Once upon a time the drab and highly commercial city of Colombo was a 'Green City'. Each of its zones resembled a mini village, consisting of cinnamon or coconut plantations through which narrow cart roads ran. In colonial times, Mutuwal, Hultsdorp, Grandpass, the Pettah and Fort, in Colombo, were the main urban residencies and business areas where leading citizens lived, loved and traded.
By the latter part of the 19th Century people had begun to move south towards Kollupitiya (Colombo-3) and Cinnamon Gardens (Colombo-7) and even further to Slave Island (Colombo-2), Bambalapitiya (Colombo-4), Havelock Town (Colombo 5) and Wellawatte (Colombo-6). Real estate in all these small towns of Colombo started booming with the demand for land and housing.
It was amidst this backdrop that many prominent businessmen, traders, politicians, government officials, and professionals took up residence in Kollupitiya. Consequently, the town, today, has become a very elite residential location as well as a lucrative and fashionable business emporium. Many are the luxurious manors and villas that stood in Kollupitiya in old times. Some have been demolished for obvious reasons of expansion and construction. Some still stand in all their splendid majesty and grandeur.
Gardens stretched out from residence to residence, lush green and perfumed with every variety of flora, manicured by careful and loving hands of specialist gardeners. Tree lined avenues are still to be seen providing a canopy of shade, comfort and delight to the weary traveler.
In recent times many such halcyon locations have given way to tall high-rise apartments housing families as well as office complexes, businesses, cinemas, casinos, markets and shopping malls. Roads have been widened and the massive influx of people is now choking the small town with a claustrophobic aura that seems deathly. Every big city or town suffers this choking at some point of time in its lifecycle. That’s the basic fundamental of development and progress across the globe. Kollupitiya was no exception.
"In those days Kollupitiya was known as Baradeniya. It was an urban village with some beautiful villas in gardens shaded by trees. The roads which ran through fertile cinnamon and coconut gardens were narrow cart-tracks. The people were just a few. There was a small market place where people could buy and sell. Bullock carts, horse drawn carriages and rickshaws were there to give that simple place an air of complexity".
So writes H. M. Mervyn Herath, whose recently published book Colonial Kollupitiya and its Environs dips into a past when our colonial masters, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British reigned supreme, and Lankan society was largely feudal. During that nostalgic journey into the past, the writer also reveals a host of little known facts and anecdotes that add to the historical importance of his book. Many valuable extracts from the book have been included within this journey into time through the town of Kollupitiya.
Take the name 'Kollupitiya'. How many of us know for instance that 'Kollupitiya' traces its name to a rebellion that took place in Kandy in the late seventeenth century?, And that it was named after a Kandyan chief who had unsuccessfully sought to de-throne the last king of Kandy?
Here is how it all began, says the author.
The year was 1664 and the king was Rajasinghe II whose cruel acts embittered by his subjects. Three Kandyan chiefs sought to slay the king and place his 12-year-old son on the throne instead. One of the conspirators was Udanuwara Ambanwela Appuhamy. When the plot failed, the king had two of the rebel leaders beheaded. However, instead of executing Abanwela Appuhamy, the most feared of the rebels, he handed him over to the Dutch to undergo what he thought would be a more brutal torture.
Instead the Dutch set him free. Ambanwela Appuhamy soon built up a good relationship with the Dutch who gave him a large plot of land by the sea where he grew a coconut plantation. The former Kandyan chief then took the Dutch name of Van Ry-cloff and soon his expanding coconut plantation rolled over the ancestral farms of the natives who dared not complain. They could only retaliate by calling the plantation Kolla-ke-pitiya meaning 'Plundered land'.
"Today, that part of Kollupitiya where the present St Michael's church and school now stand was and still continues to be known as Polwatte", Herath states.
It is said that the King had fled to a place called Nilambe in the Central province, a location overlooking the ancient capital city of Kandy. One piece of news on Nillambe that is already known, is that Rajasinghe II (1635-1687) one of our most valiant kings had a palace at Nillambe. This fact is mentioned in several places in Historical Relations of Ceylon by Robert Knox whose imprisonment in our island owed itself to this capricious monarch. The remnants of some stone columns still stand in a thick bamboo grove flourishing in a plummeted valley where British tea planters had later grown tea, a site that cannot be reached by vehicle now.
Nillambe is also sited at the other end of the Hantane mountain range that overlooks the city of Mahanuwara or Kandy and the king would have fled to Nillambe along the mountain pass. Nillambe is said to derive its name from Nil Ambe, the Blue Waters of the Mul Haluwa Oya river flowing through this terrain.
Why did the king flee to Nillambe? According to other historical sources as well as according to Madyama Lanka Puravrththa' it was to flee the wrath of some rebel leaders. The king had not been a popular one. Very despotic and capricious he ruled according to his own whims and fancies and his decision to suspend a long standing procession in Kandy had been the last spark to ignite the inflammable situation. By this time the king had already fled to Nillambe.
The ringleaders of the 1664 rebellion against the king had been Udunuwara Ambanwela Appuhamy, Satkorale Manna Appuhamy and Ataklankorale Sundara Appuhamy who very successfully broke into the Nillambe Palace, threatened the king to resign and requested that he give over the throne to the king's son who however declined to accept it either through filial loyalty or through fear. That proved the undoing of the rebels. Rajasinghe II came back to power and had some of the rebel leaders beheaded and due to a sudden whim of his (a characteristic of him) banished Ambanwela Rala to Dutch territory in the lowlands.
Ambanwela Rala was a man of many sides. He belonged to one of the most powerful Kandyan families at the time. Yet he was a crafty and scheming opportunist and also a poet. It did not take him long to establish very pleasant relations with the Dutch who instead of punishing him gave him a piece of land by the sea where he began an extensive coconut cultivation.
This land eventually came to be known as Polwatte, still a part of Kollupitiya where the famous church and aligned school of Kollupitiya stand is known by the name Polwatte. The wider land in this area came to be known as Kollan Pitiya or the Robbed Land, robbed by the machinations of an upcountry fugitive chief.
But the machinations seem to have been more of an aesthetic nature as the composition of panegyrics to big wigs in the Dutch administration. It is also written that a set of ode like verses dedicated to one Surya Muttiah, an officer in the Dutch bureaucracy perhaps to facilitate the land transactions by the sea.
The Polwatte begun by Ambanwela Rala became so prosperous later, that according to the late Mr. Gamini Samarasinghe, the prolific banker - writer, either in the late Dutch period or the early British period a brewery commenced here turning coconut treacle to liquor. The beer turned out had been of such high quality that it had been very much in demand and had at one time was exported even to towns in South India. The house in which lived the head of this brewery business, according to many writers, is the nucleus of the present Temple Trees!
However, Ambanwela Rala's progeny, perhaps who did not flee with him to Kollupitiya to escape the king's wrath had got domiciled later at Ratnapura. So Ambanwela Rala, the temporary bachelor, hailing from the Kandyan backwoods was very adventurous and reckless as to plan the overthrow of a powerful king, and then by a stroke of luck has his neck saved from the scaffold and comes down to the lowlands and signs his way to become the proprietor of an extensive coconut estate is really the author of present Kollupitiya with its soaring skyscrapers, maddening traffic and thronging crowds.
Equally interesting is the origin of the city of Colombo itself. According to the author, "Colombo sprang up on a small piece of highland at the coastal edge of a wild , waterlogged marsh. When it became necessary to expand it the marsh was filled up and the jungle cleared". How did the name Colombo originate?"
"The Sinhalese had two names for Colombo - Kolon Tota and Kola Amba. Kola Amba because of a huge mango tree which had only leaves but bore no fruit. That tree was a prominent landmark that stood for many generations off Commissariat Street, Fort. Originally a military fort, it was the Portuguese followed by the Dutch and the British who made Colombo the capital city, it now is."
The author's observations and comments on the people who once lived in Kollupitiya and its environs are equally interesting and revealing.
The 'dhoby' community for example lived on the side of the Galle Face where the land slopes down to the Beira Lake, and were employed as official washermen mostly to the colonial masters.
"When the land was required for the new Military Hospital, the dhobies were given land for their housing and "drying ground" across the lake in the land known as Polwatte. The 'dhobies' settled down there and did their washing (mostly for the British) and carried their customers' clothes across the lake to the fort by canoe, even using donkeys to carry their bundles", he states. He also recalls the jockeys who occupied the first floor of St. Michael's building, close to the horse stables and riding school which were down Clifford Road.
According to Herath, at least two well-known persons of literary fame are said to have lived at Kollupitiya. One was Gajaman Nona, the southern poetess who was born at Kollupitiya in 1758 and christened Dona Esabella Peruman Koraneliya at the Milagiriya church.
The other was Andare who it is said, after an argument with the students of St Anthony's School at the time situated on the sea side of Kollupitiya near the present British High commission, and annoyed by the treatment given to him had said, "Kollupitiya Kollo thamai Mogan Kollo", calling Kollupitiya 'Kolan Petiya'.
One of Colombo's most prominent landmarks, the Beira Lake was once known as the Colombo Lake and was originally an extensive reach of flood water from the Kelani Ganga." The Lake was called 'Lagoon' by the Portuguese, a sheet of water described as being full of frightful alligators and crocodiles. Hence the name Kayman's Gate for a nearby street", notes the author.
We also learn that the Cargills Department store in the Fort, another prominent landmark, was once the temporary residence of the first British governor North. Herath's comprehensive account covers practically most of the streets, lanes, houses and other buildings in Kollupitiya and its environs, including market places, burial grounds, churches , hospitals, parks, religious buildings, schools, museum and art galleries.
The author has evidently spent a great deal of time and effort on researching his facts. Reading his book is like going through the pages of a history book with a difference; the writing is subjective and nostalgic written by a person has strong sentiments for his home town.
The real value of the book is that it does not confine itself to describing only Kollupitiya, but goes beyond to encompass its immediate environs, Slave Island, Kotahena, Pettah and Fort. Here too his writing is enlivened with anecdotes and little known facts.
According to the author Slave Island was originally a mud village containing a bazaar, an excellent parade grounds and "two gentlemen's villas". Kew Road connected Slave Island with the fort by bridges and causeways. It was to Slave Island that the Portuguese brought the Kaffir population as workmen from Goa in 1600. And it was here that the first insurrection by the Kaffirs took place against their employers.
When the insurrection was suppressed all the slaves were taken along a narrow passage through the ramparts and ferried across the Beira lake to a jagged peninsular called IJE meaning 'Island' specially built for them. The Dutch too kept their slaves on this island to prevent them from escaping.
Did you know that the last King of Kandy after being captured by the British was temporarily detained in an old Dutch building before being sent to India on the very spot that the sky high buildings of Ceylinco House stands today? A tiny concrete cubicle in which a man can barely sit, now displayed in the courtyard off the foyer of Ceylinco House is believed to have been the cell where Śrī Wickramarajasinghe was imprisoned. Or that the Dutch built a house known as the Government House occupied by the last Dutch governor on the very spot that the President's House now stands?
Popular landmark Galle Face Green, another popular landmark in Kollupitiya, was only a small part of what was once a large undulating coastal swamp. "It was the British who developed it into a leisure ground...A place for colonial ladies and gentlemen to unfold their grace and haughtiness, a place for soldiers on horseback to show off their latest accoutrements, a scene for flirtation and gossip, political and social", writes the author.
"At first cricket, football and polo were played on the Green; later horse racing", Herath states. The sea side walk on the Galle Face Green was built in 1859 "in the interests of ladies and children of Colombo," states a plaque still found on a pillar that stands mid-way besides the walk.
The origins of important religious places in and around Kollupitiya are no less interesting. The Devatagaha Mosque - at Town Hall, Cinnamon Gardens, we learn was once the resting place of a Muslim saint Seyyadina As-sheik Usman Ibn Abdur Rahaman al siddique who came from Arafat, Saudi Arabia. He was a direct descendent of the first Caliph after the passing away of the Holy Prophet. The grave of the saint was discovered in 1802 by a Moor residing in Maradana who said that the location was given him in a dream. The name of the mosque is derived from a Davata tree which grew near the grave.
Liberally illustrated with old photos and sketches, Colonial Kollupitiya and its environs is a book that brings back a serene era of a bygone era. Written simply it makes a good read for both young and old alike.
The Streets of Kollupitiya
The Beira Lake
The Colombo Lake, a prominent landmark within the city of Colombo from old times, subsequently renamed to ‘Beira Lake’ after the Dutch engineer John de Beira in 1700, is still a soothing balm to every passer by, whether he is walking, jogging, driving through, or even rowing in its still waters. De Beira constructed the moats and water defences of the Dutch Fort in Colombo. A granite plaque can still be seen in the subway behind the Regal Flats from the old Dutch sluice gates, in the Fort, bearing the legend, ‘De Beira AD 1700’
The lake, a living legacy of Colombo, was originally an extensive ‘reach of flood water’ that spilled over from the Kelani Ganga (river). The Portuguese referred to is as the Lagoon, a sheet of water that was supposed to be infested with deadly alligators and crocodiles. A nearby street overlooking the lake in the Fort is named Kaymans (Kaaiman, a corrupt term for crocs and alligators) Gate after these creatures.
RL Brohier, in his book, Changing Faces of Colombo, states, ‘The Beira Lake, which was much larger than it is today, afforded the favorite and healthy recreation of boating in all its phases. It was put to much use as the arena for this truly English aqua-sport amusement. Small sailing vehicles and row boats, pleasure barges and skiffs increased in consequence. It is interesting to record that regattas were frequently organized in those times. On such occasions, the lake put on a most gay and animated appearance with nearly all the crafts dressed in buntings, and at night, illuminated with colored lanterns.’
Such was the picturesque painting that the Beira Lake presented when it was a much loved ornament of the city of Colombo. Later, villas, mansions and other stately homes were built around it, by the lakeside. The Dutch transformed the lake and enhanced its aesthetic beauty in the 17 and 18 Centuries.
Steuart Place, which extended from Galle Face to the rear of Temple Trees, is located on the Navam Mawatha boundary of the lake. George and James Steauart, coffee planters, bought the area where the Crescat Boulevard, adjoining the Hotel Oberoi, is located today. They established the business of George Steuart House. Coffee planters also built their villas in this location where coffee and cinnamon were weighed.
The Anglicon Bishop of Colombo lived in one of these houses before the Cathedral was built. The Dutch East India Company office was also located very close to where the Oberoi Hotel now stands.
One of the earliest references to the lake is to be found in ‘The Conquest of Ceylon’, by Father Fernando de Queyroz, published in 1668 AD. He says that when King Vijaya Bahu laid siege on Colombo in 1521 AD, the Portuguese Captain Lopo de Brito, pursued the attackers, killing and wounding them till they reached a brook, which was afterwards dammed into a Lake for the better fortification of the City.
During the siege of 1578 AD, King Mayadunne of Sitawaka, seeing that the Portuguese boats were plying on the Lake, ‘determined to drain it, but without avail, as it was valorously defended’. His son, King Rajasinghe I, besieged Colombo several times and drained the lake dry, twice, by canals, one of which is the San Sebastian Canal.
In preparing the defences of Colombo against Dutch attack in 1665 AD, the Portuguese made use of the Lake, by which they brought palm tree timber and fascines and a certain bark of a tree which they called ‘vedipera’, which made up for the lack of matches.
The Dutch, in their turn, ‘launched on the Lake many light and capacious vessels of extraordinary workmanship in which were 250 soldiers’.
The Lake was the scene of some of the bitterest encounters between the Dutch and the Portuguese.
Today the Seemamalankaraya Temple stands on the island in the center of the Beira Lake, where many devout Buddhists attend religious ceremonies and parades. The Lake is also used by ardent rowing fans for training and regattas which are held on a regular basis. The Colombo Rowing Club has its clubhouse located on its banks.
One end of the lake is bounded by General’s Lake Road and Navam Mawatha, while the western side runs along Duplication Road all the way up to Slave Island, Galle Face and the Fort.
The bustling town of Slave Island (Colombo 2) today, about 2 Km south of the Fort and inland from Galle Face, was once an island on the Beira Lake. It contained a mud village, a bazaar, and excellent parade grounds and ‘two gentlemens villas’. Kew Road connected Slave Island to the Fort by a bridges and causeways.
O.L.M Macan Markar
Oduma Lebbe Marikar of Galle had three sons - Naina Marikar, Macan Markar and Haji Ahmad. Naina Marikar had many sons, the eldest of whom was Muhammad Ismail. He established a Gem & Jewelry business in his name, N.M. Ismail. On his death, his three sons - Mahmood Ali, Muhammad Jameel and Muhammad Kassim (better known for his services as Honorary Secretary to the Ceylon Cricket Association for nearly a decade), changed the name of the business to M. Ali & Bros. and carried on a lucrative trade in the Victoria Arcade. They also assumed the ownership and management of Watawala Tea Estate, near Hatton, in the Central Province. Haji Ahmed had an only son, Cabeer who passed away at a relatively young age while performing the Friday Congregational Jumuah Prayers at the Galle Fort Mosque.
Oduma Lebbe Marikar Macan Markar, the second son, established, in 1860, a jewelry business at Point de Galle. The business flourished and was moved to Colombo when the port of call for ships was moved from Galle harbor to Colombo harbor. His establishment in Colombo commenced at No. 1, Grand Oriental Hotel Arcade, Fort, Colombo. With the increase of patronage he moved to a more prominent location of the Grand Oriental Hotel in 1905. He had, among his clients, several members of the British Royalty comprising, His Majesty King Edward VII (1875) as Prince of Wales and His Majesty King George V (1901) as the Duke of Cornwall and York. Amongst the British nobility, some of his customers were, the Duke of Manchester, the Duke of Sutherland, Earl of Aylesford, Earl of Ellesmore, and Lord Abercomby.
In 1901, His Majesty King George V, as the Duke of Cornwall and York and the Duke of Roxbury, visited the exhibition of gems specially displayed at the King’s Pavillion in Kandy and made purchases from Macan Markar and complimented the firm for their excellent collection of gems. The firm regularly exported precious stones to the London and Paris markets. The world famous Cat’s Eye, weighing 105 Carats, called the Blue Giant of the Orient, a Blue Sapphire weighing 225 carats and the Wonder Star of Asia, a Star Sapphire weighing 225 carats are in the possession of the firm. They also possess a rare collection of antique jewelry worn by Moor brides of the past. O.L.M. Macan Markar passed away on July 4, 1901.
The members of the firm who succeeded the founder were his four sons - Muhammad Macan Markar, Samsudeen Macan Markar, the most resourceful of them all in business, Abdul Vadood Macan Markar, steady and cautious in all his undertakings, and Muhammad Saleh Macan Markar, who passed away early in life in the year 1928 leaving behind a bequest of Rs. 50,000 for the establishment of the Saleh Macan Markar Muslim Educational Trust for the welfare of Muslim students.
The firm had, prior to 1942, branch offices at Shepherd’s Hotel, Continental Savoy, and Semiramis at Cairo and King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Muhammad Macan Markar, fifth in a family of thirteen, was born at No. 47, Church Street, Fort, Galle on September 7, 1877. He was educated at Wesley College, Colombo (Pettah) and represented the College Cricket XI under the name of M.M. Muhammad, as he was then known at school. His contemporaries were, C.E. Pereira, who was the captain of the Cricket XI at Wesley, and S.P. Foenander, the worlds official cricket record keeper.
Muhammad made an unsuccessful attempt at passing the pre-medical examination before turning to business.
He was the Vice Consul for Turkey at Galle and later Consul for Turkey at Colombo during the period 1903 to 1915. He was also a member of the Galle Municipal Council, for twenty five years, during the period 1906 to 1931. later he was a member of the Colombo Municipal Council from 1940 to 1943. he also sat as a member of the Fez Committee and was the founder President of the All Ceylon Moor’s Association for and held that position for a number of years. He, subsequently, held the position of President of the All Ceylon Muslim League in 1945. He represented the Consulta eof Turkey in Ceylon. First Muslim Member for the All Island Seat at the Legislative Council. Senator 1947-1952. In addition, Muhammad was a registered member of the congregation of the Maradana Mosque. He was knighted in 1938.
Ibrahimiya Arabic College at Galle was founded by his mother, Mrs. O.L.M. Macan Markar, who left endowments for its maintenance. The institution is now being maintained by the firm.
Haji Muhammad Macan Markar, Effendi, as he was known then, married Noor Neima Naina-Marikar, the eldest daughter of S.L.Naina Marikar Hajiar, on July 2, 1910, at "Muirburn", Turret Road, Colombo.
When the Hijaz Railway connecting Makkah and Madinah was commenced in 1907, Ceylon Muslims presented, at the Grand Mosque, New Moor Street, an address of thanks to the Turkish Consul, Muhammad Macan Markar, for submission to the Sultan of Turkey. A photograph of those who attended this function is still available.
Muhammad Macan Markar performed the Hajj pilgrimage, in 1906, together with his mother, Aamina Umma, daughter of Aboobucker Mudaliyar, his grandmother Pathumuthu, daughter of Mudaliyar Cassim Lebbe Marikar (Cassile Blanc), his maternal uncle, Avoo Lebbe Marikar and the two ikhwans. S.L.M.H. Abdul Wahab and H.S.M. Izzadeen. They encountered a number of interesting adventures on their journey, including an encounter with a Bedouin tribe while crossing the Arabian desert on camel back, in a caravan.
As Turkish Consul, he visited Istanbul together with his brother Abdul Vadood and thereafter Rome, Paris and London on business, in 1909. While in London, he was presented to His Majesty King Edward VII, at St. James’s Palace by Lord Crewe.
Muhammad Macan Markar took a keen interest in the promotion of Muslim education and subscribed Rs. 1,000 towards the construction of houses, alongside the New Olympia Theatre at Darley Road, in a project that was estimated to cost Rs. 12,750. He, along with M.T.Akbar and several others, founded the Ceylon Muslim Educational Society Ltd., which established and managed the Hussainiya Boy’s School and Fathima Girl’s School. He realised the disability he suffered from insufficient education and endeavoured to provide his sons the best possible education available.
Muhammad Macan Markar was elected the first Mohammedan Member for the all island seat in the Legislative Council in 1924. He was subsequently elected member for the Batticaloa South electorate in the State Council from 1931 to 1936 defeating E.R. Thambimuthu, and thereby gave the Muslims of the Eastern Province a political consciousness. he was elected the Minister of Communication and Works and it was his deciding vote in the Board of Ministers that introduced Income Tax to Ceylon. He was knighted in 1938. At a grand public reception given to him in his home town, Galle, he was the first Muslim to openly espouse the establishment of a Sinhala Government, provided that justice and fairplay amongst all te communities in the country was ensured.
As a matter of fact, the pro-Sinhala attitude of the All Ceylon Moor’s Association, of which Sir Muhammad was the President, broke the backbone of the pro-fifty-fifty group. Sir Muhammad’s successor in office, Sir Razik Fareed, carried on this policy with great gusto until the fifty-fifty cry was silenced.
Sir Muhammad was appointed a Senator in the first Parliament of Ceylon in 1947 and continued to remain so until his death, after a short illness, on May 10, 1952 (15 Sha’aban 1371H). His wife pre-deceased him. He confided that he had two sincere loyal friends who were true to him right up to the end. They were, Hon. W.M.Abdul Rahman and H.N.H. Jalaludeen Hajiar.
Sir Muhammad made a bequest of Rs. 50,000 towards the construction of a Mosque in the University of Ceylon campus at Peradeniya. He also made substantial endowments towards Muslim female aducation and for post graduate studies for Muslim students.
The street that meets Galle Road at a perpendicular from Slave Island at the Macan Markar Building/Galle Face Hotel junction was renamed to Sir Macan Markar Mawatha on account of the contribution of the Macan Markar family towards industry, business, trading and politics in Sri Lanka.
Galle Face Courts
The business establishment of OLM Macan Markar was founded in 1860 at Galle. Colombo business was started in 1870 at GOH Arcade in the Fort. By 1870 the business was booming. In 1905 large premises and showrooms were built.
The company’s own building was constructed at Galle Face in 1923 and named Galle Face Court I. Within 10 years an extension was built northwards, facing the Galle Face Green Esplanade, and named Galle Face Court II.
A residential cum business real estate venture that was initiated by the Macan Markar family and lay south of the main Macan Markar building where many famous enterprises were located on the ground floor. The upper floors were all rented out as residential apartments. Mazny of the family members of the Macan Markar's also lived here for convenience, until such time as they moved to larger permanent villas in Colombo, since their family homes were mainly located in Galle.
Another commercial building complex, situated south of the Galle Face Courts where IBM had its very first business office. Subsequently IBM moved their offices to the Ceylinco building in the Fort. Kalamazoo Business Systems also had their offices in this building.
Founded in August 1904 in the hill capital of Kandy, the Automobile Association of Ceylon moved to its new location at Iceland Building in Galle Face in 1946. Subsequently the AA was moved to its own building at Galle Face near where the Al Hambra Holiday Inn Hotel now stands on Sir Mohammed Macan Markar Mawatha.
Galle Face Terrace
A busy business location mixed with gems, jewelry, restaurants and other tourist attractions located on the land side of Galle Road, Kollupitiya.
St. Andrews Church, Galle Road , Kollupitiya
A beautiful and serene looking building with a neatly kept lawn in front graced this location. The Church was managed by the Rev Andrew Baillie for a very long period of time. The land adjoining the church had previously been the offices and plumbago warehouse of M/S George Steuart & Company Ltd. From this point all the way up to Mahanuge Gardens was the property of the Anglicon Bishop of Colombo where today stands the Hotel Oberoi and Crescat Boulevard
Founded in 1842 as a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) by Scots living in Ceylon, St Andrew's has become the International Church in Colombo. Welcoming into its fellowship are people of all nations and denominations of the Christian faith. The church is also known as St. Andrew's Scots' Kirk, Colombo. The new building at Galle Face was consecrated on 21st November 1907.
The Dhobi (washer) Community
On the landside of Galle Face, where the land slopes down to the Beira Lake there lived a small community of dhobis who were involved in the washing of clothes. They had been eking out an existence living on this location since the Dutch Colonial era and possibly even long before. When this land was required for the new Military Hospital the dhobis were given compensatory land for their homes and a ‘drying ground’ across the lake in Kollupitiya on the land known as Polwatte. The dhobis settled down comfortably in their new abode and continued their washing profession carrying their customers clothes across the lake to the Colombo Fort by canoe. Some even used carts pulled by donkeys to carry their bundles of clothes. Most of the clientele belonged to the elite British populous of Colombo.
Even today, clothes are washed in the Beira Lake and laid down to dry on the green grass banks behind the Hotel Cinnamon Grand.
Hotel Cinnamon Grand
A five star tourist hotel that sprang up in recent times catering to the much needed residential requirements of the massive tourist influx into the country. A massive shopping mall, food court and luxury apartment complex, catering to the masses of Colombo, called Crescat Boulevard ha also sprouted on this location.
1st Lane (Mahanuge Gardens)
Felix Dias Bandaranaike
The Island of June 26 2003
This street was originally known as ‘Captains Gardens’ and the property ‘Alcove’ was purchased by Sir Harry Dias, from Sir Anthony Oliphant, who then renamed it to 'Maha Nuga' Gardens on account of the large banyan tree (Nuga in Sinhalese) that stood within the premises.
The family physician stood at the top of the staircase at the residence called "Granta" and announced to the anxious relatives assembled below: "Mrs Dias has just given birth to a fine baby boy weighing a little over thirteen pounds." "Good Lord!" exclaimed our grandfather. "A Mighty Atom!’" That was how Felix Reginald Dias Bandaranaike (Jnr.), former Minister in the SLFP Government of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, joined the family at 1st Lane, Colpelty (now Mahanuge Gardens). The date was January 17, 1891.
His parents were delighted. Large family units were still popular in the ’30s. His stepbrother Mickey and his sister Christine looked forward to even happier times than they already enjoyed while the cousins down the lane were always thrilled to welcome another kid into their midst, a symbol of endless possibilities.
Reginald Felix (Bunny), Felix’s -father, had him christened Felix Reginald after grandfather, hoping that the grandson would take after his paternal grandfather in some respects, notably a predisposition for the law and a generous portion of wit and intelligence. Interested observers might discern to what extent these wishes were fulfilled.
Young Felix spent a happy childhood, his father’s restrictive rules being greatly tempered by his mother’s milder regime. His birthdays were celebrated every November 5th with a grand ‘Guy Fawkes’ party. His father was a loyal British subject (with certain reservations regarding intermarriage and joining the armed Forces). He was an authority on British History so we looked forward to this annual event with its lavish display of fireworks culminating in the burning of a guy. This often upset the women servants in the neighborhood as they refused to believe it was only an effigy of a British Traitor four centuries ago.
At an early age, Felix’s instinct for the humorous became evident. Auntie Freda’s bouncing, bonny baby showed no lack of bounce literally or metaphorically. He could take the hardest knocks and come up smiling. When Christine and he were being driven home from school in their Baby Austin the car door flew open as they rounded the bend from Turret Road into Galle Road and podgy Felix rolled out on to the road. They decided not to mention the fact at home fearing that the driver might lose his Job. But on second thoughts the man decided to tell the mistress about it. She was most concerned and wanted to send for the doctor. Felix cheerfully dismissed her fears saying: "I stopped for a roll at Perera & Sons."
Felix exploited his sense of humour to his advantage as well as amusement. His father, the strict disciplinarian, was never the target of his jokes but his mother suffered occasionally. A teacher by profession she controlled her children with gentle restraints. However, even those irked Felix at times. He got up one morning pretending to be possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor. "Freda!" he intoned in sepulchral tones. "Give your youngsters plenty of bacon, not cod liver oil." Again "Stop sending Felix to dancing classes" or "Sack his Math and Sinhalese tutors" and "It’s perfectly safe for him to ride his bicycle on the roads or drive the car." Our aunt was frantic not knowing what to make of these utterances. On medical advice she kept him from school until Felix, at the pleading of Christine (who found it difficult to sustain her role in the act), gave up the presence. He manouvered the de-metamorphosis so artistically that his mother never solved the mystery.
Females, both young and old, were popular objects of his teasing. There were the relatives at "The Rosary," his mother’s home, where the "Granta" children were sent on regular visits and where they received much spoiling from a bevy of old ladies complete with lavendar, lace, muslin jackets and Victorian skirts. On one occasion the old dears came for dinner to "Granta." Felix’s mother’s cook was one who had been passed on to them by a retiring English Judge. This man was a master of English cuisine. He used to get his mistress to leave menus on the table at formal dinner parties. Alice Auntie, a delicate spinster grand-aunt, who was seated next to Felix, inquired from him about the first item on the menu. "That’s Mock Turtle Soup," explained Felix. "Oh!" said Aunt Alice. "And where does your mother get the turtles from?" "Ah those," said Felix.. "We get plenty of them in our back garden, crawling up from the Beira Lake." Alice Auntie put down her spoon and sent away the rest of the soup untasted and most of the meal that followed. When Felix’s mother questioned him later as to whether anything had upset the old lady he disclaimed all knowledge, his face the picture of innocence.
Then there was the nurse who sponged Felix when he was recovering from appendicitis. She sponged him down to the navel and then adroitly continued from his knees downwards- "Why don’t you do the whole of me? After all I’m only a little boy," he simpered coyly and she had to comply.
Felix was a lovable rascal and masterminded many a fun-filled escapade. This suited his brother, sister and cousins who acknowledged his organising ability while keeping a wary eye on him in case his ego exceeded its bounds.
Happily for Felix and his siblings their father was a dedicated Freemason, He would disappear to the Masonic Temple for several hours of an evening every month. That was the time his children would be their natural selves.
They would drag out a big black box from under a bed in the Visitors’ Room, Pandora’s Box we called it. The cousins (excepting the nursery group) were rarely left out of the goings-on at "Granta." Our aunt was persuaded to go visiting on such occasions but she must have had an inkling of the conspiracies.
The box contained books, letters, diaries, newspaper cuttings, photographs and objects considered "forbidden fruit" for youthful consumption. Avidly we pored over this material ranging from facts of life to unpublished activities of staid and pious members of earlier generations, their romances, feuds and lapses; we learned about our British, German, Italian and West Indian connections and heaps more that was beautiful, exciting, sad and sometimes downright foolish. I think we benefited from what we learned.
Felix too. It was a lesson about life that went deeper than anything we acquired from school or parents.
Then followed a feast of another kind, a delicious meal consisting of goodies such as masalavadai, godambas, Buhari Chicken, seeni sambol, pawkies, cream buns and ice cream. We really enjoyed those evenings although not always around Pandora’s Box.
Admittedly Felix possessed an IQ above the average, bordering possibly on the precocious. But he was unsnubbable, countering all critics with his disarming chuckle and twinkling eye — One had to allow for the fact that he was the product of three generations of men of the law, religion and letters on his father’s and mother’s sides, not to speak of the access he had to the libraries of his father and grandfather. Literature, law books, encyclopedias were always available. What is surprising is that friends and relations continued to tolerate him considering the way his otherwise undemonstrative father loved to show off Felix.
In wartime, For instance, the skies were constantly being ripped through by Allied planes flying over Colombo. "Felix," ordered his father, "what is the name of that plane that just flew overhead?" "Hurricane," replied Felix promptly. "How can you tell? "we used to ask — Felix could describe the identifying marks which, on checking, were found to be perfectly correct. He could tell a Spitfire from a Hurricane or an American B2 Bomber from a Reconnaissance plane, and he was only twelve.
He knew most of the answers be they to grandfather’s trickiest Crossword clues or to cousins preparing for a Radio Quiz. Irritating? Sometimes. But he was merely being helpful.
He was no good at Sports unlike his brother. He loved reading; the Holy Bible, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde amongst his favorites. The works of Dickens were popular with the family for two reasons: one being that Sir Henry Fielding Dickens (Charles’s son) had been Grandpa’s tutor at Cambridge and had visited his pupil and family in Ceylon with his wife; also, because Uncle Bunny used to read "A Christmas Carol" to his children every Christmas Eve in order to keep them out of the way of their mother, preparing to play Mother Santa at night.
Christmas was a particularly happy time for Felix and his family. It had a lot to do with gift-giving, eating, drinking, carol singing, concerts and the like and centered round our grandfather. Felix Dias (Snr.) had a puckish sense of humor not unlike his grandson’s but a trifle more wicked. He knew most persons by a nickname of his coinage. At New Year he would sometimes take his grandsons to visit relations’ houses where unattached young ladies were on show for eligible bachelors while their mothers vied with each other for praise of their culinary skills. This was part of family tradition and Felix was never bored by tradition. Though not even an eligible bachelor at the time he used to amuse himself by chatting up the girls or pulling funny faces at them and sending them into whales of giggles. In either case they failed to impress the bachelors. The two Felix’s chuckled for days over the comic situations they had encountered.
It was difficult to tell which was the real Felix. The humorist, the serious student of law and religion, the genial companion or politician. We often wondered uneasily. Were his politics also another act? No. He had to sacrifice too much to do it for his own amusement. But his natural love of teasing appeared even in Parliament when he used it to embarrass his foes as during the "Baring of MP’s Assets" Bill.
Was he a despot and a dictator? In the Family he was the peace-maker, dealing with the toughest old ladies and the knottiest legal problems with satisfaction to all and malice to none.
Did he deserve the titles "Super Brat," "Mighty Atom," or did he become too big for his boots? History can make its own judgement. With us it was he who kept alive our childhood bonds, becoming a child again every Christmas, waiting for the carol-singers on Christmas Eve, having the family round his own Christmas table and playing Father Christmas to those who shared his life from infancy - the old, their children, the domestic staff and the disabled.
Yes, there were some things which Felix took seriously like his loyalty to his Faith, his Family, his friends and his ideals. Felix passed away on June 26, 1985. His father, Dr. Reginold Felix Dias Bandaranaike, was born on 17-Jan-1891 and passed away on 26-Oct-1951. His paternal grandparents were, Felix Reginold Dias Bandaranaike, born 26-Jul-1861, died 30-Jan-1947 & Annie Lucy (Florence) de Alwis (third daughter of James de Alwis) who were married in April-1890. His paternal Great grandparents were, Rev. Canon Samuel William Dias Bandaranaike (Canon Dias) & Cornelia Susanna Elizabeth Dias Bandaranayake. Rev Canon Samuel's parents were, Mudaliyar Jacobus Dias Wijewardena Bandaranaike & Liyanage Catherine Phililipsz Panditharatne.
Rev Canon Ivan Corea
Reverend Canon Ivan Corea (who was Rural Dean of Colombo for the Church of Ceylon) and his wife Ouida Corea were the parents of former Radio Ceylon/SLBC broadcaster Vernon Corea and former Daily News Editor and Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the US Ernest Corea. Vijaya Corea, also another broadcaster of Radio Ceylon fame, is a cousin of Vernon and Ernest.
The famous broadcaster of Radio Ceytlon vintage, Vernon Corea (1927-2002) and his family also lived down this street. Vernon added to the 'sense of community' down Maha Nuge Gardens in Kollupitiya - with the Bandaranaikes,the Dias-Abeysinghes, the Illangakons, the Wickremesinghes, the Tennekoons - this was Sri Lankan life at its best - visiting each others houses, Vernon always had the 'open door system.' There were hugely interesting personalities. At the top of Maha Nuge Gardens lived that political giant, Felix Dias-Bandaranaike. The lane was heavily guarded as Felix Dias-Bandaranaike lived up the road.
The only time there was any commotion was during the annual Royal-Thomian cricket match in Colombo, one of the most popular schoolboy encounters in Sri Lanka - Thomians and Royalists with their flags waving in the Colombo breeze would race down Maha Nuge Gardens. There were Royalists AND Thomians who lived down the road - Vernon's home was no exception, with flags of both schools flying high from the windows. The Royal-Thomian match generated a great deal of excitement not only in Maha Nuge Gardens but across Colombo.
Maha Nuge Gardens was a vibrant community. People who lived down this quiet lane were enveloped in a world of culture, media, politics,education, the arts, banking, business. In the 1970s if you walked down Maha Nuge Gardens you could hear the fiery musician, Elmer de Haan (a dominant character in the world of western music in Sri Lanka ) playing the scales, morning noon and night, in the flats at the back of Vernon's home.
Charismatic personalities like Sammy Dias-Bandaranaike spent long hours with Vernon explaining Cheiro's book of numbers - there was 'Achchi Mummy' also related to the Bandaranaike family - they used to laugh at Vernon's jokes and his stories.
Christmas was an exciting time in Maha Nuge Gardens, neighbours visited each other's houses. Choirs in buses came to Vernon's home. Vernon being a very creative person painted a massive festive mural on the main wall of his lounge - much to the delight of his three little children.
There were so many who turned up to see Vernon, people from all over the world international broadcasters from the West Indies, India, Australia, Great Britain, Hawaii, USA. Michael Broadbent an Editor of BBC TV News came for a few days and ended up staying for a few weeks as the JVP launched their uprising in April 1971.
Living in Maha Nuge Gardens was an education in itself.
' Vernon was a pioneering influence in the BBC and helped to lay the foundation for the work we are continuing to do to make sure our staff and our programmes are truly representative of our nation's diverse population. '
We remember with gratitude and pride his launching of London Sounds Eastern on BBC Radio London, and his generosity in mentoring and training people from ethnic minority backgrounds for the BBC.
Vernon will be greatly missed for his warmth, his integrity and his commitment.....' Greg Dyke, Director-General BBC
A shady grove avenue type street that used to be residential in the old days but has since attracted many business, tourist and other commercal enterprises. No 4 is occupied by Mr Ansar Jabir, Hon Consul for Lithuania while No 7 houses the Young Womens' Christian Association (YWCA) office that provides accomodation for travelling and working females. No 24 is occupied by the Mercantile Cricket Association office.
Lever Brothers (Cey) Ltd.
The original offices of Lever brothers stood here and was later occupied by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. Grosvenor Caterers was next door followed by Burtols Dry Cleaners which was owned by an Englishman.
Temple Trees (De Brandery)
Iswari Corea, in her book ‘Glimpses of Colombo’, states, - During the time the Dutch occupied the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka three villas were found south of St. Andrews’s Church facing the sea in what is known as the town of Kollupitiya today. At the rear was the scenic Beira Lake. One of these homes was named ‘De Brandery’, meaning trhe Distillery. It is not known whether this house was so called because the then owner had an excellent cellar or because the building was once used to make spirits. The Hollanders were the first to manufacture spirits from molasses in Sri Lanka. The property at that time was a little over six acres. From 1805, De Brandery was owned by Frederick Baron Mylius, a judge in the Ceylon Civil Service.
In 1840, C R Buller, Government Agent of the Western Province at that time, after whom Bullers Road (now Baudhaloka Mawatha) was named, occupied it.
Later, it became the property of the Layard family and in 1848, Dr Christopher Elliot, the Principal Medical Officer in Ceylon, bought it. He was also the proprietor and editor of the ‘Ceylon Observer’ English daily newspaper.
In 1856, the property was bought by J P Green and he owned it until his death in 1892. During his occupancy, he improved it and created a beautiful garden, within the premises, which has survived till today. Sometime during this period, De Brandery became renamed to ‘Temple Trees’, so called after the two gnarled old temple trees growing in the front yard. The garden can be seen till today filled with temple trees blossoming with white and yellow temple flowers.
As there happened to be an acute shortage of houses at that time, the government decided to buy houses for the senior officials, and hence Temple Trees was purchased in November 1903. Sir Hugh Clifford, Governor of Ceylon, occupied Temple Trees between 1907 and 1913. After him, many other high ranking British government officials occupied the premises and moved on from there, on promotions, to govern and manage other parts of the British Empire. The last such official to live there was Sir Charles Collins.
Temple Trees was renovated and a new guest house with spacious rooms was added. The main building was altered and a new entrance hall was built to conceal the stairway. The dining room was enlarged to accommodate 75 persons. The renovations were completed in 1948.
After Independence was granted in 1948, Temple Trees was declared the official residence of the Prime Minister, Mr D S Senanayake, the first PM of independent Ceylon. He moved in to occupy the premises on Jan 19, 1948.
Today, Temple Trees, still the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, stands tall and proud in a spacious landscaped garden with those two old gnarled temple trees still standing like soldiers at the gate.
Temple Trees was also, once, the home of John Walbeoff, head of the Cinnamon Dept in 1830 about whom tales of duels and murder were written. His wife, who left him, was the daughter of the Baron Von Lynden. His had a son, John Edmund who was a Wrangler at Cambridge University and later in the Ceylon Customs. John Edmund married Charlotte, daughter of Robert Carl Roosmalecoq and had a daughter, Catherine Jane, who married George Adolphus Hole, who was son of the Rev. George Hole of the Wesleyan Mission by his wife, Selina Tranchell. The latter family were of Swedish descent. Selina was daughter of Lt. Gustavus Adolphus Tranchell,of the Ceylon Rifle Regt. the son of John Tranchill, who was appointed, Swedish Consul in Ceylon by his King, Gustavus Adolphus, after whom he named his son.
Before the Walbeoffs, the residence was occupied by the Baron Frederick Mylius, social reformer and anti-slaver and C.E.Layard of the CCS. The latter was guardian to the children of Dr Abraham White who died young after attending a patient with a contagious disease leaving his widow and seven children in distress.
One can imagine the White and Layard children (there were 26!) playing in the lovely gardens where my own gt. grandmother, Evelyn White, made her first cries.
The gardens I saw, were reminiscent of English ones and I watched the President's spaniel romp about in 1995. I heard it was lit with fairy lights for Independence day. A sight, I wished I had seen whilst staying near by at the GFH. However, the security in place now, must be far removed from those happier, times. It proves that, colonial regimes could be benevolent under whom, all races lived in peace.
There is a family legend that George Winter taught the men of Galle the art of tortoise-shell work which he learned in China (they still wore these combs in the 20th century) and that Sarah taught the women how to make lace on pin-boards. George Winter was called a merchant of Newington on the baptismal of his eldest daughter at Tottenham and brought over two Church Missionary Society clergymen Robert Mayor and Benjamin Ward to Ceylon on his ship. Mayor went to Baddegama and Ward to Mannar on 15.12.1817.
When visiting Robert Mayor at Christchurch, Baddegama (consecrated by Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta) George Winter noticed that the climate was suitable for sugar planting. He referred to his sugar project in a letter to the Colebrooke Cameron Commission after the Kandyan Rebellion.
George worked as a supercargo or agent for the East India Company in 1823 on the "Madras” (Clarke was Master). They became business partners and went bankrupt in 1825. ("Tombstones & Monuments in Ceylon" - J. Penryn Lewis, India Records Office Library).
In 1825 he settled at Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo which was half a mile from the Fort and 10-15 miles in length north-east to south. There were cinnamon plantations along the coast in Negombo, Kalutara, Matara and Galle with a Cinnamon Department to deal with the trade.
He joined Muskett & Young becoming head of the firm in November 1825. The firm of George Winter & Co. was dissolved on 15.5.1828 and the business was carried on by J. E. Young.
On 4.2.1834 he was made first editor of the "Colombo Observer" but before the end of the year he was tried, with George Rivers and Nicholas Bergman, the printers, before the Supreme Court presided by Justice Rough, senior Puisne Justice, for a criminal libel against Thomas Oswin, Superintendent of Police, Colombo whom he had charged with gross negligence and misconduct for having refused a warrant of arrest against Rivers's servant. George was acquitted and Oswin died of tuberculosis not long after.
George was a pioneer of sugar cultivation on a commercial scale and other enterprises in Ceylon.. He started manufacturing coir rope and distilling arrack at Kalutara. George planned to start a sugar plantation at Kalutara and mentioned this in his letter to the Colebrooke Cameron Commission of Inquiry into the Kandyan Rebellion.
His partner and co-editor of the "Colombo Observer" was an Irishman, Christopher Elliott, MD, journalist and deacon of the Baptist Church, Cinnamon Gardens. He was born at Clonmore in the barony of Ivert, Co Kilkenny and married (1) Jessie Selina (d. 7.3.1855 aged 47), daughter of William Clark, a merchant who imported Manchester 1 goods to Ceylon and secondly in 1858 Bessie Scott of Woodstown, Co. Waterford. Elliott came to Ceylon in 1834 and was preceded by George Winter as editor of the "Colombo Observer". He was stationed in Badulla, resigned in 1836 and was made Principal Civil Medical Officer in 1858. He had a son Edward Elliot of the Ceylon Civil Service. Christopher Elliott died on 22.5.1859 aged 49 years and was buried outside Wolvendall Church Colombo.
He bought "Temple Trees" (now the official residence of the Prime Minister) in 1848 which had had been previously owned by John Walbeoff, head of the Cinnamon Department who had bought it in 1830.
Walbeoff descended from Sir John Walbeoff of the Brecon family to whom Bernard Newmarch gave lands and the manor of Llanhamlach and Llanfihangel-tal-y-llyn (which came to the Winters of Brecon). John Walbeoff of H. M. Civil Services was appointed 2nd Assistant at the Secretariat on 2.1.1811, became Assistant Collector, Colombo, Vice-President of the Land Raad, Negombo (25.12.1811), Assistant Collector, Chilaw and Puttlam (1.2.1814) and Superintendent Cinnamon planter (1822). He had a bungalow at Kadirane-Goluwapokuna near the stores and courthouse ("nadu soltuwa"), 4 miles from Negombo. On 19.2.1817 he married Jane, daughter of Baron Lynden or Lyden, Assistant Collector of Customs, Jaffna. Walbeoff sent his wife back to her parents in 1825 and then to England with their children. When he died she married secondly Captain Irving Westmorland and thirdly Captain Fagan of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. Her eldest son (by Walbeoff) married Charlotte, daughter of Robert Karl Roosmalecocq. She was cousin of Henrietta Roosmalecocq, wife of Anthony Samuel White who were maternal grandparents of Rev. Charles Winter whose mother Maria Eveline White was said to have been born at "Temple Trees". Christopher Elliott, MD may have had a clinic there and was present at her birth or alternatively because her mother's cousin lived there. Maria Eveline married George Winter's son Alfred Octavius Winter.
After Walbeoff’s death "Temple Trees" was sold to C. R. Buller who helped Emerson Tennant with "Natural History of Ceylon". ("Temple Trees - the place and its people" -R. Candappa, T. V. Goonetilleke).
Elliott sold his house for £2,300 in 1856 to John Philip Green who named it "Temple Trees".
"Certain days linger in my memory, as specially delightful, which I spent in the "Temple Trees" bungalow. "Temple Trees" is the name given to the Plumiers ("Plumeria rubra" also called frangipani) of which the beautiful fragrant blossoms are everywhere strewn by the Singhalese in the Buddhist temples, with those of jasmine and the oleander as sacrificial flowers before the images of the Buddha. Two old and splendid specimens of Plumiers stand (only one remains today), with a few casuarinas, on the grass plot which divided the villa named after them from the Galle Road, in Kolpetty." ("A Visit to Ceylon" - Ernest Haeckel).
Elliott and Winter were co-editors of the "Ceylon Observer" (first issue Tuesday 4.4.1834). The newspaper's carrier pigeons travelled regularly between Galle, the mail port and Colombo until 1857 when telegraph was installed.
Alfred Octavius Winter, b. 10.6.1836, bapt. 26.9.1836, at Galle. He died at Baddegama on 12.10.1883 and his widow Maria Eveline (nee White) married Harry Street. She born on 18.11.1845 at "Temple Trees" (now the official residence of the Prime Ministers of Ceylon) which was owned by John Walbeoff, a relative of her mother + Maria Eveline White, at Tuticorin on 10.12.1863, witnesses, W. E. Underwood, D. G. Underwood, James Bowman, lived at 'Temple Trees' Colpetty, Colombo 3, the home of her cousin, Charlotte who married John Walbeoff who then owned it (1161).
Compiled by Ms Anne Winter Williams of UK [ email@example.com ] and the late Ms Wendy Winter Garcia of Spain, descendants of George Winter of Pillagoda Valley Estate fame.
Richard Lionel Ephraums
Richard Lionel Ephraums was born in 1876, and on July 15, 1903 he married Elsie Norma Beata Daniel, known as Beata or “Birdie”, the 19-year-old daughter of Ernest Arthur Daniel and Anestasia Serphina Vander Straaten. Like his parents’ wedding, the ceremony took place in Galle Fort at the All Saints’ Anglican Church. The Daniel family was (and is) one of the Island’s leading Burgher families.
Beata’s brother owned Temple Trees in Colombo, later the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Initially the young couple lived at “Inland Hills”, Hirimbure, near Galle (the house where Norah Roberts, the chronicler of Galle, later lived for a time with her father, District Judge T.W. Roberts, and the rest of her large family).
They moved into the New Oriental Hotel (NOH) annex soon after Albert Richard’s death in 1904, the year following the marriage. In due course Beata bore five children, starting with a daughter, Verena Laura Chorine, born in February 1904, and followed soon after by another daughter, born in what is now Room 25 of the Hotel in May 1905 and named after her Vander Straaten grandmother – Anestasia Emmeline, who much later in life would become better known to countless Galle visitors and others as Nesta Brohier, the indomitable Grande Dame of the New Oriental Hotel. A son, Arthur Richard, was born in 1907, after which Beata appears to have entered into a long period of hiatus from childbearing until 1917, when her daughter Lescinska Sylvia was born, followed almost exactly two years later in January 1919 by the fifth and last child, Roderick Lionel. I will be referring again to all of these children later in the narrative.
Jinaraja Kanista Vidyalaya
The orgin of Jinaraja Kanista Vidyalaya down Nelson Lane (now Dharmakirthi Ramya Road) dates back to 1898. The school was founded by the Dharma Śrī Wardhana Society of Polwatte. Kollupitiya in 1898 and named "Jinaraja Buddhist English School". This school was established for boys and girls of Colombo at a very crucial period in the history of Buddhist education in Ceylon.
The school was managed by the Buddhist Theosophical Society, Colombo under the guidance of Col. Henry Steele Olcott, the great American who came to Ceylon in 1880's and combined much for Buddhist education.
This is the oldest Buddhist English mixed school in Colombo.
St. Mary's Road Balika Viyalaya
Known earlier as St. Margaret's Convent. It was an Anglican school, providing education to children in the neighbourhood whose parents could not afford school fees. In 1906, the school was renamed St. Mary's Balika Vidyalaya in honor of that outstanding Anglican sister, Mary Catherine. During this period, London and Cambridge examinations were conducted in the school.
Kollupitiya Methodist Tamil School
This school was founded by Rev. James Mather and managed by the Methodist Mission of Kollupitiya till 1960. The medium of instruction was Tamil. This is the first Tamil school in Kollupitiya.
St. Michael's Road
St Michael's Road, Kollupitiya runs east of Galle Road, just before the junction on the North, passing the Church of St Michael & All Angels at Polwatte to Alwis Place.
On the northern side, was the first 'Thosai Kade' in Kollupitiya. On the opposite side of Walker 's Filling Station, stood a two storeyed commercial cum residential building, built in 1925 by one Magel and later transferred to A. B. Gomez Trust. This building housed Orient Traders and Suppliers (PVT) Ld., importers and distributors of high quality carpets; Orient Dye Works and the well known Amara Boot Works on the ground floor.
The upper floor was accommodated the business owners. A few flats of this floor were occupied by race horse jockeys whose stable was situated down Clifford Road Kollupitiya. Between the present Hindu temple and the Kollupitiya Muslim Jumuah Mosque was the famous Billiard Table which was patronized by the elite in the area. This was run by a business man from Balapitiya and was popularly known as 'Balapitiya Soysa's Billiard Table'
Going down St Michael's Road towards the church was Ebert Silva's Bus Stand. The Colombo Municipality Pumping Station and 'Baldhi-watte', so namd after a public well that was there. This well was for the benefit of the people of the area to draw water for domestic use and for their daily baths. They had to draw water using a rope and bucket. It is said that the women used to fight for their turn at the well. This well has now been covered by building tenements. The elders still call this area 'Baldhi-watte'. At the end of this road stands St Michael's Church popularly known as 'Gal Palliya' a landmark in Kollupitiya.
Corner Bookshop, the oldest in Kollupitiya established in early 1920's by the Anglican Church Union is opposite Gal Palliya. St Margaret's Girls Home started in 1886 as a home for orphan and destitute girls was situated adjoining the bookshop.
Established in 1854, Walker Sons & Company Ltd. Is one of the most reputed engineering, contracting and general commercial businesses in Sri Lanka. It is located on the left at the junction of St. Michaels Road and Galle Road, Kollupitiya. Walkers Petrol filling station and Walkers Motors at its rear, are located side by side on this street. The organization comprised of an auto workshop, a motor spare parts retailer, a battery service shop, and a showroom for new and used auto vehicles and accessories. The main entrance to Walkers was originally from the Liberty Cinema end, east of its location.
St. Michaels Church, Polwatte
St. Michaels Church, at Polwatte in Kollupitiya, started off from humble beginnings in a little cadjan roofed hut and half walls. It was surrounded, at close quarters, by the huts of the dhobis (washer men and women). The Church was deicated to St. Thomas in Polwatte Village. The original site was near the present junction of Hudson Road and Muhamdiram Lane behind St. Margaret’s Convent. It was burnt down on the anniversary of its dedication in 1864 when the congregation were celebrating with the lighting of fireworks. Later, enlarged to become a magnificent rock edifice, it was dedicated on St. Michael’s Day, 29 September 1887.
St. Michaels Maha Vidyalaya establisbhed in 1853, a mixed school managed by the St. Michaels Church, was situated on this street and conducted classes in Sinhala, Tamil and English up to the A’Level examinations until 1964.
St Michael's Maha Vidyalaya
A mixed school managed by St. Michael's Church, the school conducted classes in Sinhala, Tamil, and English upto 'A' Level examinations till 1964.
The Colombo National Museum
The Colombo National Museum was established on January 1, 1877 under the British Governorship of Sir William Henry Gregory. The first building was designed in an Italian architectural style by James G Smither. The two storeyed building had open verandahs, arches, and pillars with ornate carvings. A porch with a balcony was provided at the entrance. The building occupies a seven acre plot of land bordering Albert Crescent in the front, on the border of Kollupitiya and Cinnamon Gardens. It stands as one of the finest achievements of architecture and building construction in the colonized 19 Century South East Asia.
The entrance is adorned by a limestone statue of the Buddha dating back to the 300-500 AD periods which was found at Toluvila near Anuradhapura. Several extensions, additions and modifications to the building have been made through the years. A bronze statue of the founder of the Museum, Governor Gregory, also stands majestically in front of the building.
The construction of the Museum was undertaken by Wapchi Marikar Baas, grandfather of Sir Razik Fareed, an educationist, leader, philanthropist, and builder from the Moor community in Colombo. Wapchi Marikar was also the builder of the General Post Office in the Fort, the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital at Maradana, the NMLA building, the Colombo Public Library, which has since been converted to the official residence of the Mayor of Colombo, and many other massive structures of that era. It will be of interest to the reader to note that the Museum is closed on Fridays, even until today, as a gesture to the builder, who, when he was asked by Governor Gregory what he would like to have as a token for his building brilliance, simply requested that the place be closed on Fridays in order to prevent his fellow Moor brethren spending time in there instead of performing his congregational prayers in the Mosque.
The Colombo Public Library
The Colombo Public Library was established in 1925 by the amalgamation of two historic libraries, and was housed in one of the oldest mansions, named ‘Sirinivasa’, in Edinburgh Crescent (now renamed to Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha), owned by Śrī Chandrasekera Mudaliyar. The house was occupied by William Freudenberg.
Initially, it had a reading room, lending library and a reference section. In 1964 the library was moved to its present location at Vihara Maha Devi Park (Victoria Park) also on Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, which took almost 15 years to construct, on December 17 1980.
KOLLUPITIYA JUMUAH MOSQUE
According to M. S.B. Haffi, the great grandson of the first trustee of the mosque, this mosque had been built I 1815 on almost one acre of land which had been a burial grounds besides R. A. De MEL Mawatha close to Temple Trees. The entrance to the mosque had been through Mosque Lane ( a passage from the Galle Road opposite the present American Embassy). Even now, one can see a few tombstones on the burial grounds.
Renovations to the old building had taken place around 1884 and again in the 1930's The mosque land was occupied by two shops, a fire-wood shed, a Kateeb's House (bungalow of the High Priest) and a madarasa (a religious school for children). A car repair garage known as Marlan Motors was also in the premises.
In the 1950's, a shrine facing St. Michael's Road was built. By the 1060's, new buildings on both sides of the Shrine had been added to give an attractive and modern look to the mosque.
Turret Road (Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha)
Turret Road runs eastwards, starting at the Kollupitiya junction on Galle Road, towards Lipton’s Circus past the Victoria (Vihara Maha Devi) Park by the left of the Colombo Municipal Council. During the turn of the 20th century it was a small gravel road and was subsequently widened in 1922 and asphalted thereafter. The street was renamed to Anagarika Dharmapala Mawsatha and is now commonly referred to as Dharmapala Mawatha.
Hemachandra’s, a long standing firm of gems and jewelry, was situated at the northern left end where the Turret Road met Galle Road. The New Coop, a retail store for artists accessories, was located right next door. Royal Barber Saloon, popularly patronized by ladies and gents both European and from the local elite, followed next. The place has subsequently been occupied by Malee Book Center which now belongs to the daughter of the proprietor of the saloon. Then came Colombo Dye Works, the Bombay Sweet Mart who served some of the most delicious of Indian sweets, delicacies and the famous Faluda Rose syrup thirst quencher, and the Kollupitiya Cooperative Society.
The Kollupitiya Municipal Market followed next, now fully reconditioned and rebuilt into a massive and sprawling three storeyed supermarket complex. Anusha Handicrafts is located on the left side at the entrance to the market. The Liberty Cinema, previously occupied by some small stores and a very popularly patronized toddy tavern which were demolished in the 1950’s, follows next separated by a new street that was carved out to link Turret Road to St. Michaels Road. Within the cinema complex the Liberty Pharmacy, owned and managed by the late M S M Fouz was a very popular drugstore in the area, patronized by the rich and the famous, for many years. The cinema car park was located right behind it.
On the right side at the Galle Road end of Turret Road was ‘Turret Court’, a two storeyed building, owned by Justice V M Fernando. This building housed the business of Albert Edirisinghe, one of the pioneer opticians in the island, the dental clinic and surgery of Dr Sam Goonewardena, Wijaya Motor Stores, Quick Cleaners, A D Chemists, Victory Silk Store, Our Shop, and Auto Alley of Ceylon.
Victory Silk Store
Victory Silk Store was inaugurated on the auspicious day of Deepavali within Turret Court in 1947. The business was an extension of Seeroomal Topandas, a pioneer Sindhi business establishment at Bristol Street Building in York Street in the Fort of Colombo. The founder, C Parsram, was a highly honored and respected Sindhi who had come to settle permanently in Ceylon from India in 1914.
Parsram was the founder of member of the Sindhi Merchants Association of Ceylon and also held the prestigious position of President at several periods. He was also responsible for the establishment of the Ceylon Sindhi Community Center at Kollupitiya.
The business has now blossomed into a corporate group of companies effectively managed by the founder’s grandson, Manu Hundlani. Victory Silk Store is the oldest Textile shop in Kollupitiya and is very famous for its exquisite saris and designer shirts.
Perera & Sons Bakers
K A Charles Perera hailed from a town called Kodagoda in the southern city of Galle. He left home for Colombo, seeking greener pastures, in 1888, and was left with only 50 cents when he arrived in the capital city. He was a very ambitious man and looked forward to making his life worthy and successful. He worked as a cook, for a few years, in some stately Colonial mansions and then joined the Grand Oriental Hotel (now Hotel Taprobane) in the Fort as a kitchen helper. He was subsequently promoted to take up the rdsponsibility of the hotel’s bakery where he worked for ten long years gaining valuable experience and skills in confectionary manufacture and bakery.
Today Perera & Sons, boasts of more than 100 years of existence and its main sales outlet is located at Turret Court in Kollupitiya. They are the largest bakers in the whole island operating almost 60 sales outlets throughout the nation. Their confectionaries are of the highest quality and patronized by both local and foreign customers resident in Sri Lanka.
Perera & Sons employed people on bicycles who went all over Colombo selling their rolls. The sound of the bicycle bell brought people onto the little lanes as the 'Perera & Sons' man made his way on his bicycle.
The production center of the bakery is located at 124 M.D.H. Jayawardena Mawatha, Madinnagoda, Rajagiriya,
Albert Edirisinghe Opticians
Albert Edirisnghe Opticians Ltd. located at No 6, Turret Road, was founded by Albert Edirisinghe, the celebratd philanthropist, who had his early education at Ganegama St. Anthony’s English School and Mahinda College, Galle. Albert traveled to Colombo and joined the business of William Pedris & Company in 1936 where he worked in the optical section of the firm gaining valuable experience in this profession. He left the company, after having served for almost 13 years, to start his own enterprise which has blossomed into a very successful and famous optical company in the country.
The company was inaugurated on February 4, 1949, the first anniversary of Independence from the British, at Turret Road in Kollupitiya by the then Minister of Trade, the Hon Henry Amarasuriya. This was the very first optical firm dealing in eye testing and manufacture of spectacles in the Kollupitiya town. Prior to the opening of his company this location was utilized for the sale of sweets and also the manufacture of spectacle frames on a small scale.
During this era spectacle frames were being imported and distributed by the Colombo branch of a famous Australian optical company. Later in 1945, the entire stocks and equipment of this establishment was purchased by Albert Edirisinghe. This enhanced the quality and service of Albert Edirisnghe’s business as the leading optician in the whole island.
Further development and expansion to the business, in later years, has now given rise to a newly built and owned building called ‘Vision House’ at No 52, Galle Road in the adjoining town of Bambalapitiya. Another branch is also operating within the Liberty Plaza shopping mall and 20 other branches have been opened across the country.
John & Company Photographers
Right next to Turret Court is a building owned by a former Chief Justice, the Hon H N G Fernando. Gabriel, the legendary famous and sought after barber ran his saloon on the ground floor of this building. His high society clientele included Ceylon’s first post independence Prime Minister, the Hon D S Senanayake. Victoria Stores, wine merchants, also had their business in this building.
John & Company, one of the pioneer locally owned photographic studios in the island established in 1891, was located in the adjoining building further east at No 24, Turret Road, where the Liberty Plaza now stands. This building was the oldest three storeyed residential cum business property in Kollupitiya and housed 21 rooms. The founder of the studio, Tanipulli Appuhamilage Don John, originally embarked on his career at the Hopetown Studio at Slave Island in Colombo 2. The building was demolished in the 1980’s. The business is now managed by the Amaradasa family who are the direct descendants of T A D John and is now located at the Methodist Building on the Galle Road at Kollupitiya junction.
Burtols Dry Cleaners, Premasiri Florists and Princes Restaurant & Bar, were also located in th-s building owned by the Saravanamuttu family. The Caltex Service station, located right opposite the Liberty Cinema, stood next door. Dr Victor Benjamin also had a dispensary in this location which was known as Cooper’s Hill now referred to as 3rd Lane.
Hewavitarne Gardens lies beyond occupied by a string of tenement houses and grocery stores. Where Turret Road met Duplication Road (now R A De Mel Mawatha), a large Bo Tree gave shade to a bicycle and tire repair corner shop. A rent a car, owned and driven by Albert, was often parked nearby and available for those who needed transport. The late 1970’s saw the total demolition and vacating of the tenement housing and grocery stores, making way for the construction of the massive Liberfty Plaza shopping, office, and residential complex, housing many a famous brand name and luxury, which stands there to date.
The English National School (Jathika Pasala) once stood at the intersection of Duplication Road, Turret Road, and where Green Path began its sojourn towards Flower road further eastwards. The building that the school occupied was demolished during the Duplication Road expansion and widening project.
This location, where the Duplication Road roundabout is situated today, is a very popular, busy and congested business environment humming with activity all day and night. Dharmapala Mawatha winds it way eastwards from the roundabout on its long and winding sojourn towards the Colombo Municipality Council, at Lipton’s Circus. Parts of this area are also referred to as Polwatte.
Although this final stretch of the street was previously the home of many a massive mansion belonging to the very rich, famous and elite of Colombo, today it houses many a bristling cooperate business, banks and other large commercial enterprises. DMS and Carson Cumberbatch & Company have their offices on this stretch of the road. The Citibank NA is housed on the ground floor of Carson’s building. The Capri Club has been resident on this stretch since the old days and continues to cater to its many active membership providing an environment of relaxation and entertainment.
The next cross road is where Turret Road meets Flower Road, another old and famous street in the Kollupitiya town. A right turn here would take one all the way back to the Thurstan Road roundabout while a left would take you past the Beira Lake towards the town of Slave Island also referred to as Kompannavidiya in Colombo 2.
Moving down further east on Turret Road one meets the next roundabout where the street meets Cambridge Place which bounds the Victoria Park. Beyond this point one enters the town of Cinnamon Gardens or Colombo 7, the most prestigious and expensive town in Colombo, which has been the home of many a famous and stately family throughout old times and even today.
In modern times a restaurant catering to Arabian cuisine has sprouted on the street and many more other similar businesses are actively carrying on business today.
During the second World War, ‘Turret House’ on Turret Road was the home of the Upper School of Royal College, Colombo, and Carlton Lodge (the Capri Club) housed the Lower School. The office of the Principal and the administration section were housed at Sudassana, the home of Sir Gerard Wijekoon, which was located on the opposite side of Turret Road. The science laboratory was located at Firdousi, also on the same (left) side of the street facing East. School assembly was held in the open air on the spacious grounds of Turret House.
‘Elscourt Manor’, down Turret Road, owned by Henry A Peiris, landed proprietor, was the home of the Orient Club. The club was subsequently moved to its present location at Racecourse Avenue. The Manor was also a recreation center for service personnel during WWII. Elscourt was demolished in the 1950’s. Two eminent surgeons, Dr P R Anthonisz and Dr M V P Peiris, built their homes on the grounds of this property.
In 1929 Elscourt, a magnificent building on turret Road opposite the Victoria Park, one time The Colombo Club, was gifted to the Bishops College, Colombo, a leading girls school, by Mrs. Charles Peiris (nee Maud de Mel).By 1936 there were 153 pupils and the buildings needed expansion. Elscourt was the site of World Fair I organized in 1937 by the past pupils of Bishop's College. Elscourt was sold and the funds raised from the sale of Elscourt were now available for the purchase in June 1937 of Arncliffe, a large house adjoining Bishop's College. In August 1937 Arncliffe was renamed Peiris House in tribute to the generous benefactress, Mrs. Maud Peiris. And Peiris House was declared open by the Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott.
Times of Ceylon Green Book 1932 Listings
Felsinger, E.O.; Propy. Planter "Maddama House", Turret Road, Colombo. Phone 171
Other Organizations, Events & Anecdotes
Lanka Bauddha Manadalaya Fund, 135, Turret Road, Colombo. 1957
Washermen's Strike – It is mentioned by Dr Kumari Jayawardene in the book 'Labour Movement in Sri Lanka' that Dr. George Ekannayake of St. Michael's Church was so appalled by the meager wages the washermenof Polwatte Village were receiving, that he helped to organize a strike. The famous Dhoy Strike took place in 1923/33. An elderly dhoby who is now in his 90's living in Polwatte remembers associating himself in the strike which had the blessings of veteran Labour leaders of that time.
Marland Motors - A splendid auto garage owned and managed by Mohideen Jalaldeen, himself a motor racing driver, that was patronized by the rich and the famous who ownbed and drove flashy automobiles during that era. The garage was located right adjoining the Kollupitiya Jumuah Masjid.
Mothers' Union - the mothers' Union which was started in 1908 by Mrs, Halliday, was set up at St. Michael's Polwatte.
Polwatte Dharma Śrī Wardena Society - This Society under the guidance of Sir Henry Steele Olcott, founded the Jinaraja Buddhist English School at Colpetty in 1898
Colpetty Football Club - The Colpetty Football club was formed on 4th February 1922. After sometime this club was known as Rovers Sports Club. Apart from football cricket too was played. In 1939, they were cricket champions.
Colpetty United Sports Club - In 1946, Colpetty Rovers S.C. was renamed Colpetty United Sports Club, Before the Colombo Muncipal Council constructed a playground in 1958, at the end of Alwis Place, y the side of Beira Lake, the team practiced on a plot of land behind Bishop's House at Steuart Place, Kollupititya.
Pipe Organ - Probably the oldest pipe organ in Asia which was imported in 1889, is at St. Michael's Polwatte.
Church Bell - One of the three bells brought by the Portuguese in 1648, is being preserved at St. Michael's Polwatte.
Mortuary - It is said that a mortuary was maintained by the British behind the Kollupitiya Police Station and Burtols the Dry-cleaners. These establishments were situated between Temple Trees and Muhandiram Road. Many mulberry trees were planted in the area.
Colpetty School - In the 1810's, a school for boys and girls was established in Colpetty, near the Beira Lake , by Lady Johnstone.
Carters Strike - In opposition to the Colonial Governor Sir Henry Blake, the carters of Colombo organized a strike in 1906. It started in Kollupitiya.
Gajaman Nona - The well known Southern Poetess of yesteryear was born on 10th March 1758 at Kollupitiya. She was christened Dona Esabella Peruman Koraneliya at the Milagiri Church.
Durdans Hospital - Established in 1945 at Alfred Place, Kollupitiya, it is one of the oldest private sector hospitals in the country. This was the home of Charles Pieris. It was begun as the Principal British Military Hospital in Sri Lanka.
Queens Road - The house bordering Queens Road on Thurstan Road was owned by T.H.A. de Soysa and named " Regina" (now College House"). The name Regina (meaning Queen) and the British happily named the adjoining road as Queens Road.
Kollupitiya Mini Zoo - A mini zoo had been in operation at "IXORA" Green Path, now the residence of the Wijewardenes. This was earlier owned by Hagen Bech who was the originator of the Dehiwela Zoo. The animals were later transferred to Dehiwela.
Kollupitiya Lake - Before it was filled up, Beira Lake covered Inner Flower Road, Green Path, Clifford Road, Palm Grove and some neighbnouring areas. In 1900's, residents used to get about in boats, and Royal College students enjoyed themselves going to school by boat.
Koombee Kele - Certain parts of Cinnamon Gardens and the southern part of Kollupitiya was known as Koombee Kele. The present Radio Ceylon/Rupavahini Corporation area was a scrub land infested with dangerous ants, where people dared not go. Thus, this area is known as Koombe Kele
Catherine House - On Galle Road, near Kollupitiya junction, where the former CID office was located.
Price Park - Was named after F H Price, Assistant Government Agent, Kegalle, and later Mayor of Colombo during the Governorship of Arthur Elibank Havelock (1890-1896)
Residence of the Indian High Commissioner - A splendid mansion located at Thurstan Road which had a mini zoo (deer park ) within its compounds. The place was previously occupied by the Manager, Imperial Bank of India and owned by T H A de Soysa. The rear garden extended all the way up to Bagatelle Road on the west.
Billiards - A highly respected and popular indoor game played by the elite of those days. One table was located in a building where the present Kollupitiya Jumuah Mosque now stands down St Michaels Road and owned by Soysa of Balapitiya. The other, owned by Richard, was located in a house at Nawam Mawatha alongside the Northern end of the Beira Lake. This location was referred to as the North/South Koriyawa on account of the many tenement houses, commonly referred to as 'Pelpath', by the Sinhalese of the area.
Kollupitiya Stables - Clifford Road housed the stables and horse riding school. Many prominent personalities, including the first post independent Prime Minister, the Hon D S Senanayake, were trained by Dick Wijesinghe, the famous trainer and jockey who lived down Hudson Road , at these stables. The first floor of St Michaels building was also occupied by several jockeys of that era.
Mehdi Hussein, the well known horse trainer, who trained some of the best horses in Ceylon, viz Kunjilata, Mohan Tara, & Cotton Hall, also had his stables at the far end of Alwis Place.
US Chancery - The old US Embassy building at Galle Face, occupied by the offices of USAID now, was the residence of D R Wijewardene, the founder of Lake House newspapers. It was then called 'Rickman House'. After him, it was remodeled and renamed to 'Śrī Ramya'. The famous Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, stayed in this house when he brought a troupe of Bengali dancers to Ceylon in the 1920's.
Weli Ganna-watte - The area between the Kollupitiya Railway Station and Galle Face Hotel, to its North, was known as 'Weli Ganna Watte' meaning 'the garden where sand was taken from' as people used to come from various parts of Colombo to take away seasand, using bullock carts, illegally. There used to be organized gangs who demanded 'kappan' (protection money) from the carters in order to guarantee them safe passage with their sand. A few small houses were also located nearby and the Kollupitiya Statiion Master carried on a small business in one of them.
Cattle Farm - There was supposed to have been a well established cattle farm, referred to as 'Kiri Pattiya', down Palm Grove which led to Clifford Road. A huge Tamarind Tree stood between Palm Grove and Pendennis Avenue on Duplication Road, opposite the residence of Dr Colvin R de Silva, the famous trotsykist (Lanka Sama Samaja Party LSSP) politician of Sri Lanka. It is said that milk was distributed free to the people from beneath this tree.
Japanese Air Raid April 5 1942 - When the Japanese aircraft attacked Colobo in 1942, a congregation was celebrating Easter Sunday Mass at St Michaels Church at Polwatte. Hearing the roar of the planes engines the parish dived for cover under their pews. The cleric, an European named John Hardy, continued his sermon unperturbed through the uproar of the air raid. The Chief Altar Server was Basil Perera. Mr Gemunu Dias was a member of that group.
It was on this eventful day that a Canadian RAF pilot, named D A MacDonald, who was downed with his plane over the Galle Face Promenade, calmly walked over to the Colombo Swimming Club on Galle Road at Kollupitiya, and ordered himself a drink, to the exasperation of all those nearby and also the other RAF aircraft crew. The site where the National Savings Bank building stands today was a famous meeting place for the British troops stationed in Colombo.
London John- This character lived by Carmel Road, behind Temple Trees, presently the Prime Ministers official residence. He was a weather-beaten seaman with an imposing physique and wore a coin belt around his waist. It is said that he was infatuated by a Tamil cleaning woman, referred to as belonging to the frowned upon 'Sakkili' caste at that time. Another person named Albert Silva had also set his eyes upon this young ebony tinted maiden. One fateful day, an altercation between the two paramours developed into violent fisticuffs. In the heat of the passion of the duel, London John is said to have whisked a knife and cut off the genitals of Albert Silva and stuffed the severed organ into Silva's mouth.
Mati Park - The present day Stanley Jansz Stadium, by the Beira Lake , was then called ' Mati Park ' meaning 'Clay Park', on account of its clay soil. It was then owned by a hairy man called 'Mail Bass' meaning 'Hairy'. This man used to cut grass and sell it for a living. The grounds were also used for horse riding.
Bird Hunter - In the vicinity of Mati Park was the Beira Lake. On the island in the middle of this lake a man named Dias aka 'Masappu Aiya', who was an avid bird hunter lived there.
Stabbing - A Kochi man (South Indian origin), living down Mosque Lane , who was once agitated over a family dispute stabbed his wife here, and then, facing his mirror, proceeded to slash his own neck.
Night School - The night school at St Mathew Hall down St Michaels Road produced some of the finest boxers in the Island.
Felllowship of Youth - St Michaels Fellowship of Youth was inaugurated on Monday, March 24, 1941.
Polwatte Chapel - The first Polwatte Chapel was dedicated to St Thomas by Bishop Chapman, the first Bishop of Colombo, in 1853. In 1876 the official title became St Thomas Chapel, Kollupitiya, and the first service
St, Bridgets Convent Girls School was first initiated by Reverend Dr. T. A. Melizan (the then Archbishop of Colombo), within a rented house down Turret Road known as 'The Firs'. This was the beginning of the majestic school that stands today, bringing back happy memories to all those who mingled amidst its walls. Bought over from the late Mr. Harry Pieris the 'spacious' and 'sprawling' bungalow was considered the ideal home. 'The Firs' had a long verandah, which served as the school hall and each of the larger room was converted as classroom. In a room on the east was situated the Chapel, which is said to have had a resplendent altar, illuminated by candles.
Visakha Vidyalaya, one of the premier Buddhist girls school in Colombo, was started under the name of "Buddhist Girls' College" in a house called "The Firs" at Turret Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was moved to its present premises at Vajira Road, Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4) on the 21st of November 1927 and named "Visakha Vidyalaya" by Lady Herbert Stanley, the wife of the then Governor of Ceylon. From humble beginnings, Visakha Vidyalaya has risen to the position of the most sought after school for girls in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it is the only girls' school identified amongst the first National Schools in the Island.
Yusuf Lebbe Idroos Lebbe Marikar Hajiar was General Merchant and Landed Proprietor. He was the Trustee of the Grand Mosque and had donated a valuable property in Pettah for the Mosque.
His male ascendants in reverse chronological order are:- Yusuf Lebbe (Jemmi) - Uduma Lebbe - Idroos Lebbe (Batiar) - Ismail Lebbe.
His ancestors migrated to Colombo from Weligama. He had four sons and one daughter as follows:- Idroos Lebbe Marikar Haji - Muhammad Lebbe Marikar Haji - Sinne Lebbe Marikar Haji - Marikar Haji - and Mrs. Wappu Marikar Haji.
Idroos Lebbe Marikar Haji had two sons and a daughter by his first marriage to Fathumuthu Natchia. They were, Noordeen Hajiar (Saapu Wappa), Mohideen Hajiar and Zulaikha. He also had four sons and two daughters by his second marriage to S.M. Assena Natchia. They were, Sulaima Lebbe Haji, Yusuf, Abdul Rahman, Abdul Hameed, Amsa and Safia.
I.L.M. Noordeen Hajiar succeeded his father Idroos Lebbe Marikar as Trustee of the Grand Mosque in 1900 and donated properties in Hultsdorf for the upkeep of the Mosque. he built the Hameedia School building, within the grounds of the Colombo Grand Mosque, at his own personal cost and named it after Sultan Hameed of Turkey. He took an active part in public life and was a member of the Fez Committee.
Naina-Marikar was resident at No 43, New Moor Street, Colombo, and in 1900 he purchased a palatial bungalow, that contained a large garden, at Turret Road called "Muirburn". Within this compound he built another shop called Victoria Drapery Stores. He also worked as an indenting agent and imported large stocks of goods from Europe to be disposed of wholesale to other big merchants in Ceylon. He sold on credit and his stock in trade was valued at several hundreds of thousand Rupees. Naina-Marikar made a donation towards the construction of the Wesley College building at baseline Road, Colombo.
Jeewaka Medical Hostel, Turret Road, Colombo
South East Asia Command (SEAC)
During the decisive years in the middle of the 19th century, there was a spate of rapid development in the radio scene on the island of Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was known in those days. This is what happened.
In the year 1943, the BBC in London began the broadcast of a forces radio program for the benefit of English servicemen on duty in India. Shortly afterwards, the production and broadcast of this program was transferred to All India Radio in Delhi. Then it was that Lord Louis Mountbatten moved the headquarters of his South East Asia Command to Ceylon, first in Kandy and then in Colombo.
While the headquarters were located in Kandy, an English army transmitter was used as a broadcast service and also for the relay of voice broadcasts back to the BBC in London. This station was on the air from October 1944 until early in 1946.
Śrī DHARMAKEETHIYARAMA VIHARAYA
Better known as Polwatte Temple , it was built in 1907 on the coconut plot, west of Beira Lake in Kollupitiya. For quite some time, this has been the office of the Mahanayake Thero of Sri Lanka Ramayanna Maha Nikkaya. A mango tree, planted by the first Prime Minister of Ceylon Mr. D. S. Senanayake on the day of Independence – February 4, 1948 shades the temple grounds. He was requested to do so by the temple's incumbent. Rev. Hawanpola Śrī Wimalawansa. It is said that Mr. D. S. Senananayake was a frequent visitor to this temple, and that he waled there from Temple Trees through a narrow alley.
All towns in Colombo had their own markets built and managed by the Colombo Municipality Council (CMC). They provided an environment where fresh meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, condiments, groceries were freely available for purchase by the towns populous. Although the contract for the construction of the Kollupitiya market was finalized in 1883, it took the CMC many years to build the market.
When re-furbished in the eighties, the market looked well designed and equipped with all facilities required for a modern market complex. It had spacious shops, open stalls, water taps, excellent drainage systems and car park. A Market Supervisor was posted to record and attend to complaints, if any. It was well in and provided with excellent ventilation.
The main entrance to the market was from the present Liberty Cinema car park end and a side entrance from Turret Road.
Kollupitiya Market was known among Colombo 's diplomatic corps as the best place in Colombo to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, a good fillet, meats and poultry.
Śrī LANKA NATIONAL ART GALLERY
The Gallery is situated in prime real estate at Green Path (now Ananda Coomarasamy Mawatha) Colombo 3. The National Art Gallery came into existence because of the enthusiasm of two art organizations.
Those were the Ceylon Society of Arts, established in 1891 under the patronage of the colonial government, and the Arts Council of Ceylon established under the provisions of the Soulbury Commission.
The initial idea stressing the need for an art gallery was publicly stated in 1911, and the first stage of the gallery project was completed in 1932.
The eastern wing was added after a long period of time, while the third wing was added in 1958.
Today, rather than being a repository and promoter of the country's visual arts, the National Art Gallery is better known as a funeral parlour for deceased cultural icons such as teledrama actors, film directors, singers, politicians, and the like.
Green Path (Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha)
Many parts of Colombo comprised of large cinnamon plantations during the Dutch Colonial Era under the governorship of Flick in the 1770’s. One such area was a 12 square meter plot of land that stretched from the Maradana (Colombo 10) town all the way across Kollupitiya towards Havelock Town (Colombo 5). A road was built, westward to meet Galle Road at the Kollupitiya junction, from the heart of this cinnamon estate to transport the produce to the Colombo Harbor. The Dutch named it GROEUE WAG and the British Colonial rulers renamed it to Green Path. Today, although the name has been officially changed to Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, the old name Green Path is still very much in usage. The road almost parallel to Turret Road, south of it.
At the point where Green path moving east meets Flowere Road stod a very large Nuga Tree where four special monuments in the shape of Ceylon stood displaying the four Brahma Vihara’s in Buddhist Metaphysics philosophy, viz; Metta, Karuna, Mudita, & Upeksha. The residents of this location were in the practice of lighting oil lamps at the foot of these symbols and it was one of the striking landmarks of the town that attracted many who visited there.
The street is now a very busy thoroughfare since it links two main roads and thereby eases the congestion of vehicular traffic moving from east to west and vice versa.
The renowned Muslim physician, Dr A C M Sulaiman, whose family own and still manage the Grandpass Maternity and Nursing Home in Colombo 14 lived here from very old times. Yousoof Mohideen, son of JP Moomin, and his wife Badri Caffoor and their children also lived here. The much sought after and famous eye surgeon, Dr R Pararajasekaram, also lived here with his family until they migrated to Australia sometime after the mid eighties.
CHARLES SUBASINGHE & SONS (PVT) LTD
This pioneer bookshop in Ceylon was established in 1944 at the Grand Hotel lobby under the name G.O.H. Bookshop.
Charles Subasinghe, the founder was associated with the famous book importing firm, Wijeyratne & Co, Galle since 1930. This firm was importing English books from the United Kingdom for the European and local planting community in the contry. Wijeyratne & Co. were the first to operate book sales outlets in railway stations in Ceylon at that time. In Colombo they were again the first to start book sale centres in colonial hotels such as the Galle Face Hotel, Mt. Lavinia Hotel, Grand Hotel Nuwera Eliya and Queens Hotel Kandy.
In 1944, Charles Subasinghe who ran these outlets efficiently as Manager, purchased the entire stock of books, equipment, etc from Wijeyratne & Co., and started his own book importing and selling business at the Grand Oriental Hotel, Fort under the name G.O.H. Bookshop.
Today, Subasinghe & Sons (PVT) Ltd., being the leading book importers in Sri Lanka have shifted their business to their own premises at No 720-722, Galle Road, Colombo 3. The business is run at these presise under the name, Charle Subasinghe & Sons (PVT)/Taprobane Book Shop. In addition to this, they operate outlets at various star class hotels in the country catering to foreign and local customers with the latest foreign publications. This prestigious firm is now managed by the founder's two sons.
Duplication Road (R A De Mel Mawatha)
This long and busy stretch of asphalt, today, runs almost parallel to the Galle Road, all the way from the Military Barracks roundabout close to the Ceylon Cold Stores (Elephant House) in Slave Island (Colombo 2), to meet the Wellawatte Canal and across it to end at Dhammarama Road. Originally the road ended at the town of Bambalapitiya in Colombo 4 and was later extended all the way to the town of Wellawatte with the intent of easing the vehicle congestion on the Galle Road, especially during the peak hours. Many cross roads connect Galle Road to Duplication road and also Duplication road to several other roads towards the East. This location was a massive coconut plantation cum woodland in the old Dutch Colonial days and has since been transformed into a massive, lucrative, and much sought after, expensive residential cum business complex in the present day.
M H M Ameen, son of W M Hassim, of Pendennis Avenue fame, lives at the top right of the street with his family. His older son has since moved to Melbourne Avenue in Bambalapitiya.
Wickremasooriya and family of Childrens' Bookshop (in the Fort) fame, who has been responsible for the nurturing of many a musical talent star in Sri Lanka also lives down this street on the left. His son Netaji, who has taken over his enterprise after his passing away, and family also live there.
The three Hettiarchchi brothers, Edmund, Premasiri and Ariyaratne, the proprietors of the Premasiri Group of Companies, had humble beginnings, dating back to the later part of the 1940's. One of the brothers, Premasiri, a young enterprising go-getter who had dabbled a bit in trading on a casual basis in Kollupitiya, Colombo's Fort and Pettah areas, spotted the potential for a retail outlet in Kolupitiya. In early 1950's, his dream came true when he was successful in getting a suitale spot at No. 28 Turret Road. On June 5th 1952 "PREMASIRI STORES" was born in Kollupitiya dealing in groceries and sundries.
Within a relatively short period of time, Premasiri Stores built up a regular clientele rom among the local population and a sizeable foreign community of the area. They ventured into the direct imports of certain products to cater to the mixed clientele. A "Wine & Spirits" department was also added to the stores. In keeping with the changing times and development of the area, Pemasirir Stores moved into their own 5 storeyed building on Duplication Road (opposite Liberty Plaza), housing a Supermarket, Department Stores, Wine & Sports and a Pharmacy. Premasiri's success can be attributed to the belief that "The Needs of a Customer must be Met and not Exploited"
Chitrasena School of Ballet
The first School of Dance established in the City of Colombo (in 1944 in Kollupitiya) was founded by Chitrasena, then Maurice Dias son of Seebert Dias who was a leading Shakespearan actor/producer and director.
Its pioneering work led to a revival of the indigenous art forms of this country that had declined during nearly five hundred years of colonial rule. The school was a repository of the finest in the traditional mould. It succeeded in creating a new and dynamic gentre by adapting the traditional dance forms of Sri Lanka to the modern stage without in any way degrading the intrinsic artistry of their age-old styles and techniques.
Since the school was forced to move from its original premises in 1982, 'the school near the sea' has had no permanent place to continue its work. A lock of land in Narahenpitiya was graciously granted to them by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, an old (past) pupil of Chitrasena.
Chitrasena is married to one of his pupils-the graceful Vajira. The Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation was established in 1981 to perpetuate their art.
Every Saturday, the Kalayatanaya holds weekly classes at the Girls' Friendly Society Hall, Green Path, Kollupitiya.
CMS Ladies' College
A leading girls' school in Colombo, it was started in Union Place by the Christian Missionary Society as CMS Girls' School. It was brought to its present premises in 1919.
Ladies' College 1900-2000, Edited by Ranjini Obeysekera, Ladies' College, Colombo, 2002-2003
This book is not merely a record of a girls' school's century of existence. It is something, rather, that reminds us and every parent with a daughter, that long ago, women of vision who could see what the future would be, began to educate the girl children of this island. Those were times when parents sought after the education of sons.
Girls were not considered as important enough and for centuries, this had been the pattern. Girls were required to be versed in the domestic and home-keeping arts-cooking, sewing, nursing perhaps, even a nunnery for some; and above all, that all-important manner of being a good wife. Education, if imparted, was limited to an ability to read and write, sing, paint and the ability to play a piano or a violin.
The British era in this island saw a change. We have the story of Marie Musaeus Higgins. For example. In 1830, there were 236 missionary schools with a total student intake of 9,274. This is stated in a report on early British educational activities by Ranjit T. Ruberu. Also, the history of Education in Ceylon tells us of Missions in the island engaged in educational work with the avowed aim of propagating Christianity.
There were the Baptist, Wesleyan, American and Church Missions as well as the Catholic Church. The dedicated women and Catholic nuns who came here full of zeal, laid the foundations of a new educational order. All over the island today, this resurgence that began in the nineteenth century has given us that vital feminine structure and this island, above many, can still be proud of the massive way our women have forged ahead in every social sphere.
Female education, female opportunity, female attunement to the country's aspirations - and finally that indelible female stamp on a country's means and ways. The visionary women who came here in the 1800s surely saw what could come to pass. They were the instruments of female empowerment.
Many today may shrug and say: "What is so important about a hundred-year history of a school?" Ah, but they SHOULD see how important it is. If they are proud of their own female family members who have risen to positions of eminence, this book is important.
If they look to the day their own daughters acquit themselves well, if they are conscious of the role women play in the home and at work as wives, mothers and nurturers of families to come, this book is important.
It must be read and, what is more, taken to heart for it contains that fire that can be kindled in the minds of so many girl-children who will learn to be proud of their own schools and know of the springboards to their own dreams of future success and accomplishment.
Ladies' College is one establishment I knew well enough - it being the first target of my own riotous schoolboy forays from nearby Royal College on "big match" days. We, the denizens of Racecourse Avenue and Flower Road, even had our own song:
There are many colleges in which I'd like to be:
Schoolboy high jinks? Well, call it that... but let's move on. This centennial
The bungalow was given her by the Church Missionary Society and she began with a student intake of just two!
Lilian came here armed with an Honours degree in Modern Literature from Trinity College, Dublin and with the added qualifications of being a fully-trained teacher, selected by the CMS, England, to found an educational institution for girls in Ceylon. As the record shows, even in England at that time, there were no schools for the education of women.
All that was thought necessary was "a very little reading, less writing, plain work, pudding making and pickling." Girls could excel at making jams and bottling preserves, making the Christmas pudding, become very red-faced over the kitchen stove and were praised if they could "sew a fine seam." Jane Austen's story of the Bennet family, as the editor says, tells of how daughters Lydia and Kitty Bennet were prepared for the marriage market: "There were little or no opportunities for serious intellectual or professional work." Women had no independence either under the British legal system of those times. It was the law that when a woman married, she surrendered her independence to her husband to whom her property and possessions immediately belonged.
Coming to the situation in this country, the same pattern prevailed in the maritime areas though slightly modified in the concept of communal property, but yet, as Ranjini Obeysekere records, "the management of the wife's interest was left to the husband, thereby giving her little or no power in the management, sale or disposal of her share of the communal property.
In the central hill country, however, where Sri Lankan traditional laws prevailed, a woman had the right not only to own, manage and dispose of her property, but also gifts given to a woman on marriage by her parents remained her private property and not a dowry given to her husband. The situation was slowly transformed under colonial influence so that by the latter half of the 19th century, middle-class women throughout Sri Lanka began to be influenced by, and soon adopted the values and mores of Victorian England."
This observation is highly relevant to the saga of education for girls and the incredible saga of Ladies' College. The colonial influence that enwraped this country could be seen today as a stumbling block to the educational empowerment of females - which is why education was not even seen as a service to be provided by the State in Ceylon of the early 19th century.
It took the courage and dedication of the missionary churches and the nuns who came in even though many were fired with the zeal for conversion and proselytisation. We see this all over the island and most marked in the Jaffna peninsula as well. Some of the island's largest schools in their embryonic stage, were mission schools - Ladies' College, Girls High School, Wesley College, Bishop's College, Milagiriya, Presbyterian Girl's School, then the Catholic, Baptist, Protestant institutions.
The churches and missionary societies moved in to fill the gaps and the colonial government was happy to go along with and support this procedure. This was how Lilian Nixon and an older colleague Elizabeth Whitley, moved in to establish Ladies' College, funded by the Ceylon Missionary Society.
Lilian Nixon had to attract students. She also taught Latin, Mathematics, French, English and the Scriptures single-handedly in addition to playground drill, needlework and singing. She also locked horns with the CMS who thought her curriculum was too secular and did not place enough emphasis on the missionary aims of the society. This is where the unique difference of Ladies' College immediately began to be felt.
Whereas the CMS saw its schools-funding programme as a means of proselytisation, teachers of the stripe of Lilian Nixon saw something of greater importance their charges had to be EDUCATED - not CONVERTED. Pupil minds had to be brought to flower, not cocooned in a web of religious ethics.
Lilian persevered in her (call it rebel?) brand of education and launched classes for the Cambridge local exams. This fitted well with the desires of parents and soon, more and more students came in. The keywords were academic excellence and a sound-minded education.
These ideals were as a trailblazer, making Ladies' College a true educational institution and a project that ventured into many professional walks of life. Education ruled. Religion was but an appendage to the ways of the school and although there was the overall persistence in the "classroom and chapel" mode, it was the classroom that prevailed, held precedence. As Ranjini Obeysekere says:" Miss Nixon was not only the founder of Ladies' College but she also laid the groundwork for much that has grown and developed over the years and yet, has remained fundamentally unchanged.
Her focus on academic excellence, on the need to aim for the highest degree of intellectual rigour and discipline, has been a guiding principle throughout the school's history. But academic prowess was never seen as an end in itself. Academic excellence and success were but part of one's rounded intellectual growth and were to be used for the good of the wider society. These principles have been amply illustrated by the succession of Ladies' College students who, over the years, have left their mark on the larger society.
One excellent feature of this book is the way a chronological history of the school is made, page after page, in little dockets at the base. It enables the reader to flow through the years and know of the school's enormous contribution to the country. The number of students who have distinguished themselves in all walks of life make heady reading. I couldn't possibly pack this review with so many names, but some "firsts" deserve mention:
* Rachael Christoffelsz - first to be in charge of a maternity hospital, * May Livera - first to get an FRCS degree, * Savitri Ellepola -first woman Vice Chancellor, Colombo University and first to establish the Faculty of Law at the Open University, * Connie Senanayake - first to organize and run homes for the mentally disabled, * Siva Dassanaike - first woman Desamanya. Her brainchild was 'Laksala', * Sirancee Gunawardena - author of "Medieval Palm Leaf Manuscripts of Sri Lanka", * Mukta Wickremesinghe - conceptualized the Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe Memorial Centre at Kurunegala, * Sylvia Gunatilaka - pioneer of the teaching of Buddhism and the teaching of Sinhala at Ladies' College, * Avabi Metha - first woman barrister (1933), * Evelyn MacIntyre - first woman to enter the Ceylon Law College, * Gladys Fernando - first woman to be Chairperson of a Corporation, * Nirmala Kadirgamathamby - first woman Commissioner-General of Inland Revenue, * Premila Kannangara Senanayake - first woman international civil servant, * Imogen Kumarasinghe - first woman Director of Census and Statistics, * Yogaranee Nadaraser - first woman Government Analyst, * Pramila Sivaprakasapillai - first woman engineer and * Dhara Wijesinghe - first woman secretary head a Ministry.
Oh, I have missed many but in apologizing, I excuse myself in saying that this is really not what this review is all about. Rather, this book is a record of scintillating academic performance. Crammed with detail, with dedicatory articles, a fascinating photo-record and listings of accomplishments in the Arts, the book shines like a bright candle in the dimmer parlours of institutions that can only (should only) seek to emulate and follow in the steps of such a marvellous pathfinder.
What needs to be highlighted is the school's multi-ethnic composition. Ladies' College is open to any girl irrespective of ethnic or religious background. In the time of Miss Nixon, Bishop's College was confined to Christian Girls, while Catholic schools and convents had proselytisation as their primary objective. For Ladies' it was a liberal openness, allowing full rein to the talents of diverse cultural and social groups.
What is more, there is no "elitism". Although rising on firm Christian foundations, the school in 1905 counted among its students Sinhalese, Tamils, Malays, Burghers, Telugus, French, British, Russian, Polish, Greek and Italian students - all using English as a common language. I consider this alone a miracle of sorts!
I do not wish to say much more, but for all those who wish to be visited in a quiet hour by shining spirit of true education - as true as it should be - this is a book to read and treasure. Everything that shaped Ladies' College lies before you: The boarding school, "Uplands", in Kandy during World War II - the move to the "Fernery", Flower Road - the growth under a succession of devoted principals and staff - above all the ethnic harmony that has prevailed even in the most tense and troubled times. Let me quote Sirancee Gunawardana:
Tamil students and staff never felt threatened, they never felt distanced. The Tamil stream in school remained involved in all the activities of the school, and after the ethnic crisis in 1983, nobody thought anything of the fact that in the following years the head prefect, Sharmini Mahendran, was a Tamil.
Gather this book to your heart and understand what Ladies' College really is. Now, new expansion is on the cards, but even as big as it must grow, the legend of the school will prevail and be as an educational bell-ringer to the nation. It is in the words of a former principal, Miss Hitchcock, on the student ethos, is the essence of this great school is encapsulated:
To work freely and openly, to discover for themselves the logical answers to experiment, using practical situations derived from their environment, to employ short-cuts instead of tedious memorisation, and to replace the old time-consuming grind with purposeful and meaningful activity..... to develop more skill and eliminate human waste.
- Carl Muller Daily News Friday Oct 15, 2004
Abdul Caffoor Mawatha (Pendennis Avenue)
Many were the prominent families and personalities who excelled in business, professions and politics that lived down this street. Falil A Caffoor, son of the famous gem merchant and jeweler, N D H Abdul Caffoor, of "Ghaffoor Building" fame in the Fort, lived here with his family. The street was renamed to Abdul Caffoor Mawatha after them. The late Malay politician, educationist and philanthroper,
The Hon T B Jayah's (ex Minister) daughter, Ms Aliph, also lived down the street with her family comprising her children, Yasmin, Mayo, Yolande, & Sayang, and her sister Gunara and her children, Shiraz & Shehan, and her cousin Ms Burah and her daughter Wazeera.
Refai Saleem and his son Ansar and family, have also been living down the street for many years. Ansar was formerly married to his first cousin, Mirza Sulaiman, daughter of Dr ACM Sulaiman of Green Path, Kollupitiya.
The Hon Badiudin Mahmud, ex Minister of Education and an ardent SLFP member of parliament and also an educationist lived at the further right end of the street. His sons Irshad & Tariq, who attended Royal College in the period 1959 to 1968, and daughters Vaseema & Nusrath, also lived with him. Badiudin, who hailed from Matara, was the founder of Zahira College, Gampola where he provided a much needed education facility for the people of that town.
The Hassims of Lion brand Umbrella fame
The W M Hassim family, consisting of siblings, Noor Naseema (Ms STA Wahid), Ahmed Jameel, Mohideen, Sulaiman, and Ameen also lived here. Kamil had his home down Horton Place in Cinnamon Gardens (Colombo 7) while Thaifoor lived at Alexandra Road in Wellawatte (Clombo 6).
Wapu Marikar Hassim, affectionately known as W.M. Hassim, son of Sheikh Marikar, was born on January 26, 1880. His birth was registered by C.L.M. Abdul Majeed (son of Shekadi Marikar Cassim Lebbe Marikar), who was his mother’s sister’s husband. Hassim attended Wesley College, Colombo, and was preparing to appear for the Notary’s examination when his elders recommended that he take up to trade and business. His eldest brother, W.M.Abdul Jabbar, was, at this time, the Manager of his uncle’s (I.L.M. Noordeen Hajiar) hardware business. Another brother W.M. Thaha was also involved in the same establishment. Abdul Jabbar assisted his younger brothers, Thaha and Hassim to start a separate business, in 1906, at No. 77, Main Street, Pettah. Being an netreprising young man, Hassim’s buisness flourished. Thaha left Ceylon in search of greener pastures in the Far East.
On December 14, 1907, Hassim married the third daughter of O.L.M.A.L.M.Alim, on of the successful businessmen and landed proprietor of that time.
Another successful businessman, S.L. Naina Marikar Hajiar, who was a relative of Hassim, also gave him much encouragement in his new business venture.
Hassim’s charity knew no bounds for both Muslim and non Muslim causes. The state, acknowledging his philanthrophy and educational activity, honoured him with the title of Justice of the Peace on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the accession to the throne of His majesty King George V. The maligawatte Denham School was supported by Hassim being the largest individual contributor of funds for its management. His ancestors had, previously, contributed magnanimously to the Maradana Mosque and the Grand Mosque in Colombo.
Hassim was a founder member and first Vice President of The Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home. he also held the position of Vice President of The All Ceylon Moor;s Association. In the latter capacity, W.M. Hassim, together with, Mohammed Hussain Alim, Katheeb Maradana Mosque, Y.M. Khalid, B.D.M. Cassim, A.L.M. Lafir, H.A.S.M. Raffiudeen, A.M.A. Caffoor, A.I.L. Marikar, M.M. Sulaiman, M.C.M. Fuard, and I.L.M. Thowfeek, proprietor Hotel Bulgari, succeeded in forestalling the notorious Fatwa Meeting held at the Colombo Town Hall under the Chairmanship of Yaseen Moulana to erase the term "Sonahar", "Yonagar", and "Ceylon Moor", describing the race and to substitute the term "Ceylon Muslim" instead.
His sons are Mohammed Thaifoor, Mohammed Kamil, Ahmed Jameel, Mohammed Mohideen, Mohammed Ameen and Mohammed Sulaiman, who were all devotedly engaged in their father’s business and have lived up to his bountiful acts of charity.
Kamil's son Omar Kamil was elected Mayor of Colombo and has also served as Ambassador to Iran in recent times.
THE M. A. RAZAK FAMILY OF KOLLUPITIYA [COLPETTY]
by Muhammad Iqbal in Auckland, New Zealand
"Al Haj & Hajiani M. A. Razak moved to Number 40 Pendennis Avenue [now renamed as NDH Abdul Caffoor Mawatha] cicra 1942/43.
Al Haj M. A. Razak under his first company named Anglo Ceylon Marine Supplies Ltd., was involved in Shipping and supplying provision to the Foreign Navy ships during the Second World War and after the war with M/s. C. Gaudart & Cie., a French Merchant Shipping firm for Messageries Maritmes Vessels. The family then comprised of three boys Fahmy. Iqbal and Thulba [all Weslyites] and for the safety of the War they were moved to Kandy and then on to Passara. The Passara house and home was the former Rest House which was purchased and re-named "WaySide" located next to the Passara Gun & Golf Clubs. In the year 1950 the family built the first Cinema in Passara which was named "Sita-Ram" showing mostly Tamil films for the estate workers in the Uva region.
The family returned to Colombo and moved to Colpetty at No: 40 Pendennis Avenue next door to the residence of Al Haj M. Falil A. Caffoor. Pendennis Avenue had over one dozen double storied houses built for NDH Abdul Caffoor by Walkers & Sons Ltd. Other children of the Razaks namely Hassan, Fathima, Azeez and Yahiya were all born at No: 40 Pendennis Avenue.Colpetty was unique to have some of the best boys and girls Colleges like Royal, Thurstan and the Colombo University, Ladies, Bishops. Methodist, St Marys' of Polwatte, and St Claires. The Razak sons attended Wesley and the only daughter attended Bishops.
The Famous Avenue was also blessed with the following diginitaries residing during the period from the early 1940s to the late 1960s :-
The two sons of NDH Abdul Caffoor, ARM Ghouse family, One son of NDH Abdul Cader, WM Hassim and his two sons and one daughter -STA Wahid. The Rodrigo family, Prof. Dr. Amirthalingam, Mansoor A. Cader family, The Hussain family, ACM Saleem, ACA Hasheeb, Nalir Ghouse, Susil Moonesinghe's family, CDA Gunewardhana's family, TB Jayah's family, The JAD Victoria family, Dr. Colvin R de Silva family, Rajanayagam family, Rahman A. Hathy, SLFP Cabinet Ministers Illangartne and Al Haj Badudeen Mahmoud, Prof. Dr. Ratnasuriya, Sardha Ratnaweera, Wickremapala family of Malibans, Mahes Kasipillai family, Eye Surgeon Dr. Weerakoon, Justice Sriskandarajah, Dr. MIM Nilar, The Muttuwappa family of the Hotel de Buhari, Al Haj Usman family, Lembrugen family, Thirunavakarsu family and the list yet goes on even today although the Duplication Road has divided the "Famous Avenue" into two segments at Colpetty.
At the top of the famous avenue were the Ceylon Bible Society and opposite the Medical Dispensary of Prof. Dr. CC de Silva and Dr. Daniel. Soon after the war there were a few British families - The Mac Donald and Loos who considered the Avenue safe due to the occupation by famous and notable families.
MA Razak, in early 1953, pioneered as the very first Sri Lankan Shipping Agency establishment as all of the others were owned and operated by foreigners. The MA Razak shipping establishment has happily developed to other shipping needs - like bagging fertilizer along side the vessels, bunker brokering, freight forwarding etc. and even an upmarket Tourist Office. MA Razak was also the first to commence the sea voyages for Haj Pilgrims to Mecca on Pakistani owned passenger ships - for which he was the Master Agents for the Pakistani ship owners in Sri Lanka. The company also successfully chartered a passenger vessel for the Catholic faithtfuls to view the exposure of Saint Francis Xiavier in Goa [India]. In April 1967 after the sudden deaths of MA Razak and his eldest son Fahmy - Mrs Razak and her young family in 1969 moved near to her parents [NMM Haiffa] residential areas of Dematagoda and ultimately to the current residence at Horton Place.
Mrs Razak being the Managing Director of her dear Husband's very first local Shipping Agency firm was also most keen and interested of Colpetty as it was the first residential area away from the only finance and business centre in the Fort. With the family Shipping Agency business improving over the years she built her own houses in Dematagoda and finally at Horton Place and also purchasing the adjoining house to the Horton Place house. Mrs Razak further purchased two properties in Colpetty. With the junction area of Colpetty being designated as Sri Lanka's new Financial Business Centre, she decided to develop the land opposite the American Embassy and British High Commission to a four storied building which was initially occupied by the first Merchant Bank until they moved to their own high rise building in Copetty.
The other land at 19th Lane was developed to an double storied office building which yet houses the Lloyds Shipping Registry Offices and the MA Razak Shipping Agency Offices and it Tourist Centre from the Fort.Finally, suffice me to also mention that in the early 1950s MA Razak was offered many Agencies to name a few were for the South African food items under the brand name "Koo" and French perfumery "Lancome" and also appointed by the Australian Victoria Tourist Office in Melbourne as their Representative for Ceylon to promote tours to the State of Victoria."
St. Anthony's Road (Kollupitiya Lane)
Formerly a quiet residential location has now turned out to be a street bustling with business and traffic. Many new buildings have sprouted up catering to the demand of commercial real estate.
Prasanna Mendis, ex Royalist and member of the '59 Group, now resident in Melbourne, Australia, states, "Machan I have walked down this street every day till age 25 and fled.....! The 'Dara Maduwa' area at the top of the street was called the 'Devata' before. This road connects with Inner Flower (amazingly escaped renaming - hope it's waiting for my return !) just past the church as it wends towards Flower Rd (now renamed Ernest deSilva Mawatha after our colleague at Royal, M. R. Perera's grand-dad, and also of AE's who was in a class above us - 1958 Group)."
ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH
Since 1913, the need for a church was felt by the Catholics living scattered about Kollupitiya and a petition was sent to the Archbishop.
At that time, the diocese owned a house bordering the railway line in the heart of the slum area in Kollupitiya. The Archbishop handed it over ro be converted into a school chapel in 1917 and, in due course, installed a community of nuns in an adjoining building. The Catholics of Kollupitiya thus had the opportunity of attending Sunday mass in their own "Church" which was dedicated to Anthony.
The school, previously had another name - also a Catholic Saint's name, but a very unique one it is said. The convent, next to the church, was a Carmelite Convent with high walls all round that enclosed it. The nuns belonged to a totally silent order - with nil communication with outside world. It is reported that much spiritual good may have been done through many of hours of prayer........ and that many who lived around may have escaped many miseries - election violence etc - owing to this mercy.
This was the beginning of the new church of Kollupitiya. It was built with gifts, big and small, in money and in kind. The new church was solemnly blessed by the Very Rev. J.M. Masson on Sunday, the 5 th June 1938 at 7.00 a.m. Father Basil Weeratunge came to St Anthony's as Vicar from St Peter's College, Bambalapitiya.
St. Anthony's Balika Maha Vidyalaya
With the motive of giving the children of the parish a sound education. St. Euphrasia's (now St. Anthony's) Balika Maha Vidyalaya was started by the Roman Catholic church in 1940.
It is reported that the land occupied by the school was formerly owned by Noel (EFN) Gratien's ancestors.
The Kollupitiya Walukarama Buddhist Temple Is renowned to be the oldest temple in Colombo. It was founded in the 1800’s by Ven Panditha Valane Śrī Siddhahatta Maha Nayake Thera, who was also the founder member of the Maha Sangha Saba of the Siyam Nikaya of the Kotte Chapter.
The land for the construction of the temple was donated by a famous indigenous medicine physician of Kollupitiya, Arnolis Silva. During this period, when the Island was under the occupancy of the Portuguese, Dutch and British rulers Buddhism was at a very low ebb as its practice was frowned upon by the Colonial masters. It was the arrival of the Ven Niwanthidiya Ananda Maha Thera taking over as the Maha nayake of the temple that sparked off a better relationship and confidence between the Colonial British rulers and the faithful Buddhists.
Today, the temple is a very popularly graced place of worship where many religious ceremonies, parades (perahera) and other related activities are conducted on a regular basis. The parade was initiated by the Ven Ananda in 1967 and continues, as an annual event, until this day.
The seaside of Kollupitiya begins with the lush green promenade and walk of Galle Face Green that has provided a place for serene relaxation, exercise, sports and variety for families in Colombo since ancient times. It faces the Taj Samudra Hotel which was formerly the Colombo Club, a place that provided recreation, entertainment and rest for the Colonial elite.
Galle Face Green is only a small part of what was once a large, undulating, coastal swamp. Both Portuguese and Dutch military strategists though that this vast swamp could lessen the danger of surprise attacks against Colombo.
The British had a different idea. They developed the Green into a leisure ground – a place for colonial ladies and gentlemen to unfold their 'grace and haughtiness' a place for soldiers on horseback to show off their latest accoutrements, a scene for flirtation, and gossip, political and social
At first, cricket, football and polo were played on the Green; later horse racing. The Turf and Sporting Club was founded in the early 1920's. The first officially recorded horse racing meets were held on the Green in the early 1920's. A two storeyed grandstand was built for members. Its room had a wooden framework with a cadjan roof for shelter from sun and rain. The Race Bungalow, which came to be known later as Colombo Club, was built to view the races, This building still stands with all its colonial grandeur. It is now the Crystal Ballroom of Taj Samudra Hotel.
Later, more Victorian sports were included in the leisure time activities of the British and Galle Face Green was the most favoured site for sports.
The white's dominated the Green, but the locals weren't kept out. Our people watched, enjoyed, learnt and took part in British pastimes. Unknowingly or knowingly and willingly, our middle class was drawn into ambit of the British lifestyle.
The sea-front walk on Galle Face Green was built in 1859 during the time of Governor Ward. A pillar that stands mid-way beside the walk bears the inscription "in the interest of the ladies and children of Colombo ".
It was projected from the ravages of sea (specially during the south west monsoon) by two groynes. One of them is the promontory on which the Light House now stands and the other is an artificial groyne constructed in the sea to the north west of
Galle Face Hotel
The Coconut Grove, one of the first night clubs to open in Colombo, is located within it and it is here that the famous band, The Jetliners, initiated their career to musical stardom in Ceylon. Mignonne Rutnam (nee Fernando), the leader of the band celebated 40 years of her musical career in March 2006 with a fantastic concert, featuring many wonderful musicians of old, in Colombo. Her husband, Tony Fernando, founder of the band passed away in recent times.
Message Board postings on the Sri Lanka Genealogy Website boards give some interesting accounts of the hotel in ancient times as follows:-
HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED
Hugh Blacklaw was a longtime planter who came out with his brothers, James & Francis from Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire and left the island oif Ceylon in 1907.
He married Maria Tate of Dolosbage in 1864. He writes in the Times of Ceylon in 1907: 'I arrived in Ceylon on 23rd August,1858 in the good ship Briton, a sailor which came round the Cape, and did the voyage in 3 months - just 120 days. She was a little ship of but 350 tons..Colombo was just a one horse show sort of place. There were none of these big buildings, hotels and shops. There were no rickshaws and trams. You could not get a bandy for hire in the streets unless you made special arrangements with one of the hotels in the Fort. The Fort was up then, with all its walls and fortifications and gates and you could not get thru' without being challenged. There was very little of the town outside the Fort. There were 2 hotels, frightfully dirty and undesirable places to stay in. The Royal Hotel stood where the Post Office is now and there was a shanty called the Galle Face Hotel,where the modern one of that name stands today. They were paragons of dirt. The GFH was the sort of place you get away from as soon as possible - it was so bad. No privacy, no cleanliness, canvas partitions and dirt - worse than the fifth rate places you see in some town now'.
A far cry from the chandeliered ballroom of the fifties They were building a sumptous new wing when I left in February this year. How I enjoyed taking tea whilst watching the ships pass and listening to the surf crash against the sea wall at one of my favorite Hotels in all the world.
Thanks for the fascinating story about Ceylon in the 1860's and the GFH in particular. My brother and I stayed at the GFH on a trip to Sri Lanka in 1990 and enjoyed our short stay. The reason I am interested in your article is the fact that you mention the name of the sailing ship that Hugh Blackshaw arrived in 1858. I have been trying to find the name of the sailing ship that my Great-grand-father Richard William Rowlands would have arrived in Ceylon about the same time. I would appreciate if you could advise me on the shipping passenger registers of the 1850's that you know of.
Edouard Rowlands, firstname.lastname@example.org
The old American Embassy stood here where presently the office of USAID now stands. The land slopes down gently towards the railtrack on a bout one perch in extent. A peasant who lived on it had transformed it into a beautiful terraced garden where he had collected and assembled many discarded pieces of garden equipment, lamp posts, seats, statuettes etc which made it look extremely attractive.
St Thomas Prep School
The junior wing of St. Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia is located here and it is on this area that the offices of the Voice of America once stood.
The school was founded on May 17, 1938, by the Rev William Thomas Keble, an eminent educationist, scholar, author, and a great lover of Ceylon. The school is an Anglican private fee levying educational institution and one of the foremost in the island. It is located in pleasant healthy surroundings at a former spacious seaside residence named ‘Fortrose’, opposite the Bishops House. Fortrose was once occupied by George Vanderspaar. Many elegant coconut trees and a sprawling Kottan (Almond) tree line its front facing the Galle Road.
A very popular hotel that has sprung up in recent times patronized mostly by wedding parties although it also caters to the needs of the tourist industry in Colombo. Was initiated by the late Sir A W M Ameer.
At the helm of Steuart Place was Steuart Engineer's who were then marketing Borgward and Singer vehicles in Ceylon. Right next door was Storm Lodge housing the Colombo Swimming Club which was then exclusively for foreigners. Not too far away was the old British Council office and library. Right next door to the south was a piece f land that belonged to the British Admiralty where a Royal Air Force camp was located. Today the UK and US Embassies are located on this site.
Further down was Heen Baba's Oriental Dancing school followed by the very famous Marshall Prep School located in Ms Norah Cooke's garden. Today the National Lotteries Board office building stands tall at this location.
A handicraft shop owned by Mr Attygala stood next door just before Methodist College.
Methodist College, Kollupitiya
Located at No 250, Galle Road, Kollupitiya, the Methodist College has been one of the foremost girls primary and secondary school in Colombo providing the basic foundation for University entry and higher education for girls. Established in 1866 this premier girls school in Colombo was established by Ms Catherine Scott, a devout missionary and was then called the Kollupitiya English Girls’ School. It was renamed Kollupitiya Girls’ High School in 1883 and then went on to become Methodist College, Kollupitiya. The humble structure where the school was originally started waqs demolished in 1922 and new classrooms and halls were built to accommodate the many students who enrolled therein.
In 1817, the Chairman of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, Rev James Lynch, an Irishman, reported that "it would not be easy to find congregations without schools". There was a good deal of anxiety among supporters at home (Britain) about the plan proposed by Mr. Lynch. However, the Home Committee gave its blessings to this project and soon schools were established in many places.
From the very beginning of the Wesleyan Mission in Ceylon, a great deal of money and effort was put into the running of schools. In very many villages, it was through the schools that the missionaries first established contact with the population, and they were used on Sundays for the holding of services and Sunday Schools.
The Methodist Church has always been in the forefront of Education and in 1961 when the schools were taken over by the Government, it had 125 schools and we retained just 2 - the girls' school being Methodist College and the boys' school Wesley College - to be run as Assisted Schools.
Kollupitiya, one hundred and thirty two years ago, was not the residential area it is today, with broad tree-lined avenues, and the wide Galle Road running along the sea front. Kollupitya was a village with narrow tracks, cinnamon gardens and a sparse population. It had a market place with bullock carts, horse-drawn carriages and rickshaws on its roads. One of the few things it still has in common with that past era, is the Indian Ocean, which lashes the shore behind Methodist College.
In 1866, a devout Missionary, Miss Catherine Scott, came out to Ceylon and started the Kollupitiya Girls' English School in a large room on this same spot with merely forty girls. As a school, it was then as unimpressive as any village school in a remote area. The large room was divided into three sections - two for the Sinhala and English classes and the third for the persevering Methodist Missionary, busy learning Sinhala from a pundit. There were no beautiful classrooms with educational aids and apparatus.... Not even desks and chairs! The girls sat on benches along the walls, wrote on slates and made valiant efforts to master the "three Rs" and the intricacies of English spelling from the now unknown book called "Carpenter's Spelling" They were of course taught religion, and in 1874 a boarding school was added.
By the time Miss Scott left in 1883, the school was registered as a 'Grant-in-aid' English High School with 99 pupils and re-named Kollupitiya Girls High School. With the same determination of spirit which enabled her to last 17 years in this country she laid the foundation for this most Christian and outstanding of educational institutions.
This then was the beginning of Methodist College, Colombo, which today is a leading Secondary Collegiate school for girls, with classes up to the University Entrance level. From meagre beginnings, the school has blossomed into an outstanding multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious educational institution, conducting two streams of classes in Sinhala and Tamil, with English as a strong second language It now has a manageable student body of 2046 and a staff of 100 Teachers. 132 years have elapsed since the founding of Methodist College which marks a significant milestone in the life of a big school. We are proud of her achievements and salute those who have steered it. The Missionary Zeal of Catherine Scott, who found the school in 1866, has continued to animate successive Principals.
To get back to the history of the school, Miss Scott was succeeded by Miss Sanderson who was of a rather delicate disposition. She was in charge of this school for only three short years, before she had to leave due to ill health.
At the end of 1886, Miss Male succeeded her. By now the numbers had increased to 150 and could no longer be accommodated in the old building. It was due to Miss. Male's tireless efforts that a new school hall was built. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Havelock in 1890 and the hall was opened by Sir Noel Walker in 1891. This new hall was used to house the growing student population.
At this point, it would be of special interest to note that when the site for the present "Peiris" block was being prepared, this very same foundation stone bearing the inscription "Lady Havelock - 1890" was unearthed. Thus we can safely conclude that this was the site of Miss Male's Hall.
Miss Male left this school in May 1894 to be married and was succeeded by Miss Choate. This was indeed a momentous year for the school as her stewardship of the school was to last a long period of 33 fruitful years.
When Miss Choate first arrived, the school compound was quite different to what it is now. It had rather a quaint lay-out then, with the old Church, the rambling mission house, the boys' school, a printing office, a well with brackish water used by the printing office and a bell with a roof over it... all of which do not exist today. An old-fashioned land-mark - now vanished forever!
In 1896 the new Kollupitiya Church was built and two years later, in 1898, the Scott Memorial Hall was also built in memory of the Rev John Scott, his wife Mary and sister, Catherine Scott, the founder of the school. As the school continued to grow in numbers, the Scott Memorial Hall was soon used by the school and the old school hall (Miss Male's hall) was now converted into a dormitory for the girls.
In 1905 as more help was needed, Miss Gertrude Parsons, B.A. (1905-1908) came out as Principal and Miss Choate with much grace, stepped aside from the Principalship (to make way for ladies who had technical qualifications which she did not possess) and took over the boarding as its superintendent. Miss Parsons however, left after 2 years to be married to the Rev A Brown. She was succeeded by Miss Ethel White B.A (1908-1912) who found the climate unsuitable and returned home after 3 years. Miss Choate resumed office as Principal once again. She was soon joined by Miss E. M Shire (1909-1942) and Miss Helen Park (1912-1944) as Vice Principal. The following three decades marked a leap forward in the growth and expansion of the school under the direction of this triumvirate. It was at this time that this school saw many changes which transformed it into a fully fledged Collegiate school.
Almost immediately after her arrival in 1913, Miss Park was responsible for introducing the teaching of elementary Science, a step which had far-reaching consequences for the institution. There was no laboratory, no apparatus or materials, but the girls were introduced to what science was all about and its importance in the scheme of things.
The curriculum was also broadened under Miss Choate in order to enrich the quality of education and the finer things of life. So, there was teaching of Music, Singing, the Arts, Literature, Poetry and Drama. Miss Shire took a leading part in the teaching of literature and poetry and her English class was held in high esteem by the girls.
The school had now been considered the pinnacle of educational efforts by the Methodist Missionaries and co-religionists. In 1915 the school was recognised as a fully equipped Senior Secondary School and its name changed to Methodist College.
The Methodist College magazine, begun in the year 1919, has served as an additional bond between those still in College and those who have already left. This magazine has been published uninterrupted ever since, with the possible exception of the war years.
Miss Choate realised that the boarding accommodation was inadequate to meet the increasing demands made by the growth of the school and so, a Hostel Building Fund was begun in 1919. The old girls promptly rallied round the Principal, presenting her with a cheque for Rs 1890/- However, it was only in 1921 that the foundation stone for the new Hostel was laid and the building was opened in January 1922 by the Colonial Secretary, Sir Graeme and Lady Thompson. Except for a break during the war, the hostel has continued to function and it now boasts 80 boarders.
At this point in the history of Methodist College, special mention must be made of the two managers of the School during that period - Revds W H Rigby (1907-1917) and A E Restarick (1917-1930) who had been a source of strength to the College.
His successor the Rev Restarick continued in his predecessor's path and gave great encouragement to the building of the new Hostel which was finally finished and opened in 1922.
Many changes have taken place since then and most of these old building have been demolished and newer, more modern ones have been erected in their place. It is sad that all the old familiar buildings are no more but then - this is the price one pays for progress. All that is still left of these lovely, old buildings are the Hostel block, the Restarick bungalow and the Scott Hall.
During these years the threesome Misses Choate, Park and Shire stamped their personalities on the School and moulded both the school and its students.
Miss Park, small made and diminutive in appearance, was however, quite strong-willed in character. From her the girls learnt to always speak the truth and share with others. Courtesy, kindness and sympathy were other qualities she expected from the girls.
Miss Shire grey-haired and brisk was something of a disciplinarian. Her invariable precepts for the girls being - "don't slouth, don't dawdle, don't sit on hat boxes, don't swing your legs and don't come decked in jewellery"
To these early missionaries, academic study alone was not enough. They set up high ideals for the girls to follow. The staunchest of Methodist values are taught here, now, as in the days of the missionaries - a non-ostentatious, simple life-style, humility, tolerance, caring for others, sharing, the brotherhood of man, learning and the enrichment of life through healthy, sober living. The teachings of Christ forming the bedrock of this approach to life. These ideals still shed their glow and, have been moulding several generations of children who have passed through the portals of Methodist College.
By 1922, the School appointed students as prefects and, in 1930 the House system was introduced. Both these new ventures were begun with the aim of giving the students responsibilities in the trend towards making them responsible citizens.
Financial problems faced by the Methodist Missionary Society in the United Kingdom had their repercussions on Methodist College. In 1934 the grant was cut by 10 percent. Regardless, the school carried on by making economies in its budget and, by 1935 the School became self-supporting.
Miss Park's foresight again anticipated the recommendations of educationists decades later, when in 1940, she was instrumental in the formation of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) This brought together the involvement of parents and teachers in the welfare of the school. The PTA too has grown and takes an abiding interest in all activities of the School, in improvements and fund-raising.
1944 was another landmark when the first Sri Lankan, Mrs L G Loos, an old girl whose father was a Methodist Minister, became Principal, succeeding Miss Park. Mrs Gladys Loos was much loved by her pupils. She was steadfast in her devotion to the school and was unfazed by the financial problems the school was facing.
She had an understanding of human nature which few girls realized at the time. But many would remember her emphasis on gentility, feminity and womanliness.... with perhaps a touch of post-Victorian conviction.
When girls came clattering down the wooden staircase, she would come out of her office with her chin characteristically resting on one hand and the other touching her elbow and say, "You must walk in beauty, not clatter down like a pack of horses!"
In 1943, Methodist College was recognised as a Collegiate school and High School Certificate and University Entrance classes were started. This was crowned by the teaching of Science in the upper classes. Miss Park and Mrs Loos were responsible for introducing a comprehensive curriculum up to university level.
In this period of rapid development, the war intervened and coincided with political changes in the country. In February 1942, the College had to be closed because of the fear of air raids. Evacuation was discussed but the idea dropped. In May 1942 the day school did re-open but the Hostel was occupied by the Navy. It was only in 1946 that the Hostel was released and the College went into full session with 800 pupils.
As Ceylon gained independence from British rule, Methodist College could also say that the college too came into its own, when it was represented at the State Opening of Parliament, after the grant of Dominion status.
As the fifties dawned, Methodist College faced momentous decisions. In 1951 she entered the Free Education scheme as an assisted school. In this year, the College was raised to 'A' grade status and Miss Grace Robins took over as Principal on the retirement of Mrs Loos. These were years of further expansion and around this time Framjee House on Station Road was bought.
As the fifties closed the country as passing through a transitional period of political, economic, social, communal and religious transition. Far-reaching educational changes were being introduced. The College's Governing Board decided in 1961 that it should become a non fee-levying Private School. State assistance was no longer available but amidst all these tensions the College carried on.
In 1966 the Methodist College Education Society was formed with Parents, Teachers, Old Girls and Friends. The School faced a formidable task of raising funds to pay the staff and maintain itself as State grants were not available. Financially, these were difficult years; besides, the education system itself was undergoing diverse changes and the education authorities were making heavy demands on the school.
Miss Robins at the helm, took all this in her stride. She faced the magnitude of the task with fortitude and ensured that standards were maintained and that the large portfolio of co-curricular activities was not curtailed.
In these years there was a tremendous demand for Science and the Science Department developed greatly under the able guidance of Mrs V S D Sathianadhan. There was no proper laboratory and the girls had to commute by bus and train to Technical College and Wesley College, and later to Bishop's College for their practicals. Despite this, in the first year 16 girls entered the University.
The demand for Science teaching was so great that one Principal was constrained to say that students would rather fail having taken up Science subjects than pass in Arts! Slowly the laboratories grew out of next to nothing. A leading firm donated secondhand acid proof sinks, and the apertures were cut in the tables to sink the sinks!
Throughout these years great emphasis was also placed on activities outside the curriculum. Games and athletics continued with undiminished vigour, and Methodist College's teams took part in national netball tournaments winning the Westrop and Nugawela Shields.
Other sports and extra curricular activities in the school were Tennis, Table tennis, Swimming, Music, Singing, Elocution, Dancing and the like. Inter-school debates, oratorical contests, general knowledge and quiz competitions - all these completed the many facets of school life.
As the Centenary year 1966 approached Methodist College could well boast that it was a fully fledged collegiate Grade 'A' secondary school with a wide-ranging academic curriculum and a cluster of co-curricular activities.
True to the spirit of Methodism the Centenary was celebrated on a modest scale with a Thanksgiving Service, a Birthday Party, an Anniversary Fete and Dinner. It was in this year that Miss Robins retired and Mrs Marbit Gunasekera acted as Principal till 1967.
In 1968 Mrs Shanthi Peiris was appointed Principal and was in office till 1991. During this period, Methodist College saw an unprecedented blossoming both in school activities and in the expansion of the building complex, sorely needed with the school's development in the latter part of the century.
In the period between 1964 and 1989 there were several policy changes in the educational system. Among these were : The closing down of the English stream; (2) Introduction of a shorter school day from 7.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m; (3) The teaching of other religions; (4) Changes in the minimum age for admission and (5), A new scheme for University admission.
The Education Society determinedly campaigned for funds throughout these difficult years. Special mention must be made of Messrs C R de Alwis and V S Nadarajan, the President and Hony Secretary of the Society, for their invaluable services.
By 1970 there were 1200 students on roll with 80 boarders. The school could not escape the political turmoil and unrest which wracked the country in 1971, and Methodist College had to close from April to June of that year. But during this break, the older children were not allowed to remain completely idle, because the teachers sent them assignments by post.
From 1976 onwards, Methodist College launched its biggest building effort - building new classrooms and the Auditorium. The Building Fund was established and a campaign was launched to collect contributions in Sri Lanka and abroad. Parents, Old Girls, Teachers and Students never flagged in their efforts to raise money. Cards for contributions of Rs 1000 and Rs 5000 were distributed and there was a very good response, particularly from abroad. Special mention must be made of the special efforts made by the OGA to collect funds for the Hall Building Fund.
In 1980 the school received a bonanza when Government decided to pay the salaries of eligible teachers in private non-fee levying schools.
By 1982 Methodist College and the Hall Building Fund were confident enough to start its most ambitious project - the building of the Auditorium. But by 1983 the communal riots were to disrupt this program. Several families of children in Methodist College were affected and had to be helped. In addition to setting up of a refugee camp in the school, a special refugee fund was set up and students took a leading part in distributing food, clothes and other requisites to those affected.
By 1985 the Education Society had completed 25 years of service. Yet it had the same vigour and dedication. The Auditorium was coming up fast and in 1985 Methodist College was s able to hold its Prize Giving in the Auditorium, though it was still incomplete.
In 1986 the school celebrated its 120th Anniversary. In keeping with the ethos of the school the celebrations were on a modest and unostentatious scale. There was a Birthday Service, followed by an entertainment and gymnastics display by the pupils, after which all were entertained at a party. An Exhibition of Science and Needlework was also held.
The Auditorium was declared open on 24 June 1988 by the Rev Harold Fernando, President of the Methodist Conference. On the same day the foundation stone was laid by Mrs Marbit Gunasekra for a four-storeyed block of classrooms and staff rooms. For this building a grant of GBP 40,000 was received from the Methodist Church Overseas Division in Britain.
With the completion of the Auditorium Methodist College has been able to hold Prize Givings, entertainment and other activities in comfort. It has seating for 1000, two green rooms and other facilities.
By 1990 the four-storeyed lock of classrooms was completed. Thus Methodist College was able to accommodate the 1780 children who were now on its roll. The new block has 15 classrooms, two spacious Staff Rooms, a Home Science laboratory and Vice Principal's office. It must however be mentioned that 1988 and 1989, when the country experienced severe disruption and violence, the school had to be closed for a considerable time. But even during these most distressing times, the school's teachers organised home study packs for the children, which were collected by parents.
So the wheel has now come the full circle, when from its small beginnings, its difficulties, it has emerged to stand self sufficient, proud of its achievements and outstanding, but with enlightenment and humility, as one of the pre-eminent schools in the country.
The pioneers who steered the early course of the school's destiny would perhaps be much surprised to see what it has become today. Begun in the British colonial era, as s small establishment set up by foreign missionaries who were "wholly absorbed in doing good" the school now takes its place in our national life as an institution making a worthy contribution to the progress of the women in Sri Lanka.
Methodist College has the proud distinction of being a school which pioneered women's education. While we look back with pride on 132 years of achievement, it is not enough to pat ourselves on the back in congratulation - rather we should ask, with T S Eliot, "What have we given?" An educational institution must have something of value to give to the students, so that they in turn may give something of value to the society in which they live. Methodist College has built up from its inception traditions of discipline, devoted service and loving concern for others; it is these values that her students acquire, and that they carry with them into their future life.
Long may the lamp, symbol of our school, continue to illumine the world in which we live!
Methodist College principal, presently is, Dr Kumar Fernando's wife. The Fernando family returned from the US to serve God through treating their fellow-man, a strong calling, as was the custom of all three brothers. Kumar belonged to the 1954 vintage at Royal, Duleep Fernando, 1955 and Ajith Fernando, 1960; the latter two are Methodist Vicars in SL.
The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka
Right next door to the school lies the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka. This church is built on a 3.4 acre plot of land, extending from the seashore to Galle Road. The land was purchased by Rev. John McKenny on 12th September, 1825. The church became a newly formed dedicated church on 10th July, 1896. The church, with its steeple pointing up, and illuminated cross at night, occupies a prominent place at the Kollupitiya Junction. The church is something spoken of as the "Cathedral of Methodism" in Sri Lanka.
Methodism is of British origin. It began as a revival movement within the Church of England in the early 18th century. It constituted part of the greater 'Evangelical Revival' - the religious awakening which took place in many parts of the Protestant world during that century. The Methodist movement was directed by the Rev John Wesley, a Church of England clergyman. To a great extent Methodism retains Wesley's theological emphases and the flexible system of Church order which he developed, and it is therefore necessary to know about his life and work.
John Wesley was born on 17 June 1703 in the Lincolnshire village of Epworth where his father, Rev Samuel Wesley was Rector. The rigorous upbringing under the direction of his remarkably strong-willed mother, Susannah, influenced him profoundly. She gave weekly missionary instruction to her children. Wesley's genius lay in organizing his converts together in groups to confirm the faith of one another, and this is the chief reason why Methodism survives to this day. Wesley disapproved of the trivial and frivolous lives of the rich, but cared deeply for the poor. He lived frugally and gave away a large part of his income. In the winter of 1783, at the age of 81, he went begging from door to door in London on behalf of the starving. Under Wesley, Methodism exercised a humanizing influence over a large section of the British people. He was a pioneer of education.
As evangelism grew, an interest in foreign missions was aroused. Wesleyan Methodism was seized by the fervor for foreign missionary work which was characteristic of all Protestant denominations in the late 18th century. The Methodist leaders came to believe that the spectacular successes seen in England could be repeated throughout the world.
The man chiefly responsible for the establishment of Methodist missions, and in particular the mission to Ceylon, was the Rev Dr Thomas Coke. He was a Welshman, born at Brecon in October 1747. He went up to Oxford University as a Gentleman Commoner of Jesus College, and in 1775 he took the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law. He had a large private income - unlike most Methodists - and many influential friends.
When the subject (of the commencement of a mission to Ceylon) was first named in the Conference, many rose to oppose. Mr. Benson, with great vehemence, declared that it would be the ruin of Methodism. The debate was adjourned till the following day. Dr Coke walked down the street, leaning on Mr. Clough's arm, in unutterable agony; the tears flowed down his cheeks, and almost broken-hearted, he retired to his room to pray. Mr. Clough called to enquire for him.
The Doctor had not come down from his room. Mr. Clough knocked at the door, and, recognising his voice, Dr Coke asked him to walk in. There he saw the most affecting spectacle. The Doctor had not been in bed, and his disheveled silvery locks showed something of his night's distress. Mr. Clough asked what was the matter. Pointing to the floor, the Doctor said, 'There I have spent hours in pleading with God in behalf of India'. They together went to the Conference. When the subject was resumed, the Doctor delivered a most energetic thrilling address, which produced such an impression, that it was at once moved, seconded, and carried, that the mission should be forthwith commenced. Mr. Barber was either the mover or seconder. Shortly afterwards, Dr Coke called Mr. Clough out of the Conference, and they went down the street together. With joy beaming in his eye, and a full heart, Dr Coke said, 'Did I not tell you that God would answer prayer'
Coke, however, began planning to go to Ceylon with a party of 12 missionaries. The Irish Methodist Conference of June 1813 enthusiastically supported him, and offered him three men out of many who volunteered - James Lynch, (basically all other members of Mr. Lynch's family were Roman Catholics) Goerge Erskine and John McKenny. The party went to London to begin the intensive preparations for departure. The young missionaries were ordained in the Methodist way and took Portuguese lessons from Portuguese Roman Catholic priests. No teacher of Sinhala or Tamil could be found.
Historically, Ceylon Methodism began when the first Methodist missionaries landed in Ceylon on 29 June 1814. But it was in 1813, when Dr Thomas Coke wrote those historic words of his, that Ceylon Methodism actually came into being -
Conference was moved by this passionate appeal and permission was granted. He offered $ 6,000 from his own savings to meet the financial cost of his mission and soon in the company of younger men - Benjamin Clough, Thomas Squance, William Harvard, William Ault, James Lynch, George Erskine and John Mckenny he was on his way. Dr Coke was in the sixty sixth year of his life when he won approval from the British Conference of 1813 to venture out to Ceylon and Java with the Gospel of God's Redeeming love. His friends did not overlook the fact that it would be a hazardous course for him to undertake so long a voyage and expose himself to the numerous hardships and dangers he would have to encounter. But his ardent zeal overcame their arguments, though it did not diminish their anxiety.
In December they made their way to Portsmouth, where Coke preached his farewell sermon on the text, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands to God". On 30 December 1813 he sailed from Portsmouth with six younger missionaries. On 3 May 1814 Dr Thomas Coke died and very reverently and with sad and heavy hearts his comrades buried him at sea. His colleagues continued their voyage to Ceylon, with Rev James Lynch, an Irishman, as leader.
Our story would have ended there but for the fact that it was only the frail body of Dr Coke that went down to rest in the ocean bed, while his stout soul went marching on.
Dr Thomas Coke's unforeseen death at sea on 3 May 1814 was a grievous personal loss to the six missionaries traveling with him to Ceylon. It took their leader away, and also deprived them of all financial resources. The funds of the Mission were in Dr Coke's name, and although Harvard and Clough searched for three days through the papers in his cabin, they could find no document which authorised them to draw on any of his money. The outlook for the beginning of the Mission was dark indeed. "Now", said Clough, when they realised the gravity of their predicament, "it is all TRUST!"
The Captain of the "Cabalva", John Birch, was the first of many true friends who helped the young missionaries both before and after they landed in Ceylon. When the ships at last reached Bombay on 21 May, after a voyage of twenty weeks, Captain Birch described their situation to Mr. Thomas Money, a British merchant. Harvard and the others were not hopeful, but they were overcome with gratitude when Mr. Money said he would be very happy to advance them money - without securities - to the credit of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in London. He assured them that he was a firm friend to the cause of Christianity in Asia.
Captain Birch also introduced them to Sir Evan Nepean, the Governor of Bombay, who welcomed them no less warmly. He entertained them at his residence, and wrote a special letter about them to the Governor of Ceylon, General Brownrigg.
Meanwhile, Mr. Money was arranging for their voyage to Ceylon. Harvard was advised to remain in Bombay because of his wife's approaching confinement, and did not eventually leave Bombay till the following January.
On June 20, James Lynch, William Ault, George Erskine, Thomas Squance and Benjamin Clough set sail in the "Earl Spencer", a ship bound for China. It was a speedy voyage. In fact the gales were so strong that it might have been impossible to go ashore at Galle.
Wednesday 29 June 1814 was "a remarkably clear day". The master attendant of Galle harbour, Mr. W C Gibson had received a letter from Mr. Money and was looking out for the arrival of the ship. When he sighted it lying-to three miles off-shore, he sent two boats out to meet it. The first was for Mr. & Mrs Harvard, who were to stay at his own country-house outside the town. The larger boats was for the other five and their baggage. As the Harvards had remained behind in Bombay, Lynch, Squance and Clough decided to go ahead at once in the small boat, leaving Ault and Erskine to follow with the luggage. When the three of them stepped ashore in the evening twilight, they were received by the Master Attendant of the Galle Harbour, Mr W C Gibson and escorted to the 'Kings House' where the Commandant of the Galle Garrison, Rt.Hon Molesworth, welcomed them with the words - "This is all in answer to prayer". This 'pious nobleman' was a firm supporter of the Mission from its beginning. The Rev George Bisset, the Governor's private secretary was sent from Colombo to bid them welcome to the island and assure them that every facility would be rendered to assist them in their important undertaking.
At eight o'clock they became very uneasy, for Ault and Erskine had failed to appear, but Lord Molesworth affirmed that there was no need for alarm. The strong winds and tides often carried boats away from Galle towards Weligama Bay, sixteen miles further east. This explanation turned out to be correct. Next morning he sent two palanquins to Weligama which arrived back at 5.0 p.m. with the missing pair.
On Sunday, 3 July 1814, at the Commandant, Lord Molesworth's request the missionaries held their first Service in the Dutch Church, Galle, at which the garrison and nearly all the resident Europeans were present. James Lynch read the liturgy, and Thomas Squance an energetic preacher, whose voice was said to resemble "the sound of a cathedral bell" preached on 2 Corinthians 10:14 "We have come as far as unto you also, in reaching the gospel of Christ". This became a memorable one. Under the preaching of Rev Thomas Squance, a young Burgher physician, William Alexander Lalmon, offered himself for the Methodist Ministry. He became the first recruit and served faithfully for forty eight years.
Lord Molesworth indeed, until his tragic death at sea a year later, proved to be one of their wisest guides and most constant supporters. He was one of many God-fearing men - both Ceylonese and European - who were deeply thankful to see the missionaries commencing their work in this Island.
Dr Coke's vision was now realised. After six hazardous and eventful months and a voyage which brought much illness and the deaths of Mrs Ault and Dr Coke, METHODISTS were at last preaching the Gospel in Ceylon, and the MISSION TO ASIA was begun.
On Monday, 11 July, the first District Meeting was held at Galle, called by its members 'a conference'. They deliberated as to whether it was advisable to separate so widely from each other as would be required if the Governor's recommendation was acceded to. But after consideration due to so important a matter, they agreed that Mr. Lynch and Mr. Squance should go to Jaffna; Mr. Ault to Batticaloa; Mr. Erskine to Matara and that Mr. Clough should remain at Galle. They partook of the Lord's Supper together, that they might receive a renewal of divine strength, to fit them for duty and prepare them for trial. The first ministers of the mission who visited Colombo were Messrs Lynch and Squance. The first resident here was Mr. Harvard who was soon afterward followed by Mr. Clough.
Ceylon was recognised as a District in the Missioin Field by the Conference of 1815 and James Lynch became the first Chairman. Six more missionaries arrived and shortly afterwards, Daniel John Gogerly the greatest man that Methodism ever gave to Ceylon arrived in 1818. He came as a layman to take up work as printer and press manager. He was ordained in 1823 and became an outstanding scholar. He was Chairman of the South Ceylon District for twenty four years and died in Ceylon, never once having gone to England on furlough.
The missionaries set to work with courage, zeal and faith, living with the people, learning their language and seeking to understand their needs and problems. Poverty, ignorance, disease, vice, prejudice and defiance had confronted them on all sides.
In Negombo, the conversion in 1826 of two Roman Catholics, Don Daniel Pereira and his son Daniel Henry, opened the door for Methodism in this Roman Catholic stronghold.
From the Western Province, Methodism struck inland into the hill country of the Central and Uva Provinces. These two Provinces were very backward areas. Uva was a woefully benighted and semi-barbarious region. Samuel Landon broke new ground in Uva, taking to the people education, social reform and medical work, along with the gospel.
Our story moves on from the predominantly Sinhala and Buddhist areas to the Hindu areas in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Strong Hindu forces and the iniquitous caste system were the chief opponents to the Christian gospel.
In 1883 in the island of Mannar, the Methodist Missionary work was started by Rev E Middleton Weaver and the Rev I S Adams. It was a strongly Roman Catholic area and in 1908, some of the Roman Catholic people became Methodists. Today, there is in Mannar-Murunkan, a strong Methodist community.
On matters of public importance, the Church has spoken with authoritative voice. And in national aspirations, it was co-operated without compromise. In the crises that shook the nation's life, the Church stood penitent and prayerful.
The Salvador's lived at No 11 on the left side of the street until their Dad passed away in 1997. Daughters, Mary and Anne have since migrated abroad.
Email received from Anne Salvador-Dunlop on Sep 2 2007 as follows:-
Like one of the previous bloggers I too spent all of my life in Sri Lanka in Kollupitiya then known to me as Colpetty (I am assuming this was the anglasized version).
I grew up in Rheinland Place on the sea side surrounded by many well known land marks then. However, most of these are no more.
RP was nestled between Śrī Kotha (the UNP Head Quarters at the time) and Mumtaz Mahal. Śrī Kotha ran from the Galle Rd right down to the railway line. Opposite Śrī Kotha was the then SLFP Head Quarters (which eventually moved). Almost directly opposite Rheinland Place was the Durdans Hospital. This building had a colonial appeal and long varandah's and covered wooden walkways leading to the different sections of the hospital. Due to hard times I think in the 60's they sold off the land at the front resulting in some shops and residences. I recall "Colpetty Chemist" - not sure if its still there.
I recall watching many a wedding receptions held at Śrī Kotha. I used to climb a ladder where I was able to look through a grill in the wall of a back room of my neighbours house and watch the many weddings and christmas parties held here.
Next door to Śrī Kotha was the Markan Markar Family residences - the properties ran from the Galle Road down to the sea. We had a music teacher friend who lived in one of the annexes of the house. As the families grew I think they all built houses on the property. Vogue Jewellers was a new commer to the area in the late 60's or early 70's.
I recall going to art lessons during the school holidays to the Wendy Whatmore school of art. I just cant recall the street but it was between Kreme House and Śrī Kotha. As a child I recall regularly going to Kreme House for an ice cream Sunday or Peach Melba! Oh yum yum. There was Snax across the road. There was the famous "laundry" on the Galle Road, and right next door to the place they made "hoppers"! I think this was opposite Shaw Wallace & Hedges (if they are still there). Noorani's was another well known shop, prior to that it was Central Stores and there was a lady hair dresser & familywho lived above whose name escapes me.
Regular Sunday entertainment was provided by the "Boru kakul karaya" - a man dressed as a woman on stilts doing a dance, the "pol katu violin" man who played "Mary had a little lamb" and went selling these down the street. I know I had one of these violins made of a coconut shell and what appeared as ordinary string - but no matter how hard I tried I was never able to produce the same tune or any tune for that matter. Frequently on a Sunday evening we were visited by the din of the "Gothamba Roti" cart that made fresh gothamba's right before your own eyes in your own front yard! They were paper thin hot and mouth watering. I recall seeing the cart parked in Edward Lane during the day time.
Well, hope this bring memories to some readers.
The Vevil & Penny de Kauwe school of dancing was first started at #15, Rhineland Place, in the fifties, before they moved to the upper floor on Galle Road above Kreme House. Penny married David Gunasekera and moved to the UK and when the dancing school moved to Kreme House it was Rosemary & Vevil De Kauwe school of dancing. Rosemary was the wife Vevil. Vevil was a science teacher at St Thomas College, Mount Lavinia.
Penny has moved to Australia where she runs her own dancing school now and also has her website at
Extracts from Penny's profile taken from her website are as follows:-
Penny hails from a well known dance family in Sri Lanka and commenced her dance career at an early age in partnership with her brother, Vevil De Kauwe. Penny and Vevil won many open professional dance titles and were extremely popular exhibition dancers and also established their own dance studio in Colombo.
Penny then moved to London to further her dance career. Penny worked for over ten years as a full time dance teacher in London whilst continuing her professional dance training under the guidance of Alex Moore and Elizabeth Romain. During this period Penny continued with her exhibition dancing.
On migrating to Australia, Penny established her own dance studio in Canberra in 1980, which is now one of the leading dance studios in the Canberra region. In addition to training couples for competitive dancing, the studio has a strong social dance and medal training clientele. Whilst concentrating on teaching the mainstream dance styles, Penny is also an experienced teacher in the popular South American rhythms of Mambo, Salsa, Merengue and Argentine Tango. These dances have been taught in the studio for many years both at a social level as well as for medal examinations.
The Penny De Kauwe School of Dancing Canberra is the joint promoter and organiser, in association with the FATD, of the National Capital DanceSport Championships (NCDC) held annually in Canberra. The NCDC, now in its eleventh year, is an Australian National Championships registered with DanceSport Australia and the second largest Championships held annually in Australia attracting competitors, officials and spectators from around Australia and New Zealand. The studio has the distinction of being the only studio in Australia promoting and organising such an event.
Balasingham Balagangeyan of Royal College ('59 Group) also lived here. His Dad, Mr Balasingham, was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Health at that time. The family have also migrated post 1983.
Faiz Rasheed & Huzaima Hathy moved in to make their homes here in recent times. Faiz passed away in 2005. Huzaima still lives here with her younger daughter, Madeeha, and family.
Mohammed Faiz Rasheed (circa 1925– 2004)
Having grown up with him, in our family home at Bambalapitiya, where he lived with us until he married and moved to his new residence at Rosmead Place, he will be remembered by all his nephews and nieces as a man always filled with a smile waiting to offer his kind services and affections to everyone around him. Many fleeting thoughts of the wonderful years we spent with him as kids kept whistling through my mind when we were informed of his demise on Thursday. Being the youngest uncle he was able to relate more closely to all of us nephews and nieces which we enjoyed immensely during our youth. Visions of him driving Grandpa’s grey Austin A-40 out of the garage, up the side path by the main house and out into Galle Road, on many an occasion, bring back the sweet nostalgia of the past.
Uncle Faiz worked at the Port Cargo Corporation from where he retired and spent the rest of his days at home indulging in some real estate and a major part of his time to his religious activities. A regular member of the congregation of the Bagatelle Road Mosque he was well loved and treated by all who came to worship there. Many were the interesting religious discourse we shared on the occasions we had a chance to sit down to chat and share Islamic knowledge.
A new Muslim talent in Lankan English writing - DN Artscope Wed Dec 22 2004
Refreshingly simple and characteristically Lankan, a sociologist writes realistic and personal anecdotes in the classic form of short stories. She is Ameena Hussein.
Her collection of 15 stories, Zillij, (meaning 'captivating Islamic traditional art of creating intricate mosaic design using hand-cut tiles') is unexpectedly beautiful sketches of Lankan life without any pretensions and that speaks for the sincerity of the writer.
The publishers: Perera Hussein Publishing House, 80 A, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 07. I shall briefly describe what each of these stories tries to convey.
An ordinary death
What happens to be an insignificant death at a bomb blast vis-...-vis killings of politicians becomes a very personal loss to a family acquainted with a fruit seller. The writer conveys subtly the individual reactions of a mother and a daughter. The simplicity in writing is a welcome style.
Muslim on the periphery
This is a self-analysis of a male professing Islam and clinically exposes the weaknesses of the community in a larger context of human behaviour and ethical values. The narrator in the story asks: "It must have been left alone to lead his or her life without embracing the whole citizenry of Islam.
It must have been some fierce Karmic debt that I have to pay off in this life to be born into a religion as sociable as Islam while in comparison I have the personality of an eremite...." Cynical and critical of social norms among the Islamic community, this story is a kind of expose, never attempted before in Sri Lankan Writing.
More than rain
In my own limited reading of this story, it is not very impressive or organically structured.
In the first place I am thankful to the writer for writing in English some aspects of Thamilian life in this country. This is a longish story, well written and covers the whole gamut of so many layers of Lankan Thamilians predicament.
Pleas read this story. Her descriptive power is a notable feature in her writing. It's a critical understatement of actualities as focused on a visa officer.
This is a story of an attempt by a white girl trying to adjust to local conditions. The emotional part of her alienation is brought out well. Ameena writes her stories in an interesting manner and the reader is absorbed unaware.
She uses adverbs and adjectives in a creative manner thus showing her ingenuity in expression. The story like her other stories is a very subtle and sardonic commentary on Lankan life as seen correctly by a foreign girl working in a Lankan social organisation. Sometimes the story reads amusing too.
This is a penetrating story at international level. It is also a fine expose of ordinary lifestyle in America. It is described through the experiences of two Lankans. Ameena brings out this effectively. It is a moving story of two unfortunate who are not at home in America.
But having lived in America for two years in much fortunate circumstances and working in two respectable jobs over there, I yearn to go back because of the wretched political climate here and the lethargic attitudes of the average people and the extreme nationalism of the unenlightened lot here.
This nostalgic story with Lankan English as dialogues clearly shows the distinctions in living then and now. Look at this passage:
How things change?, Hortense would ponder in silence.
Even youth have no time and respect for their elders, everything is internet, computer games, mobile phones, DVDs and other new fangled things that we never imagined would exist. I don't like these days, Hortense thought petulantly as she delicately nibbled a marzipan ball. I only like those days.
The story is a little longish as if it could be called a novella. Ameena writes not only of the middle class people and the subterranean and marginalized lot, but also of the Colombo 07 mentally colonized people. The social commentary or implicit criticism is remarkably done. The end of the story is ironic.
The book, Zillij, also contains the following stories: The Pain of Imagination, Comfort Food, Images of a Short lived Love Affair, Beauty's Mother, Now and then: The natural Progression of things, Night Journey, Nandana and Noombi Story all of which need appreciative commentary.
But due to lack of time to finish reading the book and the need to beat the deadline, I am stopping here. It's unusual to review a book in two parts and publish it on different dates. But let's be different and I promise next week I shall present what I feel about the rest of the stories.
The book also carries a note on the stories explaining some background an editor's note, which says: The words unripeable, extopulate, peripherality and thribbled do not exist in a standard dictionary, but have been coined by the author to enhance the poetry and fluidity of the script.
I must admit that I agree with the publisher that Amena Hussein writes of love, death, fantasy, identity crises, changing worlds and freedom creatively using language to shape raw life into evocative fiction.
Ameena Hussein is the daughter of Mahdi Hussein and Marina Caffoor and grand daughter of Ayesha Umma Abdul Caffoor & M A M Hussein, the original owner of the mansion called Mumtaz Mahal, currently the Speakers residence, and Yousoof Caffoor & Erifa. Ayesha Umma Abdul caffoor and Yousoof Caffor are siblings. Her maternal uncle, Falil Abdul Caffoor was the UNP member of parliament for Colombo Central on many occasions and her maternal grandftaher, Abdul Caffoor Noordeen was a notable Muslim philanthropist and gem businessman owning and managing the Ghaffoor Building in the Fort and also a lucrative gem abd jewellery trade. The family of Abdul Ghaffor's have been involved in many works of charity including the management of the Maradana Mosque, the establishment of the Ghafooriya School in Maharagama for training local Muslim Alims and other significant ventures.
Lower Bagatelle Road
St Kildas Lane
Glen Aber Place
Kollupitiya's Stately Mansions
Residence and Stores of H. Bastian Fernando Plumbgo Merchant at Green Path, Kollupitiya. Later occupied by the Italian Chancery.
During the Second World War, Turret House was the home of the Upper School of Royal College.