Our student connections with Sri Lanka appear to stem from the 1770s with Robert Arbuthnot, a student of the University in 1773, who became ‘Chief Secretary of Government on the Island of Ceylon’; and Thomas Christie, a student in 1786, who served in the medical service at Trincomalee, Ceylon, as Army Surgeon from 1797.
On the occasion of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day, however, we look to our first Sri Lankan-born student:
Margaret Cochran Dewar, MB ChB (1894), was a lady of firsts: Our first female Sri Lankan-born graduate; among the first women in Scotland to gain a University degree and to receive a university medical qualification; and among the first graduates of the Queen Margaret Medical School.
Dewar was born in 1872 in Kandy, in what was known until 1972 as Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. She was the daughter of a tea planter named John Lewthwaite Dewar, and was one of four sisters born and brought up in Kandy, who later enrolled at the University. Margaret was the first to enroll in 1890, shortly followed by Amy Cochran Dewar in 1892, who sadly died during her first academic year at the University; Katherine Cochran Dewar in 1905, and De Courcy Lewthwaite Dewar in 1903, the talented enamel and metalwork designer.
Katherine and De Courcy remained in Scotland, while Margaret moved to the USA after her marriage to a Professor at Harvard Medical School, but were alive to see Sri Lanka’s proclamation of independence on 4 February 1948, which saw the country become part of the British Commonwealth as the Dominion of Ceylon. In 22 May 1972, Sri Lanka became the Republic of Sri Lanka.
We welcome any information relating to our connections with Sri Lanka to help us in our research!