Bernard VanCuylenburg

BEYOND THE GRAVE – By Bernard VanCuylenburg

The subject of this article are two ghost stories which deal with the question of life after death. Often ghost stories are hard to believe even if one has an inclination to believe in ghosts. There are two opposing forces which confront ghost stories. One is an attitude of total scepticism  and the other, one of total acceptance. Whether one disbelieves or believes, there are certain concepts that both schools of thought can accept. We are born and we die. During that space of time we observe, we communicate, we feel and we think. It is almost axiomatic that there is knowledge beyond our own perception, which has been proved by history. Our knowledge has grown over the years . The poet Carl Sandburg once wrote that death is a part of life, and thus a legitimate area to explore, even though a difficult one. Today the means of exploring it are in the hands of philosophers, theologists and parapsychologists. And it is only the parapsychologists who have endeavoured for years to find hard rational evidence which proves there is life beyond the grave. As a matter of interest a few years ago, the American Association for the Advancement of Science admitted parapsychology as a subject of science and thus a discipline of science.

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THE UNSUNG HEROES by Bernard VanCuylenburg


To the point, beautifully written, Bernard brings to us all the poignant story of these very people, “The Unsung Heroes”, part one & two, and Bernard, I have recorded these two songs myself, BUT, nothing but the BEST, to provide the musical background for your BEST, regarding the BEST of the “Unsung Heroes” of ancient Sri Lanka. Here he is, Ladies & Gentlemen, the BEST “Country” Singers, singing two beautiful songs, relevant to the superb article by Bernard VanCuylenberg. Please listen to the lyrics & the way he sings every song he has ever recorded. They might be love-songs, but, to me, he is singing of everyone we have chosen to forget. Pardon me, but this is for all our “Unsung Heroes”

  Desmond Kelly.

  Star of eLanka.


When Wilhem Geiger translated The Mahavamsa and The Culavamsa , he made a statement which adequately expresses my personal sentiments regarding the complexities of the ancient recorded history of Sri Lanka. Geiger remarked “Not what is said, but what is left unsaid is the besetting difficulty of Sinhalese history….” I can well understand his frustration, and within the limited space of this article will try to deal with many unanswered questions in Sri Lanka’s long and glorious civilisation. Sadly, these questions will forever remain answered. The ‘Unsung Heroes’ I refer to are not the great kings which ruled ancient Ceylon the resplendent island, but the engineers, architects, master craftsmen, artists, builders, and the rest of the intelligentsia, whose masterpieces evoke the worlds admiration today. It was they who gave ancient Ceylon – or Taprobane  – first world status.

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THE DARKEST HOUR – by Bernard VanCuylenburg

Nuwaraeliya in the hill country is a masterpiece of mother nature, its geography offering extraordinary natural diversity  –  lush woods, winding mountain roads, carpets of green tea, and in the evenings the mists roll down to merge with the landscape in a fleecy embrace. It is one of the finest tea growing districts in the island. Some of the best tea estates are found in the area, one of which is Oliphant estate.

When I was twelve years old, my younger brother and I spent a holiday in the home of a cousin who was then the Assistant Superintendent on Oliphant. His bungalow nestled high in the hills. To get there one passed the factory, the Superintendent’s bungalow, and from there the road wound uphill all the way to his bungalow. The scenery was therapeutic  with fresh mountain air, flowing mountain streams, and scores of flowering plants exploding in a riot of colour. And up from the valleys came the mist in thin strands to scamper up the slopes of the hills and disappear over their crests. It was during this holiday that I heard the following story which contrasted sharply with the beautiful scenic setting of Oliphant estate. It dwells in the realms of the supernatural…….terror in the deep dark night.

The Superintendent at the time was an Englishman, named Dennis Hodgson. A young creeper   – I shall call him David  – was appointed by the Company to learn work as a ‘creeper’ and then kick start his planting career. He stayed in the superintendent’s bungalow, and Mr.Hodgson had planned a rigid training programme and laid down all the ground rules for his young protégé. One evening he told David that he and Mrs.Hodgson were going to town to watch a movie after which they would go to the Hill Club for dinner. Consequently they would be returning late, so they asked David not to wait up for them, but to have an early dinner and retire for the night.


Pardon the pun, but the nights on a lonely tea plantation are deathly quiet. The stygian darkness and the mist surrounding  the area like a shroud resembles a scene from a Hammer Films horror movie. It was on such a night that David suddenly awoke from a deep sleep. He sat up in bed with a start, senses alert, his heart pounding as if to burst out of his rib cage, hardly believing what he had heard ! What he heard beyond a doubt was the sound of galloping hooves. Yes ! At this ungodly hour there was a horse galloping around the bungalow on the lawn outside ! He glanced at his watch It was twenty minutes past midnight…..the bewitching hour.

Convincing himself that all this could have been a bad dream, he dismissed the thought from his mind and settled in once more hoping for a long nights sleep. He had barely drifted off to slumber land, when the same sound awoke him again. This time, gripped in terror he listened to the galloping sound in the distance as the sound grew louder until finally it seemed to be outside his bedroom window. By now he was paralyzed with fear and frantically rang for the bungalow appu in panic until the latter appeared at his door. Mustering all the Tamil he knew he told the appu of what he had heard, glad that there was another human being in the room. The appu’s reaction left him aghast. He first made a pot of tea for the young “Dorai”, (Master) managed to calm him down, and then related this hair raising tale. Many years ago he said, there was a superintendent on Oliphant who owned a fine horse. This was long before the Morris Station Wagons were the mode of transport for the Superintendents on estates for their field rounds etc. (The Assistants had to walk !) This Superintendent who enjoyed horse riding sometimes rode his  horse around the bungalow specially on Sundays. One fateful day the horse had reacted wildly during such a ride, and threw the SD off its back. The fall proved to be fatal due to a severe blow to his head and tragically, he died two days later.

It was a year later that his successor had a similar experience. And then the appu went on to explain to the petrified David, that on each death anniversary of the Superintendent who suffered the fall from his horse, the sound of galloping hooves would be heard just after midnight and over the years many Superintendents  had heard it. In fact it became such a regular occurrence that they began to take it for granted. Please pardon the digression, but in similar vein I once asked a policewoman on guard duty at Hampton Court Palace in London, about the story of the ghost of Queen Catherine Howard who has been seen wandering the corridors of the palace at night. Her nonchalant answer  surprised me. She replied that whenever she was rostered for guard duty at night with another police officer, they had seen this spectre so often that they did not take notice any more ! Queen Catherine Howard incidentally was the 5th wife of King Henry the 8th and following a charge of adultery, was beheaded in 1542.

Mr.& Mrs.Hodgson returned to the bungalow shortly after the excitement had abated, and were surprised to see most of the lights on at this ungodly hour. The appu explained what had happened, and they spent some time with David to lend him all the moral support and reassurance he needed. The next day after breakfast, Mr.Mills summoned David to the drawing room, sat him down and counselled him on the events of the previous night, gently advising him to focus on his goal in life   – to succeed as a planter, and not to let an incident of this nature however harrowing it was, cloud his thinking. Sadly, his words had no effect.This  ghostly ‘encounter’ had an adverse effect on the young ‘Creeper’ and three weeks later he submitted his resignation and left the estate.


Death as they say is a transition from this life to another. But some souls don’t rest and are trapped in a kind of ‘Twilight Zone’, wandering earthly dimensions for various reasons seeking to be released from the shackles that bind them. Incidents of supernatural manifestations in a way try to answer the big questions that loom in every heart. Why are we here ? What can we do?Where are we going ? If history tells us anything, it is that human culture and knowledge are evolving constantly. We are all in the process of awakening and opening up to who we really are  –  and what we came here to do. Opinions on the supernatural and psychic phenomena vary. There is some controversy if “ghosts” are in fact the souls of the departed.

There is a school of thought which suggests that traumatically or emotionally charged events may cause a burst of energy to be released and absorbed by inanimate objects in the immediate vicinity. It is called Psychometry. According to this line of belief, a sensitive person coming into contact with the charged objects would experience the emotions imprinted on them and may even “see” the events which took place years before. But one central fact remains. The supernatural will not go away even if one chooses to deny it. Psychic events have happened in the past, are still happening now  and will continue to happen.

I am grateful to Des Kelly for suggesting the title for this article.







Bernard VanCuylenburg.

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MARKED FOR MURDER by Bernard VanCuylenburg

The author of “above” has given us a “new name”, one that I accept with pride. ” The A team” consists of, 
a)   the writer of “Marked for murder”himself. The name Bernard VanCuylenberg, whose “Sigiriya-Sagas” have already been read, and thoroughly enjoyed by more than 20,000 members, plus many others, I suppose, of eLanka, the “Premier” Website for Lankan/Aussies, in particular, owned and “operated” in Sydney, Aust. by
b)   Neil Jayasekera, whose “Internet- expertise” is amply obvious, &, in addition, runs a “tight Ship” with
c)   “Yours truly”, taking on the role of 1st Lieutenant,
58 years after leaving the Royal Ceylon Navy, to come to Australia, just to join another “Force” The “A” Team.

      From “reports” we have been getting, Bernard’s “Sigiriya Saga’s” have been read and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who has taken the trouble to ingest what I would term “superb writing”. Hopefully, our readers out there, will not only read “our stuff”, they will then take the trouble to “comment”. We can NEVER get enough of “praise”, but if you are in a bad mood, and your comments are likely to be ” rotten”, take them with you & go “jump into the Yarra”.

     It was rather difficult to find the relevant video for this particular “title” but, your 1st Lieutenant does not wish to be “keel-hauled” Sir, so I have come up with a favourite “Country-Star” of mine, Gene Watson to sing “Ceylon”?, couldn’t have picked a better place to die”!
Please listen to Gene, folks, there is none better, and I would know thousands of girls who would “die” for him.

Desmond Kelly
Star of eLanka

MARKED FOR MURDER by Bernard VanCuylenburg


The sylvan surroundings, bracing climate and majestic mesmerizing landscapes of the  tea estates in  the plantation districts of Sri Lanka specially in the hill country, are an inspiration to the poet, artist, and philosopher. But beneath this facade  of nature at her very best, lie tales of dark secrets and  murder most foul, four of which I shall set down in this article. The four cases depicted are factual to the last detail. Perhaps one that became famous for all the wrong reasons was the  ‘ The Whitehouse Murder ‘ which took place in 1949. It was the English Bishop Reginald Heber who once said that “Every prospect pleases and only man is vile…….” In the beautiful hill country with its desolate valleys, hills of carpeted green, and flora of every description, every prospect was pleasing to the point of spiritual intoxication, but only man proved to be vile as other human beings were marked for murder………

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by Bernard VanCuylenburg

“Not to know what happened before we were born ” wrote the Roman poet Cicero, (106 – 43 BC.) “is to remain perpetually a child. For what is the worth of a human life unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history ?” Thus in my writings I have endeavoured to peel back the layers of time to give an honoured place to ancient Lanka which emphasizes so greatly the importance of  her history and traditions which have left a deep footprint on the worlds stage.

An alternate title I had in mind for this article was A DAY IN THE YEAR 478 AD.  It was a day which saw tremendous political upheaval and instability in the land, and the end of a dynasty. Before I get into the detail of this article, a flashback to the year 478 AD in other parts of the world, may  provide an interesting timeline to events of the period  although they have no direct  impact on the drama being enacted in ancient Lanka  that year. In the far east, the year 478 AD signalled the end of the Song dynasty in China and heralded the ascendancy of the Qi dynasty. In neighbouring India just one year before, the Gupta Empire held sway and King Budhagupta ruled the land. Two years before, in 476 AD the mighty Roman  empire collapsed , with the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustus  suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Odovacar the Goth.  Distant England was ruled by the  Anglo-Saxons except for Cornwall and Cumberland. In the Vatican in Rome, Pope Simplicius sat on the throne of St.Peter.  And in Lanka  that year, one of the greatest kings that ever sat on a throne was usurped in a palace coup and was to endure a sudden fall from grace and suffer the most barbaric death ever conceived by the human mind.  History is replete with numerous examples of kings and rulers being put to death by the most gruesome means even before Emperor Julius Caesar’s assassination, and right down the ages. In keeping with the subject of this story, I wish to cite three examples which come to mind.

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The Sigiriya Sagas by Bernard VanCuylenburg


Intro to the “Sigiriya-Sagas by Des Kelly

For any Lankan/Australian, in fact, for any Lankan, period, who has not visited this “Rock-Fortress”, in our Country, let me just say that you have missed seeing only ONE of Sri Lankas multitude of historical wonders. At the same time, I hasten to add that you have possibly missed the BEST. I can say, that from personal experience, I have not only visited the site, but climbed “our answer to “Ayers Rock” in Australia”, which is many times larger, broader & longer than Sigiriya, and “Uluru”is also well-known as a “sacred-site”to the Aborigines/First Australians, after “Mungo-Man”,(an entirely different story),so let us now stick to our “Lion-Rock”. Yes, folks, I did “climb” Sigiriya”, once, in the company of the most beautiful girl in Ceylon, at the time, whose name was Maureen Hingert, or Neliya, my first “puppy-love”. We climbed this Monolith together, through the huge set of “Lion-paws”which made the entrance, past the area with all the “fresco-paintings”of the half-naked Sinhalese maidens, higher & higher on a steep, narrow, rather dangerous climb (at the time), until we reached the zenith, to marvel at the sight of what must have been King Kasyapa’s “Mansion in the sky”, then walk around it,  to the very edge of “the Rock” to gaze in awe, at the surrounding Countryside, at least six shades of verdant “green” all around us. It was good to be alive, good to be in such a beautiful Country, good to be “in love” & good to be on top of Sigiriya Mountain.

     I need say no more, but leave it to my good friend & Co-writer for eLanka, Bernard VanCuylenberg to bring to our many thousands of “on-line” readers, a fascinating “history lesson” on “SIGIRIYA”. What this guy does not know, on the subjects he writes about, is not worth knowing. We are proud to have him on our eLanka team. Desmond Kelly.

The Sigiriya Sagas by Bernard VanCuylenburg


Scholars and students of  history and the academic world in general owe a debt of gratitude to the late great Professor Senerat Paranavitane for his epic tome, “The Story of Sigiriya”. Had he not undertaken this colossal task in a literary sense, the story of Sigiriya and the absorbing detail in which the drama of Sigiriya was enacted would have been lost to posterity. The chronicler who wrote the story of Sigiriya in the Culavamsa has barely scratched the surface. In fact, in the great chronicle, the entire story ends with two chapters !  

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by Bernard VanCuylenburg.

Source: By Kalpabas at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

My Dad was on Carolina Group, Watawala for 28 years, and before he retired, he planted in Bandarawela for four years. Carolina was a huge estate of 2330 acres. By a topographical twist of fate, the railway line from Colombo to Badulla ran  through one of the divisions of Carolina Group called Mt.Jean. In fact  the Watawala  railway station was located on Mt.Jean division, and on land which was owned by the Carolina Tea Company Limited. 

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Dear members & readers of eLanka, I have been extremely fortunate to meet, and, in turn, introduce all of you to Bernard VanCuylenberg, another good Dutch Burgher from Lanka, who, in my opinion, is a “Superb writer of Stories”, in poetic vein, “Bernard Van, is a man, who certainly can”.

There are not too many “writers” who are perfectionists.

Bernard is one of them and his expertise can now be shared by all of us. Every “story” coming in from Bernard will, of course, bear his name, as the writer. We are indeed lucky to have him write for us.  Desmond Kelly.


In contrast to the lyrical title of this article, I am compelled to refer to the writings of Celaleddin Rumi one of  the world’s greatest mystic philosophers who lived in the 13th century, in Turkey. His poetic and religious works mostly in Persian are some of the most beloved and respected in the Islamic world. He wrote “Jars of spring water are not enough. Take us down to the river !” In essence, what he was saying is that if you wish to get to the heart of the matter on any subject, go to the source. Do not be content with heresay or form your opinions and convictions by listening to others.

Growing up in that great educational institution by the river, Saint Anthony’s College in Kandy, my schoolmates and I were exposed to various genres of music   –  classical, pop, church music (particularly if one was a chorister) and oriental. Listening to the music of the day in college or at home during the holidays, and having read about the artistes and singers who influenced our musical tastes, and later played in bands after I left college, I harboured a desire to  – in some future time  –  go to the source where this music had its genesis. In October last year I gave wings to my dreams, literally.

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