Chapter 32 - The Men from Rowlands Garages Ltd

The Colombo Mercantile List of 1930 shows the following:-

ROWLANDS GARAGES LTD - Automobile Engineers, (Turret Road, Colombo, Tel Add; “Rowlands”. Codes; “Bentleys”. Phone Nos:- 2780 – 4 lines, P.O.Box 296).

Directors:- F.C.Gibbs (Managing), A.P.Rowlands, C.H.Burns, A.P.Browne and D.H.Walles.

Assistant Accountant:- R.Lindsay,

Office Assistant:- Miss.M.Hope,

Chief Engineer:- H.D.Clifton,

Engineers:- A.S.Laurini, E.C.Catling, O.W.Van der Ziel, E.Nelson and C.Ferdinands,

Spare Parts Manager:- C.J.P.Martin,

Manager Body Building Department:- W.J.Le Petit,

Kandy Branch Manager:- H.Browne,

Nuwara Eliya Branch Manager:- C.I.Blyth.

London Agents; Robertson & Malcolm Ltd, 5 Bishopgate, E.C.

New York Agents:- Robertson & Malcolm Ltd, Cunard Building, 26 Broadway,

Distributors in Ceylon for:- Rolls Royce, Chevrolet, Oakland, Pontiac & Vauxhall cars;

Authorised Service Station: Stewart Warner Speedometers and American Bosch Magnetos.

Sole Agents in Ceylon for:- Valspar Products, Clincher and Rapson Tyres, Renualt Chains, Snowdon Oils, British Timken Bearings and N.S.A.Batteries.

Rowlands Garages Main Show Room Turret Road

Rowlands Garages - Braybrooke Place Branch

Rowlands Garages - Nuwara Eliya Branch

Rowlands Garages - Kandy Branch

Mr Gomez in his book titled “Personalities of Our Times” states the following in relation to men who started Rowlands Garages/Ltd and those who worked for the company, saw the institution grow and prosper and then departed the scene leaving the future to others.

I will start with Major David Rockwood. Mr Gomez states quote “Major David Rockwood was educated at St Joseph’s College under the Rectorship of that well known educationist, Father M.J.Le Goc and the Archbishop of Colombo Dr.Thomas Cooray, O.M.I., who taught him Latin and Botany.

Major David Rockwood

Joining the firm of Messrs Rowlands Ltd in 1937 as an apprentice, David achieved steady success under the guidance of Mr A.P.Rowlands in the sphere of Motor Engineering… He was appointed the Manager of the Messrs British Car Company Ltd and continued to manifest the liveliest interest towards the welfare and well-being of his firm... Having been commissioned to serve with the 2nd Battalion Volunteers, Ceylon Light Infantry, he went on active service, during the war years and received further Military Training at Dehra Dun….In the sphere of social service as Member of the Board of Directors of the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, his wisdom and wit leavened up the deliberations of the Board. Earlier as Secretary of Toc H, Colombo for a few years and later as Treasurer of the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, his usefulness and dependability in promoting clean sport is very well known and commended.

The next person is Mr.E.Gordon.Loos. Mr Gomez states quote “History has shown us many interesting examples of men and women, who by dint of hard work and incessant toil reached great heights in their professional activities and won fame and distinction. Here is an instance where a persevering clerk rose to become a Director of the firm which gave him a start in life and which he appears to have grabbed with both hands. He was a youthful looking Mr.E.Gordon.Loos of Messrs Rowlands Ltd. His 28 years of loyal and devoted service, amply compensated him. Perhaps it is not altogether out of place to mention the names of a few good and true men who recognised talent and integrity in Mr Loos and who, there is no doubt, encouraged him on the high road to success.

Mr Gordon Loos

They are Mr F.C.Gibbs, Mr Percy Rowlands, Mr Denzil Walles and last but not least Mr.W.C.Wishart….who was chiefly responsible in giving him his status as a due reward for efficiency and honesty. Mr Loos’ rise and progress in the firm had by no means changed his heart or head. He was the same kind and courteous individual as when he first he entered it. Always amendable to all, he was a storehouse of knowledge with regard to Motor Spares Parts… Mr Loos was educated at Royal College and hailed from a well-connected family who name was well known in medical, legal and social circles”.

The next is Mr.F.C.Gibbs

Mr Gomez state quote” The genial and urbane head of Messrs Rowlands Ltd was a man of many parts. Suffice to say 25 years in the university of experience coupled with his special knowledge of accounts and administrative ability had put him in good stead in the commercial and business activities of the country.


The next is Mr.W.C.Wishart

Succeeding the late Mr F.C.Gibbs. J.P., the “Father of the Motor Trade in Ceylon”, Mr Wishart was quick to pick up where Mr Gibbs left and thus fulfilled an obligation which his erstwhile predecessor had in mind. Thanks to the initiative and enterprise of Mr Gibbs, the proud heritage was handed to a worthy successor. In his association with the people of the country, during the 25 years and more, Mr Wishart delved into hearts by the twin mediums of professional efficiency and kindliness.

He was on earth and being there he considered his place among men irrespective of caste, creed, colour, race and nationality….As a public man and head of a firm which had vast potential, he was an excellent bridge builder….the richness of his incessant labours, for the betterment not only of the toilers, but of the people of the island who were often starved for the want of unselfish workmen.

It is worth recalling what Lord Nuffield had to say of Rowlands Ltd, agents for the British Car Co, in a letter on the Opening Day at Oxford House, some time ago.

 “For over twenty years the British Car Co, has held the franchise for Morris cars in Ceylon and during those years, their enthusiasm, loyalty and business acumen have never altered. It gave me the greatest pleasure during my brief visit to Colombo, last year, to meet once again Mr.W.C.Wishart and many of the executives and staff and see the building then under construction. In particular I was impressed with the general efficiency and undoubted happy relations which existed here. I am certain the bond which has been created over the years between my organization and the British Car Company will increase in the future. I therefore take the opportunity of wishing success and happiness to everyone concerned with the enterprise”.

And finally, Mr.A.P.Rowlands.

Mr Gomez states quote “Sprightly, affable and extremely popular “A.P.R.” was an institution in the local Motor Industry. As pioneer Motor Engineer and Founder-Director of the firm that bears his name, he stands in a plain all by himself.


As an inventor he can easily be regarded as “Ceylon’s Maserati”. Thousands of motor racing fans will remember him as the first Ceylonese to construct the “Zephyr” Racing Car from a heap of junk mostly of Ford origin, and later the racing track specially built for him for small diesel engine cars running on fuel. His originality and inventive genius thus added another illuminating chapter to his book of knowledge and wide experience. In connection with the Nelson Plan in Road Motor Transport, Mr Rowlands’ efforts to aid in its development is a cherished memory.

The lamp that he has lit burns brightly and prosperity will say of him “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. Shorn of guile and singularly devoid of cant or humbug, he is and unerring guide, philosopher and friend to all motorists”.

I am sure that there are many stories waiting to be told of other men and women who worked at Rowlands Garage/Limited.


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