Kirbys at Gillardstown Plantation Ceylon

Planting life in Ceylon - Rowsell Maitland Kirby

Tom Rowsell who also publishes a family history blog has been in touch and kindly send me the photograph above of my great grandparents George Henry Kirby and Elsie Maitland with his great great grandfather Norman Rowsell, who was a planter in Hatton, Sri Lanka from 1880. He became the Ceylon Labour commisioner in 1904, and was married to Florence Congreve and their children Vere and Maud were born there as was my grandfather Claude Kirby. The Congreve’s were a prominent family on Ceylon and Jessie Norval Maitland married George Congreve. I can’t join the dots between Elsie and Jessie, so am guessing they are distant cousins and clearly moved in the same planter circles.

The photograph is from a book called Ceylon in my time by Colonel T. Y. Wright. I’m not sure if he’s related to my grandmother who was a Derbyshire Wright. Sadly, it’s hard to make George out in the photo, but interestingly the book mentions that the author was both his friend and employer. However, he had to give him notice as Gillardstown Plantation manager for being too unreliable:


Interestingly, Tom runs a translation services that offers Sinhalese and Tamil translation among others, which could be useful for anyone needing help with local records:

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