From Galle Across Oceans: The Talented Joseph Family

An Introductory Note from Michael Roberts, 30 September 2020

This ramified tale begins with the wedding photograph sent to me my old playmate Adrienne Ranasinghe nee Conderlag displaying the elegant couple and entourage in front of the All Saints Church in the fort of Galle. This spark has set Joe Simpson, a Galle lover who taught at Richmond College for a while and is back in Canada now, off-and-running. He saw that the best man at the wedding was Louis Joseph and sent me an old article he had composed on the Joseph family. This essay is now adorning the Thuppahi web site as well.

NOH as Amangalla

Via a detailed history of several members of the Joseph clan, his unravelling of their history takes us across continents to Britain, Canada and Australia. It embraces the Jansens of Ceylon and Australia as well as significant moments in the history of the Dutch Burgher Union. Joe notes that the Joseph clan were excellent cricketers associated with the Colts CC as well as Ceylon teams. I am certain that there will be more Joseph fare available when I reach Adelaide and can access SP Foenander’s rare book on Ceylon cricket. Vive le Joseph …. Allez, Allez!

EMAIL MEMO from Joe Simpson to Michael Roberts, 29 September 2020:

Hi Michael,  I’d nearly forgotten that I wrote this piece/see link below — quite a few years ago, and can’t recall if I ever forwarded it to you. It was the result of a chance conversation I had in the very early 2000s with a local resident here on Vancouver Island, a pink-faced Scot by birth by the name of Hugh Lawrence, who asked me about the photo of Galle Fort from the air on my office computer screen, an image scanned from a 1980s postcard.

When I told Hugh what it was, he said that he believed his late grandfather (died later 1950s) had lived in Sri Lanka/Ceylon in his youth, in the later 1800s, but had either moved or returned to live most of his life in Scotland, where he’d married a local lass, and established a clothing retail business after giving up his university medical studies. The grandfather’s name was Joseph Lawrence, but there was a family story that he had changed it around in his early business career from Lawrence Joseph, possibly to avoid latent anti-Semitism at the time due to his Jewish-sounding birth surname.

Long story short — after some digging around, and with the help of Burgher genealogy enthusiast Kyle Joustra in Australia, we established the connection with the Ceylon Burgher Josephs. I put Hugh in contact with his cousin (several times removed) Shelagh Gunawardena Down Under, and in due course Hugh, his Scots wife Fiona, his brother and sister-in-law took a retirement world trip, visiting Shelagh and then heading off to Sri Lanka, where among other experiences he visited the Dutch Church in Colombo where a relative had been minister at one time. When I met Hugh’s brother, also living in BC for many years after leaving Scotland, from his tanned complexion the Burgher background was far more evident than with Hugh.

Serendipity indeed. Thanks for the Galle 1932 wedding photo & article, it brought the Josephs back to my mind.

Best wishes, Joe …………………………………………………

   three snaps from Joe Simpson

Joe at work


Joe Simpson 2020 The Joseph Family of British Ceylon. Service to Mankind across the Oceans,” 30 September 2020,

Joe Simpson 2018 “Appreciating Galle in Its Quietness and Pastness,” 18 May 2018,

Joe Simpson 2020 “Adieu Galle Fort’s Burghers. A Swansong in the Late 1980s, 3 July 2020,

Tamarind Living 2016 “A Colonial Luxury Living at Amangalla Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.” 12 May 2016,

[Shiranga Jayasekera] 2020 “Galle Fort: Demography, 2018,” 5 August 2020, …………………..

Smrti Daniel 2020 Amplifying Antiquity within the Galle Fort with Imaginative Restoration,” 17 July 2020,

[Michael Roberts] 2020 “Norah Roberts: A Letter from Her Past, April 1995,” 16 August 2020,

Thuppahi 2020 “The Conderlag Wedding in Galle 1932,” 29 September 2020,

[Anon] 2017  “The Burgher Tennis Club in Galle circa 1928,”

You Tube : “Galle Fort: A Historical Living City,”

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One response to “From Galle Across Oceans: The Talented Joseph Family

  1. Really appreciate all the history behind the Burgher families of Ceylon. (Sri Lanka)

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