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Sir John D’Oyly drafted the Kandyan Convention

27 November 2013 05:03 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By L.B. Senaratne


A Prince of Wales set foot on Kandyan soil after one hundred-and-forty years, the last being in 1873. Prince Charles visited Kandy during his stay in the island for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.


At one time it was said that he was friendly with Gajaman Nona, which resulted in him giving land to her without the approval of the Governor.  This had been questioned by the Secretary of State, and also in the British Parliament



After his visit to the Sri Dalada Maligawa Charles, Prince of Wales visited the Garrison Cemetery, where lay the remains of Sir John D’Oyly. Over his grave is a broken flute that stands high among the other graves. The monument was erected by his then surviving brothers. The cemetery is more of Scottish men who died due to malaria and diarrhoea, but not fighting, as is indicated in the tablets.

The background of D’Oyly, needs to be mentioned, as the Prince of Wales paid his respects to him and others, and he visited the preserved monuments of his countrymen.

Sir D’Oyly, a graduate of Cambridge, was the second son of Archdeacon Mathias D’O’yly, and also the Rector of Sussex, in the South of England.  His brother was a high-ranking officer in the Army.  He had completed a number of odd assignments before he was engaged by the British government as a Cadet of the Ceylon Civil Service, to be posted to the newly ‘won’ countries, one being Ceylon. 






He little realised that the riff-raff of Britain who were brought into the country as soldiers of the British Crown to protect the land that they had regained were not interested in keeping the British flag flying, but looking for adventure



His Christian background came to the fore only when he realised that the British administrators were not humane towards the Kandyan subjects.  He lived in the sprawling King’s Palace, which was his home as a recluse towards his last days, until he died without recognition except for an Army funeral and the body taken in a gun carriage. But he was vested as Baronet confined to himself as he was unmarried, while he was in Sri Lanka without even seeing the shores of England where he was born.  The British did not respect him in the latter years due to his feelings towards the Kandyan people. This is manifested in the manner his tomb was built at the Kandy Garrison, by his three brothers.

 Sir John D’Oyly who stands an the greatest among those buried in this cemetery, is said to have confided to his close British friends that his wish was not to hinder the people of the Kandyan Kingdom, but to release them from the tyranny of the King.  But, he little realised that the riff-raff of Britain who were brought into the country



D’Oyly also managed to split the two Chapters after the British entered the Kandyan Kingdom, by inviting only the Mahanayake of Malwatta who at that time was Venerable Kobbekaduwa, to hear the reading of the so-called Kandyan Convention - which was never signed - on 2 March, 1815
as soldiers of the British Crown to protect the land that they had regained were not interested in keeping the British flag flying, but looking for adventure. They and their officers brought the British Crown to disaster and left the country with a bad taste.

 Sir John D’Oyly came to Sri Lanka as a Cadet and was appointed as a tax collector and magistrate down south.  He was intelligent and was instrumental in the annexation of the Kandyan Kingdom, to the British Realm of King George III.  D’Oyly became a master spy, along with a number of local Mudliyars as his hirelings, without realising that they were treacherous to the country of their birth.  His first task was to learn ‘Cingalese’ under the famous monk Korattota Dharmmawansa Thera and also under Morattota Dharmaratne Thera.  These temples became his focal points and he visited   practically all the Temples in the region.    But, his ears were for the happenings of the Kandyan Kingdom. Though there is no record that D’Oyly had any special instructions for this task when he left Britain, yet perhaps he took it upon himself that Ceylon should be vested in the land of his birth due the strategic position held by the country. Later, with the knowledge of the Governor and the Secretary of State, he became the ‘ace spy’ for the British Throne, weaving a network for information, especially among the Maha Sangha.

D’Oyly also managed to split the two Chapters after the British entered the Kandyan Kingdom, by inviting only the Mahanayake of Malwatta who at that time was Venerable Kobbekaduwa, to hear the reading of the so-called Kandyan Convention - which was never signed - on 2 March, 1815.  It was read late in the evening, but before Sir Brownrigg left Kandy, the appointments of the Mahanayakes of Asgiriya and Malwatta were handed over.

 There had been two conferences before the reading of the Treaty, one in the afternoon as reported by a journalist to the” London Times” on 2 March,  1815, published on the 18 March, filed on 3 March from Kandy and the other, the conference which was the reading of the Kandyan Convention to the Mahanyake of Malwatte, Venerable Kobbekaduwa Thera. This was in the late evening of 2 March, 1815.

 On 18 November, 1815, the “London Times'' carried the report of the annexation of the Kandyan Kingdom.  The report itself was dated 3 March, 1815.
 The journalist responsible for the report says “Early in the afternoon, preparations were made for holding the conference of the contracting parties, in the Great Hall of Audience in the Palace, but the Governor declined using the adjoining room, where the King usually sat on occasions of a ceremony and chose to be placed at the upper end, with his back to the door of the room which was divided off by a ‹screen›.  The British saw to it that the highest regard was given to the disposed King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe.

The Treaty was then read in English, by Mr. Sutherland, Deputy Secretary to the government and afterwards in Singhalese by the Mudliyar of His Excellency’s Gate, Abraham de Saram.  This important document was listened to, with profound and respectful attention by the Chiefs and it was pleasing to observe in their looks, marked expression of cordial assent which was immediately declared with eagerness.

At one time it was said that he was friendly with Gajaman Nona, which resulted in him giving land to her without the approval of the Governor.  This had been questioned by the Secretary of State, and also in the British Parliament.





His ears were for the happenings of the Kandyan Kingdom. Though there is no record that D’Oyly had any special instructions for this task when he left Britain, yet perhaps he took it upon himself that Ceylon should be vested in the land of his birth due the strategic position held by the country



The riff-raff of England set out on adventures to foreign climates and these forces were not prepared to keep the goodwill of the British Empire, but were bent on making the best of the adventure.
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