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Legend of Swami Rock in Trincomalee

by Ms Anne Winter Williams - UK


Perhaps someone maybe able to throw more light on this mystery? Many years ago I was taken to Sami Rock near Trinco and was told the legend of a Dutch girl. She was the daughter of a gentleman of high office in the Dutch service and betrothed to a Capt. who betrayed her. She watched his ship sail away for Europe.Before getting clear of the coast the ship tacked along and passed parallel to the precipices that formed the southern boundary of Fort Frederick.As it approached the rocks, the lady, who had watched from her apartment, ran along the cliff edge and as the ship turned for its journey to Europe, she balanced on a projecting crag and flung herself off. Her broken body was recovered from the rocks below. Her distraught father had a memorial carved on a solitary pillar of the type found in Hindu and Buddhist temples. It was square and hexagonal in alternate stages and bore this inscription:

AO.24 april

Translated by Jennifer van der Greft, our very helpful researcher on Dutch matters, it reads:

In memory of Francina v. Rhede, wife or Lady of Mydreght. This year etc,

Sami Rock to the Hindus was the Rock of God, sacred to Eiswara, the Almighty God.
Historical records however, do not bear with the legend for Francina van Rheede was the daughter of Sgt. Major Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede. Lord of Drakestein and Mydreght who was in Ceylon in 1688 when in Oct. that year he was sent with a force to Ruanelle to 'wreak vengence' on the King of Kandy whose emissaries had suddenly attacked the Dutch Company's servants in the Mendekaduale and Atakalan korales and driven them away.In this he was successful. I

n 1687 he was 'Commissaris of the Coramandel Coast at which time the monument was erected. Pijl was the Governor of Ceylon and visited him in Negapatnam to discuss Ceylon affairs. Hearing of this, the King of Kandy became angry that he had not been notified which led to a crisis and Pijl was sought by the Chief Adigar to come to Colombo.Van Rheede advised Pijl to make peace with Raja Singha as the operating cost for Ceylon and Malabar amounted to 197 tons of gold for fortification, expenses etc, a burden they would have been unable to bear for long. Van Rheede was buried under a beautiful tomb near Surat, India after his death in 1691.

Lady Francina, his only daughter survived her father and married (1)Maurice Cesar de la Baye Capt of the East India Company who died at Colombo, Feb.14, 1693 and (2) In 1694 to Anthony Karel van Panhuys, son of Bartholomeusz van Panhuys, Lord of Voorn.her mother was Johanna Schade.//Having believed the legend all these years, I was surprised to find the facts while trying to help another researcher with something quite different. Coincidentally, Nina van Dort then sent me reports on the VOC employees in Banda, Indonesia and told to Hendrik van Rheede in 1685 by the fiscal about the Free Burghers.

So the mystery remains. Why did Van  Rheede memorialise his daughter in such a fashion as if she were dead? Could it be that he was distraught at her having sailed away with the Capt. Maurits to Europe being his only daughter and possible only child, leaving him alone in Negapatnam.I guess we will never know but thanks fo Nina and Jennifer much more has come to light re: Hendrick, Lord of Drakestein and Mydreght.

I think the monument itself may have been one already standing and remember the solitude of the lovely beach at Pirate's Cove in Kuchi near my uncle George's place at Trails End. Here the jungle almost reached the sands but for a little road and beyond were the mangroves and lagoons of the thrid ferry. Not far away was Blue Lagoon near  Nilaveli where my Hermon cousins stayed. It was fun to look for the little star tortoises crawling about there and I dug a hole in the sands one hot day and heard the sound of a leopard sawing, carried on the breeze. It was seen later that evening, caught in a cars headlight crossing the road. I was also fortunate to watch the sunset over China Bay at the naval base of Trinco when my uncle Ivor was Commander of the Ceylon navy after the British left.I am told that there is a lot of development going on in the East coast and hope that the Lankan Govt. will protect this lovely coast and not allow greedy developers and corrupt officials to despoil it as has happened elsewhere and especially Hikkaduwa. One thinks of the concrete Costas of Spain and hopes that Lankans will treat their inheritance differently and value it as much as the Sapphires and Pearls of high price for such places really are the precious jewels of our island of far greater value.

Anne Winter Williams