My father, Mayadunnage Bertie Edward Wijeratne, who was born on June 1, 1935 and who died on December 1,1994, hailed from a low-country family that was originally from Sedawatta, Kelaniya.
Thaaththie came from a family of planters, and after creditably completing his studies at St. Thomas’ Matale, followed in the footsteps of his older, planter brother.
He was a courageous person who would take bold decisions when required. He was knowledgeable and hard-working, qualities he acquired through a rigorous training under the Europeans. His superiors saw in him the makings of an efficient planter, and every few years would recommend him for progressively bigger estates.
Even in those days there was keen competition to become a planter. I was told that at an early age Thaaththie was talking about mastering all aspects of tea and rubber planting and manufacture.
It did not take Thaaththie long to show his superiors that he was capable of managing very large estates. After just four or five years on the job, he was put in charge of tea and rubber plantations of as much as a thousand hectares.
During this period, the majority of the labour force on estates comprised Tamils. Thaaththie and his team worked in harmony. He looked after the interests of his labourers and got the best results from them. He was fluent in Tamil, and was very close to the Tamil people, who loved him very much. Thaaththie gave priority to the well-being of the downtrodden labour force. His kindness and large-heartedness was appreciated on the many estates he managed.
His lady love, my mother, was also from a well-known family, the Delgodas, who hailed from Ratnapura, the land of gems.
Thaaththie was a loving husband and the proud father of three children, two daughters and a son (myself). He made sure that his children were second to none.
At the time of his death only one of his children, his elder daughter, was married. Today we are all three of us married. I wish Thaaththie was around to see his eight beautiful grandchildren. They would have made him the happiest grandfather ever.
Thaaththie was the darling of the family to his parents, brothers and sisters. They were very proud of him and he in turn was prepared to do just about anything for them. He had this rare quality even as a boy, I have been told.
Thaaththie’s untimely demise has created a vacuum in our lives that can never be filled. He had carefully planned out his life after retirement. With his passing, the family felt like a rudderless ship, caught in midstream and at the mercy of God. We were left with no one to guide us.
Thaaththie had more than 40 years’ experience as a planter. He was much sought after as a visiting agent for several private sector estates. The vast areas he replanted and managed are testimony to his invaluable services to the industry and the country.
Thaaththie was a God-fearing man who never missed his morning prayers before setting out for work every day.
His 74th birthday falls tomorrow.
May he attain Nibbana.