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Vernon Corea - The Golden Voice of Radio Ceylon

Vernon - Sri Lanka's pioneering Broadcaster
Radio Ceylon/Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC): The Story of Broadcasting in Sri Lanka
Vernon on the first ever television experimental program in Sri Lanka
Vernon Corea Presents...
London Sounds Eastern on BBC Radio London 206
EMCEE Column
Citizen Per-r-r-ra
Des Kelly and Bill Forbes on Vernon
Living in Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Canon Ivan and Ouida Corea
Remembering Vernon
Funeral Service in Wimbledon
Memorial Service in Colombo
Radio Worldwide/WEC
Royal College Colombo
Bishop's College Calcutta
Maha Nuge Gardens
Sri Lanka Cricket
Prayers for Autism
News Articles
Dominicus Corea - King of Kotte
Favorite Links

Vernon's Home town

The ancient coat of arms of CHILAUW
The image is from a manuscript dating from 1717/1720


Vernon Corea in his hometown in Chilaw

Corea Road in Chilaw

Vernon's maternal Grandfather Gate Mudliyar J.E.Corea of Chilaw

Vernon's maternal grandparents Gate Mudliyar J.E.Corea, Mrs Corea and family

Vernon's paternal grand parents, Dr and Mrs J.A.E.Corea of Chilaw

Vernon and the Corea Family hail from the small seaside town of Chilaw on the west coast of Sri Lanka. There is a well known saying, often quoted by Vernon, that Chilaw is famous for the three 'C's - Coreas, Crabs and Coconuts. Vernon has very strong links with Chilaw.
The famous Ceylonese freedom fighters C.E. Corea and Victor Corea were born here, so was Shirley Corea, a distinguished Speaker of the parliament of Ceylon. CE and Victor Corea were fearless, they fought hard for social justice. The Corea brothers spoke up where there was injustice. When CE and Victor Corea spoke, people sat up and took notice. The British jailed Victor Corea in March 1922 for refusing to pay Rs 2 in road tax. Victor Corea was elected Founder President of the Ceylon Labour Union in September that year.
Vernon's parents Canon Ivan and Ouida Corea also came from Chilaw.Vernon's brother Ernest Corea, the distinguished journalist and diplomat is a 'son of Chilaw.'

Ernest Corea is a former Editor of the Ceylon Daily News in Colombo. Currently, he a consultant in the Secretariat of CGIAR where, earlier, he was responsible for public affairs. He has served as Sri Lanka's ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the US; as a member of Sri Lanka's delegations to the United Nations; and to the Non-Aligned Summit meeting in Havana. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Select Committee on Communications and Development in London.

Ernest Corea has served with the United Nations in Africa -he was the Economic Reports Officer of the UN Operation in the Congo and, later, Director for Collaborative (North-South) Research at the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa. His publications include "North South: Beyond Dialogue" and "Non Alignment: The Dynamics of a Movement." He is a member of the Asia Society's Advisory Board in Washington DC in the United States.

Chilaw has been represented in parliament by Shirley Corea and Harindra Corea. Mrs.Kumari Corea wife of Carlton Corea was at one time a local councillor in Chilaw.
The former Secretary-General of UNCTAD, the Sri Lankan economist, Dr. Gamani Corea and Ceylon's first High Commisioner in the UK after independence in 1948, Sir Claude Corea also have strong connections with this town.
Sir Claude was the Minister for Labour in the first ever cabinet led by D.S.Senanayake. He was also Ceylon's Ambassador to the US. He served as a President of the United Nations Security Council in May 1960.  
When Vernon visited Chilaw he would often visit his relatives and famous citizens of Chilaw like the famous writer, poet and musician Hershel Pandithasekera who also went under the name of 'Gallinago.' Hershel Pandithasekera was well known for a song he had composed titled: 'I love Chilaw.' Whenever he visited Vernon's home in Maha Nuge Gardens in Kollupitiya he never failed to sing it to the Corea family.
A well known son of Chilaw, Dr.Granville Fernando in his article 'Hail Chilaw, my Home town!' noted:

' Situated in no less an important province - the Wayamba or North Western Province which is a veritable 'Garden of Eden' for the historian and the archaeologist. For in this region lies the place where Prince Vijaya landed and the ancient kingdoms of Panduwasnuara, Yapahuwa, Dambadeniya and Kurunegala or Hasthisailapura.


Chilaw is known as 'Halawatha' in Sinhala. Denham's Census Report of 1911 throws some interesting light on the origin of Chilaw.


It is said that King Kavan Tissa sent a number of persons to convey honey from Negombo 'Meegomuwa' in Sinhala to Anuradhapura. It was at this spot 'Halawatha' that the bees were shaken off their combs.


Chilaw in early times was not only a reputed sea port it was also famous for its pearl fisheries. According to some writers like Donald Ferguson, Chilaw is connected with the Tamil term 'Salapam' which means diving.


The original inhabitants of Chilaw were descendants of a group of people who came from India on military service. Originally from Northern India from such towns like Kanchipuram, Kaveripattannam and Killakarai they subsequently made their homes in the south.


According to the 'Mukkara Hatana' it happened during the reign of King Parakrama Bahu VI (1412-1467) the ruling monarch of Kotte. The Mukkuvars from India had landed off the Puttalam coast and were preparing to capture the land. King Parakrama Bahu summoned help from neighbouring India. A battalion of fighting men were sent across to Sri Lanka. They belonged to the Suriya clans. Those that settled in Chilaw belonged to the Mihindukulasuriya clan. It may be interesting to note that there are five sub clans in Chilaw. They are the Fernando, Perera, Peiris, Pinto and Costa.


A good percentage of the Chilawfolk still bear these identical surnames. They settled down not only in Chilaw but even at its twin sister Negombo especially at Duwa and Pitipana. Chilaw being in the maritime region came under European influence. Portuguese influence is well marked by the hundred per cent Roman Catholic indigenous population.


Culturally the people of Chilaw have been always active and in the forefront. Chilaw has been the home of the Sinhala Nadagama - the first form of Sinhala drama in Sri Lanka.


The first Sinhala Nadagama the 'Rajathun-kattuwa' or the Visit of the Magi was written by Mihindukulasuriya Gabriel Fernando according to that eminent historian the late Dr. Edmund Peiris Bishop Emeritus of Chilaw.


And the sea board town of Chilaw has kept on forging ahead.....' wrote Dr.Granville Fernando.

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of India visited Chilaw - on the invitation of C.E.Corea and stayed in a Corea home, 'Sigiriya.' The entire Gandhi entourage arrived in Chilaw. Mahatma Gandhi presented C.E.Corea with one of his famous spinning wheels before he left the town. Gandhi's visit to Chilaw caused a great deal of excitement in the area. Gandhi was welcome by the entire country when he visited Ceylon in 1927.
 The 'Hindu' newspaper observed: '

'It was at the end of what for him had been a rather somnolent year that Gandhi made his first and last trip to an island then known as Ceylon. Gandhi arrived in Colombo on November 12, 1927, accompanied by his wife Kasturba, his friend, follower, and critic, C. Rajagopalachari, and the latter's daughter, Lakshmi. Also in the party were his secretaries, Mahadev Desai and Pyarelal.

In his three weeks in Ceylon, Gandhi covered the island from top to toe. He delivered dozens of speeches, to organisations connected with Buddhists, Chettiars, Christians, and Depressed Classes.'

From the Daily News in Sri Lanka:

Gandhi - A guest at 'Sigiriya'

It is indeed a pleasure to recapture and recount the lives and times of the older generation. Theirs was an era of spacious and gracious living. When one views with dismay the destruction of old houses - the Walauwes and colonial type buildings, one can't help but gape with surprised delight at the few grand old houses still remaining. One such edifice is the stately mansion 'Sigiriya', set like a jewel in the heart of the coastal town of Chilaw.

"Sigiriya', was built by Jimmy and Agnes Corea in the early twentieth century. Jimmy Corea was a Proctor of the Supreme Court and his wife Agnes was the sister of the redoubtable freedom fighters, C.E. Corea and Victor Corea. This was the time the Corea clan reigned supreme in Chilaw - so much so that Chilaw came to be famous for its three Cs - Coreas, Crabs and Coconuts! When my mother Ena related those 'olden days stories', she recalled 'Sigiriya' as a place of much activity.

If I attempt to describe 'Sigiriya', I could not do justice to its impressive architecture. One drives in through an imposing gateway into the portico and steps out to a pillared foyer. The entire ground floor is of marble and the sweeping marble stairway has Sinhala floral motifs engraved in its wooden bannisters. Balconies with balustrades run round the entire upper storey and one section of the roof is topped by a dome. They say that every house has its 'time' and surely 'Sigiriya' had its day when Mahatma Gandhi stepped into its hallowed portals!

In 1927 when Gandhi came to Ceylon, he was invited to Chilaw by C.E. Corea, Chairman of the Chilaw Association. C.E. Corea fought relentlessly for Swaraj and the British bureaucracy wilted under his elegant verbal thrusts and it was remarked that 'what Chilaw said today, Colombo thought on the morrow', chiefly owing to the influence of C.E. Corea.

Gandhi arrived in Chilaw with his entourage and was a revered guest at 'Sigiriya' where he stayed for some days. My mother recalled her visits as a teenager to her Uncle's home to see the distinguished guest. To her, the Mahatma seemed meek and humble in his loin-cloth and bare body, yet full of power and vision. His eyes, she noticed in particular, were calmly compelling. She felt she was standing in the presence of a 'King among men'. to her, those visits were redolent of oranges - her father's car was laden with oranges from the estate for the visitors. Her younger sister Ira, favoured God-daughter of Uncle Jimmy, recalled travelling to a meeting, ensconced in the back seat of her car between Gandhi and her Uncle.

Doreen and Nan are two surviving daughters of C.E. Corea. Doreen was nine years old at the time of Gandhi's visit, and what she remembers vividly is the mammoth reception accorded to Gandhi at the Court House premises. She remembers when her younger sister Nan, attired in a blue half-saree, stepped out to garland the Mahatma, he embraced her and called her "Gandhi's little sweetheart'. Dates and goat's milk were served to the visitors at 'Sigiriya' and she remembers in particular, the Spinning Wheel Gandhi presented to her father, C.E. Corea.

These were memorable events in the lives of the youngsters of yesteryear and fascinating glimpses of history to us for our generation.

- Christabelle Aturupane


The Hon.Shirley Corea, Speaker of the Parliament of Ceylon

Sir Claude Corea (right) with the Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala and Viscount Soulbury

Vernon's maternal Uncle - JCA Corea
James Clifford Aelian Corea - the first Ceylonese Principal of Royal College

Dr.Gamani Corea, former Secretary-General UNCTAD with President and Mrs J.R.Jayewardene

Eminent lawyer Ernie Corea with his grandchildren in Piliyandala

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Harindra Corea who was also member of parliament for Chilaw

Vernon with Vijaya Corea (former Director-General SLBC) and family

Advertising legend, Sri Sangabo Corea descended from Victor Corea here with Henry Corea

Corea Court in Madampe

C.E. Corea's home in Chilaw

Mahatma Gandhi stayed in 'Sigiriya' a Corea home in Chilaw

Mahatma Gandhi in Ceylon in 1927
Gandhi met the Corea Family and stayed with them in Chilaw

Click on the picture of the great Mahatma Gandhi (below) to go to the site 'Gandhi and the Corea Family of Chilaw in Sri lanka......'

Gandhi and the Corea Family of Chilaw
Gandhi gifted a spinning wheel to C.E.Corea when he stayed in Chilaw

Read a true story on Shirley Corea in Parliament
Click on the Asia Tribune icon

Vernon's home town - Chilaw