Royal Primary School 1953 & Royal College '59 Group
Jan 7 2009
Fifty Years ago, Today
Hello Dear Mates of the ‘59 Group…
50 years ago to this very day we walked nervously through the hallowed and prestigious gates of the best school one could have hoped to go to…unknown to each other and unaware of what was in store.
We adjusted to school life quickly, made friends easily and built relationships that are reflected in the camaraderie that prevails amongst all members of our group, to date. There was never a divide ever …..yes we can take pride that we are a group that could serve as a role model worthy of emulation.
To commemorate the landmark we initiated a memorial service at Navarangahala on Sunday 4th instant at 4pm to invoke the blessings on our 15 classmates, who have moved into that tranquil world beyond, and their wonderful families.
Religious sermons were delivered by dignitaries of high standing in the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths. The Rt Rev Bishop Duleep de Chickera, an eminent old Royalist, in his address said he was deeply touched by the gesture of our Group in remembering our colleagues as a priority, in our landmark year and, that he was privileged to be present.
The Principal of Royal in his speech cited our Group as one that had been of immense help to Royal and said that the automation of the Library made possible through the financial assistance extended exclusively by our Group had brought it on par with the likes of the British Council, Public Library and others similar in the world. He acknowledged with gratitude the two further checks handed to him that evening, one for the library and the other for the Sports Welfare Fund to assist needy sportsmen of college.
Since our Dear Colleague, the late Rohan Perera, initiated the concept almost two decades ago, successive Presidents and their Committees have done a wonderful job over the years. I am both humbled and honored by your decision to elect me as President for this year not only for these reasons but also because I have the opportunity to work with a truly outstanding Committee of absolute gentlemen. May the blessings of the Almighty be with each of you and your families throughout the New Year…
Fifty Years of R*O*Y*A*L
The year 2009 ushers in a great moment of remembrance in the lives of 246 young men, of whom some have moved on to the other side with the passage of time. 33 lads of this band started their primary education, at the ages of 5 or 6 in the English Medium Class 1C at Royal Primary School, under the watchful eyes of a hardened teacher, Ms M J Croning, in 1953. All of those who have survived, born in the years 1947-48, would have surely turned 60 in 2007-2008.
Other teachers at RPS during that era were, AF de Saa Bandaranaike, Headmaster (Banda), H D Sugathapala (Sugar), H P Jayawardena (HP), Ms B Perera, Ms Dissanaike, V Pinkamage (Pinka), ABC David (Apple Beetroot Carrot), J E de Silva (Jaady), HP Piyasena (Vathey), and Ms Nicholas, Music Teacher.
Of the young band of the 33 English Medium brats at RPS in 1953, 8 fellers moved on to greener pastures in Australia, the UK, and also other schools in Sri Lanka in 1959 after the entrance examinations. Five of them, Wilhelm Koch (early ‘80s in Australia), Jezley Hussain, R S Ramlal Gunewardene (1999 in the Hague, Switzerland), Aubrey Willis (May 7, 2002 in the UK), and Iqbal Najumudeen, have left us behind and moved on to the other side, where it is said, the grass is greener and the water is crystal clear and the sun shines bright all day and night, and there’s a kind of hush that brings peace and tranquility to all who dwell therein.
Those who moved overseas, in the early sixties, were Alwyn Anthonisz (Jolla), Cedric Ernst, Dallas Grenier, Rodney Vanderwall (Poludda), Dr. Allan Ebert, Brian Lieversz, & Philip Stork, all migrating to Australia, and the late Aubrey Willis (Town Bus) to UK.
The remaining, Gang of 25, were joined by a band of another 221 raggedy rascals from the Sinhalese and Tamil medium Class at RPS, and also from a variety of other Primary Schools in Sri Lanka, having successfully gained admission to Royal College at the annual entrance examination held by the Ministry of Education, in 1959.
band of 246 men is now referred to as the Royal College ’59 Group.
Looking back over the past fifty years one reminisces some of the greatest events, people, achievements, and accolades that were enjoyed in the true spirit of Royal during those halcyon years from 1959 until the end of the secondary school phase in 1966.
Life’s gentle phase into the era of regular BP checks inspired by increased salt intakes, fasting blood sugar, HDL & LDL cholesterol levels, ECG’s, EEG’s, eating greens, taking walks, exercise, and even prayer, has now established its final course, on a very serious note.
Imagine 221 pot bellied ruffians walking hand in hand along Galle Face Green, on a warm summers evening, chattering away about old times, girls, and events which cannot be mentioned here? Many have had to give up brushing their hair in the tradition of Yul Bryner and Telly Savalas, while others have chosen to rid themselves of that nuisance of a razor, for good, displaying bushy pates and swiveling beards that would make a Mullah blush. Then there are those who enjoy driving their grandkids to school and back amidst the bustle and grime of the newly designed one way streets of Colombo and also the choking multi lane traffic on the many highways, overseas.
Higher Education, Research, Professions, Business, Relationships, Marriage, Children, Family, Divorce, and even Grand Kids, in many cases, have overtaken their lives at such a pace that there is very little time left for frivolous pastimes, bunching your neighbor, or even belting out some baudy lyrics, anymore. However, one may get an occasional glimpse of some of the entertainers shaking a leg in the Mustangs Tent at the Royal Thomian in March, the Bradby games in August, or even at one of the annual Group Get-To-Gethers that are organized and enjoyed very diligently by the aging, yet erstwhile brigade.
Of those who came together at Royal College in Form 1, in 1959, the following have passed away to join the ones who went before them, in silence, solitude and peace:
Major Nizam Jaimon
R J de Silva
C J L Wijeratne
D Mahinda Jayasinghe (1999)
Radhan Rajaratnam (1999)
Naveen Rajapakse (2000)
HASSW Bamunawela (2002)
Sarath Ambepitiya (2005)
P Chandrakanthan (2005, in Canada)
Jeeva Sachithananthan (2005)
Rama Sellamuttu (2008, in Sydney, Australia)
Sarath, who was a Judge of the High Court in Colombo was gunned down mercilessly by a raging gangster over a legal case involving drugs and the underworld.
We pray for those goodly souls whom we knew as very close friends and who will always live within our hearts and minds as some of the best human beings we shared our youth with, in pleasure and in pain, cramming or cribbing, and laughing and weeping.
Amongst the members of the ’59 Group, living overseas and also those who have remained in Sri Lanka, and who have stayed in touch and close contact, and have attended the various annual get-togethers, cricket and rugby matches, since leaving school, some names come to mind as follows:-
Sharji Aziez (sussu)
Nihal Canagasabey (kaney)
Akram Dawood (akram)
Gamini de Silva (ketty)
L C C de Silva (lcc)
Roy de Silva (roy)
Ajit Dias (ando)
Mazher Fazleali (masher)
K P G Fernando (kpg)
Dr P N Gunaratne (panna)
Edward Hapuarachchi (hapu)
U C Jayasinghe (uc)
Tissa Jayaweera (tissa)
Lakshman Kiriella (lucky)
Jayantha Kudahetty (kuda)
Upul Kulasinghe, Scotland (kukula)
Niki Kumarage, UK (niki)
Joy de Livera (joy)
Ranjan Madanayake (ranjan)
Palitha Manchanayake (munchy)
M B M Naizer (naizer)
Firoz Nilam, USA (nilam)
Nanda Palihakkara (nanda)
Dr M J M Peroos, UK (peroos)
D R Pulleperuma (pulley)
Charitha Ratwatte (chari)
Fazli Sameer, Saudi Arabia (samma)
S Skandakumar (skanda)
M H Subasinghe (subey)
Sunil Wimaladharma (bakey)
Many, are those who have left the shores of Sri Lanka to seek greener pastures in foreign lands while some have ventured out for higher studies, employment, career development and business. Australia has seen a massive influx of the large number of Burgher’s within the Group since the late 1950’s.
Charitha Ratwatte and Lakshman Kiriella embarked into politics some years ago, with Charitha, who went on to do law at the University of Colombo in 1966, holding the prestigious position of Secretary to the Treasury in the last UNP Government. He has since opted out of politics to concentrate on his social service activities with an NGO and also to spend more time with his family. Lakshman, originally with the PA Government has crossed over to the UNP, amongst the multitude of criss-crosses going on these days, and has become a very vociferous member of parliament in recent times no different from his many outrageous debates and discussions that vibrated the corridors and playgrounds of the school in the old days.
Of the professionals who excelled in the medical fields are Professor Rizvi Sheriff in Sri Lanka, Dr Parakrama Chandrasome in USA, Dr MJM Peroos in UK, Dr Devakumar, Dr S V Devendra, Dr L V K de Silva, Dr Chandrasekera, Dr Abeywardena, Dr Allan Ebert in Australia, Dr K A Gunawardena, Dr Jaffer, Dr DCP Karunaratne, Dr Ponnambalam, Dr L P Samaranayake, Dr S Sambandan in the UK, Dr M Satchithanandan in the UK, Dr Senerath Yapa, Dr Thambapillai, Dr Mousie Thurairatnam, Dr Tiruchelvam, Dr Velupillai and Dr Git Wickremasinghe, who is involved in cancer research related to Lukaemia in the UK.
Of those who ventured into law, Dr Ratnapala is currently lecturing at a University in Australia. The tragic death, at the hands of a killer, of Judge Sarath Ambepitiya in Colombo is mourned by one and all Royalists and others. Others who ventured into the arena of crime and punishment are S Sivasubramaniam, D S Piyasena, T K Gurusinghe, Lakshman Kiriella & Charitha Ratwatte.
Amongst the academics, DSDJ Abeysekera is currently working with an NGO as Professor of Sociology, while SJ Bahar, W Mallawaratchchi, and the late J Satchithananthan, have contributed effectively as respected lecturers in Universities.
Those who ventured, seriously, into the IT profession and are still banging away at the bits and bytes, are Vipula Godamune now in Australia, LAK Waranasuiriya, in Sri Lanka, and Fazli Sameer, presently employed as an IT Consultant in Saudi Arabia since 1979.
Some of the businessmen within the gang are M B M Naizar, Mazher Fazleali, Ajit Dias, Edward Hapuarachchi, Shibly Mohideen, and the late Iqbal Najumudeen.
Graham Koch, formerly attached to the Hilton Hotel in Colombo and the Intercontinental Hotel in Saudi Arabia, is presently Resident Manager with Radisson in Beijing. He is one of those who joined the Grandpa club in recent times when his daughter was blessed with twins in Australia. Niki Kumarage is also involved in the hospitality industry in the UK.
Many have ventured into Finance, Marketing and Business Management of whom the following names come to mind. Ajith Dias, Ranjan Madanayake, Nanda Palihakkara, SM Abeygunawardena, Nihal Abeysena, Sunil K Abeyasinghe, C Abeywickrema, Sunil Andradi, M Balakumaran, Bamunawela, Nihal Canagasabey, Akram Dawood, YKH de Silva, P Dias, KPG Fernando, NM Fernando, PSJ Gomes, SC Gooneratne, UC Jayasinghe, Jayantha Kudahetty, BSP Mendis, MBM Naizer, GSC Perera, Jeremy Perera, KAR Perera, PV Perera, the late Naveen D Rajapakse, MPV Ratnayake, Rohantha Samarajeewa, Kirthi Seneviratne, S Skandakumar (retired in April 2007 as Chairman George Steuarts & Company), HPN Soysa, KM Totamune, Anthony Walpola, CJ Weerasuriya, DBJ Wickremaratne, Ravindra Wickramaratna, Sunil Wimaladharma, Mazher Fazleali & MT Yaseen.
The other known members of the grandfather club within the Group are Shibly Mohideen, Fazli Sameer, Edward Hapuarachchi, S T Aziez (sussu), Mohamed Hassim (dathee), Mazher Fazleali, Graham Koch, and the late Iqbal Najumudeen (kakka).
Looking back over fifty years one reminisces the wonderful times we had in the classrooms, along the corridors, inside the Principal’s office and also romping across the grassy playing fields, where, cricket, rugby, athletics, tennis, hockey, the gym, and many other pastimes were enjoyed and endured.
The paper ball throwing during class, standing on the form and receiving six of the best from P’s cane in case he passed by at the wrong time, writing 1,000 lines for Kataya after school, or even running round the grounds as punishment are some of the moments that still linger in our minds. How could anyone resist the temptation of cutting school, dodging the College cops during the 2:10 afternoon break and hit the matinee at the Majestic after a punt and tea at Thurstan Cafe? Then there was Thosai and Vadai at Saras after the show.
Taking the school bus from the Bamba Flats halt daily to school was another interesting episode in our lives. A small band of Bamba Flatters together with a few of us who lived in the vicinity would gather with our books at the halt. Soon, we would be joined by a another group of sweet young lasses from SPM, HFC, Visakha, Lindsay, Bishops, LC and Bridgets. Those were the days!
It would not be fitting to conclude this anecdote, bringing back memories from the pages of history, without mentioning the names of some of those great teachers at Royal who took us from Cricket to Career through our sojourn within those hallowed halls of fame. Those wonderful, sincere and committed men, stood tall and rose to great heights in spending their valuable moments in uplifting us into a world of knowledge, discipline, courage and perseverance. Names that come to mind are as follows:-
Dudley K G de Silva (Dudda) Principal
C P de S Abeysinghe (CowPox) Headmaster Lower School
Bogoda Permaratne (Vakutu) Vice Principal
A C Abdeen (Abdeen)
M M Alavi (Alavi)
R I T Alles (Rita)
H C Arulanandam (Arul)
C E Belleth (Bella)
C Canegaratne (Canags)
Brevet Capt M K J Cantlay (Canto)
J St E de Bruin (Bruno)
J H de Saram (Saram)
S L De Silva (Kota Silva)
Justin de Silva (Lincoln)
H P Devapriya (Deva)
S G Gulasingam (Thosai)
A E Gunaseelan (Goona)
E C Gunasekera (Kataya)
V Menon (Pope)
R Rajaratnam (Conner)
V Ratnathicam (Rat)
R Ratnayake (Ghandi)
J H Rupasinghe (Rupperty)
M Sabaratnam (Half Soda)
Ms Samarasekera (Madam)
T Samaraweera (Poltokka)
M M Sherrifdeen (Sherriffdeen)
V Sivalingam (Siva)
T Tennekoon (Tenna) - Librarian
M T Thambapillai (Thamba)
T Thillainathan (Liston)
Viji Weerasinghe (Ducky)
May they be blessed for their care, concern and dedication towards the onerous tasks they have undertaken and executed diligently and professionally.
And how could we leave out that grand old Aachi, who used to sit within the East Wing Lobby and sell her titbits of gram and sour fruit, Kadalay the Mascot of Royal, Bella the Balloon Man and the many Ice Cream vendors who used to gather during break times outside the gates. Danny the temperamental lab boy, who used to responsible for the Chemistry Lab located on the west wing, also comes to mind. Also, Noor, the grazing groundsman who spent tireless hours trimming the grass and preparing the wickets and grounds for the cricket and rugby seasons.
The nostalgia in re-living this memory is killing me. I can no longer say anything more for obvious reasons.
“When that great scorer comes to write against our names, let him write not that we won or lost, but how we played the game.”
May the remaining members of the ‘59-Group be blessed with comfort, convenience, health, peace of mind, tranquility and prosperity for the rest of our time on this planet!
In conclusion let me share some words in verse that swims in my mind as the days pass behind us:-
Those hallowed halls,
Green grassy grounds;
The toll of the bell,
And a scamper of hounds;
If we could only go back
If time hadn’t been stolen.
We learnt of books,
We learnt of men,
We learnt to play,
All kinds of games;
Under the watchful eyes
Of Mindful Mentors
Who cared for us,
Like Moms with children.
To those who have gone
We say a sweet prayer,
May they rest in Peace,
Until we get there.
And then we’ll all sing
In one shrill chorus
“Thy spirit first to life awoke”
“For Hartley, Harvard, Marsh & Boake”.
Fazli Sameer, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
Wed, Jan 7 2009