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Sri Lankan Aussies : Who are these Porritts?

by Karel Roberts Ratnaweera Sunday Observer Feb 29, 2004

There is a mistaken notion among, of course, cricket enthusiasts of the English-speaking fraternity in Sri Lanka that the Porritts are Burghers. Actually, they are no more Burgher than the Man in the Moon! In fact a rumpus may start in the Dutch Burgher Union (DBU) if any such theory were to be propounded.

This writer, though of a later generation, is qualified to enlighten those who maybe interested in the subject. The Porritts are my first cousins, and you can't get much closer than that.

The name Porritt will be familiar to those who are interested in cricket, albeit of a generation that is passing but still, happily, very knowledgeable about cricket and cricketers of a past generation to which the Porritts belong.

This is an appropriate time to talk about these Porritts because they are technically Australian-their father being one-and the Aussies are in Sri Lanka at the moment.

But the main point is that the male members of these relatives of mine were fine cricketers, in fact, one of them is recognised as one of Sri Lanka's finest. But more of that later. I recall they were all handsome young men, well set and capable of hitting six after six.

I vaguely recall someone saying that F.W.E. took a bet that he would eat 75 stringhoppers! He won the bet! Reminds me that former GM of the Taj Samudra, P. Mohan Kumar, whose love for cricket made him play a big part in making the Taj the official hotel of all visiting teams, telling me that the Australians ate steak for breakfast!

It's really quite a love story; my father's eldest sister Sybil-an Old Bishopian-the eldest daughter of the late Dr. Emmanuel Roberts (family name Ratnajinendra Rabel Ratnaweera-Roberts was taken on) and her two sisters had nothing better to do but be ladies of leisure.

They were all crazy on music and it is said that Sybil would practise Beethoven and Chopin the livelong day. The Waltzes of Johann Strauss were the then version of the Beatles!

The three sisters would often visit Cave and Company, which still stands in the Fort, a fine store that dealt I believe mainly with music. They were agents for the best pianos and other musical instruments and their printed music was much in demand. So it was at Cave's Music Store that the love story of Frank and Sybil began.

Cave and Company had a young Australian Music Manager called Frank Porritt. He fell in love with Sybil and married her in the face of much resistance from her parents. They had eleven children; more need not be said on that subject. Frank Porritt is said to have had eighteen race horses, and two or three 'estate houses' which were used as holiday homes by the family during the seasons.

Four of the seven boys played for Royal-, the famous Frederick William Emmanuel, F.W.E. (Billy)played for Royal from 1931-1934- captaining once during that time, and I believe for the SSC. Billy was a contemporary of F.C. de Saram. Frank Emmanuel the youngest (F.E.) captaind in the mid forties.

The others were A.H.F. (Bertie) and Rodney (D.R.R.) who was in the first Royal College team to leave the shores of their homeland on a cricket tour in 1936. And where did they go? Australia, believe it or not! The tour of 45 days was to mark Royal's Centenary year. The team was captained by Ryle de Soysa while the Manager was L. V. Gooneratne, father of the late 'C.V.' The team was accompanied by the Principal, L.H.W. Sampson.

These Porritts, if I may call them so affectionately, also had connections with Trinity College, but not of F.W.E.'s generation.

Billy's sister Ruby married a well-known tea planter, Lionel Munaweera and produced three-or is it four?-of Trinity's best ruggerites, one of whom, Cedric, the eldest of the children died two years ago.