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Old 05-11-17, 12:56 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default The Blue Black and Blue, for ever!WELL DONE S. THOMAS'

The Blue Black and Blue, for ever!WELL DONE S. THOMAS'

By T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka
(Member of the Royal College Class of 1949)

In February 2001 S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia celebrated with great enthusiasm its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. The celebrations commenced with a poignant Service of Thanksgiving at their Chapel followed by breakfast on the quadrangle, where Thomians young and Thomians oldf Thomians staunch and true rally round their College flag. That in turn was followed by a Special General Assembly and luncheon in the traditional Thomian style of rice, dry beef curry, (the recipe of which is known only unto God and Thomian cooks) pol sambol and parippu. It was truly a splendid beginning for the month long celebration which included the Thomian Fair, a gala dinner at the Hilton and to culminate with the annual Royal-Thomian Cricket Match to be played later this week.

At the Service of Thanksgiving there were just four Royalists. They were The Right Reverend Kenneth Femando, Bishop of Colombo of the Church of Ceylon and statutorily the Chairman of the Board of Governors of S. Thomas', The Reverend Duleep de Chikera, a former Sub-Warden, J.P. Obeyesekera, best known in Thomian quarters as the husband of Siva Obeyesekera who organized yet another Thomian Fair, and myself. We were so moved that we decided to make our own little contribution, from Royal with love !

To those readers who are not familiar with the traditions of these two famous schools, it must be added that those of us at Royal have a special place in our hearts for S. Thomas'. That fondness is only second to our fondness for another school, namely Ladies College! During the twentieth century it was difficult to find a boy at Royal who did not have a special affinity to some nice girl at Ladies College. It is difficult to quantify those platonic relationships, statistically. However statistics do reveal that a staggering one-third of Royalists had opted for wives from Ladies College! That long and unending list includes both J.P. Obeyesekera and myself!

S. Thomas' can indeed be proud of their numerous achievements from 1851 to 2001. To my mind their greatest achievement is, that with unfailing regularity they have produced real gentlemen. Their second greatest achievement, was that though a Christian School (it was founded by The Right Reverend James Chapman, the first Bishop of Colombo of the Church of England) it has moulded Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians to rise above religious prejudices and to have an abiding love for Mother Lanka. Thirdly, they have produced an unending line of top professionals from every conceivable profession. That endless line is second only to that of just one school!

Considering that S. Thomas' (like Royal) was set up by the British to educate us, shortly after^they had conquered us, it is interesting to observe how some Thomians responded to that period of colonial servitude. In 1915 the British executed Captain William Henry Pedris of the Town Guards, for treason. A scion of a wealthy family, in his last moments he was handcuffed and tied to a stake. Then a British Major from a Marathi Regiment from Bombay approached him and ripped off his epaulettes, signifying that he was stripped of his commission. When the Major attempted to apply the blindfold he was brushed off with Thomian grit at its best,with Captain Pedris saying defiantly in Latin

Dulce et decorum pro patria mori est

(It is sweet and glorious to die for my country) Then came the order “Load", "Aim", "Fire".

That Thomian grit was reflected during World War I when Second-Lieutenant Basil HorsfalL of the First Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers was based in France near the border with Belgium. In 1917 the German Army which was embattled at Ypres in Belgium somehow broke through British lines and trapped many Regiments, including the Lancashire Fusiliers. When his Company was facing certain extermination, Second-Lieutenant Horsfall with total disregard for his own safety knocked out several German machine gun nests. He continued to do so even when he was mortally wounded and bleeding profusely, till a German sniper finally got him. He was posthumously awarded the coveted Victoria Cross the highest British decoration for valour, the only such medal ever won by a Ceylonese.

That Thomian grit is ever present in the operational areas of our present Civil war. In March 1996 Squadron-Leader Thilina Kaluarachchi of the Sri Lanka Air Force repeatedly flew his MI-24 helicopter gunship through a hail of machine gun fire to evacuate our troops who were withdrawn following the battle at Mullaitivu. Already the Army had lost over 1,000 officers and men, the Navy had lost two Dovra gunboats with all crew on board. The Special Forces and Commandos who were brought in from Batticaloa and Minneriya on the orders of Major-General Srilal Weerasooriya RWP, RSV, VSV, USP, later as a Lieutenant-General the first Thomian to command our Army, would perhaps have perished if not for the Air Force in general and a squadron of helicopter gunships in particular. Many were of the opinion that Squadron-Leader Kaluarachchi should have been awarded the Parama. Weera Vibushana our version of the Victoria Cross. Instead he was awarded the Weera? Wickrema Vibushana our second highest decoration for gallantry. In 1997 Mount Lavinia and S. Thomas' wept for Wing-Commander Thilina Kaluarachchi WWV, RWP and bar, RSP and bar, who was killed in action. Honoured as a war hero, both in life and in death, his Military funeral was graced by the largest crowd ever seen in Mount Lavinia in living memory.

Since its inception in 1851 S. Thomas' was moulded in the best traditions of liberal education in the West, as was Royal since its inception in 1835. The curriculum was based on that of Eton and Harrow. However the winds of change were blowing across the world, though the British were quite oblivious to it. To them the sun never set on the British Empire. Our patriots looked at the world differently. For example a rebellious but truthful youngster named David Hewavitharana at S. Thomas' was giving Warden Miller a rough time. In his wisdom his father moved him,, to a better school, where his older brother Charles Hewavitharana, was developing quite a reputation as a scholar. It was rather unfortunate that young David Hewavitharana continued his rebellious activities unmindful of the Royal College motto "Disce Aut Discede" (Leam or Depart). He also had some minor vices such as smoking. Just once he got caught, was given a public caning and expelled. The experience was so traumatic, that it cured him of all minor vices for all time. In adult life David Hewavitharana was the personification of rectitude. As Anagarika Dharmapala he became a disciple of Lord Buddha in the true sense of the word and greatly helped to propagate the gospel of The Enlightened One.

Another great Thomian who helped in our cultural renaissance was E.R.S. De Silva. At S. Thomas' he was a quiet boy not known for scholastic brilliance. However at the University College in Colombo (later the University of Ceylon and now the University of Colombo) he did brilliantly in Indo-Aryan Languages. He followed it up with a Doctorate from the University of London. In due course Ediriweera Sarathchandra, as he was known in adult life, became a Professor of Sinhala at the University of Peradeniya. More importantly, he produced the magnificent ballet "Maname" in 1957. It had packed houses throughout the nation for over fifteen years, till he left for France as our Ambassador.

Thomian grit was a conspicuous, feature when D.R. Wijewardene, N.K. Choksy Q.C., Jabir A. Ca|ler aridUDr. Sam De Vos made their pioneering ventures into the field of commerce. D.R. Wijewardene had perceived, during his days at Cambridge, that Ceylon had to have her own newspapers in her quest for Independence. Accordingly in 1917 he set up the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) which in a little over a decade eclipsed the British-owned "Times of Ceylon". Initially he encountered stiff resistance from British commercial interests who refused to advertise in his newspapers. Consequently "The Ceylon Daily News ran at a loss for a number of years, notwithstanding, the fact that it outsold "The Morning Leader" of the Times Group. Sheer tenacity on the part of D.R. Wijewardene kept ANCL solvent. Then by the end of the nineteen twenties "The Ceylon Daily News" even outsold the evening newspaper "The Times." It was only then that the British commercial interests made a virtue out of necessity and began advertising in "The Ceylon Daily News." Thereafter in life and in death D.R. Wijewardene was looked upon as (he greatest entrepreneur Ceylon had produced in the twentieth century; That was till the advent of his brother's son Upali Wijewardene, my classmate at Royal College.N.K. Choksy made a fortune at the Bar and thereafter invested his wealth wisely in the manufacture of garments, then in its incipient stage of evolution. He chose an industry which the ladies refer to rather naughtily as the upliftment of the fallen. It is otherwise known as the manufacture of brassieres.

Last edited by sriyanj; 05-11-17 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 05-11-17, 01:00 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Jabir A. Cader was a pioneer in the cinemas, initially with the New Olympia and then a chain including the Liberty. Sam De Vos made his fortune with Departmental Stores initially in Galle and then expanding to Colombo and Kandy.

There is only one visible difference between Royalists and Thomians. At Royal the motto is "Disce Aut Discede." Accordingly during the

twentieth century well over 50% of students from Royal entered Universities. The corresponding average for S. Thomas' is well below 25%. Notwithstanding those considerations S. Thomas' has produced some truly brilliant scholars. For example Ronnie de Mel came first in every public examination held in Ceylon, in his time. In 1947 he took a brilliant First in History at the University of Ceylon and was awarded a scholarship to Cambridge University. In 1948 he was placed first in the competitive examination to join the then prestigious and now defunct Ceylon Civil Service. In more recent years Professor G.L. Pieris won even more prizes than Ronnie de Mel, took a First from the University of Ceylon in Law, a Doctorate from Oxford, a scholarship to Harvard, became a Professor at the ^University of Ceylon at 34 years of age and Vice-Chancellor at 40 yeiars of age. Somehow both abandoned their chosen careers for the lure of politics. Only time will show whether that was wisdom or folly.

Many a brilliant scholar from S. Thomas' became a permanent member of the academia. None played that role so well as Professor P.P.G.L. Siriwardene, the last Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Lanka. Those who had the privilege of studying Chemistry under him, Sub-Warden D.A. Pakianathan and I are two of his many grateful pupils, revere him as the very personification of a gentleman replete with a golden brain and a heart of gold.

It is commonplace for those at Royal to corridlne studies with sports. Indeed those who scored centuries in the Royal-Thomian or scored tries in the Bradby Shield match with Trinity College or broke records in the Public Schools Athletics Meet were shown the way to go home, when they did not pass their examinations. Our motto "Disce Aut Discede" is enforced ruthlessly, to say the least. On the other hand the concept of 'men sana in corpore sano' (a healthy mind in a healthy body) is a rarity at S. Thomas. However their glorious exceptions include Osmund De Silva who in his undergraduate years at the University College broke more Ceylon records in Athletics than even Duncan White and later rose to be an Inspector-General of Police and A.J.D.N. Selvadurai who as an undergraduate represented Ceylon in three sports. Athletics, Cricket and Tennis. That was way back in the decade of the nineteen twenties. Since then S.J. Thambiah, Captain of Cricket in 1948, Head Prefect and winner of the Victoria Gold Medal, entered the University of Ceylon on a scholarship, took a First in Sociology, a Doctorate from Oxford and is now a Professor at Harvard. P.T. Shantikumar, Captain of Cricket in 1949 came first in the Ceylon Civil Service examination in 1954, P.I.

Pieris, Captain of Cricket in 1953, and a Cambridge Blue who represented Ceylon for many years after his return to the Island, Rupert Ferdinands was Captain of our Davies Cup Team when he was still an undergraduate of the University of Ceylon in the early nineteen sixties and Mano Ponniah who represented Ceylon in Cricket during his years as an undergraduate of the University of Peradeniya. In more recent years, Geffary Dulapanden Captained the Sri Lanka team in Swimming while an undergraduate at the University of Colombo.

The calibre of a school is often determined by its Principal and Staff. S. Thomas' was singularly fortunate to have been headed by educationists of the high calibre of Warden W.A. Stone and his pupil Warden R.S. De Saram for fifty of its one hundred and fifty years. They moulded their students as they deemed fit, in the best traditions of the British public school system. They never spared the rod to spoil the child and terrified successive generations ofThomians. On the other hand they concealed a genuine fondness for; their pupils. The parable of the lost sheep as enunciated by Jesus Christ was deeply embedded in their thinking. So was the concept that a Resurrection can come only after a Crucifixion. They have now returned to their Maker but their spirit lives beyond the grave, in the hearts and minds of thousands of grateful Thomians staunch and true.

By the same token S. Thomas' has been so fortunate by the dedication of their tutorial staff. Teaching has many rewards but none financially. Dedicated teachers are almost an extinct species today in Sri Lanka. It was not so in Ceylon in the years gone by. One of the Rolls of Honour at S. Thomas' are for teachers who have served for twenty five years or more. That long list includes such famous teachers as The Rev. G.A.H. Amdt, C.H. Christie David, C.V. Pereira, E.O. Pereira, O.P. Gunaratne, A.J. Schaffter, Harold Jantz, Miss A.E. Bay, Mrs. Ruth Anthonisz, V.P. Cooke, The Rev. J.Y. Baranabas, The Rev. Cannon A.J. Foster, Dr. R.L. Hayman, D.F. David, B.C. D'Silva, C.S. Weerasinghe and W.I. Muttiah, amongst others. Regrettably that long list narrows down appreciably sometime after our Independence. Unfortunately Royal College suffers from the same affliction, which imperils the moulding of character which is even more important than the imparting of knowledge.

The moulding of character can be achieved basically in the classroom and on the playing fields. S. Thomas' can be proud of the sportsmen they have moulded based on the theme,

"When the One Great Scorer comes To write against your name, He writes not whether you won or lost But how you played the game."
Vemon Prins, Michael Tissera, Anura Tenekoon and Duleep Mendis were famous Captains of Cricket at S. Thomas' who went on to Captain the Ceylon/Sri Lanka team. To those who have the privilege of knowing them personally, as I do, they have surpassed their capacity to excel in cricket with their immeasurable capacity to be the personification of gentlemen, both on and off the field. No commentary on Cricket at S. Thomas' is complete without reference to Thomian grit in the context of the Centenary Match of thfe Royail-Thomian. The Thomian wickets were falling like ninepins on the last day and the match was expected to be over before Tea. Then Mahinda Halangoda and C.P. Richards were associated in a 91 run,unbroken partnership for the ninth wicket. Many Thomians still say "Never in our history have so many owed so much to so few.

Tragically S. Thomas' like Royal has produced a string of Heads of Governments who have done much good and much harm to our nation. At the advent of Independence we were both stable and prosperous. We were the envy of other nations in South-East Asia. Today nobody, except perhaps those of unsound mind, would envy our nation or deem it to be either stable or prosperous. Our Prime Ministers and Presidents, be they from S. Thomas' or Royal or elsewhere, be they from the male or the female of the species, have exhibited one tragic flaw. They have systematically placed their personal interests and Party interests ahead of our national interests. Down the ages and around the world, that has been a certain recipe for chaos and chaos we see all around us. Not surprisingly Sri Lanka has not produced one statesman since Independence. In that sense both S. Thomas' and Royal have failed the nation. I do hope that deficiency will be set right in this century, and sooner the better.

There is just one sphere of activity where S. Thomas' has completely eclipsed Royal. The benefactors of S. Thomas' have been truly marvellous. They have stood by the school in dark days and in happier times. They have indeed been a catalyst in the pursuit of excellence by S. Thomas'.

This article has been an attempt to summarize the many virtues and the few infirmities of S. Thomas'. On the balance, the overall performance of this great school has been truly marvellous. That rich heritage must be used wisely to enhance S. Thomas' in this century. Indeed S. Thomas' has made a magnificent start by appointing Dr. David Ajunan Ponniah as the new Warden. A supreme example of ''men sana in corpore sano' he stunned the massive crowd at the Royal-Thomian of 1967 when as a fresher he scored a century. Later that year he sailed into the University of Peradeniya at a young age, much to the relief of Royalists. He did his post-graduate work in the UK and sacrificed a certain Professorship in the years to come, to answer a call of duty by his Alma Mater in its hour of need. A true example of Thomian grit!

Today we live in an open society almost free of indigenous tyranny and have tasted the fruits offan open economy for nearly a quarter of a century. Yet such enlightened thinking has not yet percolated into the field of education. ^Bureaucratic controls have not decreased but increased on the private schools. It is so different in India and Pakistan, in Malaysia and Singapore. Sri Lanka must follow those examples and permit magnificent schools like S. Thomas' to blossom out to its full potential.

Thomians young and Thomians old, Thomians staunch and true, to those of us at Royal it is truly our privilege to salute you on your one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. May your foundations be not on concrete but on the teachings of Jesus Christ, as they have always been. May you continue to serve Mother Lanka in the magnificent way you have always done. May you continue to be our friendly rival, as you have always been.

WEL DONE S. THOMAS'

Esto Perpetua (Be Thou for Ever)
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Old 05-11-17, 01:05 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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From: Arjun Dharmadasa <arjun@saexhibitions.com>
Date: Sun, Nov 5, 2017 at 11:15 AM
Subject: 11/5/17, 11:00:05 AM: Upali Elapata:
WELL DONE S. THOMAS'
By T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka (Member of the Royal College Class of 1949) In February 2001 S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia celebrated with great enthusiasm its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. The celebrations commenced with a poignant Service of Thanksgiving at their Chapel followed by breakfast on the quadrangle, where Thomians young and Thomians oldf Thomians staunch and true rally round their College flag. That in turn was followed by a Special General Assembly and luncheon in the traditional Thomian style of rice, dry beef curry, (the recipe of which is known only unto God and Thomian cooks) pol sambol and parippu. It was truly a splendid beginning for the month long celebration which included the Thomian Fair, a gala dinner at the Hilton and to culminate with the annual Royal-Thomian Cricket Match to be played later this week. At the Service of Thanksgiving there were just four Royalists. They were The Right Reverend Kenneth Femando, Bishop of Colombo of the Church of Ceylon and statutorily the Chairman of the Board of Governors of S. Thomas', The Reverend Duleep de Chikera, a former Sub-Warden, J.P. Obeyesekera, best known in Thomian quarters as the husband of Siva Obeyesekera who organized yet another Thomian Fair, and myself (T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka). We were so moved that we decided to make our own little contribution, from Royal with love !

Last edited by sriyanj; 05-11-17 at 01:07 PM.
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