TOUR DE FORCE
Ebert Silva Touring
Afriend conjures up an endearing image with the following words: “He had a sense of responsibility and thinking far beyond his years, and coming from a conservative Buddhist background was the only vegetarian and teetotaler among the friends! When it came to a friend we could rely and count on, Ebert was always the first choice!”
Even as a young boy, Ebert Silva’s heart and mind were never between the pages of his school books. In any event, he was compelled to give up on pursuing further education with the sudden death of his father (Nomis) in 1953.
The elder Silva, a well-known businessman, had owned the Ebert Silva Omnibus Company, which he’d named after the eldest son of the family. Ebert had grown up in an imposing residence on Hill Street in Dehiwela, the adjacent compound of which housed the bus company’s office, garages and workshops.
Indeed, the workshops and garages were what gave young Silva the most pleasure. He had an enduring passion for the automobile. And so he committed himself wholeheartedly to shouldering the responsibility of carrying on his father’s business.
But more heartache lurked a few years into the future. The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) won the elections in April 1956 and the policy direction of the country witnessed a drastic change. An emphasis was placed on indigenous culture and language, and the nationalisation of resources and assets was advocated.
Almost overnight, Silva lost his fleet of 68 omnibuses and the Ebert Silva Omnibus Company, which he had grown into one of the largest bus companies of the time. Fifty-eight other bus companies also went out of business for the same reason. And Silva was left with only two second hand cars.
Refusing to be defeated, Silva pioneered ‘domestic tourism’ and initiated the first package tours to less frequented destinations in his island home. He rebuilt his company – catering to tourists from the Mount Lavinia Hotel and the jetty of the Colombo Harbour.
Looking to reconstitute a fleet of buses, Silva travelled the breadth of the country looking for lorries he could convert with an eye now on the tourism market opening up, and the potential of providing access to Sri Lanka’s historic and scenic locales.
On the Royal visit in 1981, it was the coaches of Ebert Silva Touring that conducted Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II to the sights of the island’s ancient ruined cities.
Ebert Silva: packaged transports of delight.