Scots in Planting and in Ceylon

Tom J Barron: Scots and the Coffee Industry in Nineteenth Century Ceylon” in Tom Devine and Angela McCarthy (eds)

The Scottish Experience in Asia, c.1700 to the Present ……………………..pp 163-185

Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Chapter First Online: 23 November 2016

Abstract   This chapter examines the role of Scots in the coffee enterprise in Ceylon in the nineteenth century. It finds origins for the Scottish contribution in fields where Scots were established: West Indian planting, engineering, the colonial civil service, the army, business and mercantile activity and banking as well as agriculture. Family ties and chain migration are seen as elements in the recruitment of Scots for employment in Ceylon along with targeted campaigns and press appeals. How and why the social basis of migration changed in the late nineteenth century is outlined along with the difficulties which arise in estimating how large was the Scots presence. The chapter ends by indicating that their experiences in Ceylon offered Scots the means to seek further employment opportunities elsewhere.

Keywords = Scots – Ceylon – Planters – Migration

Copyright information © The Author(s) 2017

Cite this chapter as: Barron T.J. (2017) Scots and the Coffee Industry in Nineteenth Century Ceylon. In: Devine T., McCarthy A. (eds) The Scottish Experience in Asia, c.1700 to the Present. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Angela McCarthy: ‘”Ceylon: A Scottish Colony?

First Online: 23 November 2016

Abstract:  This chapter critically examines the evidence for the depiction of Ceylon as a ‘Scotch colony’ and suggests why this characterisation was propagated. Three specific issues are addressed: the Scottish presence in Ceylon; the success and influence of Scots in Ceylon’s planting enterprise; and the Scottish sense of ethnicity. It moves beyond a focus on coffee to also incorporate the role of Scots in Ceylon’s tea economy with a brief case study of James Taylor, the ‘father of Ceylon tea’. The overall analysis is situated within debates about Britishness, the diverse ethnicities of the four nations, and issues relating to ethnocentrism and exceptionalism.

Keywords = Scots in Ceylon Tea Estate names James Taylor Coffee Ethnicity Ethnocentrism

I am grateful to Tom Devine and Tom Barron for their comments on an earlier version of this chapter, and to the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the University of Otago for funding towards research on the Scots in Sri Lanka.

Copyright information © The Author(s) 2017

About this chapter

Cite this chapter as:

McCarthy A. (2017) Ceylon: A Scottish Colony?. In: Devine T., McCarthy A. (eds) The Scottish Experience in Asia, c.1700 to the Present. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham




Filed under British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, cultural transmission, economic processes, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, island economy, land policies, landscape wondrous, life stories, modernity & modernization, politIcal discourse, power politics, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, travelogue, unusual people

5 responses to “Scots in Planting and in Ceylon

  1. The topic and the introduction of the book is pretty intriguing, I wish I get a chance to read.

    Speaking of Tea I had the opportunity to visit Loolkandura plantation which first tea bushes were planted by pioneer James Taylor. There I met an elderly gentleman who claimed to have worked most of his life in the tea factory. He was full of merry/sad stories of yester era and revealed there are descendants of James Taylor still living in the plantation although he never got married.

    Not sure about the accuracy of the story, but it sure was a very interesting one.

  2. It is widely known that some of the planters in the coffee and tea days had local Tamil and Sinhala mistresses. Richard Simon has indicated that James Taylor also had Tamil and Sinhala mistresses (and I believe Tom Barron’s work supports this information). Richard Simon reacted thus to Kandá’s NOTE: “”This is cool — and of course there were descendants! JT’s native mistress followed his coffin all the way down to Kandy, wailing” …. I believe this was his Sinhala mistress.
    Be that as it may: What a poignant epitaph!! …….Michael Roberts

    • ADDENDUM — on checking the typed Mss from Tom Barron in my possession [a recent find!!] I repeat the relevant note: Taylor “knew some Sinhalese and Tamil. Loved the scenery with a Wordsworthian passion, and lived with a Tamil girl for a time, and latterly kept a Sinhalese house-keeper to whom he left his life’s savings (these were not very large).

  3. An ETHNOGRAPHIC COMMENT FROM GERALD PEIRIS: Not merely interesting, Michael, but quite plausible. I have come across a few racial blends of absolutely exquisite beauty living in hovels in village settings further higher in the Highlands (on one memorable occasion, in the well known Lamasuriyagama named after that Frenchman who served here as an administrator whom you know about) to indicate that the British, bureaucrats and planters, scattered their seed quite liberally while carrying the White Man’s Burden.

  4. AN ADDENDUM: It is perhaps significant that ALL the comments, including that of the editor, are from males. Perhaps some enlightened women, whether indigenous or foreign, can take up cudgels on behalf of their gender.

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