A British Colonial in Ceylon – the Life of Garry Shattock


Edgar Charles Evan Shattock known to family and friends as Garry, was born to a family long associated with Ceylon’s mercantile sector. Lee Hedges and Co founded in 1857 by WD Lee and JR Hedges was a plantation management company. By 1880 the brother of the founding partner GAM Hedges became the sole partner. In 1896 Ernest Mark Shattock was taken as a partner of the firm, and by 1911 he was the sole partner having acquired the interests of his co-partner A.A. Hankey.

Ernest Mark Shattock married Mabel, the daughter of Evan Byrde of the Ceylon Civil Service, a man reputed for his proficiency in the Sinhalese language. Mabel and Ernest lived in Colombo where through 15 years the couple had six children of whom Garry was the youngest. The children were educated partly in Ceylon in the Hill School, Nuwara Eliya, and partly in England. Ernest died in 1920 at the age of fifty-four, in his home in Surrey of Bright’s disease. Mabel then married Charles Burns a colleague of Ernest at Lee Hedges and Co.

Mabel and Charles lived in Doone Lodge in Nuwara Eliya where they had “a retinue of servants enabling them to have many house guests and parties.” Garry was studying in Lancing College in England and joined the family in Ceylon during his holidays. One day he returned home from a cycling adventure to find his stepfather dead, having blown his brains out. Family lore has it that “there was a big scandal, but no one ever talked about “it was a terrible business.”

Not very long after, Garry was progressing in his career at Lee Hedges where he was appointed Company Secretary in 1950 and later Director, and thereafter Chairman and Managing Director of the company after its merger with Shaw Wallace’s to become Shaw Wallace and Hedges Ltd. Garry Shattock retired in 1969 to return to England with his family. In Colombo they lived in Jawatte Road, initially in a company provided bungalow named “Minster” and subsequently in a larger home, also provided by the company, on Jawatte Road closer to Bullers Road.

Judy in her memoir refers whimsically to the pleasant walks down the treelined Bullers Road, and the tiffins and suppers she enjoyed at the Princes Club at the end of Bullers Road, her frequent trips to the Colombo Swimming Club, and Galle Face Hotel where she was a constant visitor for a swim. There was also a period of several months when the Shattocks’ lived on Vogan Estate, Kalutara as paying guests of Farquarson who was Manager of Vogan Group, an 1800-acre rubber estate managed by Lee Hedges, and for some months Garry was commuting to work to Kollupitiya in his chauffer driven car.

Garry married Jean Barrington Gates, the attractive daughter of Barry an internationally reputed aircraft engineer according to her daughter Judy, from whom most of the family details have been extracted from her book “Jawatte Road” published in 2017. Judy Shattock the only surviving child of her parents describes in a very evocative style her life, growing up in Ceylon and her dislike for those compulsory visits to England for education. Her heart wrenching recapitulations of her loneliness and yearning to be with her father and family are beautifully expressed in her book from which I have extracted a great deal of information about the family. Judy’s mum while being a very attractive woman was apparently somewhat promiscuous in her behaviour often causing her father to make unflattering remarks on her behaviour.

Judy states in her book “Jawatte Road”: “Among my papers is a long stern letter written by my grandfather to Jean on the subject of men, suggesting that she had little taste, accusing her of being promiscuous, of playing sex games, of having too many boyfriends, and advising her to think of other people’s feelings”!! She seemed to be equally single minded in her general outlook to life which apparently caused her early death from dysentery. She apparently did not follow the family rule of using boiled water for drinking and even to brush teeth, and thus leading to a premature death leaving behind a husband and two daughters Nicola and Judy.

Nicola was given birth aided with forceps which apparently caused damage to her brain, leading to epilepsy which besieged her during her young life, cruelly compounded by living in institutional care both in Ceylon and in England where she was lodged in a Home for children with special needs, but away from her family and friends. Judy her younger sister was very sad of the manner in which her sister had to endure during her short life.

After the death of Jean, Garry married Jocelyn who was a benevolent companion to Judy and life in Colombo was becoming enjoyable. Garry was now a director of the company and was able to relegate his old Morris Minor to history and enjoying the perks of directorship including a chauffeur driven company provided motor car. All the while however Garry was besieged by chronic asthma for which at the time there was no known cure other than managing its effects through constant inhalation through a puffer. The chronic asthma condition affected his countenance although he was a very gregarious person without any affectations. His daughter Judy simply adored him and was distraught when she was sent to school boarding first in Nuwara Eliya, and later in England. Judy believed that her father’s inability to complete both his schooling as well as the premature end to his Cambridge university education was due to his asthma.

In the face of all the personal adversities he faced, Garry led a life typical of the British expat company director. Annual holidays either in Bentota, Passekudah, Nuwara Eliya, and Yala creamed with a holiday in England every three years, was a dream career that any Ceylonese would have aspired to. Few however were aware of the inner demons he was battling all the time.

Edgar Charles Evan Shattock retired to England in 1968. He passed away at home on 17 August 1986 deeply mourned by his daughter Judy, and family.


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