The Calistorites Association of Moratuwa and the Sellaperumage Fernando Lineage

I P C Mendis, in Daily News, Archives from 2004, where the title is “Calistorites Association – over the waves to the 70s”

The Moratuwa-based Calistorites Association completes the biblical three score years and ten this year and will celebrate the occasion with a dinner-dance on 27th March 2004 at the stadium in Moratuwa. The Association comprises the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. S. Calistoru Fernando of Moratuwa fame, those who have joined the family through wedlock and the progeny.

on the way to the hills in the 19th century

The Association had its beginnings with a carol service in 1934, and had its get-togethers for quite some time in the environs of ancestral property at Dharmaratne Avenue, Moratuwa. The family has now reached its 6th generation. The ancestral couple had 3 sons and 5 daughters (Mary, Alice, Grace, Sally and Jocelyn).

The membership now is near 600 and the annual get-together affords an opportunity for one and all in the extended family to meet, renew family ties and enjoy. As it celebrates its 70th anniversary, the Association remembers with nostalgia and gratitude the initial efforts at consolidation by Shelton C. Fernando, his versatile wife Edna, Didymus Fernando and Walter F. Keerthisinghe.

The Calistorites Association moves on with added vigour, and has served as a fillip for other similar family groupings elsewhere. Calistorites pride themselves immensely in their family members who had over the years distinguished themselves in the public and private sectors and made their contributions to society and country, brought fame and generally shone in positions of standing.

Peter C. Fernando and P. A. Fernando, both sons of Calistoru, were deeply involved in local government politics and social work. The former dedicated himself also to religious work. He and his wife (Annie) are both buried in the solitary grave in the precincts of St. Matthias’ Church, Laxapathiya, as a singular honour for their dedicated service. Muhandiram P. C. J. Fernando Keerthisinghe, the youngest son, held a high post in the Government Veterinary Department.

With apologies to the numerous family members who have distinguished themselves for the inability to include all of them of six generations due to lack of space, special mention is made of Shelton C. Fernando and C. B. P. Perera, who ended up as Permanent Secretaries, Sam P. C. Fernando as Minister of Justice and later Ambassador to Cairo with concurrent accreditation to certain Middle East countries, Tyronne Fernando PC, Minister of Foreign Affairs, several doctors, some of whom became much-sought after specialists – Drs. Dayasiri Fernando, Lalith Perera and his wife Selvi, and Sunetha Fernando, Bishop Emeritus Kenneth Fernando, Archdeacon Chrisantha Mendis, Prienni Ranatunge the first woman veterinarian and later nutritionist, Sicille Kotelawela, company director and Hony.

Consul for Cyprus and Trade Commissioner for Belgium with husband Lalith, heading the conglomerate Ceylinco Consolidated, seven pilots two of whom are long-standing commercial airline pilots of repute, namely, Shira and GAF, the present Mayor of Moratuwa, Ravinath Gunesekera, Mahes Wickremesinghe, till recently Senior Vice-President of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and now Snr. Vice-President of Bell Canada.

Priests, including Rev. Celestine Fernando who was synonymous with the Ceylon Bible Society, University Professors, lecturers and many others who have distinguished themselves in their positions as professionals, directors, commissioners, chairmen (which included Leslie Fonseka of National Livestock Development Board), Harshana Perera as Sub-Warden, St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, teachers, managers, musicians, broadcasters with veteran Nihal Bhareti outstanding, and in other capacities serving God, society and country.

Most of them in this great family were and are ardent church workers and held office in parishes and the Anglican Diocese. Irene Mendis who was organist at St. Matthias’ Church, Laxapathiya, for 62 years was a household name in Laxapathiya.

The family is not without its wit and humour as was evidenced by the pluckiness of Dr. Riley Fernando, who planted the famous obituary of D. E. M. Ocracy in the Daily News at the time of the Press Bill.

Due to sheer disinterest for publicity and sense of modesty, the fame of the ancestral Sellapperumage family from Moratuwa has gone mostly unsung. The de Soysa family hailing from Moratuwa, particularly that of the late C. H. de Soysa, famous for his wealth and unparalleled philanthropy, is still being remembered with honour and gratitude.

What has not had publicity and much fanfare was the mark made by another family from Moratuwa, which venturing far out from home-town Moratuwa, had outshone all other businessmen of the period throughout the Kandyan provinces and had spread subsequently to other parts of the country with the development of access roads.

The Moratuwa enterprise of this family belonged to the Sellapperumage clan of Moratuwa which had established themselves long before the advent of the de Soysa clan. PortSuese and Dutch tomboos over three centuries show them as considerable owners of land. Also, entries over two and a half centuries ago refer to the clan as ship chandlers and other businessmen of consequence under contract to the Dutch government. (Govt. Archives)

S. C. Fernando & Bros was founded by S. Christombu Fernando, the eldest son of Sellapperumage Gabriel Fernando, who lived in Laxapathiya, Moratuwa, at the turn of the 18th century. The two elder sons were both S. C. Fernando distinguishable by their Christian names, Christombu and Calistoru, (Calistorites Association comprise the descendants of the latter). Their wealth and social standing was second only to the C. H. de Soysa family.

The company was from all accounts, the foremost Ceylonese concern in the Kandyan provinces (if not the whole country) from about 1870 to 1885. The Fergusons Directory of 1876 which contained an advertisement of S. C. Fernando & Bros. was the boldest for any Ceylonese enterprise at the time where no other Ceylonese business was given prominence in this exclusive publication.

S.C. Fernando Bros

The business extended to imports including foreign liquor. 134 years ago, the Fernando brothers adventured into the hill capital of Kandy when horse coaches were the quickest mode of transport for passengers and bullock carts for goods.

The route to Kandy was via Ruwanwella and travel was an adventure by itself. The main crop in that era was coffee till it was replaced with tea much later. To start with, the business of the Fernando brothers was as a Forwarding Agency which was later transformed into a company.

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