Story of Galle, Maha Kappina Walawwa and the Pollocks


View of the magnificent Galle Stadium from the nearly 500-year-old ‘Dutch Fort’ and the clock tower, built in memory of Dr. P.D. Anthonisz, in 1883.

by Revata S. Silva

"We came to S.L. especially to watch the tests at Galle and Colombo. There is no doubt that the Galle cricket ground is one of, or these (sic) most, attractive test cricket venue in the world. The combination of a small ground, proximity to the tropical ocean, with the ramparts of a 400 year fort as a background, plus the friendly & knowledgeable local enthusiasts make watching cricket here an unforgettable experience." - David Doden, South African cricket enthusiast, S.L. July 2014

This is true. An international stadium by the ocean, at the edge of a monumental fortress and an ancient harbour, the central bus-stand and the railway station - Galle would not be as regal as the Lord’s or as picturesque as the HPCA in Dharamsala, but it provides one of the most exciting views of an international cricket ground. The said views by Mr. Doden were sent to us by Percy Abeysekera who, as Doden names, one with "wonderful enthusiasm for the game ... adding an extra dimension" to it.

Galle and its fortress –

The geographical and administrative centre of southern Sri Lanka, Galle, was once known in the ancient history as Gimhathiththa. The famous 14th century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta named Galle ‘Qali’, which was then the main port of the island.

The modern history of Galle begins in 1502 when a small fleet of Portuguese ships under Lourenço de Almeida arrived there by accident, being blown off-course by a storm on their way to the Maldivian islands.

Then in 1640, the Dutch came to the island. The Portuguese were forced to surrender to them. Then the Dutch rule existed in the island from 1640-1796 until the Britishers came.

A remarkable monument mixed with Portuguese, Dutch and eastern architecture, the Galle Fortress was first built by the Portuguese in 1541. Then the Dutch extensively fortified it since 1649, through the 17th century. Therefore it’s often named the Dutch Fort. Galle Fort is also called ‘Ramparts of Galle’. It’s the Dutch who built its fortified granite wall and three bastions, ‘Sun’, ‘Moon’ and ‘Star’.

Dr. Anthonisz clock tower –

The iconic clock tower within the Galle Fort is overlooking its central ‘Moon’ Bastion. It was built in 1883 in recognition of Dr. P. D. Anthonisz. The clock itself was a gift of Sampson de Abrew Rajapakse, Gate Mudliyar from ‘Maha Kappina’ ancestral house in Balapitiya, situated about 34 kms north of Galle.

Sampson, an old Thomian and a remarkable philanthropist in his time, was Dr. Anthonisz’s grateful patient. His wife was once nursed back to health with rare prowess by Anthonisz after a debilitating illness.

The plate on the clock tower carries this inscription: "This tower erected by public subscription to the perpetual memory of Peter Daniel Anthonisz (born in Galle) in testimony of his skill and benevolence in relieving human suffering. MDCCCLXXXIII".

Dr. Anthonisz was a renowned Burgher who studied medicine at Bengal Medical College and St. Andrew’s University, Scotland before serving as the Colonial Surgeon of the Southern Province. In 1889 he had led a local opposition against the then British government’s proposal to demolish the ramparts. Anthonisz argued that the fort provided protection from monsoon tidal floods. This argument was proved right when the deadly Tsunami ravaged Gall in December 2004. The fort too miraculously withstood the attack.

Rajapakses and Ananda College -

Sampson’s son was Tudor Rajapakse. Following his father’s footsteps, Tudor donated about three acres of land in 1895 to establish renowned Ananda College at its present location in Maradana.

The school had been formed by Col. Henry Olcott in Pettah named ‘Buddhist English School’. The school’s name has been derived from the contemporary, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda (Ananda) thero of ‘Panadurawadaya’ fame. But some are of the view that the name came from Lord Buddha’s revered disciple, Ananda.

When South Africa first played a Test in Galle, in July 2000, they lost the match by an innings and 15 runs. World famous Anandian Arjuna Ranatunga played that match, in his swansong series, under Sanath Jayasuriya.

Percy and Maha Kappina Walawwa –

Percy Abeysekera’s hometown is also Balapitiya. His mother was Dolly Margeret de Zoysa Siriwardene. Her mother’s younger brother —Dolly’s uncle— was Sir Francis de Zoysa, renowned patriot who was president of the Ceylon National Congress. One of Sir Francis’ daughters, Violet, got married to Tudor Rajapakse.

Then Iris Wickremasinghe, another daughter of Francis, married Anton Wickremasinghe, former National Film Corporation chairman. Anton produced the 1963 cinematic portrayal of the Martin Wickramasinghe literary classic, ‘Gamperaliya,’. The film was directed by Dr. Lester James Peries. It was entirely shot at Maha Kappina Walawwa, which no longer exists now.

Whenever he is asked for his comments on this ‘walawwa connection’, Percy quips: "Den walaw ilaw wela, ewaye inne rilaw!" (Now all those houses are no more and only the monkeys are living in them!).

Now to the Pollocks -

It was legendary Shaun Pollock, son of Peter Pollock, who was the captain of the 2000 South Africa tour. During this drawn Test series, Percy wanted to check Shaun’s cricketing knowledge and asked whether he knew names of the great South African cricketers of pre-Aparthied. Pollock returned the question asking Percy whether he knew who his father was. "Is it Peter Pollock or Graeme Pollock," he asked.

Then our man, hell-bent on irritating the opposition skipper, didn’t hesitate to say this: "From your standard of cricket, you can’t be the son of anyone of those."

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