Richard Gerald Anthonisz

Geslacht: Man
Vader: Joseph Richard Anthonisz
Moeder: Anna Maria Anthonisz
Geboren: 22 OKT 1852 Fort of Galle
Overleden: 3 Jan 1930
Aantekeningen: Levensbericht van Richard Gerald Anthonisz1
(22 October 1852-3 Januari 1930)
The family to which Mr Anthonisz belonged settled in Ceylon, at Jaffna, early in the seventeenth century. His great-grandfather, Jacobus Cornelis Anthonisz, removed to Galle in 1784, and when the Island was ceded to the British in 1796 held the post of Boekhouder and Zoldy Overdrager in the Dutch Company's service. Two of his sons came under the influence of the Wesleyan Mission which came to Ceylon in 1814. One of them, Johannes Christiaan (1793-1845), entered the Wesleyan ministry in 1819; the other, Abraham, (1799-1875) intended to do likewise, but was dissuaded by his people from entering the regular ministry, though he laboured to the end as if he were an ordained minister. Abraham's son, Joseph Richard (1827-1891), married Anna Maria Anthonisz, a descendant of Abraham Anthonisz of Amsterdam, who came to Ceylon in 1736, and was the architect of the Dutch Church in Galle. Richard Gerald, their eldest child, was born in the Fort of Galle on the 22nd October 1852. He received his early education at the Galle Central School, of which Mr J.R. Anthonisz, his father, was Second Master, and then came down to Colombo and entered the Academy. But his career here was not destined to be long. Eight months after he entered, a severe attack of rheumatism compelled his removal to Galle. After a time he returned to School and then apprenticed himself as a law student. In 1873 Mr Anthonisz took up a small post in the Customs Department, which he did not hold long, for in 1876 he passed his Law examination, and was duly enrolled a Proctor of the District Court of Galle. But the practice of his profession did not give him all he asked for, and on the 12th February 1877 he had married Ellen Deutrom, for whom he bad long cherished a deep affection. The headmastership of the Wesleyan Richmond College fell vacant just then, and he was persuaded to take it, if even for a time. In less than a year, he was appointed First Assistant Master of the Galle Central School, of which Mr James Anthonisz was still Headmaster. This was on the 15th August 1879, and from this date began his long career of forty-two years service under Government. In 1881 he was called upon to act as Fifth Form Master in the Colombo Academy, and when the Headmastership of the Galle Central School fell vacant, he was appointed to that post.
When Government gave up its English Schools, Mr Anthonisz was appointed Registar of Lands at Kurunegala. He returned to Galle as Registrar of Lands on 1st January, 1888, and four years later was appointed Assistant Registrar General in Colombo. From May to August 1897 he acted as Police Magistrate, Matara, and then, till the end of 1898, as Office Assistant to the Government Agent at Ratnapura. He was then brought back to his duties as Assistant Registrar General, for while holding this appointment, an event occurred which changed the whole tenor of his life. A claimant to certain lands in the Matara District challenged the Government to produce a Dutch document which he believed would support his claim. The Government knew nothing of this document, but as Anthonisz had previously been of service in deciphering old manuscripts, he was deputed to search for the Dutch document. As the work would require much time and most careful investigation, he was on 15th Juli, 1899, appointed Examiner of Dutch Records.
When Mr Anthonisz undertook the examination of the records they were in the keeping of the Government Record Keeper, huddled together on a few shelves, uncatalogued, and practically uncared for. They were not available for reference, and no one in the office knew the Dutch language. The Galle Records had been stowed away in large packing cases in the Colombo Museum. They were now brought to the Colonial Secretary's Office, where accommodation of a sort was provided for them. Later on, the Dutch Thombos (Land and School Registers) were added to the collection. It was clear that no man could attend to the work of arranging, classifying, and cataloguing these manuscripts unless his whole time were given to it, unless he knew something of Dutch matters and the Dutch language, and unless he was thoroughly interested in the subject. Mr Anthonisz was made permanent in the post of Archivist and Librarian on the 1st January, 1902.
He was plainly the most suitable, perhaps the only suitable man for the new office, and what qualifications he possessed will appear if we linger somewhat on his early training. He has himself left a record circumstances ’which had a great influence at this period of my life in giving my mind that turn towards the study of the history and traditions of our race which has been a dominant motive with me throughout my life. Dutch as a domestic speech had long since disappeared from among us; but most of the old people whom I knew in my childhood had been closely associated with Dutch times, and many of them were well acquainted with the language. In our own little family circle, for instance, there was my grandfather (Rev. Abraham Anthonisz), born at the end of the 18th Century, who could speak and read the language fluently, although at the time I knew him he had scarcely any occasion to use it. The home language in all the best Dutch Burgher families at that time was Portuguese. But my grandfather often interlarded his speech with short Dutch phrases, and occasionally capped a statement with a pithy little Dutch proverb, such as, nood breekt wet; uit het oog uit het hart; hoogmoed komt voor den val; niemand kan twee heeren dienen; etc. Thus, while quite a little child, these phrases became familiar to me, and I liked pronouncing them.’
The old town of Galle gave Mr Anthonisz ample scope for his studies and researches, and the atmosphere of the place, still reminiscent of Dutch times, encouraged investigation. Another student of Dutch lived there, Mr F.H. de Vos, with whom Mr Anthonisz, when in Kurunegala, corresponded, ’sometimes in Dutch and sometimes in English.’ When they were brought together again, in January 1888, they worked heartily and incessantly in genealogical and historical researches, often contributing to the ’Ceylon Literary Register’ on Dutch subjects. Also, when teaching in the Colombo Academy, Mr Anthonisz would constantly visit the Record Room to examine Dutch manuscripts. Thus, when he was appointed, first, Examiner of Dutch Records, and then, Archivist and Librarian, there was no question as to the fitness of the man for his work.
How fully he justified the appointment has been told before, and will bear retelling in brief. First, the Galle Records, which were wanted at once, were arranged, numbered, bound, and catalogued. A catalogue of them, numbering 78 pages, was printed in 1906. The Colombo Records were next taken in hand, and then the Thombos. All were arranged, and lists were made of them. Alphabetical indexes were afterwards made to
(a) Government Grants, 1685-1750;
(b) Grants of Ratmahara lands in the Matara District;
(c) Last Wills executed in Colombo, 1700-1787;
(d) Acts of Appointments 1751-1781;
(e) Proceedings of the Political Council, 1656-1796.
To this last an account was added of the functions of the Political Council, with an outline of the system of Government.
The student of Dutch history in regard to Ceylon will understand and appreciate the value of this achievement, by which reference to any particular subject dealt with in the Records is made, not only accessible, but comparatively easy. To do all this, and to do it all so well, is eminently to Mr Anthonisz's credit, though it was not work which brought him prominently into notice. But, in addition, he was called upon continually to furnish transcripts, translations, and reports on claims to land said to have been given in Dutch times; while occasionally he was summoned to give evidence in Courts of Law on these claims.
In the year 1901 Mr Anthonisz was given an official Assistant. Miss Sophia Pieters of Amsterdam was appointed, and her primary duty was to translate the ’Memoirs’ of Dutch Governors and Commandeurs who, when they retired from office, left written instructions for the information of their successors. Ten of these were printed, and have been used with considerable advantage by writers on the Dutch period of Ceylon history. To these published ’Memoirs’ Mr Anthonisz contributed valuable introductions.
It was in 1907 that Mr Anthonisz came at length to the realization of some of his ideals in regard to the Dutch Community in Ceylon. That Community, by reason of its Western origin and its familiarity with Western habits and modes of thought, took a leading part among the peoples of the Island immediately after its cession to the British. They were known as Dutch Burghers, but the emphasis on the word Dutch gradually weakened, and they were spoken of, and rightly spoken of, as Burghers; for when the Dutch Company's servants ceased to serve it they became Burghers. The name was, however, more and more freely bestowed on those who had no claim to it, whose origin, customs, traditions, and ideals had nothing to do with the Dutch. It is no wonder that to the Burghers were attributed ideas, habits, and defects with which they had no concern.
What Mr Anthonisz laboured for was to bring together the scattered members of the Community and to unite them is maintaining the honourable traditions of their race. With this object the Dutch Burgher Union was founded. On him and Dr L.A. Prins (who was Joint Secretary with him during the preliminary meetings) fell the brunt of the work of organization.
The movement was criticised, opposed, and abused without stint. Every witling made it the theme of his nonsensical jests and his borrowed epigrams. Every one who doubted what place he would have in the movement either attacked it or held aloof. It was denounced as a political scheme. It was denounced as a movement hostile to other communities. It was ridiculed as Utopian, as the dream of a visionary who was not in touch with the realities of the present. It was exclusive, it was cliquy, it made for disunion rather than union. The poorer and less highly-placed feared it was not for them, and the richer ones wondered how far it would interfere with their conventional attitude towards the poor.
We can afford to smile at these futilities now, but they were a sore trial to the sensitive mind of Mr Anthonisz. He persevered, however, and was sustained by the hearty co-operation of loyal friends who would not allow themselves or him to be brow-beaten; and it was only after he had made the position of the Union secure, and made the Union a power for good, that he consented to be its President. On the 14th October 1914, while he was still Secretary, over a hundred members of the Union met in the newly-built Union Hall at a dinner given in his honour.
All the activities in which the Union was engaged were guided and inspired by Mr Anthonisz. He did his best to promote the study of the Dutch language, though the response to that was not as hearty as he wished it to be. But the celebration of the Feast of S. Nicolaas was enthusiastically supported year after year. The Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union was started and principally written by him, and he gave it that distinctive tone which his successors in the editorship have striven to maintain. A list of Mr Anthonisz's valuable contributions is given in the Bibliography elsewhere, and they will shew how liberally he dispensed the fruits of his researches. In the Genealogical Committee he was, of course, the final authority, and here, more than elsewhere, his breadth of view prevailed.
In June 1919, he received the honour of the Imperial Service Order. He was also appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Western Province. Ten years earlier he had suffered a severe blow in the death of his wife, Ellen, at Pleasance, Havelock Town, where he spent many happy and useful years. Five children were born of that marriage, of whom two survive him.
In 1912, he married Miss Sophia Pieters, his colleague at the Archives Office. She died on the 2nd June 1921. Mr Anthonisz had retired from Government Service as from the previous day. They had looked forward to spending a quiet life of cultivated retirement at Toniston, Heneratgoda, a pleasant estate which had been recently purchased by them; but this was not to be.
His life was now solitary, except for his brother who shared his retreat at Toniston, and for the frequent visits of his relatives and a number of intimate friends. At Toniston his methodical habits and love of order found larger room; books neatly and carefully arranged and ready for reference at any time; current magazines and periodicals piled on shelves and tables in chronological order; and his ample collection of Dutch documents and notes on Dutch matters connected with Ceylon tied together in clearly docketed bundles. The trellised dining room was open and airy; and here on an occasional holiday he would feast his friends with dishes that recalled a now almost forgotten art. On the broad verandah friends would sit for intimate talk, and nearly all the talk was about how the aims of the Union and the welfare of the Community could best be furthered.
He paid what attention he could to the duties of his small estate, and he gave some time to planting fruit-trees and flowers on it. But all his leisure, and much more than his leisure, was devoted to his favourite studies in history. Still, he had hobbies to which he would frequently turn. He had a working knowledge of carpentry, book-binding, printing, and photography. He was a collector of postage stamps. And he could sketch with considerable insight and accuracy. The text engravings in his ’Dutch in Ceylon’ were all his own fine work.
’The Dutch in Ceylon’, of which the first volume was published in June last year, was intended to set forth fairly, lucidly, and in some detail, the facts of the Dutch occupation of Ceylon. These facts were only partially known even to students, for they are, for the most part, buried in the documents stored in the Archives. They had to be studied and put together, not only to provide a history, but also to correct the common mass of conjectures, misinterpretations, mistranslations, and misrepresentations of Dutch rule and Dutch social life. No one was better fitted for this task than Mr Anthonisz, who, with all the information at his command had also the historian's sense of justice and a real sympathy with the peoples whom the Dutch in Ceylon ruled. The first volume was mainly a preliminary statement of the case, and brought the history down to the capture of Jaffnapatam in 1658, and nothing is more remarkable in the volume than the fairness with which facts are stated. The Dutch periodical ’Neerlandia’ was quick to observe this: ’What we find most attractive in this history by Mr Anthonisz is that he fearlessly describes both the good and the bad.’ In the second volume he proposed to enter more fully into the subject, first, shewing the progress of Dutch rule under each governor, and then devoting separate chapters to Dutch institutions and modes of life. Thus, there were to be chapters on the administration of justice, charitable institutions, domestic life, the inhabitants of towns and of villages, slavery, public and private buildings, trades and industries. A third volume would probably be necessary to deal with Kandyan affairs and the end of Dutch rule in Ceylon. How much of all this was accomplished cannot be ascertained till his papers are examined: but it is clear that no one can adequately carry out Mr Anthonisz's purpose in the way he intended, and with his calm judgment and lucidity of expression.
No reference to Mr Anthonisz's writings can ignore his ’Report on the Dutch Records in the Government Archives at Colombo’, published in 1907. Though aiming at nothing more than a brief history of the records and a general description of them, it is a remarkable little compendium of information, shewing how much it is possible for a student of Dutch history to discover and use for the general benefit. There are also the notes, in small type, telling us a good deal about the personal history of the governors, and about places and terms connected with the Dutch administration of the Island.
Towards the end of August, 1929, a message reached Colombo that Mr Anthonisz was seriously ill at Toniston. Medical aid was at once given, and he was brought down to Colombo, where for a couple of months he was confined to his bed, and then to his room. The seventy-seventh anniversary of his birthday was spent in Colombo, and by the end of November he had sufficiently recovered from his illness to return to Toniston where he longed to be again. There he kept fairly well, and enjoyed a happy Christmas-time with his nearest relatives. But scarcely did the week pass before he was ill again. He wrote to Dr Prins: ’I am again feeling very unwell and wish to consult you. Come as quickly as possible, and do not be offended with me for troubling you so often. I am not strong enough to write more.’ This was the last letter he wrote. He had again to be brought down to Colombo. It was the beginning of the end. On Thursday, the 2nd January, he seemed to be more cheerful, and talked freely to Dr Prins, in both Dutch and English, on subjects nearest his heart. On Friday morning there was a change for the worse, and at half-past ten the eager spirit left his frail body.
’Nothing is here for tears.’ It is to courage and united action we are called: to carry on the work he established for our welfare as a Community; to carry it on undeterred by difficulties, by the idle sneers of the thoughtless, by the weak fears of the timid, and more than all, by harmful insistence on our individual views. He has left us an example of a life of exceptional usefulness and value, a life spent in quiet and retirement, but in industrious toil, far from the noise of trumpets and the clash of tongues. The simplicity of his life in an age of parade and excitement stands out as a lesson to us. His gentleness made him great. His speech and act were alike marked by that refined and kindly courtesy which we are accustomed to associate with an older generation of more leisurely habits, cultivated tastes, and inherited powers of self-control. The great work he has done will endure, and by it he has righly earned the gratitude and honour of the Community he served so well.
Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 1932

Gezin 1

Huwelijkspartner: Harriet Catharina Ellen Deutrom geb. 11 Juli 1854 overl. 24 OKT 1909
Huwelijk: 17 Feb 1877 Galle, Ceylon

Gezin 2

Huwelijkspartner: Sophia Pieters geb. 7 MRT 1873 overl. 2 Juni 1921
Huwelijk: 23 Dec 1912 Milagiriya, Colombo, Ceylon