The Power of Privilege: Illegitimate Progeny in the Plantations of Ceylon and Beyond

An EMAIL MEMO from RICHARD HERMON to His Good Friend ERROL FERNANDO, Circa 9 December 2022*++*

Dear Errol,

As a Eurasian myself on both sides, since both my Grandfathers were Brits and both my Grandmothers were Sinhalese: one Kandyan from Welimada, and one Low-Country from Baddegama to whom both my grandfathers were married.


I also take exception to some “Burghers” looking down upon us with disdain. specially very dark skinned “Burghers” who claim to be of “pure “Dutch extraction when queried as to the reason for their dark skin colour, The explanation is invariably that they have spent a long time in the tropics and have been under the sun!!!.. What a load of codswallop!!!! Now, however, the Burghers consider Eurasians to also be Burghers!! Actually, many Burghers could more accurately be termed “Eurasians”!!!

My mother always told me to be proud of my heritage and that I had the best of the east and west in me!!!

My grandfather, Wilbraham Hermon,  was the founder of a dynasty of Ceylon (Sri Lankan) planters, whose connections were so widespread that we were the single largest family group in the plantation Industry, encompassing by marriage such families (to name a few) as the Winter Family (my Mother’s family) and the Emersleys,’ Murrays,’ Franklins, Nicols,’ Barnetts, Rollos,’ Reiths,’ Durrants,’ Richardsons,’ Fairweathers,’ Olivers,’ Roberts,’, Van Der Poortens,’ etc, etc. I hope that I will be able to write an article one day on the Hermon Dynasty in the Plantations in Ceylon!! The only one still involved is Dan Seevaratnam (married to Pauline Hermon).

I agree with you that I do not recall a Paynter’s home in Kandy. The home in India in the foothills of the Himalayas, was also founded by the Paynter family and Ada Karunatilake’s (nee HIll) father was there .in India (the name of the place escapes me).

I think that it is not quite accurate to say that all Eurasians were illegitimate. Some were born of parents not formally married. However, the parents lived in what we now call a “de facto “relationship and the women were considered the common law wives of the father and in long term relationship.

Also remember that many of the Eurasians were well educated, great sportsmen, held excellent jobs, worked in the plantation Industry and also were Directors of Plantation Firms .

I think that I will leave it there for the moment my old Buddy.

With warm Regards, Dickie

  *++*   Errol Fernando of Trinity College was my contemporary at Peradeniya University in the late 1950s and we played in the same Peradeniya cricket team. Errol has been aware of the several items I have placed in Thuppahi on the Braine family, Evelyn Nurseries, the Paynter lineage of Nuwara Eliya and thus on the category “Eurasian” in the census data of Brtish Ceylon (see below for some items).  

As it happens, the information relayed by Dickie Hermon in this memorandum is quite revelatory to me: brought up in Galle and attending St. Aloysius College, I have some awareness of the “Low-Country’ plantation families of the Baddegama District and beyond. Despite this grounding the indication that such surnames as Winter, Nicol, Emersley, Durrant etc were/are “Eurasian” rather than dinkie-die (snooty) Burgher is news to me.

For those who are not aware of my own bakground, let me add that my father TW Roberts was a Barbadian in the British colonial service and my mother a Perera of mixed parentage from Matara. As such, our family was odd-bod unilinear in Sri Lankan terms. It is likely that those not aware of my parental background treated me as Burgher — so that in sociological terms I became “demi-Burgher.”

This “inbetween-ness” was …. and remains ….. an advantage: that is, it is a good vantage point.


Charles S. Braine:

Charles S. Braine: A Rajah of a Planter in British Ceylon

Michael Roberts: ” ‘Anglo-Ceylonese’: A Missing Dimension in British Ceylon,” 19 November 2021,

Michael Roberts: “Orphaned, Abandoned, Illegitimate Children cared for by the Evelyn Nurseries of Kandy, 1920 et seq,” 30  September 2022, ………….

Joe Paiva: “Thoughts on Planter Lifeways in Ceylon evoked by the Braine Biography,” 22 September 2022, ……………………………………………………….

Michael Roberts:  “Why Thuppahi,”


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