Book on Queen’s
to the Department of National Archives is always an interesting
experience. It is, of course, the ideal place to look up any old
newspaper or government record. The collection is so wide that it's
rarely that one cannot locate a document that one needs. Few may,
however, know that there are publications for sale as well.
As one walks
in, there is a display of publications available for sale in a glass
case fixed to the wall - not an impressive display but one can get
an idea of what is available.
much publicised, the latest addition to the collection among publications
for sale is the lavishly illustrated 'From Governor's Residence
to President's House' written by Dr. Brendon Gooneratne sometime
back. This fascinating story of 'Queen's House', as we all know
it, one of Sri Lanka's architectural treasures, traces its history
from the time it was the private house of Jehan Gerard van Angelbeek,
the last Dutch Governor of Ceylon (1796) until the time of President
J. R. Jayewardene.
Barnes, he mentions that the man who, after a tour of the island
commented that what Ceylon needed was 'first roads, second roads
and third roads', Governor Barnes (1824-31) ceased all work on forts
and diverted labour and all available revenue to road-building.
He believed that without roads "we can never be said to have
secure possession of the country nor can it commercially improve".
He used the skills of military engineers like Thomas Skinner and
of the trained Indian artisans in the Ceylon Pioneer Lascars to
build the roads.
The Kelani River
was spanned by a bridge of boats, the Maha Oya by a bridge at Mawanella,
and the Mahaweli Ganga by a satinwood bridge at Peradeniya which
boasted a single arch 205 feet long. Mention is also made of Sir
Solomon Dias Banadaranaike, Maha Mudaliyar and Ceylonese Aide-de-Camp
to successive Governors of the island.
British subject, he had been invested with the rank of Muhandiram
as a young man by one of Queen Victoria's grandsons, then on a visit
to Ceylon. Sir Solomon, who considered this honour a mark of special
distinction asked, and received permission to introduce into his
names and titles the words 'Raj Kumarun Kadu Keralu' ('Recipient
of a sword from the hand of a Royal Prince')", Gooneratne writes.
While a limited number of copies of the big book on Queen's House
is on sale (at Rs 1,500/-) at the National Archives, its Director
Dr. K. D. G. Wimalaratne is giving the final touches to a fresh
text updating the information on the President's House right up
to the present day. It is likely that we will soon see a new book,
in addition to the well documented work by Brendon Gooneratne.
director Wimalaratne is a man who is ever willing to sit with a
visitor and discuss things of the past provided he is not involved
with routine meetings and other administrative work. In fact, it
is high time he devoted more time to put down on paper the wealth
of information he has in his possession on various matters related
to Sri Lanka.
it is high time he updated his 'Directory of Dates and Events',
which extends only up to 1984. That is the only single document,
which is a ready reference of the country's important events since
543 B.C. Then his work 'Personalities of Sri Lanka' comes up to
1990. That needs updating too.