Died: November 1941
Lived: Taprobane Island (81700)
Buried: St Mary's Burial Grounds, Jaffna, Northern, Sri Lanka
Find A Grave Memorial# 176273134
House: Count de Mauny of Talvande, whose actual name was Maurice Maria Talvande (1866-1941), was born in Le Mans. His father was Felix Talvande. He adopted the prefix of "Count de Mauny" from his mother, Mme Marguerite de Mauny Talvande, and the suffix of "Talvande" from his father, Felix Talvande, who was a bank manager in provincial France. His father died in 1901, in or near Nantes and his mother died in 1907 in Pontvallain. His mother, whose full name was, Margeurite Adelaide Louise Froger de Mauny was born in 1842. Her parents were Alexandre Jacques Eduard Froger de Mauny and Henriette Martin Lavallee. His father, Felix Talvande was born in 1832 and his parents married in Le mans on June 8, 1862. Maurice was born four years later in Le Mans where his father was then employed as a bank manager of the Le Mans branch of Banque de France until 1866. After 1868 Felix worked as a banker at Portet-Lavigierie et Talvande which became the Bank Talvande in 1882 until it and Talvande himself were made bankrupt in 1889. Marguerite applied for legal separation from Felix in 1890 and thereafter resided with her mother at Domaine du Bourg in 72510 Pontvallain, which had been in the possession and ownership of the de Mauny family since 1859. On the death of his mother, Maurice inherited Domaine du Bourg, the family home, which he then sold and shared the proceeds of 17000 francs with his brother Roger and sister Suzanne-Marie. Roger had a son named Albert Talvande.
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House: In 1952, Paul Bowles bought the tiny island of Taprobane, off the coast of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka.) There he wrote much of his novel “The Spider’s House,” returning to Tangier in the warmer months. He returned to Sri Lanka most winters.
Address: Weligama By Pass Rd, Weligama 81700, Sri Lanka (5.96775, 80.42573)
Taprobane Island is a rocky private island with one villa, located just off the southern coast of Sri Lanka opposite the village of Weligama. The island was named after the old Greek word for Sri Lanka. The island was previously owned by (self-titled) Count Maurice Maria de Mauny Talvande who fell in love with Weligama Bay. It was he who had the villa built on this tiny island. The islet passed on to the American author and composer Paul Bowles and then the Sri Lankan born former UN Chief Prosecutor Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva before it came to the ownership of the Australian businessman Geoffrey Dobbs. Notable people who stayed on Taprobane include Dutch author Peter ten Hoopen, who spent a month there in 1984 during civil unrest on the mainland, as well as Kylie Minogue, who composed a song about the island inspired by her stay titled "Taprobane (Extraordinary Day.”) It had inspired Jason Kouchak to compose "Dark Island" in his 1999 album Watercolours.
Who: Maurice Talvande, Count de Mauny Talvande (March 21, 1866 – November 27, 1941)
Maurice Talvande attended St Mary's College at Hales Place in Canterbury, which was run by French Jesuit Priests, during the period 1883-1884. His brother Roger also attended St Mary's College and stayed on for a longer period from 1883-1888. Maurice, subsequently, went to Saint-Cyr Military College which was also influenced by the Jesuit Order. Despite the basic French environment that he was surrounded by, Maurice probably learned his English too while he was under their tutorship. His close friendship with George Byng, brother of Lady Mary, whom he first met at St Mary's College in Canterbury, may have given him the opportunity to meet Mary, in the first place, and then develop into a relationship that ended in marriage to her. After completing his education, it is reported that, he travelled widely in America for several years. He is reported to have sailed from Le Havre and arrived in New York, in the US, on November 19, 1894 on board the 9,000 ton SS La Touraine., being in transit to Boston, in a journey that lasted about seven days. Count Maurice Maria de Mauny Talvande married Lady Mary Elizabeth Agnes Bynge, daughter of the fourth Earl of Strafford, enry William John Byng, on June 24, 1898. The wedding was a great social occasion and attended by the Princess of Wales, Princess Christian and Prince and Princess Saxe-Weimer. His mother Mme de Mauny Talvande and brother Roger de Mauny Talvande also attended. His father, Felix Talvande, was not present. The bridegroom was 32 and the bride was 33 years old at the timeof their marriage. The newly wed De Mauny's settled down in 1898 at the famous Azay-le-Rideau castle, whose long and memorable history goes bact to the reign of Francois I in the XVI century. From Azay, Maurice and Mary moved to Cannes where their son Victor Alexander Christian henry George was born on April 19 1899. From here they moved briefly to San Remo and then returned to England. On their return from France in 1900 the de Mauny family moved to an old Queen Anne house called "Terrick House", near Ellesbrough in Buckimhamshire. A daughter, Alexandra Mary, was born here on July 19 1904. Maurice is reported to have written three books, "The Peace of Suffering 1914-1918", "Gardening in Ceylon", "The Gardens of Taprobane". Maurice was a great traveller. It is believed that he visited Ceylon for extended periods of a time a year or two after 1910. William Warren has suggested in "Tropical Asian Style", that de Mauny was first invited to Ceylon in 1912 by Sir Thomas Lipton, the tea magnate. Warren has conjectured that it was some “great personal disaster” that drove de Mauny to Ceylon. It is possible that both his diminishing financial status and also his many marital problems he was facing may have been the reasons for his move eastwards.de Mauny travelled several times between Hampshire and Ceylon soon after his bankruptcy problems. His skills as an expert gardener and furniture maker in Ceylon, and, later on Journalism, may have provided him with the necessary finances to supplekent his travel and living. There are accounts from people who knew him in Ceylon that he also used to receive remittances from overseas which probably could have beensent by his wife, Mary, from time to time for his upkeep and living. It is reported that he also ran a furniture factory and workshop in Colombo. A number of de Mauny furniture pieces have survived in the hands of private owners. They are now highly valued and cherished in Sri Lanka. He started the "Weligama Local Industrues" in 1925 which as he claimed gave employment to over 200 carpenters, carvers and inlayers. By 1930, the enterprise suffered at the hands of the Depression and had to be halted until better times. It was restarted in 1936. The craftsmanship was most admirable and the designs were very much French styles of that time. Ferguson's Ceylon Directory for 1920-21 shows that his address was “Ascot,” Albert Crescent, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7, a very elite and high-society area of Colombo. His son, Victor, is also listed as living there. It was in September 1927 that he saw for the first time, and quite by chance, a place that was to become his final home. At the center of the arc of the Bay of Weligama, in the southern tip of Ceylon, “a red granite rock, covered with palms and jungle shrub, rising from the Indian Ocean - an emerald in a setting of pink corral” was where he finally chose to build andlive his eternal dream of peace and tranquility close to nature that he loved so much. He swam across the narrow straight and saw an admirable view as he reached the plateau of the rock. "There was nothing", he recalled some ten years later, "between me and the South Pole". Having located and identified his magical island, which was only a few acres in area, de Mauny then set upon the task of building it into his future home that he had been dreaming of for so many years. The foundation stone of the house was laid on February 1, 1927 and thus initiated the beginning of what was to become a famous and much visited site by many distinguished persons. The seeds of "The Gardens of Taprobane" had been planted. The island was named "Taprobane" based on the ancient name for Ceylon given by the Greeks and also because it suited its pear-shape outline more like a mini Ceylon itself. The local name, by tradition, for the sland was "Galduwa" meaning "Rock Islan" in Sinalese. It is conjectured that the island may have been a art of the mainland in ancient tmes as it is not shown in maps of the Portuguese Colonial era. The name Taprobane is also considered to have been originated from the sanskrit "Tamba Vanna" meaning "copper colored" as a reference to the many famous golden beaches of Ceylon. The house was built on a 135 feet square area with a broad terrace surrounding it. It was octagonal in shape spanninga surface of 25 by 25 yards. This gave the resident and eight faced view of the outsde world with the north side facing towards the mainland and the south facing Antarctica in the South Pole. The central hall was called the "Hall of Lotus" and was also octagonal in shape measuring 26 by 26 feet. A 30 foot high dome lined with eight panels of inlaid wood was located in the center of he hall. The panels were dyed with an opaque gold and blue color and bore designs of Lotus buds and flowers. The dome was supported by eight square pilars of Wedgewood-blue, 24 feet tall. On either side of these were two light columns, 12 feet tall, making sixteen in all, terracotta with gilded capitals. They supported a white stone traverse that connected the pillars in an arch that was 12 foot span. This was hung with curtains of soft blue silk with a deep brocaded border of art noveau design at the bottom colored black and gold on cream. The rooms converged on the hall through eight arches. A Sigiriya frescoe styled border ran along the stone white walls. The whole scheme was engulfed in a golden hue by light entering through Venetian blinds created out of amber colored glass. The furniture within was made by local craftsmen using some of the rarest woods of Ceylon. They were mainly of French style although here were any pieces that belonged to the Dutch designs too. A carpet of Maidenhair ferns and a light bronze creeper with clumps of Eucharist Lilies adorned the hall. From the north-east terrace here was a splendid view of the shoreline, the forest of coconut palms fringing the Bay of Weligama, and the copper colored sands clustered with boats on a pea-green sea. Through the entrances of iron gates, with their design of brass-headed peacocks with prussian blue eyes one could see he openness and vastness of the mighty Indian Ocean sprawling through time. The Count was residing at Weligama in 1931. His son, Victor Alexander, was then residing at "Boxmead", Turret Road (now renamed to Dharmapala Mawatha and running from Kollupitiya junction in Colombo 3 all the way down to Liptons Circus in Colombo 7, bounding one of the most prestigious residential areas of Colombo), Colombo 7. Victor was employed at the Rosehough Tea Company, first as an Assistant and then as an under-manager. It is also reported in the Fergusons Directory that he held the position of Second Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. he went on to become a Commander in the Royal Navy in WW II, wher he was awarded the DFC. He eventually went on to become the Chairman of Rosehough until he resigned in the early 1970's. Local records in Sri Lanka show that the island was actually purchased by de Mauny for a sum of Rs 250 in 1925 in the name of his son Victor Alexander. It remained in his ownership until it was sold by public auction, in 1942, for Rs 12,000. The Count encouraged people to visit is island. His historical visitors book was filled with names of Kings, Princes, Dukes, Duchesses, Aristocrats, Prime Ministers, and other famous personalities from across the blue marble. Count Maurice de Mauny Talvande died on November 27, 1941 while at the Chelvarayan Estate, Navatkuli, in the northern city of Jaffna in Ceylon. Hs remains were buried at St Mary's Burial Grounds in Jaffna. Maurice's son Victor passed away in 1978 and his daughter Alexandra died in 1989. They were both chidlless. De Mauny's island was a very famous destination for many notables from different nations. The island was sold by public auction in 1942 after having been neglected ad in a state of derelict for many years. In 1957 Paul Bowles wrote an article about finding and living on a tiny tropical island in the Indian Ocean – Taprobane – only one hundred yards off the coast of Weligama, near Galle, in southern Ceylon (now Sri Lanka.) He first became intrigued by Taprobane island in 1949 when he saw photographs of it during a stay at Wilton House, the magnificent ancestral home of his friend from Tangier, David Herbert. The Herbert family had stayed on the island in the mid-1930s. Bowles first visited Ceylon in 1950 and two years later, when Taprobane was put up for sale, he bought the island with some of the proceeds from his second book “The Delicate Prey and Other Stories.” Paul Bowles wrote the final chapters of “The Spider’s House” while living on Taprobane. Bowles sold the island n 1956 to the Irish writer Shaun Mandy. For several years, since 1964, the island was in the ownership of of the de Silva whose senior member was Desmond de Silva QC, the very distinguished British barristor. The island was then on a long lease to to the very successful Hong Kong business tycoon Geofrey Dobbs. It may be interesting to note that the wife of Desmond de Silva is Princess Katharina of Yugoslavia. The author Robin Maugham, who visited the Island as a young man, and in the mid-1970s, considered the unique beauty and harmony of the villa had become compromised after de Mauny's death by partitioning and the loss of his furniture and fittings, and that the area itself had been despoiled by the construction of a new road along the mainland beach. Since then, and particularly after the 2004 tsunami, significant development of the adjoining mainland village has occurred.
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