Gentleman Planter Par Excellence

S. Skandakumar (2018)
The curtain came down on the Life of Wickrema De Alwis on 20th October at four score and seven, leaving friends and family to reflect on the qualities of a man that made him not just one of the finest Tea Planters the Industry had known but also a true Gentleman in every sense of the word.

My association with Wick as he was fondly known goes back to the mid-seventies when as a young Executive at George Steuarts, then renowned for managing Plantations, I was assigned the awesome task of handling the desk of the Company's most prestigious charge viz "The Standard Tea Company” which comprised of six remarkable Estates, three in Uda Pussellawa and the balance in Bogawantalawa / Lindula.

Vivian Louis Blaze Wick was Superintendent of one of them, viz Kotiyagala Group in Bogawantalawa, a highly profitable property with a popular selling mark which he took great pride in. His leadership was by example, combining the highest level of Integrity with a " No Nonsense " approach to work and ethics that were impossible to surpass and yet worthy to emulate.

Not surprisingly every young Planter who served under him went on to reach great heights in their own careers thanks to a foundation of Integrity, Commitment and Accountability instilled by their strict disciplinarian "Peria Dorai" Boss! Here lies yet another story of what exemplary leadership can do for a succeeding generation no matter what the field!

Following the nationalisation of Plantations in 1975/76 Wick was appointed to Chair a Regional Board by the Government where his expertise and high standards benefitted a cluster of Estates and with that the numerous personnel who served on those properties.

He became a much sought-after Visiting Agent and it is common knowledge that the bushes flushed green and the tea prices soared on every mark he visited!

His official residences had beautifully manicured lawns surrounded by exotic roses while his impeccably maintained homes were a joy to visit. Their walls were studded with photos of the many pedigreed handsome canines that surrounded his life; relationships of love and care may well have inspired the likes of Barbara Cartland to even greater heights!

In retirement he lived initially in rented accommodation in Watapuluwa off Kandy, and I have fond memories of our weekends together enjoying our long walks reminiscing on the positive and negative sides of life and humanity.

He followed our nation's cricket with a passion and was quick to put pen to paper whenever he felt that something in that field needed correction. The media respected his wisdom and often published his views.

He was blessed in his domestic Saveria, a faithful "Man Friday" of almost forty years whose loyalty and respect for his master remained unwavering throughout that period...a rare occurrence indeed and yet a reflection of a large and caring heart that Wick hid under a strict and exacting exterior.

Kalimuttu, his driver of shorter duration was equally devoted but less disciplined as his refusal to give up smoking much to Wick's anger and dismay eventually took toll of his lungs and life.

Needless to say that Wick reciprocated this loyalty by ensuring that the children of his carers were put on career paths that opened doors to greater opportunities.

Sadly the collapse of the Golden Key Finance Company where he had a major part of his life savings, cruelly devastated his Life and took inevitable toll of his health.

He was compelled to move to a retirement home in Bolgoda where he spent his final years in decline.

His meticulous planning for a contented retired Life that he so richly deserved was shattered by the inexcusable irresponsibility of an Institution he trusted.

Though miles away Wick, you are very much in my thoughts.

May you find " Peaceful Rest " as you deserve.

" Skanda "
Sri Lanka High Commission,


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