gen3073 - de Soysa family of Moratuwa

Sri Lanka Genealogy Website - Sinhalese Family Genealogy

de Soysa of Moratuwa - Family #3073

A Bean & Two Leaves (Chapter 12) by Ed Rowlands

The cascade of the Soysa family

Cabbages, kings & things by PADMA EDIRISINGHE - DN Monday Mar 8 2004

Subsequent to the publication of the article on "Colombo's coconut grove" of the 19th Century (Sunday Observer 18.01.04) a few queries have been received on the present fortunes of this family and about details of the descendants of the owner of this vast coconut estate of 150 acres right in the heart of our capital that later turned into the springboard of many a stately mansion on partitioned land.

Actually there are books written on this remarkable family but many now are not disposed to read lengthy books on a subject and would like to get it as tersely as possible. Frankly I myself have done no research on the subject but an acquaintance, Vinodh Wickremaratne, who can be described as a colonial history researcher cum a student of genealogy has given me a welter of information.

He has traced this family down to its sixth generation beginning with the union of Charles Henry De Soysa (1836-1890) and Catherine De Silva (d 1914) and going by the ages of those of the sixth generation may be there are kids and infants of the seventh generation of this family too.

According to Vinodh's study the famous philanthropist who gifted parts of his sprawling estate at times running all the way from Moratuwa to Colombo to put up schools, hospitals and University buildings had begotten 15 children in all. In my earlier article I have left out the son who died young. All other children in turn have gone on to spawn very large families at a period when family planning was unheard of.


Famous names stud the cascade, not only famous grandsons, but famous sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Right at the start is Dr. Solomon Fernando (1850-1915) who married the eldest daughter of CH de Soysa i.e. Fancy Georgina Catherine. One of the very few doctors of Western medicine at the time perhaps he has cut a niche in world history by becoming a martyr to the cause of another religion.

At the famous meeting held in Colombo in 1915 to help the Buddhist cause during the infamous Gampola riots, this doctor, Roman Catholic by faith got carried away by his own eloquence as he heaped a verbal tirade on the White rulers for imprisoning Buddhist leaders and died on the stage by developing a sudden heart attack. In these days when some plot and plan to ferment another feud to destabilize the country further this death is food for thought.

Another famous name peeps through, that of Dr. Marcus Fernando after whom a whole street runs in the capital today in gratitude for his services. He is the husband of the third daughter, Margaret Mary (1864-1936). The fourth son of CH Soysa, Thomas Henry who had been the Chilean Consul is very much alive today via College House or Regna Walavva. It is the administrative building of the Colombo University today. "Colombo heritage", a Stanford Lake publication inform that T.H.A. DE Soysa built it to commemorate his wife's name Regina.

"With its turrets, towers, conical roofs, hidden passage ways and balconies it was to be the perfect family home "for his lovely wife and children but tragedy struck and the wife died young. In 1920 the house was purchased for the University. A familiar name occurs in the group of 8 children born to the 7th son. He is E. L. F. Soysa, the famous racing magnate and also the first Sinhala owner of a motor car.

The dim recess when his great grand uncle Jeronis De Soysa ran behind bullock carts to end up the most successful Lankan entrepreneur now was almost obliterated by the long shadow of Time. The ebullient ELF rode pell-mell in his motor car thanking the champagne that flowed into his "Foetus" during the royal visit and extravagant reception at Bagatalle walavva.


Loranee Senaratne, our first woman ambassador and author of "Heirs to history' also figures in the cascade as the daughter of the 12th daughter of C. H. De Soysa. Charles Harold the 14th son has fathered 9 children out of whom the eldest, Charles Harold rose to be the second Sinhala Bishop of the island.

Another familiar name that I came across in Vinodh's genealogy chart is that of Ismeth Raheem, the famous and indefatigable collector of drawings and photographs of Old Colombo. He has married a grand-daughter of the 11th child of C. H. De Soysa. Incidentally it seems to be the only racially mixed marriage in the family. Vinodh hastens to add that his genealogy chart of the Soysa family is still "in the making' and has yet to be checked for accuracy and chronology. But certainly it is an earnest attempt and very rich in sociological and historical value.

According to 'Colombo Heritage' as time ran on the Soysa ran into financial difficulties and various properties were sold off. One of the most magnificent houses to be lost in mortgage was Laksmigiri that was acquired by the Lukmanjee family. The mansion yet looms today in majestic grandeur in the vicinity of Thunmulla junction replete with it Buckingham Palace style gates. But the statement in the book that the famous reception was held at Lakshmigiri and not at Bagatalle Walavva seems questionable since the fact that Bagtalle walavva was the venue is almost an accepted matter.

In fact the Stanford essay on Laksmigiri begins by stating that it was built in the early part of this century (the 20th C) and in the second passage it states "For here in 1870 ... Duke of Edinburgh was entertained at a banquet" where cutlery hewn of gold and set with rubies, emeralds and pearls were used! Such was the ultimate height in affluence of the C. H. De Soysa family that seems to have dwindled to a marked extent as time took its toll. The very maintenance of the gigantic abodes put up seem to have drained the Soysa treasury.

"Impermanence and change are the ways of all worldly things" intoned the Buddha, voicing the ultimate truth. Incidentally the whole CH Soysa clan was majority Anglican by faith and almost all carried Anglicised names.

1  Joseph Soysa + Hannadige Fransisca Pieris [3078]

...2  Gate Mudaliyar Warusahennedige Jeronis de Soysa, educated at Palliyagodella Temple, medical practitioner 1814., merchant Kandy 1825, planter Hanguranketa 1837, built Holy Emmanuel Church 1860, b:19-Apr-1797, d:20-Feb-1862 + Mututantirige Fransesca Cooray

......Charles Henry de Soysa, b:3-Mar-1836, d:29-Sep-1890, educated at Palliyagodella Temple, John Garth's English School, St Thomas' College Mount Lavinia. Trained in Estate Management at Hanguranketa (1856-1861). Joined father's business + Lady Catherine de Silva (d/o Lindamuluge Janey de Silva & Ana Fernando of Moratuwa, she was granted the title of Lady after the demise of Charles henry  on 22 Jan 1892), m:1863 [3080]

.........4  Margaret Frances Mary de Soysa + Dr. Hilary Clarus Marcus Fernando, MBMS, MD, BSc, b:21-Oct-1864, d:18-Dec-1936

.........4 Jeronis William Charles de Soysa

.........4  Alfred Joseph Richard de Soysa

.........4  Edwin Lionel Frederick de Soysa + Caroline Pieris m:1898 [3078]

.........4  Thomas Henry Arthur de Soysa

.........4  Walter de Soysa

.........4  Lambert Wilfred Alexander de Soysa

.........4  Selina de Soysa + Louis H Pieris, nephew of Jeronis Pieris  [3078]


...2  Susew de Soysa + Engeltina Pieris m:1839 [3078]

...2  ? de Soysa

......3  W.L. Peter de Soysa + Victoria Pieris [3078]


1  ? de Soysa

...2  Caroline Fransisca de Soysa + Hannadige Jeronis Pieris [3078]

1   de Soysa

...2  Warusahennedige Dharmagunawardena Vipula Jayasuriya Dissanayake de Soysa + Catherine de Soysa

......3  Sir Lambert Wilfred Alexander de Soysa, b:20-Feb-1884, d:3-May-1968 + Lady Evelyn Yohana Fernando, b:233-Apr-1893, d:28-Jul-1973, m:1907

.........4  Harold de Soysa, b:1907

.........4  Ethel de Soysa, b:1910

.........4  Cecil de Soysa, b:1914

.........4  Terrence de Soysa, b:1915

.........4  Ryle de Soysa

.........4  Shelley de Soysa

.........4  Anura de Soysa