Sri Lanka Burgher Family Genealogy
JOHN LOURENS SPITTEL - Family # 1003
1. Jan Lourens SPITTEL was born on 8 Jul 1734 in Sachsen-Weimar, Eisenactt, Thuringia. He died on 24 Jul 1805 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Jan Lourens SPITTEL and Wilhelmina Jacoba DYKHOFF were married on 27 Aug 1775 in Wolvendaal, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Wilhelmina Jacoba DYKHOFF (daughter of Jan Lubbert DYKHOFF) was born on 1 Oct 1746 in Wolvendaal, Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died on 18 Apr 1790 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Jan Lourens SPITTEL and Wilhelmina Jacoba DYKHOFF had the following children:
+2 i. Diederick Wilhelmus SPITTEL, born on 21 Nov 1778, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Johanna Elizabeth PHILIPSZ, on 15 Sep 1799, Wolvendaal, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). (1002)
3 ii. Rudolphina Wilhelmina SPITTEL was born on 10 Feb 1782 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Jan Lourens SPITTEL and Johanna DE VRIES were married about 1763 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Johanna DE VRIES was born about 1738 in Sachsen-Weimar, Eisenactt, Thuringia .
2. Diederick Wilhelmus SPITTEL (Jan Lourens-1) was born on 21 Nov 1778 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Diederick Wilhelmus SPITTEL and Johanna Elizabeth PHILIPSZ were married on 15 Sep 1799 in Wolvendaal, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Johanna Elizabeth PHILIPSZ (daughter of Rev. Henricus PHILIPSZ and Susanna SCHARFF) was born about 1782 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Diederick Wilhelmus SPITTEL and Johanna Elizabeth PHILIPSZ had the following children:
+4 i. Gerardus Adrianus SPITTEL, born on 22 Jun 1803, Ceylon ; married Christiana Petronella JANSEN, on 18 Dec 1833, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died on 4 Apr 1868, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
5 ii. Henricus Christoffel SPITTEL was born on 16 Jun 1805 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 7 Aug 1812 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
6 iii. Johannes Cornelis SPITTEL was born on 8 Jun 1810 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
4. Gerardus Adrianus SPITTEL (Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 22 Jun 1803 in Ceylon. He died on 4 Apr 1868 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Gerardus Adrianus SPITTEL and Christiana Petronella JANSEN were married on 18 Dec 1833 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Christiana Petronella JANSEN (daughter of Cornelius JANSEN and Sophia Henrietta PLASKY) was born on 22 Dec 1814 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died on 20 Dec 1895 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Gerardus Adrianus SPITTEL and Christiana Petronella JANSEN had the following children:
+7 i. Frederica Gerardina SPITTEL, born on 8 Nov 1834, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married John Frederick POULIER, on 8 Jun 1853, Methodist Church, Pettah, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+8 ii. George Michael SPITTEL, born on 16 Sep 1836, Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Julia Fredrica Matilda JANSEN, on 20 Oct 1864, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died on 5 Sep 1914, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+9 iii. Cornelia Henrietta SPITTEL, born on 27 Sep 1838, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married John Leonhard Kalenberg VAN DORT, on 30 Jan 1861, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
10 iv. Johanna Christiana SPITTEL was born on 6 Mar 1841 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died on 25 Apr 1844 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+11 v. John SPITTEL, born on 7 Jun 1844, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Frances Laura JANSZ, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died on 24 Jan 1877, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
12 vi. Arnoldina Henrietta SPITTEL was born on 8 Aug 1849 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+13 vii. Dr. Frederick George SPITTEL, born on 26 Jan 1853, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Zilia Eleanor Andree JANSZ, All Saints Church, Galle, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died about 1943, London, England.
7. Frederica Gerardina SPITTEL (Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 8 Nov 1834 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Frederica Gerardina SPITTEL and John Frederick POULIER were married on 8 Jun 1853 in Methodist Church, Pettah, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). John Frederick POULIER was born on 8 Sep 1830 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
8. George Michael SPITTEL (Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 16 Sep 1836 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 5 Sep 1914 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
George Michael SPITTEL and Julia Fredrica Matilda JANSEN were married on 20 Oct 1864 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Julia Fredrica Matilda JANSEN (daughter of Charles Henry JANSEN and Ursula Frederica EBERT) was born on 21 Jul 1844 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died 30 Nov1885 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). George Michael SPITTEL and Julia Fredrica Matilda JANSEN had the following children:
14 i. Evangeline SPITTEL was born about 1865 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
15 ii. Jansen SPITTEL was born on 28 Dec 1866 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 15 Jul 1922.
16 iii. Eudora Minella SPITTEL was born on 30 May 1868 in Gampola , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
17 iv. Gerald Archibald SPITTEL was born on 16 Nov 1869 in Gampola , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 27 Jul 1873.
18 v. Cecilia Clara SPITTEL was born on 12 Jun 1871 in Gampola , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died on 20 Jan 1901.
19 vi. George SPITTEL was born on 26 Oct 1873 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 16 Jan 1877 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
20 vii. Francis Reginald SPITTEL was born on 12 Jan 1876 in Gampola , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
21 viii. Leopold SPITTEL was born on 11 Oct 1878 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+22 ix. Clement Carl SPITTEL, born on 8 Nov 1880, Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Verbena Emelia DUCKWORTH, on 8 Jun 1910, Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
9. Cornelia Henrietta SPITTEL (Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 27 Sep 1838 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Cornelia Henrietta SPITTEL and John Leonhard Kalenberg VAN DORT were married on 30 Jan 1861 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). John Leonhard Kalenberg VAN DORT (son of Johannes Jacobus VAN DORT and Petronella Margaretta KALENBERG) was born in 1831 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died in 1898 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). JLK Van Dort was a self-taught artist . He was a Draughtsman in the Surveyor-General's office, Colombo, Ceylon.
Cornelia Henrietta SPITTEL and John Leonhard Kalenberg VAN DORT had the following children:
23 i. Grace VAN DORT was born on 30 Sep 1861 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
11. John SPITTEL (Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 7 Jun 1844 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 24 Jan 1877 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
John SPITTEL and Frances Laura JANSZ were married in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Frances Laura JANSZ (daughter of William Henry JANSZ and Anna Selina MACK) was born on 2 Apr 1853 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). John SPITTEL and Frances Laura JANSZ had the following children:
+24 i. John Henry Basil SPITTEL, born on 23 Jan 1877, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Mabel Rose MACK, on 23 Apr 1900, Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendaal, Colombo, Sri lanka (ex Ceylon).
25 ii. Elsie Laura Henrietta SPITTEL was born on 31 Dec 1875 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
13. Dr. Frederick George SPITTEL (Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 26 Jan 1853 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died about 1943 in London, England.
Dr. Frederick George SPITTEL and Zilia Eleanor Andree JANSZ were married in All Saints Church, Galle, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).  Zilia Eleanor Andree JANSZ (daughter of Hendrik Fredrik(Henry Frederick) JANSZ and Maria Elizabeth ANDREE) was born on 17 Jun 1855 in Galle, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Dr. Frederick George SPITTEL and Zilia Eleanor Andree JANSZ had the following children:
26 i. Frederick SPITTEL was born about 1880. Frederick Spittel died in his teens, of Typhoid Fever
+27 ii. Lottie SPITTEL, born on 27 Mar 1887; married Paul Lucien JANSZ, on 12 Apr 1926.
+28 iii. George Knox SPITTEL, born on 11 Jan 1885, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Elaine Sabina Gertrude Drieberg VAN DER WALL, on 28 Jun 1911, Christ Church, Jaffna, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+29 iv. Dr. Richard Lionel SPITTEL L.M.S. (Ceylon) F.R.C.S.(Eng.) , born on 9 Dec 1881, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Claribel Frances Van Dort, (Claire) d/o Dr W G Van Dort (1004), on 28 Dec 1911, St Michael and All Angels' Church, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
22. Clement Carl SPITTEL (George Michael-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 8 Nov 1880 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Clement Carl SPITTEL and Verbena Emelia DUCKWORTH were married on 8 Jun 1910 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Verbena Emelia DUCKWORTH (daughter of William Nornam DUCKWORTH and Francis Agnes ANDRIESZ (ADVIANSZ?)) was born on 12 Dec 1884 in Gampola, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Clement Carl SPITTEL and Verbena Emelia DUCKWORTH had the following children:
They had the following children:
+30a i. M Dr Frederick Carl2 Spittel, born 21 February 1911 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka.
30b M i. Earle George Spittel - born 9 March 1914 Col.,-Died ?? (Ceylon) , Sri Lanka
+30c F i. Verbina Frances Spittel was born 5 Jul 1915. married (MRIN:7196) Francis John Wright.
30d M i. removed
30e F ii. Iris Eudora Spittel was born 3 Jun 1918 in Colombo, ceylon. She died 2 Jun 1919.
30f F iii. Mavis Edith Spittel was born 3 Jun 1918. She died 31 Jan 1981 in Melbourne, Australia.
30g M i. Llewellyn Hillary Spittel born 14 June 1920 Col., died aft.1982 Col
30h M iv. Elmo Maurice Spittel was born 9 Oct 1921 in Ceylon. He died about 1984.
24. John Henry Basil SPITTEL (John-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 23 Jan 1877 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
John Henry Basil SPITTEL and Mabel Rose MACK were married on 23 Apr 1900 in Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendaal, Colombo, Sri lanka (ex Ceylon). Mabel Rose MACK was born on 14 May 1877 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). John Henry Basil SPITTEL and Mabel Rose MACK had the following children:
33 i. Basil Melroy SPITTEL was born on 3 Jan 1901 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+34 ii. Mabel Laurine SPITTEL, born on 10 Feb 1902, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Ronald Walter Neville SMITH, on 28 Sep 1931, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died Victoria, Australia .
35 iii. Kathleen Iris Selina SPITTEL was born on 29 Sep 1903 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
36 iv. Arthur Eric SPITTEL was born on 11 Aug 1905 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
37 v. Louise Mildred SPITTEL was born on 7 Mar 1909 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
38 vi. Maisie Isabella SPITTEL was born on 26 Jun 1911 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
39 vii. Robert Henry SPITTEL was born on 29 Mar 1914 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
27. Lottie SPITTEL (Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 27 Mar 1887.
Lottie SPITTEL and Paul Lucien JANSZ were married on 12 Apr 1926. Paul Lucien JANSZ (son of Peter Paul JANSZ and Hannah Maud DE SILVA) was born on 27 Apr 1899.
28. George Knox SPITTEL (Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 11 Jan 1885 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
George Knox SPITTEL and Elaine Sabina Gertrude Drieberg VAN DER WALL were married on 28 Jun 1911 in Christ Church, Jaffna, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Elaine Sabina Gertrude Drieberg VAN DER WALL (daughter of Edward VAN DER WALL and Joseline Gertrude THOMASZ) was born on 11 Sep 1880 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). George Knox SPITTEL and Elaine Sabina Gertrude Drieberg VAN DER WALL had the following children:
40 i. Theodora Hendrika SPITTEL was born on 27 May 1912 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
+41 ii. Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL, born on 27 May 1912, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Louis Edwin Garvin SPELDEWINDE, on 29 Dec 1937, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Clementi SMITH, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); died on 19 Apr 1993.
29. Dr. Richard Lionel SPITTEL L.M.S. (Ceylon) F.R.C.S.(Eng.) (Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 9 Dec 1881 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). R L Spittel was a Surgeon at the General Hospital, Colombo,He was also President Dutch Burgher Union 1936-1938
Dr. Richard Lionel SPITTEL L.M.S. (Ceylon) F.R.C.S.(Eng.) and Claribel Frances VAN DORT were married on 28 Dec 1911 in St Michael and All Angels' Church, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Claribel Frances Van Dort, (Claire) d/o Dr W G Van Dort (1004), was born on 9 Dec 1881 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Dr. Richard Lionel SPITTEL L.M.S. (Ceylon) F.R.C.S.(Eng.) and Claribel Frances VAN DORT had the following children:
+42 i. Christine SPITTEL.
43 ii. Yvonne SPITTEL was born. Yvonne Spittel died in Infancy
30a. Doctor Frederick Carl2 Spittel (Clement Carl1) was born 21 February 1911 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, died 11 October 1973 (Ceylon) Sri Lanka . He married Barbara Louise Wright, born 5 August 1908, daughter of Victor Oswald Anjou Wright & Eleanor Caroline Van Langenberg. Married: 01 February 1939 in St Mary's Church, Bambalapitiya, Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka.
More About Doctor Frederick Carl Spittel: Degree: LMS(Cey)
Occupation: Doctor, Civil Medical Department
They have 1 Son & 2 Daughters
30b. Earle George Spittel - born 9 March 1914 Col.,-Died ?? (Ceylon) , Sri Lanka - married Sept 1942 - Beryl Holsinger --Born ??- died ??? (Ceylon) --
Child of Earle George Spittel & Beryl Hosinger = 1 son
30c. Verbena Frances2 Spittel (Clement Carl1) was born 05 July 1915 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, died 21 February 2001 , Waverley Valley Nursing Home, Glen Waverley, Vic., Aust.. She married Francis John Wright 27 December 1939 in All Saints' Church, Borella, Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, son of Victor Wright and Eleanor Van Langenberg. He was born 03 December 1912 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka.
More About Francis John Wright: Degree: BSc (Lond), Dip.Ed.(Col.)
Occupation. - Teacher at St Peter's College, Colombo , teaching Physics, Chemistry, Applied Maths & Pure Maths at HSC1 & HSC2 Level.
He was associated with a variety of College activities viz Science Assn. etc. Also involved with College Sports ,including the setting up of St Peter's Rowing Team.
John was Warden of The Maldivian Hostel for Boys in Colombo. Later - Principal of Maldivian Girls College in Male. In Australia - He was a teacher of Physics, Maths & Chemistry at Balwyn High School, Koonung High School & Blackburn High School.
Child of Verbena Spittel and Francis Wright is:
30b.i John Roger3 Wright, born 20 October 1940 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka.
30e. Iris Eudora Spittel - born 3 June 1918 Col., - died 2 June 1919 (twin of Mavis)
30f. Mavis Edith Spittel - born 3 June 1918 Col, - died 14 February 2001 , Kew, Victoria, Australia - married 14 May 1955 - All Saints', Borella. Alfred Louis de Witt - born 19 May 1923 Colombo, died 31 January 1981 - Simpson Road, Box Hill, Vic, Australia
Child of Alfred Louis (Chum) de Witt & Mavis Edith Spittel = 1 daughter
30g. Llewellyn Hillary Spittel born 14 June 1920 Col., died aft.1982 Col., married December 1967 - ??? Bianca Samuel - born ?? died abt.1972
child of Llewellyn Hillary Spittel & Bianca Samuel = 1 son
30h. Elmo Maurice Spittel - born 9 October 1921 Col., died 12 March 1984 Wattala, Sri Lanka - married 4 February 1958 - Colombo, Therese Fernando, born 21 March 1934 Col. dau of T L Fernando & Elizabeth ?
Child of Elmo Maurice Spittel & Therese Fernando = 1 son.
34. Mabel Laurine SPITTEL (John Henry Basil-5, John-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 10 Feb 1902 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died in Victoria, Australia.
Mabel Laurine SPITTEL and Ronald Walter Neville SMITH were married on 28 Sep 1931 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Ronald Walter Neville SMITH (son of William Walter Stock SMITH and Florence Louise CHERRINGTON) was born on 10 Feb 1902 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died in Victoria, Australia. Mabel Laurine SPITTEL and Ronald Walter Neville SMITH had the following children:
+44 i. Maureen Jane SMITH, born in 1933, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Elmo ORCHARD, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
41. Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL (George Knox-5, Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 27 May 1912 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). She died on 19 Apr 1993.
Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL and Louis Edwin Garvin SPELDEWINDE were married on 29 Dec 1937 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Louis Edwin Garvin SPELDEWINDE (son of Frank( Francis) Adolphus SPELDEWINDE and Charlotte Evangeline GARVIN) was born on 10 Apr 1914 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). He died on 8 Jul 1989. Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL and Louis Edwin Garvin SPELDEWINDE had the following children:
+45 i. Arthur Richard Michael SPELDEWINDE, born on 1 Feb 1941, Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon); married Winsome SIEBEL, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL and Clementi SMITH were married in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Clementi SMITH was born.
42. Christine Frances SPITTEL (Richard Lionel-5, Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born.
Christine married (2-MRIN:7084) Cecil Frederick Annesley Jonklaas. Cecil was born 7 Apr 1912 in Ceylon.
They had the following children:
46 F i. Anne WILSON was born.
Christine also married Alistair McNeil WILSON on Dec 11, 1944 at St Andrew's Church Scotts Kirk, Alistair was born in England, and died June 15 2007* [see appreciation below]. Christine SPITTEL and Alistair WILSON had no children.
44. Maureen Jane SMITH (Mabel Laurine SPITTEL-6, John Henry Basil-5, John-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born in 1933 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Maureen Jane SMITH and Elmo ORCHARD were married in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Elmo ORCHARD (son of Shirley ORCHARD and Adeline HELSHAM) was born on 4 Aug 1926 in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Maureen Jane SMITH and Elmo ORCHARD had the following children:
47 i. Cheryl Fay ORCHARD was born on 30 Apr 1955 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
48 ii. Suzanne Ingrid ORCHARD was born on 6 Aug 1957 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
49 iii. Keith St. Elmo ORCHARD was born on 28 Feb 1960 in Colombo , Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
45. Arthur Richard Michael SPELDEWINDE (Wilhelmina Gertruida SPITTEL-6, George Knox-5, Frederick George-4, Gerardus Adrianus-3, Diederick Wilhelmus-2, Jan Lourens-1) was born on 1 Feb 1941 in Colombo, Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon).
Arthur Richard Michael SPELDEWINDE and Winsome SIEBEL were married in Sri Lanka (ex Ceylon). Winsome SIEBEL was born.
 DBU Journal Vol: 25 page 165.
Laura Foenander’s Rootsweb Website
2 Diederick Wilhelmus Spittel b: 21 NOV 1778
5 Anna Louisa Poulier b: 27 FEB 1854 d: 8 DEC 1934
5 Francis Grerald Poulier b: 2 FEB 1856 d: 18 MAY 1928
5 Grace Eleanor Poulier b: 11 FEB 1858
5 John Wilfred Poulier b: 17 JUN 1860 d: 8 NOV 1929
5 Richard Benjamin Poulier b: 9 JUN 1862 d: 16 SEP 1917
5 Edgar Oliver Poulier b: 14 MAR 1864 d: 10 JUL 1933
5 James Dodd Poulier b: 2 JAN 1866 d: 19 MAR 1925
5 Janet Marion Poulier b: 16 SEP 1868 d: 7 JAN 1904
5 Samuel Walter Poulier b: 8 JUL 1869 d: 28 NOV 1926
5 Arnold Leopold Poulier b: 27 FEB 1875 d: 27 NOV 1949
5 Ethel Mabel Poulier b: 10 APR 1877
5 Evangeline Spittel b: AUG 1865
5 Jansen Spittel b: 28 DEC 1866 d: 15 JUL 1922
5 Gerald Archibald Spittel b: 16 NOV 1869 d: 27 JUL 1873
5 Eudora Minella Spittel b: 30 MAY 1868
5 Cecila Clara Spittel b: 12 JUN 1871 d: 20 JAN 1901
5 George Spittel b: 26 OCT 1873 d: 16 JAN 1877
5 Francis Reginald Spittel b: 12 JAN 1876
5 Leopold Michael Frederick Spittel b: 11 OCT 1878
6 Dr. Frederick Carl Spittel b:21 Feb 1911 + Barbara Louis Wright, b:5 Aug 1908, m:Feb 1 1939
7 Barbara3 Spittel
6 Earle George Spittel - born 9 March 1914 Col.,-Died ?? (Ceylon) , Sri Lanka
6 Verbena Frances Spittel, b:5-Jul-1915 + Francis John Wright, b:3 Dec 1912, m:27-Dec-1939
7 John Roger3 Wright, born 20 October 1940 in Colombo (Ceylon) Sri Lanka
6 Godfrey Malcolm Spittel - born 11 October 1916 Colombo
6 Iris Eudora Spittel b: 3 JUN 1918 d: 2 JUN 1919
6 Mavis Edith Spittel b: 3 JUN 1918 d: 31 JAN 1981. She died 31 Jan 1981 in Melbourne, Australia.
6 Llewellyn Hillary Spittel born 14 June 1920 Col., died aft.1982 Col
6 Elmo Maurice Spittel b: 9 OCT 1921. He died about 1984
5 Grace van Dort b: 30 SEP 1861
5 Ernest Francis Van Dort b: 23 JAN 1865 d: 6 DEC 1934
4 Johana Christiana Spittel b: 6 MAR 1841 d: 25 APR 1844
5 Elsie Laura Henrietta Spittel b: 31 DEC 1875
6 Basil Melroy Spittel b: 3 JAN 1901
6 Kathleen Iris Selina Spittel b: 29 SEP 1903
6 Arthur Eric Spittel b: 11 AUG 1905
6 Louise Mildred Spittel b: 7 MAR 1909
6 Maisie Isabella Spittel b: 26 JUN 1911
6 Robert Henry Spittel b: 29 MAR 1914
4 Arnoldina Henrietta Spittel b: 8 AUG 1849
5 Frederick Spittel b: 1880
6 Christine Spittel + Jonklaas
6 Theodora Hendrika Spittel b: 27 MAY 1912
SPITTEL - ROBERT LINCOLN (Formerly of US Embassy (Sri Lanka) and Royal Navy). Beloved husband of Charmaine Vandandresen, son of late Mr and Mrs Milroy Spittel, brother of late Ricky and of Lorna (Australia), late Mavis, June and of Loretta, Tutsie and Barbara, brother-in-law of Arlene Spittel, late Dixon and of Percy de Silva, Jacky Keuneman, Godfrey Siegertsz, Tony Jainudeen and Wijay, passed away on 8th July 2010. Cortege leaves A.F. Raymond’s Funeral Parlour at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday 10th July, burial at the General Cemetery, Kanatte (Anglican Section). Australian papers please copy. DN Fri July 9 2010
Dr. Richard Lionel Spittel
"Ceylon had a few outstanding personalities born in the 19th century. Dr. R L Spittel is one of this select band. He chose the medical profession as his vocation in life, and by his ability, application and study, reached the highest pinnacle as a surgeon. His work and reputation as such extended our country.
Despite being physically handicapped by Septicaemia, suffered early in life in his calling, his boundless energy and thirst for service was not confined to the busy life of a prominent surgeon.
His concern for the less fortunate in life found him roaming the least accessible jungles of Ceylon, studying and helping one of the oldest races in the world, The Veddahs, who were living in the most backward and primitive conditions imaginable. Not only was he able to do much for these unfortunate people, but he was to become internationally recognized as the foremost living authority on them. Consequently, scholars of other countries sought his knowledge of them.
His keen interest in wildlife and its preservation resulted in a similar interest in this country.
His interest led him to his devoting a great part of his time to roaming the length and breadth of this country and obtaining a unique knowledge of its people, their habits and customs. This vast and deep knowledge found expression in a number pof well written and fascinating books which gained him as author of international reputation.
These are but a few of the many facets of this great man."
Dudley Senanayake, Prime Minister of Ceylon 1965-1970
[extracted from the Preface of the book, "Surgeon of the Wilderness", The Biography of Richard Spittel, written by his daughter Christine Spittel Wilson, 1975, ISBN 955-8425-23-0, Sooriya Publishers]
Richard Lionel Spittel was born to his parents, Dr. Frederick George Spittel and Zillia Spittel. His father, a doctor himself, served the the nation diligently and spent a large portion of his career in many distant parts of the island. This took Richard across his many sojourns and also provided him an opportunity to see and love the wonders of flora and fauna that God Had spread all around him. He had a brother Fred, who was a year older, and a sister Lottie six years younger.
Richard was 6 foot tall yet weighed under eight stone. He displayed a very frail demeanor with the skin drawn tight over his gaunt cheeks and skull and showing every bone of his skeleton thin body. His eyes and mouth and hands were strong. His strong long legs, with a quick eager stride, had walked through a 100 mile exploration of un-chartered forest.
His wife, Claire, a doctor herself studied him for symptoms or any of the other illnesses with which he usually returned from his many treks through the wilderness. Richard's passion for the outback and the history of the aboriginal Veddah's of Ceylon was an obsession. He wished he could seek every single one of them and document their history and lives. Many were the times when he had returned from his jungles having caught some bug, virus or infection and it was Claire who nursed and successfully brought him back to his feet.
Ceylon & the Veddah
Ceylon, where Richard Spittel was born, hangs like an Emerald at the throatlet of India. 25,000 sq miles in extent - roughly, half the side of England, and 8 degrees North of the Equator it is an island of many moods. Monsoon winds toss its palm edged shores all around it, but inland, the land, rising to 8,000 feet, is misty and cool enough for fires. In the North, arid stretches are punctuated by Palmyrah Palms like exclamation marks. Elsewhere there are forests where wild elephnat, leopard and bear roam, freely, far and wide, a glorious heritage of wildlife. The forests are being felled at a frigheting rate leaving bare eroded hills, the wild disappearing fast. Yet, it is still for its size, a fantastic island. Over 2,808 species of flora have been recorded in ceylon, of which 807 are peculiar to the island; there are over 400 species of birds. 20 Million people live on the island (Census of 2005), multiplying at still a fairly high birth rate. Highly intelligent, they are composed primarily of Sinhalese, Tamil (of South Indian origin), Dutch Burghers, descended from members of the Dutch East India Company, Moors of Arab and Indian origins, Malays from Java and a smattering of smaller ethnic groups from within South Asia.
Ceylon's Veddah's were the islands earliest inhabitants on record. These people, with whom Richard Spittel was one day to link his life story, are part of a historic group of Nomads: a mixture of Austroloid, with, in the case of the Veddahs, Mediterranean and Negrito strain, that eventually found their way to Australia. The parallels are there in many anthropological features. When Richard was young, few people had known anything about them, for they were living in caves far from civilization, they were aspects of his unconventional education.
Long before he could read, he would listen entranced, uncomprehending to sonorous Bible passages or poetry read by his father. At night it seemed to him that the darkness made music in the drumming rise and fall of the cicada's and the cry of a night jar. At dawn he would listen to the Golden Oriole and Drongo, the sweetest singers of all, of all he birds.
His father encouraged the children to explore nests, recognize one bird from another, imitate their calls, and know their ways. A bird with a broken leg or wing was splintered and cared for until t was able to fly; young squirrels dropped from their nests in the ceilingless eaves, were fed with cotton buds dipped in milk, until they were able to wean their own families. No starved stray dog or cat was ever refused a home here. Richard first learned to study nature by closed observation along the coast of Tangalle in the south of Ceylon. The transfer from Tangalle to Puttalam, in the North West Coast, 200 miles way, involved a major exercise in logistics. The family were so large and complicated to afford the crowded bullock carts, much less the horse drawn coaches that ran over certain routes. They enjoyed traveling in mattress lined bullock carts taking with them their belongings and accompanied by their livestock and other pets and animals.
Since they seemed to be learning very little in their Puttalam School, Richard and his brother Fred, were sent to a boarding school in Kurunegala, managed by an English Clergyman Rev Waltham, 53 miles away, a three days journey by bullock cart. They would have to travel alone and it was quite a tragic moment for them since they had never been separated from their parents before. It was in Kurunegala, at boarding school, when Richard was pole vaulting, when he crashed with the pole between his legs, that he fractured his left arm. He was 13 and Fred was 14, when his father, Frederick Spittel, was transferred to Galle, Zillia's hometown.
The children loved the sea-sprayed house outside the ramparts of Galle with steps leading down to its own beach. Zillia felt that it was too far away from her parents home inside the Dutch Fort and decided to move. His mother cooked Poffertjes, like donuts, using a long handled iron pan her Dutch ancestors had brought from Holland circa 1875.
Galle, on the south coast is an ancient post old as the ports of Solomon. Houses connected by underground sewers opened into the sea thus giving rise to contamination causing diseases like Typhoid Fever, which Fred caught while swimming in the sea when they lived inside the Fort, which caused his untimely death.
Richard was educated at Royal College, Colombo and Medical School where he passed out as a doctor and later went on to become a surgeon. It was here that he met, and fell in love with his wife to be, Claire Van Dort, daughter of one of Ceylon's most distinguished physicians, Dr W G Van Dort. Claire had returned to Ceylon from England, yet she retained her islands gentleness. When Richard and Claire passed out with the LMS (Ceylon) Medical Degree, Claire was awarded a Gold Medal for Surgery, they were both deeply and equally in love. Richard was the first to leave Ceylon for London to pursue his fellowship in Surgery. He achieved his FRCS with ease while Claire passed her own examination as a Physician in Edinburgh and Dublin and returned to Ceylon. Richard returned a few months later to take up his appointment as the third surgeon in the island to achieve his fellowship.
It was during one of his operations on a virulent patient who was suffering from Cellulose-Cutaneous erysipelas that he developed Streptococcal Septicaemia, as rubber gloves had not yet reached the Ceylon General Hospital and he had to make incisions with his exposed hands. He was treated and miraculously responded to the treatment and was cured, after nine months, although he suffered with swelling, pain and almost a near-death experience through this period. He recuperated in Jaffna, where his father had been appointed District Medical Officer.
Richard and Claire were married in the month of December at the St Michael and All Angels' Church in Colombo. None of his family were able to attend due to the monsoonal floods that had disrupted rail traffic from Jaffna to Colombo. The couple moved into their own small annex at Devon House. His monthly salary, as Third Surgeon of the General Hospital, was a meagre Rs 175. Many homeds still used oil-lamps, some gas, but the annex was proudly progressive with its fluctuating electricity and a hideous black telephone on the small dark sitting room wall.
The first cars were beginning to compete with the prevailing horse carriages and buggy carts. The couple kept a private rickshaw and a turbanned rickshaw-man for their transportation. Claire was an excellent Physician and could anaesthetize and assist at operations. Though surgery was Richards great love his reputation spread particularly as a specialist in venereal diseases.
He completed his first book, "A Basis of Surgical Ward Work". He then wrote his findings on his research on venereal diseases. A similar research paper by a brilliant British doctor in India was also submitted before his to the British Medical Journal and thereby Richard lost his opportunity to become famous and also be Knighted. He would laugh about it. Honors made little to him. The discovery was more important.
Christine, his daughter, was born two years after they were married.
Early in his married life Richard had warned Claire that in April's searing heat, in Colombo, when all sane people would spend their time in the Central Hills of Ceylon, he would visit the jungles. He was fortunate in having a wife who let him spend time in his own pursuits. She was, however, always tensed and troubled whenever he was away and she was undoubtedly lonely. Like many other young me of that time who were interested and pursued the sport of hunting, Richard had shot, tracking his animals on foot, and if he wounded one, trailed the blood spots until he had completed what he realized later was an ugly and vicious business. His last shot had been a deer in a glade. Approaching it he saw, with disgust, the teardrops of its mild and gentle dying eyes, and then with even greater horror, he noticed a young fawn standing by. Sitting that night, under his canvas tent, he scribbled in the black notebook he always carried, his poem called "The Wounded Doe", later published privately in a small collection of his poems.
Much later, he was to say, that it is a strange anomaly that those who have known the wild places most intimately, and have been the keenest hunters, in time, become some of the most fervent wild life conservationists. The innocence of the wilds and their vulnerability hits the hunter unexpectedly. It was so with Richard.
The forest, with its eternal cycle of immutable life, death, re-growth, where even the smallest insect played its part in a complex ecological cycle, the full meaning of which has still to be explored, began to have for Richard a greater spiritual vale and deeper peace than any religion or Church had to offer. Even in his beloved jungles he still had to have some definite objective and goal. Ecology, then in its infancy, in the first decade of the XXth Century 1920's, was a scarcely defined word. He could not, and could no longer shoot. On what, then, should he fix his sights.
During his long months in hospital, during his illness, he suddenly remembered his first sight of the man who had appeared out of the forest with his bow and arrow and as quietly disappeared into the undergrowth. Seligman's book, read while he was recuperating, had become a bedside object constantly in his thoughts. Here, in Ceylon, was this dying remnant of one of the most primitive and anthropologically important people on the Globe, virtually unknown, deeply hidden. He had already started his quest to find and record every single Veddah in the jungles of Ceylon. Studies and research in Anthropology have determined that the Ceylon Veddah is, possibly, a mixture of Austroloid with Mediterranean and Negrito strains, distinct from the Sinhalese. According to legend, the Veddah's were of Royal blood, descendents of Prince Vijaya, the Aryan Prince from North India and founder of the Sinhala Nation, and Ceylons' Veddah Princess Kuveni, whom he married and later deserted. An old treatise notes that the Veddah's once addressed the King by the now obsolete title of "Hura" or "Cousin". It was the title by which Richard was to be known by every single Veddah in Ceylon because they recognized in him the kingship of understanding. The journeys to the jungles came all too rarely. The professional work he had to do pressurized him, absorbing and interesting.
Back from the UK
By his bedside was the book, “How to live 24 hours a day” by Arnold Bennet. He packed more than that into each day and sometimes unreasonably expected almost the same dynamism from those with whom he came in contact. They lived in an annexe opposite Victoria Park since their return from the UK where Richard spent time studying advanced medical methods in surgery. This was the period when their younger daughter, Yvonne, passed away as an infant after suffering from Bright’s Disease, a serious kidney complaint inherited at birth from her mother. A few weeks after their return to Ceylon Claire’s mother passed away followed by the death of her beloved father a few weeks later. A total of four deaths within seven months made Claire despair in sorrow. Richards father, Frederick, had passed away, first, when they arrived in the UK.
The death duties that had to be paid for W G van Dort and his wife Zillia eroded Claires inheritance and fortune. Richard realized that to move as quickly as possible from their small annex was vital. He found a rambling ground floor house in Ward Place, the Harley Street of Colombo, with a detached two storey annex which Richard noted with sudden interest. For a long time the couple had dreamed of starting their own private clinic where he could operate on patients at his own pace, with nurses trained to his own tempo. It was impractical to insist that patients in paying wards should have no choice but to expect the first surgeon of the hospital to operate on them; frustrating to refuse complicated cases he knew he could help. More importantly, would this not be the time in which to do so – a primary reason being to stir Claire out of the bvrroding grief that could be life threatening.
At first she was disinterested, but, gradually as he sketched his plans, spoke of the surgical instruments he had bought in England, the Operating Table built to the specifics of his injured shoulder, she began, slowly, to listen. Geanette Martensz (Jeannie), a close friend of the family and the finest nursing sister Richard Spittel would ever know; Karen Nielsen, a fully trained Norwegian Theatre Sister, and two or three excellent hospital attendants who wanted to work for him, made up the rest of his staff.
One day, Richard, returned from the wilds beaming, and leapt from the shabby old car triumphantly. He had brought his daughter, Christine, a Veddah child, Kaira, whose mother was killed by a bear. The child was raised in the Spittel household and grew up squat and thick until he was difficult to recognize as a scrawny child who had crept in the lea of Richards shadow the day he arrived. Kaira grew up to become a ruffian acquiring his bad habits from friends who lived around. Kaira died of syphilis many years later, an illness not of the wilds but of civilization.
Some years later, the Ward Place house with its Mini Nursing Home became too cramped for Richard and his family. One of his patients had told him about a piece of land in a, then, little developed area of Colombo, which he thought would suit Richard. It was flanked by the Racecourse, on one end, and green fields with a great flamboyant alight with scarlet blossoms, on the other side. Further down on a rustic lane there was a Plumbago mine with a few small coconut thatched huts. The land itself was a marsh carpeted with rose-tipped water lilies and birds trotting on the water lily pads. The land was filled and its architect, Claessen, was a friend and patient of Richards. He put all his knowledge of through-ventilation into its high ceilinged rooms. The contractor-builder was also another rpatient. Enormous quantities of teak were used for the doors, windows, ceilings and frames and the house took shape, slowly but surely. On the upper floor, over a front verandah, was Richard’s library of several thousand books. On the ground floor he had his suite of professional rooms; a waiting room, consulting room, room for heat, diathermy, and other special treatments, and a lab for Jevadas, his pathologist.
Richard was an impossibly bad businessman. Yet, he would dabble, disastrously, in fields outside his sphere. Shortly after the debt had been paid off on his small coconut plantation he bought a small tea estate for its beauty. Its hills rose sheer and deep in the trough of its valleys a stream meandered lazily through the tea bushes.
Richards younger brother George was the opposite of him in personality and demeanor. He was a rough surveyor caring not a damn about anything yet he had a certain honesty about him that Richard liked. George ran the tea estate efficiently enough until, for some mysterious reason the agreement was cancelled by mutual consent. In addition to all his professional work Richard wrote compulsively, and like everything lese he did, he wrote against heavily loaded odds. His practice left him little time. His first book about Ceylon and the Veddahs was called “Wild Ceylon” dedicated to the memory of his father who taught him to love the jungles. His other books are, “Far off things”, “Savage Sanctuary”, “Vanishes Trails”, “Where the White Sambhur Roams”, “Wild White Boy”, “Savage Island”, “Leaves of the Jungle”, and a simple book of Poems.
Wild life Conservation
In 1894, a small , elite band of sportsmen banded themselves into what was then called, The Ceylon Game Protection Society. In 1898, through its efforts, the Yala Sanctuary of the South East Coast of Ceylon was gazzetted. Legislation was passed prohibiting the export of hides and horns and the ntrade in these commodities, as well as trade in dried meat, and the fauna of the Yala Sanctuary was saved. Although named a strict natural reserve, the territory where all shooting of wild life was prohibited, it was a breeding ground and reservoir where the depleted groups of animals could renew themselves for the resident sportsmen of the society: yet the fauna of Yala had been saved from extermination.
Richard’s crusade for wild life conservation, although inbuilt from childhood, began in a concrete form after he shot the doe in the glade and saw her fawn standing by. His thrill in handling a gun was superseded by the mature necessity to conserve wild places and their creatures.
In 1916, a British Planter patient and friend invited him to join the elite small circle of the society. It was a significant event. Until then, membership had been a purely European prerogative for the select few. Richard joined the society gladly. He felt that for those who loved the wilds there were no barriers, racial, social or cultural, and that here he could work enduringly. He had taken up a cause into which he poured all his energies. Richard was instrumental in converting the, “bloodthirsty”, hunting membership into a group of wild life lovers and conservationists. From being a committee member, at first, he went on to become the first Ceylonese President of the almost inclusive all European Society. At one of his lectures where the then agricultural Minister, Don Stephen Senanayake, was also present, he engaged in discussions with the Minister which led to the game ordinance was replaced by the fauna and flora protection ordinance. This brought the advisory board and the wild life into existence. The latter was to enforce the protection laws, especially outside the reserves of the forest department and the societies own watched hunting areas. He was responsible for the development of Wilpattu as a National Park, which together with Ruhunu National Park at Yala, became the lovely wild life sanctuaries of which he dreamed. He was the editor for thirty long years, from its very first issue, of the first wildlife magazine in Ceylon titled LORIS. Possibly nothing gave him greater satisfaction than this. The magazine, still packed with valuable information, circles the globe.
With Richard’s retirement, his battle for conservation heightened. Julian Huxley’s “Africa View” gave him new visions. It was at this time that Richard was offered the Fulbright Scholarship to the USA which he courteously refused. He needed all his time and strength for his various crusades. Then came an even more enticing invitation to visit Borneo to study its aborigines and wild beasts. Once again he had to refuse. This time it was for a far more serious reason. WWII had exploded. Richard Spittel was asked to be the Consultant Surgeon for the Royal Navy and gladly consented. In WWI, among the first in Ceylon for volunteering his services, he was turned down because of his “bad” arm.
Richard’s wife Claire went on to become the Chairman of the Red Cross Society in Ceylon after having been content to bask in the illumination of her husband and living in the background of life for many years even though she was an efficient doctor herself. The couple worked tirelessly together during the war. The war was at its height when Richard was awarded the CBE by the British Empire. One and a half years later, and four months after Independence, Richard and Claire arrived in Glasgow in the United Kingdom. This was the time when Claire became seriously ill with pneumonia and suffered a slight stroke. Although she recovered, slowly, she still insisted that her daughter, Christine, should leave for Scotland together with her husband Alastair. However, the family decided to return to Ceylon on account f Claire’s ill health even though Claire lived on for four more years. Richard was also awarded the CMG by the Colonial Empire.
And the Curtain Falls
Richard continued working with his nursing home even after Claire’s passing away. He always stated, about her, that “we were never very demonstrative but she is the only woman I ever loved” and also “Claire made me what I am. She smoothed the rough corners in me and never held me back from what I had to do. I wish I had shown her more appreciation.” Richard talked about Claire now in a way that showed he wanted to express all what was hidden inside of him. He was also very proud about the fact that his daughter, Christine, and son in law. Alastair. chose to live with him in Ceylon after Claire’s death.
Richard grew old gently. He had taken to wearing his neat blue smoking jacket with a crimson quilted lapel instead of his usual tailored suits, and spent much of his time in his library, reading anything from Gibbon to vast numbers of thrillers. His body had diminished so that he looked a pale wraith of his former self. His voice was a little more than a whisper. He was still, indubitably, the master of his house. He seldom went out except to attend, with unfailing regularity, the monthly Wildlife Protection Society meetings. There, seated in a special chair padded with cushions, he still spoke with authority about his beloved jungles and their inhabitants.
He was in his eightieth year when he undertook one of the most fantastic episodes of his career. He had watched with growing concern, for a long time, the dwindling of the Deduru Oya herd of elephants. Some years earlier a fine herd of about 250 animals had roamed the jungles eighty miles north of Colombo. They lived peacefully enough within the confines of their forest, emerging during the dry season to trek along a neck of woods leading to the only water available. Richard was responsible in setting up the 20 mile double flank on either side of the elephant drive track, using 4,000 men, in order to provide the beasts a safe passage to water during drought seasons. Many of the herd were killed by the owners of the land bordering the corridor before this flank was constructed and the herd had dwindled to a mere 25 with all of them bearing gun shot wounds and never able to procreate anymore. The villages offered their services eagerly mainly they were concerned about safeguarding their crops which came under the heels of the thirsty elephants during the drought. Having written to most of the newspapers in Ceylon and overseas Richard initiated the “Save the Elephant” Fund which brought in the much needed cash for the corridor expansion project. A sum of almost 1,500 Sterling Pounds was collected. The morning of Sep 23 heralded the beginning of the project with a religious ceremony at the nearby temple. Operation Elephant had begun. However, the project was doomed to fail on account of the many pitfalls it faced by way of villager attitudes, rival faction opinions, and non cooperation of many who had volunteered to assist. Today, sadly, the magnificent 250 beast Deduru Oya Elephant Herd is non existent.
His last visit to see the Veddah’s at Maha Oya, together with Christine and Alastair, was a very memorable one for him. Having greeted them and distributing gifts to all of their families he touched the Matriarch Kiri on her shoulder before he left in the Landrover back to civilization. He took ill on he way back and had a high fever of 103 when they reached Plolonnaruwa. Eventually they put Richard in the back seat of the vehicle and drove to Colombo.
Richard was 86 now. He was writing, laboriously, on The Devil Birds of Ceylon. One of his bookcases was dominated by a stuffed specimen of a Devil Bird, menacing with its huge outspread wings and predatory open beak that looked as if it was about to emit its fearful shrieking cry.
His friend, The Rev Andrew Baillie, used to see him during these times. They talked poetry and argued religion. After a few days he fell very ill and went into a coma. Richard Spittel was dead. May he rest in Peace!
R. L. Spittel, the surgeon, anthropologist, wildlife conservationist and author, was one of the greatest personalities Sri Lanka has produced. This tribute to an exceptional, multi-faceted man is based on the writer’s documentary film script, Surgeon of the Wilderness (1986), which was in turn based on Christine Wilson's biography of her father (bearing the same title) published in 1975.
In the late 1880s, a young boy with a burning ambition to become a doctor stood in a jungle clearing watching his surgeon-father perform an autopsy. From the undergrowth a Veddah suddenly appeared. The eyes of the boy and the Veddah met for one brief yet significant moment before the latter hastily withdrew into the jungle. It was Richard Lionel Spittel's first encounter with a member of this ancient race - an encounter that would have a profound effect on his life.
He was not to know then that apart from reaching the highest pinnacle of his career as a surgeon, he would become as well the foremost living authority on the Veddahs. Dr. R.L. Spittel was to be their champion and through his unstinting efforts did much to help them. Similarly, his interest in wildlife led him to crusade tirelessly for the conservation of the fauna and flora of then Ceylon.
He was as proficient with his pen as with his scalpel. His vast knowledge of Ceylon, gathered from his exhaustive travel and voracious reading, found expression in a number of excellent anthropological books and historical novels, which gained him an international reputation as an author.
Amazingly, at one time Richard Spittel had been a keen hunter. Like many who have hunted, though, he was to become a fervent wildlife conservationist. The hunter turned conservationist had to find a new and definitive objective in his beloved jungles. During a spell in hospital he had remembered, as if in a dream, his first encounter with a Veddah. And at that time, of course, little scientific information was known about them. Richard Spittel became obsessed with finding the Veddahs and learning as much about them as he could.
His quarry was at first maddeningly elusive. Then, one day, three men approached him in single file. He saw the brief span cloths, the axe over one shoulder, the wild eyes. Though the time when they had worn tree-bark was gone, they were close examples of traditional Veddahs. Eagerly he went with them to their dwellings. He noted the rampant symptoms of malnutrition, malaria and yaws, realising that there was much work for him to do in the future.
During this period of his life it was as a doctor and surgeon that Richard Spittel received increasing recognition. However, he was no society physician. When he joined the General Hospital he had chosen to work in the most undesirable section - the dreaded ulcer ward with its cases of syphilis and cancer. Soon he started a private practice as a specialist of some repute in venereal disease. His studies in this field resulted in him making valuable contributions to the investigation of yaws, about which little was then known.
Surgery, however, was Richard Spittel's greatest love. He achieved wonders in conditions and with instruments that would be considered primitive and totally inadequate today. In an age when speed was vital due to the limitations of anaesthetics, he was one of the fastest - yet surest - of surgeons. He was a pioneer, the first surgeon in this country to attempt many new life-saving operations and surgical procedures. For instance, he undertook the first skin graft and administered the first blood transfusion - using his own blood.
But his greatest works of healing were probably in the jungles, earning him the tag “surgeon of the wilderness.” Often he would perform emergency operations under the most difficult of conditions. His intensive treatment was almost completely to cure the people of the Vanni of venereal disease and malaria. In every corner of Ceylon he became famous for helping the Veddahs and other remote village communities.
In addition to his professional work, Richard Spittel now wrote compulsively. The urge to preserve in print the Ceylon he knew was to become almost as great as his dedication to his profession. His first book, Wild Ceylon, published in 1924, contains an exceptional introductory verse by him about the Veddahs:
In the dim waste lands of the Orient stands The wreck of a race so old and vast That the greyest legend cannot lay hands On a single fact of its tongueless past
In 1916 he had joined the Ceylon Game Protection Society - known today as the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society. His enrolment was a significant event, as membership was then almost exclusively European. He was to change the very nature of the society, bringing to it new horizons and new recognition.
From the narrow interests of game and sport, he guided the society into the wider fields of wildlife conservation and the establishment of national parks. In an age when ecology was a scarcely defined word, his aim was to protect the island's wildlife for future generations, not only for the privileged few but also for the population at large.
Richard Spittel was elected the first Ceylonese president of the society. He helped to establish Wilpattu as a national park, and Ruhunu, which had for so long existed as a sportsman's reserve, changed its status. They became the wildlife sanctuaries that Richard Spittel had long envisaged.
His next ambition was to start a magazine on Ceylon's wildlife. No name has been associated so strongly with Loris as that of Richard Spittel. He was to be its editor from 1937 to 1964 with just one brief break. Possibly nothing gave him greater satisfaction, and perhaps no other writing of his served a wider purpose. Here is a continuous record of the island's national parks and wildlife, and the endeavour to save them from the depredations of man.
He was nearly 85 and extremely frail when he made what was to be his last journey to see the Veddahs. He noticed that in the space of a few brief years, the Veddahs had started to cut their hair, wear sarongs and work the land. When he had first met them, they were still hunter-gatherers. It struck him just how quickly thousands of years of evolution could be wiped out.
Richard Spittel died on September 3, 1969, at the ripe old age of 88. The obituary notices that appeared in the Colombo press at the time correctly highlighted his unusual and multiple accomplishments:
"He belonged to that generation of scholars all of whom, though steeped in western culture, went off the beaten tracks of clubs and tennis courts into the wilderness where the Ceylonese habits, customs, traditions, arts and crafts were studied and revealed to the world."
It is 35 years since Richard Spittel died. Much has happened to his beloved Lanka since then, much which would horrify him should he return to our midst. The systematic destruction of the jungles and the wanton killing of wildlife that has occurred in that comparatively short space of time would dismay him. Even though he predicted the extinction of the wild elephant, never could he have imagined that "the pride of our land" would be machine-gunned, become the victims of landmines, and reduced to being harassed and often persecuted exhibits in national parks.
Similarly, he would be distraught at the way the Veddahs now exist, either as commercialised exhibits at Dambana or as sad misfits in the sterile atmosphere of resettlement schemes. And he would be troubled that despite his sterling work in assisting the so-called 'backward' communities, the Rodiyas and Kinnarayas are as disadvantaged and marginalised as ever.
Yet while the land falls into decay, his legacy survives, in particular in his books and writings. Immutable, they will forever contain within their pages the grandeur and spirit of the island's lost jungles and their inhabitants.
Alistair McNeil Wilson
Sunday Times July 8 2007: It is with profound sorrow of unexpectation that I read the obituary notice that appeared in The Sunday Times of June 17, of my dear old friend Alistair McNeil Wilson, precious husband of Christine Spittel Wilson. He had passed away peacefully on Friday June 15 and in fulfilment of his wishes his body was interred in a private funeral held on the same day.
Through my past close association with the late Dr. R.L. Spittel (a pioneer surgeon and prolific author of our aborigines), while being employed in the Gal Oya Development Board (Gal Oya) from 1955-70 until his death in September 1969, I came into close contact with Alistair and his wife Christine Spittel Wilson. The Spittel family members have been my close affectionate companions. Whenever I came down to Colombo from Embilipitiya I never failed to pay courtesy calls on them at their residence in Colombo. Just as much as Christine was fond of me, Alistair was too. The last time I visited them was in early 2006. Whenever I came there, Alistair with his smile would greet me, “Hello Gamini, how are you and your contacts with the Veddhas.”
I told him since I am now far away from the Bintenna Pattu, after my leaving Gal Oya in the 1970’s, I had lost contact with them, but nevertheless I used to write articles when the occasion arose, about them.
Alistair’s home was in faraway Glasgow in Scotland. He was an Army Officer of Scottish descent and had served in Ceylon in the war-torn years of World War II. His assignment before the war ended in 1945, was as the officer commanding the troops in Diyatalawa and Nuwara Eliya. Because of his engineering qualifications gained in Scotland, he came to Ceylon and joined the Colombo Commercial Company as its Chairman till he reached the age of 55 years.
After Alistair’s retirement, he took up an appointment in Nairobi in East Africa under UNO, where he served from 1973-1993. Christine too lived there with him. She had ample opportunities to see enough of wild life in the parks like Serengeti and other such parks in Nairobi, where she amassed a mine of on the spot information of the fauna, flora and avi-fauna of Africa.
Wedding bells rang for Alistair Wilson, when he married Christine Spittel on December 11, 1944. In her autobiography titled ‘Christine a memoir (2007)’ she reminisces, “Alistair and I were quietly married at St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk on December 11, 1944. My parents, Vera del Tuto, the Matron of Honour for me and an Army Officer friend of Alistair’s were there. Afterwards, a small reception at Wycherly for a few special friends. Then we drove away to the hills where another friend offered her beautiful Nuwara Eliya home for our honeymoon. My parents were delighted. They loved Alistair deeply. There was something special about him.”
Christine Wilson needs no introduction at all, as she like her distinguished father Dr. R.L. Spittel, is an equally distinguished authoress. From her childhood, she travelled with her father, and after her marriage to Alistair, she accompanied Alistair and her father in their travels into the wilds of Bintenna Pattuwa, where they had even met the famed Tissahamy - the Veddah outlaw immortalized in Dr. Spittel’s fascinating books like ‘Vanished Trails’ and ‘Savage Sanctuary”.
Once in my discourses about the Veddah characters with Alistair, he recalled that just a few months before Dr. Spittel passed away in his ‘Wycherly’ home, Alistair had driven him and Christine to Bintenna Pattuwa as Dr. Spittel longed to see his beloved Veddah friend.
Alistair was very fond of recalling those Veddah trails and the Veddah characters. One poignant story, was that he had persuaded Dr. Spittel to erect a tomb for Tissahamy who died at the Badulla Government Hospital. It was duly fulfilled. That memorial stone stood there at the Badulla cemetery with the following immortal words inscribed on it – “Outlaw Tissahamy of Dr. R.L. Spittel’s Sanctuary Lies Buried Here". Its date is given as 26.09.1952. When I visited it in the 1960’s, the tomb was in its pristine state, but now I hear it is in a dilapidated state. I still have a photograph of the tomb taken by me in the 1960’s in my album.
Another memorable event was that Tissahamy in the last stages of his life was arrested and was in the remand prison in Welikada. Dr. Spittel had met him there. A photograph taken by Alistair where Dr. Spittel poses with his old friend Tissahamy too is among my souvenirs of Dr. Spittel’s Veddah characters.
Alistair and Christine enjoyed a blissful wedded life sharing each other's interests. Both of them were in a jovial mood at the launch of Christine “A Tribute to Christine Spittel” (2005) at their residence down Conniston Place, Colombo, it being a collection of tributes to her by her admirers, associates and well-wishers. I am privileged to say one of my pieces too was carried in it. The book was edited by the well-known author Carl Muller. Christine’s latest book launch was held at the Ceylon Dutch Burgher Union Hall. Alistair who was not in the best of health could not attend the ceremony.
Christine dedicated the book to Alistair. “With love this book is dedicated to Alistair my husband for 62 years and I thank him for his endless help and encouragement”. Christine’s tribute to Alistair is summed up in the words reproduced below.
Two shall be born the whole wide world apart,
And speak in different tongues, and have no thought
Each of his other’s being; and have no heed;
And these, o’er unknown seas to unknown lands
Shall cross escaping wreck, defying death;
And all unconsciously shape every act to this one end;
But one day out of darkness they shall meet
And read life’s meaning in each other’s eyes.
From Christine Wilson’s Diary, 1949
from Christine Spittel
Wilson’s – A Memoir (2007)
My deepest sympathies on Christine’s bereavement and to their daughter Anne domiciled presently in Denmark with her husband.
I always greeted by barking dogs? But as the saying goes barking dogs seldom
bite. And Jenny for all her fuss at seeing me at first, was a calm old
creature. Her mistress had saved her, from being killed, when she wandered in
through the gates when she was just a puppy claiming 'No animal will be killed
in this house'.
Thus was the yearning for conservation in Christine Wilson. The author of The Bitter Berry, The mountain Road, I am the Wings, Reach for the Stars, Surgeon of the Wilderness and Growing up and other stories, Christine Wilson, daughter of renowned writer and surgeon Dr. R.L. Spittle, had said "You've come to a different person, therefore you will get a different interview." Well I definitely did.
Q: You had accompanied your father on his excursions to the Veddha country, how was it?
A: It felt wonderful. This was one of the most primitive people of the world. I had never been to the Veddha country before and hadn't a clue what to expect. My father insisted that I wear khaki trousers, a top and woollen socks under boots! to ward off the ticks and we had our helpers carry my Hermese typewriter.
Tikiri, the son of Thisahami, led the way. We covered 73 miles on foot during a monsoon. We were ultimately reduced to one tin of condensed milk and very little bit of sugar, which we shared with the Veddhas.
But there was quarrels. Finally two days and four rivers across we reached our destination. When we got to the Veddha country all their brethren weddas clustered around calling me sudu hoora, meaning 'white brother'. I was the first 'civilized' woman they've met.
They asked me if I was a boy or a girl because I was so skinny. They also called me 'nana' which is the word far of affection.
Q: Did the experience influence your writing?
A: Oh yes, all along the way. I was twenty two when I was allowed to go in to the deep jungle for the first time. I asked my father why he had to wait so long to make up his mind. He said that my mind has to be more mature. Because we would have to encounter a lot of hardships and dangers along the way. There were dangerous wild animals like wild elephants, wild bears and crocodiles.
Q: Why do you think your father was attracted to the Veddhas?
A: Because they haven't been discovered before. He was the first to come across them.
He was a real traveller. My father would often go to my mother's wardrobe and pick out the odd clothes to be given to the Veddhas. He was a lonely person and preferred quiet places and simple people of the jungle.
Q: How did your father's friendship with Thisahami form?
A: Well, they never became friends. One day my father was seated at a campfire when a figure stepped out of the forest.
My father enquired from the other Veddhas who he was and they said that he's the one who's referred to as the 'minimaruwa' which at once took my fathers fancy.
Thisahami asked my father 'you are the doctor man'. Later they put up a notice for him to be captured and he vanished without a trace for 15 years.
Q: In your first novel The Bitter Berry you wrote about the coffee plantations of Ceylon in the 19th century, why?
A: I thought it was a great story worth writing about. There was this virgin land where the British came and planted coffee. They brought tea and coffee and plantations to Ceylon.
Q: How was 'The Bitter Berry'
A: Everybody liked it. It was based on facts. I acquired all the historical facts from the museum library and then put all the facts together to weave the novel.
Q: You spent some time in Kenya, why did you come back to Sri Lanka?
A: Because I love Sri Lanka and wherever I go it'll always be my country.
Q: You've also written about Sri Lankan cuisine! Secrets of Eastern Cooking. Can you cook?
A: Oh yes! Lumprice, seeni sambol, love cake, anything. But I think painting was more important to me than writing. I do oil painting, water and pastel too. While I was in Kenya I also learned to paint on porcelain which proved to be extremely difficult. I also taught myself shorthand and type writing during the war.
Q: What made you write Christine Wilson: Memoir?
A: I thought it was time to get on with life and thought it very necessary to write this.
It was just pushing itself to come out. I took writing very seriously, I studied character a lot.
Q: You had a very talented and famous father, do you feel that you are still living in his shadow?
A: I don't think so, the others have put the shadow there not me. We had our disagreements, about writing for example. I had my own way of writing and he had his.
His room was upstairs and mine was down. I used to send him my manuscripts, and he would send it back to me with a red pencil marking, with a note 'rubbish' attached. The rouse would go on for days. But I deeply respected his writing.
Q: Did his writings influence you?
A: Yes. The subjects he wrote on were marvellous, his discoveries so unusual.
Q: Did you become a writer because of him?
A: Oh no. Ever since I was three I told stories. I started writing at the age of six. But I did learn to write because of my parents. We would sit in the veranda and have this Q and A type of story telling session. They tell me stories and then my mother would say "now you tell us a story" and I would say "I don't know how" Then she would start "Once upon a time there was this king and queen, what happened to them?" she would ask and I would weave the story around it.
Q: Are you a conservationist?
A: Oh yes, very much so. When I miss my husband, who passed away recently, I stare at the garden. I love all animals and plants - it's my whole life. ***
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Tribute to Christine Spittel Wilson :
Remarkable life of an eventful literatus
by Indeewara THILAKARATHNE and Ranga CHANDRARATHNE
It was at a colonial bungalow with the vestige of glorious life of the past and of the present, we encountered the charming lady, who was introduced to us as the daughter of the legendary Dr. R.L Spittel, Christine Spittel Wilson. The bungalow is in the land adjoining the Wycherly International School which was once the nursing home where Dr. Spittel had his lucrative private practice as a much-sought after surgeon. Although she was in her 90s, Christine sported a most welcoming smile, waving us to sit in her spacious living room which was always open to guests and particularly to writers.
Besides her abiding interest in painting which was manifested by several of her wildlife paintings adorning the walls of the bungalow, her heart was always at writing which she had mastered since very early in her life, as early as six years. Even at our first encounter, we visited her with other members of the Wadiya Group of Writers she was extremely fond of reading the works of member writers. Until she breathed her last, her interest in writing did not die down. For her it was a part of her life, perhaps, a very important part which sustained her through her difficult years.
Christine recalls how her father inculcated the habit of writing in her; " I follow my father's habit of jotting notes in a special notebook; pencil passages that struck me ; delved into encyclopaedia, fragments from the Greek, Romans; I learned to travel with the searching eye, and write about it for the newspaper ...I sat with Baby Corona outside a tent and wrote. My articles and stories were published, but gradually, the pupil was getting restless.
I was up against the writer of a number of published books. Now, when his pencil slashed my work, I grew rebellious, yet troubled. What now?
A distinguished professor in Scotland set me straight. "Write when you know and feel," he said. "Forget the articles. Write a novel set in your island. Write fearlessly. It's a long journey."
As far as the words of the famed professor are concerned, Christine wrote profusely adding gems of literature to the corpus of work left behind by her famous father Dr. R.L Spittel. She was the proverbial apple of the eye of her father who fondly called her "Bunting". To her last, Christine admired her father. In an article to Daily News, with the title "Richard Spittle, my father", Christine evoked her memories: "The memories are strongest in this, the month of his birthday. He sits at his desk, a fragile man, with a wide, wide forehead and piercing eyes that can twinkle, bore or go scalpel-hard with consternation.
"Hiya, Bunting!" I hear his voice say; an unusual thing for a doctor of the last millennium to say to his daughter, but he loved to pick up catch phrases....And at still other times, on a jungle trip with him, he'd wave for me the magic of birds and beasts, and hills and sculpted valleys and the dream remained forever.
....his own brain was brilliantly compartmentalised, and that probably, was the secret of his ability to tackle, and to achieve, success, in the many interests that absorbed him. I miss him and his sane assessment of order in a present day disorder.
Dr. R. L. Spittel in one of his jungle sojourns
He left a very personal indent on the island he adored. I can think of no other person who gave so much of his being to Sri Lanka, as a surgeon, a writer, a man who gifted the lost world of the Veddas back to this country, with no thought whatever of self gain".
Following in the footsteps of her father, Christine Spittel Wilson wrote the body of works including several novels and even the non- fiction work "Secrets of Eastern Cooking". Among her creative writings, 'The bitter Berry '(1957) stands out as her most brilliant creation of letters. It's a romance set against the backdrop of Colonial Sri Lanka (Then Ceylon).
The principal characters of the novel are drawn from the plantation community of Britishers from the hill country. The title 'Bitter Berry' is the coffee berry which attracted Europeans to Sri Lanka. They were lured by the brighter prospects of making a fortune in a newly colonized Ceylon. 'The Bitter Berry' is not a mere romance which happens in the green valley against the cold wind of hill country but a 'bitter' part of the colonial history of the land woven into a exquisitely worked tapestry of creative work.
"I'm a property owner, Tom, Eight hundred sweetest land man ever saw. Coffee! Coffee in Ceylon where money is to be had for asking and the sun shines all day". However, the sun did not shine forever for characters such as Hugh and Tom Neville, Sara Courtenacy and Alison Faraday as they lost fortune and some of them had to leave with bitter hearts.
The book is marked for its softly woven narrative which is expertly mingled with well researched material that Christine effortlessly incorporated into the narrative. In a moving passage the author describes how the dreams of the 'golden berry 'shattered:
"Or perhaps, rather, there was a power about the bitter berry, the golden berry that made man forget that anything existed beyond the terrain it reigned over; that offered them in return its promise of wealth, the denial of home and children, plain comfort and amenities of civilization.
Behind her lay the twenty or thirty long years of planting in this country with their frustrations. She saw the bearded pioneers in their jungle-surrounded mud-and-wattle cabins-an endless chain of men dying of dysentery and fevers, cholera, and loneliness. She saw others grow rich beyond their wildest dreams; and others still, selling up and returning home with their dreams shattered.
She, Tom and their generation had risen, phoenix like from the ashes of that previous generation of pioneers, yet, in essence, their lives repeated the pattern of the first. What of the next generation? Diana's and the child she bore within her? And young David Neville? Would they, too, be enslaved by the glossy -leafed trees which sentinelled the hills like an army of occupation?"
Christine's style is unique which spread over her books. Some of her books include 'Tea Plantation in Ceylon', 'The Mountain road', 'Growing up and other stories', 'Reach for the stars', 'I am the Wing', 'Brave Island' which she penned with her father and her father's biography' Surgeon of the Wilderness'.
Dr.Spittel in a pensive mood
Christine who was born in Colombo and educated at Bishop's College, Colombo and at Roedean in Brighton (UK) had extensively travelled here in Sri Lanka and abroad.
From a very early stage in her life, she travelled in Britain and Europe with her parents and then with her husband Major Alistair Mc Neil Wilson, she visited cities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, South America and the USA.
Christine states: "Jungles, Veddah country, with them in search of their old caves and seeing how they lived; communities of rodiyas and kinnarayas, were visited regularly, as were the National Parks in which we took great interest".
Christine Wilson's life, though colourful and comfortable as it had been, it had also had its share of despair and moments of frustrations; her loss of her sister Yvonue and escape of her childhood playmate Vedda boy Keira into the concrete jungle of Colombo and his premature death would have been painful to her as well as her unsuccessful first marriage. Though her mortal remains turned to ashes , her rich legacy of writings will remain forever, reminding us always the dear 'Bunting' of her beloved father R.L Spittel who really could be proud of his daughter Christine.
For Christine Spittel Wilson
You were the darling 'Bunting'
for your legendary father
For the literary lovers
You were the brilliant writer
Of 'Bitter Berry'
'Tea Plantation in Ceylon'
'The growing up and other stories'
'Reach for the stars'
'I am the wind '
And the beloved author of
Your father's brilliant biography
'Surgeon of the wilderness'
But For us
You were a kind-hearted gracious lady
And a mentor
Who looked forward to help out
The budding writers
And above all
A kindred spirit
At last you have turned the last leaf
Of your book of life
a colourful book
punctuated by frustration and agony
love, ecstasy and despair
like a river that flew
through the valleys
of the civilization
- Ranga Chandrarathne
Sunday Observer Mar 7 2010