Listing of the Blackett, Wilson & Scott Family Planting History in Ceylon

Robert Wilson (2021)
Meddegodde Bungalow In 1910

James Blackett Junior (Son of James Blackett Senior): Born: 3rd March 1831 – Kandy.

Penylan Estate:
1853 – Pen-Y-Lan owned by R. Forbes 700 acres – Manager: Arthur Sinclair – Asst: A. Patterson. By 1864 he already owned Pen-Y-Lan and Doteloya. He may have purchased these in or before 1854 or they may have been abandoned. Elevation 2,600 to 3,300 feet.

An interesting development: Remember Dr. Gardner of Kew and Peradeniya had observed the first signs of Hemileia Vastatrix on a mountain ridge between Penylan and I think Kellie estate in 1848, just before James Blackett may have purchased Penylan. In 1857 he purchased 312 acres/1 Rood/25 Perches for £739-09-05d (£2-07-04d). This suggests that Blackett owned Penylan by 1857. This increased the estate to 974 acres as shown in Ferguson in 1870 (Upper Penylan: 426 acres-150 acres Cultivated) and (Lower Penylan 550 acres – 160 acres Cultivated). In 1870 Proprietor James Blackett – Manager: William Anderson. Agents: Ceylon Company; Ltd).

Doteloya Estate:
In 1864 Doteloya is given as: Proprietor: James Blackett – Manager: W. Orrell- Agents: Wilson Ritchie & Co. 650 acres. It seems that like Penylan he probably purchased some additional acres In 1857 to increase it to increase it to 800 0r 900 acres. Through the Gibbs papers there is the evidence that a nearby estate to Doteloya was owned by J.P. Green. By 1869 James Blackett had either moved into Moorootie estate of 900 acres as abandoned which seems likely or had purchased it for a song. He added quite a lot of the 900 acres to Doteloya to make Doteloya a stated 1,700 acres and apparently passed on a small balance to a next-door estate which may have been Kellie estate.

1896 A reference that Norman James Wilson Blackett & Walter Scott Blackett were at Doteloya 660 acres with estate having been with Q. Blackett, P.S. Palmer and A.C. Glenie.

Meddegodde Estate:
In 1857 he purchased the first block of 50 acres/2 Roods/20 perches of Crown land at Uddahentena, Dolosbage to start the creating of Meddegodde Estate and the last of 10 blocks completing the extent of the estate was in 1864. Copies of those deeds and maps are in my possession. It seems that James may have resided on another of his estates or had a small bungalow where later there were stables and garages for the estate lorry and Robert Wilson’s cars. It is believed when Robert Wilson was about to marry Alice Blackett in 1898 whilst at Cooroondoowatta, he had the present Meddegodde Bungalow built and later added a wooden breakfast verandah above the lower verandah.

The Gibbs family bank in London had poured some £180,000 of investments in the island in 1864 onwards and that was made up of largely loans to different planters for their coffee crops and later funding the transfer to tea. Two large investments were the Hultsdorf Oil Mills and R.D. Downall’s Haputale group. As the Haputale Group could no longer maintain payments, Gibbs Bank took them into their ownership and asked James Blackett, with whom Vicary Gibbs had stayed in 1884 and seen the quality of James’s tea fields, if he would be their Manager and Visiting Agent to drive the transformation of the Haputale Group into tea, which he agreed to and later the Group was sold to Sir Thomas Lipton.

By 1886 James Blackett had retired to Scotland and his wife and her brother George Russell Scott were running the family estates with James’s sons Walter Scott Blackett and Norman James Wilson Blackett. In 1893 James Blackett died in Scotland and the Gibbs bank who were his trustees sold Penylan & Doteloya in 1903 but Walter Scott Blackett and Norman James Wilson retained Meddegodde.

Colonel Walter Scott Blackett OBE VD: Born: 1 February 1867 – Died Queen’s Hotel 28 August 1944.

He attended Glenalmond College in Scotland from 1877 to 1887 where he excelled at all sports before returning to Penylan. Once Penylan and Doteloya were to be sold, he retained Meddegodde until 1898 when Robert Wilson married his sister Alice and Robert owned Meddegodde.

Walter who like Robert Wilson was a great horseman and played Polo at Matale & in India, then opened up several estates. In 1903 he opened Glenalmond estate, Aranayake, in memory of his old college Glenalmond and his will directed that after his death the sale of Glenalmond Estate should provide a trust to support his three nieces and after they passed away, the trust should be ended, and the balance funds gifted to his old College which he clearly valued. The estate in 1904 was recorded as 120 acres of tea and 40 acres of rubber.

As well as Glenalmond, he opened Glenville in 1908, Kendagolla, Kadugannawa, opened or purchased in 1925, and finally in 1908 Jak Tree Hill where he resided.

He was an early member of the Ceylon Mounted Rifles and also Commandant of the Labour depot at Pavallaram. That meant a lot of travelling back and forth from Ceylon to India. In 1946 after his death the Manager at Glenalmond was a Mr. Northway and his Assistant was E.C. Millie.

Norman James Wilson Blackett Born: 10 March 1874 – Died 11 December 1917

Norman purchased Tavalatenne estate, Nanu Oya and later was in joint partnership with two or three others. Neither he nor his wife were very fit, and both died prematurely. By 1920 the estate had been sold to Curuppaiah Pillai as 206 acres of tea.

George Russell Scott: JP and UPM – Coroner in 1919.

He became a very experienced planter and much in demand, his sister Catharine was the wife of James Blackett. 1853 he owned Ambalawa 630 acres until 1884 and my father’s firm Lewis Brown & Co were the Colombo agents. By 1896 the estate was owned by G.P. Gaddum.

1870 to 73 he was manager of Doteloya. Rudd Bros were the Agents. In 1898 there is a reference to the estate being in the hands of the heirs of the late Q. Blackett (person not known, was he a relation of one of James’s father’s wives or one of the Blacketts in Australia or India? There were many Blacketts all over the world.

He was also Manager for James Blackett in 1866-1868 when they were fully engaged with massive works of transforming Penylan and Doteloya to tea. It appears that John Stephens was lessee or owner of Doteloya from 1870-1873 and this was a period when estates changed hands amongst friends due to either temporary or more serious financial damage from the coffee demise. The Wilson’s, Blacketts, Russell Scotts, Rudds and Laings with a number of others knew each other as friends, with some inter marrying as well.

George was also Manager 1871-1875 of Meddekumbara, Dimbula. The Assistant was L. Bird. George was also it appears owner of Rappahannock in 1871. In 1883-1884 he was managing Penylan for Catharine Blackett, his sister and wife of James Blackett.

William Russell Scott – Son of George Russell Scott J.P. UPM and Coroner in 1919.

1896 – Joint proprietor of Dalhousie 450 acres with A.R. Angus, H.E. Guimaraens
1896 – Kandaloya Yakadessa. Owned by Dickinson, Ackroyd and Company plus E.C. Bond, G. Greig and T.S. Dobree.
1914-1925 – Thacker gives William Russell Scotts as living at Beranawa Estate, he was part owner with A.C. White, A Watt, H.E. Watt and A. Fairlie – Manager was L.H. Bargate. The Agents were Lewis Brown & Co plus William Russell Scott.
1922 – Manager at Nagastenne owned by other Scott family. 487 acres. Agent George Price and George Benzie (Benzie’s part owners of Cooroondoowatta in 1950’s to 1980’s. Robert Wilson Harley family own part of Cooroondoowatta today.
1925 – Manager at Dollagala and Stow Easton, belonging to the other Scott family not related.
1900-1937 – Kandaloya, Yakadessa. Proprietors Ceylon Indian Planter’s Association. William Russell Scott Manager till 1930. He went to the U.K. in 1920. My understanding is that William Russell Scott was owner of Kandaloya and that may have started in 1937, if he took over from Ceylon Indian Planter’s Association but that is not confirmed. We always assumed that was his families own estate. He and Robert Wilson competed the Lantern Pass in 1900 I believe. Robert cutting from Cooroondoowatta down to meet William Russell Scott cutting up from Gampola.

Robert Wilson – Arrived 1887 in Ceylon:

Joined James Blackett at Penylan as a creeper. His brother Charles Cook also arrived 1887. In 1892 in the Ferguson’s Robert Wilson is recorded as planter on Meddegodde, probably managing it for James Blackett & Norman James Wilson Blackett. In 1864 Meddegodde is recorded as 220 acres cultivated and in 1870, 300 acres cultivated with manager P.J. de Bangy.

1897 – He is listed as owner or lessee (Ferguson’s does not state which) of Craighead (712 acres), plus Cooroondoowatte (455 acres), plus Monte Cristo (214 acres). Prior to this the Piachaud sisters owned it. Finally, also managing Meddegodde, about to marry Walter Scott Blackett’s sister Alice in 1898, and so estate becomes his, and Robert owns Meddegodde from 1899 to 1954 when he dies at Meddegodde. My family then sold the estate to ‘Old’ Thondaman in 1955.

There is a confusing reference in 1898 as Robert marries Alice Blackett, that part of Cooroondoowatta Estate, with Glenalmond, Jack Tin (probably Tree) and Monte Cristo owned by Blackett under heirs of Q. Blackett. Who was Q. Blackett? I know James Blackett senior, father of James Blackett mentioned above, married three times after the death of two of his wives. The first was Mary nee Brown, the second Henrietta Gerhardina nee Hess and finally Sophia Francina nee Elhart. I know the offspring of Mary and Sophia, but Henrietta Gerhardina Blackett is known to have had a son James Andrew Blackett who married at Gampola in 1866, Catharina Maria Mesennagey but I do not have any record of them having children which was likely.

It is important to understand that these were financially crippling times, and all sorts of arrangements were made with friends and relations to hold onto estates from leases to temporary transfers of ownership even. There is also a further record about those Blackett estates where they were leased by J. Aymer and James Allen with Robert Wilson as Manager. With Cooroondoowatta it is important to understand that it was opened and owned by John Stephens but clearly, he made several arrangements during those difficult times. Robert Wilson never raced horses but always kept several ex-racehorses at Meddegodde and started with Major Weinman a deer park and huge bird aviaries all around his bungalow with Australian birds, Chinese pheasants and many other types of bird, plus, a small herd of cross bred cows and a bull. Having lost two children in 1900 he determined to be in command of all the produce he would need.

In 1910 he semi-retired to farm in Somerset to see if his wife might benefit from the English climate to recover from cancer. Unfortunately, she died at Wrington and during that time his eldest son was killed in the last month of the WW I in France. Perhaps with those tragic events preying on his mind, he managed to saw off his right arm which was cauterized in the farmyard. In 1920 he had a telegram saying he should return immediately to Meddegodde or the manager would lose it for him.

Charles Cook Wilson – Arrived with his Brother Robert 1887 in Ceylon:

Joined James Blackett at his Doteloya Estate as a creeper.
1894 – Manager Gangwarily
1895 – Manager Hynsford estate Nawalapitiya.
1897 – Manager of Mandara Nuwara Eliya Estate, Maturata.
1899 – Manager Silver Kandy Estate, Brookside. At this time, he started a string of racehorses. His family in Scotland and England were renowned for the Kings and Queens Premium stallions that they showed all over Scotland and England. All three brothers were keen sportsmen and horsemen. In 1900 he started racing as Mr. Elmsie and in August 1909 one of his horses Emma Eames won the Governor’s Cup and the Fort Plate in the same year.
1902 (approximately) – purchased Gonakelle Estate, Maturata. After a while he sold the estate to the Uplands Tea Company. From Gonakelle he took up residence at Baker’s Farm in Nuwara Eliya where he raced but also was called on to Judge horticultural and horse shows.
1907 – went to England.
1911 – he purchased an extensive amount of land at Harasbedde and opened Diyanella Estate where he stayed until he died in 1930 and he is buried at St. Trinity, Nuwara Eliya.

Thomas James Wilson – Arrived in Ceylon in 1900.

His first posting in 1900 was on Windsor Group, Dolosbage for United Planters Company.
1903 – He went to Gallemudane Group, Nawalapitiya.
1920 – He was appointed to Oliphant Estate, Nuwara Eliya as senior Company Planter and Visiting Agent. Like his two brothers he was on the Colombo Turf Club Committee. Whilst he was in Nuwara Eliya, he with Mr. Wickwar supervised the large improvements to the Turf club course and buildings.
He was the first secretary of the Hill Club after the Coffee Depression but died prematurely in December 1932.

Ronald Graeme Wilson – Son of Robert Wilson of Meddegodde estate.

In 1920 he came out to Ceylon with his brother Basil Robert Francis Wilson and whilst his father had been semi-retired in Somerset on a farm to see if his wife Alice might recover from her cancer. Both sons resided at Meddegodde helping to rescue Meddegodde with help from friends including Gordon Newton. Ronald was at Dryaaba Estate in 1932 and Opalgalla Estate 1,811 acres in 1937. He was also on Bopitiya estate, Heweheta for a number of years.

Latterly as his father aged and partly retired from running Meddegodde, which was the love of his life. His sons dare not suggest more than support. He rode with one arm until well into his 70s. In early 1950s Ronald spent more time there. One day in late 1954 he walked me down the drive and asked if I wished the family to retain Meddegodde for me to return to planting after College. I suggested as tomes were changing, they sell, and I would hope to return for a company posting which I did with the Rajawella Produce Co. Ronald returned to England in 1955.

Basil Francis Wilson – Eldest living son of Robert Wilson of Meddegodde Estate.

He returned from School with Ronald in 1920 as already stated above. As I was at school in England, I did not know much of his movements, but he stayed for several years at Meddegodde and I know that his last posting was to Diyagama (East & West) in about 1944, after I returned from having been evacuated to South Africa in WW 2. He was there for a while before he decided to give up planting. He and his Family went to New Zealand in about 1949.

Roy Wilson – Son of Robert Wilson of Meddegodde Estate.

Having left school, he trained with huge Vestey family in London as an accountant. Spent a couple of years on Meddegodde and decided he wanted to join a Colombo Agency house which was the old firm of Lewis Brown & Co that traditionally supported many of the family-owned estates which were declining in numbers. His accountancy stood him in good stead, steering Meddegodde through a difficult time and his expertise in that area was called on by other friends in different agency houses. Advised me that I should never return but the pull was too strong.

Robert Cann Wilson – Son of Roy Wilson (Lews Brown & Co) - Grandson of Robert Wilson.

Learnt my planting on family estate Meddegodde. Joined Rajawella Produce Company (London) September 1959 and joined Oodewella Estate September 1959 as creeper. Confirmed Rajawella December 1959 and transferred to Le Vallon Group 1961. 1962/63 we were unable to stop MP pontificating at the main road and calling the workers to listen without the estate’s permission. 1962 coach load of soldiers arrived with rifles sticking out of the coach windows and demanded to search the estate lines in 6 divisions. They were barred from entry but these were signs of what was to come in 1971. Played rugger for Kandy with Madugalle, Gauder, Pilimatalawa, Darlington and Stork. As I was due leave in 1964, decided that the future was not bright, Nationalisation was inevitable and gave my notice to Rajawella. Returned to England to farm. I was the sixth generation of family in the island and the fifth that was involved in the coffee and tea industry. Manthi Delwita came to Le Vallon before I left and in 1992, we set up a tea marketing business, promoting Ceylon really top seasonal quality, single estate teas which to date have taken 64 awards here in the U.K. Whilst as some people in the UK say, ‘I have Ceylon tea in my blood.’ However, I fear the industry is changing not for the better.

Ian Blackett Wilson – Cousin to my father.

Again, I am afraid I do not know much about his planting career but when I came out in 1959 to Ceylon, he was a senior planter on Elkaduwa Group, Matale. I do have some references which are:
1930 – Assistant to T.J. Wilson at Oliphant.
1931-1935 – Assistant at Gallamudena to Manager H.S. Hurst.3,916 acres 1,659 cultivated.
1935-1940 – Assistant under H.S. Hurst at Windsor Forest 1,559 acres.
19??-1962 – Manager Elkaduwa Estate Hunasgiriya. Rangalla Consolidated 1,816 acres – 1020 tea. Retired in 1962 to England.

Various Possible Relations Mentioned in Records:

1910-1911 – A.M. Blair Planter at Elkaduwa Group (He was related by marriage to Charles Cook Wilson). He was at Elkaduwa before Ian Blackett Wilson who arrived in 1912 to 1939

Basil C. Blackett - Planter at Atalawa, Ruanwella

Q. Blackett


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