French Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jean-Marin Schuh and German Ambassador Juergen Morhad are taking part in the traditional Cannonball Run celebrated by Colombo’s 150-year-old Galle Face Hotel, which will be held this year on 18 March.
The Cannonball Run is an annual tradition celebrated on the Galle Face Green, to commemorate the extraordinary incident of a
cannon misfire by a member of the British Artillery in 1845. The 30-pound cannon had misfired during a practice session around the southern ramparts of the Colombo Fort, crashing through the roof of the now Galle Face Hotel, leaving a heavy dent on the drawing room floor where it came to rest under a chair. The cannon ball is at present preserved in the museum located in the South Wing of the hotel.
In memory of this “infamous incident” an annual run has been held over the years, which begins at the cannon on the Fort end of the Green and ends at the cannonball placed on a pedestal in the hotel. The runners are generally members of the diplomatic community, who over the years have included the likes of American Ambassador Robert O’ Blake and British High Commissioner Peter Hayes (2008), Maldivian Ambassador Ali Hussein Didi and Russian Ambassador Vladimir P Mikhaylov (2010), French Ambassador Christine Robichon and Norwegian Ambassador Hilde Haraldstad (2011), and Canadian High Commissioner Bruce Levy and British High Commissioner John Rankin (2012) to name a few.
This year’s Master of the Cannon is Galle Face Hotel Chairman Sanjeev Gardiner. Pomp and pageantry accompany this special event – showcasing a procession of runners, cannonball bearers, and flag bearers. Members of the diplomatic community, the corporate, those in the field of entertainment, sports personalities, members of the media, the glitterati and the literati are in attendance to enjoy and witness this event. Cocktails and canapes at the terrace to end the evening make this possibly the best historic event of the year in Colombo.
“We promise it will be a historic and great event. The hotel since its beginnings in 1864 has been romanticised as a heritage landmark for many years. However, rather than being rooted in the past we have instead endeavoured to embrace and celebrate its rich history with events such as these. We strongly believe that if we are a heritage hotel, we must live by these traditions,” said Antony Paton, General Manager of Galle Face Hotel.
Steve Bennett from the United Kingdom who was a guest at the hotel last year adds roots to this age-old incident – Colonel Francis Seymour Douglas-Hamilton who was a Captain in the Royal Artillery stationed in Colombo in 1840 when the cannon ball was fired, is incidentally a distant relation of his great-grandmother.
“There is a famous family story about an ancestor who fired a cannon ball into a hotel in Ceylon, and they still keep the cannon ball on display. It wasn’t until I researched my family history recently that I was able to put names and dates to this story,” he said. “It is wonderful to be able to still view the incredible cannonball and the mischief done at the hotel.”