Atapattu Walawwa

– Residence of the Gooneratne and Dias Abeysinghe Families of Galle


Many congratulations to the Conservator Supreme in Dr Janaka Goonetilleke of a monument of six generations of timely growth in the woodland of Walawwatte between 1780 and 2012, gently guided by its current owner and dear wife Mrs. Goonetilleke. Congratulations also to the enlightened advice offered by the co-authors of the book being launched today in Senake Dias Bandaranayake and Susil Sirivardana who are themselves part inheritors of this Treasure of the eighteenth century.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have seen few edifices of a yester era, restored and cared for as this, in recent times. Perhaps the Bandaranaike Walawwa at Horagolla, the Ekneligoda Walawwa at Kuruwita, and the Maduwanwela Walawwa are a handful of such residences of old. The Book on the Atapattu Walawwa being released today should be a serious eye-opener to owners of such manor houses as being a rare treasure from which one may take a leaf and have the few residences of old preserved for the generations still unborn. We wish to emphasize the fact that this edifice, though repaired and added to on six different occasions, the hands that moved at each repair were, indeed, of master craftsmen and so left no specialist to question the authenticity of the conservation work.

The book being released today speaks a thousand words with each photograph and drawing and leaves little room for any further explanation. The owner and fundraiser need to be congratulated a thousand times for being that rare navarathna in one, the dreamer, the designer and the doer.

If there is anything yet to be done it is to ensure that the future has no sunset to this fine achievement and that the generations cultured to such taste will, undoubtedly carry the baton of continuity and culture, to the destinies that the generations of fond lovers of heritage has willed the edifice and its environment to enjoy in its privileged setting.

Don Bastian Gooneratne (1758-1812) was a Landlord Official who held the post of Mudaliyar at the eight Pattus of Galle or as a part of the Kukul Korale, with the Port of Galle nurtured as the focus of export of agricultural products by the Dutch. It was also the time when Europe was playing chess with the countries colonized by them soon after the Napoleonic Wars. It was in the Treaty of Amiens that Mr. Pitt, the Prime Minister of Great Britain offered South Africa, Mauritius and Seychelles Islands to The Netherlands, in preference to Ceylon. When Mr. Pitt had to defend his decision in Parliament he said that "of all the places in the world, Ceylon added most to the security of Britain’s possessions". Thus, it was at the prime of officialdom with the Dutch as an officer that Don Bastian Gooneratne built this house (1780-1790) in Galle, although the Dutch left Galle to the British in 1796. However, the Mudaliyar of the eight Pattus of Galle continued to serve in the same post from the handsome residence in Walawwatte.

The story of the Ata Pattu Walawwa will not be complete without some reference to Edmund Rowland Gooneratne (1845-1914), who was the grandson of the founder and a committed editor and translator of Pali Texts. He also wrote commentaries on classical works like the Rasavahini, Sariputta and Rupamala. He was also committed to spiritual upliftment and even established the Gooneratne Mudalindarama within the Walawwate and a grand library. He was a friend of Col. Olcott, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala.

I would reserve my comments on the gardens, the interior decorations, the furniture, the ceramics and many more facets of culture that are part and parcel of this treasure trove.

However, let me on behalf of you splendid people, compliment the current owners of the Ata Pattu Walawwa and wish that their long line of an exceptional tradition will continue unended.

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