Chapter 5 - Crisis, Recovery and Prosperity.

Ceylon led the crusade by shifting the supply line of this much-wanted beverage from the Western to the Eastern hemisphere and from thereon, exports began to rise as the following figures indicate.
Year From West Indies From Ceylon

1827 29,419,598 lbs 1,792,448 lbs
1837 15,557,888 lbs 6,756,848 lbs
1847 5, 259,449 lbs 19,475,904 lbs
1857 4,054,028 lbs 67,453,680 lbs

The frenzied rush to open up coffee plantations commenced thereafter. The mountain rangers on all sides of Kandy in the Dumbara, Ambagamuwa, Kotmale and Pussellawa soon became covered with coffee plantations. Once the fertile lands in these areas were exhausted, they climbed upwards to the steep hills of Nuwara Eliya and then to the sprawling grasslands of Badulla. The pathless jungle that the pioneers opened up became before long flourishing coffee gardens. The tracks they created were converted into highways and the log huts they lived in were in time replaced with beautiful bungalows.

In 1845, 294,526 acres had been sold to Ceylonese and Europeans for coffee plantations. These lands, for centuries undisturbed except by the trumpeting of elephants, the cough of leopards and the bark of the deer, were soon converted into fields of coffee.

Pioneer Coffee Plantations in Kandy District

Sir Emerson Tennant has compared this period of land development in Ceylon with the gold rushes in Australia and California – with the difference that the enthusiasts in Ceylon, instead of thronging to disinter, were hurrying to bury their gold.
There were no banks in Ceylon until 1828 when Mr Jeronis Pieris and Louis Peieris in connection with the de Soysa family established the Bank of Kandy. In the early days of coffee, money was always in demand. Colombo was very far away, taking no less than four days to reach from the hill capital.

The road, too, led through robber infested country and was consequently never safe. Sardiel, Ceylon’s Robin Hood, was only one of the many who made the cart road a danger. Deekirikevage Saradiel was born on 25th March 1835. His gang of robbers were a lawless bunch who waylaid carriages and coaches and robbed people of their valuables. A rocky outcrop named “Utuwankande” was the gang’s hideout and from this point they could see the Kandy road and plotted the ambush of caravans taking goods and people to and from Colombo. In those days, contractors taking goods to Kandy and Colombo had to seek armed escorts to escape the marauding bands of robbers.

Hard Work through the Jungles on the Colombo-Kandy Road in the 1860's

The law caught up with Saradiel in a house in Mawanella when he was betrayed by one of his gang who had become a police informant. On 21st March 1864, Constable Tuan Shaban of the Kandy Police died while capturing Saradiel. He was the first police officer in the country to die in action and every year police heroes are commemorated on this day. Saradiel walked to the gallows on 7th May 1864. Contrary to popular belief, Saradiel who was supposed to be a fearsome-looking, strong man was rather small, being five foot three inches in height. There were other bands of highwaymen, not to mention rogue elephants and other savage animals. The Bank of Kandy therefore became a most useful institution, keeping money in custody till called for and furnishing money on Colombo’s orders, when getting money from Colombo was a very hazardous business.

Mr William Thompson started the first registered Bank in Ceylon that was incorporated by Royal Charter and was subject to the control of a Board in London. The Ceylon Bank that opened in 1841 to finance the rapid expansion of coffee plantations, but was affected by the events of 1845 and this temporarily checked the rapid expansion. The Ceylon Bank ceased payment in 1847 and was taken over by the Western Bank of India, under a new designation and styled “The Oriental Bank Corporation”.

Colombo–Kandy Road in the 1860’s

An ordinance made in 1840 made it virtually impossible for a Kandyan peasant to prove that his land was not truly Crown Land and thus subject to appropriation and resale to coffee interests.
That same year, as the demand for land increased, the development of roads became a prime necessity and the great road-maker of the day was Major Thomas Skinner, C.M.G. A letter he addressed to His Excellency the Governor dated 11th August 1840, quote:

“With all these purchases and applications for land, the demand appears to be just as insatiable as ever, while the fevered cry is ‘where shall we go for land’. In vain I proclaim that there is a choice of between 200,000 and 300,000 acres of the finest forest land in Ceylon within the wilderness of the Peak, possessing in the most eminent degree every requisite of soil and climate. ‘How are we to get at it’, is the natural consequence, and having spent many dreary months in it, and there is not a valley that I have not traversed, nor a feature from the highest point of which I have not attempted to sketch in my reconnaissance; yet I know that many a man might dive into the depth of 500 square miles of unbroken pathless forest from which he would never find his way out”.

He was describing the area of Maskeliya, Dimbula and Dickoya in 1840 and Major Skinner then suggests a five foot pathway from Kotmale to Balangoda, with two rest houses on the way, the cost to be borne by the proceeds of the land sales.

In 1845 British troops repressed a rebellion that broke out among the Kandyans because of new taxes and the alienation of temple lands for coffee plantations. The Ceylon Rifle Regiment took part in putting down this rebellion.
That same year, a disaster overtook the coffee industry in Ceylon, due to a serious financial crisis in England. Panic and consternation overran Ceylon. Estates were abandoned and the seriousness of the situation can be judged on the fact that Naragalla Estate, near Badulla which had cost 10,000 Pounds was sold for 350 Pounds and another that sold in 1843 for 15,000 Pounds was sold in 1847 for 440 Pounds. A reliable report has it that one-tenth of the plantations originally opened were abandoned during this period.

Coffee Estate in the 1850’s

By 1852, about 90% of the speculators lost all. 7% picked up on fragments of their properties, 2% who took the hint of what was coming got off clear and 1% made a fortune. About one tenth of properties were abandoned.

Following the death of Lt-Col Henry Bird in 1829 of Cholera the Sinnapitiya Estate was abandoned and in 1846 sold to Frank Hudson of the firm of Hudson, Chandler, who formed a project for farming it on the ‘English principle’ in conjunction with sugar cultivation. A farmer and his family were brought out from England and gradually the old decaying coffee stumps gave place to guinea grass good enough to maintain a stock of horses and cattle. This venture did not succeed, as the whole Hudson Chandler agency business went bankrupt two years later. In 1848 Lt-Col H.C.Bryde buys back his father’s estate and brings J.C.Williams from Waloya Estate to restart coffee on Sinnapitiya Estate and help him with organizing coolie gangs and buying coffee bushes to re-establish the plantation with coffee bushes.

The revival of business, however, did not take place until 1854, in which year The Chartered Mercantile Bank established itself in Ceylon, when the increased consumption and better prices obtained for coffee in European markets gave a new impetus to the planting enterprise.

Sir Henry Ward appeared on the scene at a peculiarly opportune moment.

The man and the hour arrived together and this able and active Governor was not many months on the Island before the prospects of the Colony and its chief enterprise began to assume an entirely new and vastly more important aspect. During this period after the arrival of Governor Sir Henry Ward single handedly changed the fortunes of the Colony, with the belief that it is with material improvement that all other improvements begin. Roads were repaired, extended and opened on every side and bridges built so that the communication between the coffee growing districts and Colombo, the shipping port was considerably improved.

When the coffee industry took off on its second wave of prosperity with land and capital freely available, the Planters were faced with a labour shortage.

Getting people to work on the plantations was a constant problem that was solved by importing labour from South India.

Richard was starting his life as a Planter at a very exiting time in the history of Ceylon.

Statue of Governor Ward

During this period the Dutch Burghers abandoned the use of the Dutch language and adopted English as their own language. By 1860, the use of Dutch among the Dutch Burghers had disappeared. Burghers were now employed by the British in the Colonial administration as clerks, lawyers, soldiers, physicians, etc and were a privileged class on the island. Creole Portuguese continued to be used amongst the Dutch Burgher families as the colloquial language until the end of the nineteenth century.


Principal events in Ceylon during the 1826 to 1857 are listed below.
1826
The infliction of capital punishment on women by drowning in the Kandyan Provinces abolished.
1827
First regular coffee plantation opened. The export of coffee for the year equaled 16,000 cwt. Although the first regular Coffee Plantation in Ceylon was opened this year, the enterprise really commenced ten years earlier in 1837.
Laying of the foundation stone of the Kotte Christian Institute by Sir Edward Barnes…8th November.
1829
Major Colebrooke and Charles.H.Cameron, His Majesty’s Commissioners arrived …April.
Death of Ehelapola.
1832
The “Colombo Journal” started 1st January by Government officials, but discontinued on 31st December 1833 under orders from England, the home authorities having been severely criticized in it.
The ex-King of Kandy dies in Vellore, India…30th January.
Kandy-Colombo Mail Coach started…February.
Moors and Tamils first allowed to own houses and grounds in the Fort and Pettah of Colombo…1st June.
Ceylon Savings Bank opened …6th August.
Order of King in Council abolishing Rajakariya or compulsory labour…September.
1833
Cinnamon Monopoly abolished…10th July.
Parcel-post established between Colombo and Galle.
Kotte translation of  Bible into Sinhalese completed.
The Legislative and Executive Councils instituted.
First meeting of Legislative Council held at Colombo…22nd May.

1834
School Commission constituted…May.
The new Charter of Justice proclaimed…31st August.
The “Colombo Observer” Newspaper started by the Merchants of Colombo. Mr.Winter being the first Editor and afterwards Dr.Elliott who very soon became sole Proprietor…1st February. (Mr.A.M.Ferguson joined in 1846 and became proprietor in May 1850. Mr.J.Ferguson joined in 1861 and name changed to “Ceylon Observer” …1st September 1867. Messrs A.M & J.Ferguson proprietors in January 1877. The concern acquired by a Limited Company in April 1920; again changing hands in January 1923.)
Memorial adopted for appointment of unofficial members of the Legislative Council…25th October.
The “Ceylon Gazetteer” by Simon Cassie Chitty Mudaliyar published by Cotta Mission Press.
1835
Molligoda, First Adigar and several other Chiefs tried for high treason and acquitted…12th January.
1836
The Colombo Academy established by Government…25th October.
Taxes upon Imports and Exports first imposed in Ceylon.
1837
Extensive inundation; several bridges carried away on the Kandy road and upwards of 1,200 houses in the neighbourhood of Colombo destroyed…28th May.
Kandy Friends-in-Need Society instituted.
First sugar plantation in Ceylon opened in Dumbara.
Commencement of a systematic scale of coffee cultivation in the hill country.
Rt Hon J.A.S.Mackenzie, Governor of Ceylon.
The years export of coffee equaled 34,600cwt.
1838
The Galle Mail Coach first started…2nd July.
The “Ceylon Herald” started..7th September, “Overland Herald”…24th March (Discontinued 30th June 1846).
1839
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce organized…25th March.
Hon George Turnour, Acting Colonial Secretary.
1840
Fish Tax abolished…4th January.
The “Overland Observer” commenced…September.
First rush into Coffee planting speculation commenced.
Colombo Diocesan Committee for the propagation of the Gospel formed.
1841
Lieut. General Sir Colin Campbell K.C.B., Governor of Ceylon.
Central School Commission for the instruction of the population of Ceylon established.
Bank of Ceylon opened…1st June.
1842
Girl’s Boarding School opened by the Church Mission at Nellore, Northern Province.
1843
Trial and conviction of Priest Chandragoti for High Treason.
A branch of the Bank of Western India established at Colombo 23rd October.
Roman Catholic Press established at Colombo.
1844
Police Courts established…13th July.
Lotteries suppressed by a Legislative enactment.
Total abolition of slavery in Ceylon…20th December.
1845
Court of Requests established…1st January.
The Ceylon branch of the Royal Asiatic Society formed…7th February.
Ceylon constituted as Episcopal Sea, called the Bishopric of Colombo…25th April. 
Dr.Chapman appointed first Bishop of Colombo...26th April.
The Bank of Western India changes its title to Oriental Bank, Corporation on securing the Royal Charter of the Bank of Ceylon, which ceased to exist.
Major Rogers, Assistant Government Agent, Badulla, killed by lightning at the Haputale Resthouse.
St Paul’s Church in the Pettah of Colombo, the Resthouse at Gampola and Kachehri of Badulla destroyed by fire.
Civil Servants first interdicted from engaging in Agricultural and Commercial pursuits.
1846
Mr Keane, a coffee planter, killed by an elephant whilst out on a shooting excursion…14th October.
Cholera rages furiously in Kandy and Jaffna; about 10,000 deaths occur in the latter district.
The “Examiner” (1st January) and “Times” (1st July) Newspapers started in Colombo.
Foundation stone of Trinity Church laid by Bishop Chapman...9th March, opened for service 1st January 1847.
1847
Statue of Sir Edward Barnes erected opposite Queen’s House…8th June.
The Buddhist Dalada or Tooth Relic given into the charge of the Priests and Headman of the Kandy Province…1st October.
Lord Torrington, Governor of Ceylon.
1848
The Road Ordinance passed, requiring every able bodied male between 18 and 60 years of age to give six days labour or pay a few shillings as commutation, for the maintenance of the roads.
Riotous assembly in Kandy, protesting against the gun-tax….July.
A tumultuous meeting takes place at Borella and the Military are called out … 26th July.
Gongalgoda Banda endeavours to incite a rebellion in the Kandy country and marches with followers from Dambulla to Matale where he arrived on 21st July.
A detachment of Malay and European troops sent from Kandy defeats the rebels next morning at Wariyapola and disperses them, 10 being killed, while only one European soldier was injured.
District of Kandy placed under martial law.
Tumultuous assembly of 2,000 armed Sinhalese at Kurunegala dispersed by 30 of the Ceylon Rifles …10th July.
Kururnegala district placed under martial law.
Three companies of Her Majesty’s 25th Regiment arrive at Trincomalee from Madras to aid restoring tranquility.. .5th August.
A special session of the Supreme Court held at Kandy for the trial of the rebel prisoners: 14 convicted of high treason and 17 acquitted …September.
Martial law abolished…October.
Agitations against the manner of suppressing the rebellion.
1849
Dr.Thwaites appointed Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya.
The unofficial members of the Legislative Council protest against the continuance of a contribution of 24,000 Pounds for Military Expenditure.
1850
Pigeon Express from Galle to Colombo successfully started by “Observer” Newspaper, 24th September and continued without interruption for eight years, when it was superseded by the electric telegraph.
Messrs Morehead and Rohde arrive as Commissioners to inquire into the authenticity of certain documents connected to the suppression of the rebellion.
Viscount Torrington announced his resignation …June (The Secretary of State meanwhile ordered his recall from the Government of Ceylon).
Sir George Anderson appointed Governor.
1851
A fearful gale during which five ships were wrecked, six lives lost and considerable damage done to shipping along the coast …2nd May.
Discussions of a projected railway to Kandy.
Captain A.Watson tried by a Court Martial for issuing certain proclamations during rebellion; and acquitted.
Pendulum experiment to demonstrate the motion of the earth successfully tried in the Wolvendal Church …August.
1853
A public meeting held at the Exchange Rooms to consider Railway question .. 1st March.
Sir John Pakington’s dispatch directing Government to disconnect itself from management of the Maligawa and other Buddhist temples published 29th January.
1854
First meeting of Planters’ Association held in Kandy …17th February.
The Tamil Cooly Mission established.
The surviving Kandyan prisoners banished in 1848, pardoned …November.
1856
A public meeting held in Kandy to consider the construction of a railway between Kandy and Colombo … February.
The railway question continues to absorb public attention; the Bill is eventually carried through the legislative Council by a majority of 9 to 7 …16th August.
1857
The Clock Tower Colombo completed 18th March.
General Havelock, accompanied by troops, wrecked in the steamer “Erin” off Kalutara …June.

A portion of the 37th Regiment and a Company of Artillery embark at Colombo for Calcutta to aid the authorities there in suppressing the mutinies …8th June.    

1 comment:

Ron Sen said...

This blog made very interesting reading!! Thanks Mr. Rowlands!!