BURGHERS, In the Land of the Palmyra Palm, JAFFNAPATAM

BURGHERS, In the Land of the Palmyra Palm, JAFFNAPATAM

It has to be a most interesting book. Nothing to do with “The Jam-fruit Tree” & other books written by another Muller (Carl), but a comprehensive study of “Ceylon-Burghers” (meaning “Citizens of a Burgh/Town), in this case, Jaffna, the Northern tip of “My Lovely Island Home”, as I call her. This excerpt itself is very long, but still very interesting, in that it is especially a debunk of what is
“DUTCH-BURGHERISM”. While taking nothing away from the original script, I have decided to EDIT this excerpt simply to “shorten” the story for easier reading purposes.

The beginning of the Burgher Community in Jaffna, began with the Portugese occupation of the Peninsula, led by Dom Andre Furtado de Mendoca (there’s a long one, for you) in 1591, further consolidated by it’s annexation in 1619 under Dom Filepe D’Oliveira. One of the main factors that aided the Portugese rule from 1619-1621 was the PRESENCE of a pro-Portugese native Catholic group in Jaffnapatam that helped the Portugese to END the so-called Jaffna-Kingdom said to have begun in medieval times.

The defense of the Peninsula was secured by two “Castles” (Fortresses), one being named Nossa Senhora das Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles), of Jaffna Town. The second Fortress was at Kayts or Cais, meaning “Quay”(pronounced “Key”). All-told, the Portugese kept a military Force of about 200 men to maintain their administration over the North of Ceylon.

The names of just a few Portugese have been preserved for posterity. These include:-
Donna Anna Camella, Francisco Cabreira de Seixas, Thome de Mello, Sebistiam Roiz, Matheus Viera de Avreu, Hyeronimo de Paiva, Antao Vaz Freire & several others. Some of the more recognizable ones even today would be names such as Corea, D’Croos, Dias, Fernando, Gomes, Gonsalves, D’Livera, De Mel, Pinto, Perera, Rodrigo, D’Rosairo, & D’Silva.

The Portugese “casados” took wives from among the local population and founded families that were entirely “Catholic”in faith. In time, a considerable Community of “mixed Parentage rose and generally “married” among themselves. These were the Portugese Burghers of Jaffnapatam in the 17th/18th Centuries. In the 19th Century, most of them migrated to Colombo and Negombo where they made a fresh start.

In the intervening period, especially after Jaffna was taken over by the Dutch in 1658, those Europeans who served in the Military married Into these families of mixed Parentage. These “new families” carried names from Northwestern Europe, Holland, Germany, Flanders, Walloonia, Prussia, Denmark, The Frisian Islands, Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg & France.

The Dutch first appeared in Sri Lankan waters in1602, captured the Portugese Fortress of Batticaloa in 1639 and without wasting further time, captured the Fortress of Trincomalee the same year. This was the beginning of the end of Portugese-Power and naurally, the rise of the Dutch. Both “Powers” contributed to the fashioning of what is today known as the “Burgher-Community”.

In 1694 , Dutch Authorities in Jaffnapatam took a census of the inhabitants which revealed that there were 109 European heads of families & 87 heads of families of mixed descent that included Portugese, Malay wives who had come there from the East Indies, Archipelago. This mean’t that the people of the then City of Jaffna were an already heterogeneous lot with many different bloodlines. It is thus reasonable to assume that the same pattern held good for the other Towns along the Coast that were occupied by the Dutch, such as Colombo, Kalutara, Bentota, Galle, Matara, Tangalle, Hambantota, Batticoloa, Trincomalee, Pooneryn, Delft, Hammenhell, Mannar, Kalpitiya Puttlam, Chilaw & Negombo.

The European family names originating from Jaffna that still survive amongst the Buurgher Community in Sri Lanka today include ones like Bulner, D’Croon, (Kroon), Ernst, Fransz, Fretz, Grenier, Honter, Jansz, Keegel, Kiel, Koch, Martyn, Mauritsz, Muller, Nagel, Neydorff, Ohlmus, Pietersz, Prins, Reimers, Sansoni, Thuring, & Toussaint.

Kroon is a Dutch name meaning “Crown”, Franz means “French” / Son of a French (Man), Grenier (attic/loft), Koch means “Cook”, Muller means “Miller”, Jansz means “Son of Jan”, but Pietersz means “Son of Peter”, Sansoni is Italian & Toussaint is French

The families of mixed European & Oriental parentage Included Alphonso, Claasz, Corea, de Croes, Delivera, Dias, Fernando, Gonsalves, Jansz, D’Livera, De Mel, Pietersz, Pinto, Rosairo, D’Rosairo, & D’Silva. Amongst the mixed family names Alphonso & Fetnando are Spanish.Anthonisz is “Son of Anthony” in Dutch. Claasz is “Son of Claas, Corea means belt or strap etc.,

Because of the socio-economic and political “Centre” under the British was Colombo, may of the Burghers in Jaffna, Mannar & Trincomalee migrated to the South where they quickly re-established themselves, integrating successfully with the Burghers who had considered Colombo their own creation and City.

So, this is a much-edited version of the JAFFNA-BURGHER story Mr. Muller goes on, writing his book on the Burghers from his own personal experiences, in a thoroughly interesting and professional manner but I have endeavored to make it as brief as possible for the readers of e’Lanka because I do believe in the English Phrases that I use so often, in my writing.

My friends, ” VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE” & for a website such as ours, all I can say is that Reading topical variety written interestingly , is our gift to you. Variety, THE MORE THE MERRIER.

Desmond Kelly.
“Star of e’ Lanka”.

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