It was with profound sorrow that I read of my dear friend and mentor Christine Spittel-Wilson’s passing away.
I came to know Dr. R. L. Spittel and his daughter Christine Spittel-Wilson some three or four decades ago, when I was working for the Gal Oya Development Board.
Like her father, Christine was a prolific writer. Her first novel, “The Bitter Berry”, was written while she was convalescing after a motorcar accident, in which she had suffered a serious spine injury. The book was translated into Sinhala under the title, “Thiththa Kopi”.
Next came “A Tea Plantation in Ceylon” (Oxford University Press), which became a school textbook in England; another novel, “The Mountain Road”, followed and was translated into German under the title, “Die Strasse Nach Kashmir”. Her third novel was “I Am The Wings” (published in 1961). She also wrote a cookery book, “Secrets of Eastern Cooking”, and co-authored with her father a historical novel, “Brave Island”. Her biography of her father, “Surgeon of the Wilderness”, was published in 1975, and a revised edition appeared in 2001.
As a freelance writer, Christine was a frequent contributor to the local English newspapers and to journals such as the wildlife magazine, “Loris”. She wrote on a variety of subjects, from the Veddahs and wildlife conservation to travel and social anthropology. She also wrote short stories.
In addition to being a writer, Christine Spittel-Wilson was an artist, and produced many fine landscape paintings. Art was in her blood. Her grand-uncle was the eminent 19th-century artist, J. L. K. van Dort.
Christine married Alistair Wilson, a Scottish major in the Army who served as an engineer at the Colombo Commercial Company. In later years, he worked for the World Bank in East Africa, where Christine and Alistair lived for nearly 20 years. Their daughter Anne Andersen lives in Denmark.
While in Kenya, Christine took the opportunity to study and research at the National Museum. She gained a deep knowledge of Africa’s history, architecture, anthropology and folklore. She travelled to the national parks, and did some globe-trotting too – to Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and France.
Whenever I came down to Colombo, I never failed to call on Christine and Alistair. On the last occasion I visited them, Christine accompanied me to the gate to bid me goodbye. My two daughters and I recall with fondest gratitude the Wilsons’ generous hospitality.
Good Night, Sweet Princess – may you rest in peace.
Gamini G. Punchihewa