The major

Mohammed Hussein Ismail, known as “Major Hussein”, is believed to be the oldest man in the Fort. He talks about how he got his name and his ten years in Trincomalee where he worked in a jewellery shop at the end of the second world war.


Join the discussion: 5 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    Mohammed Hussein Ismail is the oldest man living in the Galle Fort. Everyone knew him as “Major Hussein” and I wanted to find out the story behind his name. I went to visit Major Hussein one afternoon at his niece’s family home. After a recent fall, Major Hussein no longer left the house and spends his days in the front room. Even the short walk to the mosque is too much for him these days and instead he prays at home. “It’s for my own good”, he told me. He didn’t want to be a burden on others in case he had another fall. 

    Major Hussein loved to talk about his life in Trincomalee in the 1940s and ’50s. He worked there as a shop assistant in various jewellery stores for 10 years just after the end of the second world war. Business was booming and his customers were British soldiers stationed there and on the look out for jewellery for their wives or girlfriends. He became curious about the customs of these foreign soldiers, especially where and what they ate. He told me how his curiousity led him to the “ABCD cafe” that catered for their foreign tastes.  

    Despite being born with a disability, he often had to walk from China Bay to Trinco town in Sundays when the bus stopped run. He was a good worker he told me – “not lazy like the others” – and was much sought after by the owners of jewellery stores in Trinco.   

    Despite the slight echo in the room affecting my sound recording and the limited opportunities for photography, his story was an interesting one to capture and share. Fortunately, Major Hussein had a striking face, wonderful to photograph. First, I wanted to find out why everyone called him “major”. Not suprisingly, it had something to do with his life in Trinco.

  • Isabel says:

    Thanks for sharing all these stories before they are lost.

  • Suha Cassim says:

    Major Uncle! Assalamualikum!

    Thrilled to find you here. The Australian cricketers never forgot you.

    Hope you are well and walking to the Mosque as usual.

    Inshallah will see you soon…Love and Salaams from Daniel and I.


  • (@iam_project) (@iam_project) says:

    Mohammed Hussein Ismail was never in the army. So why does everyone call him “Major Hussein”?




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