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Hubert Ratwatte the oldest living Trinity Rugger Lion

Strolling down memory lane:  - Daily News Mon May 22 2006

Sharm de ALWIS

RUGBY: Trinity rugger in the 30s would certainly have been a Cloud Nine over a cesspit.

They beat Royal College handsomely at every outing and the boys of the disce aut discede learned their sums from the debit column which had a ray of hope only in 1938 when Hugh Aldons and his adversaries stunned Trinity for William Molegoda to asset an individual brilliance and untangle the thorns in an act of isolated heroism to snatch victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat, 14-13.

In the flush of victories in all previous seven games against Zahira, Trinity was all ripple and stir in the first few minutes in 1932 but this was a rejuvenated Zahira with Samad assuming heroic stature to sweep Trinity aside in a historic win against Sydney Ratwatte's formidable team.

Zahira repeated the grandeur in '36 against Izadeen's team which had five Lions and in '38 against William Molegoda's battle-hardened warriors.

If the bitter gall of Trinity's first loss at rugger was tasted in 1932 and the unpalatable dose was repeated in '36 and '38 Trinity won the other seven in the decade of the 30s to dwell deep in the elected paradise of the Trinitians.

Facing St. Peter's for the third time, Trinity winked happy thoughts as they took the field with two previous wins against a school in rugby infancy but some rival devil or influential god helped by three Trinity decampers, Claire Roeloeffsz, Archibald Perera and Henry Young who was the first in Ceylon to do the full-back's over-lap three years after the All-Backs, got the better of the scores in 1935.

It was a new rugby that had been created in 1933 by A. P. Vitachi and Archibad Perera and Fat Fate's formal handshake injected poison and the wound remained open for the rest of the 30s, SPC winning in '35, '36, '37. '38 and in '39. It is a litany that Peterites have known by heart.

Yet withal these drawbacks, Trinity had reason to smile because in the balance of power and wins they were far ahead of the opposition. And who, pray, were the boys who mesmerized the opposition for Trinitians to drink deep from friendly flasks?

Captains - Siamese John Duncan in '30 & '31, Sidney Ratwatte, recipient of three Lions for Rugger, Cricket and Boxing and hoary legend has it that he who schooled from the Dumbara valley would run on the 'niyara' and that is how he perfected his natural body swerve which came in handy in rugger and boxing in 1932, Eddie Buultjens in '33, Willie Winter in '34, Rex Breckenridge in '35, O.L. Izadeen in '36 & '37, William Molegoda in '38 and V. K. Vellayan in '39.

The legions comprised Richard Udugama, Blackham Wijewardena, O. L. Z. Abdeen, Sammy David, Eddie Dodanwela, Hubert Ratwatte, Robert Duncan the Siamese, Bennet de Silva, Alec Divitotawela, Walwin Lembruggen, Punchi Banda Madawela, C. A. Porritt, Asoka Panabokke, G. R. S. Wijesinghe, F. E. de Silva, Percy de Silva, F. A. Dissanayake, M. C. Fernando, Bertie Halangoda, L. N. Senanayake, S. Somasunderam, George Van Twest, C. E. Jansz, B. C. Wijemanne, C. M.B. Dissanayake, S. Ratnasothy, Earle Aserappa, Roland Tennekoon, T. B. Dhanapala, R. D. C. Jonklaas, P. B. F. Madawela, M. S. Daniel, Duncan White, Stanley Maralande, R. I. E. de Silva, Bernard Gooneratnayake, Hector Aserappa, N. Namasivayam, W. L. Jirasinghe, Percy Madugalle, T. B. Marambe, Duncan Reith, Douglas Aluvihare, Alphonso David, Denham de Alwis, E. S. de Kretser, S. B. Dissanayake, L. C. S. Jirasinha. Lance Mendis, Reggie Ratwatte, D. Weerasekera, Senaka Bibile, R. P. de Alwis, L. H. T. de Mel, R. Gangoda, M. Ismail, E. R. Jenkins, V. Jesudhason, P. L. M. Muthukaruppan, D. J. Subramaniam and H. V. P. Samarasekera the naughtiest boy who fought battles for others as well as his own and who holds the record for canings with 97 times 3 cuts, sometimes 6 in one term.

That he survived is a tribute to the regulation, daily potion of parippu and beef curry. This is a poem that even the little boys in the Matron's dormitory knew better than their class subjects.

Hubert Ratwatte who was awarded the rugger Lion in '36 is, at 89, the oldest living Trinitian. He was in the Trinity teams of rugger, cricket and athletics, captained his Ryde House in the same disciplines and even boxed under M. S. Daniel.

He stands five feet nothing in his socks but so did Sammy David and Harry Geddes of the heroic mould. His hand-shake is still as firm as a vice and his long-term memory is spread over a vast canvas. He remembers the Siamese John Duncan who captained Trinity rubber in '29 and his brother Robert; M. Khing Maung in '28 and P. Ramanathan in '27.

But he was yet a kid in Junior School M. Than On in '26 and A. Mayanga in '25 ran like break-away Sherman tanks for the opposition to side step to safe territories.

He remembers that he was responsible for the SPC win in '36. The scores were a blank on the board until the death minute when Penalty Percy Perera, which is Gama Fernando's definition of the hallowed 3Ps of rugby for Possession, Power and Pace, was homing on the touch line and Hubert as full-back unleashed a flying tackle but PPP being a sturdy boy, picked himself up and scampered over the gravy line for SPC to win 3-0.

Hubert's choice for individual slots in the rugby line-up of the 30s is as follows:

Full-back : Henry Young (I believe this is through modesty. Because Young never got the Lion whereas he did)

Wingers: Percy de Silva, William Molegoda, the most Electrifying winger of the 30s

Inner-threes: Sammy David; Sidney Ratwatte

Stand-off : Percy Madugalle

Scrum-half : Rex Breckenridge

Flankers : Willie Winter; Eddie Dodanwela and, given the luxury of an extra choice, Tiddy Ratwatte

Balance of the pack: Too far from his position as full-back, so cannot remember the boys who helped to get the ball out.

At cricket nothing much was achieved in '36 as Rex Breckneridge as captain to draw against STC, Wesley and SACK and lose to RC and SACK but the cobwebs of gloom were deftly swept away as 1937 under O. L. Izadeen wrote the Trinity cricket annals in scorching purple with resounding wins against RC, STC by 10 wickets.

Wesley by innings and rain shedding tears when Trinity was forcing wins against SJC and SACK. But, then, it would have meant a vulgarity of riches coming on the heels of Sammy David and Bobby Schoorman wrecking the Thomians batting 130 and 22 in the two innings with TCK's first innings of 122 sufficient for the rattling of the win without the loss of a single wicket.

Hubert Ratwatte clasped four catches to his bosom and the manner of making 6 runs by Bertie Wijesinghe was hailed by a scribe who prophesied, "Wijesinghe will soon be playing for Ceylon."

The '37 team comprised O. L. Izadeen, Sammy David, Hubert Ratwatte, John F. Halangoda, Percy Madugalla, wicket-keeper Eddie Dodanwela, Bobby Schoorman, Narendran, T. B. Marambe, Duncan Reith, Gerry Perera and C. Dharmalingam, who bagged a hatrick in each innings of the Big Match in 1939.

At athletics, Trinity emulated the records blazed in the 20s - 2nd in the Jeaffreson Challenge Cup in '30 and 1st in '38 and in '36 with also the Tarbat Cup and 1st in the Public Schools Meets of '31, '33, '34, '35, '36 and '37. Harry Geddes and Duncan White were awarded the Lion in '33 and '37 respectively.

Other worthy Trinity athletes of the decade were M. Pereira, F. de Silva, John Duncan, E. Noah, B. L. de Silva, R. Tennekoon, A. Halangoda, Blackham Wijewardena, A. C. de Silva, O. L. Izadeen, E. E. Grenier, R. E. Aserappa, Sammy David, E. S. de Kretser, Taik-Shoung, M. K. Kannangara, Gerry Perera and Leslie Handunge.

Boxing produced her heroes no less than the other sports with L. de Silva and Henry Young winning their Lions and M. S. Daniel being outstanding in the decade along with Leslie Handunge, O. L. Z. Abdeen, S. Ratnasothy, Jim David and H. M. A. Wahid.

With sterling performances in academics as well with A. S. Kohobanwickrema, N & U. B. Madena, P. Cumaraswamy, T. C. I. Ekanayake, T. B. Dhanapala, T. B. Maramabe, Victor Ratnavale and Senaka Bibile plucking plums it is no wonder that Sir Andrew Caldercott, 24 hours after he assumed duties as the Governor of the Country declared from the podium at the Trinity Prize Giving of 1938, "Ceylon, I congratulate you on Trinity College, Kandy."