Thursday, July 13, 2017

The story of Koch's clock tower, Kynsey road, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Dr.Edwin Lawson Koch -
The second Principal of the Ceylon Medical College

The founder of the family in Ceylon was his great grandfather, Godfried Koch of Brandenberg, who came to the East in 1755. Edwin was born on 29 November 1838, the son of Johann Godfried Koch (Lawyer)and Angenita Dorothea Aldons, at Jaffna, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He had his early education at Jaffna, and must have spent many a dreamy afternoon among the beautiful, sturdy ramparts of the old Dutch Fort where his grandfather had served as a Lieutenant (Artillery) Johann Godfried Koch in the VOC .At the age of twenty he won a government scholarship which enabled him to enter the Medical College at Calcutta. There he further distinguished himself. Besides other prizes he won in 1862 a Gold Medal and the prize for General Proficiency. At Calcutta he met and afterwards married Miss Emma Millar. He began his professional career in Ceylon as a Government doctor on the 25th July 1862. ‘As a writer he was of the highest order’. ‘He published information about the Medical history of Ceylon’. Dr. Koch was one of the three lecturers - Drs. Andree
and Vanderstraaten being the other two. In 1875 he succeeded Dr. Loos as the Principal of the Medical School which post he held till his tragic and untimely death two years later.
The late Dr. J. L. Vanderstraaten, also famous in his time, described him as "a bold surgeon, a successful physician and an expert obstetrician." The year 1877 will always be remembered as the saddest in the history of the Ceylon Medical College. On November 9th, of that year Dr. J. C. Evarts, demonstrator in Anatomy, and a brilliant and promising young doctor, received a wound while assisting Dr. Koch, Surgeon of the General Hospital. In spite of Dr. Koch's skillful medical attention, the young doctor died on November 17th from the effects of blood poisoning.
Within less than a month of the death of Dr.Evarts, Dr. Koch himself was similarly infected from the result of a slight scratch sustained in the course of a post mortem. All the best doctors in the island hurried to his bedside, including Dr. Pieter, Daniel Anthonisz of Galle, and the Head of the Medical Department, Dr. Kynsey. But even their combined efforts were of no avail. He died within a week of getting the injury on December 20th, 1877 when he was only 39 years old, two years after his appointment as Principal .
" His short life was full of good deeds,…, he served the poor with Special generosity and devotion, and was widely known and love as their benefactor and friend’.
The grateful fishermen of Mutwal paid a striking tribute to his memory at his funeral, by spreading white cloth all along the route from his home to the cemetery gate His son, Dr. Vincent Koch, was given a medical education in Great Britain with subscriptions offered by a grateful public.
The following stanzas are from a poem written in his honor on behalf of the Freemasons of India:
Wail, Lanka's sons. We grieve to-day, For him whom Death has snatched away ;
Whose skill oft bade the tyrant stay , Successfully.
Yet not for him we grieve, for all
Before that awful scythe must fall
The loss is ours ; who heard the call resignedly,
We mourn the heart that soothed our grief;
The kindly hand that brought relief;
The voice, whose music, all too brief, fell soothingly.
We mourn the MAN, whose honest brow,
Still looking skyward, taught us how
To live, to work, to trust, to bow—The end to see.
We miss the skillful master-mind}Who taught us how to serve our kind;
Feet to the lame, eyes to the blind,
Peace to his ashes ! There lies one
Whose useful life, though scarce begun,
Has soared that highest need, " Well done !
More blest than we.

‘Through Dr. J. L. Vanderstraaten's efforts… a clock tower was
erected to his memory in the grounds of the Medical College by public subscription amounting to Rs 3,000, and Sir James Longden, the Governor at the time, induced the Legislative Council to donate the handsome clock at a cost of Rs 5,000.’.

‘As a centenary effort … a suitably inscribed marble tablet in order to make the monument better known to the present generation to whom his high ideals and noble life should serve as a good example’.
Web-link from which data was extracted
1. Portrait of Dr.Edwin Lawson Koch
2. The Koch memorial clock tower at Kynsey road.
3. The memorial slab at the base of the clock tower

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