GALLE – Home to Richmond
There are many articles about Galle in the web and much material to read. Nevertheless as the home to Richmond some information about Galle is not out of place.
The Galle harbour is a creation of nature. Thus from the time Ceylon or Sri Lanka came into being Galle has been there. Ptolemy’s world map prepared around 125 – 150 AD identifies Galle in the Island. It was the main port of the country and seafarers of yore knew of Galle harbour and its environs. Galle was the capital of Ceylon during the colonial era before the capital was moved to Colombo by the British. The history goes in to King Solomon’s time. It is believed that Galle is the ancient seaport Tarshish, from which king Solomon drew the ivory and other valuables. It’s been the most prominent seaport before the Western rule of the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through Galle port. The ‘modern’ history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship was drawn by a storm and the captain Lourenzo de Almeida came near Galle. But he did not land. Later they occupied many Sri Lankan Coastal towns, and by 1597, built a small fortification in Galle.
There are different schools of thought as to how Galle got its name. Some believe that word Galle is derived from the Portuguese word ‘Galinha’ which means chicken. The lore says that when the Portuguese first set their foot in Galle that they heard a cock croaking. Yet the natives believe some believe that there was a very large ‘Gaala’ of cattle here. Gaala in Sinhala means the place where cattle are herded together. So they believe Galle is a development from ‘Gaala’. It is from Galle harbour that Portuguese led by Lorenzo de Almeida first arrived in Sri Lanka. Their arrival marked an important watershed in Sri Lanka’s history because it completely changed the course of Sri Lankan history. Their arrival however, was not a planned one. It was by mere chance they came here as there ship was caught in a storm and it is the winds that brought their ship to Galle.
The Wesleyan Missionaries first came to Galle although part of them landed in Weligama a little distance down along the South coast. It was here that they started their mission work. The first Wesleyan Mission School in Asia and Ceylon had its beginning with the arrival of the Wesleyan Methodist missionaries’ way back in 1814. One of the first acts of the missionaries in Galle was to start a school to train future local missionaries to spread the gospel among the locals. With passage of time they added more facilities to the school.
The Galle Fort and the environs have many historic buildings connected with the school and is part of the Galle heritage. The next few pages are about some places that has some connection to Richmond.
This is an article that appears in the book “Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon by J Penry Lewis CMG published in 1913 and the original now lying at the the Cornell University Library, USA “
In the Fort of Galle the large and airy structure in which the Dutch Burghers still hold their services was,
according to tradition, erected by a lady Gtertruyda Adriana le Grand, wife of the Commandeur Casparua de
Jong. The story goes that this lady, who had been childless for many years, made a vow that if she should ever
have a child she would build a church as a thank-offering to God. Her hopes being at length realized by the birth
of a daughter, the present church arose on the site of an ancient Portuguese Capuchin convent. All this is tradition.
No stone slab let into the wall or floor of the building, or any record among the archives of the Consistory, has yet
been found to corroborate the story, but there is a nameless painted hatchment on the wall, the oldest memorial
of its land in the building, which would appear to have been placed there in memory of its founder. The shield
of arms bears charges which have a striking resemblance to those of the family of the De Jongs to be found rudely
sculptured on one or two tombstones in Galle and Jaffna. The baton and other insignia of a Commandeur
displayed around the hatchment indicate that that person was a Commandeur, and the date 1758 was very
probably that .of the death of Commandeur Casparus de Jong. He appears to have been, about this time,
succeeded in office by the Commandeur Abraham Samalant. In an old German work, ‘ Allemeuste Geographisch
Oostindien,’ published at Leipzig in 1767, a ground plan of the Fort of Galle is shown of the year 1736, in
which a piece of open ground occupies the site of the present Dutch Church. This may seem at first to contradict
the theory of the Portuguese convent, but it is reasonable to suppose that the convent had existed there at an
earlier time and been demolished by the Dutch in their well-known hatred of the Roman Catholics To refer
to some of the changes wrought in the interior of the building within the present century Perhaps the most
noticeable was the removal of the old Commandeur’s pew, built of satinwood and velvet lined. The last
to use this pew was the Commandeur Dietrich Thomas Fretz, who with his family continued to sit in it Sunday
after Sunday for many years after the British occupation. When he was removed the pew was closed for ever,
no one of inferior rank being allowed to occupy it. At length, being no longer of any practical use, it had to yield
to the vandalism which in our own times appears to have little regard for the old things and the old ways of our
fathers. Another pew which stood against the wall of the north transept, used by the various boekhouders of
the Dutch East India Company, had to make room about fifty years ago for the platform and massive communion
rails required for the Episcopahan services, which were then held in this church. About the same time the huge
memorial tablet of Commandeur Samlant, resplendent in golden colours, which stood on the wall facing the
main entrance to the church, was moved to its present less prominent position, so that more light may be introduced
into the church by a window, which window was glazed with small panes in imitation of the old windows which
had existed from the Dutch times.
“In former times, but within the memory of old men of our own generation, the vaulted ceihng of the
church was of a beautiful celestial blue and studded with stars of gold to represent the canopy of heaven.
The blue is now quite faded, and the stars are no longer to be seen No true idea of the old place as it
stood say eighty years ago could be conveyed unless we referred to the benches and the stiff-backed chairs
which then filled the centre of the building. These were long ago replaced by slender movable pews or seats.
No reading desk like the one now used was then to be seen, and the floor was paved by small dark-coloured
bricks The large tombstones which He under the staircase were only placed there in 1881 , when the old graveyard
was dismantled and the bones removed to the church.” (R. G. Anthonisz in Ceylon Literary Register, vol. VI., pages 253—4.)
Many of the tombstones in the church did not originally belong to it, and are not in situ. How they came
there is explained by Mr. F. H. de Vos in the following passage from an article of his on ” Old Galle,” which
appeared in the Ceylon Literary Register (vol. II., pp. 341-2) :—
“Opposite the office of Messrs. J. J. Vanderspaar & Co., on the strip of ground now overgrown with grass and having a few trees on it, stood in very early times the old Dutch Church, or the Groote Kerk- as it is called in Valentyn The only traces of this church at one time discernible by people of the present century were a, number of gravestones placed side by side and parallel to each other along the ground. In the year 1853, when the Consistory of the Dutch Church decided on removmg the bodies of the Dutch interred ia the old cemetery to the present church these stones were also removed, and were used to pave the floor of the building, where they
still lie It was in the Groote Kerk that the body of General Hulft was temporarily laid during the contuiuance of the siege of Colombo by the Dutch. The historian Baldseus relates that it was first deposited in a vault
underaroxmd evidently outside the church, and that in 1657, by order of the Governor Adriaan van der Meyden,
it was interred with great ceremony inside the church near the pulpit, his arms, buckler, sword, and spurs
beine against the wall. The remains were afterwards, in the year 1658, after the capture of Colombo, removed
thither… …There is reason to believe that the old church occupied a much larger site than that shown by the
small plot of grass-grown land now seen, and it is a curious fact that when a few years ago the drain under the small cross road was laid open, several gravestones with inscriptions and armorial bearings and dates corresponding to
that of the church were found underground Underneath the floor of the (present) church , covering the whole
area of the head of the cross, is the burial vault of the church. In the time of the Dutch, burials were regulated
by a scale of fees the highest fee being for a burial mside the vault, the next for a burial in graves dug in the
body of the church and the lowest for one in the vaults outside. After the British occupation it appears that a
few of the leading Dutch families claimed the exclusive right of burial in the vault outside the church, from having
some member of the famfly buried there, and the fee was a high one, while burials inside the church contmued to be allowed to those who chose to pay the fee, which, accordmg to Dr. Dahnaans, was one hundred rix-dollars in Colombo.
The vault outside the church appears to have been in disuse for a very long time. It extends from the walls of the church to the parapet was of the church garden and is roofed over with a pavement. It is supposed to consist of two chambers; the one on the church side has never been opened withm the memory of anyone living, but up to a few years ago the other chamber could have, at any time, been entered by an underground
flight of steps, though no traces of any burials were then visible. The last burial in the vault inside the
church took place in 1863.“
The church was built between the years 1752-54, and the painted hatchment referred to has subsequently been discovered to contain the arms of Commandeur Ras Macquet. (Journal “Dutch Burgher Union of Celyon” Vol. I., pp 135, 175.)
Several of those Missionaries or their familes are burried here. The tomb inscriptions of some of those whose remains lie in the cemetry are given here.
This foregoing descriptoion is reproduced from the book “Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon by J Penry Lewis CMG published in 1913 and the original now lying at the the Cornell University Library, USA “
Dec. 5, 1815. Julia Bridgnell
JULIA, fourth daughter of the Revd. W. BRIDGNELL, Wesleyan Missionary, and ELIZA, his wife, born at Matura, May 27th, 1831, died at Colombo, December 5th, 1845, and buried there in the Pettah Wesleyan Chapel near the remains of her sister, ANNE AMELIA, where both rest till” The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and shall come forth absent from the body present with the Lord.”
Erected by her bereaved and sorrowing parents.
Sudden as o’er the sky a cloud is spread,
Death swept over JULLIA from our weeping sight, As a flower cut down, a shadow lied,
Her spirit passed away and all was night. To Him who burst the iron of death,
And op’d the wide eternal gate of heaven. Strong in our love but stronger in our Faith,
We gave her back who but awhile was given.
Oct. , 1848 Eliza Bridgnell
Here lies (all that was mortal of) ELIZA BRIDGNELL, the faithful, affectionate, and much-loved wife of WILLIAM BRIDGNELL, Wesleyan Missionary, born February 17th, 1810.
The Rev. William Bridgnell was in Ceylon, 1822-49; died 1858. He published “An English Grammar in Sinhalese and English” and ” A Dictionary, Sinhalese and English,” 1847.
Sept. 18, 1851. W. H. A. Dickson
In memory of the late Rev. W. H. A. DICKSON,
Wesleyan Missionary of South Ceylon, who died
at Madras on the 18th of September, 1851, aged
25 years. A few friends at Galle, where he spent
the last years of his faithful and laborious ministry,
have erected this tablet as a memorial of his
exemplary piety and devotedness. t
” The names of Richard Stoup and William H. A. Dickson, both of whom died young, arc still fragrant as tho perfume of the na tree.” (” Jubilee Memorials,” 1814-64, which contains a copy of the inscription, p. 216.)
After a residence in the Island of less than five years he removed to Madras, where he died. He was in Ceylon from 1846.