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Old 31-10-09, 10:57 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default A tribute to Mervyn Jayasuriya

A tribute to Mervyn Jayasuriya

by Nalini Jayasuriya


What is this darkness in the noon of your day?

What is this silence

but the absence of your voice?


To me, it is not the Form or the recollection of the Life of an absent person, but the Voice that returns as a reminding presence.

Mervyn, a Choir leader at St. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia and the first concert soloist trained by the famous Effie Taylor, had a glorious boy soprano voice, later to become a rich baritone that served him well as a fine singer, and as an announcer on Radio Ceylon’s Western Service.

Pascoe Thornton, the BBC expert selected Mervyn from eighty applicants, and he remained for decades as an eminent broadcaster, interviewer, and producer of several programmes known as Roving Mike, Radio Newsreel, Sports Newsreel, In Town Toning, and also several programmes of Classical Music.

Mervyn sang on Radio Ceylon with me as piano accompaniment and his favourites were Handel, Bach, Mendelssohn and Schubert. They were well received.

Clifford Dodd, the Australian Director, who inaugurated the Commercial Service, selected Mervyn to interview all visiting VIPs, and also to record insightful fact files on a variety of issues pertaining to our country, its achievements and failures. Mervyn, outspoken, fearless and sometimes controversial, pleased some and incensed others.

His ideal was to remain the steadfast, resolute investigative reporter he wished to be, and he did have some measure of success.

Mervyn, like my father, was totally fearless.

When Harry Nightingale, the Olympic swimmer started on the Mount Lavinia beach, the first ever Life Saving Service in Sri Lanka, it became an almost totally Thomian outfit with world class swimmers like Dr. Douglas Arudt and Cedric Jansz; and Mervyn, ignoring the risk involved, volunteered to take the Reel, often through very rough seas to the drowning man, who as it often turned out, was much larger than he was!

But he persevered in this role for many years, glad of the privilege of being able to assist in saving a life.

My trembling mother could not restrain him, and eventually this made both my mother and myself very proud.

Mervyn lived a rich eventful life of memorable service and experience here and abroad, where he was sent often to cover various events.

Of all these, the event he cherished, was when Director Dodd ordered him to climb Sri Pada and speak to the world from its summit of the lighting up of the four and half mile Pilgrim Path. Mervyn, who rarely enjoyed walking leave alone climbing, tried every excuse to escape this….. Mr. Dodd listened patiently and replied, "The train leaves at nine tonight, and you will broadcast a fifteen minute commentary on the lighting up ceremony. Jayasinghe will also be on the train".

Mervyn describes this adventure with his usual racy wit, and describes the paralytic whom he had met earlier, way ahead of him; as he, Mervyn, crawled on all fours on the last lap of the climb!

He paid tribute to the Bhikkus, who lived at the summit for their solicitude and great kindness, and he was very humbly grateful for the privilege that was his, as a devout Roman Catholic, to have made the first ever broadcast from the hallowed summit of Buddhist Sri Pada.

Mervyn laughed and talked incessantly and many enjoyed him, especially as he related his great joke, that as an announcer he was Paid to Talk!

Mervyn, named Philip Mervyn Amadoru Jayasuriya, was born to Dunstan Manuel and Ada in our grandfather’s palatial home in Matara. Mervyn died in 1998.

As he lay dying, he asked me for another funny story….

Mervyn, in spite of having once been very deeply wounded, was able to rise without rancour and live again believing in Divine Justice and Truth…. His was truly an abiding and sublime Christian faith.

Now as I sit alone in this vast silent home, I recall how faithfully he served every cause that was just.

And I am proud; proud and grateful that this variously gifted and remarkable man was my brother….

And in the far far distance, I hear again that resonant voice that one spanned the airways of the world.

In the cloistered Silence, the Voice remains…

I have his small book entitled ‘The three F’s behind the Radio Ceylon Microphone’ with the cover picture of Mervyn interviewing Viscount and Countess Mountbatten, published by Omni, whose owner, a dear friend, did not accept any payment.

The book is hilarious, informative and unique in many ways. And it is Mervyn’s voice throughout, relating as only Mervyn could have done, that Life was, most of the time, very very funny!



Napoleon........"The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, But because of the silence of good people!"

Last edited by sriyanjay; 14-06-11 at 10:19 AM.
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