Thomas Skinner (Ceylon)
|Born||22 May 1804
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
|Died||24 July 1877
|Years of service||1819-1833|
|Unit||Ceylon Rifle Regiment|
|Other work||Surveyor General, Commissioner of Highways|
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.
In 1857 Skinner designed the Holy Emanuel Church for Mudaliyar Jeronis de Soysa. 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 CMG from Queen Victoria in the 1869 Birthday Honours. Skinner wrote an autobiography, Fifty Years in Ceylon.