Thomas Skinner (Ceylon)

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Thomas Skinner
Nickname(s) Tom Skinner
Born 22 May 1804
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Died 24 July 1877
United Kingdom
Years of service 1819-1833
Rank Major
Unit Ceylon Rifle Regiment
Battles/wars 1848 Rebellion
Awards CMB
Other work Surveyor General, Commissioner of Highways

Major Thomas Skinner, CMB (born 22 May 1804 in St. John's, Newfoundland - died 24 July 1877) was a prominent road builder in British Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).[1]

Biography[edit]

Thomas Skinner was born in the family of a British military officer of the Royal Artillery. In 1811, Thomas moved to England with his father and studied in Shaftesbury, Dorsetshire. Dissatisfied with education, Thomas went to Ceylon in 1819 to visit his father who was stationed in Trincomalee. There he was commissioned in Ceylon Rifle Regiment as a Second Lieutenant. His first job was to carry a platoon of soldiers from Trincomalee to Colombo, shortly after the 1818 rebellion that was not completely suppressed yet.

Soon after he was appointed to the public works department which is responsible for building the roads in the island. There Skinner gained his lifelong lasting fame for constructing Colombo-Kandy highway. In 1825 he was appointed as head of the Colombo defense guard, in 1833 Lieutenant Quartermaster General and Surveyor General, and finally, in 1841, Skinner was promoted to Commissioner of Highways. He is also noted for mapping previously uncharted parts of Ceylon.

In 1848 Skinner gave a testimony before a Special Working Committee of British House of Commons on the Matale Rebellion. His statement exposed the maladministration of the British that led to rebellion and how British policies altered traditional ways of life of the native Sinhalese.

Skinner retired from civil service in 1867, and was celebrated for his achievements by British administration, planters, newspapers as well as local Mudaliyars. Thomas Skinner went to England and received CMB from Queen Victoria. Skinner wrote an autobiography, Fifty Years in Ceylon.

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