Fred Amarasinghe (2014)

The most productive and enjoyable days of my Planting Career both as working planter and as an administrator was in the Maskeliya / Upcot District initially from July 1975 to December 1979 and subsequently from  mid-1997 to 2004.

My first stint was with my transfer as Assistant Superintendent to Moray Estate from Cecilton Estate in Balangoda in July 1975 - both estates were owned by Uplands Tea Estates of Ceylon and managed by Whittalls Estates & Agencies Limited. In fact from the commencement of my planting career, I was employed by Uplands Tea Estates having crept on Balangoda Group and thereafter working on Frotoft Group, Ramboda and Cecilton Estate, Balangoda.

As usual, the first thing I did with my transfer to Moray was to check with my friends about the Superintendent, the late Mr. Conrad Abeysekera. The information that I received was that he was a very nice person even though he hardly smiled and had a fierce look. The other information I gathered was that Mr. Abeysekera was a hard taskmaster who gave a lot of responsibility to his SDs and most importantly that he loved his three shots of Coconut Arrack in the evening.  Mr. Abeysekera and I got on famously and he was like a father to me during my 4 year stay on Moray.

Moray was situated at the foot of Adams Peak and what a picturesque place it was. The Geddes division bungalow was a 3 bedroomed bungalow with attached bathrooms with doors leading out which at times was most advantageous! The bungalow did not have mains current and electricity was provided by a generator which I did not consider a problem as on Frotoft too I did not have mains current. The Motor Cycle was a massive BSA B31 350cc, which only had the main stand and at that time the only person who could put it on its stand was me.  All in all, I knew that I was going to enjoy both my stay and work on Moray.

I was fortunate that I had my Senior SD from Frotoft, Manukula Fonseka as the Senior SD here too. The only difference was he was resident on an outlying division Osborne which had been a separate estate previously but was now amalgamated to Moray.

The other SD was Dushantha Delwita, a Trinitian and a bachelor like me who was occupying the Forres Estate bungalow which was proprietary owned.  Dushantha turned out to be an excellent co–SD. He left planting early and was GM Warehousing in the private sector but came back to Maskeliya Plantations as a DGM and retired as the GM in 2013. He was a very methodical planter who found his future partner in the sacred area of Adams Peak. Sheer determination of getting over all obstacles in love life, marriage and life thereafter is a classic example of what perseverance and willpower can do.

Dushantha and I immediately established a friendship which is in existence even today. He had his nephew Lalith Tittawella, his eldest sister’s son, staying with him, the age difference is only two years; their relationship was as friends more than an uncle and nephew. Lalith was very good company and a sincere friend. If I may mention here, Lalith was only bad to himself. He was domiciled down under, after a brief planting carrier with JEDB and was a changed man taking life more seriously but sadly passed away rather young in life. May he attain Nibbana.

Moray was in one corner of the Mousakellie Hydro Power Reservoir, from Maskeliya town it was 18 km and a further 04 km to my bungalow climbing up towards the Adams Peak wilderness and the fishing huts.  I had to pass the PD’s Bungalow where there was a steep climb and invariably had to get on to a low gear and sometimes when I had a late night returning early morning after the club day or from a friends place, I probably would have woken my boss with my changing of gears and raising of the engine.  My PD would cast a sarcastic remark the following morning saying “I heard you getting back rather late last night” - my stock answer was “I came to the factory check the wither Sir”.

Mr. Abeysekera had standing instructions that whenever we wish to leave the estate we had to inform him where we were going. So when we did scoot out I had to always give the “checking wither story”.  It was true in a way as whatever time I reached the estate I used to go round the withering lofts and check the wither and the hydro meter differences in the troughs, loosening of leaf and turning over of leaf etc., and this helped in manufacture being my strong point in later years. My checks on the factory were not only when returning after scooting out and but when I was quite sober as well!

Getting permission to go out was used for our benefit too.  By the 15 -20th of every month we were broke; when checking with each other the stock answer was, “I am down to tin fish (Salmon)”. So we used to plan and go to bosses bungalow by 7 pm, the time he was ready to start on his 3 shots.  We used to say “Sir may we go over to Dilip’s place for a chat and a drink”. Invariably he used to tell us “I say call Dilip and come and have a drink with me” as he was starved for company and loved to have company especially to have a drink.

After two drinks Mr. Abeysekera used to invite us to have some “pot luck”.  He never served us Arrack even though he was having Arrack and served us Whisky. He used to tell us “you fellows will finish all my arrack that is why I don’t give you Arrack”.  He always used to pour our drinks and those were 4 finger shots with very little space for shandy. The result was that we never enjoyed the delicious food prepared by Mrs. Abeyasekara (Sita) and used to stagger out in to the cold night.

Our neighbours were a fantastic lot, closest being Dalhousie - which was managed by the Up Country Co-operative Estates Development Board (Usawasama). Jayantha Dassanayaka – a Thomian bachelor and better known as “Bassa” was virtually the SD in charge designated as Project Manager. Apparently, he had been named “Bassa” by his college mates because he had a prominent nose which resembled a beak of an Owl!  He maintains “Viagra” is of no use to him at 60 + and therefore I leave it to your imagination what he would have been during the Maskeliya days! 

Jayantha was the first to get married, his bride was Dharshi, a sweet unspoilt lass from Dehiwala.  If there is a prize for a wife with very high levels of tolerance it should go to her because they are still happily married to a grown-up son and a daughter. Bassa is still Bassa and poor Dharshi was named “Bassi” as it rhymed better.

Laxapana was the next with Ralph De Run at the helm with Leslie Abeyasekara as Senior SD whose wife was the elegant and beautiful Ira. They had two lovely children. It was sad and tragic they lost their elder son Shashti - a victim of Leukemia. The Junior SD was another guy from the school by the sea - Dilip Gunatunga, a bachelor whose parents were finding it extremely difficult to find him a partner as he never grew beyond 5ft 2in.

Dilip claimed to have boxed for St. Thomas’ and walked as if he was ready to jump into the boxing ring at any time. He wore extra short shorts, which others would have used for swimming trunks, and tight short sleeved shirt with the sleeves folded up to his shoulders.  Some of the film stars of present generation may have got a few tips from him how to project some muscles when there was nothing to show. He got on famously with Ralph de Run as both had the same inclination of “anytime for a fight”.

It is said that one day both the Manager (Ralph de Run) and Junior SD (Dilip Gunatunga) were chasing the Mechanic round and round the factory but the Mechanic got the better of them and escaped. Dilip later was Superintendent of Glentilt and several other estates in the Kegalle region before retiring prematurely.

From Laxapana Dilip moved out to Le Vallon under Mr. Aubrey Gordon-Tissera. He was supposed to have got on famously there too but by being close to his PD, the levels of eccentricity was only second to his boss. Poor Manel who married Dilip during this period had to face all that. The wonderful thing is they are still happily married and have brought up four wonderful children.

There was another decent guy - an old Royalist and a contemporary of Mr. Fred Kreltszheim (former Manager of Laxapana) at Royal - the Factory Officer of Laxapana, Mr. Singha de Silva. He has been specially selected by Fred Kreltszheim for the post when the new factory on Laxapana was being built. Next to making high-quality Tea at Laxapana, his only past time was producing offspring; he had 9 children with all very British sounding pet names, so much so that hardly anyone knew their correct names. He also passed away sometime back.  May he attain Nibbana.

Driving over the dam from Moray, the first estate is Mousakelle, Charlie Ramanadan was the Superintendent and a very knowledgeable, thorough and hardworking planter, married to Lillani who was a graduate.  In fact, both have met and fallen in love at the Peradeniya Campus. Charlie later was the General Manager of Kelani Valley Plantations.  He had a massive heart attack while playing tennis at Darrawella Club and passed away.  May his soul rest in peace.

Lower down towards Norton Bridge, there was Luccombe a proprietary place owned by the Narayanaswamy family who had been left with the bungalow and some tea after Land Reform. Quite a lot of us developed a lasting friendship with this family who sold up the properties after 1983 riots and settled in Chennai. I do visit them when I go to Chennai.

Durairaj the youngest son of Mr. Narayanaswamy, who studied at Trinity, had to shoulder the responsibility of managing the estates after his father’s demise at a very young age. He got his training under my boss Mr. Conrad Abeysekera as a private creeper.

Hapugastenna was the next estate where Mr. Lionel Wanigasooriya, better known as “Hawa”, was the Superintendent.

The last estate on that road was Theberton owned and managed by the de Zoysa family of AMW fame.  Sadly there is no estate now as it has been fragmented. Tilak de Zoysa, an old Royalist much senior to me, was managing the estate and living in the main Therberton Bungalow. Therberton was situated at the foot of the slopes of the “Seven Virgins Range”.

There had been a plane crash in 1974 killing all 250 odd passengers returning from Mecca which was before I came to the district. Tilak de Zoysa’s creeper Preethi Mendis was being questioned by a Senior Police Officer as to what he saw and heard. The questioning had gone in the following manner.

Police: Tell us what you saw and heard.

Preethi M: I saw something like a fireball coming from the sky and striking the mountain, and then I heard people shouting in pain saying “Budu Ammo”.

The Police Officer has given him a slap and sent him away because all passengers were foreigners. He had told Tilak that this boy could lie without batting an eyelid.

We were sad when Tilak and Sunil his wife had to leave the district because he had to get into the management team of the AMW. He was a live wire of the club and a great friend of all of us including my boss. He rose up to be MD and then Chairman of the AMW group. He never forgets his old Maskeliya friends and still continues to attend our reunions.

Driving back towards Maskeli1ya at the boundary of Mousakellie Estate you turn left and drive up towards Kelaneiya/Braemore estate which is a proprietary estate owned by the family of the late Mr. Murugiah and was managed by his son Balendran.  Kelaneiya Bala, as he is popularly known, has been a long-standing Freemason of Adams Peak and Dimbula Lodges and being a good golfer is a stalwart at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club where he was the Captain and a Committee member. The estate could easily be compared to any company owned estate. The management is now partly in the hands of Bala’s son Sudharshan.

When proceeding further towards the town the last estate which one comes across is Brownlow, which had been a much bigger estate before the inundation of the Mousakellie Reservoir. The Superintendent of Brownlow at that time was Rienzie Moraes.

The new Maskeliya Town is surrounded by Glentilt, Maskeliya, Brunswick and Queensland estates. 

On Glentilt Estate the Superintendent was P. M. Don Bernard. We all considered him to have missed his vocation in life as he would have made an excellent priest, being very religious and a confirmed bachelor. He was the Treasurer of the Maskeliya Club and bills were never late and if payments were late he did not forget to send a gentle message to the respective Superintendents.

The Superintendent of Maskeliya Estate was Ashley Wijesundera, whose wife was a superb pianist who leads the band ‘Friends in Harmony’.  Ashley passed away quite early in life.  May his soul rest in peace.

Passing Maskeliya town on the way to Upcot, the first estate was Bunyan.  A large extent of this estate which had been lost with the inundation was owned by close relations of the Narayanaswamy family who owned Luccombe.  Dhuwaraka, one of the sons, was managing what was left of the estate but they too sold up and settled in Chennai after the 1983 riots.

Queensland Estate was next to Bunyan and the Superintendent was Anton Lawrence.

Brunswick, a show piece of Whittalls, was next to Queensland. Leslie Habaragoda, who recently passed away was the Superintendent with the Senior SD being Daya Gunaratne. Daya was succeeded at Mottingham Bungalow by Melly Thangiah.  Melly used to entertain us at the Club by playing his Guitar and singing some Golden Oldies. When he started with the Frank Sinatra's “Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over” all the ladies at the club used to cheer because they have had enough baila by then. Both Daya and Melly are no more. May their Souls rest in Peace. The Junior SD on Brunswick was 6’6” tall Harin de Costa, a former Josephian rugger player.  A gentle giant who was not so gentle if annoyed after drinks. Harin left planting in the early 1980s was General Manager of the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya for 26 years until 2006.

Glenugie which is next to Brunswick was an outline division of Gouravilla Estate and had a separate factory and Chitral de Mel was in charge of this division. Chitral retired recently as the Chief Executive Officer of Maturata Plantations Limited.

The Superintendent of Gouravilla was Mr. Tikiri Banda Pilapitiya, an old Trinitian and Rugby Football player. His SD on Gouravilla occupying the Bargrove Bungalow was Sunil Wickramasinghe also an old Trinitian and Rugby Football player, popularly known as “Hajji”. I was the deputy to Mr. Pilapitiya when he was at Kallebokka and what an experience it was. He passed away after battling with a disease affecting the nervous system which could not be properly diagnosed and treated.  May he attain Nibbana.

“Hajji” joined the coconut plantations of JEDB and then Nestle where he rose up to be the Head of South East Asia. After retirement now he is now the Chairman of Milco in Sri Lanka. “Hajji” was an expert on milking cows probably due to the expert training given to him by Mr. Pilapitiya!

From Gouravilla to Stockholm where another Trinity Rugby stalwart Malin Gunatilleke was at the helm. He and his wife Sharmo were active at Maskeliya and Darrawella clubs. Malin is at present the Secretary General of the Planters Association of Ceylon.

The largest estate in the Upcot Region, Strathspey, had Douggie Jenkins as the Manager.  The estate had an outlying division Mahanilu with a separate factory with Nihal Boralessa in charge. Strathspey proper had Lester Seneviratne, who later moved to Brunswick, Randy McLeod, Palitha Udurawana and Sunil Perera. All of them together are said to have given Mr. Jenkins a torrid time.

Deeside Estate was bordering Glenugie on the road to Gartmore with Nimal Hettiarachchi being the Superintendent. Nimal was assassinated by the JVP insurgents during the 1988/89 period when he was Superintendent of Aislaby Estate in Bandarawela.  May he attain Nibbana.

Mocha Estate had the famous Scotsman Bob Smith at the helm. His assistant was Kalla De Silva who was a happy go lucky eating drinking guy now turned a preacher. Bob married a Sri Lankan girl and retired to look after his assets back in his homeland. When he was on a holiday, he attended a reunion of the Ex -Planters of Maskeliya accompanied by his daughter.

Adams Peak estate is by the reservoir and the Superintendent was Chandana Jayasekara. He and his wife Premani are excellent baila dancers and Chandana was famous for his rendering of C.T. Fernando’s numbers.

The estate at the far end of the Maskeliya Valley is Gartmore, owned by the Soysa family with Mr. T .M. Soysa managing the property. The younger generation of Soysa’s were my friends, Mr. T. M. Soysa’s son Nalinda (Kalu) my batchmate at Royal who was an accountant and later became a “swami”.  TM’s brother Dr. Soysa’s (Doctor of Medicine) son Dilanjan who has a Doctorate in Chemistry too was my batchmate.

The Superintendent of Gartmore was Mr. Nagesan who had three beautiful daughters. The bachelors in the district used to eagerly await the holidays to see these beautiful young ladies at the Maskeliya Club.

Gartmore had an Assistant Superintendent too - his name was Nihal Guneratne and he happened to be a close relation of Dilip Gunatunga of Laxapana.  He was 2” shorter than Dilip – 5 ft. nothing. Nihal was a very well read guy with impeccable English. A good friend who never married as his childhood sweetheart had given him the boot.  He had an unfortunate motorcycle accident and never recovered and passed away after some time.  May he attain Nibbana.

Maithri Liyanage crept on Gartmore and used come to Dushantha’s bungalow at Forres during weekends as did Preethi Mendis from Theberton.  Maithri later moved to Tillerye as SD.  Even after moving to Tillerye we used to bring him to Maskeliya for our weekend get-togethers.

Maithri as a Superintendent was responsible for several changes in the plantation sector, one major change was the introduction of Japanese 5S System, for productivity increase, which many followed and still continue to follow.  It was a sad loss for the plantation Industry, when he and his scientist wife Dr. Anoudini who was the Biochemist at TRI, decided to leave the plantation industry.  Maithri moved to the Garment Industry and now has is on his own having developed a fantastic resort at Kalpitiya. Anoudini has been in and out of the Tea Industry, which is good for the Industry.  They are great friends whom I am yet very much in contact.

Alton Estate on the Upcot side of the Mahanilu Ganga had that handsome gentleman and great planter Mr. Gemunu (Jim) Amarasinghe as Superintendent. Parakrama Dassanayaka was his SD.  Mr. Amerasinghe has now retired and Parakrama is at present Director Operation at Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Limited.

Fairlawn and Mincing Lane estates were at the far end with Percy Adihetty and Raja Brodie as Superintendents respectively.

The Maskeliya club was in a central position situated on Brunswick. We had some memorable times at the club. The main events were the Tennis Meet and the Monsoon Dance. The induction ceremony to a new planter to the district was the “Cardinal Puff” and generally those who went through that ceremony, where you had to gulp down everything that was put into your glass ten consecutive times, did not walk out straight.

These were the Planters in Maskeliya when I started my planting stint on Moray. There were two major changes which took place – the first being the Nationalization of the Company Managed Estates on 15thOctober 1975, a very hastily prepared piece of legislation which had adverse effects on the Planting Industry and the second being the 1977 elections where the Opposition UNP had  a landslide victory after which several changes took place in the Industry.


There were several changes in the district consequent to Nationalization and the General Elections of 1977.

Starting with Moray, Manukula Fonseka went out from Osborne Division as Superintendent of Maliboda Estate just before the Nationalization.  As there was no replacement for some time, I had to go there twice a week and Mr. Abeysekera used to go there during weekends as he loved the pool and enjoyed his weekend there. Bernard Holsinger came in after the elections  with the reorganization of the SLSPC.

Dushantha moved out from Moray and in came Annamalay Jayaram. His father Mr. Annamalay was a firebrand in the CWC being their Treasurer at that time.  The first day Jayaram came to see the place Mr. Abeysekera wanted me to bring him to the bungalow for a little lunch. As usual, my boss asked him what he will drink before lunch. Jayaram said “I don’t drink Sir”, no doubt boss was disappointed and asked Mrs. Abeyasekara to bring Jayaram a soft drink.  Mrs. Abeysekera then asked Jayaram about him eating Fish/Meat; poor Jayaram in a very soft voice replied “I am a vegetarian”.  Mr. Abeyasekara burst out saying “I say you miss so many good things in life - What are the other things you don’t indulge in?” Jayaram didn’t know where to hide.

Maskeliya Club inducted him to the pleasures of the brew that cheers and he used come out with very popular Tamil hits like “ADE ENNADE RAKKAMMA” that kept the members spellbound with change in the usual sing song which we used to have. Jayaram decided to leave planting early when he was Superintendent of Hunugalla Estate, Elkaduwa and moved with the family to South India. Indrani his wife was there educating the children and today, both son and daughter are well employed – the daughter in the computer field, and the son an Air Craft Engineer in Singapore. I used to visit them on my visits to Chennai. Indrani met with an untimely and tragic death in December 2010 when she was in Kandy to make arrangements for the daughter’s wedding. Life is so uncertain, may she attain eternal rest.

Jayaram did not last long on Moray as he had to get married and therefore had to vacate Forres Bungalow and was transferred to Campion, Bogowantalawa.  In came Devaka Wickramasuriya.  It was unanimously decided that there was no point in inducting Devaka with the traditional “Cardinal Puff” at the Maskeliya Club as it was felt that there would be no purpose as he was already a great friend of Bacchus. 

Devaka hailed from a planting background with his father George having planted for Whittalls and the SLSPC. Having started schooling at St. Thomas’ College he had shifted to Trinity. As he was my co-SD, I too was involved in a lot of his antics – not that I was ever a reluctant participant! 

Once after a riotous night at the Maskeliya Club, Devaka challenged Jayantha Ratnayaka for a race. Jayantha had a Yamaha 350cc and Devaka a Yamaha Enduro 175 cc. I kept myself out of it as the BSA B 31 could not match the speed of either of the Yamaha’s.

The race started off from the Maskeliya petrol shed with the smoke from the exhausts of the Yamahas virtually covering my vision. I proceeded with the dug... dug ...dug beat of the B 31. As I approached the Brownlow bungalow entrance, I saw a bike in the middle of the road with the rider sprawled on the road. It was none other than Devaka Wicks. Jayantha who had realized that Devaka was not following had also turned back. Devaka was bleeding from his nose and shouted out to us that he was going to die. We somehow took him to the Maskeliya Hospital and the Doctor who was woken up said there was nothing  wrong, but Devaka insisted that Doctor did not know what he was talking about and insisted that he was about to die. It was with great difficulty we managed to take him back after apologizing to the doctor.

The Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation had arranged for the Annual Sports Meet for estates in the Hatton Board. There was large number of participants from workers to executives. I was the Meet Secretary and I thought the best person to assist me was my worthy co–SD, Devaka.  After the conclusion of the 1st day’s events, I wanted to get back and list out the qualifiers for the next day’s events of course with the help of my friend. It was with great difficulty that I dragged Devaka away from the Darrawella Club Bar where he was having a most enjoyable time with all the other estate executives who were present and  needless to state the work that needed to be done for the next day’s events had to be done by me alone as Devaka was very much the worse for wear after a hectic day at the Darrawella Club Bar and needed sufficient rest to re-charge his batteries for the next day!

That was Devaka but with all his antics, he kept all his estate work up to date which continued when he was a Superintendent in the SLSPC and thereafter a Corporate Manager. 

On Laxapana Dilip moved out to Le Vallon and was replaced by Jayantha Ratnayaka who was 50% Trinity and 50% Royal. I used to always maintain his father who was a reputed educationist knew which school was better because he ended up at Royal.

Jayantha became the Senior SD when Leslie Abeyasekara later moved out as Superintendent of Blinkbonnie. Ananda Kamaragoda who came over as Junior SD and occupied Valamally Bungalow arrived with his pet monkey on his shoulder!

Jayantha was a well-organized person whose greatest love was to be in bed (not with anyone but alone) covered from head to toe with a blanket and reading a book. He later became the Superintendent of Stockholm and Theresia and after a stint in Malaysia joined Baurs where he was a Director when he retired.

I knew Jayantha from College days and he was a very quiet guy.  However, when I met him in Planting I found him to be very aggressive and an outspoken debater. On Mr. Manilal Abeyawardena coming into the region, I realized from where Jayantha had acquired these traits as Jayantha had been his creeper on Pita Ratmalie in Haputale.

Jayantha in his attempt to find me a solution of not riding past my PDs Bungalow after a late night suggested that I take a short cut through St. Andrews Upper Division, one section of it a field path. One night I went over a stone on the field path and went off the road in to a “Netti drain” with the monstrous BSA B 31 on top of me.  I was pretty high and it took me quite some time that I was able to push the bike off me, get it back on the road and return to my bungalow. That was the last time I took that route.

Parts of Therberton and Luccombe Estates had been amalgamated and was called Luccombe Estate under the management of the JEDB with Nihal Kiriella assuming duties as Superintendent.  Nihal and his dear wife Jenny were very active members both at the Maskeliya and Darrawella clubs.

One of the significant changes that occurred was Manilal Abeyawardena taking over as Superintendent of Brunswick in 1976. Very outspoken, very well read and a great fan of Bacchus, he brought in a lot of life to the Maskeliya Club along with his very sweet and amiable wife Srima. Manilal was a superb planter who kept Brunswick ticking to make huge profits year after year.                    

I had some of my friends, who were all Marine Engineers, holidaying with me and I took then over to the Maskeliya Club on the weekly Club Day. Manilal breezed in and introduced himself to my friends before I could do so. He got involved with them for a long chat and on our way back to my bungalow, my friends asked me whether Mr. Abeyawardena had worked on ships before joining planting as his knowledge of ships and ship engines had taken my friends by surprise. Much as I would like to recall many more stories of Mr. Abeyawardena I will not be able to do so and only wish to state that he was a legend who still attends all our re-unions.

Don Bernard from Glentilt moved to Brownlow after Rienzie Moraes left and Reggie Perera came into Glentilt. On Maskeliya Estate, Veloo who hails from a Head Kangany family on Bridwell in Bogawanatalawa took charge. A Graduate in Agriculture he was one superb guy who mixed up well with all at the Maskeliya Club. We used to affectionately call him “Onnam Perattu Veloo”.  Unfortunately he too left the country after the 1983 riots and was planting in South India close to the Coonoor Club. He used to entertain us whenever we toured the estates in South India.

There were also changes on Queensland with Sarath Jayasekera taking charge as Superintendent. Sarath was an ex – Brook Bonds planter who had been on Campion as Senior SD. His father had been the Superintendent on Hapugastenna before Lionel Wanigasuriya.  Sarath in later years won many awards from SLSPC having the lowest Cost of Production in the entire island.  Some of the “good management practices” that he was supposed to have implemented in doing so such as “cutting the pencil in two before issuing and asking for the stub before issuing a new one” are no doubt exaggerated but definitely gave some young Superintendents and staff lessons on waste management. Sarath is still serving Plantation Industry as General Manager of Meezan Estates. I still keep in touch and visit him and Nelum his wife and have long chats of our planting days.

Glenugie was made a separate estate and Chitral De Mel was later replaced by Tilak Ratwatte a confirmed Bachelor and was affectionately called “Uncle” by us in deference to his age.  After one club night we re-painted the Glenugie Estate board to read “Home for the Aged, Chief Incumbent Uncle Tilak Ratwatte”.  He suspected that it was us who did it and did not talk to us for some time.

Gabo Ratnayaka came into Deeside after Nimal went on transfer.

Mr. Jim Amarasinghe on Alton later became a Regional VA and a Regional Manager of JEDB in the newly constituted region of Coconut Estates in Kurunegala and Puttalam. Mr. Percy Dassanayaka succeeded him at Alton.

There were changes on Fairlawn too with Chandana Jayasekara taking over from Percy and later on Chandra de Silva replacing Chandana on Fairlawn. Lalith Paranavithana an Old Royalist came into Adams Peak.

Winston Rupasinghe an Engineer by profession was the Resident Project Manager for the Canyon Hydro power project. He and his wife Yosha became very active members of the Maskeliya Club with Winston’s “Moon Walk” on the bar at Maskeliya Club being enjoyed by all. Winston was an Old Josephian and a graduate from Patrice Lumumba University in Russia and claimed Rohana Wijeweera was his batch mate. 

Some things which I will not forget in my Maskeliya Planting days was the experience which I gained in all aspects of planting. In Tea Manufacture, Mr. Karunaratne and his team at the Moray Factory were fantastic. The experience which we got in drawing up of development plans – the MTIP programme on field development and housing was done by Dushantha and me for Moray. Mr. Suppiah the Chief Clerk on Moray was very helpful when checking accounts.

There are many anecdotes on the fun activities we had such as the picnics we had at Fishing Hut, the Club days at Maskeliya, Rugby Football at Darrawella etc. All are far too numerous to be mentioned but some worthy of mention are;

  • Club days always ended with a good sing song, Tuan the Club boy used to hide the trays as those were used to give the beat along with the forks and spoons.
  • Superintendents had been allocated with new vehicles - the Renault 4 being one such vehicle.  Bob Smith too had one of these vehicles. He was the last to leave the club on most occasions and that day was no exception.  He was not used to driving a car that had a gear lever coming out of the dash board and in his intoxicated state he had accidently engaged reverse gear and pressed the accelerator. The vehicle landed on the tennis court breaking the stone terrace.  Bob Smith had very conveniently fallen asleep in the car! The following morning a gang of workers from Brunswick were seen lifting the car up to the parking lot.
  • The unconfirmed story of Devaka Wickramasuriya, whose eye sight left much to be desired without his specs, accidently knocking into the goal post during a rugger match at Darrawella and mistaking it for a player saying “Sorry Machang”.
  • The Dickoya Rugger team had travelled down to Kandy to play the University; we had parked our bikes down Dalada Veediya and walked to the nearby Chinese Restaurant for a Beer and Lunch.  Our group consisted of Mike Joseph (6’0”), Harin de Costa (6’ 6”) and myself (6’ 1”) and we were attired in shorts with our jerkins on. A few school boys walking towards us stopped in their tracks on seeing the three of us and one of them said to the others in Sinhalese “Machang Raja Kale witherak nemei dannuth lankawe yodayo innawa” – which translated into English is “Machang not only in the days of kings but even now we have giants in our country”!

When the Dim-Dicks were formed, we had practice twice a week - one day at Darrawella and the other day at Radella. At times Malin Gunatilleke used to give us a lift from Darrawella to Radella failing which we travelled on our bikes to Radella and back – a commitment we had towards keeping Rugby alive in Up-Country. Good old Ken Murray used to provide transport to guys from Radella to Darrawella.

My second stint in Maskeliya was initially as a DGM of Maskeliya Plantations Limited, then as General Manager and finally as Director Operations. We managed all estates in the district other than for those on the other side of the Mahanilu Ganga which were Alton, Gouravilla, Mahanilu, Fairlawn and Mincing Lane which had been allocated to another RPC.

The estates were in good condition with all the replanting carried out since 1978, under the MTIP programme, being in bearing. We were able to carry out the factory development to accommodate increased crop with the ADB loan and also carry out further replanting. A new Hydro Project at Brunswick to generate 650kw was constructed and the old hydro power plants on Moray and Talawakelle estate were upgraded.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the development programme drawn up by me and Dushantha in 1978 still in the Moray Office and work continuing according to this plan.

We had a fantastic team of Superintendents and we also took in creepers and trained them and built up a professional outfit of managers; it was with pleasure I appointed some of the creepers whom we recruited after 1992 as Superintendents from the year 2000 onwards without recruiting from outside.

We also carried out several staff training schemes for children of estate employees and were able to offer them employment on estates in different regions away from their “home” estate. When I visit estates in my present capacity of manufacturing advisor, I meet several of them who are now holding senior staff positions and they proudly show me the letter of appointment we had given after training.

Whenever I see the majestic Adams Peak venerated by so many, from any distance the fond memories of my planting days in the district come back. The many friendships that were built in the district still remain and will remain forever.

Fred Amarasinghe


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