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Sri Lankan Eurasian/Burgher Family Genealogy

 

ROWLANDS, RICHARD WILLIAM – Family #1168

 

Among them was the first “Rowlands” to land in Ceylon. The Rowlands’ family settled in Pettah and Henry Rowlands was born on 5 October 1800 and baptized at the Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendall. He married Sarah McKilroy on 19 September 1818 at St Peter’s Church, Fort, Colombo.

 

He later became a Private in the 1st Ceylon Regiment that was formed in 1802, as a Drummer. The regiment was disbanded in 1827. Their children were, Sophia Rowlands, born 18 August 1821 and Fredrick Rowlands, born 9 February 1832. British Army records show that Sophia Rowlands got married in 1834.

A second son William Rowlands was born in 1802 and he too became a Private in the 1st Ceylon Regiment as a Bugler.
 

On 1 April 1826, William Rowlands joined the Ceylon Regiment (Riflemen) as a Bugler. Three weeks prior to his enlistment, William Rowlands married Maria Lawrence, whose family were descendants of the Portuguese and Dutch, on 6th March 1826, in St Paul’s Church, Pettah, Colombo.

The entry in the Register of marriages – Register No: 11, 1824 to 1827 (Bound Volume) shows that they were married by Licence by A.Armour; the Witnesses were D.Humphreys (one of the survivors of the 1803 Kandyan War) and Petronella Humphreys.

On 15th March 1827 in St Paul’s Pettah, William and Maria’s first child, a son, John Henry Rowlands was baptized.
 

0  REV WILLIAM ROWLANDS (Padre Rowlands), b: 1802, d:19th December 1858 at Trincomalee, aged 56 years. + Maria Lawrence
 

In 1858, while at Oxford University, William Rowlands took his degree in Classics at Mods and in Philosophy at Greats. At this time he came in contact with Rev C Evans, Incumbent of St Clements’ Church who saw him as a man of God and encouraged him to become a Missionary. He also conceived a fond regard for Mary Blackwell Evans, the daughter of his friend, which was fully returned. The decision, so gladly made, of undertaking missionary work, led to his unconditional offer to the Church Missionary Society for service abroad in any part of the world.


On 24 February 1861, William Rowlands, having passed the examination for deacon’s orders, was ordained at Lambeth Chapel, by Archbishop Longley of Canterbury, being licensed to his friend Rev Charles Evans of Worchester. During his curacy in his native city he became formally engaged to Miss Evans. The Church Missionary Society, after some hesitation on account of his youth and inexperience, now decided to locate William Rowlands in Ceylon, where he was to act as assistant in English work to the Rev: C.C.Fenn, Incumbent of Christ Church, Galle Face and in addition to take up Tamil work in the City of Colombo.

William Rowlands set sail for Ceylon in the P & O ‘Indus’ on 4th November 1861. Among the usual complement of passengers, composed of officials, soldiers, merchants and missionaries were a number of coffee planters returning to their estates, many of whom afterwards became the young missionary’s esteemed friends.

 

William Rowlands who had left the army in 1850, traveled to Trincomalee to see some of his friends from his army days. While he was there, he took ill and died within the week. The Register of Burials at the Church of St Stephens, Trincomalee, Register No: 20-C-922/80-153 Entry No: 922/9210 shows that William Rowlands died on 19th December 1858 at Trincomalee, aged 56 years.

When the family was notified they were devastated and Richard’s employer, Mrs. Cavendish recommended he take a few days off and visit Colombo with William Sabondiere who was going to the city on business. They rode horses to Kandy, where Mrs. Cavendish was there to greet them. They stayed the night at the Queens Hotel in Kandy and took the StageCoach to Colombo the next day.

   

     1  JOHN HENRY ROWLANDS, b:1827

 

     1  Richard William Rowlands: b: Sep 21, 1832 d:1891 + Mary Van Bracken m:18??, d:Apr 15 1870, Mary was the sister of Mr.T.Bracken who was the Assistant Superintendent of the North Division of Delta Estate. Richard would on an occasional basis visit Mr. William Sabondiere to discuss matters relating to the growing of coffee and on one of these visits was introduced to Mary, who with her father had come to see her brother. A friendship developed between them and with the good words of William Sabondiere, who was very impressed with the way that the young Richard had grown into an efficient coffee planter, became engaged in June 1860.


Their wedding was held at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church at Pussellawa on 6th February 1861. Witnesses at the wedding ceremony were her father Mr.J.Bracken, Mr. W. Sabondiere and Mr. Charles Henry de Soysa, a Sinhalese entrepreneur, with whom he had become friendly with during the course of his work on the Estate. The de Soysa’s were the richest family of Sinhalese planters at that time, with business interests in the transport of coffee to Colombo

 

Richard Rowlands and Charles Henry de Soysa met in 1859, through their common friendship with Lt-Col Henry Byrde and their interest in coffee and the transport of the produce to Colombo. They became such good friends, that in 1861 when Richard married Mary Bracken, Charles Henry de Soysa was one of his Groomsmen and witness to the marriage.


After the death of his first wife in 1870, Richard Rowlands married Charlotte Caroline Don on 21st July 1872 at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya and Charles Henry de Soysa and his wife were there on that day. At this time, Richard was working for Lt-Col Byrde at the company store in Nuwara Eliya in the capacity of “Trader” and most of their trading business would have been conducted through the de Soysa’s.

Charles Henry de Soysa and his wife were also God Parents to their son William Oswald Rowlands in 1875 when he was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya.
 

    2  Charles Theodore Rowlands. b:4th of April 1864, The child died soon after. The couple were devastated at their loss.

    2  James Andreas Rowlands, b: 1 Nov 1865, died in infancy

 

    2  James Henry Rowlands, b:Nov 10 1866 (India), Started work as a clerk and later met and married an Anglo-Indian girl named Grace Augusta Samuels; the wedding took place on 28th August 1889
 

        3  Hilda Winifred Rowlands, b:21st May 1890 + Stevenage

            4  Russel Stevenage (India)

 

        3  son

            4  Richard John Rowlands

 

   Alice Hope Rowlands, b:6 Apr 1868 + John Dudley Ferdinands m:28th January 1885, at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya. Reception was held at the Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya.
 

    2  Richard William Rowlands, b:Sep 1 1869, d:Sep 1870

 

1  

    1  2nd spouse of Richard William Rowlands b:Sep 21, 1832 d:1891 + Charlotte Caroline Don, Married at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on 21st February 1872, Witnesses, Williamk Oakley and two others, one of the flower girls being Alice Hope Rowlands and one of the page boys being James Henry Rowlands.
 

    2  Cecil Fredrick Rowlands, b:23rd Aug 1873. An entry in the Baptismal records on 28th August 1873 at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya indicates that the baby was dangerously ill and a private baptism was arranged. The baby died soon after. Richard and Charlotte are devastated at the loss of their second son. Life continued with Richard involved in the coffee trade.
 

    2  William Oswald Rowlands b:29 May 1875 (nicknamed “Wally), He was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya and his God Parents in the Baptismal Register are shown as Charles Henry de Soysa and his wife and Edward Lindsay. Took a job as a “Forester” in the Nuwara Eliya District

 

    2  Cecil Ernst Rowlands, b:25 Apr 1877, two years after, left school and became a “Telegraphist”.

 

    2  Arthur Perceival Rowlands (Ceylon), b:Oct 3 1885, bp: named after the King of Belgium) Rowlands was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on 30th January 1886 by Reverend H Horsley. Finished his studies at the Government Technical College that was started in 1893 and was apprenticed with the Ceylon Motor Company. In 1912, at the age of 27 years, he established the Ceylon Automobile Engineering Works and was its Managing Proprietor. In 1918 he joined H. W. Cave & Company as the Assistant Manager of their Motor Department. Rowlands Garage Motor Engineers was set up in 1923 by Mr A. P. Rowlands and Mr F. C. Gibbs. The latter was a partner of H.W. Cave and Co which had a motor department supervised by him. In 1924, A.P.Rowlands became the Manager and Co-Proprietor. “APR” as he was fondly known as, the founding joint director of the company, was an inventor, and was renowned for building the first 'Zephyr' car in Ceylon from scrap. + Stella Muriel Arndt, b:14 Aug 1887, m:26 Dec 1911 (d/o Francis Samuel Arndt who was born in Jaffna in 1856 and Agnes Cecelia Alice Pereira) The wedding took place at St Michaels' Church, Kynsey Road, Polwatte
 

        3  Daphne Muriel Arndt Rowlands, b:20 Dec 1912+ Fredrick Richard Ernst Drieberg

            4  Fred Drieberg

            4  Diana Drieberg + Kavanagh

 

        3  daughter + Carolis (Colombo, Sri Lanka)

 

        Cecil Walter Percival Wilford Arndt Rowlands, aka "Podgy", joined the Freemasons with his Dad. C.W.R was a member of the Bonnie Doone Lodge until his departure from Ceylon in 1960.
b:25 Jun 1915

            4  Wilfred Rowlands

            4  Daphey Rowlands

 

     1  CHARLES BENJAMIN ROWLANDS, b:1840, bp28 Sep 1840 in Kandy + Grace Pauline Shaw m:27th September 1873 in Kandy,

 

    C. B. Rowlands became an Apothecary or Chemist. He married Grace Pauline Shaw on 27th September 1873 in Kandy, the name of their eldest son being Reginald Charles Waldemare Rowlands; nicknamed ‘Waldy’ was born on 29 September 1874.
    2  Reginald Charles Waldemare Rowlands; nicknamed ‘Waldy’ was born on 29 September 1874.
    2  Estella Grace Alison Rowlands, b:17 November 1875,
    2  May Jemina Gwendoline Rowlands, b:7 January 1877,
    2  Frances Clarissa Millicent Rowlands, b:13 June 1878,
    2  Oswald Charles Gordon Rowlands, b:22 January 1881,
    2  Charles Bertram Rowlands, b:14 March 1882,
    2  Una Florence Pearl Rowlands, b:14 January 1885,
    2  Charles Benjamin Rowlands, b:29 September 1887,
    2  Allen Charles Rowlands, b:1889.
 

     Note: - Colombo Cemetery - Grave No. IM/666 – Purchased by C.B.Rowlands (Charles Benjamin.Jnr or his brother Charles Bertram ). This grave is maintained by one R.H.Rowlands. Mr R.C.W. (Reginald Charles Waldemar Rowlands is buried in this grave. Born 29th September 1874, Died age 69 (1943).

1


 

From: "Russel Stevenage" < russel@ifmr.com>
Subject: My GGfather - Rowlands
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 10:25:02 +0530

Dear All :

I know you'll be happy that I'm making progress with my elusive ancestors!

To bring you up to date, I've traced my maternal line back only to a
Richard William Rowlands, who was born in Bangor, Wales - Nov. 1843.

I understand after making enquiries that my maternal Grandfather
James Henry Rowlands was one of his children born from the marriage between
Richard William Rowlands and a lady named Van Braken (or Bracken).


Unfortunately, I do not know when the marriage took place or where, but I
suspect it was between 1860 - 1865, because my Grandfather, James Henry
Rowlands was born in 1867. It is possible (though this has yet to be
substantiated) that he was born in Colombo, Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka),
but his parents' marriage did not take place in Wales or England. Also, I
understand from my cousin, that the Sri Lankan angle is not bearing fruit.
Could they have married somewhere else? And could James Henry have been born
somewhere else?

Old family stories (which have recently come to light) have it that Richard
William may have gone from Wales either to South Africa or New Zealand and
married the lady Van Bracken there.

I would deeply appreciate any help with this, (pretty please!). What I'm
looking for is (1) a record of the marriage and (2) a record of James Henry
Rowlands' birth.

This is a great list! Thanks for all the help so far, especially those with
whom I'm in contact directly (Ann, Anne, Kyle, Diana, Malcolm).

<<Crossed Fingers>>


 

Project Canterbury

Padre Rowlands of Ceylon

By R. P. Butterfield, M.A., B.D.

London and Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, Ltd., no date.

Project Canterbury

http://anglicanhistory.org/asia/lk/rowlands/


 Chapter III. Early Days in Ceylon, 1861-1862

http://anglicanhistory.org/asia/lk/rowlands/03.html


THE old-world port of Galle, known for centuries to Phoenician and Arab traders, had in the 'sixties reached the most flourishing period of its existence. Colombo was still an open roadstead, and, on account of this, the P. & O. and other important shipping companies preferred the harbour of Galle to the uncertain anchorage of Colombo. Galle was thus a miniature of what Colombo is to-day. Steamers arrived regularly with passengers and mails, and the picturesque streets of the town were thronged with passengers, only too eager to stretch thek legs on dry land after the monotonous ship life of the Indian Ocean, and to gaze on the wonders of the Orient.

The crowds of sightseers found their interest divided between the architectural character of the buildings, exhibiting, as they did, solid evidences of the Dutch occupation of the previous century, and the oriental panorama of its busy streets. The extensive fort, with its ancient gateway bearing the date 1679, was then, as now, almost intact, and provided a picturesque setting to the busy Eastern life which it enclosed. This ancient fort had witnessed various vicissitudes in its long history. Portuguese gallants and priests had introduced into the East the mediaeval life and religion of Europe. These had in time given place to stolid Dutch merchants and soldiers bringing with them the trading instincts and sturdy Protestantism of Northern Europe. To the latter race were due its substantial buildings and many of the surnames of its inhabitants. At the time when William Rowlands landed, an English church stood within the fort, and also a Dutch church, the latter providing an antiquarian interest, with its mural monuments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to Dutch officials of days gone by.

Such was the first picture of the land to which the young missionary was to give the best years of bos life, and which greeted him on that morning at the end of 1861.

A journal begun at the time enables us to gain some idea of the impressions made upon his mind; and when we are careful to remember that the writer was one of the most modest and diffident of men, and that the journal was intended for no eyes but his own, we learn, incidentally, something of the fragrant character of one of God's noblest witnesses to Ceylon.

He writes:

"December 7th, 1861 (Saturday).--Landed at Galle from S.S. Colombo at 9.30 a.m., where, through the kindness of the Rev. C. C. Fenn, I was met by the Rev. J. Scott, Wesleyan missionary, who most hospitably entertained me until Monday. Made acquaintance of the Rev. J. Bamforth, missionary of S.P.G., a very pleasant, friendly man--and paid him a visit at his residence, 'Buona Vista,' with Scott. Preached at Dutch Church, Galle, on Sunday morning, for Mr. B., on Acts 1.11. Was graciously helped by God. Lunched with Mr. and Mrs. B. and a Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. I spent afternoon at Scott's with a Mr. Dunlop of Colombo--a true Christian, I think, and a decidedly intellectual man. Went with Scott, his sister, and Dunlop, to service at Wesleyan Chapel in evening."

Passengers in those days, on arrival at Galle, proceeded to Colombo, the capital, by horse-coach, and by this means of conveyance, William Rowlands finally reached his destination. The Secretary of the C.M.S., the Rev. William Oakley, who had arrived in the island two years before Rowlands was born, and was therefore already a veteran of twenty-six years' standing, and who, moreover, lived and worked in Ceylon for fifty-one years, without once going home, was then residing in Kandy. Rowlands was therefore met and welcomed on arrival in Colombo by the Rev. C. C. Fenn, the missionary to whom he had been allocated as assistant. Fenn was then living at the Galle Face Mission House, and, in addition to his work as Incumbent of Christ Church, was Principal also of the Cotta schools. With Fenn, Rowlands took up his residence.

The journal continues:

"Monday, December 9.--Left Galle by coach at 5 a.m. and had a most delightful drive to Colombo. Breakfasted at Bentotte, and there met Rev. J. Parsons,1 who received me very kindly. Reached Colombo about 3.30 p.m. and was soon warmly welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Fenn at the Parsonage, Galle Face. By dear Perm's request had sweet little season of prayer with himself and Mrs. F. about four. Soon after met, with Fenn, Tamil catechists in vestry, and was much pleased with the cheerful smile with which they seemed to welcome their future teacher. God grant me grace to be faithful with, and useful to, them! I prayed with them in English, and one of themselves in Tamil. Walked by moonlight with dear Fenn upon terrace by sea. Took family prayers."

Rowlands had been instructed by the C.M.S. not only to assist the over-burdened Incumbent of Christ Church in English work, but to continue the work among the Tamil people of Colombo, already begun by the Rev. G. Pettitt, ten years before. To this end he therefore at once applied himself to master the intricacies of the Tamil tongue with that same consecrated purpose which characterised his whole life. The Pauline motto, "One thing I do," was also the note of William Rowlands' life.

"Tuesday, December 10.--Rose at 5.30 and had short season of prayer--then dressed and walked out until seven, by sea, enjoying cool breeze. Munshi came at eleven, and with him I began studying Tamil. At twelve, dear Clowes came to see me--the rest of the day, therefore, was spent with him. We had much pleasant conversation, and prayed together. I do humbly trust that God may make us always a mutual help and comfort to each other. Read Tamil for an hour in evening, and afterwards 'Instructions of Committee.'

"Wednesday, December 11.--Rose at 5.45. Went out at 6.30 and walked till seven in Slave Island. Took early coffee, and had nice talk with dear Mrs. Fenn, of whom I am forming a very high opinion. Read Isaiah ii., and had a very happy season of prayer. Bathed and was ready for breakfast at 9.15. At that time the Joneses arrived from Cotta, and stayed with us until after 6 p.m. Mr. J. I like very much. He seems a humble Christian, and a man of considerable ability, as well as sound sense. Read with Munshi from eleven to twelve, and, I trust, made real advance. Began a letter to dear father. Walked with dear Fenn by the sea between 6.15 and 7 p.m. About noon, paid a visit with Fenn and Jones to Tamil Boys' School. Was much pleased with their answers, but still more delighted to hear that it is hoped two of them will soon be baptized. Oh, for a great work of the Holy Spirit amongst them! May I never cease to pray for it!"

The city of Colombo at this period was vastly different from the bustling modern port of the present day. In 1861 it possessed no harbour. An open roadstead provided a precarious anchorage, for its present commodious harbour, by means of which the port has attained the proud position of the fifth port of the Empire, was not begun till 1875. Not a foot of railway had been opened in the Colony in 1861, although a railway from Colombo to Kandy had been projected, and construction was begun shortly after. It was not until 1865 that the first section of the railway was opened as far as Ambepusse.

The Dutch fortifications of the city were still largely intact, much as they were left when the Dutch surrendered the city in 1796, with a deep moat surrounding the whole. Although Colombo had long begun to extend along Union Place, Colpetty, and in other directions, the gates of the fort on both sides were closed nightly at gunfire and were not opened until 5 a.m. next morning, to allow of the departure of the daily coaches to Kandy and Galle--a twelve hours' run. The Cinnamon Gardens were, as the name implies, fragrant gardens of cinnamon, with a few bungalows. The higher ground at Mutwal, to the north of the city, was the residential quarter.

The island of Ceylon was at this time administered by Sir Charles Justin Macarthy, and was entering upon a period of unexampled prosperity, for the coffee enterprise, in the 'sixties, was at the very height of its vigour. Planting activity was being feverishly pushed forward, and estates were being carved out of the virgin forests of the interior, in outlying districts that were indifferently provided with first-class roads. The planting enterprise was peopling the hillsides of the interior as well as the merchants' coffee stores of Colombo, with sturdy labourers from the plains of South India, and it was among such Indian immigrants that William Rowlands was now beginning his life's work.

The Church of England in Ceylon, in the 'sixties, enjoyed the privilege of being an Established Church. Colonial chaplains, both Anglican and Presbyterian, paid out of the revenues of the Colony, were stationed at all the important towns. For some years after the British occupation, Dutch Presbyterianism, the religion of its former conquerors, was recognised as the Established Church of the Colony. In 1817, Ceylon was added to the See of Calcutta, and the Church of England became the Established Church. In 1835, Ceylon was added to the See of Madras, and finally became a separate Bishopric in 1845, under its first Bishop, Dr. James Chapman. After sixteen years of devoted service, Bishop Chapman resigned in 1861, shortly before William Rowlands arrived in Ceylon.

On Friday, April 12, 1799, three years after the surrender of Colombo by the Dutch, in the Castle and Falcon Hotel, in Aldersgate Street, sixteen clergymen and nine laymen met and founded "The Church Missionary Society." "Ceylon," we are told, "was one of the first fields to which the fathers of the C.M.S. turned their eyes." Two missionaries were despatched to Ceylon three weeks before the battle of Waterloo, but their destination was afterwards changed to India. It was in the autumn of 1817 that the first missionaries of the C.M.S., four in number, arrived in Ceylon, and proceeded to establish themselves at Jaffna, Kandy, and Baddegama. The Cotta Mission was established shortly after, in 1822, and, many years after, in 1850, Colombo was definitely occupied. Work was begun in the Kandian country in 1853 among the Sinhalese, and, in 1855, among the Tamil coolies in the planting districts.


Chapter IV. Colombo: Work in the Coffee Stores, 1861-1862

http://anglicanhistory.org/asia/lk/rowlands/04.html


 

ALTHOUGH Colombo was not occupied by the C.M.S. until 1850, it was the original intention of the C.M.S. Committee that one of the first four missionaries should be stationed there. The missionaries, however, thought it more desirable to occupy villages near large towns than the towns themselves. Thus Cotta was chosen as a sphere of work rather than Colombo. Representations were, however, made by some of the Colombo chaplains, and by the Governor, Sir Colin Campbell, in 1843, as a result of which the C.M.S. began its work in the city, with a permanent resident secretary of the Mission. This secretary was the Rev. G. Pettitt, to whom was due the establishment of mission work in Colombo by the C.M.S. Pettitt had arrived in Colombo from Tinnevelly, and at once proceeded to organise both Sinhalese and Tamil work. Galle Face Church did not then exist. The land for the site of the church was purchased in 1853, and is described as being "on the Esplanade of the Fort called the Galle Face, near to the bridge which passes from it into Slave Island, and on the edge of the lake." In this new church, Pettitt ministered to English and Tamil congregations until 1855, when he left for England. He was succeeded by the Rev. H. Whitley, who at once set about the acquisition of land and funds for the building of the Galle Face Mission House. Mr. and Mrs. Whitley took possession of the new house in October 1860, but only a week or two after, Mr. Whitley received fatal injuries through the falling of a wall in the church premises. A tablet in the church records the fact that "Mr. Whitley ministered to congregations worshipping in three different languages."

Such were the ckcumstances which led to Rowlands' location and work in Colombo. C.M.S. work in the island was still small by comparison with later development. Pargiter and MacArthur were working in Jaffna. Oakley and Higgens in Kandy, and Fenn and Coles in Cotta, with Clowes, a new missionary, who was learning Sinhalese. Baddegama was under the Rev. J. Parsons; the Rev. Septimus Hobbs was in charge of the recently-formed Tamil Coolie Mission, while the Rev. J. Ireland Jones was at the head of the Kandy Collegiate School, now Trinity College.

The Tamil work in Colombo, to which Rowlands now applied himself, was on a very small scale. There was a small congregation connected with the Galle Face Church, and a smaller one in Maradana. There was one school held in an old Dutch building on Galle Face, rented from the military authorities.

There was no women's work of any sort. That was still a thing of the future.

Rowlands, in addition to helping with the English work, and the all-important study of Tamil, gave himself with consecrated energy to seek out, with the help of the Tamil catechists, the Tamil labourers working in the extensive coffee stores of Colombo. They were mostly to be found in and around Slave Island.

There rises before us a mental picture of the young missionary--a picture of one slightly built, yet well-knit, full of vitality and energy, a fresh-coloured, youthful face, blue eyes that could fill with ineffable tenderness, or flash with indignation at wrong or injustice, and, withal, a ready smile radiating from the happy personality within. One who knew him in those far away days writes thus: "When I returned to Ceylon in October 1862, to my parents, Mr. Rowlands was already in Colombo. People told me that he looked a rosy boy, when he arrived in the island, and it was absurd to see him preaching in Galle Face Church to elderly people, such as the Colonial Secretary, the Government Agent, the Colonel of the Ceylon Rifles, and others." So youthful was the appearance of the young missionary that an old lady of the congregation, partly in jest, partly in earnest, protested at the C.M.S. sending "such a boy to preach to an old lady like me!"

The climate of Colombo, together with prolonged exertions in the unsavoury lanes of Slave Island and elsewhere, has its own way of dealing with youthful looks and fresh colour. Severe neuralgia, the direct result of the climate, soon had its effect, and the sympathetic comment was made, "He will soon die." William Rowlands, however, was not to die for many a long day, and went about the tasks committed to him with the energy that soon came to be associated with him.

To a new missionary beginning his career, the first and all-important duty is the acquisition of the language of the people among whom he has been appointed to minister. Unless he is able to speak it with easy facility, his efforts will be only partially effective. He will be conscious, as it were, of Limping with a stick, when he should be running. And no task appears so formidable as that of acquiring an Eastern language. The sounds of consonants and vowels seem so different from those to which he has been accustomed, that he is often inclined to give up in despair.

The first duty of a learner is to provide himself with a pundit, with whom he sits for several hours a day, and the necessary information has to be dragged out of him. For the pundit is usually proud of his knowledge of the classical language, and despises the colloquial. This, naturally, has its place in the equipment of a missionary, but he soon finds out that a knowledge of the classical tongue is of little use when confronted with a man in the street, whose conversation reeled off with little concern for grammatical construction might be a different language altogether. The missionary who would gain easy faculty in the vernacular must go forth and accustom ear and tongue to that most difficult part of his language study, the colloquial, as spoken by the common people.

Rowlands' journal, written in those far away days of December 1861, shows that he had well appreciated the need of learning by ear as well as by eye. Day by day, after many hours' study with his pundit, his two Tamil catechists came to read with him, and to report on their work. Opportunities were used of visiting the Tamil Boys' School in Galle Face and the Girls' School in Slave Island. Rowlands loved children, and an entry in his journal of December 1861 shows that he was thoroughly in his element.

"At 3.30 p.m. went to Tamil Girls' School, Slave Island. Heard the elder girls read part of John iv., and questioned them on same. Some of them answered very well indeed. Heard one or two of the little boys read, but perceived that their pronunciation of Tamil was very corrupt, and by no means likely to benefit a learner. After treating both boys and girls to cakes and plantains, and promising the best boy and girl a small book each, they were dismissed for the holidays." The learner was already beginning to appreciate the niceties of Tamil pronunciation!

From time to time in the journal signs of progress are duly noted. Two months after arrival, Rowlands makes the entry: "I had the pleasure of taking some part in the service, just as much as was necessary."

Further practice was obtained by going out with the catechists into the streets and lanes of Colombo. An entry in the little journal in December 1861 refers to such work:

"At 7 p.m. went out with the catechists to visit some of the Tamil Christians. . . . My spirit was stirred within me as I saw the miserable and thoroughly degraded state of most of those among whom we passed. Oh, for the Spirit of God to descend upon them! "

Another entry, referring to work of this nature, reveals the fervour of the ardent evangelist, who loses no opportunity:

"Soon after 5 p.m. went out with A. and G. (the two Tamil catechists) to Slave Island, where we spoke to several heathens in the streets. . . . When we were driven to take shelter from the rain, I had an opportunity for some conversation with a Portuguese young man, who was sheltering in the same shed. In answer to my question, he said that he had given his heart to Jesus. . . ."

The Tamil people were, and always have been, very receptive, and Rowlands was greatly encouraged by the response given to the efforts of himself and his fellow-workers. Far different, however, was the attitude of the Moslem traders. "Cut my throat," said one to him, "if you like, but do not tell me Jesus Christ is God."

Rowlands, in addition to taking part in the English services held in Christ Church, faithfully attended also the Tamil services held in the same church. His conscientiousness, by means of which he never failed to keep an engagement throughout the long course of his missionary career, and was rarely late for one, could tolerate no slackness, as the following journal entry shows:

"Attended Tamil 8 a.m. service, at which Savarimuttu (catechist) both read and preached. Was grieved to see how very few of the congregation were in time, and, still more, how very late some were. God helping me, I will make strenuous efforts to remedy this. Especially do I feel it my duty to reprove those who may rightly be expected to set a better example. . . ."

With all William Rowlands' great gifts of concentration of purpose and capacity for organisation, there dwelt within him a wonderful spirit of humility and dependence upon God, which deepened as the years went on. He writes in his journal about this time: "From conversation I had with dear Fenn to-day I have been made to feel more than ever how insufficient I am for the management of catechists, but I must, therefore, only the more earnestly pray for the wisdom which is from above.

"January 6, 1862.--With Fenn, met the Tamil catechists in the vestry at 7.30 a.m. Fenn first offered prayer in English, and very striking and touching were many of his petitions. I felt that they put my cold heart to shame.

"4 p.m.--The two catechists, Savarimuttu and Gnanamuttu, came to my study about their journals. I sought to say a few words which might, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, quicken their love and strengthen their faith in God. I had felt very forcibly myself how impossible it is for any of us to go on from day to day, striving to promote the kingdom of God, unless the one motive that impels us is love to Christ--His 'constraining' love, and this I endeavoured to impress much upon my dear fellow-workers, and besought them to pray daily for more of it, and also to renounce all trust in self, and to go forth daily only 'in the strength of the Lord God.'"

A Sunday in January 1862 is described as "a day long to be remembered by me as my first opportunity of witnessing the baptism of any converts from heathenism. Deeply would I thank God for permitting me to see such a glad sight to-day, and oh, may He grant that it may only be the precursor of very many more!

"The two accepted candidates were baptized by Mr. Hobbs at the beginning of morning service, some of the Tamils standing as witnesses. It was a very touching scene, one which I do not think I shall ever forget. My heart was much drawn out in prayer for them, that God would give them grace to be faithful soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ. Mr. Hobbs preached on Mark x. 46, catechising as he went on--a very good plan as it seems, and one which I trust, by God's help, some day to adopt myself."

Meanwhile, the duties connected with the English congregation were diligently carried on. A memorable entry on Sunday, December 15, runs: "Preached my first sermon in Christ Church, Galle Face, at Morning Prayer, on the words, * Whosoever will,' etc., Rev. xxii. 17, and was enabled to feel free and comfortable."

To so many of us does there follow the experience which Rowlands records a fortnight later. "Preached in evening on 2 Cor. iv. 18. Had thought with much pleasure on the subject, but was signally humbled by the miserable style of my sermon. Oh, for more real and abiding humility, more likeness to Christ in this and in every respect!"

Christ Church was largely attended in those days by the officers and men of the garrison. Among them Rowlands made many friends. A journal entry runs briefly: "Baptized a little boy of one of the sepoys. Several sepoys were present."

Another brings a whiff of the homeland. "Had a visit yesterday from Fred. Jones, private of 50th Regiment, whom I used to teach in St. Clement's Sunday School."

Meanwhile, news had arrived from Kandy of the breakdown of the Rev. Septimus Hobbs, and, in consequence, ten months after his arrival in the island, in October 1862, Rowlands was asked to go to Kandy to take charge of the Tamil Coolie Mission.


 

Chapter XIX. Farewell to Ceylon, 1918

http://anglicanhistory.org/asia/lk/rowlands/19.html

 


AMONG the many formal expressions of regret at the final departure of the Rev. W. E. Rowlands from Ceylon, there is one which deserves special mention. The Planters' Association of Ceylon is an elected and representative body, which deals with the many and varied interests of the planting community in the island. It was first formed in the year 1854, the year which witnessed the birth of the Tamil Coolie Mission. At a General Meeting of the Association, shortly after the announcement of the impending retirement of the veteran missionary, the chairman, Mr. J. Graeme Sinclair, proposed the following resolution, which was unanimously carried: "This Association desires to express the deep sense of the Planters of Ceylon of their appreciation of the long and valuable services rendered to the community in general, and to planters and their coolies in particular, by the Rev. W. E. Rowlands, Secretary of the Tamil Coolie Mission, and that District Associations be circulated with a view to collecting a Fund wherewith to perpetuate his memory; and that Messrs. C. Gibbon, Keith Rollo, G. H. Hughes, E. M. Wyatt, the Rural Member of Council, the Chairman, and the Secretary be appointed a Sub-Committee to consider what form the presentation should take."

 

After consultation with Mr. Rowlands, it was decided that the presentation should take the form of a silver salver, with the following inscription: "Presented to the Rev. W. E. Rowlands, Hon. Secretary, Tamil Coolie Mission, on the occasion of his retirement, by members of the Planters' Association of Ceylon, in affectionate and grateful remembrance of his long and unwearied ministry among the planters and their Tamil employees,--J. Graeme Sinclair (Chairman, Planters' Association of Ceylon Incorporated), Kandy, Ceylon, 1918."

 

The balance of the fund collected was, by the express wish of Mr. Rowlands, allocated to the Catechists' Pension Fund, which had already been inaugurated by the money collected by the Tamil Christians. In addition, a portrait of the venerable missionary was given a unique and honoured place among the leaders of the planting enterprise, in the Planters' Hall in Kandy.

 

"Padre" Rowlands having meanwhile left the island, the formal presentation was made in July of the following year, at a special meeting of the Ceylon Association in London, which was attended by many retired planters and other Ceylon friends, among whom was the Most Rev. Reginald Stephen Copleston, Metropolitan of India and Ceylon. The President of the Association, Sir Stanley Bois, in well-chosen words, made the presentation, expressing his satisfaction that, while devoting themselves as an Association to the furtherance of mercantile and planting interests in Ceylon, as they did, it was not to the exclusion of all else, as their presence there that day to honour a missionary proved.

 

The Rev. W. E. Rowlands, in reply, spoke of the great kindness which he had experienced from the planters of Ceylon--kindness which he could never forget. They could understand (he went on to say) that as he looked back upon those years, he saw wonderful changes in the island. He had travelled over the planting districts, from Matale in the north to Morowakka Korale in the south, and from Madulsima in the east to Kurunegala in the west; and he believed he knew every road, and almost every bridlepath, on the estates almost as well as anybody knew them; and during that time he had learned to know the value of the friendships he had formed among the planters. There were some present that morning whom he was very glad to reckon among his very oldest friends. Many others, of course, had passed away; indeed, as he looked around, he found so many blanks among his old friends, that he began to feel he was left alone among the seniors whom he knew in the early days. Happily, there were many still working in Ceylon. He had baptized them as babies, married them in after-life, and baptized their children, and so from generation to generation had gone in and out among them, having had links with their families which were granted to few men. When he started in Ceylon, it was the great day of coffee, and everything seemed most prosperous; but, alas I a crisis came, and many of his friends, if they did not lose everything they had, passed through times of great trial. But Ceylon was an example of what capital and industry and perseverance could accomplish in the way of entirely transforming the face of Nature, for, when he left Ceylon, for a long absence through illness, the planters were only just beginning to plant tea in between the rows of coffee, with the intention, as he knew very well, of uprooting the tea later on, and going back to coffee. That, as they knew, never came to pass, and when he returned to Ceylon after the long absence to which he referred, it was to see the whole face of the country transformed, for all the hills and valleys, where coffee had so flourished before, were planted with tea, which was doing as well in its way as coffee ever did; and that said nothing of the thousands of acres which were also planted with rubber in the lower parts of the country. In his long years of service in Ceylon, he had not only been welcomed to the planters' bungalows, and had formed many warm friendships among them, but he had also had the honour and pleasure of working among their labourers, the Tamil coolies, the tea-makers, the clerks, and the other employees with whose names in general they were familiar, and he had had the joy of seeing hundreds of them turn away from idols to serve the Living and True God.

 

He thanked the donors for the gift, which he would prize among his treasures as long as he lived, and it would be passed down to his children as an heirloom, a source of gratification to them whenever they read the inscription upon it. He thanked them also for the gift of money whereby provision was made for the old catechists, men who had worked for thirty-five years up and down the steep hills of Ceylon, many of them past service, but for whom no provision had been made in their old age.

 

The Most Rev. R. S. Copleston said that he was glad to meet his old friend Mr. Rowlands again. Mr. Rowlands was a strong and active man when he knew him first--courageous and outspoken; and it was delightful to find that to-day he was, in many respects, as young as ever. Mr. Rowlands would not mind if he said how much they had enjoyed their rides in Ceylon together. Many rides they had taken, extending over many days, through the beautiful estates of the island. How pleasant were their recollections of those early starts, and of the hospitality and cheerfulness that met them all along the way! He did not know whether the journeys would now be by motor, with a tarred road up to each bungalow; but it was delightful in those days, when the host said, "How many coolies do you want? "and in five minutes all would be made ready. They would hardly ever pass a bungalow without a warm welcome, and he had the most pleasant recollections of such men as Graeme Elphinstone, and many others, who had gone to a better land even than Ceylon, with all its glories and its beauties. . . . When he, as the Bishop, was requested to get a padre for a district, some men said: "We want a man who will be one of ourselves, who will join in our sports, and enter into all our ways." Others said: "I like a padre to be a padre." It was not easy to combine the two qualities. But they were combined to perfection in Mr. Rowlands.

 

Mr. C. E. Welldon, a leading planter, said that he and other planters were not very good hands at listening to a long sermon; but there was one long sermon that they had loved to follow, and that was the life of the Rev. W. E. Rowlands. He had been preaching that sermon for over eighty years, and they hoped it might go on for a good many years to come.

 

Thus did the planters of Ceylon, in a unique way, give their final tribute of affection to "Padre" Rowlands of Ceylon.

 

In August 1918, when the veteran missionary was in his eighty-first year, with a sorrowful heart he bade farewell to the scene of his long labours, and started on his homeward journey.

 

The war being still on, and travelling difficult and dangerous, he decided for that and other reasons to return via the United States. A month was spent in Japan en route, visiting his daughter-in-law at Fukuoka, his son, the Rev. F. W. Rowlands, having left for the Front only a few weeks before, in charge of a Chinese labour corps. It was a great disappointment to have missed seeing his son.

 

Mr. Paget Wilkes, a missionary of the Japan Evangelistic Band, after meeting "Padre" Rowlands at his son's house, wrote thus in the Japan Quarterly: "To-day I met the Rev. W. E. Rowlands, an ex-C.M.S. missionary on his way from Ceylon, over eighty years of age. A more charming, courtly, gracious old gentleman, with such amazing vitality of mind and body, I have rarely met. His whole face and deportment glow with the beauty of his Master, whom he has so devoutly served these many years."

 

During the voyage across the Pacific "Padre" Rowlands was frequently in request for services on board, and many were the thanks expressed by one and another for help received. Over and over again was wonder expressed at the vigour of one so aged, one passenger going so far as to say: "Really, Mr. Rowlands, I think you are one of the wonders of the twentieth century!" As it happened, Mr. Rowlands, with his daughter, Miss Rowlands, arrived in San Francisco on his eighty-first birthday. Influenza was raging in the city, and from the time they arrived until they left they had to wear masks as a safeguard against infection. The "Padre" with his daughter travelled slowly to Battle Creek, Michigan, which was to be his home for several months, and during the course of his travels no place of worship was to be found open on account of the influenza epidemic which was raging in the States. The Armistice was celebrated at Colorado Springs, where they were the observed of all observers, as they appeared to be the only people bearing the British colours.

 

A letter written to a friend at home from the Sanatorium, Battle Creek, Michigan, on January 8, 1919, bears witness to the fact that much of the veteran's heart was still in his beloved Ceylon. He writes: "You will have heard from my daughter something about our coming here. It has been a real sorrow to me to quit the field of so many years' happy missionary work, but it seemed clear that the time had come for my doing so, though--through God's mercy--my bodily strength was not exhausted.

 

"To be living a quiet life now, without any fixed duties, seems very strange after the 'active service' I always had in Ceylon, but I pray that God will show me from day to day what little He has for me to do, even here; and I have had some proofs already that He will do so. I feel, too, that I may yet carry on my work amongst our native Christian friends in Ceylon by means of letters, and that I can strengthen my brethren's hands by prayer."

After some four months at Battle Creek, where the "Padre" and his daughter received much kindness, and made lasting friendships, they visited other places of interest in the United States, and finally left New York for England in May 1919.

 

After a short stay in London, during which the Ceylon planters' presentation was made as described above, "Padre" Rowlands finally bought a house in Tunbridge Wells, which he called "Lindula," where he lived in retirement until his "Home-call," eight years later.