Features
The fountain at Lipton Circus

by Charmaine Mendis
With the re-structuring of Lipton Circus, I wonder whether anyone has looked carefully at the beautiful little fountain that stands opposite Salu Sala. Most of the year festooned with streamers of various hues depending on which political party is currently meeting, this fountain becomes an unwilling maypole. Already the precariously perched pinnacle is decidedly wobbly and in danger of falling off. The roundabout which surrounds it is a picture of neglect, overgrown with weeds and covered with litter that the fountain is lost, and one has to really look to find it.

The fountain has a history that probably dates back to 1894. It was erected to the memory of George Wall who died in that year. The fountain is made of Doulton ware tiles. Doulton is a British firm renowned as makers of fine porcelain. There is a strong possibility that the tiles too are made of porcelain. The combination of colours is very pleasing, beneath the layers of dust and grime. This little gem of a fountain now over a 100 years old has a simple inscription —

"George Wall -

Philanthropist

1820 to 1894".

Behind that inscription lies the tale of a remarkable man who made a positive contribution to the island of Ceylon, as it was then known.

George Wall was a man of many parts - a man of integrity with a fine sense of justice. Born in 1820 George Wall came to Ceylon in 1846 as acting Manager of the ‘Ceylon Plantation Co.’ with their office in Kandy in a building where the Hotel Suisse now stands. Subsequently, he moved to Colombo and developed the Estate Agency business until he had his own firm of George Wall & Co. Unfortunately with the coffee blight, the firm crashed and he was bought out by Bosanquet & Co.

George Wall formed the Planters’ Association of Ceylon and had the distinction of being re-elected Chairman nine times between 1856 and 1884. He was also Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. His greatest contribution to Ceylon was when he sat in the Legislative Council and helped to ventilate the grievances of the Ceylon League by representing them in Parliament. He went against the Colonial Government of the time appealing on behalf of Ceylon and against the imposition of the Paddy Tax.

George Wall was twice member of the Legislative Council and both times he resigned in a dramatic way. On one occasion he disagreed with the principle of spending money first and asking for a vote afterwards. After this episode, the Planters’ Association was reluctant to send a representative to the Council. In the second instance, he resigned when the unofficials resigned in a body. His radical politics of supporting the natives in a Crown Colony were not well received by the English community. However, when the Paddy Tax was repealed in 1890 largely due to George Wall’s efforts, he received the Cobden Club’s Gold Medal.

George Wall was also Astronomer, flautist and Botanist, who was said to have the best fern collection in the world. As a fine writer, he became Editor of the Ceylon Independent in 1889, the pioneer of the cheap newspaper in the East. When other newspapers were being sold for -/15 cts or -/12 l/2 cts, the Independent issued its first number on 4th July 1888 for -/5 cts and was an immediate success. This caused the Observer and Times to reduce their prices to -/10 cts. The Independent grew from strength to strength under the editorship of George Wall. His connection with the newspaper lasted until his death in December 1894.

This historic fountain which stands silent testimonial to a truly remarkable personality, friend and supporter of Ceylon should be preserved for posterity as a part of the history of Sri Lanka. This article is an appeal to the Municipal authorities to restore it and preserve it.


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