In Memory of Scott Dirckze, 1929-2019

Hugh Karunanayake

Gerard Edward Scott Dirckze,  known as “Scott” to all his friends and acquaintances, passed away in October last year after a brief illness. He had turned 90 years of age earlier that year, and was a man of wide interests, and great achievements in life.

Born in 1929, he belonged to a family which originated with the 18th Century marriage in Galle, of its progenitor in Ceylon Roelof Dirckze from Stockholm, Sweden. The only child  of his parents  Dr Herbert and Mollie Dirckze, Scott was educated at Royal College, after which he completed a Classics Degree in Cambridge University, to return to Ceylon(as the country was then known) and landing his first job as Latin master and Class Teacher at his old School. It was at Royal in 1951, that I first met him, he as a teacher, and I as a student in Latin.. Having taught at Royal for about a year he joined the Bank of Ceylon as an Executive also for about a year. He then joined Mackwoods Ltd as an Executive during which he acquired an interest in Accountancy and qualified as an Accountant. When our Past President the late Tony Peries was a Director of George Steuart and Co, he was instrumental in  recruiting Scott as a Senior Accounts Executive in 1962. Two years later, Scott was appointed a Director. Tony in his memoirs made the following observation “Fortunately he was outstandingly intelligent and resourceful, and very soon looked on as a valuable addition to the board.”. Scott was appointed Managing Director  of George Steuarts in the mid 1970s, and steered the Company through tumultuous political, and economical changes  which the country faced during those years. His capabilities were recognised by successive governments  serving as one of the first Directors of the Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB), and also served as a Director of the Peoples Bank for some years. Over the years he held a large portfolio of shares in the Company amounting to about one fifth of the Company’s shares.

Scott joined the Ceylon Society of Australia  in around the year 2008 having being introduced by his friend Tony Peries, and continued as a member until his death. He had been a regular attendee at the Colombo Chapter meetings of the Society.I cannot claim to be a friend of Scott although I had his regular acquaintance when  I worked at Walker Sons and Co as Manager of Market Research. Walkers were then managed by George Steuarts under an agreement with the Walker family and three of its Directors worked virtually full time at Walkers  managing the Company most efficiently. Scott together with Trevor Moy and Trevor Rosmale-Cocq were the Directors from GS that managed Walkers. That arrangement was terminated after about 5 years  at the request of George Steuarts and Co,  not long after the international conglomerate Anglo Indonesian Corporation, a part of Sime Darby Holdings,  acquired a controlling interest in Walkers.

When the late Tony Peries fell ill in early 2016, Scott was very solicitous about his health and on a few occasions  called me on the phone  to inquire after Tony’s health. He was reluctant to speak directly to Tony as he was not sure of the state of his health, but on one occasion  asked me to convey a message to him viz that if he desired to come to Sri Lanka, that he would look after him and have him treated at the best hospital there. I conveyed the message to Tony, who smiled upon hearing about that magnanimous gesture from his old friend and colleague.

Scott was a very wealthy man by any standard. He inherited house and property including a  50 acre coconut property, a houses in Mount Lavinia, and Park Road, plus his home in Battaramulla, to which he added more acquisitions by judicious investments. A bachelor right through his life, he was generous to a fault.

I will relate a little story to illustrate his generosity.  Most of  his adult life he lived with his father Herbert in the family home in Park Road, Havelock Town. One of the domestic aides there by the name Sunil Jayatissa became his personal friend right through life, and after the latter’s death he took upon himself to help in the education of Sunil’s son and daughter. The son was sent to England to study accountancy, and was financed to purchase a property in London. He also helped the daughter by purchasing a house and property in Colombo for her to reside in. That was Scott at his generous best. Knowing the nature of Scott I am sure that  there may be other acts of generosity of which I am not aware, as he was not a person given to bragging.

The term “renaissance man “ has been used rather loosely to describe people of lesser calibre, but it certainly fits the persona of Scott Dirckze, a man of  very wide interests including art, archaelogy, classical music, wild life, etc the list goes on and on.

His fascination with the Citroen motor car commenced with his acquisition of a new 1960s Citroen Sedan which he used for many years. The light blue car was something he was so impressed with that he thought out a scheme for the manufacture of the Citroen 2CV which he described as “a basic, but highly ingenious small car immensely popular with the less affluent in France.” Sometime in 1971 he mooted the idea with his former classmate at Royal College, Anil Moonesinghe, then Minister for Transport,  who was supportive of the idea. Everything was set up for the project where Anil had already fabricated 2 CV chassis at the CTB workshops in Werahera  which impressed the Citroen representative Jaques Eyraud. Going through the bureaucratic quagmire however frustrated the French who having waited long for a government response was told to produce a feasibility report, which evoked the response “our company is in the business of manufacturing automobiles, not paper”.!     Sadly the project did not proceed any further.

As a major shareholder of George Steuart and Co, even after he retired,  he was concerned about the company and its business, and also its reputation. Sometime in about 2002 the Company decided to allow a person declared a bankrupt in the UK, to purchase some 600, 000 odd shares which gave that person controlling interest. Scott was vehemently opposed to this transaction and having failed to convince the directors of his concerns, he chose to file action in Court. His case was primarily handled by Corporate activist/lawyer  the late Nihal Ameresekera and it took several years of litigation for finality, the court holding that “I am of the view that the petitioner cannot take strong ground that the transfer of 625,000 shares is illegal and not valid in law.” I had the opportunity of reading through the brief prepared by Nihal Ameresekera which ran into 600 odd pages,and was not surprised that the case was dismissed  as the arguments were disjointed, laboured, and unimpressive. I  returned the brief  long after the case was heard, through his nephew Chris. Scott felt so morally denied that he even sought the intervention of the President, to no avail. As the law stood at that time anyone bankrupted in a Court in Sri Lanka cannot hold shares/directorships in Companies registered in Sri Lanka but did not recognise bankruptcy that may have occurred in another country. This case caused him much stress despite friends advising him to off load his shareholding and re investing elsewhere. However some years later a new investor acquired all of Scotts shares plus that of most other major shareholders, and that must have been a great relief to him.

Scott Dirckze will b remembered as an honourable man, a man who could be depended on in any circumstances. He was humorous, witty and great company.  Being a bachelor, he did not leave any procreated family, but his domestic staff including  his faithful driver, cook and two houseboys looked after him like their own, and I have no doubt Scott would have amply rewarded them. An extraordinarily talented man blessed with a remarkable personality has gone to his eternal rest.

R.I. P   SCOTT DIRCKZE

2 Comments

Filed under charitable outreach, cultural transmission, heritage, historical interpretation, life stories, patriotism, Royal College, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society

2 responses to “In Memory of Scott Dirckze, 1929-2019

  1. Hi Michael, I didn’t know Scott … much older than I!… However, I fondly remember his parents, Uncle Herbert and Aunty Molly, good friends of my parents… they lived in Layards Road… as did many of their friends, including Uncle Tommy and Aunty Amelia Kelaart, their daughter Marguerite was Mum and Dad’s flower girl… and Uncle Harry and Aunty Larry Keyt, Valerie and Veronica… Aunty L, if I remember right, was the sister of Elise Potger’s husband Freddie. She was Principal of Girls High School Mt Lavinia, where I attended from 7-11 years. The brilliant contralto of the Colombo Singers… their Gilbert & Sullivan productions were an annual school excursion to the Lionel Wendt! Jeni xxx *Jeni.*

    On Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 11:38 AM Thuppahi’s Blog wrote:

    > thuppahi posted: “Hugh Karunanayake Gerard Edward Scott Dirckze, known as > “Scott” to all his friends and acquaintances, passed away in October last > year after a brief illness. He had turned 90 years of age earlier that > year, and was a man of wide interests, and g” >

    • D.Lam Seneviratne

      Thank you Hugh, that was a well researched and comprehensive appreciation of Scott Dirckze..
      I first met Scott about 30 years ago when he came home as he was interested in purchasing my wife’s 50 acre coconut land in Wellawa, Kurunegala. Although the property did not change hands, we were full of admiration of his gentlemanly ways.
      From about 10 years ago I was able to renew my acquaintance and get to know him better when we met at our over 70 years Group lunch at the 80 Club twice a year. I developed a great respect for him as a polite friendly human being and echo all the sentiments expressed by you in your final paragraph. May his soul rest in peace

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