Thorosia or Theresia, Maitlands in Ceylon

George Graham found the announcement below from the The Times for the death of my great great grandfather George Keith Maitland (1854-1896).

The Times, Saturday, Mar 21, 1896 DEATHS
MAITLAND – On the 17th inst., at Reading, the result of an accident, GEORGE KEITH MAITLAND, of Thorosia, Bogawantalawa, Ceylon, and The Old Garth, near Reading, second surviving son of the late George Ramsay Maitland, W.S., Edinburgh, aged 42.

There’s a few things that are intriguing me. Firstly, it seems to suggest that the accident happened in Reading, rather than Ceylon, but seems to suggest that he was still based in Ceylon as well as in Reading. I explain why this intrigues me below. I also wonder whether they mean Theresia rather than Thorosia, as I have found some other references to George Keith Maitland of Theresia (see below).

I’ll quickly deal with the references for Theresia, and there’s a mention of a Maitland, Mrs J. Keith, Theresia, Ceylon as one of the List of Subcribers in The clan Donald – Volume: 3 (1896) by (Revs) Angus and Archibald Macdonald. I’m guess this is a typo and they mean Mrs. G. Keith Maitland because George Keith Maitland married Christina Mary Theresa McDonell of Keppoch, and her sister Josephine is personally thanked by the Reverends in their ‘acknowledgements’ as well as cited, “Josephine, amongst whose many accomplishments is to be reckoned a thorough knowledge of the language and literature of the Highland people”; and so is her sister Alice Claire (Bardess of the Clan Donald) for her poetry.

I also found a reference to my great grandmother Alice Marie [Maitland] in The Eton Register: 1889-1899‎ (Page 28) being married to George Henry [Kirby] , ‘Son of AOK’ [Alfred Octavius Kirby] and daughter of ‘George Keith Maitland of Theresia‘.

I’ve also found a reference for both Theresia near Bogawantalawa in what is now Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

I also found mention of a “Mr. AM Maitland is a son of the late Mr. George Keith Maitland, a well-known Ceylon planter. He was born in July, 1878, in Ceylon, and educated at Beaumont” from Twentieth century impressions of Ceylon: its history, people, commerce … By Arnold Wright. Unfortunately, there’s only a snippet available on Google books, but I’m assuming they are referring to Alexander McDonell Maitland who died in Ceylon in 1920 aged 42. I can’t see the whole entry relating to him, although there is a photo I’ve included below, and in relation to him it mentions that the estate had around 300 coolies and an annual crop of around 160,000 LBs of tea. Sadly, the snippet doesn’t mention the estate name only that he was a member of Balangoda, Darawella and Bogawantalawa clubs, and liked tennis and shooting.

AM Maitland
AM Maitland

Maybe if I can track the book down I can find the name of the estate. Anyway, I’m intrigued for a number of reasons. As mentioned a number of times, Petronilla Maitland passed on an family anecdote via her son John Park before her recent death about how her ‘Uncle Keith’ (George Keith Maitland) lost a lot of money on a coffee plantation in Ceylon, but was effectively saved by his wealthy wife Theresa who converted the Presbyterian Scot to Catholicism.

So there are a number of references for George Keith Maitland being a planter in Ceylon, even one saying he was a well known one. He seemed to have come back to the UK at some time because it appears that he died in an accident in Reading in 1896, and I have another anecdote from Father Dom Bede (Keith Bede Maitland) at Downside Abbey about his father (Angus Charles Majoribanks Maitland, youngest son of George Keith Maitland) buried a small hatchet under a tree in Ceylon when he was told that he was returning to England, and that he would return to collect it one day (see here). So at least some point some of the family came back to the UK, although I’m not sure if this was because of George Keith’s accident or not, i.e. did they come back before or after the accident, and did they all come back or just some of them. Seems like his son Alexander McDonell either stayed or went back, but not sure if he ended up running his father’s estate, his own or one for someone else.

The reason I’m intrigued is that I’m wondering whether Petronilla Maitland’s anecdote about George Keith Maitland’s plantation loosing a lot of money is actually about my great great grandfather George Henry Kirby. According to the Australian Imperial Force Project site, he had served for 9 years in the Ceylon Volunteer Rifles; resigned on leaving Ceylon, and enlisted in New South Wales Australia in 1914. What I don’t know is where he met and married Alice Marie Maitland, daughter of George Keith Maitland. From what I understand my grandfather Alfred Reginald Claude Kirby (1901-1963) was born in Ceylon, but I don’t know where and what his father was doing there. I’m guessing he was either a planter or working on a plantation but this is only a guess an another mystery to solve.


2 thoughts on “Thorosia or Theresia, Maitlands in Ceylon

  1. Hello. I stumbled across this site while looking for pictures of my Maitland ancestors.I am Angus Maitland’s grandson,& GK Maitland was my great grandfather.Keith Maitland of Downside is my uncle.Please get in touch as I have lots of pictures & info on the Maitlands in Ceylon.It was a tea estate,not coffee,& Theresia was the name of it.It was named after GK’s wife.Anyway,please get in touch.I have a feeling that my brother Francis has been in touch with you too.

  2. I have been given a photo of my grandmothers father and it is identical to that of Alexander Maitland above. My grandmother was Florence Maitland who married Peter Samuel Mitchell and they lived on a tea plantation in Aranayake, Ceylon ( now Sri Lanka.) My father was also named Alexander and known to everyone as Alick.
    Unfortunately he passed away in 1978 but his brother ( my uncle ) Douglas passed
    away last year aged 88 and my aunt found this photo as she was going through his belongings. We migrated to Australia in 1968 and I now live in Sydney.
    Kind Regards,

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