Thomas Skinner (Ceylon)

Last updated
Thomas Skinner
Major Thomas Skinner.jpg
Born22 May 1804
St. John's, Newfoundland
Died24 July 1877 (aged 73)
Grosvenor Place, London, England
Years of service1819–1867
Rank Major
Unit Ceylon Rifle Regiment
Battles/wars 1848 Rebellion
Awards CMG
Other work Surveyor General, Commissioner of Highways

Major Thomas Bridges Boucher Skinner CMG (22 May 1804 – 24 July 1877) was a British Army officer and engineer. He was a prominent road builder in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). [1]

Major (Maj) is a military rank which is used by both the British Army and Royal Marines. The rank is superior to captain, and subordinate to lieutenant colonel. The insignia for a major is a crown. The equivalent rank in the Royal Navy is lieutenant commander, and squadron leader in the Royal Air Force.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

British Ceylon former British Crown colony

Ceylon was the British Crown colony of present day Sri Lanka between 1815 and 1948. Initially the area it covered did not include the Kingdom of Kandy, which was a protectorate, but from 1817 to 1948 the British possessions included the whole island of Ceylon, now the nation of Sri Lanka.



Skinner was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, on 22 May 1804, to William Thomas Skinner, a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Artillery, and his second wife Mary, daughter of Dr Monier of the Royal Artillery. [2] In 1811, he moved to England with his father and studied in Shaftesbury, Dorsetshire. Dissatisfied with education, he went to Ceylon in 1819 to visit his father who was stationed in Trincomalee. There he was commissioned in Ceylon Rifle Regiment as a second lieutenant. His first job was to carry a platoon of soldiers from Trincomalee to Colombo, shortly after the 1818 rebellion that was not completely suppressed yet.

St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial capital city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

St. John's is the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is on the eastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the large Canadian island, Newfoundland. The city spans 446.04 square kilometres (172.22 sq mi) and is North America's easternmost city.

Royal Artillery artillery arm of the British Army

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments.

Shaftesbury town and civil parish in Dorset, England

Shaftesbury is a town and civil parish in Dorset, England. It is situated on the A30 road, 20 miles west of Salisbury, near to the border with Wiltshire. It is the only significant hilltop settlement in Dorset, being built about 215 metres (705 ft) above sea level on a greensand hill on the edge of Cranborne Chase.

Soon after, Skinner was appointed to the public works department which is responsible for building the roads in the island. He gained his lifelong lasting fame for constructing the Colombo–Kandy highway. He was appointed as head of the Colombo defence guard in 1825, lieutenant quartermaster general and surveyor general in 1833, and commissioner of highways in 1841. He is also noted for mapping previously uncharted parts of Ceylon. On 19 December 1838, he married Georgina, daughter of Lieutenant-General George Burrell. [2]

Public works

Public works are a broad category of infrastructure projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community. They include public buildings, transport infrastructure, public spaces, public services, and other, usually long-term, physical assets and facilities. Though often interchangeable with public infrastructure and public capital, public works does not necessarily carry an economic component, thereby being a broader term.

Kandy City in Central Province, Sri Lanka

Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka located in the Central Province. It was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. Kandy is both an administrative and religious city and is also the capital of the Central Province. Kandy is the home of The Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.

A quartermaster general is the staff officer in charge of supplies for a whole army. He is in charge of quartermaster units and personnel, i.e. those tasked with providing supplies for military forces and units.

In 1848, Skinner gave a testimony before a Special Working Committee of the British House of Commons on the Matale Rebellion. His statement exposed the maladministration of the British that led to the rebellion and how British policies altered traditional ways of life of the native Sinhalese.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom Lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons, officially the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

Sinhalese people ethnic group

The Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan-speaking ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 16.2 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, historical heritage and religion. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity. The Sinhalese are mostly found in North Central, Central, South, and West Sri Lanka. According to the 5th century epic poem Mahavamsa, and the Dipavamsa, a 3rd–5th century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese are descendants of settlers who came to the island around 400 BCE from Sinhapura, in India, led by Prince Vijaya.

In 1857, Skinner designed the Holy Emanuel Church for Mudaliyar Jeronis de Soysa. He retired from civil service in 1867, and was celebrated for his achievements by the British administration, planters, newspapers as well as local Mudaliyars. He went to England and received a CMG from Queen Victoria in the 1869 Birthday Honours. Skinner wrote an autobiography, Fifty Years in Ceylon, edited by his daughter Annie and published in 1891. [2]

Jeronis de Soysa

Gate Mudaliyar Jeronis de Soysa was a pioneering Ceylonese entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was a pioneer coffee planter and an industrialist who became the wealthiest Ceylonese of the 19th century by establishing the largest native commercial enterprise of the era. He was instrumental in the establishment of the first Ceylonese bank and is often referred to as a father of private enterprise in British Ceylon. He was the first Mudaliyar to be elevated in recognition of his philanthropy.

Ceylonese Mudaliyars

Mudali was a colonial title and office in Ceylon. The Portuguese colonials created the Mudaliyar class in the 17th century by enlisting natives of different castes from the coastal areas.

Order of St Michael and St George series of appointments of an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is a British order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later King George IV, while he was acting as regent for his father, King George III.


See also


  1. Ellepola Somarathna 2006: 1
  2. 1 2 3 Carlyle, E. I.; Jones, M. G. M., rev. "Skinner, Thomas Bridges Boucher (1804–1877)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004 ed.). Oxford University Press. doi : 10.1093/ref:odnb/25688.

Related Research Articles

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike Sri Lankan politician

Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, frequently referred to as S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, was the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon and founder of the Left wing and Sinhalese nationalist Sri Lanka Freedom Party. SWRD Bandaranaike became the prime minister of Ceylon in 1956 and carried out left wing reforms such as nationalizing bus services and introducing legalization to prohibit caste based discrimination. Bandaranaike is also remembered for removing British naval and air bases in Sri Lanka and establishing diplomatic missions with a number of communist states. When the Suez Crisis occurred Bandaranaike stood by Egypt and supported its right to nationalize the Suez Canal Company going against Israel and the UK in the UN. His effort to resolve the Suez Crisis, pleased the Arab Countries. Thus Sri Lanka was appointed as a member of the Suez Advisory Board.

John Kotelawala Sri Lankan politician

General Sir John Lionel Kotelawala was a Sri Lankan soldier and politician, most notable for serving as the 3rd Prime Minister of Ceylon from 1953 to 1956.

Henry Pedris Sri Lankan National Hero

Captain Duenuge Edward Henry Pedris CTG was a militia officer and a prominent socialite in colonial Ceylon who was executed by British officials for alleged incitement of race riots in 1915, a charge which was later proven false. His execution at a young age was viewed as extremely unjust by most Sri Lankans, hastening the movement toward independence and providing motivation and a martyr for those who pioneered the movement.

Sri Lanka Artillery

The Sri Lanka Artillery (SLA) is the artillery arm of the Sri Lanka Army. It is made up of 12 regular regiments and 2 volunteer (reserve) regiments. The SLA is headquartered at Panagoda Cantonment, Panagoda.

Easter Sunday Raid WWII battle in Ceylon between Britain and Japan

The Easter Sunday Raid was an air attack by carrier-based aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy against Colombo, Ceylon, on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1942, during the South-East Asian theatre of World War II. This attack was part of the Indian Ocean Raid, and was followed a few days later by a similar attack on Trincomalee. The targets were British warships, harbour installations, and air bases; the object was to disrupt the war effort of British Commonwealth nations and force the British Eastern Fleet to leave Asian waters.

Solomon Dias Bandaranaike Ceylonese colonial headman

Sir Solomon Dias Abeywickrema Jayatilleke Senewiratna Rajakumaruna Kadukeralu Bandaranaike, was a Ceylonese colonial-era headmen. He was appointed as Head Mudaliyar and the aide-de-camp to the British Governor of Ceylon, therefore he was one of the most powerful personalities in British colonial Ceylon.

Asoka de Silva (admiral) Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, 1983-1986

Vice Admiral A. H. Asoka de Silva, VSV, ndc, psc, SLN was the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy from 1983 to 1986. He was a Sri Lankan Ambassador to Cuba.

Sir Henry Lawson De Mel, CBE, Chevalier was a Ceylonese industrialist, lawyer, philanthropist and politician. He was a member of the Legislative Council and founder of the H.L. De Mel & Co.

Captain William Francis Dawson was a prominent road builder in British Ceylon. An Engineer attached to the Royal Engineers, he was given the task of building the Colombo - Kandy Road linking Colombo and Kandy. The job took its toll on Dawson, who died before it was completed. It would be the first modern highway in the island. In the memory of Captain Dawson, the Dawson Tower was erected at Kadugannawa in the Kadugannawa Pass.

James Edward Corea Sri Lankan public official

Gate Mudaliyar James Edward Corea was a Ceylonese colonial-era headman.

Methodist Church in Sri Lanka

The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka and in is a Protestant Christian denomination in Sri Lanka. Its Headquarters is in Colombo and was established on 29 June 1814. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka and the World Methodist Council.

Sir James Peter Obeyesekere II, Maha Mudaliyar, JP (1879–1968) was a Ceylonese colonial-era headmen. He was the last Head Mudaliyar and served as aide-de-camp to the British Governor of Ceylon and Governor General of Ceylon.


Muhandiram was a post in the native headmen system in the lower-country of Ceylon during the colonial era. It was awarded as a title of honor until suspension of Celonese honors in 1956.

Ceylonese recipients of British titles conferred on the advice of Her Majesty's Ceylon Ministers. This list includes all those who were born in, worked in or lived in Ceylon.

Francis Robert Ellis, was the 22nd Auditor General and Accountant General and Controller of Revenue of Ceylon.

Nicholas Dias Abeysinghe

Nicholas Dias Abeysinghe Amarasekere Maha Mudaliyar, was a Ceylonese Dutch colonial administrator. He was appointed as the Maha Mudaliyar of Dutch Ceylon, hence he was one of the most powerful personalities in the country.

Sir Charles Peter Layard, KCMG, was the first Mayor of Colombo (1866–1877) and the Government Agent for the Western Provinces of Ceylon.

George Burrell (British Army officer)

Lieutenant-General George Burrell was a British Army officer. He served in the Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812, and First Anglo-Chinese War.

St. Peters Church, Colombo Church in Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka

St. Peter's Church is one of the oldest continuously functioning churches in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It is located on Church Street in Colombo Fort, on the northern side of the Grand Oriental Hotel.