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Nuwara Eliya has lost one of its famous sons; the Golf Club is devastated and grieving; I have lost a dear friend, and we are all the losers due to the death of Clive Tissera. Yes, Clive was an institution in himself, a pillar of rectitude, an unrelenting and ever watchful custodian of the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, that last oasis of pristine beauty amidst the growing squalor that is Nuwara Eliya.
Although Clive was into his eighties, and showing signs of frailty, his death came as a surprise. We all expected him to bounce back as he had done so many times before, as he had an uncommon resilience when it came to prevailing over illness. Life is precious and must be lived and lived well, and he had that adaptability to survive and make the changes in his lifestyle that were necessary. Even in that last bout, he faced the grim reaper bravely but ultimately surrendered to the inevitable.
I first met Clive in the early days of my planting career when I was an assistant manager on Mahadowa Estate, Madulsima, in 1965. Clive and his wife Diana were close friends of my first boss, Vivian Blaze, and his wife, Charmaine. Not surprisingly, the Blazes were close to many of the Tissera clan of planters, and apart from a good public school background had other common traits and interests.
A striking feature was their uncompromising attitude to plantation work and standards. Clive’s elder brother, Aubrey Gordon who survives him, happened to be my neighbour way back in the 1960s and I recall coming away utterly impressed from a visit to his estate, Blair Lomond, in Uda Pussellawa. To say that the standards that he maintained on that property were impeccable, is putting it mildly. Having said that it is highly doubtful that the methods he employed would succeed in the context of the present day.
Clive’s cousin Vernon Tissera whose expertise and longevity in the planting profession is legendary, was lauded as the doyen of tea planters, when he ran Diyagama West estate, back in the 1980’s, by none other than the Regional Manager(JEDB) at the time, Herman Malinga Guneratne, now proprietary planter and successful author.
Then there was Ralston Tissera, Vernon’s brother, who was no slouch either in the matter of running tea estates. He worked on stellar properties such as St. Leonard’s and Waltrim and earned an enviable reputation as arguably the best tea manufacturer in the country.
Tea seemed to run in their blood and another cousin, Michael Tissera, who was Sri Lanka’s Cricket Captain in the pre test status era, went into the tea exporting business and was the chairman of a prosperous tea export company, till his retirement, recently.
Clive, just as much as his other kith and kin, was a bit of a maverick; or to indulge in a euphemism, individualistic. He may have been perceived as a somewhat reclusive, crusty old bachelor by many. To that extent he was different but what was consistent about him were his absolute integrity, his candour, his sense of conviction and belief in himself.
On his retirement from Delmar estate, Clive made Nuwara Eliya his home. The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, of which he was a member for over half a century became his raison detre. He took over from Chris Worthington, a retired British tea planter, who it must be mentioned did an excellent job as honourary secretary for many years.
"The evil that men do, lives after them; the good is often interred in their bones." words of The Bard, himself. The inference is obvious, and I have taken the liberty of taking it a step further. We are, each one of us, a composite of good and evil. The values that we acquire along life’s way will shape our final personalities. In remembering Clive, I like to think that his honesty and directness, his decency and kindness, vastly outweighed the human frailties that he must undoubtedly have had. A friend in need is a friend indeed – trite but true. When I needed a friend he was always there. I will miss him sorely, like so many of us.
Farewell dear Clive and a happy journey. We will miss you but take some comfort in the certain knowledge that death here on earth is but the first step in your journey through eternal life.
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