Kirtisinghe Generation I: Loku Thatha Comes Home from London

KH Bastian de Silva & SK Pinthso Hamy with their 7 sons. Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. circa 1900s.
(seated L to R) Kaluappuwa Hennedige Bastian de Silva & Sella Kapu Pintho Hamy with their 7 Sons. Back Row (L to R) Ritchie, Albert, Edmund, Lionel, Vinnie; seated on the mat ( L to R) Bennie, Bertie. Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. circa 1900s. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The First Generation of Kirtisinghe’s in front of Siri Niwasa

As told by Bala Malli

Thatha says this photo was taken when his Loku Aiya our Loku Thatha  came home.  He had apparently cut frogs and studied them in London and got a Masters degree and later became the Professor of Zoology at the Colombo University.

In this photo he is in the back row in the middle with his welcome garland of flowers.  Seeya looks quite happy and proud and Achchi looks as if she is already plotting to get a suitable wife for the London educated son. Loku Thatha looks sad as if he has left his heart behind in London. I don’t know how true it is but according to Thatha he wanted to marry an English girl and Achchi wouldn’t have none of that. Everyone had a lot of respect for Loku Thatha and after achchi’s death, he was the undisputed head of the Kirtisinghe clan.

On the end of the back row to the left is Richie/Richard who changed name to Rathnasara. He is the no 4 son  and looks quite dashing in national dress. He gave it up for an army uniform when he joined as a doctor.  He  kept a good library and had a photo of him in uniform looking really spiffy in  uniform. During his army days, Richie Mahappa loved to go dancing and he would relate to Podi Akka how after a night of dancing he would go to sleep partly dressed so he won’t be late for next day’s army roll call.  When Podi Akka asked him why he didn’t go dancing after he got married he let out a loud cackle – and said “with your mahamma? No, not even thinkable!! Poor man, marriage must have taken all the fun out of his life but then again I might be wrong he lived the longest out of the 7.

Next to him is Albert, the second born, and the only one who didn’t take a Sinhala name. Albert was the first adventurer who changed careers and dumped what must have been a boring dead end job as an Inspector of Schools and went to Hong Kong to manage and run the Windsor jewellery shop.

Next to Loku Thatha is Punchi Mahappa , no 3 son and Thatha’s much loved Bala Aiya. Lionel took Haripriya as his Sinhala name.  ( Haripriya Kathawa/story will follow later on) .  He was  a Botany graduate and worked in the dictionary office and he used to say SWRD – Banda was a friend of his.  Podi Akka says when she went to Colombo Uni, Punchi Mahppa was known as the “Hat and Umbrella man” because when he came to the Uni to visit his pal Prof. B.L.T. de Silva, He would get out of the car with his hat on and then open and umbrella too to protect himself against the sun.  He was dead scared of falling sick.

Vinnie ( Vincent changed to Vidyasara) is our favourite  Vinnie Mahappa who went on to become a Physics graduate and the Vice Principal at Ananda College where he was known as Kiththa.  He loved radios and music and was very well read and a very gentle man at home.  But apparently he had a different reputation at Ananda.  In an oft repeated tale, he had once caught Ranjit Aiya (MWRN De Silva a.k.a  known as Dryya) cutting classes and had told  him to go home and pluck coconuts without wasting Ranjit aiya’s parents money.

Our Thatha is sitting in front of Seeya and Bertie Bappa is seated in front of Achchi. This must be the last photograph of Seeya.  Thatha and Bertie Bappa were in School at Dharmaraja  College in Kandy when Seeya died. But the newspaper obituary notice only mentioned the 5 elder sons and didn’t carry the names of the last two.  So the boys in the Boarding had teased Thatha and Bappa saying they were adopted and couldn’t make any claims as nephews of the Principal of the school S. Kularatne, who was Achchi’s younger brother – our Punchi Seeya.

Bertie Bappa also became a very successful GP in Moratuwa but unlike the others he changed his name and took another English name Cyril.  However, he was known all his life as Bertie.  He became the wealthiest out of the 7 brothers. Podi Akka christened him Sir Bertie… but then that is another story.


7 thoughts on “Kirtisinghe Generation I: Loku Thatha Comes Home from London”

  1. Hi Auntie Chulie,
    In all these years, I never knew the seeyas changed their names… Just for the record, what was Loku Seeya’s name/s? and Bennie’s new name? This will be great reading for my girls when they grow up. My Achchi only told me snippets in her fading years and sadly, by then her memory was failing. Thanks for the first installment of the most fascinating history class!!

  2. Quite by chance I stumbled on your Kirthisighe Generation 1. When I was a student at Ananda College your Bappa Vinnie was my Vice Principal and Physics master. During our school days we had a scam(ashamed of it now)where; we gate crashed large weddings at the GFH. Those weddings were so large no one knew who we were (3 of us)-the bride’s party thought we were from the bridegroom’s and vice versa. But one day there was someone standing right behind us with his arms outstretched and on our shoulders. The voice was unmistakable when he said “I will see the three of you in my office tomorrow morning”. The following day we fronted up to Kithatha’s office and was told that we were wasting our parents money, denying 3 more worthwhile boys places at Ananda and that the 3 of us had no future. When the word got around the school the three of us were collectively called “No Future”. That prompted us to greater heights – one earned a Phd, the other a doctorate in medicine and well, I am still writing and telling stories to entertain. It is with fondest love I recall my guru Vinnie Kirthisighe who not only taught me Physics and things about the wide world out there.

  3. This is information about my roots that I have been curious about all this time. Does anyone know what prompted the name to be changed to Kirtisinghe, and when it happened? My dad (Hemal) has never told me, maybe because he doesn’t know or doesn’t recall.

    I have, in the past, tried to make an extended family tree, with little or no follow-up due to one reason or another, and it was almost impossible to find some info. If I knew a bit of the history of the family, I could make something (I have a few different software packages with which family trees can be made, and they are just idling about, which I think is a shame).

    Thank you very much, Chulie Nanda, for putting these for everyone to see. It gives me a sense of belonging, and it’s always good to know where you come from.

  4. When I was a raw import from P’deniya to the Ananda staff, the V.P was “Kiththa” who had suceeded M.W.Karunananda who, in turn had taken on the Principalship of Nalanda, my old school. “Kiththa” affected a gruff, tough exterior, not unlike J.Edgar Hoover (without the cigar). Perhaps he HAD to – SA.Wijayatilaka, the Principal was the “parfait gentleman” and I suppose we needed a ‘toughie’as his 2 i/c. Much later, when I was in the Navy, the Commanding Officer always affected the personality of the “distant-but-fair” boss while his First Lieutenant was the villain. These were standard personae! Anyway, I got along with both and “Kiththa” pushed me to be Joint Secy. of the PTA and – in spite of my status as the low man on the totem pole – he made me Supervisor of the Post-senior School (Arts). This exposed me to some hilarious secrets that cannot be divulged yet, lest they offend living relatives! The best comic relief was provided by the late Ven. Kotagama Vachissara, better known as “Budu Hamuduruwo”.

    “Kiththa” was a character and, though we joked about him behind his back, we had a wholesome respect and affection for him. Yes, he was a man in whose shadow I am happy to have grown up in.

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