Maurice Koelmeyer (2014)
I started my planting career as a ‘creeper’ on Gouravilla Estate, Maskeliya in 1955 with Mr.H. S. ’Billy‘ Hawkes. It was my first visit to a Tea estate & spent 6 months learning all about life on a tea plantation, the labourers, staff & the language, as I had never spoken Tamil before. In my first week I was taken to the Maskeliya Club & introduced to some planters in the district.It was also my introduction to Club life. We were given Wednesday afternoons off to go to the Club, play tennis, billiards & socialize with other planters in the district. I also had to do the daily Checkroll & the big Checkroll for the monthly payment for the labourers. I was also required to attend muster every morning.

After my training of 6 months, I was offered a SD’s billet on Tulloes division of Gordon Estate, Udapussellawa. I worked on 5 of the 6 Standard Tea Company Estates who employed me in various positions as Assistant Superintendent on Liddesdale, Waltrim & Acting Superintendent on Liddesdale, Waltrim & Kotiyagalla till I was appointed permanent PD on Gordon Estate, Udapussellawa. In 1968 I was appointed as PD on Gouravilla Group & took over from Peter Easteal till I left Sri Lanka in November 1972.

Gouravilla Group as it was called when I returned as PD now included Glenugie & Bargrove & was a total of 1107 acres with 2 factories, as Glenugie had its own Tea Factory. I had 2 SD’s who were the Senior SD on Glenugie & Junior SD on Bargrove.

Replanting of Tea was a very important part of the Standard Tea Company’s requirement & we replanted large acreages on all the divisions of the Group. Large nurseries were necessary to grow the VP cuttings that were needed for this task.

I expected my SD’s to do their work well, treat the estate as their own, being proud of what they do, being firm but fair to the labourers, helping them when necessary & have control of their everyday output of work. I had little discontent among the labour force as I spent funds provided on improving their living conditions by building attached kitchens, windows in the front verandas, toilets & water to the lines. I also looked after their Kovils & attended their celebrations like Thai Pongal, Sami Kumudu & other festivals. I also built a small Church for the Catholic labourers & their families on the roadside on estate land near the entrance to Alton estate which the Standard Tea Company gladly approved. A happy labour force is hardworking & do their best for the estate. As a result I did not have any trouble on Gouravilla.

Going to the Club by SD’s was encouraged & this helped them to get together have tea, play tennis, relax & keep in touch. All the planters & their wives were invited to organize the tennis meet, dances & socials. This kept all involved with the local Club.

Darrawella Club with their rugger & cricket matches were also well patronized & SD’s who wished to play rugger & cricket were given the opportunity & time to do so.

Looking after the factories was very important for making good teas. The Standard Tea Company agreed to the purchase of a Dorman Engine for Gouravilla factory as there were frequent disruptions to the main Government current during the night when needed most for manufacture. New troughs were put in both factories which resulted in some excellent teas being produced. Gouravilla topped the auctions on many occasions.

All the SD’s quarters & staff quarters were well maintained.

Finally, the view of Adams Peak from the Gouravilla bungalow was absolutely amazing & a sight to behold when the Peak was lit up at night.

I spent many happy days at Gouravilla & these memories will always be with me & my family.

Maurice Koelmeyer


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