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Friends of the British Garrison Cemetery in Kandy

The Friends of the British Garrison Cemetery in Kandy is a voluntary group which is endeavoring to preserve the heritage of this colonial cemetery, to keep the records of the graves and to maintain and restore the tombstones and their surrounding on a regular basis. 

On request we are prepared to locate family tombstones, report on their condition and take photographs which may help family members intending to visit. The Friends will also assist with research where they can. 

Our caretaker, Mr Charles Carmichael, would be pleased to show you around, and provide information on many of the graves. 

We are entirely dependant on donations for our upkeep expenses and your help in the collection box at our museum, or by cheque in favour of "The British Garrison Cemetery, Kandy" would be most gratefully received. The Friends of the British Garrison Cemetery are grateful for the support they receive from volunteers, well-wishers, the business community, the Municipality, and the Sri Lanka Army and Police. We are particularly grateful for the grant received for the printing of this leaflet from ANZ Grindlays Bank, 7 Temple Street, Kandy. Tel. +94-(08)-224963-4 & +94-(08)-232860 - the International Bank in close proximity for your Travellers Cheques, Foreign Currency encashment and International ATM facilities. 

The Honorary Secretary

7/11, Anagarika Dharmpala Mawatha


Sri Lanka. 

In the very heart of Kandy, behind the Kandy National Museum and practically adjacent to the Law Courts and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, lies a acre plot of land wherein rest many men, women and children, mainly colonial British, cut off from life, many in the flower of their youth, others blossoming into manhood, and with only a bare handful reaching the proverbial three score years and ten. This is the British Garrison Cemetery, which was opened in 1822 and closed by Governor's Proclamation in the mid-1870's, except for those with a relation already buried therein. 

After recent restoration, anyone interested is now more than welcome to visit this slightly bizarre reminder of the past, where chattering monkeys and the acrid smell of elephants mingle with the peace and quiet of this tranquil spot. 

Here you will find fine examples of table tombs, raised tombs with inscribed side tablets, obelisks, a fluted column and many more of the more mundane head and rarer foot stones; a good number of these have their own stories to tell (details in our museum). 

To name but a few of the 195 graves: 


John Spottiswood Robertson, b. 1823 d. 1856. A table tomb.

The seventh and last recorded death of a European in Ceylon killed by wild elephants.



Lieut.-General John Fraser, aged 72 years. A table tomb.

Best known for his satinwood bridge, which spanned the Mahaweli Ganga at Peradeniya. This graceful single arch with a span of 205 ft. was in use from 1833 to 1905. It was built with not a single nail or bolt. He was also renowned as a road builder and cartographer, apart from being a strict disciplinarian.


No. 43

Eliza Ann Philpotts, raised tomb with side inscribed tablet.

This tomb was badly damaged by a tree growing through it, and had to be dismantled before restoration work.


No. 11

Sir John D'Oyly, b. 1774 d. 1824, Fluted column with marble tablet.

He represented the British Government at the 1815 Convention whereat the Kingdom of Kandy was annexed to the British Crown. Fluent in Sinhala, he acquired great influence over the local population. A set of verses was addressed to him by Ganjaman Nona, the Matara poetess.


No. 101

William Robert Lyte, b. 1846 d. 1865.

Grandson of the Rev. Henry Francis Lyte, author of the hymn "Abide with me"


No. 88

David Findlay, b. 1823 d. 1861. A fine granite headstone with carved Grecian urn.

Findlay was killed when the Mullegodde (sic) House, owned at the time by Advocate J. A. Dunuwille, collapsed on him.


No. 114

Henry Mackenzie, b. 1841 d. 1869.

This headstone has been badly broken and now lies flat. Nine randomly drilled holes for embellishments can be seen, the significance of which is not known. Any assistance would be most welcome.


No. 123

Lady Elizabeth Gregory, b. 1817 d. 1873. Carved granite raised tomb with iron railing surround including a small visiting gate.

She was the wife of the Rt. Hon. William Henry Gregory, Governor of Ceylon 1872 - 1877.


No. 1

Captain James McGlashan, b. 1791 d. 1817. This tombstone was brought to the cemetery in the late 1880's from Lady Longden's Drive. Distinguished himself at the Battle of Busaco, Albuera and Waterloo. With reckless disregard of precautions he walked from Trincomalee, drenched with rain, wading, sitting and even sleeping in saturated clothing; not surprisingly he was seized with violent fever and accepted his end with manly fortitude.


No. 117

William Charles MacReady, b. 1832 d. 1871.

Son of the celebrated actor William, known to Charles Dickens, W.C.M. held many civil servant positions. In 1865 he published a translation of the Sinhalese poem "Sela  Lihini Sandese: the Sela's message, with Notes and Glossary, for the use of Students" by Sir Rahula of Totagamuwa.


No. 110

William Watson Mackwood, b. 1847 d. 1867.

Alighting from his horse, he was transfixed by a stake placed to mark out the ground.


No. 68

Oteline Rudd, b. 1829 d. 1867. A table tomb.

Her husband, Billy, was one of the first planters to be sold up in the 1847-48 coffee crisis, losing thousands of acres originally worth many thousands of Pounds, for a few hundred paltry Rupees. He was reduced from living in princely state to not even owning the chair on which he sat.


No. ???

G. & M. Wait

A small Memorial stone for their five infant sons.


No. 135

Henry Thompson, P.M., P.Z., b. 1831 d. 1881. A carved granite raised tomb.

"Erected by his Masonic Friends in Ceylon".


No. ???

Marcella Stewart b. 1806 d. 1830. All the above-ground bricks were missing, and the side tablet was found buried face down during restoration work. This whole grave has been remade with old bricks by one of our masons using a degree of licence in the absence of records.


The inscription on one of the other graves is for James McPherson of Kingussie N. B. Died Kandy 12 August 1859. The caretake would be most interested to know the meaning of the initials N. B. - can anyone help?


You'll note that some of the details given above are significantly more than one would expect to be written on a grave - you'd be right - someone has researched the occupants of many of the graves and the information is held on cards in the museum.


Best of luck!


Geoff Summers

Canterbury, Kent, England