1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Galle
GALLE, or Point de Galle, a town and port of Ceylon on the south-west coast. It was made a municipality in 1865, and divided into the five districts of the Fort, Callowelle, Galopiadde, Hirimbure and Cumbalwalla. The fort, which is more than a mile in circumference, overlooks the whole harbour, but is commanded by a range of hills. Within its enclosure are not only several government buildings, but an old church erected by the Dutch East India Company, a mosque, a Wesleyan chapel, a hospital, and a considerable number of houses occupied by Europeans. The old Dutch building known as the queen’s house, or governor’s residence, which dated from 1687, was in such a dilapidated state that it was sold by the governor, Sir William Gregory, in 1873. Elsewhere there are few buildings of individual note, but the general style of domestic architecture is pleasant and comfortable, though not pretentious. One of the most delightful features of the place is the profusion of trees, even within the town, and along the edge of the shore—suriyas, palms, coco-nut trees and bread-fruit trees. The ramparts towards the sea furnish fine promenades. In the harbour deep water is found close to the shore, and the outer roads are spacious; but the south-west monsoon renders entrance difficult, and not unfrequently drives vessels from their moorings.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and the construction of a breakwater at Colombo, leading to the transfer of the mail and most of the commercial steamers to the capital of the island, seriously diminished the prosperity of Galle. Although a few steamers still call to coal and take in some cargo, yet the loss of the Peninsular and Oriental and other steamer agencies reduced the port to a subordinate position; nor has the extension of the railway from Colombo, and beyond Galle to Matara, very much improved matters. The tea-planting industry has, however, spread to the neighbourhood, and a great deal is done in digging plumbago and in growing grass for the distillation of citronella oil. The export trade is chiefly represented by coco-nut oil, plumbago, coir yarn, fibre, rope and tea. In the import trade cotton goods are the chief item. Both the export and import trade for the district, however, now chiefly passes through Colombo. Pop. (1901) 37,165.
Galle is mentioned by none of the Greek or Latin geographers, unless the identification with Ptolemy’s Avium Promontorium or Cape of Birds be a correct one. It is hardly noticed in the native chronicles before 1267, and Ibn Batuta, in the middle of the 14th century, distinctly states that Kali—that is, Galle—was a small town. It was not till the period of Portuguese occupation that it rose to importance. When the Dutch succeeded the Portuguese they strengthened the fortifications, which had been vigorously defended against their admiral, Kosten; and under their rule the place had the rank of a commandancy. In the marriage treaty of the infanta of Portugal with Charles II. of England it was agreed that if the Portuguese recovered Ceylon they were to hand over Galle to the English; but as the Portuguese did not recover Ceylon the town was left to fall into English hands at the conquest of the island from the Dutch in 1796. The name Galle is derived from the Sinhalese galla, equivalent to “rock”; but the Portuguese and Dutch settlers, being better fighters than philologists, connected it with the Latin gallus, a cock, and the image of a cock was carved as a symbol of the town in the front of the old government house.