Gate Mudaliyer Jronis de Soysa Dhamagunawardena Vipulajayasuriya Karunaratne Dissanayake (1797-1862)
The pioneer native entrepreneur and ayurvedic physician was the father of Charles Henry de Soysa. His successful bid in 1847 for the 'Kings Garden', Hanguranketa over British planters the likes of George Bird (brother of Col. Henry Bird, the Commandant of Kandy) established him as the first Ceylonese coffee planter. In 1853, he became the first Mudaliyar to be elevated in recognition of philanthropy and industry, Read more....
Francesca de Soysa Lamatheni
Francesca Coorey, the mother of Charles de Soysa was born at Idama to Muthuthanthrige Bastian Coorey and Hennedige Justina Peiris, daughter of Solomon Peiris of Uyana and Pavistina Rodrigo from the Warunaditta Kurukulasuriya Pattini Hennedige clan of Nalluruva, Panadura.
The Kodagoda Walauwa Pataseela Sirampakse Muthukude Wadana Thanthirige clan was an old and established family of Moratuwa, one Sebastian Coorey having built the old Dutch Church at Rawathawatte in 1675, though Francesca's immediate family had seen better days.
On the advice of the Monk at the Palliyagodella Temple, Jronis de Soysa had taken a detour passing Francesca's home one morning when he caught a glimpse of the damsel drying her hair in the morning sun, the young man was a regular on the road thereafter.
As the Soysas were relatively new to the area having come from Devinuwara to Panadura in the preceding century, Jronis' proposal was rejected. Having heard of this, Francesca had requested that the refusal be withdrawn and the couple were married at the Brownrigg Palliya, Rawathawatte in 1833.
The Holy Emmanuele Church
The Church of the Holy Emmanuel, Moratuwa, is the resting place of Mudaliyer Jronis de Soysa and Francesca Lamatheni. Built and endowed largely by the Mudaliyer and his family with the support of the congregation, it is the largest Anglican Parish of the Island. Four parishioners and four past incumbents, totaling six, had gone one to become Bishops. Consecrated in 1861, it was the tallest Church and one of the tallest buildings in Ceylon.
The Warusahennedige Soysa Brothers
Warusahennedige Joseph Soysa (1764-1839) known as Jose Rala, and Kurukulasuriya Hennedige Francisca Peiris were the parents of Jronis de Soysa. The family consisted of eight boys and two girls; Lenora, Peduru, Jeronis, Johannes, Domingo, Cornelia, Lewis, Susew, Simona, Anthony and Solomon. Peudru became Vidhane of Panadura and Simona married Don Joseph Ferdinando, grandson of Don Francisco Ferdinando, Mahavidhane Muhandiram of Moratuwa, 1742.
Gate Mudaliyer Susew de Soysa
Born in 1809, Susew was the sixth boy of the family. The energetic Susew who was much younger than his brother Jronis was trained to be his deputy, whilst the other brothers assisted in the family enterprise. Later, Susew branched out on his own. In 1841, he married Engeltina Peiris, daughter of Hendrick Peiris III and Sellaperumage Welmina Fernando.
With the passing away of his father-in-law in 1839, he became a father figure to the two young brothers of Engeltina, Jronis and Louise Peiris and had wanted to adopt the young James Peiris (later, Sir James Peiris). Appointed Mudaliyer of the Governor's Gate in 1871, he built the Panadura Hospital, the St John's Church and College at Panadura and was one of the chief-guests of the 'Panadura Debate' in 1873.
His endowment of the Mahawatte estate, Mt Lavania to the Holy Emanuele Church was later utilised by the Bishop of Colombo for purposes that included the relocating of S Thomas' College. Mudaliyer Susew de Soysa passed away in 1881 and was interned at the Church of St John, Panadura. He was the only native layman.to have a commemorative plaque at the old Cathedral - Christ Church, Mutwal.
The Kurukulasuriya Hennedige family of Panadura
The Warusahennedige de Soysa and the Kurukulasuriya Hennedige Peiris families were closely related. Engaltina, Francisca and Justina Peiris were from the Kurukulasuriya Hennedige clan, an established old family of Panadura, with roots in Gandhara, deep South. One of their ancestors, a Kandyan courtier called Vijaya Wickrema was the father of Hendrick Peiris I. He had fled the Kandyan kingdom during a rebellion around the same time as an ancestor of the de Mel family and the most famous of them all, Ambanwela Rala. It is known that in many instances, the Low Country lascarin militia defected en mass during the Kandyan-Portuguese wars, with some going on to serve the Kandyan kings.
Jeronis de Soysa and his brothers inherited a sizable fortune from their maternal uncle Daniel Peiris, brother of Hendrick Peiris III. They invested this in new opportunities that arose in the Kandyan region subsequent to the Kandyan Convention and the passing of the throne from Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe to George III. It was a new market particularly for the Sinhalese, as the few traders that existed before were Tamil and Muslim. The Peiris brothers owned two shipyards, one at Grandpass Colombo, on the estuary of the Kelani river and the other at Oruwella Panadura, on the estuary of the Bolgoda river. The Peiris family had engaged in ship building and the coastal and overseas trade with India, Burma and the Maldives in commodities such as salt, rice and tobacco.
The type of sailing craft used for seaborne voyage by the Sinhalese was known as a maha oruwa, also known as the yathra dhoni. It had a payload of 50 - 75 tonnes depending on the size of the vessel which ranged between 50 - 100 feet. Whilst the dhonies built in Jaffna were some of the largest in South Asia, owing to the adoption of modern European shipbuilding methods, the Sinhalese held on to a 3000 year old shipbuilding tradition. The method of fastening the planks instead of nailing along with an outrigger for buoyancy, created a lighter, cost-effective and a flexible craft suited for beaching, though it also meant a size restriction. However, even Magellan's Victoria and Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind, used to circumnavigate the globe were 69 and 102 feet respectively. The size advancement is largely a more recent development in the history of the global shipbuilding culture.
The de Soysa ancestors at Devinuwara and Panadura
Warusahennedige Joseph Soysa (1764-1839) was the first known ancestor to have migrated from Panadura to Moratuwa. He married Francisca Peiris in 1792. His father Bastian Soysa was one of the first merchants from Panadura to have ventured in to the Kandyan kingdom during the Dutch era. Bastian was a cousin of Don Pedro de Soysa Wijesinghe, the Maha Vidhane of Panadura.
Another relation, Don Manual Soysa had also been a Maha Vidhane Muhamdiram of Panadura. His sons Juan, a salt merchant and Francisco, the Customs Official of Panadura (Patabendi), togrther with Peduru Soysa Vidhane Mahatmaya, Ponnahennedige Lourenço Dias Gurunanse, arrack merchants Mahawaduge Bastian Perera and Telge Jeronis Peiris were the chief laymen contibutors towards the establishement of the historic Rankoth (Galkande) Viharaya of Panadura in 1810.
The Thombo records of 1691 attests the marriage between Dominga de Soisa and Samuel de Mello, the oldest record of the family at Pandaura after seven members of the family had migrated from Devinuwara and purchased seventy acres from the Dutch government at Pattiya, Panadura. The ancestors of the Varusamana Dissanayake Nanayakkara Laksapathiya Mahavidanelage de Mel clan had been awarded the environs of Lakshapathiya during the Polonnaruwa era.
In 1587 when the opulent Devinuwara Temple complex at the historic port town was destroyed by Portuguese forces led by Thome de Sousa d' Arronches, a naval captain from the House of Sousa, an ancestor of the family had been the the custodian Basnayake Nilame. It is around this time the family came to be known by their Portuguese name, indicating perhaps a forced conversion, perhaps with the retention of some privileges. Oral evidence that existed in Devinuwara had confirmed the family's involvement in the temple and the property in the vicinity of the Temple. The family was associated with the other ancient families of the region who had traditionally been associated with the Temple such the Range clan. The first Devinuwara Perahera pageant on record is dated to the 13th century, when prince Bhathiya Thissa, an ancestor of the Wickramasuriya clan was the custodian. The 14th century chieftain (Adapan) of Devinuwara, Warusa Vipula Senadhi Perumal Mahalena is considered the oldest recorded ancestor of the family. Another was Warusa Vipula Senadhi Manikku Nilayitta Deva Nallur Adiarasa, known to historians as Nalluru Thuniyar, state secretary and a brother in law of Parakramabahu VI.