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1  GENERAL / Reminiscing / Tales from the Thotum – The Dark Side on: February 10, 2011, 06:03:34 AM
Tales from the Thotum – The Dark Side
The sylvan surroundings, bracing climate and majestic mesmerizing landscapes of the tea estates in the plantation districts of Sri Lanka are an inspiration to the poet, artist, and philosopher. But beneath this facade of nature at her very best, lie tales of dark secrets and murder most foul, four of which I shall set down in this article. The first, and perhaps best known was “The Whitehouse Murder” which took place in 1949.

Mr. Bruce Whitehouse was the Superintendent of Madampe Group, Rakwana in the Ratnapura district. Every month he would travel to Colombo to collect the staff/labourers wages. On these trips he would follow a set routine.

Having collected the wages from the National & Grindlays Bank, he would visit the Colombo Swimming Club for drinks and sometimes lunch, after which he would drive back to Ratnapura. Mrs. Whitehouse usually accompanied him on these trips. Unknown to Mr. Whitehouse, his trips to Colombo and back were meticulously charted and studied by none other than the kingpin of the underworld in Colombo at the time – a veritable Al Capone of the day – the notorious and much feared "Laathara Baas ". This worthy gentleman was responsible for many crimes, murder included, and had fallen foul of the law on several occasions, but thanks to a slick lawyer, he always evaded being put away for life. "Laathara Baas" and his cronies were particularly interested in the trips Whitehouse made to Colombo and back due to the large sum of money he carried on the return trip. The criminal network was so well organised that they knew the exact day he would leave the estate. It transpired later that he was even followed to Ratnapura on a few occasions by a car which kept its distance, in order to ensure that the murderous plan these thugs had in mind would succeed when it was eventually carried out.

On that fateful day, true to form Whitehouse followed the script."Humourous" is a word I do not care to use considering the events to follow, but into this drama comes the humble Tomato! Mr. Whitehouse had a fondness for tomatoes, and sometimes during these visits he would go to the Pettah market and purchase a sack or two of the best tomatoes to take back to his bungalow. On the day in question he did just that, and three sacks of tomatoes were placed in the boot side by side with the bags of cash. Now it happened that the bags of tomatoes bore a close resemblance to the bags of cash stacked side by side, and this odd mix played an important part in this sordid tale as would be seen later. So Chris, take another sip of Merlot and steel yourself for the action down the track, or in this case, along the Colombo – Ratnapura Road.

As usual on this day Whitehouse was followed to the bank, to his club, and then to the Pettah market; and from there to Ratnapura. In the vehicle trailing him were "Laathara Baas" himself and three of his hoodlums with one intention – to waylay the car at a designated spot, and steal the cash. Unaware that they were being followed, Mr. and Mrs. Whitehouse drove on, until at a sharp curve near the old bridge on the Ratnapura road a vehicle suddenly overtook theirs and blocked the road. Mr. Whitehouse slammed on the brakes, and before he could even begin to think, "Laathara Baas" and two of his sidekicks, fully armed and masked, thrust a gun in his face demanding that he handover the cash. If they thought that Whitehouse was an easy target, they thought wrong.

To their surprise he put up a defiant struggle, attempting to grapple with the thugs. It was three against one, and proved futile. Incensed at being thwarted, the thugs responded in the manner best known to them – they shot Mr. Whitehouse at point blank range, and while his horrified wife watched on, opened the boot and took four bags of cash, making a quick getaway. Not quite, in their haste, thinking that the gunshot would by now attract some unwelcome attention, they had taken two bags of tomatoes along with two bags of cash, leaving the rest of the bags in the boot. Mrs. Whitehouse meanwhile – full marks to this gallant lady – got behind the wheel and cradling her mortally wounded husband in her lap drove the car to the Palmgarden Estate factory from where they attempted to get medical attention which was to no avail because Mr. Whitehouse died soon after. The full force of the law, and the best detectives worked on the case, and after about three weeks, "Laathara Baas"and his henchmen were arrested. Following a trial which gripped the nation, "Laathara Baas" and his cronies went the way that all "good" criminals go. He and three of them were hung at the Welikade jail, while one got a life sentence and died in prison.

To this day, the bend in the road where this gruesome murder was committed is known as "Thakkali Wanguwa" (Tomato Bend). I have seen it and in fact on one occasion stopped awhile at this bend attempting to visualise in my mind’s eye the horrible events as they happened that awful day in 1949. Unfortunately not many are aware of this spot because the last book on this murder went out of print over fifty years ago, and with the passage of time events like this tend to be shrouded in the dark mists of memory.
In 1941 the Nuwara Eliya district was rocked by one of the most brutal murders which belied the bucolic charm of mountains valleys hills and dales, and life in those salubrious climes. I refer to the murder of Mr. George Pope, the Superintendent of Stellenberg Group, Uda Pussellewa (there is an indirect link to Carolina Group which I shall mention at the end of this episode). Mr. Pope was ever the strict disciplinarian and as tough as they came. He managed the estate with an iron fist, and woe betide anybody who stepped out of line. During this period, trade unions were formed on many plantations, and one day a group of labourers met him and requested permission to form a trade union on Stellenberg. Not only was their request refused, but they were soundly berated and threatened with dire consequences as far as their employment on the estate was concerned, if they persisted with this demand. Dismayed at the manner of the refusal in what seemed to them a reasonable request, and angered by the manner in which they were addressed, the labourers held the matter in abeyance, and for a while life on Stellenberg went on.

Mr. Pope used to visit the Superintendent of Le Vallon Group, Pupuressa at least twice a month for dinner, and the latter would return the visit. He had a standing order that whenever he returned to the estate late at night, the tea maker on night duty or the factory officer had to telephone his bungalow and inform the bungalow appu to keep the garage doors open no sooner he passed the factory. On the night in question, Mr. Pope went over for the usual dinner rendezvous, and left very late. Driving along the road to his bungalow, a fair distance before the factory, the headlights of his car picked out some obstruction on the road which made it impossible for him  to pass. It turned out to be the trunk of a tree, and if – there's always an IF in cases like this – he had fined tuned his antenna it would have told him that something was not quite right. Call it bravery or foolhardiness, but he stopped the car, went up to the tree trunk and attempted to dislodge it giving him just enough room to pass. The labourers who had laid this trap were hiding in the tea bushes armed with pruning knives. No sooner did he reach the trunk and attempt to move it, they attacked him in a fury of pent up anger with the pruning knives, holding nothing back. On that dark lonely road, in the dead of night he was literally hacked to pieces not by one, but by six men who fled the scene having committed this dastardly deed. George Pope lay on that road of death, the flesh ripped from his body, his life blood slowly draining away.

Meanwhile the bungalow appu, anxious that 'The Master' had still not returned as it was now almost 1.00am, telephoned the factory and expressed his concern to the tea maker, Mr. Ludowyke. Alarmed at this phone call, Mr. Ludowyke organised a band of labourers and armed with "pandans" to light their way, went along the road leading out of the estate. Imagine their horror at finding Mr. Pope in a pool of blood breathing his last. The labourers cleared the road and Mr. Ludowyke drove the car to the factory, the dying Mr. Pope by his side. He summoned the dispenser and then arranged for the wounded man to be taken to hospital. To no avail. Having tenuously clung to life, Mr. Pope breathed his last in a scene straight out of hell. Events took a quick turn after this. The Police were informed, and I don’t know about the wheels of justice grinding slowly because in this case the opposite was true.

They came to Stellenberg with all speed and in the early hours of the morning commenced their inquiries. Fate lent them a helping hand almost immediately because at the scene of the murder they found a door key to a line room. At muster that morning, six labourers were missing and could not be found anywhere, including the would be union leader, Ramasamy Weeraswamy. Pieces of the jigsaw began falling into place when the key found at the scene fitted the door to his line room. He and the other five now the chief suspects had absconded. The police then threw all their rescources into a search which encompassed most of the plantations in the area and before long, one by one, the five suspects were arrested – except for the union leader. He evaded the law for almost five months and seemed to have vanished.

The Police had by then printed 'Wanted' posters of the man for distribution, which were circulated as far as Kandy. There is a lesson to be learned here. Never take anything or anybody for granted, least of all the humble barber with his scissors, comb and machine in his dingy saloon, unlike the fancy hairdressing saloons and boutiques of today. One such barber among many ran a small barber shop in Kandy with his assistant. One morning a scruffy looking character sauntered in looking the worse for wear requesting a haircut and shave. His unkempt hair and beard did not concern the barber for that was his trade. What he noted was the filthy state of the man’s shirt and sarong. He proceeded with the shave first, and then began the haircut. And this is where Alfred Hitchcock could relate, or rather depict what followed with his sense of the dramatic like a scene in one of his classic movies, leaving the viewers biting their nails, and digging into their arm rests, in jaw dropping suspense.

As he began cutting this customers hair, the face before him in the mirror accelerated his heartbeat as if he was walking a treadmill. Because, in the drawer of his little table at the back of the saloon there was a poster of the 'Wanted' man handed out by the police sometime ago. At the time of distribution the suspect’s hair was not long and resembled the face in the mirror before him! Full credit to Captain Cool for not flinching or losing his nerve at this discovery. Politely telling his unsuspecting client that he had to answer a call of nature, he asked his assistant to continue where he had left off, went to his room, checked the poster, and having scrutinisd it once more went to the tailors shop next door and used their telephone to inform the police. Five heavily armed constables led by an Inspector made their way to the saloon, and the wanted man – the union leader, Ramasamy Weeraswamy – meekly surrendered, realising that escape this time was impossible. The long search of five months had ended. The case was heard by one of the finest Judges of the time, Justice Soertsz. Five of the accused, the union leader included were sentenced to be hung and kept their date with the hangman. The other accused was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment when it was conclusively proved that he had no direct link to the murder, but had aided and abetted the accused in plotting Mr. Pope’s murder. One of the names of the accused was Iyan Perumal Velaithen. I cannot recall the others after all this time.

And here's the “Carolina connection”; the Superintendent who succeeded George Pope was Arthur Doudney. Twenty years later he became Dad's boss on Carolina Group. And George Pope, before he took charge of Stellenberg was Superintendent of Watawala Estate, Watawala, the estate after Carolina, on the road to Hatton. And there this story ends.

Kenilworth Estate, Ginigathena can be reached from the Nawalapitiya – Hatton Road, or travelling from Colombo, on the Yatiyantota – Hatton Road. On any of these roads, it is the first estate before Carolina Group. In the late thirties, the Superintendent was Mr. Roberts. Over a period of time after some careful scrutiny of the books, Mr. Roberts found that the chief clerk had misappropriated funds from the office to the tune of Rs. 2000. He summoned the man to his office who when confronted with the evidence, made a full confession. In normal circumstances this would have warranted an instant dismissal, but Mr. Roberts decided to give his chief clerk another chance to wipe the slate clean. He set a deadline, giving him a period of one month to return the money by a certain day, if the money was not returned, the police would be informed. It was a magnanimous gesture, one to which the culprit readily agreed.

Came the designated day and Mr. Roberts entered his office, summoning the chief clerk expecting the money to be returned. Unknown to him, this man had hidden the estate gun, fully loaded behind the office door. No sooner had Mr. Roberts entered and taken his seat at his desk, the clerk in a flash took the gun from behind the door and shot Mr. Roberts dead. The clerk then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The Managers bungalow was close to the factory and Mrs. Roberts hearing the gunshots thought that a pig was being shot at the estate farm which happened to be in the vicinity. That was the tragic end of a kindly Superintendent who paid the price for his act of kindness in giving another human being a chance to redeem himself.

Finally, there was the murder of the chief clerk, and the teamaker, both on the same night on Galboda Group, Galboda in 1954; Galboda was just past Mt. Jean. A young lad who had just left Ananda College having passed his exams, boarded the train from Colombo Fort, and after the arduous journey alighted at Galboda station and made his way to the office. Somasiri had secured the position of junior clerk and was to commence work the next day. He settled in well and for a time showed much promise. But soon the chief clerk began to play some practical jokes on him and before long the situation got right out of hand and most of the office staff had a laugh at his expense. On occasion the teamaker joined him. The lad bore this all in silent resignation, not wishing to retaliate in any manner lest he risked losing his job.

One night the teamaker had a dinner party at his house and invited the chief clerk, and some office staff, including young Somasiri. Their aim was to ply him with liquor and amuse themselves. Somasiri being one of the staff could not refuse the invitation, and accepted. Unknown to anyone, he had gone to the estate blacksmith a few days before, and requested him to make a knife which he said he needed for his kitchen. This transpired in the inquest which followed, and it was remarked how strange it was that the blacksmith did not have the least suspicion or doubts about Somasiri's unusual request. On that fateful night, liquor flowed freely and before long the fun began with young Somasiri the whipping boy. He bided his time until his patience ran out. The chief clerk was the first victim. Pulling out the knife concealed inside his jersey (or jumper) he stabbed the chief clerk through the chest with such force that it went right through the man’s chest, and through the rear of the cane chair on which he was seated, according to eyewitness evidence at the trial. The teamaker was next. Retrieving the knife from the chief clerks mangled chest, he plunged it with full force into the teamakers stomach. You are talking of a youth of 21 years against men in their forties. In the prime of his youth, fed by flames of rage, these liquor sodden men did not stand a chance. Most of those present fled in fear, and Somasisri stood beside the bodies and would not let anyone near. Nobody could approach him as he kept brandishing the blood soaked knife threatening anybody who tried with a similar fate.

Meanwhile, Mr. David Murray, the Superintendent of Galboda was notified. He made his way to the scene and on seeing his boss, Somarisi calmed down. Mr. Murray gently and tactfully spoke to him, and convinced him to lay down the knife, and before long, thanks to David Murray the situation was brought under control. The police then arrived, and when the case went to trial the accused was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. Many witnesses testified in his favour highlighting the treatment he had received at the hands of the deceased. This evidence was what saved him from the gallows, and the Defence had a strong case. It was remarked during the trial that such behaviour by grown up mature men such as the deceased, towards a novice starting out on life’s road was inconceivable. I was ten years old at the time and can still remember recoiling in horror when this case was discussed by Dad & Mum with some visitors. News of this murder spread through the plantations, and must have been the topic of conversation in front of many a blazing fire in the halls of a faraway estate bungalow, on a cold misty night.
Many years ago I found myself in the Ratnapura cemetery. As is my wont, I proceeded to read the epitaphs on the tombstones until I came across one I have never forgotten. It read “Sacred to the memory of H.G. Ross, shot and fatally wounded on Galbodde Group, Ratnapura, 17th April 1937”. All my efforts at finding out the details of this murder were unsuccessful.
Who knows if in the dead of night on an estate somewhere, one still hears the plaintive voices of these victims mingled with the howling wind as they appear in a ghostly re-enactment of these tragic events of long ago…

Bernard Vancuylenburg
2  SEARCH & RESEARCH QUERIES / Historical research & queries / Re: Cuthbert George Wilder Clogstoun posted by Roy Clogstoun on: November 01, 2010, 03:44:07 PM
Msg received from Roy Clogstoun as an addendum to his earlier posting:

Since then I have discovered that my great grandfather Cuthbert George Wilder Clogstoun first planted coffee at Castlemilk Estate in Gampola and then at Blackwater Estate in Nawalapitiya. Is there anyone who has any information on these estates.
3  SEARCH & RESEARCH QUERIES / Historical research & queries / Re: The Bracegirdle Incident on: June 30, 2010, 11:40:42 AM
Hi Alan,

I have placed your query on our website Facebook page as well so let's hope for some luck there. The HOCT Facebook URL is http://tinyurl.com/HOCT-FB if you wish to have a look at it.

Kind regards,
David Colin-Thome

4  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Ceylon Tea / No setback in tea exports on: March 12, 2010, 08:57:42 AM
No setback in tea exports


There is no set back in tea production or tea exports, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi said.

Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of pre-packed tea under brand name among tea producing countries. Sri Lanka earns more revenue from tea exports than other countries, he told the Daily News yesterday.

”Even last year, with a larger export volume, Kenya’s tea export earnings were less than Sri Lanka’s tea export revenue.

Sri Lanka is the only tea producing country to surpass the US $ One million mark in tea exports, that had remained unchanged for 2007, 2008 and 2009,” he said.

He condemned recent media reports that Sri Lanka is behind leading tea exporting countries. ”There are other factors that have to be taken into consideration, like for instance the per capita consumption.

Local consumption in Kenya , China, and India are 400g, 700g, and 750 g compared to Sri Lanka of 1.4 kgs per capita.

As a measure to help reasonable prices in the tea consumption countries, the FAO is encouraging to boost consumption in tea producing countries so that the exportable volume can be kept at a reasonable low level.

This is one way of keeping the export demand high to stabilize the global tea prices, Hettiarachchi said.

Source - Daily News http://www.dailynews.lk/2001/pix/PrintPage.asp?REF=/2010/03/06/news02.asp
5  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Ceylon Tea / Brokers forecast tea prices will ease as production rises on: March 12, 2010, 08:02:39 AM
Brokers forecast tea prices will ease as production rises
Urges government to fast track export rebates
Nishani Pigera
LBR,Wednesday 10 March 2010

Tea prices at the Colombo auction will ease mid year as better growing weather conditions will increase the crop in producing countries, while Sri Lankan exporters said delayed export refunds are hurting investment.

Tea is the third largest foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka. The 140 year old industry passed one billion US dollars in annual exports for three consecutive years.

In January prices rose to a record 389 rupees a kilo or 3.4 dollars. The previous best for January was 332 a kilo in 2008.

“Prices should come down in the second quarter and beginning of the third quarter as a direct result of the expected increase in crop”, says Dinal Fernando, vice president at Asia Siyaka Commodities, a tea brokering firm.

“Kenya is producing more tea now. And with countries like Vietnam and North India coming in to full operation when they finish their cold season by about April there would be more tea in the market”.

Kenya's tea production rebounded last year and it took the title of the largest exporter.

Brokers said the delayed ‘quality season’ in the Western Sector shrunk supply at the Colombo tea auction driving prices higher, but the situation is expected to take a turn in April.

Anil Cooke who heads Asia Siyaka said it’s difficult to quantify the anticipated fall but added, “the supply position will be fairly tight going at least in to April as far as Sri Lanka and Kenya is concerned”.

Export tax

Meanwhile tea growers are urging the government to refund an export tax for plantation development and factory modernizing.

The planters’ association says appeals for a refund of the four rupee a kilo cess on exports have been ignored by the government so far.

“The cess is required for the development of the plantation industry…if we are to sustain the industry,” said Dhamitha Perera chairman of the Planters’ Association at its annual general meeting recently.

A cess was introduced to nudge ailing tea produces to modernize and invest and be profitable lowering the possibility of an expensive government bailout of the sector in the future.

Delaying and denying refunds however have achieved just the opposite making the tea industry one of the few sectors now being charged an export tax.

Tea prices in the last five years have nearly doubled from an average of two dollars a kilo in 2006 to 3.3 dollars a kilo last year.

However in the last quarter of 2008 the global banking crisis and weaker currencies in export market affected prices.

“During the financial crisis many people actually did not apply fertilizer because they could not afford to. There were people here in Sri Lanka who could not afford to harvest their tea, so they chopped off the top of the bushes instead”, explains Cooke, who thinks growers need to now make up for the neglect.

In response global inventories fell and in Sri Lanka production fell by 30 million kilos and India’s by another 30 million kilos in 2008.


The recovery in 2009 was quick and Ceylon tea prices form low grown elevations fetched more than 4 dollars a kilo at the Colombo auction, which is the largest tea auction in the world.

During the first quarter every year, the industry looks forward to buyers from the UK, Japan and Europe who pay a premium for the higher quality season.

Romesh Walpola, assistant vice president at John Keells Tea Brokers says the dry weather conditions had delayed the season this year.

“Hopefully we would see a delayed but very short quality season here,” says Walpola.

“Prices for low and high growns have declined in the last couple of auctions. Of course the prices in January were very high and there could be a price correction taking place,” he says.

Up to 65 percent of Sri Lanka’s tea production comes from the low grown elevation where small growers dominate production.

Low grown production is expected to rise in the second quarter this year, referred to as the “rush” when the rains are driven southwards boosting supply and driving prices further down.

“It’s very crucial for us in April, May and June that’s when the rush comes in”, says Walpola at JKH tea brokers.

He forecasts the supply in 2010 will pass 300 million kilos from the 290 levels last year.

“So if we manage the rush period well, then I think the rest should be a good year”.

Source - Lanka Business Review http://www.lbr.lk/fullstory.php?nid=201003101320507275

6  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Tea Planters / Strike while the iron is hot by Sepala Ilangakoon on: December 28, 2009, 03:04:35 PM

By Sepala Ilangakoon
The Island, 7th March, 2001

When I cast my memory back to the years of yore, the STRIKE weapon in the armoury of a trade union was used only as a last resort to resolve a labour dispute. Why? The answer is, because, stripped of economic catch phrases, a strike causes distress to the striker as well as to the employer. The striker loses his pay (strike pay was not in our vocabulary in those days long ago) and the employer loses his income.

What then, was the alternative? There were many options available to the union before embarking on that last resort. Negotiation, arbitration, joint agreements, etc. any of which were used depending on the exigencies of each case. Very often an independent individual or authority was the medium used to achieve a satisfactory solution acceptable to all parties involved in the dispute.

In addition to the Minimum Wage ordained by the Labour Department, there were other supplements to make the cash in the hand at the pay table, after deducting all dues, a worthwhile proposition to the employee.

I use the word ‘Employee deliberately, as its precursor "Coolie’ gave way to ‘Labourer’ to ‘Worker’ and finally to "Employee’ - each change for good reasons.

Some of these offered supplements were the Dearness Allowance, Profit Sharing Supplement, Attendance Bonus, etc. Also, there was a Guaranteed number of days work per week. This guarantee was not a difficult problem for the employer as he had a vast programme of work to fulfill before the end of the financial year and he readily offered the guarantee of days of work per week. Employers who had no progressive capital development programmes and annual estimates of current expenditure, and therefore had a negative outlook, would certainly have had a problem to offer a minimum number of days work per week.

Despite the above noted guarantees, the out turn of employees for daily work, was found to be below the employers’ expectations. After all, let’s face it, the basic formula is - more productive work done, more profit earned.

One of the ways of circumventing this conundrum was to offer ‘Contract Work’ (as opposed to daily work). The employee does the particular job to the standards of efficiency required by his employer, working whenever he feels so inclined (Flexitime is the modern term), but completing the job within the specified time frame. The contractor uses other members of his family (including unregistered children) to assist him. He usually finishes his daily work and then works on his contract which would comprise weeding, pruning, desilting drains etc. There were inbuilt advantages to the employer as well as to the employee in Contract Work.

The supplements to the Daily Wage as listed above, were accepted, but, rather ungraciously, as the employees were beginning to be aware of the somewhat disproportionate profits made by the employers, after incurring all the items of expenditure related to the employment of resident labour, such as the construction of adequate living accommodation, provision of water supply, etc. and the maintenance of these facilities in reasonable condition.

Labour union leaders started perusing the Balance sheets and Statements of Accounts of the employer companies and agitating for a greater share of the profits gained by the toil of their members. (They conveniently forgot to peruse the losses sustained in some years and to share in those losses in some way).

Profit Sharing came into the labour union jargon. Employers had to find a modus operandi to satisfy this demand. So was born the proactive Price/Wage Supplement, the bottom line of which was - in times of prosperity as generated by good market prices for the produce, share that prosperity with the employees; in times of adversity, the employees will accept that reverse by tightening their belts and accepting a lowering of the Price/Wage Supplement which, depending on the fluctuating market prices, varied from month to month. This was indeed a sociological departure, hailed by all as a progressive measure.

The labour unions sometimes tend to push too hard, too far, to the extent of crippling the employer. In fact, they are ‘Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs’ as the adage goes. This is where the union leaders must use their good sense to realize that enough is enough. This is where restraint is necessary. This is where a well seasoned union leader will use his expertise garnered over many years of give and take of union activity, to influence his decisions. Equally, this is where a ‘Green horn’ in the business, a new and immature trade union leader can make fatal mistakes - fatal to the labour union and fatal to the plantation industry, the life-blood of this country and ergo, fatal to the country. Beware! We all love our country!

This may be the opportune moment to peruse some statistics which may be relevant. The current average price per kilogram for High grown tea is Rs. 128.46, for Mid grown Rs. 119.08 and for Low grown Rs. 144.79. Also, as a matter of common interest, of the total tea exports, 55% is from the Low grown teas and of these, some 65% is privately owned, a large component of which is small-holders’ home gardens. Their prices are also high as the family carefully plucks their VP tea on strict four day rounds using no hired labour. Three cheers for the small-holders!

I may well be wrong in some of my assertions, due to the forgetfulness of a doddering septuagenarian who has been completely and deliberately out of touch with the plantation industry after being closely associated with it for half a century. So I would proffer old age as a ready excuse and hope to be forgiven by my readers!
7  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Tea Planters / From My memoirs of the plantations of Ceylon by Sepala Ilangakoon on: December 28, 2009, 02:51:49 PM

By Sepala Ilangakoon
The Island, 6th July, 2003

The elusive spoon

There was once a gala sit down dinner at the club, where name tags were placed on the tables for the guests. Garry did a scrutiny and moved ‘Laughing Laki’s tag next to his place tag. Whilst she was engrossed in a hilarious conversation with her neighbour on the other side, Garry took her soup spoon and put it in her handbag which was near at hand.

When it came to eating the soup which was served, Laki searched for her soup spoon and could not find it. She looked round discreetly and since everybody else was busy with their soup, quietly took the dessert spoon and helped herself. That was the moment for Garry. "She Che - Look at Laki’s spoon. She is not sure which spoon to use. "Godaya !", he announced in a loud voice for all to hear. While pretending to look for the soup spoon, Garry casually opened the bag and for all to see, fished out the elusive soup spoon and proclaimed "May thiyenne ! Gedara geniyanawadha ?" ("Here it is ! Taking it home?") amidst guffaws of raucous laughter. But as usual, she took it in her stride and laughed loudest, heaving her plenteous rolls of abdominal blubber in the process.


The irrepressible Gary was and still is, a practical joker par excellence. He reared pigs and as usual, piglings had to be castrated at about one year to prevent them from doing the work of his prized stud boar. Garry remembered his practical Veterinary Science at the School of Agriculture, Peradeniya, and performed the minor operation. He put the extracted testicles into a dish and in the refrigerator.

He had already hatched the details of his gruesome plan. He invited some friends including Laughing Laki and her husband for evening drinks and, very casually and much against Sriyani’s pleas, sauted the testes and laid them out on a silver salver, complete with a tooth pick in each and a dash of tomato sauce, a choice imitation of the usual cocktail porkies. For added effect, he dressed the dish with a few sprigs of celery or parsley or whatever.

Garry held the special dish to Laughing Laki and surreptitiously avoided serving the other guests to whom he served the vast array of other short eats. Laki took a sizeable helping and must have savoured the special dish, for she asked for a second helping and took most of the balance in the salver, to her plate. Before she could start on the second round of ‘Porkies’, Sriyani could not hold back the truth any longer and blurted out the origin of Garry’s ‘Porkies’.

Laki was horrified. She went to the toilet and we heard her attempts at vomiting by tickling her throat with her fingers, to no avail. She did the next best thing and after diluting almost all that was in the bottle of Dettol, was gargling and spitting out. But Garry’s ‘Porkies’ were already being digested. She never heard the last of this practical joke, not even to date !

Ken Balendra

Since I had already recognised the innate and latent talents of Ken Balendra whom I described as a High Voltage Ball of Fire, he was the automatic choice for organising the second annual sports meet at HGT, which he accomplished with great panache and aplomb. I found that true to form, he had introduced numerous innovations such as a marathon, greasy pole, pillow fights, a cycle race from the rubber factory at 900 feet to the race course at 1800 feet and numerous entertaining events for the ladies. As usual, Ken, with his natural genius for organising, improved substantially on what I had suggested.


Bala relates how he became Ken. He was at rugger practice and the new coach remarked, "Balendra is too long. Don’t you have a shorter name?" Bala didn’t have to stop to think - "Call me Ken". And Ken it is to this day, except to some like me, to whom he will always be Bala.

Bala was a winner perhaps from birth or perhaps from deliberate training and sustained effort. He was always a winner. His biographer will go from chapter to chapter in his success story, but I can recount what was indeed his greatest triumph.

When Bala was at HGT, he had no occasion to visit the hospital. He had taken my advice after I had broken many of my bones in various motor cycle accidents. "When one mounts a horse, the immediate inclination is to gallop; on a bike, to open full throttle. A motorbike demands balance at all times, but gives no protection in case of loss of balance, for whatever reason such as speed. So velocity is not worth it." I believe Bala took my advice and never had a motorbike accident. Young planters please note.

Ball of fire

My friend, Mark Bostock, the Big Boss of John Keells, ‘phoned me one day to tell me he was on the look out for a young Assistant Superintendent to be trained in tea braking. He qualified his request - the nominee need not be a very senior SD. I told him I would call back in a week. I did not take a week. In two days I called him to say that I had found a "High Voltage Ball of Fire" for him - Bala ! Mark got so excited that he got ready to write immediately; but I cautioned him that it would be more prudent to get Bala to apply for the billet than for it to be offered to him. And so it was.

Sometime after Bala settled down at JK, Mark ‘phoned again - "Sepala - your Ball of Fire has notched up another record. Whereas others take at least six months to get up on the rostrum and call for bids, your Ball of Fire did it in three months !

A worthy prize

A young lady doctor had taken up her assignment at the Ratnapura hospital. She was no ordinary lady doctor but someone really very special; so it was not long before all the young bucks in town were trekking up to the hospital and, Bala was among the line up of the most eligible lawyers, engineers, executives, doctors etc. The odds were stiff, but Bala, never a loser, won his prize, Swyrie, much to the annoyance and chagrin of all his competitors.


In addition to Bala being a role model of a planter, Swyrie must surely have been a propitious influence on him, for with her beside him, within a record time frame he went from strength to strength to reach the pinnacle of his achievements - Chairman of the John Keells Group - and that by any standard, is some attainment ! No wonder they say "Behind (or beside, in this case) every successful man is a charming woman." Young planters please note again. Felicitations Bala. You did it in great style.

Childy Childerstone

W. J. Childerstone, Superintendent of Balangoda Group, was a well respected veteran planter of his day. His wife, shining in Childy’s glory, was known to all and sundry as Madame Childerstone; the usual style of Missis was too plebeian. Childy was less patronising but was indeed the Laird of Balangoda. They lacked nothing and lived in great style. When he retired, they settled in Malta; taxes were low, the climate was Mediterranean and the people friendly. They fitted well into the high society of the British colony.

Winds of change brought reform in the political structure of Malta and in the inexorable fall of the British Empire, Malta won its independence, resulting in drastic social transformations. Cancer had claimed another victim, Childy, and the Madame was finding the going difficult in an ambience hostile to the British. The once opulent Madame found herself in severe financial straits and was reduced to virtual penury, when she appealed to the Planters’ Association of Ceylon for support and succour.

Planters’ Benevolent Fund

Fortunately, in his hey day, Childy, as an act of pure charity, with no design of financial gain, had joined and subscribed to the Planters’ Benevolent Fund of Ceylon (PBF), a subsidiary of the Planter’ Association, where I attended to the Madame’s appeal. His benevolence when he joined the fund, came to the rescue of his widow long later. The PBF, through the active initiative of the inestimable Trevor Moy, Chairman of the PBF, saw to it that this very deserving case was relieved of her misery by being resettled and provided for in the UK. Three cheers for the PBF !

Merril Ilangakoon

Merril was a maverik from his boyhood. As a school boy, I shared a room with him, so I should know. Even in his later life, he took a great delight in taking the opposite view, very often with a poker face but chuckling only. The family called him The Leader of the Opposition !

A rolling stone

Merril was one of the earliest Ceylonese to be recruited for planting. He started under Bob Gregor at Opata, Kahawatte, working for James Finlays. Wisely, he changed his Agency House thrice. I stuck to one, with unhappy consequences. He had the last laugh on me.


Merril would tease his superiors with that blank look, or his ambiguous letters, merely for the heck of it.

A classic example was his correspondence with his Managing Agents, Mackwoods Estates and Agencies Ltd. of which I was Chairman/Managing Director at the time. When the transport agents put the pistol to our head and demanded an inordinate increase in the transport rates, I sent Gregory Perera, our Produce Manager to meet the Commercial Manager of the Ceylon Government Railway. His agenda was to negotiate terms for external transport by rail of all our estate produce, as in the days before road transport became cheaper and easier.

Gregory arranged for internal transport lorries to bring the tea and rubber to the nearest railhead and for rail transport to Colombo; similarly, transport of fertiliser and tea chests in the opposite direction. The financial advantage over prices paid to lorry transport contractors both ways was found to be well worth the switch over. Mackwoods required all Superintendents to arrange transport accordingly and to amend their budgets as necessary.

Merril was quick off the mark and sent his amended estimates which were received by Harilal Nonis the Director handling Merril’s estate, Udapola, Kurunegala at that time. Harilal had misunderstood our new scheme for external transport and he returned Merril’s documents requesting a more detailed submission. Merril responded obligingly, analysing the headings into sub - headings.

Harilal was still not satisfied and inadvertently directed Merril to submit details of his internal transport by rail to the near at hand Kurunegala railway station. This was too much of a farce for Merril who decided to pull the mickey out of Harilal. Playing true to form, he took his chance to ridicule his Director by forwarding very detailed estimates as demanded. He included the cost of miles of rail track and the number of sleepers, five level crossings, one railway engine and four goods wagons, three signal posts, one railway station at Udapola and also one Station Master ! Harilal had mistaken external for internal rail transport!

As usual, Merril’s letter came to Gregory as the allocation of estates to him included Udapola and he was laughing when he brought the letter to me before marking it for Harilal. The extent of Merril’s ingenue and his chimerical proposition were as great as Harilal’s naivete. Placing the letter in the of fice circulation file would have added to the stock of jokes on Harilal, so I did the next best thing and took the letter home. Merril, never content to give up a controversy midway, was determined to publish the correspondence in the Ceylon Planters’ Society Bulletin, but was persuaded to desist. He did grumble about the infringement of the rights of the individual! Harilal was a virtuous and god - fearing man.

Sunbeam Alpine

Well known for saying and doing the opposite of what others think, Merril bought for himself a Hillman Minx Station Wagon when he was yet a bachelor. It could seat six very comfortably and had a cavernous baggage section which never carried more than his single suit case. It seemed to all, except Merril, that it was such a waste of capacity.

Almost as if to spite those who disagreed with him, he later did quite the opposite. He was married then, had one child and a fat ayah. And for that crowd, he sold the very appropriate Station Wagon and purchased a swanky little Sunbeam Alpine two seater ! His wife Gertrude and he sat in the seats which were the small bucket type usual for sports cars and she had to keep their son Gihan on her lap. The luggage including suit cases, feeding bottles, the potee and various other paraphernalia, were all stuffed together with the outsize nanny perched sideways, into the narrow space behind the seats, meant by the makers to accommodate only an overnight zipper. When the canvas hood was used in rainy weather, the accommodation problem was doubled. But that was Merril ! Ever the dissentient. God bless his soul. Truda was as always, patient, silent, kind and complaisant. The moral. By all means have contrary views, but in doing so, be reasonable.

Merril was second in our family, next to Lyn; I was third, two years younger. Merril was a very hard smoker from early years, carrying the telltale nicotine stains on his finger nails from age sixteen. To a large extent, he was the cause of my being a confirmed non-smoker. His physician told him, in his final illness which was not in his lungs but in his knees which refused to obey him, that the cause was excessive smoking. When I told him that Merril quit smoking two years ago, his laconic remark was that he did so fifty two years too late ! Merril was called by his Creator in 1984 at age sixty three.

Jayasiri Perera

Jaye to all who knew him, was short of stature but a giant in guts and wisdom. He was one of the very early pioneers among Ceylonese planters. Having started off at Depedene, Rakwana and Pelmadulla Group, Kahawatte, he went on to Madampe Group in Rakwana and ended his superintendence at Maliboda, Deraniyagala.

Jaye came to Colombo as Executive Director, Janatha Estates Development Board. He was my predecessor as Chairman, Investment Monitoring Board and later, Chairman, Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation. He retired after a chanceless innings of fifty five years in the plantation service. He gave the best advice to all. Good going, Jaye ! We are proud of you.

On a well deserved vacation, he and his charming wife Chandrani joined their daughter Anusha, her husband and their two children in Australia. They were very much his heart’s delight. At the very end of his holiday in the company which he adored, he passed on to his Nirvana, quietly and peacefully in his sleep, with no lingering illness, no pain, no hospitalisation and no bother to his dear ones. My prayer to my God is that when I reach the end of my course on earth, He would take me suddenly and without warning, like Jaye.

Eardley Hermon

Eardley, hailing from a long line of planting stock (Father was Arthur Hermon of Geragama, Kadugannawa) went straight from wicket keeping for the first eleven at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, to planting with James Finlays.

Eardley was terse and unsmiling but appreciated wit and a goodioke. He taught me the elements of planting and in return, I gave him the scientific background for the numerous estate practices. He married attractive Shielagh Oliver, his first love from Ladies College, Colombo. He is now living quietly in retirement in Nugegoda.

Dennis Fernando

Quiet spoken despite his powerful baritone voice, diffident, shy, modest, reserved, was Dennis. Most of our plantation careers were on the same or neighbouring estates. Hence we saw a great deal of each other and shared many of our plantation and other experiences. He was the original ‘Mr. Cool.’ Nothing, just nothing, would disturb his equanimity. He never resented the fact that I overtook him to achieve Hapugastenne, the best billet in James Finlays.

Dennis was ill at ease in European company and in the early years, we were the only Ceylonese in a predominantly European habitat. They being what they were in those colonial days, snooty and presumptuous, tended to ignore Dennis who, equally, did not go out of his way to be sociable towards them. But he was very much the opposite when he was with us Ceylonese.

Many were the jaunts we did, he on his Aerial and me on my spanking new BSA 350 cc. He being my senior, I would refer any doubtful estate matter to him and we would consult each other on a variety of subjects as and when they arose. He was a highly technical man, well versed in radio and electrical matters. He was good company, when we were by ourselves.

Rather late in life, Dennis found the ideal mate in Rene who used her adroitness and finesse to get him out of his shell. He was always enthusiastic on his hobby which was radio, TV not having made its appearance at that time. On his retirement, he set up an electrical shop and stocked it with all items useful to the general public, but business being quite alien to Denis’ nature and style, he did much of his dealings free of charge and the business did not succeed. He will most certainly reap his reward in heaven. May his soul rest in peace.

Nihal Ilangakoon and Sepala Ilangakoon

Perhaps for the same reasons and like me, Nihal gave up medicine for a career in planting with James Finlays. I believe, like me, he has no regrets about the switch although our parents thought otherwise.

Handsome Nihal has an exquisite sense of puckish humour and a storehouse of racy anecdotes, popular and appropriate for any crowd, male or female.

Nihal married petite and lovely Iranganie Dimbulane and they have two smart kids - dapper Amaal now doing very well in Melbourne and exquisite, ever smiling, cute Anouk, the world authority on the Ceylon elephant and also on aquatic mammals such as dolphins and whales. On an exchange of students programme with the U.S.A. she lectured there and made an in depth study of whales. Her perceptive knowledge of elephant behaviour is so acute that I suggested as the title of her thesis ‘The psychology of Elephas maximus maximus.’

A meteoric rise

Nihal rose rapidly in his vocation and went right to the top as Director, then Chairman, Sri Lanka State Plantations Board 2 - Nuwara Eliya; successive appointments being Director General Board 5 - Ratnapura, Chairman Central Board, SLSPC Colombo and with the reorganisation, CEO, Uva Sabaragamuwa Plantations Ltd. and Balangoda Plantations Ltd. He now lives in happy retirement in Maharagama; he has a wealth of knowledge on tea and rubber which is yet to be exploited.

I for one, never regretted the mutation as, with my record of outstanding achievements at Hapugastenne, I had the good fortune to be invited to join Mackwoods Estates as a Director and later to be their Managing Director and Chairman; thence to The Planters’ Association of Ceylon where I was Secretary General and simultaneously, Chairman of the Investment Monitoring Board and later, Chairman Sri Lanka Tea Board, all of which took me all over the world attending international conferences etc. and also once round the globe and more importantly, to the pinnacle of the plantation sector to be conferred a national award Desabandu, for - "a lifetime of devoted and illustrious service to the plantations of Sri Lanka", according to the citation.


As for me, for the record and lest we forget, I married the extremely sought after and comely Sunetra Seneviratne, daughter of L.J. and Sita Seneviratne. There is a story related by one of the very eligible suitors of the time, a member of the now defunct, elite Ceylon Civil Service. When he asked L.J. why he gave his only daughter to a mere planter, when there were so many suitable professionals around, his crisp reply was, "If professionalism is to be the criterion, I know that in addition to other essential criteria, he is a better professional than you will ever be; and in any event, I do not believe in disrupting the course of true love". The CCS man took the snub and backed off gracefully !

Ours was "The wedding of the century" on 6 February, 1953 - L J and Sita made sure that it was. Thank you Mummy. Thank you Daddy.

Sunetra arrived straight from the Colombo milieu to the remote Thotam as the newly wedded bride of a mere Assistant Superintendent and was watched by all, with natural concern, for any signs of home sickness. But my arrangements for her adaptation to the new environment must have been so perfect that she settled in very speedily and with so much heart and soul, that the new chapter in her life and mine was opened with no hiccups nor contrition. She was an instant success in the plantation backdrop and continued that way through numerous estate transfers, to the final shift of our home, sixteen years later, from the estate scenario to metropolitan Colombo. Here she had a host of school friends for company in addition to those she had made during her sojourn on the estates. She was always a good friend, ever faithful, ever true.

The family

Also for the record, our son, manly Yevindra Sepala married lissom Ymara Dharmaratne and they begat exquisite Yenushka and fast growing Yovaan - the Y family. Yevi had done a degree in Microbiology at Manchester and after many vicissitudes through Marketing and Management, was the Managing Director at Delmege Forsythe. He is the world authority on the epicurean Shitake mushrooms. Having committed himself and his family to God, he is confident that He will ensure greater largesse for their future happiness.

Our daughter, gorgeous Premila Riyanjani, married her sports crazy friend from school days, Dhamitha Perera and they have three personable boys - the eldest handsome, elegant Shamitha, was captain of the STC rowing team that won silver at the Hongkong regatta. The smart good looking twins, Preshith and Rishan, are ardent college cricketers following in their father’s footsteps. The episodes which they have experienced as identical, absolutely identical twins, are already legion and will keep increasing over the years. How I wish I were an absolutely identical twin when I was twenty! Great fun. "No, no, not me; must be the other guy." Shamitha is at Monash University, Australia, doing Finance and Business. He has grown to become a splendid man in every way.

Yovaan is the twelfth male descendent in the genealogy of the Ilangakoon family in its recorded history and the fifth generation Ilangakoon at S. Thomas’ College. (Fully documented in another chapter) Like his cousins, Yovaan is a budding cricketer, determined to win his cricket colours - the first Ilangakoon to do so. Yenu is a swimmer and a scholar, with enviable records in both.

Allan Jinadasa

A reticent man with a subtle sense of humour, was Allan. He hailed from planting stock; his father was a Superintendent in the Aitken Spence Agency. In February, 1950, James Finlays sent him to me as a creeper at the Amunutenne Division of HGT - although I myself was only a junior SD with a mere two years experience in planting. I was astounded but was complimented to know that Finlays had a high estimation of my planting science and also of my ability to impart it to others.

Allan was the first of my many creepers and perhaps the best in many ways. Our early association developed to the extent that I chose him as my Bestman, three years later. We continued our camaraderie for many years, over numerous escapades, some absolutely hilarious but too numerous to recount here.

At a Pelmadulla Club Dance, Christine Weerasekera introduced Allan to lovely, petite Kumari Jayawardene. They married after a somewhat lightning romance. Their progeny are Tiruni, Monesh and Prasad - all three endearing kids, now married.


Allan used to relate a true life drama. A Creeper arrived with his bag and baggage, Sarman in Tamil, and after the usual polite preliminaries, was shown by his training PD into the room upstairs, which he would occupy. He was told that dinner was at eight and he could have a warm water bath before he changed for dinner.

Meanwhile, the PD was reading the newspaper when his wife rushed to say there was a leak somewhere, as there was a stream of water flowing down the stairs. The boss investigated and found that the Creeper had filled the bath, worn his bathing trunks and was seated on the bathroom stool using the toilet bowl to pour water on his head in true Argudoos style like he did from his childhood. He had not realized that the water was flowing under the bathroom door and down the stairs. When questioned, his prompt response was "We live to learn!" Quite unabashed and unapologetic.

Allan’s untimely demise, suddenly and peacefully at age sixty nine, was an irreparable loss to his wide spectrum of friends. He would look down and smile at us.

Sam Salgado and Gamini Salgado

Sam was the father figure to all planters as he had the wisdom and experience of many years of planting on estates under Agency management. Hence, to all of us, he was endearingly known as ‘Sam Pappa’. Sam and Iris were good, God-fearing Christians, looked up to by all.

Sam planted at Rilhena, Pelmadulla for many years and served the Planters’ Association of Ceylon in various posts at the highest level, which he held with aplomb and distinction.

An unforgettable attachment which he had was towards his well used khaki pith hat. Come rain, come sunshine, he would wear it unfailingly - sometimes, it was said, forgetfully, even inside the house as he was so comfortable with it!

Even in retirement, Sam and Iris were visited in their Moratuwa home by a host of his estate friends to recall old times and swap yarns.

SJ and SG - Sam and Gamini and there the similarity ended, except that Gamini, Irene, Iromi and Gihan were also faithful Christians.

Gamini was very much the Anglophile. Even his clipped Oxford accent was not an affectation as some critics thought, but acquired by years of close association with the colonial British, both in his of ficial capacity and in social life, ever since he left Royal College after excelling in cricket, the Englishman’s game, to join George Steuarts, a major Estate Agency House.

Gamma, as he was called by some of his estate friends, planted mainly on up-country estates, but descended to Houpe, Kahawatte, more or less as a swansong - "No hard feelings, old chap; nothing against you lowcountry types!" His stature and his demeanour were also in line with his British attitude and slant. He was always amiable and a dependable friend.

Allan Raffel and Jennifer of Mahawale, Ratnapura and Pelmadulla Group, Kahawatte, were everybody’s friends. Allan was fatherly and benign. He managed to haul his outsize frame over hill and dale in the meticulous supervision of his fields. He never failed to send his pipe mechanic whenever my father’s bungalow water system failed at nearby Nugawela Group.

Leslie Marshall and Pam mainly of Pelmadulla Group, Kahawatte, were a popular couple at any club party. Leslie, a man of action, was very helpful to me when I was Acting Superintendent there for six months. As a matter of interest, from the upstairs verandah of the Big Bungalow, I could see my own home, the bungalow at Nugawela Group, on the opposite hill! We could have sent smoke signals if we were so inclined. Pam was always the elegant and charming hostess. Always smiling: ever friendly.

Shirley and Clinton Rodrigo were as different as chalk from cheese; one was well set up while the other was tubby; one quiet, the other voluble; one placid by nature, the other feeling he has to be loud; one content, the other ambitious, but both virtuous men. Kanthe and Yvette were ideally suited to be their respective spouses, with personalities to suit each husband.

Sherard Mendis and Sirini were a Bambarabotuwa Valley couple, mainly at Galbodde, Ratnapura. Both were slim and elegant, tranquil and God fearing. Later, they migrated and built their home at Kandy. Right opposite their home, they erected a small but well fitted and fully equipped 10 room hotel, SCENIC SUMMIT which commanded a panoramic view of the Dumbara valley and the Knuckles range of mountains. Their clientele were tourists as they were a short haul from Kandy and also the seasonal Kandy Perahera crowds. They deserve all God’s blessings for the work they are doing for St. Paul’s Church, Kandy. Sirini is herself an A1 pianist and teaches music.

Victor Seneviratne and Myrtle recently returned from Malaysia, were senior in age if not in service. Victor was a willing songster and at the slightest opportunity, would burst into song, the most popular of which for us, was the Malay favourite - Burungkakatua. They were an amiable couple with attractive children.

Harold Duthie and Moyra were also a HGT couple. Harold a full - blooded Scotsman, but so different from the Scot, Buster Young, was one of my four SDs at HGT and Moyra came out from Scotland and married Harold. They adapted themselves easily to the Ceylonese millieu. They made a bonnie Scots couple. Since there was no one else to perform the rite, I gave away the gorgeous bride at Scots’ Kirk, Galle Face, Colombo 3. They later moved to India where Harold continued with tea planting.

Charles Ramanaden and Lilani were a happy young couple at HGT, occupying the Rathganga Bungalow. He was as good at squash as at tennis.

When they had transferred up country, pretty Lilani drove the Morris Traveller over the bend and suffered severe injuries including a fractured arm. This was the genesis of the Managing Agents’ directive that estate vehicles must never be driven by planters’ wives. Long later, Charles died on the court while playing tennis. He was a good man. God bless his soul.

Wickrema Jayawardene and Lakshmi were with me at HGT where, being the most senior of my four SDs, he was Factory Superintendent. We had a happy crowd of executives at HGT at that time - Wickrema, Harold, Bala, Victor and Charles.

Wickrema later planted at Matale. He bought a block of land with a bungalow, tea, spices and jungle. He expertly converted the bungalow into a Guest House, Grassmere Farm, for the tourist sector which was flourishing, especially in Kandy. She dished out mainly local fare with curries cooked in clay pots over an open hearth of three lipgals, which emitted a quaint aroma and flavour and which was an unique display for the tourists. As always, she is a jolly hostess, full of laughter all the time (Laughing Laki).

Wicks is more reticent and cares for the garden, accounts, building and staff with aplomb. They deserve every success in their venture which they undertook with a substantial investment of capital and an enormous initial risk which they willingly and bravely took. Three cheers for you, Wickrema and Lakshmi!

Upali Wijesekera and Shervanthi

Upali was briefly in Finlays at HGT where he crept under Ernie Daniels my successor there. I knew Upali and Shervanthi much later at New Peacock, Pussellawa, with their daughter Sharmalie and son Yasantha. They are good company at any time. Upali is the master of spontaneous humour, often at Shervanthi’s expense and is very quick on the uptake. He never lets an opportunity pass to make a crack at any person, regardless of that person’s standing in society. He gets away with it always as everybody makes allowance for him. He is a party man and compere par excellence! For whatever reason, Upali has the quaint pet name ‘Fafa’ !

Mohan Wanigatunga and Chitra were in the Rupee Companies’ two estates to start with and finally reached the pinnacle - Hapugastenne. They entertained well. After a long, deliberate lapse of time, I returned to look round HGT at Mohan’s insistence. The estate was not what it was in my time, through a succession of Superintendents. No slur on Mohan. A mighty fall for a great estate!

Stanley de Silva and Margaret were also in the Rupee Companies’ two estates, Opata and Wellandura where he served with distinction for many years. Margaret, British, soon acquired the Ceylonese life style. They were always a popular couple.

Ernie Daniels and Jean Ernie was another Creeper when I was at HGT factory bungalow which was teeming with gekoes - hoonas to which I had an inherited revulsion. From long range, I would knock them down with a broom and Ernie using a pole, the Cruncher, would squash them on the ground and we collected them in a paper bag. In one night, we crunched two and a quarter pounds of geckoes!

Ernie was of a humorous disposition and had a wealth of witty stories with which he would regale any company, with appropriate gesticulations. He married attractive Jean Brohier from Colombo and soon got her tuned to the estate way of life.

Kit Norwood Brown

His age did not deter him from sharing a joke with his juniors and guffawing with loud laughter while vigorously rubbing his left forearm with his right palm, a routine habit while laughing.

Kit was my PD at Wikiliya, Balangoda, the absolute Siberia of the Finlay estates as it was on the edge of the South Western dry zone of Ceylon, receiving a mere 32 inches of rainfall for the average year, whereas HGT would get about 215 inches making it ideal for tea. But Kit persisted with Wikiliya which had an added handicap in a quartzy soil profile on which only Cashew trees would grow uncomplainingly. But to equate with other estates more favourably endowed, the factory was so situated that Kit was able to turn out some quality teas which commanded premium prices. And Kit was a classy tea maker.

Kit used a small Bantam BSA motor cycle for his estate rounds. He was a born showman and would thrill the workers with his expert acrobatics by riding round the many hairpin bends up the sandy Wikiliya road, with his hands stretched sideways and steering with his feet on the handlebar! Don’t you ever try it.


Joan Brown was a kindly person who went out of her way to make people feel at home. Since I was the only SD, she would insist on me having tiffin with them. Her avocado sandwiches were really classic. Their daughter, comely Cyraine had just returned home from completing her schooling in the UK and was very much the cynosure of the young bucks. On inquiring whether her name was French, she stoutly maintained that it was home made by her parents and therefore there was no other Cyraine in the whole world. Lovely name for a lovely lass. When Pathma, my sister in law was scouring the earth for an uncommon name for her second daughter, I proposed

`95 Cyraine and it was a winner. She is only the second Cyraine in the world!

David Cameron

Despite David having been the PD for many years, Meddakande was a prime property. Good for Meddakande ! David would expect his field staff to be efficiency plus while he took life easy. He would motor down to the post office to collect the mail before the tappal peon did so, only to see if there were any snorters from the Colombo agents.

Indolent David

David did most of his supervision from the comfort of his easy chair on the bungalow verandah, through his high powered telescope which he would focus on the workers and ground conditions on the distant hillsides. He would scan the fields and locate areas with weeds. He would then summon the Weeding KP and announce to him with an air of absolute authority - "Field No 4 has a heavy growth of weeds on the Northern boundary" and while the stupefied KP was pondering how the boss saw the weeds without leaving the bungalow, David would pull him by the ear and give him a knock on his head.

David was never a great walker; nor did he pretend to be one. When I was taking over from him as Acting Superintendent while the Camerons went on their six months’ furlough, David flatly refused to walk the fields to show me their condition as was done traditionally, but assured me that he would reciprocate by again refusing to walk round when he was taking back the estate from me on his return. Quits !

If there was a born optimist, that was David. He, the VA and I would walk along an estate road and the VA would remark on the very poor standard of pruning in the field we were passing. Without any hesitation, David would declare and avow that it was the area where the pruners started their work and that the standard of pruning was much better round the next bend. Both he and I knew that he had not visited the field ever since pruning was started! I would look at him questioningly and he would wink back surreptitiously! David got by somehow, where others would have failed miserably. He trusted to luck and, with him it paid off almost every time!

Alan Passingham

Quiet spoken, ever-polite, never-ruffled, self-confident, resolute, kindly, knowledgeable and severe was Alan Passingham, a tall and well proportioned Englishman, perhaps one of the most illustrious Visiting Agents the industry ever saw. By his own wish, other than all the Finlay estates, he limited his visits to only a few outside Finlays.


I was privileged to have the good fortune to work directly under Alan’s guidance at Galbodde and to be visited by him on the other estates where I worked later. He and his wife Gwen, were the last permanent occupants of the VA’s Bungalow at HGT. She was the perfect wife for him and the solicitous mother to their daughter Jill. They made a very happy family. When the Passinghams went on furlough, they took separate flights as they were concerned that Jill should not be left an orphan in her childhood. Air transport was not all that crash free in those days.

Seeing is believing

I copied his technique of pulling himself up the road bank at any point on the road and, climbing straight up the tea, regardless of foot paths, to the top of the hill and straight down the other side. This way, he would glean a good cross section of the field and in the process, find unweeded areas, inefficient pruning and forking, silt thrown below the silt pits and not carried up the field etc.

He was a relentless walker and had a penchant for locating sub-standard work in the field or factory. He saw as much as he could during his visit, quite unlike his successor Jimmy Craig who tended to go where he was taken and who, after lunch, started nodding in the front seat of the Morris Traveller, while I drove and while the chauffeur nudged the Assistant Superintendent in the back seat and pointed to the VA - all visible to me in the rear view mirror and ignored for the sake of protocol. Alan’s reports were explicit, succinct and masterpieces, quite the opposite of his successor’s.

Alan’s manners were impeccable. One would hardly hear his knife and fork on the plate. He was easy to feed, omnivorous and not fussy about hot curries etc.


I was Acting Superintendent on Halgolle, Yatiyanthota, while Harold Bredee (pronounced Briday) and Audrey were on their six months furlough. Alan Passingham, the company’s Visiting Agent came on his visit to Halgolle, which went on for two days and ended with our visit to Wewelthalawa Division to reach the top of which, one had to negotiate twenty two sharp hairpin bends in about a mile ! Going up hill was easy enough, but the hazard was in driving down, due to the perilous drop of about 900 feet.

Lucky thirteen

When we approached the first hairpin bend on our way down, Alan politely asked me to stop and got off the car to walk down the hair pin bends and to join me at the bottom. I was rather hurt as I fancied myself to be a better than good driver ! On my reassurance, Alan changed his mind and joined me in the car, but sat on the edge of the front seat. We successfully negotiated twelve bends and came to the thirteenth, on a very steep slope when he casually remarked - "Beware No. 13 !".

I smiled, and took my Vauxhall Wyvern to the not very sturdy two foot stone barrier which separated us from the sheer drop to oblivion. I braked, put the hand brakes on, changed into reverse gear, revved the engine to the maximum, released the hand brake and then released the clutch. The car lurched, not back but forward ! And my reflexes were just sharp enough to de-clutch and brake simultaneously, stopping a mere two inches from the weak barrier !

Alan, red, shrieked "Stop" which I had already done. He got off the car, slammed the door, didn’t look at me but walked down beyond the last hairpin bend before rejoining me. No words were spoken till we reached the bungalow and had a cup of welcoming tea.

We both knew that instead of engaging the reverse gear in my new Vauxhall Wyvern, I had accidentally got into first gear !

God’s angels protect the careless good from their heedless actions. I said an extra prayer that night.

Bed tea

Eardley Hermon was the Superintendent of Poronuwa Estate, Kahawatte. Alan Passingham, the VA, (affectionately called Pas), had arrived for his customary visit. Eardley and Sheilagh greeted him and after the preliminary chat and pleasantries over a ‘Sun Downer’, Sheilagh ordered dinner which, for the VA, was always the most delectable and sapid which she could turn out. Having washed it down with a cup of Nescafe on the verandah, it was time for bed. After the usual "Good Night" and "God bless you", Alan went to his room and slept soundly till morning.

As was the standard custom, the Second Servant knocked on the door, on the dot at 6.00 and brought the tray of bed tea which he placed on the bedside table. Alan does not dilly dally. He immediately sat on the edge of his bed and took the pot of boiling hot tea in his hand to pour himself a cup which he held in the other hand. Heaven help ! The handle of the pot was firmly gripped in his hand, but the pot of steaming hot tea fell on his lap ! And to make matters worse, Pas was wearing his favourite silk pyjamas ! His immediate reaction, what he shouted or did, no one knows. He is usually not a shouting man: he whispers.

The scene shifts to Eardley. When Alan did not turn up for breakfast at 7.00, Eardley knocked on the door. Not receiving an answer, he pushed the door open and found no Alan. So he rightly assumed that his guest was in the toilet and courteously gave him ten minutes. Still no Alan ! So he knocked on the toilet door and heard a faint "Come in."

Bright pink mess

On entering, Eardley was stupefied to find Alan in the bath tub, up to his neck in cold water and looking very sheepish. On taking a closer look, Eardley saw a mass of raw, bright pink where the most sensitive parts of Alan’s groin region were.

Rather than attempt to bring out the First Aid Box, Eardley wrapped Alan in a sheet and gingerly took him in his car to the Kahawatte Hospital. The DMO was not unduly surprised by the second degree burns. He did the

needful to relieve Alan’s excruciating pain - bottles of pink Calamine Lotion and soft gauze, an antibiotic jab and a couple of Disprins.

Nobody would have heard this embarrassing episode, but women are notorious for not keeping secrets. Sheilagh was a woman.

Non stick gum

Sheilagh was apologetic. It transpired that the House Boy had accidentally broken the tea pot handle while washing up the previous day and instead of reporting it to the mistress of the house, he had pasted the handle to the pot with office gum. An ineffective repair ! (There was no UHU in those early days). The following morning, the gum had melted with the heat of the tea ! Alan for once, had to cut short his visit. One is left guessing what Alan’s wife Gwen’s reaction was when she beheld the damage !

Adrian Wright

Adrian was the son of Oswin, that well remembered school master at Trinity College, Kandy, and the brother of Raine, Romany and Malcolm Wright the ruggerite. When I saw Adrian I wondered how he, physically handicapped, could ever be a successful planter; Adrian was a polio case and had a severe limp due to a gammy left leg. But I was not reckoning with Adrian’s indomitable spirit of never say die. He was determined to be a planter and ended up well on the way to becoming one, before he was snatched by Aitken Spence as an executive in their Colombo office.

A winner

I soon realized and honoured the fact that Adrian’s sense of determination did not warrant sympathy; on the contrary, he resented it. So when I saw him struggling uphill through the tea, to keep pace with me and sliding down road banks and steep, slippery foot paths on his buttocks, I took no notice; nor did I avoid these hazards for his sake.

Adrian played a champion game of tennis and squash and was a popular ballroom dancer. He was quite a draw with the girls, until Carmen Jackson ‘Tackled’ him in rugby style, the one game he did not play. Although they are domiciled in Australia, they never miss an opportunity to visit their roots.

Gracie was Adrian’s doting mother. Much to his annoyance, she was in the habit of cautioning him in public against falling. A more exasperating habit was her insistence on accompanying Adrian on his social rounds. She was a drag on him though with the best of goodwill and Adrian, in this knowledge, tolerated her.

Adrian and Carmen migrated to Australia as did his brothers Raine and Malcolm and sister Romany. We missed Adrian and Carmen and also Gracie very much.

Other colourful colleagues

Some of the other conspicuous characters of the time, are worth recalling.

Roy Hinton and Betty. One is loquacious and loud; the other quiet spoken and demure. They were enticed to leave the plantations for the glamour of a Colombo job in the estate management agency, Aitken Spence, where, in due course, he reached the top. They loved Ceylon and visit Sri Lanka as often as possible and dine with us when they do.

Jimmy Henry and Shirley. Jimmy married Tiny Creighton’s daughter who was visiting Ceylon and was persuaded to leave this country to work Down Under with the in - laws. I liked Jimmy, a mediocre man.

Brian Trewin was a loner, very quiet spoken, placid, friendly and reliable. When he left Halgolle to join Finlay’s Colombo Office, he lived in his house at Dehiwela with a dubious string of boys to do his work. I liked Brian and called on his mother in Paignton, Devon, in the South of England when we were on our furlough.

W. J. Thompson of the Finlay office in Colombo was the tough guy who did not hesitate to make unpopular decisions and was, therefore, very unpopular with the planters.

Robin McMichen who rose to No. 1 in the Colombo office, was kind and weak, using his sidekicks - Maclaine and Hector de Witt, who generally called the shots and took undue advantage of their positions of trust.

Berry Cocking of Rambukkanda, Ratnapura, was highly eloquent and absolutely fearless of consequences. He expressed his views from the bar at the end of the hall where the Planters’ Association Meetings were held and hotly contested any ambiguous statements made by even the Chairman.

Tom White of Alupola, Ratnapura, was not very popular with the planting fraternity, but his wife is said to have had a soft corner for Jimmy Findlay, referred to elsewhere.

Derek Cowling of Poronuwa, Kahawatte, later moved to Mahawale, Ratnapura. He was rather insignificant.

Ricky Peel was Factory Superintendent of Alupola before I replaced him. He was a financial wiz kid who eternally dabbled in the share market. He later moved up country to Ragala Estate. His wife was reputed to be a good shot.

Harold Bredee and Audry of halgolle, Yatiyanthota, lived quietly with occasional visits to the Talduwa Club. She was an attractive woman and an artist and also dexterous with her hands. Her model of a wooden catamaran with a cloth sail, as a table lamp shade, was the winner at an exhibition in Colombo.
8  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Tea Planters / Ceylon Planters Society turns 72 by Steve A. Morrell on: December 28, 2009, 02:34:31 PM
Source http://www.island.lk/2008/09/19/features4.html

By Steve A. Morrell
The Island 19th September, 2008

The Ceylon Planters’ Society (CPS) turns 72 this year. By any yard stick an achievement of tenacious survival amidst the various vicissitudes faced by Planters.

Some have scoffed at its traditional approach to advances in technology, but it can not be gainsaid that the contribution of the Planting community has had many salutary benefits vis a vis the country.

More so now than ever before. Tea Rubber and Coconut were prestigious industries and the Country depended on these crops for survival. More importantly the Planters delivered.

The CPS in this day and age continues to serve the Plantation Industry and the challenges it has to face are that much more complex and multi-dimensional said Secretary Ceylon Planters Society, Nelson Wijewardena. He is the first Planter appointed to this prestigious position, not merely because he was a Planter of repute, but one with academic qualifications to suit that position. He holds a Bachelors degree in Law, and an Executive Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Colombo.

The CPS is in good hands.

There are perhaps a confusing collection of acronyms representing various organizations within the plantation industry which to an outsider might sound somewhat odd. The PA, or the Planters Association of Ceylon, set up in 1854, presently over sees the industry in its holistic context. The Ceylon Planters’ Society is the trade union of the planters. The CPS was set up in 1936, its first Chairman , D.E.Hamilton, through the aegis of the ‘Times of Ceylon’, at that time was instrumental in ensuring that the Society saw the light of day.

It had to be planned in secret, because those who owned Estates were resident in the Island, and Planters then were paid servants, as much as they are now. One difference though, was that they had a merciless hire and fire scheme. That was the unsavory part of their job, and a union, they felt was, a necessity. Naturally Planters then did not quite say they had a union - it was a dirty word. It is still a dirty word.

The CPS, had a checquered history. There were good time and bad. Planters were essentially independent thinkers and doers.

The Rodney de Mel years were tumultuous. He took over reigns 1971, and continued to hold office through 1973. Ranjan Wijeratne had already relinquished the chair. Roger Sommerville succeeded him, and meanwhile an incessant battle was brewing between the CPS and the Agency Section of the Planters’ Association.

Roger Sommerville given enormity of his physical presence could not quite contain the Colombo Agents, and invariably Planters, and more specifically the CPS came out second best. On that side were men of stature; Trevor Moy, of George Steuarts, Coomaraswamy of Whittall Bousteads, Harrison and Crossfields had Susantha Perera and George Topan,( Names that come to mind as this is written, there were many more) all veritable big whigs in the industry collectively called Colombo Agents. After the Roger Sommerville years M.H.K.Jagathsena was voted in. Jagath was the youngest Chairman the CPS ever had. He was more a pacifier and through quiet diplomacy was able to contain quite some vitriolic controversies and steered the CPS to a relative period of peace.

However when Rodney de Mel took over simmering controversies compounded and invariable battle lines were drawn. Both side flexed their muscles, and series of sniping resulted.

Backed by Ex Co he led the unthinkable. The CPS walked out of the PA Agency Section meeting, and literally in formed the Agents that unless they endeavored sincerely to address grievances Planters could not be pushed around by any body. Naturally Colombo Agents being Colombo Agents were not prepared to give in. They thought if the mighty Thondaman could be contained, handful Planters were a-piece-of-cake.

It eventually took benign intervention of Ranjan Wijeratne, who by then had moved down to Colombo to fill a Director’s, Chair in Whittalls, to re-establish communication between the planters and Colombo.

Naturally Planters rights were won. That too without adherence to strikes or violence. And no rallies.

Rallies did come, when Aubrey Gordon-Tissera led the famous rally of the CPS on Galle face green. Manthy Delwita too was in Ex Co at that time. More of that in a future airing of the CPS as we knew it.

Given the glamour of the job it was no real problem to attract good men and true to take the profession forward. But now sadly this does not happen.

Planting is as attractive now as then. But young people shun plantation life, and more so if they get a job as a planter, their talents are not retained.

Who ever is responsible rather than point fingers, there has to be some unified thinking. May be the CPS could indemnify the process?
9  NEWS FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB (GOOGLE ALERTS) / Tea Planters / John Boyd-Moss - a legend of Uva rugby by Ken de Joodt on: December 28, 2009, 02:18:42 PM

Sporting personalities with Ken de Joodt
Ceylon Daily News 20th May, 2006

RUGBY: If there was a man who could mingle with prince and pauper, be humble and humourous, yet hold his dignity and stature high, this would simply be John Boyd-Moss.

He could titillate and tickle the memories of former tea planters and ruggerites of the 'fighting fifties', to reminisce about 'those good old days' on the 'thottams' (tea estates), in far away places, be it in the Namunukula Range, the Knuckles Range, or the Maskeliya mountains. Void of moss, John Boyd-Moss was no 'rolling stone that gathered moss' - he was as solid as a good rock!

John, was born in Colombo in 1935 and had two brothers Mike and Tony, who were also tea planters in the Scottish Tea and Lands Estate Companies. John's noble father, C. E. D. Boyd-Moss, was in charge of Poonagalla Estate, Bandarawela, one of the largest tea estates during that era. John was seen as an amiable Englishman, who left the shores of Sri Lanka in 1972, with his wife Anna (nee Ross) and their two children, daughter Sara and son Graeme.

Having given his best in knowledge and experience to the tea trade of Sri Lanka, he is presently handling his own tea packing company in Kenya, East Africa.

To welcome John on his visit to Sri Lanka, we gathered to celebrate at the CH & FC Club, with a sumptuous lunch hosted by Sarath de Zoysa. As it usually happens, old Yarns were swapped and some interesting, amusing anecdotes of the past rugby scenes and planting days were related.

Some agreed, those were overwhelming days with many blessings, (for some of us, it was truly God's divine protection and provision!), when there were no mobile phones, no television, no computers or securities for emergencies - or to travel in plush estate vehicles, nor modern facilities or luxury equipment to play hard rugby!... it was plain-tea and glucose-powder instead of 'energy-boosters' and rough mo-bikes to travel 30 to 40 miles from estate bungalows to the playing fields... an era 'when the going got tough, the tough got going'!

In my brief period of tea-planting in the sixties, I had the great pleasure of first playing rugger for Kandy and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1959, against John Boyd-Moss. Then playing with him in 1964 for Uva, along with many others, who banded together to call themselves 'The Merry Men of Uva'.

Be it an evening rugger match or a day's cricket game, the opportunity was taken to make it a joyful occasion for planters, their wives and children to 'go to town' when they come down to Badulla, from distant hills and to 'have a ball', both on the field and off in the club, with 'city-friends', families, amidst much mirth and merriment... just clean, good fund and leisure... (and some bachelors solemnly attended church on a Sunday to make their 'confessions' and ask more favour from God!).

To me, John Boyd-Moss is a legend, in terms of his prolific planting career from 1955 to 1972 and then his 'jolly' and persevering rugby years from 1956 to 1967, captaining Uva in 1965.

John considers 1964 as a memorable year of Uva Rugby, when a vibrant Vivian Blaze captained a smashing side that won the up-country championship and was unbeaten until they played against CR & FC, in the sweltering heat of Colombo, at Longden Place, in the semi-finals of the prestigious Clifford Cup tournament.

Sarath de Zoysa, a former rugby vice-captain of St. Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia and Uva captain of 1967, (had the rare distinction of playing with his son Gihan, for Uva in 1983) and has been involved with Uva rugby for many years, confirmed the '64 Uva team had some of the finest players in the country.

A nod of the head from Sarath's pretty wife, Mariffa, was ample assurance of her enthusiastic joy and knowledge of the game of rugby, that covers over four decades gone by. "Behind a successful man is a dedicated wife" is perhaps what Sarath could say!

Indeed, the 1964 team was heavy and fast, comprising flashy flankers Franklin Jacob and David Witham, mercurial hooker Mike de Alwis, between the two props 'jolly' John Boyd-Moss and Duncan Scobie.

Then two burly second rowers Graeme Hamer, (with 280 pounds in weight - he could push the entire scrum, if need be!) and an exemplary captain Vivian Blaze (who stopped consuming hard liquor during the season, to be fit), while the 'No. 8' was a battle between David Thompson, Tony Perera, Dickie Hermon and Malcolm Dias.

In the back division, there was the halves combination of two former Sri Lankan players, a superb scrum-half S. B. Pilapitiya, who could wriggle through the smallest gap to score off a five-metre scrum, combining effectively with fly-half Ken de Joodt, who helped the team to more points through many drop-goals.

Chris Lushington from England and Nihal de Zoysa (Sarath's younger brother) as two piercing centres, with Brian Money-penny, Shelton Perera and R. Tissera, fighting it out on the wings. In Dr. Trevor Anghie at full-back, Uva had a superb place-kicker along with Ken de Joodt who also took the penalty kicks and conversions.

As a fantastic utility player, Geoff Garnier, could play as a scrum-half, fly-half, centre or full-back. Sarath de Zoysa and Ronnie Munaweera, played in the back division, in a few matches, but were unfortunate to be hampered by physical injuries, during this season.

I believe, it was nostalgic and so pleasing to John, to meet up with many others who had played along with him, among them been Jayantha Jayawardena, a former Uva Planter ('73 to '79) and now Advisor on wildlife and elephants to the ADB, who captained Trinity in 1961 and Dimbula in '73.Peter Amerasinghe, CEO of Ceyquartz, who founded the 'Pink Elephants' around 1970, as a rugby team of former Sri Lankan players.

Peter played for Dimbula, when planting in the district from 1963 to '75. Vernon Tissera (elder brother of Michael Tissera), has perhaps one of the longest planting career records, extending over 45 years and now runs the 'Hideaway Guest House' in Pottuvil.

Jayantha Samarasekera, captained Royal College in 1961, winning the Bradby, later played for Uva and is now the GM of Horana Plantations. Brian Munaweera was planting in Uva, Dickoya and Dimbula, from '65 to '82, playing for Uva and Dim-Dicks. He is presently the GM at C. V. Bhatt & Co.

Some of the other planters and rugby 'greats' who were present were, Gamini Weerasinghe (Trinity 'Lion', Uva, Sri Lanka, Dim-Dicks, etc), Lionel Almeida (ex-President SLRFU, Royal captain, CR & FC, Sri Lanka, etc, etc), M. U. Odayar (Trinity, Uva, Sri Lanka) and Geoff Garnier (Kandy, Uva, Sri Lanka).

It was truly an exceptional experience to meet with a legend of Uva rugby and a classic, true tea planter.

Click on image to enlarge (From left): Nihal de Zoysa, Ken de Joodt, Peter Amerasinghe, M. U. Odayar, Vernon Tissera, Gamini Weerasinghe, Brian Munaweera, John Boyd-Moss, Sarath de Zoysa, Jayantha Jayawardena, Jayantha Samarasakera, Lionel Almeida and Geoff Garnier.
10  GENERAL / Reminiscing / Message from Hessel IJskes on: December 26, 2009, 12:07:07 PM
I was delighted to receive an email recently from Hessel IJskes of the Netherlands who has had a long and happy association with Ceylon Tea. While a regular visitor to HOCT, Hessel has quite a lot of material himself which he is happy to share with us and for which HOCT is most grateful. The material will be progressively uploaded and they include numerous photos that Hessel himself took in 1977/78 when he trained in Sri Lanka.


Message from Hessel IJskes reproduced with his kind permission

I am a regular visitor of the History of Ceylon Tea website. Coming from a tea packing and coffee roasting family, I made my entrance in the tea trade in 1974. After having finalized my studies, came to Sri Lanka during 1977 and 1978 where Ranjit Sri Nissanka (Bosanquet) supervised my training and put me in contact with the top-planters of those days. Among which Jim Amarasinghe (Alton), Ralph de Run (Laxapana), Wick de Alwis (Kotiyagalla), Ralston Tissera (Waltrim), Yasa Ratnayake (St. Leonards), Eric Labrooy (Kirklees), Franklin Jacob (Cannavarella), Tissa Bandaranaike (Ury), Malcolm Dias (Uva Highlands) and Mike de Alwis (Kahagalla). Also Charlie Ramanaden at Kirkoswald, Leslie Abeysekera, then at Blinkbonnie, and Lalith Paranavitana (Uda Radella) were close contacts at the time. Afterwards I visited Ceylon many times on a commercial basis and each time made an up-country comeback. There is hardly a High Grown area I did not visit at some point, always with the camera at hand.

The early Corporation days proved to be exciting, to say the least. I stayed at Waltrim at the time of the Liddesdale incident, the landreform-issue and the planter’s march on Galleface Green.

With Ralston Tissera I became good friends and the same can be said of Jim Amarasinghe. On the plantations I have always found a ready welcome.

As a brand marketeer and consultant I enter my 36th season, being a director of NTM (Nederlandsche Thee Maatschappij bv) since 1979.

I am confident that the photographs made at the time are interesting for publication on the History of Ceylon Tea website. I shall upload these on a regular basis.

With best regards,

Hessel IJskes, Joure/Netherlands

11  GENERAL / Reminiscing / Re: Richard Wynell-Mayow on: December 22, 2009, 12:16:25 PM
This message was submitted through an incorrect channel and so I am manually posting it below:

"I was greatly moved to read the tributes to Richard Wynell-Mayow with whom I had the joy and privilege to work with during our emplyment as Consultants to P. T. Perkebunan in Indonesia during the period 1972 to 1974. Richard was the Agricultural Advisor to 10 Estates and I was employed as the Tea Manufacturing Advisor. I never knew Richard in Ceylon but we worked very closely during our service in Indonesia. He was certainly a man with a vast knowledge in all aspects of Tea, be it agriculture or manufacture and a great loss to Sri Lanka when he left the industry. More importantly, he was a compassionate human being and a dear friend. We spent many a time enjoying each others company and continued to visit each other both at Oxford and Melbourne until his death a few years ago. My wife and I were happy to catch up with Richard's wife Eileen when we called on her during our recent visit to the UK in August this year.
Fred Kreltszheim"
12  GENERAL / Reminiscing / Re: Richard Wynell-Mayow on: December 22, 2009, 12:12:45 PM
This message was submitted through an incorrect channel and so I am manually posting it below (note - no sender's name was mentioned but I would presume it is from either Terry Mills or Tony Perera):

"This is in response to Mark Gordon's remarks regarding his Great Uncle, Richard Wynell-Mayow. I'm sorry but I do not have any photographs of Mr Mayow. There are a few in the Photographs section here in HOTC."
13  GENERAL / History of Ceylon Tea website / Re: Queenswood Estate and Jack Saffery on: November 17, 2008, 09:59:57 AM
Hi Serena,

Lovely to hear from you particularly on this subject. I have just checked with a friend who is a Sansoni and he told me that Robert and Waldine had a daughter, Evelyn who lives in England.

Yes, I would be most grateful for any other information that you can give me on the family (and any photos too!). I'm sure Joan Cross, who we are indebted to for the trouble she took to send me the photos from Perth, will be interested to see someone comment on the images and some of the people featured in it.

Thanks again,

14  GENERAL / History of Ceylon Tea website / Re: Alluring Srilanka on: August 21, 2008, 09:20:19 AM
Hi Graham,

Thank you. Yes I am aware of Stefan's book and I'm in touch with him. I will be informing him that in return for the free publicity we are giving him on this site (given that it is unrelated subject matter!!), that he better take some plantation related images on his next visit and send them to us for inclusion in our photo album!

Thanks again Graham!

Kind regards

15  WEBSITE & FORUM TUTORIALS / Forum Message Board / Options for viewing messages on: August 10, 2008, 01:22:27 PM
Viewing messages easily...

Option 1) The bottom half of the Homepage contains a section header -  History of Ceylon Tea Community - Info Center. Immediately below this header are the last 10 messages posted detailing the section, the subject name, posted by and the date posted. Clicking on any of these 10 will take you to the respective message.

Option 2) Below the last 10 messages section is another section entitled Forum Stats, at the bottom of which you see the words [More Stats]. Clicking on [More Stats] will give you a plethora of viewing options including the Top Ten Topics Viewed and the Top Ten Topics Replied.

Option 3) For Registered users, when you log in the following message appears towards the top of the Forum:

Hello Joe Blogs
you have 0 messages, 0 are new. Show unread posts since last visit.Show new replies to your posts.

Clicking on Show unread posts since last visit will do just that, as will Show new replies to your posts.

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