This project started in 2002 when I took my daughter Jacqueline, who was born in Australia to see Sri Lanka for the first time. We planned our touring holiday before we left Australia and made sure that we took in as much as possible in the two weeks we were on the Island. This included visits to the Pinnawella Elephant Sanctuary, a stay at the Kanadalama Hotel, an Elephant Safari at Habarana, a visit to the ruins at Polonaruwa and a climb of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, later a viewing of the Kandy Perahara from the Queens Hotel in Kandy and also a Cultural Concert and a visit to the Labukelle Tea Factory on the way to our stay at the Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya.
The final stay in the mountains was at the Tea Factory Hotel in Kandapola, some 2,000 metres in the clouds.
On our return trip to Colombo we traveled via the Ella Gap to Yala and stayed at the Yala Safari Lodge that was destroyed by the Tsunami in 2006 and visited the Yala Sanctuary.

Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya

We next visited Galle and stayed at the Lighthouse Hotel and eventually got as far as Mt Lavinia and stayed a night at the Mt Lavinia Hotel and visited St Thomas’ College. We finished our tour at the Oberoi Hotel in Colombo for much earned rest of a few days.

A Dinner at my Aunt Christobel and Uncle Godwin Don Carolis’ home in Colombo then brought the biggest surprise that I was to get in my life. My cousin Christopher Don Carolis advised me that he had recently started communicating with a distant cousin named Richard Rowlands who was born in India and who now lived in Kent, England. We later, continued the conversation at the Colombo Rowing Club where he filled me in with the details of his latest discovery.

It turned out that Richard’s Grand-father and our Grand-father were half brothers and there was a generation of Rowlands’ in India, who were descendants of James Henry Rowlands who left Ceylon in 1886 for Ootacumund in South India, just after the birth of our Grand-father Arthur Percival Rowlands in 1885.

Colombo Rowing Club - Christopher Carolis (second from left), Jacqueline and Ed on right.

This was the first time that I had heard of our other relatives and I got in touch with Richard on returning to Australia. It turned out that he was researching the Rowlands Genealogy and was instrumental in getting me interested in finding more about the families that my Grand-father and father never spoke about.
When Richard sent me the Rowlands Family Tree that he had established, I realized that the Genealogy of the Rowlands Family that my Father had arrived at with Mr Altendorf in Colombo in 1958, that we presented to Sir Rodin Cutler who was the Australian High Commissioner in Ceylon at that time, to facilitate our migration to Australia during the period of the “White Australia Policy” was incomplete in some parts and incorrect in others.

I got to thinking that it was such a pity that we had not been given the opportunity to meet these relatives and get to know them, their personalities, their likes and dislikes and to get some understanding of the lives they may have led. I then decided to put together this family documentary from information that I gathered from talking to relatives and various publications on Internet websites, Public Libraries and various books.

Ed and Chris at the Colombo Cricket Club Grounds

When my son Christopher, who was also born in Australia and I took some of my Father’s ashes for burial in his Mother’s grave in Colombo in 2003, I took the opportunity to continue my research into the Rowlands family when I was in Sri Lanka and have continued to date, using the data from Richard Rowlands and others.

This is not a documentary about colonialism, but happens to fall into the time period after Europeans arrived in Ceylon. It’s a mixture of fact and fiction. I have placed our relatives in the period of the events that would have taken place during their lifetime to try and understand how the events of the day may have experienced and shaped their lives and the relationships they may have had with the people they may have mixed with on a day to day basis. To a large extent their lives and the antecedents of their spouses provide the cultural mix of our fore-bears and may help explain why the Rowlands’ of today are the people we are.

I am proud of my Sri Lankan heritage and that the Rowlands’ of Ceylon and India are descended from people of many races and cultures.

I do not pretend to be a writer and therefore the words in this documentary are not all mine but also those of the several authors that I have used to bring it all together in some chronological order to try and show the changes that took place in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) after the arrival of Europeans in the Sixteenth Century and the events of the Nineteenth Century, after the arrival of the first Rowlands’ in Ceylon.

I hope that my children and other relatives find this documentary useful for them to get some understanding of the times that our fore-fathers and mothers lived in.

The first part concludes at the death of Richard William Rowlands. The second part of this story is the Twentieth Century and will include the experiences of the next generations of the Rowlands’ of India and Ceylon and the migration of some of the families to Australia and England and other distant shores.

This is only the start of the story of the Rowlands’ of Ceylon, there are a more stories waiting to be told.

I apologise if I have made any historical errors and would appreciate the comments of anyone who wishes to advise me of any corrections.

Any other descendants of the extended Rowlands’ family are welcome to contact me on and I will endevour to incorporate the stories of their relatives in this document, if they so desire.

1 comment:

Prasanna Chandraratne said...

Wow, what a big journey that I went through in such a short period of time. Glad to know someone who still remembers and admires the heritage and patriotism. No doubt that this would be the biggest gift which could transferred in to many generations ahead !! Good on you Rolly !! Prasanna ( Bob )