The photograph above of the twenty-two men who participated in the cricket match in 1910 between George Vanderspar’s XI and eleven British civil servants in Ceylon has been taken from SP Foenander’s wonderful book Sixty Years of Ceylon Cricket published in Colombo in 1924. Its import ranges beyond the cricket field.
The sea lanes of the British Empire took men (rather than women) far and wide. Sri Lankan traders, many of them from Galle and its hinterland, traded in Mombasa, Zanzibar and even as far inland as Blantyre in the Rhodesias during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Others went as workers to Thursday Island and northern Australia. Yet others traded at Singapore or joined the colonial service in Malaysia. A few intrepid souls ended up in Brazil and the Caribbean. David Scott, a scholar-academic from Jamaica whose writings encompass the Sri Lankan scene, is descended from one such diasporic Lankan through his mother.
So, too, did four sons of Barbados end up in Sri Lanka as part of the British colonial order during the early twentieth century. This is a partial picture of their engagements in the field of cricket. Let me identify them first and note that there is self-interest in this story.
Gilbert Clyde Roberts son of the late Mr. T. W. Roberts C. C. S. and brother of Mr. T. F. C. Roberts, District Judge, was born in Barbados where he had his early education. He came to Sri Lanka fresh from the University of Durham, after obtaining a degree in Western Classics. He joined the Staff of St. John’s College, Panadura when Cyril A. Jansz (senior) was the principal. In addition to being Prefect of Games at St. John’s, he taught English and Latin in the Cambridge and London Matriculation forms of the school.
Admiral Ravindra C Wijegunaratne,* in Island, 5 September 2020, where the title runs “From the tallest clock tower to smallest sand clock in Sri Lanka”
Galle is a fascinating place to work in. I was the Commander Southern Naval Area (Comsouth) from 3rd August 2008 to 10th August 2009. For me nothing was more refreshing than the early morning beach run on the world famous Unawatuna beach as well as the one-kilometer swim (before tourists invaded the beach).
“You will think I write a lot about the scenery, but if you saw it you would not think I said too much” – James Taylor (Pioneering tea planter describing Ceylon in a letter to his father in Scotland in 1858)
In Sri Lanka, the relevance of tea to the game of cricket extends further than that of a twenty-minute break that separates lunch and the end of a day’s play. And while tea to the Western world is but a tiny item in a crowded shopping trolley of groceries, in Sri Lanka, it is the trolley itself.
EM Karunaratne,** an article abridged from Sport Down South … and made available by Oliver Guruge, another Gallilean and a keen member of the ‘Richmond Collective’ of today
Facing the Fort circa 1880s or 1890s before the Esplanade emerged –– Pix courtesy of the Australian National Gallery
At the very outset, it must be mentioned that the Galle Municipal Council, almost from its very beginning, willingly and enthusiastically rendered every possible help and assistance to sport, not only in Galle. but throughout the Southern Province. The co-operation. ex-tended by the Council and its stalwarts, was magnificent. The Council maintained, from the very beginning, the beautiful Esplanade, at great expense, and always kept it in excellent condition. This playground is the centre of all the sports activities of the Southern Capital. Cricket, Soccer, Hockey, Rugger and Volleyball are played here. Last, but by no means least, all Athletic Meets of importance, including those open to the whole Province, are held on the famous Galle Esplanade. In Tennis too, the support of the Council was equally conspicuous. The Galle Gymkhana Club was permitted, on nominal terms, to construct a fine Tennis Pavilion on grounds belonging to the Municipality. An Island-wide open Tennis Tournament for which the best players from Colombo and elsewhere enter, is annually a regular feature of the Race and Sports program of the Galle Gymkhana Club., from about the year 1920.
Since I had been introduced to the British peer Lord Michael Naseby in the surrounds of the House of Lords in March 2018, I assumed that he had been born into the aristocratic upper layer of British society. Wrong. It required his book Sri Lanka for me to learn that he was from the upper middle class and had contested parliamentary seats from the late-960s on behalf of the Conservative Party in what were Labour strongholds – with his peerage being of 1990s vintage. As vitally, his early career as a marketing executive had seen him working in Pakistan and Bengal in the early 1960s before he was stationed in Sri Lanka as a marketing manager for Reckitt and Colman in the period 1963-64.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.