The Ceylon Connection ?
My Mother told me, on more than one occasion, that Percy Hyde BIRD, my grandfather, owned a tea plantation in Ceylon, although on another occasion he was described as a tea planter. I have therefore been intrigued to find out if the family had some connection to George BIRD, the father of coffee plantations in Ceylon and responsible for the earliest known use of Tamil labour on the island.
George Bird was a pioneer coffee planter and considered the father of coffee in Ceylon. He was the first to plant this crop on a commercial scale. He was the second brother of Colonel Henry Bird, Deputy Commissioner-General to His Majesty's Forces in Ceylon during the Governorship of Lieutenant General Sir Edward Barnes K.C.B. (1824-1831).
Many tributes were paid to George. He was recognised as an authority on the cultivation of coffee. A Methodist missionary visiting Nuwara Eliya in 1835 had the following to say :-
Ceylon Tokens possibly originated at Gampola and these are tentatively associated with George. This article refers to George being present in 1862, by which time he had been dead 5 years !
Read more about the history of coffee in Ceylon http://www.mannitbiz.com/samples/PA/TheFirstCentury.htm
How is George related to my Bird tree ?
Apart from having been verbally told by my Mother that my grandfather, Percy, either owned or worked on a tea plantation in Ceylon, the only evidence I have found is in Percy's WW1 Army Book. Prior to WW1 he was in the Middlesex Territorials and his Army Book says his occupation prior to the War was "Planter (Ceylon)". It also says he has slight knowledge of Tamil Singhalese (sic).
I have found references to two other BIRD’s with Ceylon connections :
I have recently heard from a local historian looking into the Parish of Goytre that her research includes research on the Bird / Byrde Family living at Goytre House. There is a fascinating story about how Henry BYRDE, who had changed the family surname from BIRD by deed poll in 1863, rescued a young girl, Elizabeth Hicks, from some North American Indians before marrying her and returning to build a home in Goytre. Details of the book about Elizabeth Hicks and her life can be found at http://www.goetre-llanover-churches.btck.co.uk/HistoricBookReprint. Anyway, I understand from her that Lucy was a daughter of Henry & Elizabeth and that she married the Rev. Thomas Davies who was rector of Goytry between 1830 - 1834 and of Trevethin between 1834 - 1863. Lucy died in 1861. I have, so far, not traced her to my tree.
Lionel was Assistant Wattagodda on the Dimbulla tea plantation in “Petersons Ceylon Almanac 1870” and on the 1881 Census : Born 1840, coffee planter, unmarried, living at Burghill Lunatic Asylum, Burghill, Hereford. He died, aged 46, in 1886 in Herefordshire, Monmouthshire.
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