A Bachelor’s Lament, Ada Goonewardene, Adieu, ‘If I should die, Edward Goonewardene, George Theodore Moonemalle Goonewardene, Hugh Moonemalle Goonewardene, If you but knew, John Marcellus Moonemalle, Life’s Epitome, Old Place, Poetry, Rupert Brooke, think only this of me, Wilfred Owen
Edward and Ada Goonewardene had 12 children, but only seven of them grew into adults. And two of those died young, George Theodore Moonemalle Goonewardene at the age of 23 in 1918, and his younger brother Hugh seven years later. When his father died, he had insisted on following the coffin to the grave, even though he had flu. This had then turned into pneumonia, and he had died two weeks later.
I have always felt affection for Hugh, but not only because of this quixotic devotion. My grandmother, who had been four years younger than him, always spoke of him as the nicest of her brothers. Her eldest brother, young Edward, or Sonny as he was called, was a rebellious character who fell out with his father and was reported to have kept a Burgher mistress. The next brother, George, was supposed to have seduced several local damsels. It was rumoured that visitors to Kurunegala who were treated as confidantes were shown the offspring of some of these liaisons. Leo, the only other child apart from my grandmother to marry, was probably too near her in age for her to rely on him much when they were young, though in old age they seemed keenly devoted to each other.
I see her then as depending much on Hugh in the period just after George died, and the house that had been a haven of activity suddenly went still. She married in the following year, perhaps escaping from a difficult situation, with two unmarried older sisters both by then in their thirties. But she would return to the Old Place for her confinements, and I assume that then too Hugh was a tower of affection, if not exactly strength.