The Nomenclature and Lineaments of White-Brown Cohabitation in British Ceylon: A Puzzle

MEMO from Michael Roberts, October 16 October 2021

Moving from BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI to the Greet and Paynter lineages in British Ceylon-and-thereafter has raised a query in my mind: how is it that the category “ANGLO-Ceylonese” did not take root in Ceylon and Lanka in contrast with British India where the label “Anglo-Indian” became well-entrenched[1] and therefore was carried over to the era after India secured Independence in 1947? As we know,[2] Revd Arthur Paynter was an Anglo-Indian missionary who established the Paynter Homes in the Himalayan region of India and then set up the Paynter Home in Nuwara Eliya. He had also married a fellow-missionary in the Salvation Army who was pursuing her commitment in India, one Miss Weerasooria from Dodanduwa … and together sired a talented lineage.

Photograph on display at the Paynter Home of the Paynter family. David Paynter stands at the centre, behind his mother Agnes

The short and definitive answer to my question is, of course, THIS: in the island of Ceylon the label “Eurasian” serviced this requirement and became a formidable part of the British colonial government’s census undertakings in Ceylon from 1881.

However, it would have been feasible for both labels to co-exist and I am pursuing this inquiry – beginning with a re-reading of the book People Inbetween (1989) which I put together with Percy Colin-Thome and Ismeth Raheem. This re-reading and my investigation of the KEY QUESTION is still work in progress …. And here, today, I am sounding out thoughts from aficianados. Towards this end I attach (A) a Memo on the Paynter lineage from David Sansoni in Sydney; (B) a note from Myrna Setunga in Colombo.

Let me tweak your interest by noting that the first census of 1871 was not standardized and therefore is an interesting social document which reveals a wide range of self-descriptions — seen in the listing provided in People Inbetween as Table 21 on pp 202-03, a Table that is entitled “List of ‘Nationalities’ in the 1871 Census.”

I am in the process of placing this list in Thuppahi and presenting some thoughts soon ….. but encourage you to chip in with info and thoughts whenever you wish to.


I am also in the fortunate position of receiving email responses from friends which together contain a wide variety of sidelights on the cross-fertilization of genes and names in British Ceylon and beyond 1948 into the era of independence. In culinary metaphor, the flavours generated in the exchanges below are as tasty as rich. The ‘richness’ lies in the exploratory and explanatory potential.

******      ********

Richard Simon, 16 October 2021

Interesting to track the published appearances of ‘Anglo-Indian’ over time (note the trough centreing on 1947 — what does THAT signify? …  ……………………

…and compare it with the published appearances of ‘Eurasian’ over the same period (1800-2019).

Maybe the fact that about half the British in Ceylon were Scots had something to do with it. ‘Hiberno-Ceylonese’ is a bit of a mouthful…

PS: Speaking as a reader and writer of English, I associate the term ‘Eurasian’, meaning a person or thing of mixed Asian and European provenance, with Southeast Asia. In India and Ceylon, ‘Eurasians’ as distinct from Anglo-Indians are pretty thinly distributed.


Stephen Labrooy, 16 October 2021

In actual fact, judging by my own experience at the DBU, there are quite a few people with English/ British surnames — whose Births were at the time, registered as Burghers, and who, quite rightly in my opinion consider themselves Burghers and are, to all intents and purposes are Burghers.

If one gives further thought to it, Sir Richard Ottleys definition of Burghers with European descent in the male line, and one also considers the fact that geographically at least, that Britain is considered part of the Continent of Europe (Brexiteers notwithstanding), then I believe they are quite correct in their nomenclature.!

Having said that I am very sure Ottley did not intend that consequence.  For a start, there were very few Eurasians around in his time. And secondly, at that time, Britons with their Empire etc, would have been loath to consider themselves European-apart from the Geographical consideration.

At the end of the day whether our ancestors were Portuguese, Dutch (which in reality meant the whole of Protestant Europe), or British I believe we are intrinsically the same -a mix of South Asian and Western European.

Cheers,   Stephen


Mevan Pieris, aka HSM Pieris, 16 October 2021

Dear Michael, Richard and Stephen,

You guys are older than me and are men of wisdom.  I enjoyed reading what you have written.

Michael may be interested to know that the first nominated Sinhalese member in the Legislative Council was Godfried Panditaratne, who was nominated in 1835, after having been asked to resign his 3rd Maha Mudaliyarship. He was the son of Abraham Panditaratne who had married Gertruda Adamsz, a Burgher lady. I am not aware who her father was. If someone can tell me, I would be very grateful. By this marriage Dutch blood entered the family lines of several Sinhalese Mudaliyar Class families that held sway in Dutch and British times. This marriage and several other marriages between English and German, did indeed produce the so-called “First Class’ Sinhala Goyigama” lot (refer K M de Silva, History of Ceylon) as a special kind of hybrid. I have written all this and more, in the book on family history I have written, which I hope to get to the printers by the end of the year. The book has about 500 pages of text and ancient photographs and covers twenty families that made a well-knit family combine. Shall keep you all informed.

Best Regards, Mevan Pieris

Fabian Schokman

Dear Mevan, I have reviewed some notes on the Adamsz family I maintain from the work of the late Dr. Malcolm Jansze with whom I was acquainted as a young teenager riding on the back of his little scooter. I cannot seem to locate the name ‘Gertrude’ but I will see if it pops up anywhere else. Are you familiar with where they married? That would allow access to the Church Records. I am currently concluding some personal research at the Diocesan Archive so I can look up the duplicate register if you can direct me to it.

With regard to Gertrude Adamsz ‘bringing in Dutch blood to the family lines of several Sinhalese Mudaliyar class families’, I believe you will find she is far from the first and far from the only one. I can refer you to a number of references in Michael’s work, but also the comprehensive genealogies of the Bandaranaike and de Saram families.

I’d love to obtain a copy of your work once it is done. Please do keep me looped on how I can get my hands on it.

Dear all,

With regard to this long epilogue on the Eurasians, much of it is pretty spot on. What is missing is the deep-rooted racism of the British and the discouraging of intermarriage. The reference to ‘half-caste children’ dots the pages of older books dated 1830 and so on and even the Missionary Herald. Anglo-Indian heritage did not always share the same stigma although to exclude it altogether would border on the arrogant.

As to the development of the British-Dutch Burghers it was just a reflection on the assimilative nature of the Dutch Burgher community in Ceylon and Stephen is spot on. Furthermore, it was far better to be labeled a DB than a Eurasian. This can be seen in the Wrights, Forbes, Crozier, Rose, etc. There was a stigma associated with it [the label “Eurasian”] given that many came from common law unions rather than formal marriages. I say this with no prejudice as on my maternal line, I too have Eurasian heritage through the St. John and Berman families of Ioancraig and Bermangrove in Maligatenne and Badulla.

I will endeavour to put my thoughts to words when time permits, but if the past is any point of reference, I so rarely have the time.


Gerald Peiris in Kandy

Another short and definitive answer could well be that the majority of people from Britain who resided at considerable length here were not ‘Anglo’ but ‘Scottish’. It is they who scattered their seed in most parts of the island – especially in the Central Highlands. Have you ever pondered over the fact that there are many plantations in the highlands named after places in Scotland, but none with those of England?


Hugh Karunanayake in Melbourne

Dear all, I find these exchanges interesting not only because some of our nationalist leaders of the past have European genes in their ancestry! One of SWRD ‘s ancestors is Susanna Scharrf of Dutch origin, and DS Senanayake’s wife Molly Dunuwille is descended from the Stewart family of British origin. Dutch and British occupation of parts of our island are therefore not only known for the Forts they built or the plantations they established; they also left behind some blue-eyed genes as well.

Mevan Pieris in Colombo

dear Fabian,

Thanks for your response. To be more precise, John Godfried Panditaratne, MLC’s father was Abraham Philipsz Panditaratne, Maha Mudaliyar, who married on 22.6.1771, Dona Plantina, daughter of Anthony Perera and of his wife Gertruda Adamsz. Dona Plantina, who was half burgher, died at 80 years and was buried on 1.2.1833. I have no information with me as to where Anthony Perera married Gertruda Adamsz. Any assistance you could give to trace Gertruda Adamsz will be much appreciated.

Yes indeed there have been plenty of Burgher and English marriages in the De Saram Wanigasekere Ekanaike family, and that is well known to me. I do have with me, Michael’s and Ismeth Raheem’s valuable book. The Dias Bandaranaike lines have German blood as well. I feel it is the Burgher, German and English blood in them that added quality to several Mudaliyar Class families. Though James D’Alwis, MLC, was described by the Editor of the Ceylon Observer (26.9.1867) as a pure Sinhalese, this is incorrect.

I shall indeed keep you informed when my book gets to the printers. Thanks a lot for your support

Kind Regards


APPENDIX A: Emails from Myrna Setunga, in October 2021

Michael, some Eurasians (especially in the planting community) suffer from a large chip on the shoulder. Even my mother’s family members are not happy when I talk openly about our ancestry. To be Burgher surely one must have some Dutch connection. Chris Greet’s father was British and mother a mixture of Sinhala and British. So, he cannot be classified as Burgher.

Because the first generation of Eurasians were born out of wedlock, they were looked down upon by the Burghers. As a result, the Eurasians kept marrying Eurasians. One of my Aunts married a Burgher – Anthonisz – and this was a breakthrough.

In Chris Greet’s time the DBU would not have acknowledged him. They will today because they are running out of Burghers.

By the way, beside the Burghers David Lean hired as many Malay Sri Lankans as possible as extras. Don’t forget our well-known Sinhala actors and actresses who appeared in the village scenes, speaking in Sinhala.

Small correction. Arnold Paynter married a Miss Weerasooriya (my friends and Srilal Weerasooriya (former Army Commander)’s Great Grand Aunt from Galle.

If you want to contact Stephen Greet you can send an Email to Suzette’s daughter Fiona, who lives in England.

Michael, I can give you some information about Chris Greet. My second cousin –Suzette Boulton – was the manageress of Paynter’s Home in Nuwara Eliya and knew Chris and his sister Avril. The background history is as follows.

Rev Arnold Paynter a missionary of the United Church came to SL from India and married a Miss Weerasooriya (my friends and Srilal Weerasooriya (former Army Commander)’s Great Grand Aunt from Galle.). They started the Paynter’s home for Eurasian children abandoned by their European fathers. They had a son, David, and a daughter [ANNE?] who married Greet and she had Chris and Avril.  David and his sister were Eurasian. Suzette does not know the ethnicity of Greet

David was a famous painter and his best effort was the altar painting in Trinity College chapel.

Chris has a grandson, Stephen, in England. Suzettes daughter is in touch with Stephen and she can provide contact information for Stephen if you are interested. The Greets have no relatives left in SL.

I hope this information is useful.

Chris Greet, 1931 -2020

APPENDIX B: Email Memo from David Sansoni in Sydney, mid-August 2021

Dear All…   Michael has conveyed the data on the Paynter/Greet family to you all. Michael has made comments and posed questions.

They are:

  1. HENRY MARTIN GREET = CHRIS Greet’s pater …. [ethnicity??]
  2. md a PAYNTER – whom i wd term an ANGLO-INDIAN”…but I am not sure how that lineage wd THEN be defined in SL m/class circles,…. “Anglo-Ceylonese”?and how the census enumerators wd have classified them?
  3. To cap it all CHRIS” sister married Manik Sandrasagara …. as ODD-BALL and MAVERICK a character you cd find  = Aloysian! raconteur! operator! rebel! …. you name it

I would be remiss were I not to respond to these.

  1. “HENRY MARTIN GREET = CHRIS Greet’s pater …. [ethnicity??]”

In my email – with full details – I recorded the following.

Henry Martyn Greet – Born 1902 in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India. His father was from Devon and mother from Herefordshire, England. They were Salvationists/Missionaries in India

Henry Martyn Greet is English through and through. He just happened to have been born in India, where his parents were missionaries.

  1. “md a PAYNTER – whom i wd term an ANGLO-INDIAN”…etc…

Ada Paynter was the daughter of Rev. Arthur Stephen Paynter of Bicester, England and Anagi Agnes Weerasooriya of Dodanduwa, Ceylon.

Anglo-Ceylonese is the surely the closest, most accurate label.

  1. “CHRIS” sister married Manik Sandrasagara …. as ODD-BALL and MAVERICK a character you cd find  = Aloysian! raconteur! operator! rebel! …. you name it”

Anne Greet née Loos, was Chris Greet’s wife, not his sister. Anne married Manik Sandrasagara.

Thank you all, for your time and attention.

Sincerely, David Sansoni, (Sydney, Australia)


Dear Michael,   A response to your inquiry.

The Rev. Arthur Stephen Paynter (Salvation Army) married to Major (Salvation Army) Anagi (Agnes) Weerasooriya. (Her father, Arnolis Weerasooriya of Dodanduwa, was the first Ceylonese Colonel of the Salvation Army. He was a student of Trinity College, Kandy.)

Rev. Arthur Stephen Paynter was from Bicester, England. He settled in India, where he founded the Paynter Mission and Homes at the foothills of the Himalayas.

They had the following children.

  1. Rev Arnold Paynter – founded the Paynter Homes, Nuwara Eliya.
  2. Ada Paynter (she married Henry Martyn Greet– Born 1902 in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India. His father was from Devon and mother from Herefordshire, England. They were Salvationists/Missionaries in India)
  3. David Paynter
  4. Eve Paynter (she married Mr. Darling, who left for Malaya (for war) on his wedding day, and died shortly after)

Ada Paynter and Henry Martyn Greet had the following children.

  1. Averill Greet
  2. Noel David Greet, b:26-Dec-1926, d:25-Dec-2000
  3. Evangeline Greet
  4. Chris Greet, broadcaster, actor (UK). Chris was born in Ceylon in 1932.

Chris Greet

Burgher or Eurasian?  I cannot comment.

God bless all.

Trinity Chapel


Michael Roberts: “Anecdotal Tit-Bits: Making ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai’,” 17 August 2021,

Wikipedia: “Anglo-Indian,” n.d.

Weerasooriya, Rukshani: “The Paynter behind some of Sri Lanka’s Finest Art,” 4 December 2016,


[1] NOTE: “Anglo-Indians are two different groups of people: those with mixed Indian and British ancestry and people of British descent born or residing in India. The latter sense is now mainly historical,[5][6] but confusions can arise. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, gives three possibilities: “Of mixed British and Indian parentage, of Indian descent but born or living in Britain or (chiefly historical) of English descent or birth but living or having lived long in India”.[7] People fitting the middle definition are more usually known as British Asian or British Indian. This article focuses primarily on the modern definition, a distinct minority community of mixed Eurasian ancestry, whose first language is English.”….

The All India Anglo-Indian Association, founded in 1926, has long represented the interests of the ethnic group; it holds that Anglo-Indians are unique in that they are Christians, speak English as their mother tongue, as well as have a historical link to both Europe and India…… the documented Anglo-Indian population dwindled from roughly 300,000 at the time of independence in 1947 to about 125,000–150,000 in modern day India” … Wikipedia..

[2] This is not widespread knowledge. I am referring here to invaluable biographical data conveyed separately by Myrna Setunge inf Colombo and David Sansoni in Sydney.


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