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Meeting two interesting and important personalities of Lankan origin

by Herby Jayasurya - Daily News Thursday June 20, 2002

I visited Melbourne, Australia during the period 21st April to 30th April. My younger brother Upali who is the Baptist Minister at the Chelsea, Baptist Church along with his two daughters met me at the Melbourne, Airport and drove me to my other brother Ranjith's residence at Endeavour Hills, Dandinong. That night I visited my sister Sriyani's residence which is also located at Endeavour Hills to dinner. My sister and brother-in-law Trevor Jayatilake had arranged a dinner for the family to welcome me on my arrival in Melbourne.

There were two guests of Sri Lankan origin who had been invited to this dinner. They were Dr. Quintus de Zilva and Mr. Eddie Grey. I have known both of them while they were in Ceylon before they went to settle down in Australia. I was very glad to meet both of them.

Thereafter, on the 27th of April I met both of them again at a dinner given by the Sri Lanka Cultural Union in Melbourne in a residence called "Burgher House". The Chief Guest at this dinner was Mr. Janaka Perera, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Australia.

The Guest of Honour was Mr. Mutthaiah Muralitharan who had visited Australia for treatment with regard to his dislocated shoulder. Quintus who is the President of this Association made the opening after dinner speech thanking the chief guest and the Guest of Honour for gracing this occasion. Eddie Grey also took a prominent part at this dinner. As Quintus and Eddie have had very distinguished careers in Sri Lanka, I thought I should write this article about these two persons.

Dr. Quintus de Zilva comes from a very academical family. His family lived in Kandy adjoining the premises of the Girls High School, Kandy. Quintus has 4 sisters and an elder brother. All his four sisters had the unique distinction of being the head girls of the Girls High School, Kandy while his elder brother was the Senior Prefect of Kingswood College, Kandy. Of his 4 sisters, two of them are Graduates of the Peradeniya University whilst his younger sister passed out, as a Doctor from the Medical College, Colombo. His elder brother is a Graduate of the Colombo University.

Quintus had a brilliant school career at Kingswood. Having obtained a First Division pass at the Senior School Certificate Examination he entered the Medical College and passed the MBBS Examination having obtained a Class. Apart form his studies, Quintus was a very good sportsman.

He played for the College Cricket Team. He was a good leg break bowler and a fairly good batsman. Although he played Cricket, the game he excelled was in hockey. He captained the College Hockey Team and I had the privilege of playing under him as the Goalie.

He also participated in All School Literary activities and was the leader of the Collage Debating Team. On his being selected to enter Medical College, Quintus was awarded the Cup for the best All Round student, that year.

After leaving the Medical College, Quintus finished his internship and thereafter left to Australia where he specialised in Cardiology. Presently, he has a very Lucrative practice in Melbourne. He is the President of the Sri Lanka Cultural Association in Melbourne and he assists the Sri Lankan Cricketers whenever they are sent to Australia for medical treatment. At the time I visited Melbourne, Muttaiah Muralitharan who had been sent to Melbourne by the Cricket board was residing with him and Quintus had arranged for his medical treatment.

Writing about Mr. Eddie Grey, it must be mentioned that I had the pleasure of visiting his residence in Melbourne in the company of my brother-in-law Trevor, during this visit. Eddie has an immaculately kept residence, where everything is arranged in its place.

He has a certain section of his house which he has set apart for the display of his Trophies he has won in boxing and horsemanship, photographs and paper cuttings connected to these two sports are prominently displayed. Eddie was an Inspector of Police attached to the Ceylon Police during the period 1937 to 1957. Most of his career had been spent as the Officer in Charge of the Police Stables. He was an excellent Horseman and a Polo player.

Whilst he was in charge of the Stables, he was able to befriend the Right Hon. D. S Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Ceylon. Mr. Senanayake had a passion for horse riding and in the mornings he used to ride with Eddie on the Galle Face Green.

There were occasions the then Inspector General of Police, Sir Richard Aluwihare who used to accompany them. In fact, on the occasion that Mr. D. S. Senanayake fell from his horse due to a stroke and passed away. Eddie was riding with him along with Sir Richard.

Eddie has displayed in his home, an article giving details of this accident. He also recalls the last words of Mr. Senanayake before he fell from his horse which were "Richard, shall we canter?"

At the time, Eddie left the police he was the Officer in Charge of the Fort Police Station. He left the police because of the fact that he was overlooked for promotion. Thereafter he joined the firm, Mercantile Credit and worked as an Executive in this firm till about 1974 and he left to Australia.

Apart from being a good horseman Eddie was an excellent boxer. He started his boxing career as a student at Royal College where he won his weights at the Stubs Shield Boxing Meet for schools. After leaving school he joined the police and for many years he was the Light Weight Champion of Ceylon. His glorious moment came in 1948 when he was selected to represent Ceylon at the Olympic games held in Wembley, London. Eddie also referred with nostalgic memories of the performance of his Olympic Team Captain, Duncan White at this Olympics where he came second in the 400 meters hurdles.

Eddie continues to devote his time for boxing even now and he is one of the special judges who is called to officiate at international boxing meets. Eddie is 84 years, but he looks much younger. He says his longevity is due to disciplined living. Eddie has also helped many a Sri Lankan lad to establish himself in Australia.

Both Quintus and Eddie are too greatly respected senior citizens of the Sri Lankan community in Melbourne and it was a great pleasure for me to meet them after a long period of time.