Once upon a time in the newly independent British colony named “Ceylon” there was a young lad named Christopher John Van Twest who developed a passionate interest in the game of cricket. As I recall, as a young Royalist in the 1950s he also developed a precocious talent in the art of batting which suggested great prospects (alas diverted somewhat by familial events). This interest induced him to collect news clippings from the Ceylonese newspapers in the year 1957 in an exercise ‘album’. This ‘album’ happens to be in my hands (how I know not) … because “CJ,” as we called him, is one of my grandnephews. His mother arrived in this world as Winifred Stewart, one of my sister Violet’s daughters via Ronald Stewart, a police officer in Sri Lanka.
Ronnie Reid with Trophy
PI Pieris & Lorenz Pereira
For my generation of cricketing nuts, this album is a treasure trove. Apart from news items re West Indian, Australian and England cricket matches, there are quite a few on the leading Sri Lankan school cricketers and their matches. ….. all pictures, alas, somewhat faded and ‘grey’. Aaaaaah ………………. the schoolboy “heroes” in CJ’s eyes.
Ronnie Reid & URP Goonetilleke walking out to bat
THUS, we see news cuttings of Ronald Reid, Michael Wille, PI Pieris, EL Pereira, Sonny Yatawara, Clive Inman, N. Casie ChItty, Ranjith Dorenagama, Anuruddha Polonowita, and Upali Goonesekera. The choices are “catholic”in the best senes of the word and do not focus only on the players at STC, Royal and the Catholic schools in Colombo. This interest is amplified through news cuttings detailing some the scores of school matches; and through pictorial collages of several school elevens: Ananda, Nalanda, Zahira, St. Benedicts, Prince of Wales, Wesley ….. and even St. Aloysius from that remote spot of Galle.
The focus on the Island’s cricket scene is intermixed with a considerable collection of items on the international cricket scene with news reports and photographs from the West Indian tour of England in 1957. Here the catholic sweep of CJ’s engagement with cricket is exemplified in a few cuttings which provided news and scoresheets re Ceylon’s tour of Malacca and Singapore in 1957! ….. Yes …… Malacca and Singapore. These indicate that the island’s playing Elevens on that tour were R. Reid, A. Sethupathy, T. Buhar, C. Inman, W. Weerasinghe, PI Pieris, HIK Fernando, N. Casie Chitty, JB Francis, RKJ Premachandra (versus) and ACM Lafir, R. Reid, T. Buhar, HIK Fernando, D. Weerasinghe, JB Francis, N. Casie Chitty, RKJ Premachandra.
In my recollections CJ was a potential maestro as batsman then in the mid-1950s. Alas, CJ’s potential as a cricketing star for Sri Lanka was nipped in the bud by family circumstances amidst the political transformation in the island known as “the 1956 Revolution” linked with the Sinhala Only programme of the MEP government led by SWRD Bandaranaike which came to power in 1956. These developments induced a number of Burgher personnel to migrate abroad.(1) Hugh Stewart, CJ’s uncle and a talented swimmer and skindiver, seems to have been the first to migrate with his children: to Canada. CJ’s mother Winifred had separated from her husband in the mid-1950s and she decided to join Hugh in Canada.
This involved her embarking on a cargo ship with passenger berths that required its clientele to embark on the ship at Galle. The moment and the daunting trip to the ship by rowing boat in monsoon swells in June 1958 or so is etched in my memory. My father and I were accompanying Winnie, CJ and his sister Ann on this rowing boat. The rowing boat was rolling up and down …. so, the transfer to the ship’s lowered platform involved a jump. The Stewarts had no option. Aided by the strong and welcoming arms of one of the ship’s officers, they made the leap successfully. My father, TW, chose wisely: he stayed on the rowing boat. I was agile enough to make the leap successfully … and was able to tour the ship as a reward. It was the first time I tasted the drink known as “coke”.
So, this then was one step in the process that saw Ceylon/Sri Lanka lose the Stewart clan in the mid-late 1950s and early 1960s: for Winifred’s brothers and sisters all migrated away to Australia, Canada or UK in the late 1950s. C’ est la Vie.
Winifred Stewart asa teenager in the fort of Galle …second from left with Pamela Roberts on her right and Dawn Roberts, Estelle Roberts and Diana Stewart (?) on her left
Winifred Stolli with sister Barbara Webster in Canada in 1996
The Winifred Stewart family’s óutmigration was Ceylon’s loss and Canada’s gain. CJ prospered to become part of the Canadian Colts team touring England in 1965 and Canada”s Squad in 1966.
Thereafter, following a move to Vancouver, his love-affair with the game of cricket continued via his engagement as a Curator at the Brockton Oval in Stanley Park, Vancouver — a famed spot which boasts of Bradman’s participation in a cricket match there in 1932 — an experience which prompted the Don to depict the Brockton Oval as “the most beautiful cricket ground in the world”…. (https://fotoeins.com/2020/08/31/my-vancouver-summercricket-stanleypark/).
(1) Scholars and aficianados must attend to the personnel who migrated BEFORE the 1956 ‘revolution. If my info is correct, I gather that John Wille was among those who left before these events of 1956 and it would be pertinent for those with data on these early steps in outmigration to provide solid information on the motivations promoting such decisive steps.