was an acknowledged beautiful lady of the highest lineage. She
was well known all over the island where her name was often used
comparatively, when on the subject of feminine beauty — "As
beautiful as Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy". A colour photograph in my
possession proves beyond all doubt that she was par
excellence. When one is so well known for her pulchritude,
elegance and charm, one is invariably the subject of risque
stories and our Kumarihamy was no exception. In fact, she was
the envy of most ladies of her time and the target of many
I happen to be related to the Kumarihamy through
my mother, Florence Elapatha of Elapatha Walauwa, Ratnapura, who
married Mike Ilangakoon of Maha Walauwa, Matara. Florrie as she
was known, was the daughter of Alice Iddamalgoda, whose sister
was Leela. Leela’s daughter Irene married Copleston Dias
Bandaranaike whose son Lakshi and I are cousins, in fact, the
only living relicts of Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy. That’s a long
rigmarole, but it has to be recorded for the purpose of this
Being the envy of all the ladies of her vintage,
the Kumarihamy was the butt of many of the rude and crude
stories related by them about her. Witches ! Out of them all,
one was outstanding and bears repetition here.
Spelling out Kumarihamy in full, is
tedious, but I wouldn’t dare to abbreviate it to K’hamy or KH.
Such is the awe with which we refer to her even today.
It would appear that the Kumarihamy who was a
widower, lived in solitary splendour in her spacious Pelmadulla
Walauwa. Perhaps a Merry Widow. Be that as it may, her
house was the only house she owned, which was, in fact, a
Walauwa, a mini palace of the day.
In more recent times, I remember Pelmadulla
Walauwa which we used to visit quite often when our home was
Devil’s Gap Kahawatte, as my mother’s sister Aunt Este lived
there with her brood. The eldest was Gamini who stayed with us
in our other home, ‘Minadel’ on Hotel Road, Mount Lavinia and
went with us to S. Thomas’ College which was adjacent, separated
by only a loose barbed wire fence, quite easy to creep through.
Our other cousins, the Elapathas, Sam, Eddie and Upali also
lived with us. Quite a crowd, substantially augmented when all
our uncles and aunts came to Colombo for every family wedding!
Thinking back, it beats me how we all managed to
squeeze in, sleeping on mats in the sitting room whenever the
occasion demanded. Even more astounding was the fact that we
shared a single toilet which was of the bucket type. We queued
up for our turn each morning!
Returning to my subject, the story goes that the
Prince of Wales, the heir to the British throne, was on one of
his numerous tours of the colonies. It included this island
which was a tiny fragment of the British Empire of the day. On
his journey back to Colombo, he had passed.
Rakwana, a hill station, whence, he intended to
go to Ratnapura, the city of gems and then on to Colombo, but
fate deemed otherwise and while he was at the junction town
Pelmadulla, his horse-drawn carriage broke down and needed
repairs which would take at least a day.
The State official in charge of the Prince’s
safety and comfort was the G.A., the Government Agent of the
District of Ratnapura. He was in a quandary. Where could he
arrange to lodge the Prince during this misadventure ? The only
available option to measure up to the rigorous standards
required by His Highness, the Prince of Wales, was the rambling
home of Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy about whom the GA had already
heard tantalizing stories He considered the opportunity a
godsend and immediately arranged for the short detour to
Pelmadulla Walauwa which had the essential accoutrements for the
The GA sent an emissary to the occupant — none
other than the renowned Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy who readily
obliged by offering to lodge the Prince overnight while the
carriage was being repaired. The GA was relieved, the Prince was
peeved and the Kumarihamy was jubilant !
When the GA arrived the following morning in the
carriage repaired and ready to continue the rest of the journey,
the Royal Prince was ‘not ready’ ! Why ? Well, your guess is as
good a mine. He sent the GA back to Pelmadulla town in the
carriage to ensure that it was definitely roadworthy and that
the horses were well fed and groomed.
The Prince of Wales was ‘not ready’ even the
following morning. He sent the carriage back to Pelmadulla with
orders to remain there, until summoned ! The GA was frantic. He
had a schedule to follow according to the orders of the highest
in the land, the Governor in Colombo.
"All good things must come to an end" goes the
saying. It was only after two days and two nights that the
Prince was reluctantly persuaded by the GA to recommence the
stalled journey ! What excuse the GA made to the Governor is not
on record, but it is well known that the Prince gifted his gold
signet ring to the GA as a souvenir for his failure to keep to
Having written this piece of recent history, I
went across and had another look at Iddamalgoda Kumarihamy’s
photograph hanging on the side wall of our TV lounge. I
certainly felt my sympathy was with the Prince of Wales. Three
cheers for His Royal Highness !