? Burghers In The UK

Memoirs of Peter Beekmeyer

Interviewee:
Peter Beekmeyer
Born:
1934
Deceased:
03 May 2015
Date of Interview
05 August 2014
Length of Interview:
57 Minutes
Interviewer:
Wayne Vidal


CLICK HERE to listen on a mobile device.

Peter Beekmeyer's memoirs presents us with a frank and pragmatic view of life in multi- cultural Ceylon and London. Peter claims the Burgher culture to be "a fantastic culture". Listen to his recollections and see if you agree. Watch him as a younger man singing Burgher flavoured songs in the video with Earle De Zylva on this website.



Detailed Summary (with time stamping for ease of access)

0:00:19.9:
My father was a tea planter. I was born on Rye Estate, Balangoda.
0:00:49.6:
How I am a Burgher.
0:01:00.9:
The origins of the Burgher people and their background.
0:03:32.3:
Burghers come in different colours but our culture is essentially European.
0:04:44.0:
The term "Ceylonese" or "Sri-Lankan" encompasses many communities much like the term "British" does.
0:05:40.3:
It was fantastic growing up in Ceylon.
0:06:07.4:
We mixed with Sinhalese and Tamils who were westernised as otherwise the cultures are very different.
0:06:33.8:
My family married Sinhalese and Tamil people as well as Burghers.
0:08:11.1:
What we did for fun as children.
0:08:25.0:
My siblings and I went to boarding school.
0:09:04.5:
Games we played as children.
0:11:00.8:
Curry reminds me of Ceylon.
0:11:47.8:
Burghers generally got on well with each other but some Burghers were clannish.
0:12:15.3:
Burgher girls wore lipstick. Most of the girls working in offices were Burgher girls. You hardly saw Singhalese and Tamil girls working.
0:12:55.8:
The school I attended was St Peter's College.
0:13:36.3:
My happiest memories in Ceylon was when I went home from boarding school for my holidays.
0:14:13.3:
The Burgher dances were fantastic. My sister organised them.
0:16:35.3:
The Burgher culture was fantastic.
0:16:47.2:
When school finished for the day at St Peter's college we rode our bikes to the local convent and whistled at the girls leaving school. It was called 'catting'.
0:19:00.9:
In Eastern culture boys and girls never met until they got married. Burghers had only love marriages. Eastern people think Westernised Burgher girls are loose but it wasn't true at all.
0:20:25.2:
In London our children are marrying English and Caribbean people because there aren't many Burghers to marry.
0:21:18.1:
Why I decided to leave Ceylon - Many Burghers were afraid when the British said they were leaving.
0:22:30.8:
The political party came in on a racist ticket. And there was an exodus of Burghers.
0:23:15.7:
I was 27 years when I left in 1962.
0:23:35.4:
I chose UK over Australia because I didn't want to go to a country that said white's were superior to everybody else. So I chose England.
0:25:20.0:
My friend who emigrated to Australia, came to London, because he was threatened with deportation for mixing with Aboriginees - which was against Australian law.
0:26:59.4:
I left Ceylon because of the way the Tamils were treated and because of my children's future.
0:27:41.3:
We left Ceylon on 2nd November by ship and arrived on 23rd November 1962.
0:29:12.0:
First impressions. The first place we moved to was a shared accommodation in Eton Terrace, Knightsbridge. I met Maxie Bulner there.
0:30:42.6:
The trip over was fantastic.
0:32:28.5:
My first few days in London.
0:34:11.5:
In 1964 we moved to Haringey, then Tottenham, then Enfield.
0:36:22.1:
When I first came to London I did night work auditing accounts for the Hilton Hotel and then from 9am to 1pm I did a cleaning job.
0:39:28.3:
Accommodation and open racism at work were my biggest challenges.
0:40:37.3:
The day we found ourselves thrown out of our accommodation because of the dodgy landlord.
0:41:37.9:
Ceylon is a beautiful little country. I miss the Burgher community and lifestyle we had there. Going to the movies. And most important of all dancing - jiving was the craze.
0:44:38.3:
The education system in Ceylon.
0:48:14.2:
The difference in working culture between Ceylon and UK.
0:50:54.7:
The Burghers adapted very quickly to the UK because they came from a European culture. The prejudice came because of the colour of their skins.
0:55:12.9:
I liked the pub culture in London on a Friday evening when we received our wages in cash in a brown paper envelope.
THE END