Vernon Corea’s birthday was marked on the 11th of September. May his soul rest in peace.
Vernon Corea’s birthday was marked on the 11th of September. May his soul rest in peace.
The veteran Radio Ceylon/SLBC broadcaster Laddie Hettitarchchi passed away in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His funeral was held today. May his soul rest in peace.
Autistix are a British music group – band members are on the autism spectrum.They were recently featured on ITV in the UK. Vernon Corea raised awareness of autism when he was working at the BBC so we share their latest single ‘Just The Same’ – please support them by sharing this post with people all over the world – Autistix deserve to be heard – it is great to see them rising above the label of autism and really enjoying their music:
The Autistix sing ‘Help’ with Sir Tom Jones at a charity fundraiser in the UK:
Here are some rare photographs of Prime Ministers of Ceylon with British Royalty and British Prime Ministers at Commonwealth Prime Ministers meetings in London from the 1940s to the 1960s.
The first Prime Minister of Ceylon D.S.Senanayake with King George VI at Buckingham Palace in 1949:
The Queen with Prime Minister of Ceylon Dudley Senanayke in 1952:
Queen Elizabeth with Prime Minister of Ceylon Sir John Kotelawala in 1955:
Prime Minister of Ceylon S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike at 10 Downing Street in 1956:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth with the Prime Minister of Ceylon Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1961:
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth with the Prime Minister of Ceylon Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1964:
Sao Boonwaat was the Ambassador for Burma in Ceylon. He was a distinguished diplomat and came from an aristocratic family from the Shan States in Burma. In 1950 Sao Boonwaat was Consul-General for Burma in the United Kingdom. He met King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I in Buckingham Palace in London. Not only did he serve in the UK but he also served Burma as an Ambassador in Germany,the Netherlands and France. While in London Sao Boonwaat had also met the Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in February 1955 over the Formosa crisis. Boonwaat represented Burma at the International Atomic Agency Conference in Geneva, Switzerland on the 13th of September 1962.
In 1950 the Boonwaats met Royalty in London and were part of high society circles. Here is a British Pathe News clip of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family in Covent Garden London in 1950.
Sao Boonwaat was appointed Burma’s Ambassador to Ceylon in 1967. Ambassador Boonwaat was also Council President of the Colombo Plan from March – November 1967. They were the toast of Colombo, mingling with high society. His wife Shirley who was 35 years old and much young than the Ambassador immersed herself in charity work in Sri Lanka – working with poor children. She had organised many dance shows and charity events and the papers in in Ceylon had dubbed one of the most fashionable members of the diplomatic community in Colombo. Perhaps she encountered the Sri Lankan musician Rex de Silva when she was organising these charity dance shows in Colombo.
Ambassador Sao Boonwaat was married earlier he had a daughter from his first marriage and we believe two sons from his second marriage. Sao Boonwaat’s first married Nang Boe Lio, and his second marriage was in 1949,when he wed Nang Lao Herng.
The Ambassador and his wife rented a Corea home down Turret Road now called Dharmapala Mawatha in Colombo. Turret Lodge also known as Carlton Lodge belonged to the Jayawardene Family. Carlton Lodge was home to Carlton Corea and his wife Effie Corea nee Jayawardene – Effie was a kinsman of President Junius Richard Jayawardene of Sri Lanka. Members of the Corea Family had married into the Jayawardene family. Carlton Corea was the son of the famed Sri Lankan freedom fighter, Victor Corea of Chilaw. Carlton Corea was also a poet and in 1969 the Times of Ceylon published a book of his poems titled ‘Desiree and Other Poems and Pieces.’ Vernon Corea was a frequent visitor to Carlton Lodge when his uncle Carlton and Effie Corea lived there. They were also parishoners of St.Luke’s Church Borella when Vernon’s father Reverend Canon Corea was Vicar in the 1950s.
In 1967 Carlton Corea and Effie Corea decided to rent Carlton Lodge to Ambassador Sao Boonwaat and his wife Shirley. Vernon Corea who was at the height of his popularity as a broadcaster with Radio Ceylon and his brother Ernest Corea (who was a leading journalist with the Ceylon Daily News) had met Ambassador Sao Boonwaat and his wife Shirley at diplomatic gatherings in Colombo.
Then came tragedy. The Ambassador’s wife had been frequenting a night club in Union Place Colombo-2 called ‘388,’ a favourite with diplomats. The band leader and pianist at the 388 Night Club was the tall and handsome Rex de Silva. His group the Rhythm Dukes were performing six nights a week at the popular night club. He soon struck up a friendship with Shirley Boonwaat. One thing led to another and they allegedly had an affair. According to newspaper reports Mrs Boonwaat had dropped Rex De Silva at his flat in Boyd Place on Saturday night on 14th October 1967. Some reports suggest that on Sunday morning the Ambassador took out his gun with a view to shooting his wife, dragging her from the garden into the residence – but Shirley pressed herself to the nozzle of the gun and according some newspaper reports the gun went off in the tussle between the Ambassador and his wife. The gun went off and Shirley collapsed to the floor,dead.The Sunday Times of London had reported that there were witnesses in the garden that morning – they were the son of the Malaysian High Commissioner to Ceylon and Shirley Boonwaat’s 19 year old step daughter Susan. The Ambassador then arranged for his wife to be buried in the Kanatte Cemetary – there was one problem, he did not tell the authorities.
There is also a story covered by the Straits Times in Singapore which suggests that he built a funeral pyre in the garden of Carlton Lodge and cremated Shirley Boonwaat’s body in a Buddhist Ceremony attended by three Burmese monks. The official account was that Shirley Boonwaat died of cerebral haemorrhage caused by hypertension. The murder happened on a Sunday probarbly on 15th October 1967 at 8.15 A.M. On Monday the Daily Mirror broke the story followed by the Ceylon Daily News with eyewitnesses – construction workers working on a rooftop in the neighbourhood, down Turret Road, in Colombo stating they heard gunshots coming from Carlton Lodge on the Sunday. At noon the Ambassador had called the undertaker with a view to cremating the body and burying Shirley Boonwaat in Kanatte. A doctor had certified that Shirley Boonwaat had died as a result of cerebral bleeding. The Straits Times of Singapore ran a story about the murder titled: Diplomatic Row over Death of Envoy’s Wife. Apparently there was a row between the Government of Ceylon and the Government of Burma over the murder of Shirley Boonwaat as they wanted to try the Ambassador for murder in a court in Ceylon. The Government of Burma recalled Ambassador Boonwaat to Rangoon claiming diplomatic immunity. The Ambassador was never tried in Ceylon.
Rex de Silva was interviewed by the Ceylon Police he said that Shirley Boonwaat had said she had been harrassed – Rex told the police he wanted to marry her and that the Ambassador’s wife was seeking a divorce. Rex de Silva on the Sunday to visit Mrs Boonwaat and found the gate closed. The Diplomatic Protection Group of the Ceylon Police were not even allowed to sign the register at the Ambassador’s residence that morning. Mr. De Silva claimed to have seen the Ambassador’s daughter Susan in the garden at Carlton Lodge, with a teenager said to be Inche Buhadon bin Haji Hassan, the son of the Malasiyan High Commissioner to Ceylon. Here again diplomatic immunity was claimed for the High Commissioner’s son. The case in Ceylon had to be abandoned. Burma’s Foreign Secretary flew to Colombo and visited the Ambassador’s residence following the murder. Ambassador Sao Boonwaat was sent back to Burma and in December 1967 he was tried in Rangoon for the crime but never jailed. The Ambassador’s daughter told the court in Burma that her stepmother had many lovers in the countries where he had served as a diplomat.
Years after the Boonwaat murder, the owner of Carlton Lodge, Effie Corea had organised a party of Carol singers with member of the Corea family, her friends and relatives. Vernon Corea and his wife Monica and children were members of this huge party of carol singers who went on a trailer hired by Effie Corea all around Colombo singing carols at Christmas. There were many practice sessions at Carlton Lodge and on one of these occasions the children were playing in the house late one evening while carols were being sung in the drawing room. The children of the carol singers saw what they thought was candle light flickering beneath a door. They screamed ‘ghosts, ghosts.’ Neighbours might have heard the commotion because the very next day a report appeared in a newspaper in Ceylon – on the front page titled:’Ghosts in the Boonwaat home.’
They say that Sao Boonwaat died in Burma May 1991. Carlton Lodge is now the Capri Club, a leading private members club in Colombo.
This article is copyright c 2015 – The Tribute website to Vernon Corea the legendary broadcaster with Radio Ceylon/SLBC and the BBC.
There are several references to the Boonwaat murder in the archives of the Straits Times of Singapore:
Who is Jesus? by the American Evangelist Billy Graham.
Radio Ceylon popularised Lyn Anderson’s huge hit ‘Rose Garden,’ throughout the 1970s. Sady she passed away in 2015 aged 67 years of age. The legendary Sri Lankan broadcaster Nihal Bhareti played her hit on his request programmes.