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Old 10-11-09, 10:12 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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Default Reverend Father Lucien G. B. Fernando – Master and mentor

Reverend Father Lucien G. B. Fernando – Master and mentor

S.V.D. Kesarralal Gunasekera

I begin this tribute to Rev. Lucien G. B. Fernando by regretfully stating that the results in mathematics at the Ordinary Level examination has been deteriorating over the last few years. It is a strange way to begin a tribute, you may say. But the juxtaposition is very well intended. Because I strongly feel that the absence of teachers of Father L.G.B. Fernando’s calibre is the reason for this national failure.
Lucien G. B. Fernando was an old Thomian. He had his entire education at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. He secured a 2nd Class Upper for his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Peradeniya, and applied for a post of assessor at the Department of Inland Revenue. But his destiny took a right turn with the invitation he received from Reverend Father Canon R. S. De Saram, the then Warden of S. Thomas’ College to join his alma mater as a teacher. While teaching at S. Thomas’ he went to Rippon College in England for higher studies in theology. This was with the view to becoming a priest. During his stay in England he also obtained a Masters Degree in Western Classics at the University of London. The all-rounder became an associate of the Royal College of Organists in London; a skill which he exhibited at the highest levels during his years as a priest. His organ recitals were of high standard and his live performances were greatly appreciated particularly at Christmas and Easter. He had the rare opportunity and the honour of performing with an orchestra before Queen Elizabeth II in Calcutta as well as when the Queen visited Sri Lanka. From London he moved to the Bishop’s College in Calcutta for further studies in theology and upon his return to Sri Lanka he was ordained as a deacon at the Chapel of Transfiguration at the St. Thomas’ College on May 29, 1959. He was ordained as a priest in 1962.
To me and many other Thomians who had the privilege of being his students, his worth is endless. He taught mathematics, Greek and Latin and he taught all three subjects equally well. He had an exceptional ability to teach mathematics. This is where I would like to refer back to the point with which I opened this article; that more students in Sri Lanka are failing in their basic mathematics today not because the students lack intelligence, but because teachers lack the ability to teach the subject. Mathematics unlike any other subject cannot be given as notes for students to memorise. The principles and the concept of mathematics have to be clearly taught so that the students are able to apply them in any deduction process. Teaching mathematics is therefore a process which enlightens the student. This is something Rev. L.G.B. Fernando grasped well and imparted well. Unfortunately, the teachers of today approach mathematics the same way they approach subjects like social studies, religion or health. Teachers have not learnt the correct way in teaching mathematics and the students are the final losers as a result. But I do know that our students can grasp the concepts of mathematics if the knowledge is imparted the correct way. We did; because Rev. L.G.B. Fernando was a true master in maths. He also served on the national committee which set the O/L maths paper. He first taught us in grade eight and we developed so fast, thanks to his ability to teach well. He raised us to such a level that we were able to finish answering the three hour mathematics paper in two and a half hours and even go over our answers a second time. At the G.C.E Ordinary Level examination, out of 33 students in our class, 25 got distinctions.
Another salient feature of mathematics is that it is not a static subject. It has to tackle new concepts in the world. However the basics are very much intact. What we need in our syllabi today is the venue to delve into the fundamentals of geometry, algebra and trigonometry. But sadly, full components of these are pretty much absent in today’s mathematics syllabus which is totally unfair by the student. Unlike the years when we were in school, today’s students can absorb and comprehend more given the exposure and access they get to the rest of the world. Particularly a subject like mathematics can provide the space and opportunity for children to think independently and apply the learning on their own. It is only then that our children will be able to benefit from the intelligence that mathematics gives. Rev. L.G.B. Fernando knew this and we were prepared to get that intelligence. And I strongly believe that that is what is required in our education system today. Or we run the serious risk having generation so students who lack basic intelligence. And I reiterate the fact that we need more masters of the calibre of Rev. L.G.B. Fernando.
But Rev L.G.B. Fernando was much more than a master; he was a mentor to all of us. He lived down De Saram Road where I live. In the evenings when we played cricket on the road, he usually return home in his blue Simca car. He certainly did not approve of us spending so much time on play, but he did not utter a word when we met him on the road. However, the following day we knew that there would be hell to pay. He would simply ask us a question related to our studies and when we failed to answer, he would always puts things into perspective saying, “I will tell your parents that they are just wasting their money on you and that all you need is a bat and a ball.” Fearing this talk, which was torture to us then, we used to pay attention to the sound of his car coming down Beach Road and clear the road accordingly. But he was always smarter than any of us boys. He decided to come down the road on neutral gear just to catch us in the act so that he could correct us the following day. Not only was he dedicated to his work, he was more dedicated to OUR education and OUR future.
For masters such as Reverend L.G.B. Fernando, there was no private life. He dedicated his whole life to his students. He taught subjects, disciplined us, and groomed us to face society with confidence. The disciplining and grooming was done by example. He was smart in appearance, clean and proper in his attire, respectful in his speech and honest and open in nature. He was a master we all feared but deep within that fear we have unknowingly grown awe for him. Today we see in contrast that he had all the hall marks of a great teacher and a holistic educationist. And that is why we grieve his death even today, 22 years after his demise. And one and only one phrase come to my mind; Esto Perpetua– thou art forever.

S.V.D. Kesarralal Gunasekera
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Last edited by sriyanj; 19-05-15 at 11:58 PM.
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Old 10-11-09, 10:48 AM
sriyanjay sriyanjay is offline
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A great and fitting tribute to an icon and a very pleasant journey down memory lane, particularly for those who grew up on that lane!

Well done Kesara!


"Ramal Jasinghe" <ramal@asianalliance.lk>June 18 2007.

a well written and timely article - thanks. and YS, thanks for sending it to all of us.

"Sanjiva Wijesinha" <Sanjiva.Wijesinha@med.monash.edu.au>June 18 2008.

Dear Sriyan,

Thank you very much for your kind gesture in acknowledging my comments made to Kesaralal on his fine tribute to a great man! There are other great men too in my school life who have helped to mould me into what I am today, and one such person is your late father, Mr. D. S. Jayasekera, who apart from being my mentor, was my boss as well, when I did a stint at College on the staff some years ago- my very first job.

It is one of life’s cruel realities, that men of such caliber are not easily made, and that the men of this caliber do not live on this earth forever! I am sure that all the good deeds and the knowledge so selflessly imparted by these men to us, their pupils, are manifested in some way however small in our daily dealings with the community at large and in the progress of our chosen vocations. This I feel is the greatest honor we can bestow on them!

I wish you and your family my heartiest best wishes with much gratitude, and your great late father peace eternal!

"Ramal Jasinghe" <ramal@asianalliance.lk>June 19 2008.

Dear YS – Thanks for sharing the wonderful memories of Rev LGB
kind regards

Graham Masefield" <GMasefield@pvs.net.au>June 19 2008.

Dear YS,

Many thanks for your mail regarding Rev. L G B Fernando. Although I never had the opportunity to be taught by him we always spoke very highly of his ability to impart as an industrious servant of STC. I must congratulate Kesarralal for a job well done. YS I think we as very senior old boys must set an example to the younger generation by highlighting the services rendered by members of the tutorial staff without which you & I would not have occupied the seats we acquired after leaving this wonderful school. Personally YS I am indebted to the several wardens during our time.

Thank you YS for your efforts.

May the Good Lord Bless you and keep you always in perfect health with success and prosperity following you all the days of your life.

Best Regards,

Viraj Perera
"Viraj Perera (HVA)" <viraj@heladiv.com> June 22 2008.
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Old 05-05-11, 02:48 PM
Palmyrah Palmyrah is offline
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In the interests of truth and fairness, it should be added that LGB was not a sympathetic character and had few friends among the boys or even, I believe, among the staff. He was an intellectual whose interest in music and the classics was genuine and we all respected his academic credentials; however, his interpersonal skills were poor and we boys never felt close to him the way we did with some other masters, even feared ones like Leo de Silva and Quentin Israel.

He had the unendearing habit of decrying in contemptuous terms the College ethos of sportsmanship and esprit de corps; his views on such institutions as the Royal-Thomian were, frankly, most un-Thomian, and we choristers were under strict instructions not to cheer at the match and if possible avoid attending altogether for fear of inhaling dust and losing our voices! Needless to say, these instructions were generally ignored.

LGB also played favourites, a thing we all despised as boys when we encountered it among our teachers. At least he openly admitted to doing it.

He did provide a number of us with one heart-warming memory. Idling in our Coll A classroom in the New Science lab one day, we watched from the window as LGB emerged from the library and set off down the path towards De Saram Road. The enormous white bull that used to pull the roller for the Big Club pitch was tied to a nearby telephone pole, grazing. I expect some of you remember that bull; he had a bit of a temper and we tended to give him a wide birth. LGB, perhaps conscious of the dignity of the cloth, refused to make a detour from the path as he approached the bull. Predictably, the beast lunged at him, and somehow its tether came loose. With eight hundred pounds or so of steak on the hoof coming at him like the Ruhunu Kumari, Lajjabba had no option but to gather up the skirts of his cassock and sprint. By now our entire class was at the window watching the fun, and as LGB and the bull went thundering across turf, laughter and cheers from adjoining classes told us we were far from the only witnesses to the incident. I must say Lajjabba had built up a very creditable turn of speed for someone his age by the time he turned the corner down De Saram Road and was lost to view. By then the bull was tiring, but Lajjabba was still going strong.

That bull always knew whom to chase. I remember the late Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga executing a chubby pratfall, sending an armful of thick, square books flying as he fell over his own feet in his eagerness to escape its horns.

Last edited by Palmyrah; 05-05-11 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 30-09-12, 07:36 PM
Kumarads Kumarads is offline
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Default Rev. LBJ Fernando

Thank you for this great tribute to a wonderful teacher. His like as a maths teacher will not be known very often. I still remember the nemonic that he used to help us remember trigonometry! OAT COSAH SINOH SINOH COSAH OAT. see if you can work out what this meant.
Suramya Kumararatne
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Old 17-05-15, 11:08 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Memories of my Maths Master –

To Sir with love…..

Memories of my Maths Master –

Rev. Fr Lucien G B Fernando

By S V D Kesarralal Gunasekara

Though my school boy days

Of telling tales and pranks are gone

In my mind, they will always live on

How do I ‘THANK YOU” Sir?

For teaching me, right from wrong

For taking me from crayons to manhood

It’s not easy -

But I’ll try…

A “great human being”, Rev. Fr. Lucien G B Fernando was laid to rest 22 years. Considered great, due to his exceptional qualities which he lived by and inspired others to emulate. He was an eminent master of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, where his teachings in Maths was par excellence! In addition, he was also an illustrious scholar and versatile organist.

Mr L G B Fernando qualified with a Second Class Upper, Bachelor of Arts from the University of Peradeniya and was selected to the Inland Revenue Department as an Assessor, but Rev. Cannon R S De Saram, the then Warden wanted him to join his Alma Mater with a future plan for his life at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. He served his Alma Mater and proceeded to England – Rippon College, Oxford, for his further studies in Theology with a view to joining the Priesthood. Thereafter, he qualified with a Masters Degree in Western Classics at the University of London. Whilst in England, he also qualified in Music as an Associate of the Royal College of Organists, London. He also performed with much aplomb before Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II both in Calcutta and Sri Lanka. His organ recitals over Christmas & Easter was ‘music to the soul’ for those who were fortunate enough to be in his audience! His live performances at various festivals were much sought after. However, his forte was Mathematics, Latin & Greek. He then proceeded to Bishop’s College, Calcutta, for further Theological studies, and returned to Mother Lanka to be ordained as a Deacon at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. This is the only Ordination that has taken place since 28th May 1959. Subsequently, he was ordained a Priest - The Rev. Fr. Lucien G B Fernando on 23rd December 1962.

What prompted me to write this article was to commemorate the 22nd death anniversary of an eminent master, scholar, Anglican priest, organist and above all a great human being. Also, when I saw the newspaper headlines screaming that the Commissioner of Examinations Mr Anura Edirisinghe had stated that mathematics results at the recent O/L examination were the worst in our history of education.

His comments do not surprise me at all and neither do the results, as present day teachers fail to understand the correct process to teach maths. Maths is certainly not a subject that can be memorised and though memorising may be sufficient to pass exams it’ll certainly never make you a maths maestro.

The ‘art’ of teaching plays a pivotal role in the teaching of maths, which unlike other subjects simply cannot be memorised. The deduction process depends chiefly on understanding the principle. If teachers have not gone through the proper process of learning maths, then the knowledge imparted to the students is of the same inadequate standard. And the end result will be disastrous results at examinations.

Fr Lucien was not only a maestro at teaching maths but was also well versed in the rudimentary effects of imparting and impounding the various themes of maths in a manner that was easy to grasp and understand to the young mind. In addition to preparing students in the respective disciplines, he was able to imbue them with resourcefulness & the confidence necessary for their success at examinations. At the year end examination, in my class of 33 students 26 of us passed maths with a distinction – which is a major indicator of Fr Lucien’s mathematical prowess, since he taught the principles the way it should be taught, outlined the facts and gave us homework.

The fact that he lived down my road was an absolute disadvantage to me as in the good old days, we school boys would either play cricket on the road, till the last bit of light faded or studied. The sound of his pale blue Simca Aronde coming down Beach Road, would send us – his students scurrying off like jack rabbits into available copse & thickets to emerge once he rolled by. One day, after he got wise to this, he switched off his engine at the top of Beach Road and coasted down only to catch us red handed merrily playing on the road, when we should have been studying. All he did was smile sweetly as he passed by.

However, the next day at school if our homework was incomplete or our sums were wrong his reprimand would be: “Stop wasting your time and parents money by coming to school. Instead, tell your parents to give you a bat and ball so that you can play cricket all day long!”

Whilst in school he was not a popular master but he was widely feared. However, now that I am older and wiser I respect him for the disciplines he instilled in us, which has helped, mould us and make us respectable and responsible citizens of this country to the professional calibre which we are today.

It was only after leaving STC that his invaluable advice and words of wisdom made sense to us. The amount of punishment meted out is long forgotten since our love for maths remains and we are now all maestros of maths. Why is this interest still in us? Because of his exceptional teaching ability. The importance of learning maths the proper way is a quite a different thing which he taught us. Unfortunately there are no teachers of his calibre today. Hence the appalling maths results at examinations.

So many new areas in the field of mathematics have been co-opted to the syllabus, but one has to understand that it is necessary to continue all components in algebra, geometry and arithmetic. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. To teach maths you need exceptional ability and not all those who attempt it, can be deemed as masters. Getting a student to develop the deduction process within him is a Herculean task that’s why the words of Plato and Socrates still sing true in the adage “A leader of a country should be a good mathematician”.

He was also an excellent Latin & Greek teacher, subjects which, alas I didn’t have the opportunity of learning. Today, like the dodo, Latin & Greek are extinct languages because man has made it so!

Fr. Lucien was always impeccably groomed from the top of his head down to his sandals, not excluding his jet black hair, brushed straight back with a parting that would do credit to a stiff foot ruler.

It is masters of this special core, who guided us over all possible pitfalls that we may come across in life, where we as boys emulated them, which have enabled us to be the so called upstanding citizens of this country, which sad to say, is lacking among lesser mortals of our society.

His total period of service at STC was 29 years, where he served as a Chaplain, Choir Master and Organist. After retiring from teaching at the hallowed precincts of the ‘school by the sea’ he was a visiting lecturer of Classics at the Vidyalankara University.

Fr Lucien G B Fernando went to his eternal rest at the ripe young age of 55. Had he been alive, he would have been 77 years.

Esto Perpetua!!!
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