home (or at my grandmothers or aunts') usually was a Stew, or Steak and Kidney Pie, Kedgeree, Bombay Roast, Crumb Chops, with the accompanying vegetables etc. If we had string-hoppers for dinner, they would be accompanied by Mulligatawny, Beef Curry, Pol Mallun (A chillie hot coconut scraping mix with “Kooni” small dried shrimp) and sometimes Potato “Thel Dhala” (fried in oil).

My grandmother’s and Mother all had their own recipes for these dishes, and all of them tasted different when cooked by any of them, but equally delicious.

7. Did you have a cook at all? Was the cook male or female? How old were they when they came into service? Where did they come from? How did your mother/grandmother know about where to find them?

Yes, my grandmother's cook, Jane, came to work for us when my Dad got married to my Mum. She was already trained by Nanna, and knew exactly what Daddy liked to eat!! Nanna made sure of that! When she left, we had a male cook, a Tamil man from a tea estate who had cooked for the British planters and who always kept a poker face and stood stock still to attention when spoken to. My brother and I tried so hard to make him relax and laugh awhile, but he just refused to do so!

My cousins were planters, and usually servants were recruited from the old Colonial style Tea Estates. From what I know of my grandparent's servants, and my aunt’s, servants came to work for them at a very young age, and generally stayed on till a ripe old age.

Jane went to work for Nanna when she was very young, and worked for my parents for many years, taking care of me as a baby as well. She even came back to work for me after I married and cooked for me when I had my first baby! I have an aunt whose cook, Soma, has been with her for over 47 years!

Usually servants who worked for one person brought along others from their villages for family and friends whenever needed.

8. How were the cooks paid? Did they get holidays? Where did they sleep and eat?

The servants in our homes had their own quarters--separate rooms and bathrooms. Salaries of course varied with the times, but were usually not very much. These people were so very poor and had next to nothing in their villages, so it was a massive privilege to work in our homes and live comfortable lives. They were paid monthly, and were given holidays usually for the Sinhala & Tamil New Year, when they went home having spent a lot of their earnings on new colored cotton fabrics for the women’s “cloths" (traditional lower wrap-around garment) and jackets and also for the men's sarongs.

They would return from their villages with a box full of Sinhala/Tamil festival sweetmeats that consisted of “Kavun” (oil cakes), “Kokis” (Oil fried Cookies), “Bibikkan” (Jaggery & Coconut Cake), “Kalu Dodol” (Jaggery & Coconut Sweet), “Aasmi” (Coconut Oil fried Crispies) etc.!

9. Did the cook or other servant serve at table? Did they get specially dressed for it?

Yes, usually the houseboy attended to the serving at the table. He had to be nattily dressed, always, when doing so.

10. Did the cook or other servants speak much English? Could they read English?

No, they never spoke English, and considered it very rude to do so, but for sure they understood the language very well! Our old cook from the plantations, Arumugam, spoke English in a quaint way.

11. What was the feeling of the relationship(s) of the cook and servants to your family?

Servants of those days were very respectful, and humble. In our homes they were always treated very well--but were never allowed to eat with us at our table of course. They also had their own plates and cups--they could never use ours. They never sat on chairs, but on a low bench, doorstep, or on the bare floor. They slept on mats on the floor, never on beds. This was what they were used to in their villages. Usually the children in the family were closest to the servants, and next the lady of the household, but last of all the master. He would have little or nothing to do with the servants except maybe the driver.

12. Were any of the cooks/servants married and/or have kids during their service?

None of our servants were married as I remember.

13. What did they cook on? Was the kitchen inside or outside the house? What fuel was used?

They cooked, in the early years, on Wood Fires (a multi brick/stone contraption that held the cooking utensils on top of it and used firewood as fuel) and later on, on imported Keresone and Gas Cookers, inside the house. Most homes had two kitchens. One more or less used as a pantry for preparation and storage of utensils, while the other was the real kitchen, with chimney et al to disperse the smoke from the wood fires into the air and keep it away from the house.

William Aiya meets King Kong

William Aiya of Maradana challenges - wrestler King Kong

It was early fifties as I recall the Illustrious Showman, the late Mr. Donovan Andree - got down world famous wrestlers, i.e. Dara Singh, King Kong, Tiger Holden (Australia), Red Scorpion, Ali Riza Bey (Egypt), The Flying French man - George Pencheff - Flying Kick Expert, "Angel Face" - Zibisco, Haraban Singh, Hooded Terror etc.

Referee was Wong Bock Lee. These open air Bouts were held at B.R.C. Grounds, Colombo. The Late Mr. Donovan Andree was also responsible for organising shows like "Holiday On Ice" and the "Harlen Blackbirds" at the B.R.C. Grounds, Col. 7.

I can remember somewhere in 1955 - Donovan Andree was voted "Personality of the Year" by 'Ceylon Observer' readers, and if I am not mistaken Sir John Kotelawela came second. Mr. Andree was awarded the "Stanvac Trophy" (Standard Vacuum Co.) by the Ceylon Observer. He was the one who introduced Erin de Selfa - top Singer who I met at the Kinross Club - Wellawatte sometime ago - before the dreaded Tsunami. Years ago she sang at the London Paladium.

In 1980, Mr. Semage - got down wrestlers, Dhara Singh, John Powers (tattoed all over his body). The Prince etc. held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium - I took my very young 2 sons and wife to these bouts - Mr. Semage gave me passes - for this - my wife was attached to the President's Office then.

Jiffry Younoos (Deceased - Lake House) and I Premil Ratnayake (Lake House) and a crowd of about 15 went to B.R.C. Grounds - for a wresting event. With us was Williyam Aiya of Maradana, who owned a Club, with a small billiard table opposite Ananda College. Next to this Club, a big water sump was built and filled with water by the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions), this was wartime. William Aiya was a tough Guy and very straight, pint sized mazcular man, a James Cagney look, and very much tattoed on his chest were the words, "Budhu Sasuna Babeleva" and along the shoulders were the words, "Danna Apita Boru Mokatada" tattoed.
All of us sat on tiers - cheaper seats. First came Tiger Holden a real villain - smoking a cigar and mug of beer in his hand - he used to drink the beer and throw the mug at the crowd, who hooted him. He would burn his opponent and the Referee Wong Bock Lee - with his cigar, and be disqualified. But, he would not leave the ring - minutes later Dhara Singh and Ali Riza Bey - climbed the stage and removed him bodily - but he gave them a fight too.

Most popular with local audience was Dhara Singh, Ali Riza Bey and Haraban Singh - most hated were "Tiger" Holden, King Kong and "Angel Face" Zibisco because they played foul and even manhandled the referee. Flying Frenchman George Pencheff - always a favourite with some superb Flying Kicks.

The Grounds B.R.C. was always full for these fights one by one the fights ended. The last for the night was King Kong vs Dhara Singh - referee Wong Bock Lee. People cheered as Dhara came on to the ring - he bowed to the crowd. When King Kong came on stage, he was greeted with hoots - spat at the audience and showed his fists threatening the on-lookers. During the fight King Kong assaulted the Referee, when ordered to go to his corner.

He grabbed Dhara's eyes with his fingers, bit his ear, and at the end, Dhara was bleeding from his forehead and carried away in a stretcher. Some people say that these fights are staged - but we do not take this for a fact. Everyone was worked up now - as their favourite Dhara Singh was carried away in a stretcher William Aiya was the worst effected and angry.

William Aiya was a straight forward guy, who I have witnessed, taken on two or three tough guys at once, and also I remember Kalu Abey of Waidya Road, Dehiwela, still living taken on more than that and even challenged two Mr. Ceylons at the venue on the day of the final selection. William Aiya told us and a few of the crowd to come with him to King Kong's tent, which we did - about 25 of us, we reached his tent, and William Aiya stood closest to the tent and shouted "Ado King Kong Waren Do" several times and we were all joining him in the shouting.

After about few minutes King Kong emerged out of his tent - with a chair in his hand, lifted high above his head, dashed it on the ground and with a big roar - came towards us - what happened then was history - we took to our heels, falling over each other and ran for dear life. I cannot remember how I went home. I met William Aiya - only 2 weeks later - at Maradana and he gave me a sheepish look and did not utter word about King Kong.

- Maurice Dahanayake

Christmas in Sri Lanka

Christmas in the good old days
By Noel Crusz

Here I am on the ocean liner THE PACIFIC SKY in the Coral Sea on a pre-Christmas voyage from Sydney to New Caledonia.The memories of how we celebrated Christmas in Sri Lanka come back.The house was painted, the walls white-washed with low black taredgings all round the rooms and the chairs were re-cushioned. The traveling tailor came home, measured the rooms, and made the curtains on ourold Singer sewing machine.Red Mansion polish was applied on the cement floor, which got a shine from a heavy handled brush. Cake making was a ritual, where my mother laid the rules and we offered to help. We ate a good many cadjunuts and raisins There was the wooden ice-box with sawdust and a heavy metal covering for slabs of ice.Two weeks before Christmas the children were taken in a hired car toPettah's Main Street.

The well known shoe store was T.G.M. Perera's and we were fitted with the best shoes. Even Jamaliya's Shoe Store in Wellawatta took in orders for boots, the teenage fashion of the thirties.Before World War II, there was Ono & Co. This Japanese toy shop owned by a Mr. Numano had a wonderful array of toys from Japan.

The Main Street tailor measured us, as we provided China silk for our shirts. The silk of course was bought in early November from the Chinese peddlers who plied their trade on bicycles. Some of the Chinamen carried their bundles on their back, with a heavy stick for balance. Main Streetin Pettah in the early thirties was very narrow. It had to cope with the tram lines and bullock carts.

Our Christmas shopping included a visit to X.P. Paivas for lunch andice cream. Round the corner was The Rupee Store, where for one rupee you could buy many things.

Millers, Cargills, Simes and Whiteaways dominated the Fort shopping.We went to Hunters and Siedles and The Roche Brothers shops for many items. I cannot forget the shopping in the golden mile of Colpetty, Bambalapitiya and Wellawatta.

The Wickremesinghe Brothers headed by George imported the famous Mende Radiograms from Germany.We cannot forget the well known shops in Wellawatta: M.P. Gomez, A.W. Jansz, J.B. De Pinto, Nooranis, Jamaliya's Boot Works and many famous boutiques.

As a boy I went with my father to A.W. Jansz's store near High Street. We bought Dutch Edam Cheese, as an accompaniment for the Christmas breudher. I still remember Jansz bellowing to a tardy salesman:"What are you standing there shooting 'papaws'! Jansz sold liquor and all types of hardware.

We bought wire-netting to build chicken coops. The shopping spree in Colombo included a visit to Pilawoos for atreat of buriyani.

Elephant House played a significant part in booking Christmas cakes. Yet there was one last item that was in the shopping list: Fireworks. We gazed in wonder at the array of fireworks in the Fireworks Palace opposite the Fort Railway Station. Sparklers, Roman candles, sky rockets, Catherine wheels, squibs, crackers of every size were there in the showcase.

Christmas was on. The cake was made and sent to the bakery. The servants were pounding and roasting, making string hoppers and pittu, cutting up A.W. Jansz ham, with cutlets and seeni sambol.

Churches saw long queues at the Confessional. I remember well the Allied troops celebrating Christmas in Ceylon. In the Seminary in St. Francis Zavier in Bambalapitiya, the African troops came for Midnight Mass.

In Bandarawela, the Italian prisoners of war, brought tears when theysang the Adeste Fideles.As I look out now at a placid sea, the Christmas memories for an expatriate find no sequence. There were Christmas trees from up-country estates sent by train. Carol parties on Christmas Eve went about in lorries.

Arthur Van Langenberg helped me to stage a massive Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve at St. Lucia's Cathedral Square in Kotahena. There were hundreds in the cast.

The beautiful teenager Camille Cramer played Mary, as she was seated astride on a real donkey, led by a young doctor, who played Joseph. As Gerry Paul hit the Police drums, the donkey took off, with Josephclinging to its tail, and the audience, including Mary in ripples of laughter.

As midnight came, there were a never-ending sound of fireworks andsky rockets, that would surely have awoken the Christ Child. Carol parties came to the doorstep. At Kawdana, children in costume came around singing Sinhala carols. A hand cart with an illuminated crib was thebackdrop. They even brought a portable harmonium.

Of course the homes saw families sitting for a feast of string hoppers, ham, breudher, cheese, mulligatany and cake. There were presents near the family Christmas tree.

The postman, the dhoby, the baker, the fishmonger were the regular Christmas early birds. They all got cash, plus a tot of arrack or gin.As children we waited eagerly for the Sakkili Band.

These were the poor men and women who carried the night soil buckets, before the water closet and drainage era. Many householders were generous in the cash tips they gave them. An extra pint of arrack helped them in their dance!

The famous Kukul Charlie also made his trek down all the lanes. Those were the days when Donovan Andree dominated and enriched the local entertainment scene. Donovan brought down the Ice Follies.

Soon night came once more. We lit our fireworks, saw the servants lighting the big Roman candles and sky rockets. The radio blasted yuletide melodies.As my ship went on its voyage, I was dreaming not of a 'White Christmas', but of the Christmases I spent in Sri Lanka.

Nowhere in the world did I ever experience Christmas, as the Ceylonese prepare and enjoy it. I can still hear the hustle and bustle in Pettah, the cries of the street vendors and the pavement hawkers. The wailing of the mamma-pappa balloon, the rattle of the toy-carts, and the delicacies from the gram sellers are unforgettable.An Aussie Christmas is pea-nuts compared to a Christmas in Ceylon.

I do not wonder why my parents christened me Noel, and my sister Noeline.

I am reminded of J.P. de Fonseka who gave lustre to Christmas writing. He edited the Christmas issue of St. Mary's parish bulletin in Bambalapitiya. He wrote: "St. Thomas Aquinas theology avoids the Christmas cake and wine and toys and crackers and family reunions of children and parents... He considers the mystery of the GOD man, without whom the Christmas wines rejoice not and the crackers crack in vain."

[sent in by Anne-Marie Kellar in Colombo, whose parents marriage was solemnized by the Rev Fr. Noel Crusz during the time he was a priest]

Noel Crusz, the author of this wonderful piece, was the priest who married my parents at St Mary's Church Bambalapitiya in 1954. He was Dad's classmate and best buddy, and as a Wedding gift to my Dad he had arranged for Bing Crosby (who was in India at the time) to sing at the wedding, my Dad being a huge fan..Sadly, it was not to be, as Bing Crosby fell ill with diarrhea and could not make it.Noel Crusz gave up the priesthood and became a layman-- and achieved fame as a writer, journalist and broadcaster here and in Australia.

I really don't know if it's something in the air that is making so many people reminisce in the past few days of the "good ole days", as I've been getting so many such emails from folk all over the world, reminiscing about the days gone by!!

They all are so nice to read and, even though I don't consider myself "an ageing Burgher" like this writer does, I still find lights coming on in the cobwebs of my mind when I read all these beautiful articles!

Memories of the old days when we Burghers would never attend a wedding unless we had stockings, hat and gloves.

And yes, we did dress so well--even to the rugby matches at the Havies and CH, when we wore the latest fashions, and it used to be a treat to the guys to arrive early just to watch the parade of all the outfits! Everyone wore their best to church on Sundays, and no one ever travelled overseas if they were not dressed in their elegant best!

Nowadays, when I see people so shabbily dressed all the time-- even to church, I cannot help but shake my head in disgust. People walk out of their homes to rugby matches, church, the cinema etc dressed as if they had just got out of bed, very often. And it is quite a common sight to see people at airports boarding planes in rubber slippers, shorts and even singlets!
And what really makes me mad is seeing female guests at weddings dressed all in black! My word, whatever happened to etiquette and decency?? It has always been a rule that no guest ever wore either black or white to a wedding!

Oh for the days when, as the writer below states, "men wore lounge suits or, at lest long sleeved shirts to the 6 0'clock film show at the Majestic and ladies wore hats and gloves to even song at the DRC church ...."! CAll me oldfashioned, but I would give a lot to go back to those grand old days when people were so very decent and cultured and the way of life here in Colombo was so genteel and altogether so much more "civilised".

Well, we can dream, can't we?

Anne-Marie Kellar, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Nov 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Random Musings of a Senile Mind


“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven” Wordsworth: Preludes

In the Nineteen Forties and early Fifties, Bambalawatte was the centre of the universe. It was where all the meaningful action took place and where the principal actors were mainly Burghers and a group of expatriates drawn from half a dozen nationalities.

This was brought most forcibly to my mind after reading the recent obituaries which appeared in the local press – one to Zoe Jayatilleke by Tita Nathanielsz; the other to David Gladwin Loos , C.C.S.. by Bradman Weerakoon.

The two articles made reference to a host of distantly remembered persons who figured prominently in those halcyon days, persons who were just names to me but spoken of quite frequently by, or were known to, my younger aunts like Beryl and Aileen and older cousins such as Allanson, Rene, Noel and Inez.

Bradman Weerakoon in his appreciation of David Loos brought to mind a dozen or so distinguished young Burgher Civil Servants of that time. While David stood out as the “Adonis” in that constellation there were others equally note-worthy such as Neville Jansz, Anton Mc Heyzer, Donald Speldewinde, Raine Wright and someone whose Christian names alone made an indelible impression on my generation of Government Service collegues as we perused the old “Civil List” – Dirk Philippus Rutgert Paulusz.

In various ways they distinguished themselves during their period in the C.C.S., despite the fact that many left prematurely either to take up more lucrative appointments in the private sector or to seek their fortunes abroad. I am informed that even in today’s war-affected Vavuniya, a portrait of Donald Speldewinde continues to hold pride of place in the Kachcheri, while the MacHeyzer Stadium is still the main venue for sports in Trincomalee.

The persons referred to in the Zoe Jayatilleke obituary included Harry Nightingale, the swimming coach; Greg Roskowski; Rolf Sando Mirsky; Marjorie Sample; Dr. Justin “Dadda” Flamer-Caldera and his brood; Harry and Olga Koch;Stanley and Christobel Livera; ‘Budgie’ Metzeling; the Driebergs and the Felsinger sisters Jean and Miriam. Though not referred to, other names conjured up by association were Yvonne Gulam-Hussain (nee Toussaint); Dr Larry Foenander, Rodney Jonklaas and Trevor Oliver (Tod) Dias.

Associated with the above and what gave Colombo at that time a very cosmopolitan character was Yvonne Bradley, a dance instructress from England; Madame Maryse Fumet, a French cookery expert; Thelma Kai who taught Hawaiian dancing and the Hawaiian guitar; Rupert Wagn, a Dane who taught the piano; Frank Harrison, a ballroom dancing teacher from Australia and Gerd Von Dinklage, a German who was Sri Lanka’s pioneer spear-fisherman.. To these must be added Ms. Marjorie Sample and Mrs. Spencer Shepherd and the two earlier mentioned Poles, Greg Roskowski and Rolf Sando-Mirsky, the latter name also bringing to mind his preferred mode of transport- the Triumph Speed Twin on which he met his untimely death..
The scenes of much of the activities of the above named were the Otters Swimming Club; the B.R.C.., Colts Cricket Club, and the Havelock Rugger Club. Strangely the D.B.U. did not feature in their revels, being much too straight-laced for the likes of the above.

A major influence in fashioning this sub-culture was the newly created Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon, headed by Clifford Dodd and assisted by Livy Wijemanne, Bob Harvey and Norton Pereira. The last of that line of Mohicans, Jimmy Barucha passed away earlier this year, creating a great void in the lives of many people of my vintage. What great pleasure Jimmy gave my aunt Daisy and me in Mutwal every Saturday night with his radio programme “Melodies that Linger”: and his characteristic introduction to each singer – “Now approaching mike- side is………”

But this little microcosm of life could not withstand the political changes that rapidly swept Ceylon from the mid 1950s. Most of the people referred to emigrated to Australia, U.K. or Canada while some of the expatriates returned to their countries of origin. The process for me was completed when we no longer saw “Pinkie” Gerreyn and Johnny Ayscough trawling the streets of Bambalawatte, the former on his Harley-Davidson, the latter in his Standard 8 Tourer.

Like many an ageing Burgher, I bemoan the passing of that happy, innocent era when men wore lounge suits or, at least, long-sleeved shirts and cravats to the 6 o’clock film show at the Majestic and the Savoy and their ladies wore hats and gloves to evensong at the DRC Church, Arethusa Lane, Wellawatte.

But “ tempus fugit “ and all of us have to accept the necessary changes which time must inevitably bring . As Shakespare wrote –

Golden lads and girls all must ,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust.”

Rodney Vandergert

Friday, March 03, 2006


Colombo City Protected Buildings
Mansions of Colombo

Sometime, in the latter part of the 1800’s, Colombo was a green city. Life, then, was simple and leisurely, calm and quiet and peaceful in many ways. There were one horse carriages and rickshaws, drawn by scrawny brown men, plying along the Galle Road in the midst of the Fort that skirted the harbor which opened out to the Indian Ocean on the west.

The name is supposed to be derived from the Sinhalese “Kola” & “Amba” meaning leafy mango tree, a tree with leave only and no fruit. Thus giving KOLAMBA which has evolved into COLOMBO. Another conjecture is that the name may have been derived from the fact that the Moor traders used to bring their boats in down the Kelani river through the KELANITOTA (Kelani Port), which evolved into KOLONTOTA and thereafter KALAMBO. The Portuguese contribution is that the name has links to Columbus.

Streets and edifices have been a significant feature of Colombo from its very early days. One of the most striking buildings, even visible from the sea as reported by the Portuguese was the Colombo Grand Mosque, supposed to have been built by the Arab traders in 1505, located at New Moor Street. All old maps from the Portuguese era show this Mosque very significantly.

Chatham Street, intersected by Queens Street on the west and York Street further east were the main streets that housed both businesses and homes. Prince Street, parallel to Chatham Street ran straight down joining up with Main Street which flowed into the Pettah. The Grand Oriental Hotel, commonly referred to as the GOH, stood magnificent and tall by the port. Today it has been converted to the Hotel Taprobane with all its fineries and modern trappings. Bristol Street stood on York Street with its polished wooden stairway. The Globe Hotel and British India were noted for their watering services to the thirsty and weary. Trees lined all the streets in beautiful cascades of brown and green enveloping the area in splendor.

York Street bordered the eastern wall and moat of the old Dutch Fort. This stretch gave way to the Registrar General’s office, the Bristol Hotel, the National Bank of India, and Victoria Arcade. Later, they too gave way to the more modern structures of concrete that have surfaced today.

Baillie Street, now Mudalige Mawatha, was wedged in between Chatham Street and Prince Street, parallel to both, and serviced the tourists with their needs of trinkets, souvenir’s, tea, Jewellery and gems.

Queen’s House, now referred to as President’s House, stood on Queen Street, bringing back memories of so many memorable days of Portuguese, Dutch and British political rule, power and fisticuffs.

The lighthouse clock tower stood gallantly at the intersection of Chatham Street and Queen Street where it still stands tall to this day in 2005. It was first built in 1857 and its conception and planning was carried out as far back as 1815.

Royal College stood in its old green location past the Fort Railway Station by the lush green plains of that area called Captains Gardens. The Galle Face Green stretched out from the Fort towards the Galle Face Hotel that clung to the western coastline where the land extended towards the south of the island.

The Beira Lake boasted of an opulence of inland water that stood right in the center of the city of Colombo running its rivulets to various parts of the city in streams and canals. The lake was named “Beira” to commemorate the name of the Dutch Engineer Johann de Beira in AD 1700, who constructed the mouth and water defences of the Dutch Fort. The lake, a long established part of Colombo, was originally an extensive “reach of flood water” from the Kelani River. It was originally called Lagoon by the Portuguese and was filled with alligators and crocodiles, thus giving the name Kayman’s Gate for a nearby street.

The military barracks, referred to as Echelon Square now, stood towards the Galle Face. St. Josephs College, the premier Roman Catholic educational institution in the city, lay more eastwards from the lake, amidst tall palms and beautiful flowering trees.

The Victoria Park, referred to now as the Vihara Maha Devi Park, stood sprawling in its lush green and vegetaion in Cinnamon Gardens.

The main towns of Colombo where people mingled and action permeated daily life were, the Fort, Pettah, Hultsdorf, and Mutuwal in the north.

It was on the 3rd of Sep 1802 that the last Dutch Governor of Colombo, van Angelbeck, killed himself for having capitulated to the British. He was buried next to his wife, Vrouw Angelbeck’s coffin in the crumbling Chapel that was used to bury eminent Dutch persons. Others who were buried there were Hertenberg, Vreeland, Van Eck, & Falk.

Angelbecks niece, Jacomina Gertrude, daughter of Van der Graaf and wife of Hon George Melville Leslie (an English Civil Servant), was his only heir. She inherited the massive mansion, Queens House (named after Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne) then and is called President House now, and the largest and most opulent in the Fort at that time. However, she was compelled to sell the house to the Government for 35,000 Rix Dollars on account of monies owed to the state by her husband who was the Paymaster General and was subject to the shortage of a sum of over 10,000 Pounds to his utter embarrassment. The deed of transfer was confirmed and completed on January 17 1804. The street on which it is located was originally referred to as KingsStreet, then changed to Queen Street and now has now been renamed to Presidents (Janadhipathi Mawatha) Avenue.

The British Raj, who took over colonial power from the Dutch in 1796, appointed John MacDowall of the Madras Service as the administrator of the city of Colombo. He was also the Collector. At that time it was estimated that the city had around 50,000 inhabitants. The Dutch and Portuguese continued to live in their occupied residences in the Pettah while the Sinhalese, Tamils and Moors preferred to live in the suburbs. The Brits too preferred the Fort and divided it into quarters based on its principal roads.

It was towards the end of 1798 that Frederik North arrived and was appointed the fist Civil Governor of Ceylon by the Brits. He brought a handpicked band of civil servants along with him to run the islands administrative affairs. Among them were Eudelin de Jonville and Antony bertolacci, a Frenchman.

One of the most noted of North’s many duties was ‘Christianization’, and towardsthat end an academy was established where the sons of rich Sinhalese, Indians and Europeans studied together. By 1801 there were 170 parish schools in the island and 342,000 native Protestants in addition to greater number of Roman Catholics, a legacy of the Portuguese era of colonialism.

Governor North was succeeded by Sir Thomas Maitland. He preferred to live by the sea at Mount Lavinia, a few kilometers south of the city of Colombo. He was responsible for moving the tombs of the Dutch interred at the Chapel in the Fort to be re-buried at the premises of the Wolfendhaal Church in the Pettah. However, when the coffins were finally moved, under a very impressive military guard and parade of fife and drums, it was General Sir Robert Brownrigg Bart, who was Governor. He was flanked by the Chief Justice, Hon Sir Alexander Johnston and the Puisne Justice, the Hon Mr William Coke.

Colombo, even had its first circulating library in 1801, run by Michael Loghlin, a merchant who had sailed in from Madras. He also ran an auction house. Many other European houses and businesses soon sprang up in the Fort. Many of those who managed these businesses were retired sea captains who found that this was a lucrative opportunity to further their careers. Amongst them were L.D. Bussch, George Steuart, George Boyd, James Steuart, F. B. Montcur, John Pierre Jummeaux, W. C. Gibson and George Winter. There was also an English watchmaker.

The Sinhalese referred to the Pettah as “Pita Kotuwa” meaning “outside the Fort” which was what it really was and is to this day. The Pettah still houses the many wholesale and retail businesses and vendors as it used to before. Although most of the business in Colombo has now been decentralized to the many smaller towns within the Pettah still stands tall as the hub of key business activity. The Central bus station is located in the Pettah and the Fort Railway Station also lies within its perimeter. It is from these two hallowed echelons of public transportation that the thousands of daily workers, tradesmen and ordinary people commute to and from the city. Many famous men of that era used to live in the Pettah. One was Sir Richard Morgan, Queens Advocate, who was born in Prince Street in 1821. Gradually the resident population moved to other localities like Hultsdorp, San Sebastian, Messenger Street, and Dias Place.

The Mudaliyars lived around the Wolfendaal and many of them were housed on Silversmith Street. Udugaha Mudaliya, grandfather of SWRD Bandaranaike, Sir Thomas de Sampayo, and a member of the Legislative Council, James D’ Alwis who was also a well known oriental scholar lived down this street.

The Nattukottai Chettiars, who were descendants of those who had migrated from South India, were mostly involved as money changers, pawn brokers, and Jewellery manufacturers, distributors and retailers. They lived and conducted their businesses in and around New Chetty Street, which was named after them, and further at Grandpass. Queen’s Advocate Selby lived in a mansion called Selby House which latyer went on to become the premises of M/S Heptulabhoy & Co, a flourishing export oriented business run by a Borah merchant who renamd it to Selby Stores.

Mutuwal too became a very fashionable suburb for residency. The Brit Collector of Customs had his home there adjoining the salt lake. The Auditor General, H A Marshall built three large residences, Rock House, Whist Bungalow and Modera House. Rock House was occupied by Sir William Coke, the Chief Justice. The Armitages occupied Modera House and Whist Bungalow was the residence of an English gentleman. Later, Sir Richard Morgan purchased Whist Bungalow on which he spent large sums of money re-decorating and refurbishing it in very lavish fineries. It is said that this extravagance almost reduced him to near bankruptcy at the time of his death and that his ghost does haunt the place ever since.

Other Mutuwal people were C A Lorensz, who later moved to Karlshrue in Borella, near the present Welikada Prison. Also four eminent personnel of the Tamil community, Sir Ponnabmbalam Arunachalam, Sir Muttu Coomaraswamy, and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan lived in Mutuwal. Arunachalam later moved to Cinnamon Gardens, which eventually became the most fashionable and rich neighborhood within the city of Colombo.

The other towns that sprouted and bloomed and provided decent living for the rich and the famous were Kollupitiya (Colombo 3), Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4), Havelock Town (Colombo 5), and Wellawatte (Colombo 6).

One of the most famous of residence in Colombo 3 was Alfred House owned by Charles de Soysa. Its extensive grounds stretch from the plush residential areas of Bagatelle to School Lane and from Galle Road to Thurstan Road.

The Brits also set up the first botanical garden in Colombo at Kew Road in Slave Island (Colombo 2), after Kew Gardens in England. Slave Island later became to be known as Company Street or Kompanna Vidiya on account of the Rifle Regiment that was atationed there down Rifle Street.

Maradana (Colombo 10), the “Sandy Plains”, grew the best cinnamon of all in Colombo. Today it is one of the most congested parts of the whole city of Colombo.

In 1824, the population of Colombo was 31,188 of which 734 were in the Fort, 4,979 in the Pettah, and 25,475 were located beyond the Pettah. In 1871 the population of Colombo rose to 98,843 and in 1936 to 511,639. Today the city is almost 90 times as dense as it was in 1936 and its area has also expanded from 9.45 square miles in 1881 to 14.32 square miles in 1963. The Greater Colombo area today encompasses almost 38 square miles.

In Rosemead Place, in the Cinnamon Gardens locality, a palatial home called “Tintagel” was bought by the late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike who lived in it until he was assassinated in 1958. His family continue to live there to date.

The official residence of the Prime Minsiter, “Temple Trees”, down Galle Road at Kollupitiya (Colombo 3), was originally occupied by the Lieutenant Governor, and thereafter, the Colonial Secretary. Other notable structures were the Sravasti in Edinburgh Crescent, Mackinnon House which is now the Central Hospital, Torrington House, property of W H Figg of Whittal & Co which was then occupied by the Governor Sir Herbert Stanley when Queens House was under maintenance.

Several large business houses were established in and around the Fort of which many have now passed on to Sri Lankan ownership. Some of them are noted below with their year of establishment:-

A Baur & Co – 1897
Aitken Spence & Co – 1873
Alston Scott & Co – 1848
Bartleet & Co – 1904
Belmont Mills – 1835 (later became the BCC)
Bois Brothers – 1910 (later part of Shaw Wallace & Hedges)
Bosanquet & C0 – 1881
Brodie Brogue & Co – 1846
Brodie & Co – 1867
Cargills Ltd – 1850
Carson & Co – 1871 (later (Carson Cumberbatch & Co)
Charles P Hayley & Co – 1878 (later Hayleys Ltd)
Colombo Commercial Co – 1876
Crosfield Lampard & Co – 1901 (klater Harrisons & Crosfield)
C W Mackie & Co – 1907
Darley Butler & Co – 1848
Delmege Forsyth & Co – 1892
E B Creasy & Co – 1882
Edward Cahill
E John & Co – 1876 (later amalgamated with John Keel Thompson White)
Freudenberg & Co 1896
Gordon Fraser & Co – 1895
Henderson & Co – 1903
Hunter & Co
H W Cave – 1876
J M Robertson – 1848 (later amalgamated with George Steuarts)
Leechman & Co – 1866 (later controlled by Carson Cumberbatch & Co)
Lee Hedges Ltd – 1864 (later amalgamated with Shaw Wallace)
Lewis Brown & Co – 1876
Louis Siedle
Liptons – 1890
J H vavasseur & Co
James Finlay & Co – 1890
Mackwood & Co
Miller & Co (Millers Ltd)
Sommerville & Co – 1878
The Colombo Apothecaries – 1892
Volkart Brothers – 1857 (later Volanka Ltd)
Walker Brothers – 1854
Whiteway Ladlaw & Co
Whittal & Co – 1880 (later Whittal Boustead)
Forbes & Walker

Ceylon Moor/Malay Businesses -
Moor Business Houses at Main Street, Pettah -

“COLOMBO” by Carl Muller (Penguin 1995)

1870 CEYLON – Extracted from the Ferguson’s Directory 1871-72

Population 2,128,884
Military, 2,116
Births, 63,111
Marriages, 17,150
Deaths, 40,230
Schools, 978,
Scholars, 41,490

Theodore Kramer, Empire of Germany and The King of The Netherlands in Colombo
J H Armitage, Italian & Belgian Consl in Colombo
H C Buchanon, Sweden & Norway
M Hassan Lebbe Marikar, Consul for Turkey in Colombo
G W Presscott, Commercial Agent for the USA in Colombo
M Brusola, Spanish Consul in Galle
Mons Auber, French Consul at Galle
J L Vanderspar, German Consul at Galle
H R Vanderspar, Netherland Consul nat Galle
J M Vanderspar, Belgian Consul at Galle
G S Gilkison, Vice Commercial Agent for the USA in Galle


Alstons, Scott & Company – E H Lawder
Anthony Appoo, Native Practitioner, Pettah
D S Carolis Appoo, Native Practitioner, Colpetty, Colombo 3
Armitage Brothers – J S Armitage
Bell & Company, J R, J R Bell, Tomas Wilson, A J Bell
Brighton Hotel, Hospital Square
Britton, Aitken & Company – E C Britton, E Aitken, T Clarke, T G Spence, Clake, Spence & Co, Galle

Brodie, W C & Company – W C Brodie, James Brodie, Grant Brodie & Co, London
Cargill & Company, D S Cargill, John Kydd, W Hamiltn, J Robertson, J W Buchanan, R Reid, Andrew McGile, P C de Kretser, M Perera

Carson & Company – R B Carson, Thomas Wright, G B Waddington

Ceylon Cold Stores Limited, Kompannavidiya, Slave Island, Col,ombo 2
Ceylon Company Ltd., - L J Mercer, C Bischoff, C W Horsfall, W Armstrong, G Hathorne
Chands, Chatham Street, Colombo 1

Christoffelsz & Company, Book Agents, Fort
Cowasjie Eduljie, Bombay Native Insurance Co
Crowe & Company, A & R, - Alex & Robert Crowe
Darley Butler & Company, - Samuel Butler, W W Mitchell, J M Macmartin
Dawson, Robert, - Robert Dawson
De Breard, C E, - C E De Breard
De Soysa, C H – C H De Soysa

Diana & Company, Chatham Street, Colombo 1
Duncan, Symonds & Company, - John Duncan, Charles Hood Symons
Durham, Grindrod & Company
Fonseka, F, Printer, Fort
Fowlie, Richmond & Company
Framjee Bikhajee & Company
Fryer, Schultze & Company
Galle Face Hotel, G Hawkins Manager
Gomes, B, Jeweler, Fort
J J Gomez, Native Practitioner
Green & Company, J P
John E Jones, Keppel & Company
Lee, Hedges & Company
Leechman & Company
Leechman, G & W
Mackwoods & Company

Cass Markar & Company, Chatham Street, Colombo 1
Miller & Company, W C Miller & James Smith, A C Ambrose & P Jansz, Assistants
Muller & Phipps

Nicholls, George & Company, George Nicholls, Hugh McGregor, J W Bone, R H S Higerty, Ms Higerty, J A Jansz, R W Herft, F Decker, B Janse, C J Anthopulle, V G Neydorff, P J P Mannesinghe

Nanking Chinese Restaurant, Chatham Street, Colombo 1
Nectar Café, Baillie Street (Mudalige Mawatha), Colombo 1
Nanking Chinese Restaurant, Chatham Street, Colombo 1
Nectar Café, Baillie Street (Mudalige Mawatha), Colombo 1
Noor Hameems Jewellers, Chatham Street, Colombo 1Pagoda Restaurant, Chatham Street, Colombo 1 (Rodrigo Restaurants)

Noor Hameems Jewellers, Chatham Street, Colombo 1Pagoda Restaurant, Chatham Street, Colombo 1 (Rodrigo Restaurants)
Parke Brothers, Photographers, San Sebastian
Peterson, E H, Printer & Stationer, Fort
Pieris, Jeronis
Pinto, B, Shopkeeper, Pettah
Robertson & Company, J M
Robinson & Dunlop
Rogers & Company
Royal Hotel, A Andree Lessee, J Fonseka, Manager, Fort
Royal Hotel, Chatrham Street, Fort, A Fernando, Dubash, Prop
Rudd Brothers
Sabonadiere, F R
Saunders, H S
Shand & Company, C
Skeen & Company, W L H
Steuart & Co, George (1835-date)
Strachan & Company, J I
Travellers Rest, Norris Road, Pettah, W Doyle
Thomson G Gibson & Company
Volkart Brothers
Wall & Company, George
Young & Company, W M, W M young, P W Allsup, J C Wheeler, H Ludlow, C Wyllie, S V Sansoni, J R Whitfield, Fort, Colombo

Ziard & Company, MCM, Chatham Street, Colombo 1


Bank of Ceylon
Bank of Credit & Commerce International
Bank of Madras, Baillie Street, Agent A Riach
Chartered Bank of India, Australia & China, Agents, Alstons, Scott & Co
Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London & China, Queen Street, Manager James RobertsonComptoir D’ Escompte De Paris, Agents, George Steuart & CoCoutts & Company, Agents, George Steuart & Co
Eastern Bank
Hatton National National Bank
Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation
Indian Bank Ltd
Indian Overseas Bank
London Chartered Bank of Australia, Agents M/S A R Crowe & Co
London & Westminister Bank, Agents, George Steuart & Co
Mercantile Bank Ltd.
National & Grindlays Bank
Oriental Bank, Queen & Baillie Street, Manager, R V Dunlop

Peoples Bank

The National Bank of India Limited, Agents, Armitage Brothers

A L Lebbena Marikar
A L Sesma Lebbe Marikar
Ahmadoe Lebbe Marikar Meera Lebbe Marikar
Ahmadoe Lebbe Tamby
Arasi Markar Mohamedu Lebbe Marikar
Assen Lebbe Shamsudeen
Avoo Lebbe Marikar Sinne Lebbe
Bawa Saibu
C M Avoo Lebbe Marikar
Casie Lebbe Ahmedu Alie Marikar
Casie Lebbe Markar Dorey
Casie Lebbe Periya Thamby
F Lebbe Sinne Lebbe Marikar
H O L Avoo Lebbe Marikar
J L Assena Marikar
J L Ibrahim Lebbe
J L Idroos Lebbe Marikar
J L Mohammedo Lebbe Marikar
J L Uduman Kany
J Lebbe Tamby
K O L Seygu Lebbe
Kader Kandu Casie Lebbe Marikar
Kader Saibu Naina Marikar
Kassie Lebbe Noordeen
Katoe Bawa Madana Marikar
Kunjee Marikar Colanda Marikar
Lebbe Tamby Marikar Idroos Lebbe
M A Abdul Cader
M C Abdul Rahman
M C Mohamedo Usoof
M L Samsudeen Marikar
M L M Slema Lebbe
M L Rasa Marikar
M T Assen Lebbe
Mohammedu Lebbe Lebbe Kandu Marikar
N M Uduma Lebbe Marikar
Naina Lebbe Kasim Bawa
Naina Lebbe Mohamedu Tamby
Nesma Lebbe Tamby
O L Uduma Lebbe Marikar
Ossen Lebbe Abdul Kandu Lebbe Marikar (late No 42), Consul for the Sublime Port
P T Ahmadu Lebbe Marikar
P T Colanda Marikar (Stamp Vendor)
P T Sinna Lebbe Marikar
Periya Tamby Abdul Karim
S L Junis Lebbe
S L Maamuna Lebbe
S L Wapu Marikar
S Meera Lebbe Marikar
S S S Abbaas
S T Sray Lebbe Marikar
Saibo Ismail Lebbe Hadjiar
Saigu Saibu Meera Lebbe Marikar
Segoe Kandu Hadjie Marikar
Segoe Paridu Ismail Lebbe Marikar
Segu Paridu Pakeer Bawa
Seka Lebbe Casie Lebbe Marikar
Seka Lebbe Wapoo Marikar
Sesma Lebbe Avoo Lebbe Marikar
Seyadu Meera Lebbe Ismail Lebbe Marikar
Seyadu Sinna Koya Mavulana
Sinna Lebbe Pakeer Bawa
Sinna Lebbe Saibu
Sinna Lebbe Sesma Lebbe
Sinna Meera Marikar Tamby
Sinna Tamby Lebbena Marikar
Tamby Marikar Idroos Lebbe Marikar
Tamby Rasa Ahamadu Lebbe Marikar
U N Meera Lebbe Marikar
Uduma Lebbe Wapu Lebbe
Uduma Lebbe Marikar Sultan Marikar
Wapitchy Assen Tamby

CEYLON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, Established 25 March 1839
Chairman: L J Mercer
Treasurer: G B Leechman
Hon Secretary: Fred W Bois
Committee: L J Mercer, F Newman, T Kramer, W Donnan, J Duncan

Observer – Fist newspaper independent of Government Est 1834, Tri Weekly published at No 17 Baillie Street, Fort, Colombo – A M Ferguson, Jno Ferguson, H T Gardiner, J M Kardie (Chief Clerk), J Hioler (Head Printer)
Times – Est 1846, Bi Weekly – J Capper, R B Caspersz (Chief Clerk), T De Leema (Head Printer)
Examiner, Est 1846, Bi Weekly, C M Lorensz, L Ludovici, F Beven, G F Arndt (Head Clerk), C D’Silva (Head Printer)
Government Gazette, Weekly, W Skee, W H Herbert
Catholic Messenger, Weekly – C A Pavey, Printer
Morning Star (Tamil & English), Weekly – Strong & Asbury Johnpulle
Jaffna Freeman (English), Weekly, Strong & Asbury Johnpulle
Jaffna News (English), Weekly, Strong & Asbury Johnpulle
Jaffna Patriot (English), Weekly, Strong & Asbury Johnpulle
Lakrivikirana (Sinhalese), Weekly, W P Ranasinghe, D C Weerakkody
Nyanartha Pradeepaya (Sinhalese), Weekly, Don Benedict
Church Missionary Record, Quarterly, Church Missionaries
Friend (English), Monthly, Wesleyan Missionaries
Wesleyan Intelligencer, Monthly, Wesleyan Missionaries
Childrens Lamp (Sinhalese), Monthly, Rev D de Silva, Christian Vernacular Educational Society
The Christian Friend (Tamil), Quarterly, American Missionaries, Jaffna

J Barry, MD, Assistant Surgeon
M L Bartholomeusz, Assistant Surgeon
W P Charsley, CMO
J D M Coghill, MD, Supt of Convict Est
S de Aserappa, MD
M Ferguson, Surgeon
J Garvin
T Gill
J Gregory
W G Keith
A R Kilroy
A Kirwan
E L Koch, LMS
J Loos, MD
J W Margenout
J Maitland & Co, Medical Hall
G B Mowat, MD
J Nugera
O Halloran Brothers, Apothecaries
J Thwaites, MD
W G Trousdell, MD
W G Van Dort, MDCM, Borella Lunatic Asylum
W J Van Geyzel
J Wright

Coroner, Colombo: F C Willisford

Street names: On the street where you live, lived a villain called Vystwyke
by S. Pathiravitana
Sunday Observer May 28 2006

Street names do have something about them. Witness what happened when some people tried to change the name of Dickman's Road. The residents of this semi fashionable quarter protested vehemently about the proposed change.

Anyway, who was Dickman and what was he? Very probably even the oldest residents may not know who he was and on what precise grounds he was honoured by having a busy road named after him. Well, if it was not sentiment that moved the residents, probably it was the land value, which was feared may drop precipitately with a change of name, any name for that matter

Hero or villain

For whatever the reason, people don't seem to like to get up one fine morning and find that they are living in the wrong street. And whatever the name and the heroics of the person being commemorated, the fact remains that you have developed some sort of attachment to the old place where you lived.

If I was born in Arbuthnot Street, for instance, which was in Colombo 8 and has now disappeared from the A - Z street guides, I would have preferred to remain an Arbuthnot-ite simply because of its outlandish nomenclature and the distinction you earn by wearing a name like that.

And however strange my preferences are there will always be some one to oppose and be at each other's throats when some change is made as I can see from what is happening in Galpotta Road where I once was a Galpot-ite.

I have no particular grievances with the name Galpotta, though there is nothing spectacular in its landscape to illuminate either its Gal or its potta. But to see that the name of a distinguished son of Kotte had replaced the romantic name of Galpotta must have come as a surprise to many.
I am merely recording this incident just to indicate what I said at the beginning of this piece that street names do matter to some people who have to live in those areas. But I also see that some seem indifferent to street names. I used to wonder how a street in Wellawatte has come to acquire the name of Pennyquick. Who or what was Pennyquick?

I have a faint recollection that was not how the name was once spelt when I read it first. In fact I stumbled over the spelling when I saw it, for it went something like this Penecuick Road which left me baffled. The spelling, I suspected, was like Welsh or Gaelic not English.

It is unlikely that anybody remembers either the different spellings or the history of this name, but I would like to hear something more about it from some knowledgeable source.

Another street name that has baffled me is Vystwyke Road in Colombo 15. At least about this street name I have been able to get some information. Vystwyke when he landed in Ceylon during the Dutch occupation as a Governor is said to have worn an eye patch over his right eye and boastfully said that a single eye was enough to govern a small country like Ceylon.

He was the man I found who got the Aluthmawatha Road built, quite a long road at that and qualifying to be among the longest roads in Colombo.

There was a problem getting stones to pave the new road because there was no road to bring cartloads of stones along. He then decided to bring down the stones from the Fort by passing them from hand to hand. The road was built for his convenience, it is said, so that it would enable him to get a grand view of the Colombo harbour from a little hill called Buona Vista.

He was a cruel ruler all in all. He wanted to take over a house occupied by a Lieutenant in his army because the man slighted him. He first killed the lieutenant and not content with that killed the owner of the house too.

Then he got the house that was vacated razed to the ground and erected a pillar with an inscription reminding people of the fate that would befall whoever opposed him.

When justice finally overtook Vystwyke, that's how the Dutch spell his name by the way, the pillar was removed and the land given back to the family of the owner of the house.

When the new house came up, which may be there even today close to the present Indian bank down Baillie Street, a plaque was placed on its wall with words in Dutch. Its English translation reads 'Destroyed by might/Restored by right'.

Vystwyke's legacy

What finally happened to Vystwyke was that he got the justice that people dream of for such monsters. His cruelties were reported to the headquarters in Batavia where the authorities decided to summon him.

There is no record of whether a trial was held but the punishment is on record: "He was recalled and sentenced to be broken alive on the wheel, his body to be quartered, and the quarters to be burned upon a pile, and the ashes thrown into the sea."

To come to the more pleasant activities of the Dutch, they were very interested in making their surroundings beautiful and pleasing. At the back of their minds was to make Colombo somewhat like their towns back home.

One way was to plant trees alongside the roads to provide both shade and colour. Laws were passed prohibiting the lopping and cutting of branches of these trees. A visitor to the Island at this period, Christop Schweitzer, has this to say about the Colombo Fort which was referred to by the Dutch as the Castle: "Within the Castle there are many pretty walks of nut trees set in an uniform order, but they bear no fruit, only red and white flowers; the streets are pleasant walks themselves, having trees on both sides and before the houses."

The Castle was well defended. There were about a dozen bastions put up to deal with any invasions from either land or sea. All that is left of them today are a few Dutch names like Delft and Leyden, San Sebastian, and St. John's Street.

The Dutch also made use of canals if not to beautify the place at least to help them in their transportation and in the long run it helped both. If you take a look at a road map of Colombo today you may see the canals running like slim, light blue ribbons from Grandpass to Dehiwala bypassing on their way San Sebastian and Diyawannawa in Kotte.

The canals may have contained purer water then than what we have today because picnics were organised at a place the Dutch called Paradise.

The spot is just opposite the junction of Silversmith Street and Sri Sangaraja Mawatha. And here, holiday-makers relaxed by bathing in the canals.

The name Paradise Road continued to point to this place even into our times. My curiosity took me down this road once to see what Paradise looked like and was I disappointed. It was now an open marsh with clothes hanging out for drying. Obviously washer men had taken over the place.

The Dutch seemed to have taken a greater interest in the Beira lake than the British. The network of canals they built may have been dependant on the Beira too. Adjoining the old Secretariat at Galle Face there is a circular spillway built in the Beira in the shape of a basin.

Beira blueprint

This may have been to maintain the level of water in the Beira Lake so that the network of canals linked to the lake may retain a certain balance of water. A memorial stone has been found on the side of the Beira close to the Fort Railway Station carrying an inscription in the following form:

De Beer, A. D. 1700 said to be the name of the Dutch engineer connected with the work on the Beira Lake.

Some of the street names given by the Dutch describe something of significance to the place. Bloemendhal Road, for instance, meant 'a vale of flowers' not very far from where Paradise was.

This part of Colombo seems to have combined business with recreation.

Close to Grandpass the Dutch used to grow flowers and the place was named Orta fula, flower garden, and got called Malwatta in Sinhala. They also tried their hand at making silk, Orta sela, a silk garden, and experimented with silkworms that had been brought down from Japan by the Portuguese. From the silk came the name Sedawatta.

Kotahena is said to have got its name from the kottan trees that grew close to the sea. The Portuguese called it Kottanchina. The Dutch called it Korteboam meaning short trees because they found that the spray from the sea close by had hindered the growth of the trees. And the British are said to have anglicised it into Cotton China.

But people seem to have mercifully ignored that and it has failed to stick. Street names around Hulftsdorf, meaning the 'village of Hulft' named after the Dutch General Hulft (who lost his life in the siege of 1656) seem to have been named after the trees planted around here like Masan gas and Damba or Jambu. They have been anglicised into Messenger Street and Dam Street today.
Having come to the end of my story I still like to know why we wish to have the name of a notorious villain like Vystwyke perpetuated. Do we really care about street names, or is it that we just don't care what name it is as long as our vanities are not hurt?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Galle Road

Musings on the 100 year-old Galle Road

At the tail end of the 19th century foreigners entering Ceylon entered the country not from Colombo but from what was known as Point de Galle. The Colombo port then was not too safe a place to anchor a ship. Until the breakwaters that came up at the end of that century to make the Colombo port a safe haven for ships, it was Point de Galle or Galle, as we know it today, that was the point of entry. But why was it called Point de Galle?

An American traveller, Henry Heusken, who was on his way to assume office as the first secretary to the pioneer US legation in Japan, gives an answer. He says that when the audacious Vasco de Gama ‘went ashore with a handful of men he saw the smooth beach of the Spice Island. Setting foot aground he heard the familiar crowing of a great many roosters and for that reason he called it Punto di Galle, Roosters’ Point.’So the Roosters’ Point was then as attractive a place as the city of Colombo. It has a ‘lovely little bay surrounded by coconut groves and in the distance high mountains appear with the famous Adam’s Peak from which according to tradition, that venerable father - others say it was the God Buddha - betook himself in one single stride into the kingdom of Siam. The inhabitants will still show you his footprint, five times longer than that of an ordinary foot.’Since Galle was an arrival and departure centre, travelling to and from it on land was quite adventurous.

It so happened that one of the pioneer Protestant missionaries working in Jaffna had to visit Galle to meet two other missionaries who were arriving by ship to Galle. It took him two weeks on foot to do the near 300 mile journey from Jaffna to Galle. But as ill luck would have it they did not turn up. It was a costly misadventure. As the readily available transport system in the early 19th century was the palanquin, Samuel Newell, the missionary, employed fourteen men for the journey from Jaffna. Disappointed but not defeated he dismissed his palanquin team retaining four men to carry the palanquin and rode in it to Colombo which took him three days. There were rest houses those days, but they were more like ambalamas. You could rest in those places but you had to prepare your own food. Newell does not record what he saw on this journey nor could he, preoccupied as he may have been with his problem, have had time to appreciate the beauties of nature as other travellers who described the Galle - Colombo run as a near paradisiacal beauty.

Half a century later another visitor to Ceylon who, this time, rode in a stage coach from Galle said, ‘The drive to Colombo is the most delightful it has been my good fortune to take. For seventy two miles the road runs along the sea coast, bounded on either side by the finest coconut trees that form an avenue which partially protects the vehicle from the sun, the whole distance. ‘The roar of the Indian Ocean is heard, as it breaks monstrously on the shore; and occasional glimpses are caught, and vistas of the surrounding country, while towering aloft in the distances stands Adam’s Peak - a mountain that has for ages been the object of veneration to thousands of pilgrims from every part of India and Ceylon...On every side Nature seemed teeming with life and motion.’ But the coach itself, he said, which was clumsy and heavy and rather harsh on the horses would not past muster in America.More ecstatic praise of the road to Colombo from Galle comes in 1879 from a round the world traveller from America. “Future travellers will soon miss one of the rarest treats in Ceylon. The railway will soon be completed from Colombo to Galle, and the days of coaching will cease forever. We congratulate ourselves our visit was before this passed away, as we know of no drive equal to that we have now enjoyed twice, and the last time even more than the first...There is no prettier sea shore in the world, nor a more beautiful surf.’ This is Andrew Carnegie, the multi millionaire who laid the foundations for the industrial might of America. All that I knew about Ceylon, he says, is a line from that hymn written by Bishop Heber about the spicy breezes blowing soft over Ceylon’s isle. Now that is not really true. For a foreigner, and an American at that, what he knew about Ceylon before he came here is truly amazing. I do not think that even the most erudite Ceylonese of that time knew as much about Ceylon’s social, economic, religious background as much as he did.

Incidentally, most Christians in the English-speaking world had heard about Ceylon for the first time when they sang Bishop Heber’s hymn in church. The hymn is not at all complimentary to us and I would like to reproduce the two verses though it may offend most Sri Lankans:What though the spicy breezesBlow soft over Ceylon’s isleThough every prospect pleasesAnd only man is vile!In vain with lavish kindness,The gifts of God are strewn;The heathen, in his blindness,Bows down to wood and stoneCarnegie recited these verses to the Ceylonese guide who accompanied him and asked him what he thought of them. The guide promptly replied that the man who wrote it was a damn fool. He also asked Carnegie if any one in his country really believed that the ‘heathens’ bow down to stone and wood when there was a supra being above. Carnegie said that he himself believed as many others did and ‘little girls and boys collected pennies to give the missionaries to go and tell the heathens how wrong and foolish it was to bow down to wood and stone and how angry God is to have anything worshipped but himself.’To soothe the injured feelings of his guide Carnegie explained that Bishop Heber was only using poetic licence to express himself, but the guide insisted that ‘Bishop Heber had wronged his beloved Ceylon and did not know what he was writing about.’It is said about Carnegie that he was a self-educated man. In the process of educating himself he seems to have read very, very widely. He understood quite well that there was no difference between an idol and a cross because both of them, he said, were only symbols of an invisible power.

Being a well-read man he also knew quite a lot about Buddhism, not only about its philosophy but also its importance socially to the Buddhists of Ceylon. He knew that, “One condition of the cession of the sovereignty to Great Britain was that this religion should be held inviolable with its rights and privileges, its monasteries and temples and all pertaining thereto. In the language of the greatest European authority, although government support is no longer given to it, its pure and simple doctrines live in the hearts of its people.”He was also very knowledgeable and knew that European rule had wiped out the estimable local government system that prevailed in this country. The British restored it in 1871 “ and the people are not yet done rejoicing at the restoration of their village institutions.”

And here follows some valid advice for our modern politicians - “It will not do to conclude, as many do, that India and Ceylon and others of the eastern lands, are left almost bare of just laws and fair administration, for nothing could be further than the truth. The village elders chosen by the people of Ceylon, for instance, administer laws, which are the growth of centuries, and as such are far better adapted to the real conditions which exist than any other system of laws, no matter how perfect.”

Directing his attention to the geological features of this country, Andrew Carnegie has something very revealing to say. Here is the man, described by the Americans as their king of steel and a captain of industry, expressing his views on a little known subject relating to our natural resources. “Iron ore exists in Ceylon in vast deposits and is remarkably pure, rivalling the best Swedish grade. It has been worked from remote times, and native articles of iron are preferred even today to any that can be is not beyond the range of possibility that some day Britain may import some of this unrivalled stone for special uses. There are also quicksilver mines and lead, tin and manganese are found to some extent.” These items were, of course, known to the Sinhala engineers in the days of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.When John Davy travelled round our country in the early 19th century he witnessed the processing of iron ore by our blacksmiths.

He also noticed that they knew how to make steel but did not reveal to him the know-how and the names of the ‘vegetable’ ingredients used in the process. That they had mastered the subject of metallurgy is shown by the skill they displayed in making firearms. The Portuguese did not teach them that, but the fact that the arms they produced and the gun powder they made were far superior has been admitted by Portuguese historians.

Written By: S. Pathiravitana
Weekend Standard Newspaper - Mar 11 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Modera and Mattakuliya

Modera (Mutuwal) & Mattakuliya (Colombo 15)

The northern most part of the city of Colombo which was a very famous and elite residential area of the many Colonial rulers from the Dutch, Portuguese and British Empires on account of its vast green spaces and also proximity to the port of Colombo away from the bazaar towns.

Aluthmawatte Road is an extremely long stretch of roadway that begins at the Pettah and stretches all the way north-eastwards to meet Mattakuliya Center Road which in turn stretches further northwards towards the estuary of the Kelani River where it spills into the Indian Ocean.

Muthuwella Mawatha, which eventually becomes Modera Street from where Madampitiya Road begins its eastward journey, also moves north-eastwards almost parallel to Aluthmawatte Road and takes a right angle turn to the left to cross Aluthmawatte Road at the point where Aluthmawatte Road extends to Mattakuliya Center Road.
Vystwyke Road runs parallel to Mattakuliya Center Road, starting from Modera Street and ending near the Kelani Ganga estuary.

Other streets of Modera are, Mosque Lane, Santha Santiago Mawatha, Church Lane, Temple Road, Whist Passage, St James Street, St Winifreds Lane, St Judes Mawatha, St Bridgets Lane, St Elmos Lane, Rajamalwatte Road, Hubert Place, St Johns Way, Dhawala Sinharama Mawatha, Sri Pannananda Mawatha, Mudalindu John Rodrigo Mawatha, & Dr S D Fernando Mawatha.

Pradeepa Hall is located on Whist Passage. The famous Elie House Park is located alongside Aluthmawatte Road.

The town has a large percentage of Catholics, belonging to the Tamil and Colombo Chetty communities, and Muslims. The many street names that have links to Catholic Saints is proof of this. There are also many places of Catholic and Muslim worship in this locality.

Mattakuliya has many streets of its own, some of which are Beach Park Road, 5th Lane, 6th Lane, 7th Lane, all close to the beachfront, St Mary’s Road, Mattakuliya Center Road, Church Lane, Zavia Lane, Mattakuliya Farm Road, Sri Wickrema Mawatha, Frensewatte Lane, Malwatte Lane, Rawatte Lane, Hendala Ferry Road which leads up to the estuary across which one could take a boat to Hendala. The Ekamuthupura Housing Scheme is also located in this area. Kelani Ganga Mill Road, Sri Kalyani Gangarama Mawatha are branches off Mattakuliya Church Road to the east by the Kelani Ganga.

The National Aquatic Resource Agency (NARA) and the Sri Lanka Fisheries Training Institute are also located at Mattakuliya close to Crow’s Island along Nara Road by the seafront.

Bodhiajaramaya is located on 5th Lane. The Matakkuliya Central Bus Depot is located alongside Hendala Ferry Road.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The town of Kotahena (Colombo 13) begins along the western coast of Colombo where The Pettah (Colombo 11) ends and winds its way up north towards Mutuwal (Colombo 15) and east towards the town of Grandpass (Colombo 14) and Hultsdorp (Colombo 12).

Most of its populous comprises of Tamil Catholics and members of the Colombo Chetty community who have been resident therein from Colonial times. The town boasts of one of the oldest and largest Catholic Parish Cathedrals in Sri Lanka, the St Lucia’s Cathedral, located with its rear facing the Indian Ocean and facing East towards Grandpass. There is also a large population of Tamil Hindu’s in the town.

Being a very Roman Catholic town there are many famous Catholic Churches located within it and many are the famous feasts that are held annually at these places or worship. The town also has a very large population of Tamil Hindus thus creating an environment that also has many famous Hindu temples and Hindu Festivals.

Two famous schools that have provided an excellent medium of education for boys and girls in Kotahena are St Benedicts College (boys) and Good Shepherd Convent (girls), both managed and maintained by the Catholic Church.

Other places of religious interest in Kotahena are, the Dipaduttaramaya at Kotahena, 5km (3 miles) from Fort; the Sima Malaka at 61 Sri Jinaratana Road, Colombo, 3km (2 miles) from Fort; the many Hindu Temples at Kochikade Kotahena, the Sri Siva Subramania Swami Kovil, Gintupitiya – within walking distance of Sea Street, Pettah, Colombo 11. In the Sea Street in Pettah in Colombo are several Hindu temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan with their colorful Gopurams (doorways). Several other Hindu temples (Kovils) are also seen in the City.

"Father Anthony COCHIAL built a chapel on the ground given to him by the Governor. The Protestants in derision called it COCHIKADE - the shop of the COCHIN Man. He worked among the Christians of Colombo more or less unmolested to his death, and was buried in his modest chapel.At present, St. Anthony's Church, one of the most frequented of Colombo, stands on the spot of the ancient chapel, and all that quarter of the town is called 'KOCHIKADE'." - Quoted from a paragrap of 'HISTORY OF CEYLON: an abridged translation of Professor Peter Courtenay's work - by Francis M.G.

Paramanada Purana Viharaya in Kotahena was founded in 1806 and Dipaduttamaramaya in Kotahena is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city.

Several copies of the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya were built across the world in ancient times. There are numerous modern copies as well. A rather bazaar copy was built in Kotahena, a suburb of Colombo, in 1928. The lower part of the temple is a good copy of the original but the pinnacle is completely different. This Kotahena Pagoda, as it is called, attracted a lot of attention when it was first built. It is in a very bad condition today.

G P V Somaratna’s book, published in 1991, titled “Kotahena Riot 1883: A Religious Riot in Sri Lanka”, explores the true nature of the events which took place in Kotahena in 1883. The intention is not only to contribute to an understanding of the social history of Sri Lanka but also to provide the original documents to the readers to enable them to make their own assessment of the events (from the author’s preface). “The riot in 1883 caused great amount of unrest and anxiety among the officialdom in Sri Lanka. The serious incident of rioting took place on Easter Sunday, March 25th 1883 where two people, one Buddhist and one Roman Catholic died and about thirty others including twelve police officers were wounded. It was a turning point in the revivalist movement of Buddhism where anti Christian propaganda and rhetoric led to a violent clash” (from the introduction). The book is all original documents excepting the brief introduction and a concluding chapter of analysis which is not even 30 pages in length.

It may be interesting to note that the Sinhala-Tamil ethnic riots that were sparked off in 1983, a hundred years later, also had significant impact on the residents of Kotahena since they were largely Tamil. Many schools in the town were used as refugee camps to shelter and transfer the victims of this recent tragedy.

Being an electoral ward in the Colombo North area the town of Kotahena has strongly contributed to the many victorious members of the United National Party in General, Presidential and Local Government Elections. Mr V A Sugathadada, UNP MP lived in Kotahena and held his seat as member for Colombo North for many long years before he bowed out of politics.

Venerable Narada Maha Thera originated from Kotahena. He was born on July 14, 1898 into a middle class family in this town, a predominantly Roman Catholic suburb of Colombo. As a matter of fact, Kotahena is the place where the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Arch-diocese of Colombo is located. His father was Kalonis Perera; his mother, Pabilina de Silva. He was named Sumanapala at birth. He had his early education at a school run by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) at Kotahena and later joined St. Benedict's College also at Kotahena, an institution run by the Brothers of the Company of De La Salle. There among other secular subjects he studied the Christian Scriptures and Apologetics. One of his Preceptors, Rev. Brother James who passed away in 1977, was so impressed with young Sumanapala's keen interest in these subjects as well as his quiet demeanor and exemplary behavior that he once told him very seriously that his real vocation lay in the Roman Catholic Priesthood. But his destiny was to be otherwise, though in a parallel capacity, in the Religion of his forefathers.

Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, the indomitable orator
by C. V. Rajapakse Daily News Sat Jan 25, 2003

At the beginning of the 16th century European races landed in Sri Lanka and various attempts were made by them to dilute and replace our Sinhala culture with theirs. In this context the missionaries played the key role and they functioned with the idea that ours is a primitive culture and the people were also such. They were considerably successful over a period of time and gradual process of degradation and eradication resulted in the decline of our culture and religion.

As they were the rulers, people went after them and then started to follow their religion and culture in order to gain various positions and other material benefits from them. Situation at a time (around 1870) was such that where education alone at the time of our Gunananda Thera was concerned there were only two Buddhist schools in the country - in Panadura and Dodanduwa with an attendance of 246 children as against 805 Christian Schools with an attendance of 78086 children, in the country.

In this situation, the need of the hour under such conditions was an educated dynamic and able person, and at that time emerged Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera.
It was around the last quarter of the nineteenth century well known debate between the missionaries and the Buddhists had taken place and Panadura Debate - in August 1873 - took the most prominent place in these debates.

The Christian side was supported by able clergymen. On Thera had on his side people like Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera etc. Ven. Gunananda was the accepted leader of the Buddhist side and his education has helped him to a greater extent along with his eloquence to give leadership as he supposed to have studied as a layman and had undergone some training also under Christian clergymen, for a few years.

He was born in Balapitiya had entered the Buddhist Order at Deepaduththaramaya - Kotahena which happened to be the first Buddhist temple in Colombo with a history of over 300 years. Subsequently this was known all over as Thai Temple in Sri Lanka since a member of the Thai Royal family had been Ordained by Waskaduwe Subuthi Mahanayake Thera and this Thai priest lived at this temple from 1904 - 1911. Thai kings had visited this temple on several occasions. Chaitya there had been built according to Thai Style and this is the only Thai temple in our country.

At this temple Vesak Poya day was declared a Holiday. Our Thera was one of the pioneers who created the Buddhist flag and at this temple in Kotahena the Buddhist flag was hoisted for the first time in Sri Lanka. Gunananda Thera had published several Buddhist periodicals which included 'Riviresa', 'Lakmini Kirana' and 'Sathya Margaya', to give leadership to the cause of Buddhism.

With his counter campaign in defence of Buddhism took him to every nook and corner of this country and thousands flocked to hear him wherever he addressed people.

As stated earlier the most important debate is accepted as the Panadura Debate and John Capper of the Ceylon Times published the entire debate in Book form. Colonel Olcott having read this book decided to visit this country with his party and what he has done for the revival of Buddhism in this country - is now history.

Olcott had described Gunananda Thera as "the most brilliant Polemic Orator of the Island, the terror of the missionaries, with a very intellectual head, most brilliant and powerful champion of the Sinhalese Buddhism". A well-known missionary Rev. S. Langden had written to the Ceylon Friend in 1873, after hearing Gunananda Thera speak; "There is that in his manner as he rises to speak which puts one in mind of some orators at home.

He showed a consciousness of power with the people. His voice is of great compass and he has a clear ring above it. His action is good and the long yellow robe thrown over one shoulder helps to make it impressive. His power of persuasion, shows him to be a born orator".

He was known as "Great Orator" - Wadibhasingha - who was the key figure in the start of Buddhist revival of this country in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, passed away in 1890, after rendering such a yeoman service to the Sinhalese Buddhists

- Nama Gottam Najirathi -(the writer is Additional District Judge of Matale)

St Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade

St. Anthony's Kochchikade is one of the best-known Churches in the Archdiocese of Colombi, both to Christians and non-Christians. Declared as a national shrine within the Archdiocese it is a Church that always has devotees seeking the assistance of the Saint. The site on which the Church was built brings into focus both the difficulty the people had to preserve their faith during the persecution by the Dutch East India Company which ruled the Maritime Provinces and the conviction of the people in their religion.

The origin of the Church is accorded to Fr. Antonio. He was a companion to Joseph Vaz and had been assigned to minister to the religious needs of the Catholics in Colombo. He resided in a small house near Philip Neri's Church in Pettah and whilst working as a labourer during the day, in the nights he held service for the faithful. One day on hearing that the Dutch soldiers aware of his residence were coming to arrest him, Fr. Antonio fled towards Kotahena. Some fishermen recognized him. The erosion of the sea, which prevented them from drying their nets, and promised him protection, if he could intercede from his God forth sea to recede, frustrated them. The priest surrounded by the fishermen and the soldiers who had by then arrived, prayed and the sea receded. The Dutch soldiers reported the incident to the Governor who gave the priest the land. He built on it a small hut and since the priest was from Cochin, the land was referred to as the place in which the Cohin had a shop hence the name Kochchikade. The present Church according to the Historical Sketch given by DJB Kuruppu was blessed on the 1st of June 1834, 'This Church is a material link with the past. The little mud hut put up by Fr. Antonio lasted till 1806, when it was enlarged. In 1822 the statue of St. Anthony was brought from Goa and placed in the altar of the small chapel. This is the statue that is venerated and though the altar on which it rests today is the side altar, it was the original altar of the old Church. It stands on the very spot sanctified by the miracle to which the origin of the statue is due."

The deep affection people have for the Church is such that when Governor Macallum wanted to acquire the land for the Port, the Colombo Port Improvement Commission recommended against it saying "The Church is held in peculiar veneration by the native Roman Catholic population, not only of the western littoral but of the whole Island. It is visited daily by numerous pilgrims-there is specially a large attendance on Tuesday." Above the Main Altar the statue of St. Anthony is surrounded by traditional motifs designed in brass and on either side are circular plaques representing the Sun and the Moon.

St. Lucia's Cathedral:
The oldest and the largest parish cathedral in Sri Lanka

By Nalika Fernando
Published in @Explore Sri lanka

St. Lucy of Sicily whose feast falls on December 13 is venerated the world over as the protectress against eye trouble. Legend has it that she had the most beautiful pair of eyes and that she pulled them out to present them to an unwelcome suitor who was enamoured by their beauty. However her eyes were miraculously restored to her more beautiful than before.

Named after this virgin and martyr saint is St. Lucia"s Cathedral of Kotahena, the oldest and largest parish cathedral in Sri Lanka and the seat of the Archbishop of Colombo. Situated at Kotahena to the north-east of Colombo this magnificent edifice sprawled on 18,240 Sq. feet of land, rises to a height of 150 feet and has the capacity to accommodate 6000 people in its nave.

The 110 year old cathedral had humble origins in a small chapel of wood and cadjan built by the Oratorian fathers in 1760 when Ceylon was under Dutch occupation. This was replaced by a larger church of brick and mortar in 1782. When Ceylon was detached from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa in 1834, Rev. Fr. Vincente Rozairo was appointed the first Vicar-Apostolic of Ceylon and St. Lucia"s Cathedral became the first cathedral of Sri Lanka. Eventually the foundation stone for a new cathedral building was laid to replace the old one. In 1873 Bishop H D Sillani and Rev. Fr. S Tabarrani, men of great vision and talent designed and initiated the building of St. Lucia"s Cathedral thus planting the seeds of grandeur and magnificence of what was to be. The Catholics of Colombo, the churches outside the city, and even the fisher folk contributed their share to the building fund. The cathedral cost Rs 160,000 to build which was an enormous amount in the last century, yet totally funded by the pious generosity of the Ceylonese Catholics of the time. Towards the end of 1887 the main body of the cathedral was complete and the blessing of the cathedral took place in December of that year. However the building of the cathedral took 30 years and was completed in 1902 when the scaffoldings were finally dismantled and the site cleared. The succeeding generations of parishioners and parish priests continued to embellish the cathedral with exquisite statues and sacred vessels often shipped from Europe. After a succession of European priests Rev. Fr. Nereus Fernando became the first Sri Lankan parish priest of the cathedral in 1956. Under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Fr. Rufus Benedict the cathedral was prepared for its centenary which was celebrated in December 1987.

What was the pride and joy of the late 19th and early 20th century Ceylonese Catholics is today a totally captivating experience to the worshiper or the sightseer. The cathedral is of distinct Gothic architecture. The facade rests on massive ionic columns and it"s adorned with seven statues. Silhouetted against the sky is the cross on the concrete lantern crowning the dome, the pinnacle of the cathedral. The interior of the cathedral engulfs you immediately, along the side aisles are ornate larger than life statues of saints sculptured and painted in minute detail. Many of these statues were installed in 1924 by Rev. Fr. J Milliner who was a gifted artist. Open confessionals of intricately carved dark wood are also placed along the aisles. On the left, in front of the sanctuary is a unique dark skinned statue of the Madonna called "Our Lady of Kotahena".

This statue is taken in procession during the "Month of May" celebrations. Altars of white marble are located in the transepts of the church with relics enshrined within them.

Surmounted on the main altar is a beautiful larger than life statue of St. Lucy holding up her eyes on the palm of her hand. The exquisite stained glass windows when lit by sunlight create a panorama of colour further enhancing the transepts of the church. In a far corner of the church is an enchanting Baptismal Font of white marble. It is circular in shape, carved with cherubs and a statue of John the Baptist crowns it. When you go up the narrow staircase that leads to the choir loft you come upon Anthony Thomas " an enormous bell weighing 4300 lbs. Intricately engraved on this bell are elaborate floral wreaths and various holy figures and symbols of Christianity. It is the largest of the four bells shipped from Marseilles and christened at the cathedral in 1903. Over the decades these bells have pealed in jubilation and tolled in mourning. The choir loft contains a unique pipe organ gifted to the cathedral in 1934. Rev. Fr. M Berared, a French priest who has been in the cathedral for the last 20 years, still plays this organ every Sunday before mass. The view of the cathedral from the choir loft is enthralling " a solitary pigeon flies across the vast expanse of the vault above and the episcopal throne of the Archbishop of Colombo stands out majestically in the sanctuary below.

Rev. Fr. Mahes Ganemulla present parish priest of St. Lucia"s Cathedral says "unlike now, in the old days only the senior most priests were appointed parish priest of the cathedral and some of them have gone on to become bishops." Father recalls all his predecessors to be very capable men who have contributed much of their time and talent to the betterment of the cathedral. "It"s difficult to maintain the same high standards in the cathedral like that of the yester-years, the recent bomb blast has affected the dome and the leakages have got worse. Even a small repair will cost lakhs," says Father.

The cathedral celebrates the "Month of May" and the feasts of St. Lucy and Corpus Christi with much pomp and pageantry. The day of the celebration begins with a trilingual festive mass conducted by the Bishop. On the eve of that day the relevant statue is taken in procession around the streets of Kotahena followed by school bands, around 60 flag bearers with the flags of different nations and the various associations of the cathedral. During the feast the whole of Kotahena is infected with a festive mood and the houses along the procession route are decorated by the residents.

St. Benedict"s College, Good Shepherd Convent and St. Lucia"s of Kotahena are three schools that share a sacred bond with the cathedral. The cathedral has been instrumental in founding these schools and their long histories are entwined with that of the cathedral. The school children participate in all activities of the cathedral while the masses on all important school days are held at the cathedral.

St. Lucia"s Cathedral has been pivotal to the Catholic families that have lived in Kotahena for generations. From baptisms to funerals and from first holy communions to weddings the cathedral remains intrinsic to the long standing Catholics of Kotahena. Ms. Elva Gonsal is 92 and lives on St. Lucia"s lane. She has been decorating the cathedral, its altars, its chariots on all festive occasions since the age of 16. Her creative and artistic work have been highly commended. Her last great work of creativity before taking ill, was the altar for the mass on the eve of the beatification of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz conducted by Pope John Paul II on January 20, 1995.

The cathedral has also witnessed within its walls, many historical events. The midnight mass that ushered in the 20th century. The religious ceremony to mark the National Independence in 1948. The visit of Our Lady of Fatima in 1951. The reception to Cardinal Cooray after having received the red hat from the Pontiff in Rome. The visit of Pope John Paul II for the beatification of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz was the greatest event in recent times.

St. Lucia"s Cathedral Kotahena is the legacy of our forefathers whose fervent faith aspired to build this magnanimous tribute to God. At the threshold of yet another century the cathedral stands unsurpassed in beauty and in magnificence as it has always stood over the last one hundred years.

(Reference - "A Light set on a hill" by Placidus M Fernand)

Please see the Lanka Library Reference to St Lucia’s Cathedral at

St. Thomas’ Church at Kotahena
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and Kumudu Amarasingham @ The morning Leader / 02Oct, 2005

Tucked away in a very noisy corner of Colombo, Kotahena to be exact, is a church though small and cozy, of great importance. According to historical records St. Thomas himself, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, visited the location many many years ago. The place was deserted when we visited, but the church doors were invitingly open. Ancient wooden rafters, quaint old lamps, history and peace beckoned. The garden needs maintaining, but the old structure speaks of many loves, lives, joys, sorrows and above all union with the divine, experienced within its walls through the years. During the past 190 years, St. Thomas’ Church has faced upheavals, like St. Thomas himself faced during his life on earth. Historical evidence proves that St. Thomas who preached the word of God visited Sri Lanka to carry out his ministry, choosing the present location for the church.

Apostle Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, is the founder of the St. Thomas’ Church of India. There is plenty of historical evidence to strengthen this view. Christian writers and delegates of the church of the 4th century have referred to the missionary activities of St. Thomas in India. Christians in India have traced to St. Thomas the founding of their church in the 1st century A.D. St. Thomas came to India, preached the Gospel of Christ, and founded the church. He died a martyr in Mylapore in Chennai. Spread far and wide The boundaries of the church extended far and wide. On the northwestern part were Kashmir, Sindh, Baluchistan and Afghanistan. On the western coast, were Kalyan near Mumbai and on the southeastern coast the land from Madras to Sri Lanka’s coast.

The ancient book Act Of Judas Thomas which relates the Apostle’s preaching of the Gospel to Gondopohrus, has clearly stated that Gondophorus was the king of the northwestern part of India. By the sixth century, we have crosses and inscriptions from Sri Lanka and Turkistan (where some early manuscripts were also found), and by the eighth century, Sian-fu-stele, documents from Gobi sites, inscriptions from central Japan and Russian Turkistan (which has also frescoes and church remains), along with large bodies of the writing of the golden age of Syrian literature from West Asia. With local writings, these have been found across the region, especially in South India and West China.

In the next three centuries would be added the large collections of crosses and tombstones from Kirghizstan (ninth to 14th centuries), others from central and northern China; relics in Burma and Malaya; crosses, inscriptions and documents in Tibet and South China; along with contemporary manuscript evidence of Christian activity in Syria, Iran, Turkistan, Indo-China, Sumatra, and China (north and south). It is also probable that there were indigenous Christians in Ceylon (other than the Persian Christians who settled there) from the beginning of Christianity in Ceylon.

Just as it happened in South India the East Syrian influence might have been felt in Ceylon through Persian merchants and missionaries, or perhaps through the St. Thomas Christians in South India at least from the fifth century onwards. A series of stone inscriptions and coins record the ‘presence of foreign Christian high officers at the service of Sinhala kings’ from AD 473 to 508, and the conversion of one of these kings.

Ancient crosses Nestorian crosses have been found in several places such as Anuradhapura, the capital of the north-central kingdom between the second and the 10th centuries, in Kotte (east Colombo) and Ginthupitya (St. Thomas’ town, Colombo). The crosses found at Anuradhapura are very similar in style to those in Persia (7th century), China at Sian-fu-stele (8th century) and to those in Tibet and Armenia. With the advent of the British, the Malabar or Tamil Christians who had earlier followed the Presbyterian form changed over to the Anglican tradition and worshipped along with the Europeans at St. Peter’s Church, Fort, where Anglican services were held from 1804. When the number increased to nearly 600 these Malabar (Tamil) protestant Christians collected 800 dollars and approached the government through Abraham Rodrigo Devanesan Mootookistna, who was the interpreter Mudliyar to the governor, for assistance to erect their own church. The Governor, Sir Robert Brownrigg, readily granted their request and gave orders for the erection of this present church at Ginthupitiya where a Roman Catholic church had stood in Portuguese times. This Church of St. Thomas was the first church built in Sri Lanka for worship according to the Anglican tradition.

The first divine service was held at this church on July 16 (Sunday) 1815 at 7 pm. The Rev. George Bisset conducted the Service and Rev. M. Twisleton delivered the sermon. A discourse was delivered and prayers were said in Tamil by G. J. Ondaatjie, proponent. Since 1915, locals had administered the church and local clergymen had ministered the church.

It is in no way imposing, but upon visiting, the little church leaves indelibly its imprint on some part of the soul.

Public library branch - Kotahena

The newly constructed Kotahena Public Library was declared open on February 15 2002.

The premises comprises a two storied spacious building at Kotahena junction, the ground floor being the Library and the first floor a large study hall.

In the past it was a dilapidated building very crowded without proper ventilation and could not accommodate the number of students who used to patronize the study hall.

Colombo Mayor Omer Kamil was responsible for having given due consideration to education, particularly for the residents of Kotahena, and for having being responsible in demolishing the old building and constructing this new structure within 1 1/2 years.

The Library serves a very valuable purpose in offering its educational services to the community at Kotahena.

St Benedicts College, Kotahena

St Benedict’s College, the oldest Catholic institution in Colombo was founded in 1865, at that time the three main educational institutions in Sri Lanka were situated in Kotahena, Colombo Academy (later Royal College) in Wolfendaal, St Thomas’s College in Aluthmawatte Road (Gal Palliya), although in later years Royal moved to Reid Avenue and St Thomas’s to Mount Lavania, St Benedict’s still remains in its original location.

St Benedict’s College managed by the La Sallians Brothers the leading teaching order in the Catholic Church, has an outstanding record, having produced some of the finest gentlemen of this country.

Today when there is a spirit of National resurgence and religious amity, we cannot forget the contribution made by St Benedict’s through its distinguished alumni, the Anagarike Dharmapala the foremost National Hero of Sri Lanka, the Most Venerable Narada Nayake Thero considered one of the greatest Buddhist scholars and the Most Ven Soma Maha Thero the author of over 30 books on Buddhism and recognized as one responsible for the spread of Buddhism in Europe , are the pride of all Sri Lankan Buddhists and to be products of a Catholic institution is testimony to the equality and religious harmony that exists in this great institution.

The history of Catholic education in Colombo is the history of St Benedict’s, being the only Institution available to Catholic students from its inception in 1865 St Benedict’s had contributed in many ways towards the formation of all other Catholic institutions in and around Colombo, Institutions like St Joseph’s Maradana, St Sebastian’s Moratuwa, De Mazenod Kandana and St Peter’s Bambalapitiya(whose founder incidentally was a Benedictine Rev Fr Nicholas Perera). These institutions have since made great strides and produced many great personalities.

It is impossible in the space of an article such as this to enumerate all the notable achievements of Benedictines, which significantly include a number of ‘firsts’ in every field. This limited resume however, will be sufficiently indicative of the vast contribution made to many by the products of this institution.

Beginning with the Catholic Church, St Benedict’s produced the first Sri Lankan Catholic Bishop in Dr Bede Beckmeyer, the first Indian Catholic Bishop in Dr Tibutius Roche and the first Tamil Bishop in Dr Emilanius Pillai. Fr Peter Pillai who was considered the most learned man in the British empire at one time and his record of academic achievement has never been equaled, he was also one of the most distinguished rectors of St Joseph’s College Maradana.

Mention should also be made of some of the other eminent Benedictines in their chosen professions namely Dr Cyril Fernando, the leading physician of his day, Prof Kandiah the first Ceylonese to obtain the D Sc, Mr C M Fernando the country’s first Crown Counsel, Dr A W Joachim the greatest soil chemist produced by this country who rose to be the first Ceylonese Director of Agriculture, Prof P B Fernando the first Professor of Medicine of the University of Ceylon , Mr P Navaratnerajah Queens Counsel, Professors Mylvaganam, Chapman, Kingsley De Silva among others, who are all products of this great institution. . This great tradition is continued to this day with many leading professionals like Orthopedic surgeon Dr Rienzie Peiris, Mr A N S Kulasinghe the country’s leading Engineer and many others.

Not only in the fields of Science, Law and Commerce but in every sphere Benedictines have rendered a rich tradition of service to the country.

In the film and music industry St Benedict’s have a record unparalleled by any school. In the film industry personalities such as Vijaya Kumaranatunga, Ravindra Randeniya and Robin Fernando are household names and are considered as kings of this industry, in the music industry Sunil Shantha is considered a legend, in addition some of the greatest names in popular music such as Denzil & Bosco, The Jay Brothers, the Dharmaratne Brothers, The Spit Fires, The Savages, the Jet Liners, Mirage to name a few, were all bands that ruled the scene in the 60’s and 70’s.

Of Journalists there were Editors like Quintus Delikan, Felix Gunawardena, Clarence Fernando and of course the popular E C B Wijesinghe, and to this day the likes of Lasantha Wickremetunga the winner of many awards for fearless journalism.

Of the many Benedictines who have shone in Diplomatic service is Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala a distinguished diplomat who presently holds the highest position ever by a Sri Lankan in the United Nations as under Secretary General, he was recently awarded an international peace award for his contribution to disarmament.

In the field of sports, St Benedict’s has an enviable record unsurpassed by any school in the country, having produced champion teams for Cricket, Basketball, Hockey, Cadetting, Gymnastics and athletics, in soccer St Benedict’s has a fabulous record and have been almost invincible in the post World War 11 period, a famous Benedictine footballer V A Sugathadasa became the Country’s first Minister of Sports, whilst J J Sarangapany is acknowledged as the country’s foremost administrator, Albert Fernando was the first Sri Lankan to qualify as a coach in Brazil and Germany.

St Benedict’s has during the years produced many Political leaders, this trend continues todate with the Minister of Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe and Minister of Public Utilities Mohammed Maharoof who are both considered very powerful Ministers in the present Government.

St Benedict’s College has during its long history been a quiet and humble Institution that has during the years produced some of the finest gentlemen of this Country, many have adorned positions of high office both here and overseas with humility, equality and fairplay, qualities that have been instilled in them through this institution, always keeping in mind the message conveyed in one verse of the College anthem:

”True to our God and true to all man, Follow we ever life's holy plan ! Doing the duty that is to do, Bearing the cross with the crown in view”

The information produced above is by no means comprehensive and the writer humbly apologizes to all those great Benedictines who have in the past and even at present hold high office for non inclusion in this brief article.


Queenie Solomons
Queenie's lifetime wish: Three centuries
by Elmo Leonard - Daily News 23 Jan 2000

When the sun shone in Canberra, Australia, heralding the dawn of the second millennium, Sri Lankan Queenie Solomonsz, domiciled in Australia, realised her life's ambition of seeing the daylight of three centuries. Queenie Solomonsz was born in Colombo Sri Lanka on November 25, 1899. She immigrated to Australia with her husband in 1969 to join her daughter, who had immigrated two years earlier. Queenie is the eldest of five children of her family, who have all departed, having lived long lives. Up to the mid 1980's Queenie visited Sri Lanka, traveling alone, and living with her relations here.

Having changed her residence after she celebrated her 100th birthday in Canberra on November 25, last year, the writer who is a nephew of the centurion, has lost communication with her, since. The writer lived with the old lady in Sri Lanka, and much of what is written is from memory, and from an article of November 26, 1999, which appeared in The Canberra Times.

Her secret of long life are the Christian acts of faith and hope, she clung to, to live to be 100 years. She does not want to live much longer; just to be 101.

A devout Catholic, the day before her 100th birthday, Queenie had prayed all night that she would live to be 100.

She received a certificate from the Pope for reaching 100 at a Mass held in her honour. A tea party was also held on her birthday, at the Villaggio Sant'Antonio Hostel where she lived with people from a variety of different cultures.

Sinking of Titanic

Queenie remembers many things, the sinking of the Titanic, the First and Second World Wars, the English governors of pre-independent Sri Lanka, the introduction of the car to Ceylon. Her husband was a guard in the Ceylon Government Railway, and they were posted to different parts of Sri Lanka. Queenie remembers the improvement of the railway. She also remembers the different towns of Sri Lanka as they were in the early part of the 20th Century. She remembers the island's hill country, the tea plantations and towns. Most important, she remembers the people of Sri Lanka, the different races, their culture, creed, and some of the changes which took place. It is a pity that a cultural anthropologist did not record her, while she was in Sri Lanka. Her attitude and the way she speaks Sinhala is unchanged from what the middle class of the early part of the 20th century spoke. Not only was her language unchanged, but her cultural outlook of Sri Lankans, too. Just before she immigrated to Australia in 1969, she identified a little boy by his race, and inquired of him why he spoke in a tongue which did not match his race. Now, in Australia, she does not call herself a Sri Lankan, but an Australian passport holder, according to a nephew.

Her father was Arthur White, who worked as a chief clerk in the office of the Post Master General. He lived a long life. Queenie was the eldest of her father's second marriage. She had an older step sister, Gladys, who has also departed.

Her mother was Mary Brigette Livera, a past student of Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, and a housewife after marriage. Brigette or Biddie, also died in old age, in the year 1950.


Queenie attended St Anthony's Convent, Dematagoda, until she was fifteen. She spoke very good English, and we have to conclude that she was good at her studies, at a time when girls did not bother to count educational qualifications. Leaving school, Queenie became a Hello Girl, at the Colombo telephone exchange.

In 1923 she married Christian Earnest Solomonsz (Christie). Christie was a Presbyterian (Dutch Reformed Church) while Queenie is a Catholic. In those days marriage between Catholics and Protestants hardly happened. The Catholic Church was so strict, it forbade even the members of her family attending her wedding. To atone for the `sin' of marrying a non-Catholic, the penalty was public penance. Queenie, however, kept her peace with The Holy Mother the Church.
Queenie, had a pew at All Saints Church, marked Mrs C. E. Solomonsz.

Christie was a workaholic. He mopped his house twice every day. His garden did not see an extra blade of grass. Every brass button of Railway guard Christie Solomonsz shone as brightly as it possibly could. Christie was very punctual at work. He could work night after night, sleep only a few hours, and get back to answer another call of duty. In recognition of his services, when Queen Elizabeth visited Sri Lanka in 1954, Christie was in charge of four guards on the train, and was awarded a medallion by the Queen.

Christie was a lover of bananas or plantains, and every day took home a bunch. Perhaps, this practice lead to the long healthy life of Christie and Queenie.

They had two children. The elder was a boy. Apparently, he did not live long. Their daughter Carmen, Philomine to some, studied at All Saints College, Colombo 8, and later at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena.

The Solomonsz family lived many years at 10, Railway Bungalow, Mount Mary, Colombo. After Christie retired from the railway, they moved over to 29, Rodney Street, Colombo, the house being under the influence of poltergeists at the time. Then, the Solomonsz family built a house at 15 Galpotta Road, Nawala.

Christie continued to work after retirement, cashing cheques at the Maradana Railway Station, and Queenie helped him with his accounts, at the end of the day. When Christie's money was taken by a snatch thief, the story was recorded in the Evening Observer.

Carmen was a secretary, who worked at Radio Ceylon, and later at the Ministry of Nationalised Services. She married Fredrick Koelmeyer in Sri Lanka. They had two sons when they moved to Australia.

Queenie and Christie followed two years later. They lived in their own flat in Ainslie, until 1976, when Christie at the age of 82, was found dead of a heart attack, falling short of entering his gate.

Not long after that, Queenie moved with Carmen and her husband to Darwin, northern Australia, and Queenie went with them to look after the children. After two years they returned to Canberra and Queenie lived with them until she came to Villaggio, Canberra in 1994.

Queenie has four grand children, Johann, Kirk, Christopher and Eloise, and three great grand-children, Jessica, Kate and Rebecca.

Queenie always did her own cooking. She is an expert in the Sri Lankan culinary art, with her own innovations. Her curries are dry, and the gravy concentrated; the best cook of Sri Lankan food, the writer has known. Queenie is also interested in crochet which she still does.

Queenie loves going to mass and reading her prayer book every day. She still writes her own letters and cards.

Queenie now suffers from gastritis.

Harold de Andrado - the doyen of Sri Lankan cricket writers
by Neil Wijeratne - Island, Wed Mar 12 2003

For me, like thousands of other Josephians, his name is the password for the Josephian cricket heritage. Through his writings over the years, possibly of over five decades, I was able to grasp the glamour and colour of Josephian cricket history. Also its unique records, the character of players and administrators. His writings on cricket influenced me so much that there was a time I had the habit of collecting his articles and pasting them on a used drawing book. Going through those articles over and over again, not only bring back nostalgic memories down memory lane but is also like visiting a cricket archives.

Harold de Andrado and Josephian cricket are synonymous, like the colours blue and white in the Josephian flag. He was to me what Neville Cardus was to the Englishmen. He became a hero of my little cricket world even before I had seen him personally. That was not because of his prowess as a cricketer but for the reason of his classic art of cricket writing.

Being a complete product of St. Joseph’s College, Harold’s journalistic career is studded with a long history like his club the Nondescripts C.C. He was a player and a coach but strangely his chosen field was the history of the game and its statistics. Although the Britishers planted and nurtured the game in the British Colony and later taught its finer points to the natives, they were never interested in guiding the locals in recording and maintaining the history of the game.

The reason was obvious. The "Gurus" of the game never thought that the game would reach greater heights in the Colony. Therefore the history of the game became a neglected area like an abandoned paddy field. But thanks to some of our historians like S. P. Foenander, P. L. Bartholomeusz, Harold de Andrado, S. S. Perera, Gerry Vaidyasekera and M. M. Thawfeeq, to name a few, Sri Lankan cricket history was elegantly painted in words providing a richly fascinating account that we all should be proud of.

It was against such a backdrop that Harold de Andrado entered the cricket arena as a cricket writer. That was the time when Sri Lankan cricket was confined only to ‘at home" matches.

News agency reporters from the other cricketing nations filled local newspaper sports columns with their "pieces". Harold was not satisfied with the traditional way of sports journalism. Bearing the expense out of his own pocket, Harold was able to enter the "press boxes" in England and Australia to cover "Ashes" series purely because of his passion for the game. His articles sent from abroad and appearing in the local press, could be considered as a pioneer work by a local sports scribe reporting from a foreign turf. Certainly it was a novel experience not only for the writer but also for the readers in Sri Lanka. Unlike modern sports writers who carries the "reporting from.... " bye-line with their photographs and numerous sponsor logos, only to see the scoreboard being reproduced in the so-called articles, Harold’s reporting either from England or Australia provided an in-depth account of the game. His versatility in the field of sports journalism makes him a genius. Over the years, as a cricket reporter, writer, historian and a statistician, he showed a great command of the subject which correctly elevated him to the highest place in the chosen field.

Stepping into Harold’s residence at Kotahena makes the visitor feel that he has entered a cricket library. More correctly an Australian cricket library. A shelf of books on Bradman and on Australian cricket including that giant book titled "200 Seasons of Australian Cricket" and the photographs of Australian criketing greats are some of the ornaments that adorn his visitors room. The reason is clear. He loves Australian cricket than any one else in Sri Lanka. Many moons ago, in 1969, he wrote the following lines for the official souvenir published by the Board of Control for cricket in Ceylon, to mark the visit of the Australian cricket team.

"...... I had always wanted to go to Australia, from the day 35 years ago as a tiny kindergarten kid, I listened to one of the early broadcasts of Sir Don Bradman making a triple century at Leeds. So the dream which began long ago in my boyhood became true when I boarded the "Arcadia" in October 1958 bound for Down Under. The summers are warn, there are blue skies, lush green outfields, though the batting strips are brown, firm, solid and perfect. Australia attracted me immediately. I like its streets, its shops, its people, its foods, its wines and above all the friendship of this great agricultural people who have made tremendous strides industrially too; a sign of real progress. Nowhere else in the world is the Press treated better. In Australia they like to welcome you because the Press comes next to the players." (From an article titled "In a reminiscent mood" written by Harold De Andrado in 1969.)

Much water has flown under the bridge since then changing the face of the game considerably. The white-flannelled war is now converted to a pyjama confrontation. Playing the game at the highest level is now strictly on commercial demands. Sponsors are the angel guardians of the game. In spite of all these revolutions, Harold de Andrado still makes us feel exhilarated through his writings of the by-gone era where the game is played with all the graces maintaining its noble traditions.

May his involvement in the field of cricket journalism continue "till the mountains disappear".
St Anthony’s Mawatha (Reclamation Road)

The street that stretched forth, hugging the western coastline of Colombo, all the way through the Pettah ending up to meet Aluthmawatte Road at Mutuwal. The famous St Anthonys Church is located on it at Kochichikade, at the intersection of Jampettah Street.

Newham Square
Ratnam Road

New Chetty Street
Proctor N M Zaheed had his family home on this street where his seven sons and two daughters were raised. He chose this location as it was convenient for his legal practice which was located in the next town of Hultsdorp. A very popular lawyer in Colombo, especially amongst the Muslim community, he carried on a successful profession until his death.

His son Hamza also went on to become a successful lawyer taking over his clients after his demise. Hamza married the daughter of Thaifoor Hassim of Alexandra Road and moved to Wellawatte thereafter. Hamza’s son is also a successful lawyer who migrated to Toronto Canada and married the daughter of Razeen Salih, the famous gem merchant and Jeweler from Galle.

Niyaz, the oldest son, migrated to HongKong and married a Chinese Muslim lady and lived there until his demise.

Fareed, who worked at the Food Control Department, married Sithy Rahma Sameer, daughter of Mohamed Sameer, and moved to Bambalapitiya where he lived with his wife and two sons, Rizvi & Riaz, until his demise. Rizvi is currently a director at Hayleys Limited while Riaz carries on his travel and tour business in Colombo.

Daughter Noorul Faiza married Mohammed Ismail Sameer, son of Mohamed Sameer, and moved to Davidson Road at Bambalapitiya, where he passed away after a brief illness. Their children are Azmi, Kareema, Kamal, Zareena & Zahra.

Ayne, the second daughter married Proctor TIM Junaid and are currently resident in Dehiwela.
Son Kamil also did law and practiced successfully in Colombo. He married the daughter of Nizar from Frances Road at Wellawatte and later on moved to Charlemont Road where he passed away after a brief illness.

Huzair, another son, was employed at National & Grindlays Bank in the Fort in Colombo and married Sithy Zulaiha Ghouse. He moved to Lily Avenue at WQellawatte and thereafter to Lorensz Road at Bambalapitiya with his wife and daughter Ruzna and son Azad.

Thahir, married and settled down at Wellawatte

Ismet the youngest son migrated to Toronto, Canada, after working with the Bank of Ceylon in Colombo and also in the Middle East for a few years.

Many famous jewellery stores owned and managed by Nattukottai Chettiars thrived in this location. They were patronized by women of all communities for their fine workmanship and quality of material.

Dr Jaffer, an Unani practitioner, who originally hailed from India, also had his practice down this street. His two sons attended Royal College, Colombo.

Barber Street (Sangamitta Mawatha)
Jampettah Street
George R de Silva Mawatha (Bloemendhal Road)
Pickerings Road
Bonjean Road
Kotahena Street
Wasala Road
Mayfield Road

Mayfield Lane
The literary genius Cecil Aresacularatne, whose many famous and noteworthy contributions to the local press and letters section has always intrigued many a literary interest, and his family lived here. Son Sunil (GLS) attended Royal and was employed with the Ministry of Transportation in Colombo.

Sri Gunananda Mawatha
Alwis Place
A G Hinniappuhamy Mawatha
Green Lane
Sri Sivananda Street
Shoe Road