Monday, 14 May 2018

Forestry in Sri Lanka

The eight books given by William Martin McNeill to the Archives of the Centre of South Asian Studies are one of the smaller donations to the Centre but cover forestry, plant biology and the economic background in Ceylon in the 1920s. Five of the books are only located in the Centre but directories such as The Times of Ceylon Green Book and L.J.B. Turner’s Hand book of commercial and general information for Ceylon are also held in the Cambridge University Library, and an edition of H.W. Codrington’s Short history of Ceylon is held in the History Faculty Library.

William Martin McNeill worked for Colonial Forest Service between 1922 and 1938. He served as Assistant Conservator of Forests at Kurunegala, and was acting Captain and A.D.C. to the Acting Governor Mr (later Sir) Bernard Bourdillon, serving twice: April 1930 - September 1930 and again February - March 1931. Various boxes of his papers and photographs are also held in the Archives.
One of the books unique to the Centre is Ceylon trees by T.B. Worthington, with photographs by the author. Colombo [Ceylon] : Colombo Apothecaries' Co., 1959 given to W.M. McNeill MBE TD with the author’s compliments (Archive McN 2). Each tree image has names in different languages and the use that can be made of the timber.

Archive McN 2

Other unique books are :

The butterflies of Ceylon by W Ormiston. Columbo : H.W. Cave, 1924. (Archive McN 5) and
Cooly Tamil as understood by labourers on tea & rubber estates : specially arranged for planters and planting students  by W.G. B. Wells. Columbo :  Ceylon Observer, 1921. (Archive McN 8).

The Royal Commonwealth Society in the Cambridge University Library Digital Library Sri Lanka collection has material which predates the McNeill collection. Notably the Photograph collection of John Abercromby Alexander (Y303E)

John Abercromby Alexander (b. 1854) was appointed Acting Forester in Ceylon's North-Central Province in 1886. He may have been resident in Ceylon earlier, possibly engaged in a planting enterprise. Alexander served as Forester, North-Central Province, 1887-88 and then as Assistant Conservator of Forests, Central and Southern Provinces, from 1889 until 1893, when he left the forestry department. He appears to have remained on the island until around 1896. He joined the Royal Colonial Institute in 1892. Abercromby lived at Venture Estates, Kalthuritty, Travancore, India, 1896-1898.

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