Gilbert Leonard Rupasinghe, Notary Public,
prominent planter and entrepreneur and his young wife Nancy
Margaret Suriyabandara, who was expecting her first baby, whilst
sight seeing in Italy had visited a picturesque and charming
hamlet called Eline. They were so enthralled by its serenity and
its scenic beauty they decided then and there to name their baby
to be born after this hamlet. On 15th December, 1913 a baby girl
was born and she was named Elina. She was the only child in the
As was the custom in the Kandyan region in those
days to add the name ‘Bandara’ to male children besides their
other names, in the low country, too, among elite groups it was
customary to assign 'Bandara' even to females. Mrs. Rupasinghe,
too, was accordingly known as Nancy Margaret Suriya Bandara
before her marriage to Mr. Rupasinghe and their daughter also
came to be known as Elina Bandara Rupasinghe.
Elina, the only child in this aristocratic
family, did not attend school, but was tutored at home as was
the custom of families of the elite of the day. She was tutored
in English, Sinhalese and Pali and also in Accountancy,
Stenography and Music. By 193, she was an accomplished young
lady with all necessary attributes in education, caste, creed
and social status.
She was also heiress to enormous family wealth.
As the most eligible debutante at the time, she was also the
most sought-after by prospective mothers-in-law, who longed to
welcome her to their hearth. But Leonard Rupasinghe had laid
down certain stipulations in selecting a bridegroom for his
daughter. Among the many suitors, the the young up and coming
barrister son of Mrs. Agnes Jayewardene, Junius Richard
Jayewardene, better known as J. R., was accepted to be her
partner in life.
They were married on 28th February, 1935 and
settled down at 'Vyjantha' in Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, the
'Mahagedera' of the bridegroom, which now houses the Jayewardene
Centre. Their only child, Ravindra Wimal, was born here on 22nd
April, 1936. After three years at 'Vyjayantha', they shifted to
Ward Place building their own house after demolishing the old
house 'Braemar', which belonged to Elina's father. The new
house, designed by an architect, was to be their home ever
since, and the name 'Braemar' from the old structure remained.
J. R. preferred to live in 'Braemar' rather than at his official
residences, as Prime Minister and Executive President, which he
used only for formal functions and official duties.
Elina never took an active role in her husband's
political affairs, but was always the driving force and strength
in behind his illustrious career. She was his loving and
faithful companion throughout their long married life. It is
said that after a tiresome day, studded with many problems of
public office, he always loved to come back home, where he found
solace, comfort and affection.
President Jayewardene, recalling his married
life, admitted that Elina's co-operation and affection have
always been the driving force behind his life. Before breathing
his last, he summoned his Secretary and stated that after his
death, everything at Braemar should be done according to her
wishes. It was indeed a fair indication of the depth of his
devotion and love he had nurtured throughout his married life
for a woman who meant so much to him.
The major portion of the properties of the
Jayewardene family was what Elina inherited from her parents,
and she encountered no obstacle in disposing of them according
to her own wishes. Manelwatta in Bollagala, Kelaniya, a prime
coconut estate of over forty acres, was donated by her to the
Malwatta Maha Vihare. Dharmaloka Vidyalaya, which caters to a
vast student population in the area, is established on a land
donated by her father. Numerous blocks of land in Dehiwala,
Attidiya and Bellanwila, which belonged to her, have been
transferred to those who reside in those lands.
Elina had over one hundred widows on her pay
roll, who visit her regularly on an appointed day to receive
their donations, which no doubt went a long way to keep their
home fires burning. She makes this an occasion to have tea with
them and have a chit chat with the old ladies.
Once she received a letter from a schoolgirl in
Gampola, who had written to say that she was the daughter of an
estate labourer, and had only one school uniform, which was
discoloured and worn out, and that her father could not afford
her a new dress.
Elina promptly made arrangements to dispatch
material for five school uniforms through the then Government
Agent, Kandy, . S. M. Tenakoon. Having delivered the material,
the Government Agent, enclosing a letter of thanks from the
girl, wrote back to say that the girl thoroughly deserved help
as correctly perceived by the First Lady.
Elina could move with the elite, both local and
foreign, and at the same time mix with the poor.
Notwithstanding her position as the First Lady
of the country, she had neither critic nor competitor. Her
generosity, decorum and true appreciation of humanity endeared
her to the young and the old, the rich and the poor alike.
We salute her as a worthy daughter of Mother