A Rivalry Through the Ages

The following information was courtesy of my father and his cousin, Uncle Issy.

My great grandfather, Baba Junnur Hadji Bahar was Mudaliyar of the Magam Pattu in the Hambantota District in the Southern Province. The Magam Pattu was 996 square miles in extent and he was essentially lord and master over 1/25th of the Island. He was also a Gate Mudaliyar and the superintendent of the salterns of Hambantota.

Hambantota Bay in the early 20th Century

Image from Hugh Karunayake via thuppahis.com

At one time his immediate boss, as the Assistant Government Agent (AGA) in Hambantota, was Leonard Woolf, in whose diaries my great grandfather is featured prominently. Woolf, in later life, became a much read author. He was also the husband of the famous author, Virginia Woolf.

The AGAs Bungalow in Hambantota where Leonard Woolfe stayed.

Image from Hugh Karunayake via thuppahis.com

Mudaliyar Baba Junnur Haji Bahar and Leonard Woolf were not very fold of each other. In fact, my great grandfather actually got a puppy who he named Woolf and whenever Leonard Woolf would ride by on his horse he would whistle and call the dog and say “Here Woolf!” just to try and get a rise out of him. He had the timing down to a science. When Leonard Woolf published his book on his time in Ceylon he referred to my great grandfather as “the head of the fisher clan”. Despite their feelings for each other, based on excepts from Leonard Woolf’s “Diaries in Ceylon”, it appears he respected Mudaliyar Bahar’s work.

Leonard Woolf and his dogs in Jaffna

Image from Hugh Karunayake via thuppahis.com

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