Archive for May, 2012


Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Sunday 27 May, 2012.


A warm welcome to readers from around the world to this week’s newsletter about amazing Sri Lanka.


Made in Sri Lanka

I have written before about products from St Benedict’s Monastery at Adisham, Haputale, made by the Benedictine Fathers. As well as the farm shop at the monastery, there is a shop beside the road from Haputale to Bandarawela that stocks them all.

There is a comforting range of products made from fruit grown in the monastery gardens, including chunky strawberry jam, with no added artificial or natural flavors, at SLRs350  (£ 1.75  $ 2.80) for 450g jar, wood apple jam (SLRs200), orange marmalade, ginger and soursop cordials, mango chutney and even homemade tomato sauce.



Haputale revisited


A small church (perhaps I should call it a ‘wee kirk’ since so many Scots pioneers who opened up the hill country are buried there) stands on a small hill overlooking Haputale, 181km from Colombo at about 1,429m above sea level.


Its graveyard is beautifully kept and it’s an inspiring place to spend a few hours reading the inscriptions on the headstones of those hardy men, women and their children, who carved out tea gardens in the forest. One, James Andrew of Sherwood Estate (where the bungalow can be rented for holidays, see Newsletter No. 97), buried in 1875, is reported to have died when his horse backed down a steep bank when he was riding from Haputale to Sherwood.



Inside the church, which is open to visitors, are plaques to the memory of planters, many of who seem to have died on their way back to Britain. Not all were 19th century Scotsman. There is a plaque in memory of a “distinguished citizen of Ceylon” born in Flushing in 1892 who died in 1954, and was not only a member of parliament but also recognised as “a protector of elephants.”



Haputale still has the air of a pioneering plantation town with the railway line from Colombo and Kandy to Badulla running right through it. It’s a real market town where everyone seems busy minding their own business and tourists are not pestered, although three-wheeler and minibus taxis are available for hire for visiting the sights.



For me part of charm of Haputale is that it has not been gentrified for tourists but remains true to the soul of upcountry Sri Lanka. It’s not a pretty town but the views are breathtaking and the High Cliffe bar and guest house is a most convivial place to sample local life. However,  Haputale could perhaps benefit with a café like those in nearby Ella (see Newsletter No.75.)




Vintage Cars

I was going to headline this story “old crocks” but didn’t want readers to think I was writing about my rock ‘n’ roll friends/years again. This refers instead to a plan to hold a Vintage Car Rally in Colombo on Sunday 3 June commencing at the Art Gallery at 9am and concluding at the Nelum Pokuna stadium.

It is hoped that 60 cars with A-Z series registration, and five vintage motorcycles, will take part in the event.

Even as little as 25 years ago, what are now classic Morris Minors were the regular taxis of Sri Lanka’s country towns. The difference in a vintage and a classic car in Sri Lanka is defined by the registration plate. The island’s earliest registration numbers had a letter of the alphabet – from A to Z – as well as a number.

The letter indicated where in the country the car was registered, with C being Colombo while the letters X and Y indicated all-island registration. They are today’s Vintage Cars.

The system was changed in the 1930s for registration that used a pair of letters from the country’s former name of Ceylon, in the order CE CL CN EY EL and finally EN. These are the cars usually regarded as Classics.

The Vintage Car Owners Club (VCOC) in association with the Automobile Association of Ceylon is holding the rally. The VCOC, formed in 1987, is the only club catering to Veteran, Edwardian, Vintage and Post-Vintage Thoroughbred vehicles in Sri Lanka, including Cars, Motor Cycles, Lorries, Buses and Steam Driven Vehicles. There are 180 members owning over 200 vehicles, some of which have been meticulously restored or are in a restorable state. (

The rally promises to be a fun day out in the city with some grand old crocks on display, as well as some great cars!



Attic Archive

Love Seats… Regular readers will know of my passion for love seats. A padded one comes up for sale today at the 120th Anniversary Auction of antiques, paintings by George Keyts, old maps and postcards, being held at the BMICH, Colombo, by the famous auction house of Schokman & Samerawickreme. The love seat looks formidable, more suitable, perhaps, for a room with a log fire than for the veranda of my beachside cottage. So I won’t be bidding.

In my Attic Archive I found this photograph taken 23 years ago in 1989 when I was on a visit to Ooty, the hill station in India reached, then, by a rake of wooden railway carriages hauled with frequent pauses up a rack and pinion track by an ancient steam locomotive.

This wonderful love seat I encountered in a colonial hotel there invites speculation about the various triangular love affairs that might have been conducted in it.  However, I suspect this threesome piece was designed so a girl’s chaperone could be seated with a courting couple to keep her eye on things.



For an insight into Sri Lanka, my Bradt Guide can be bought on line at

Beat regards

Royston Ellis