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Fredrick Richard Senanayake

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F. R. Senanayake
Colombo Municipal Councilor
In office
Personal details
Born(1882-10-20)October 20, 1882
Botale, Mirigama, Ceylon
DiedJanuary 1, 1926(1926-01-01) (aged 43)
Kolkata, India
SpouseEllen Attygalle
RelationsD. S. Senanayake (brother)
ChildrenR. G. Senanayake
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge,
Royal College, Colombo,
S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia

Fredrick Richard Senanayake (known to as F. R. Senanayake) (October 20, 1882 – January 1, 1926) was a Ceylonesen lawyer and independence activist. A leading member of the Sri Lankan independence movement, he was an elected member of the Colombo Municipal Council. F.R Senanayake, who would go on to lead Sri Lanka's independence movement, becoming a Barrister of independent Sri Lanka in 1947.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

D.S. Senanayake, with brother-in-law F.H. Dias-Bandaranaike, brothers Don Charles and Don Stephen, sister Maria Frances, father Mudaliyar Don Spater, and mother Dona Catherina Elizabeth Perera. (circa. 1902)

He was born in the village of Botale in the Hapitigam Korale on October 20, 1882, to Don Spater Senanayake (1847–1907) and Dona Catherina Elizabeth Perera Gunasekera Senanayake (1852–1949). Spater Senanayake had made his fortune in graphite mining and at the time he was expanding into plantations and investments in the arrack renting franchise, later he would be awarded the title of Mudaliyar for his philanthropy. F. R. Senanayake had an elder brother, Don Charles "D. C." Senanayake; a younger brother Don Stephen Senanayake and one sister, Maria Frances Senanayake who married F. H. Dias Bandaranaike.[3][4]

Educated at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia,[5] Royal College, Colombo and Downing College, Cambridge, where he gained a BA and an LL.B. degree. Thereafter he became a barrister from the Lincoln's Inn, London in 1905.[6]

Law and business[edit]

On his return to Ceylon, he took oath as an Advocate in the Supreme Court of Ceylon and started a legal practice in the criminal courts. Soon becoming disenchanted with the legal profession, he focused on his family plantation and mining business. These were expanded to the holding of his wife's family after his marriage.[7]

Community leader[edit]

Colombo Municipal Council[edit]

An active social worker, F. R. Senanayake was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council from the Colpetty Ward in 1912. He retained his seat in the municipality until his death.

Temperance movement[edit]

The three Senanayake brothers were involved in the temperance movement formed in 1912, led by F. R. Senanayake. He was a founder of the Buddhist Theosophical Society with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and became its president in 1914. The Temperance movement actively campaigned against the Excise Ordinance and the government practice of Arrack renting, auctioning liquor licenses to open taverns and sell liquor locally. The practice brought in revenue to government coffers and was a profitable business for tavern owners leading to many business families establishing themselves. However, it caused many social problems in local communities with whispered liquor addiction.[7]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

When World War I broke out in 1914, the Senanayake brothers joined the Colombo Town Guard. The brothers were imprisoned without charges during the 1915 riots and faced the prospect of execution since the British Governor Sir Robert Chalmers considered the temperance movement as seditious and had its leaders imprisoned. He was released after 46 days on a bail bond.


Although capable of gaining membership to the Legislative Council of Ceylon, he didn't seek a seat in the Legislative Council. He stood for and was elected to the Colombo Municipal Council in 1912 and held the seat till his death. He formed the Lanka Mahajana Sabha and assisted in the formation of the Young Men's Buddhist Association. He was a strong supporter of his brother D. S. Senanayake being elected unopposed to the Legislative Council from Negombo in 1924.


He died on January 1, 1926, in Kolkata, India following an appendicitis operation. He was on a pilgrimage to Gaya when he became ill.


A statue of F. R. Senanayake has been erected in the Viharamahadevi Park facing the Colombo Town Hall. In the 2018 film Nidahase Piya DS about the life of his brother D S Senanayake, Palitha Silva played the role of FR Senanayake.[8]

Personal life[edit]


He married Ellen Attygalle, the youngest daughter of Mudaliyar Don Charles Gemoris Attygalle and they had six children; Richard Gotabhaya, Fredrick Tissa, Phyllis Nedra "Girlie", Swarna Neela, Chandra Upali, Rupawathi. His eldest son Richard Gotabhaya Senanayake went on to become a member of parliament and a Cabinet minister. His eldest daughter Phyllis Nedra "Girlie", married Siripala Samarakkody and Swarna Neela married his brother's younger son Robert Parakrama Senanayake. His brother-in-laws included Colonel T. G. Jayewardene and John Kotelawala Sr. He supported his sister-in-law, Alice Kotelawala after she became destitute following the death of her husband John Kotelawala Sr. He educated and cared for his nephews John Kotelawala and Justin Kotelawala.


Grassmere was the town house of F. R. Senanayake and R. G. Senanayake. The house was built by F. R. Senanayake in the exclusive neighbourhood of Gregory's Road and moved in with his family from his family a rented home in Colombo. It was at Grassmere, that Senanayake was taken into custody under martial law by Punjabi soldiers during the 1915 riots. Following Senanayake's sudden death in 1926, the house was inherited by his son R. G. Senanayake.[9] Gregory's Road was renamed R. G. Senanayake Mawatha in 2013. Today the house hosts the Colombo branch of the Goethe-Institut.[10][11][12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sri Lanka's Independence movement
  2. ^ "The Don Bartholomews Senanayake Family Tree". Sri Lankan Sinhalese Family Genealogy. Retrieved 2 September 2007.
  3. ^ Don Stephen Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka by H. A. J. Hulugalle
  4. ^ Nobodies to Somebodies: The Rise of the Colonial Bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka, Kumari Jayawardena, pp. 192-3 & 267 (Zed) ISBN 9781842772287
  5. ^ "F R Senanayake's death anniversary:Selfless servant of people". Archived from the original on 13 June 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Senanayake, Frederick Richard (SNNK900FR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  7. ^ a b Sirisena, Sunil S. "F. R. Senanayake – the Great Patriot". Financial Times. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Cinematic capture of the 'Father of the Nation'". Sunday Times. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  9. ^ "RG: People-centred Trade Minister". Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  10. ^ "RG came to the rescue of the nation with Rubber-Rice pact – Geethanjana". Island. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Then there were politicians who truly served the people". Sunday Times. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  12. ^ "F R Senanayake's death anniversary: Selfless servant of people". Daily News. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  13. ^ Miller (5 July 2010). Fredrick Richard Senanayake. ISBN 978-6131680809.

External links[edit]