Neville Weereratne passes Away after a Full Life

Vale in The Island, 7 January 2018

Neville Weereratne could be considered as a polymath; a person of wide knowledge or learning which included among other things literature, music, art and writing. It is in painting though that he is most known and revered.

Neville married Sybil Keyt on 6 June 1959.

  photo 2 by Dominic Sansoni

Neville was a member of the ‘43 Group, having been introduced to it by his teacher, Richard Gabriel and encouraged by Ivan Peries. He exhibited with the Group at the first European show in London in 1952, and was included regularly in its exhibitions in Sri Lanka.

He worked as a journalist in many capacities. He started as an illustrator for the Sinhala language weekly newspaper, The Silumina, (1954), then worked on the Daily News as a cartoonist briefly before being drawn into the mainstream of newspaper production as a subeditor in 1955. He was called upon later to be responsible for the production of the Sunday Observer in 1957.

It was as a journalist that he came to be appointed to the Ceylon Tourist Board (1967) to produce literature for the newly developing trade in tourism.

Neville and Sybil migrated to Australia with their four children in October 1971. He worked as a journalist and at times a public relations manager in Melbourne and was eventually appointed editor of The Advocate, the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1982.

After retiring in1989 he returned to his first love of painting and began exhibiting regularly with is wife, Sybil, in Melbourne and Colombo. He was also the author of several books on painting. The first was The ‘43 Group: a Chronicle of Fifty Years in the Art of Sri Lanka(1993), The Art of Richard Gabriel (1999); Visions of an Island; Rare Works from Sri Lanka in the Christopher Ondaatje Collection (1999); George Beven: A Life in Art (2004); and The Sculpture of TissaRanasinghe (2013). He also edited A Select Catalogue of the Sapumal Foundation Collection (2009); and The Memoirs of Bevis Bawa (2011).

Among his other undertakings were his radio plays and the sets and costumes he designed for numerous theatrical productions in Sri Lanka and here in Melbourne.

He is survived by his wife Sybil and his four children and their extended families.


ADDENDUM. A Note From Rohan De Soysa, 8 January 2018

Dear All,  We were sad to hear that Neville Weereratne had passed away in Melbourne a few days ago. He was 90 years old. If not for his indefatigable efforts and the many books he wrote on the works of the `43 Group, much valuable information would have gone unrecorded. 

We are very happy that he found the time to visit the Sapumal Foundation during his last visit to Sri Lanka in June 2017. He came with his wife, son and grandson to visit us and a photo of them is attached.


Rohan de Soysa

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