Royal Primary School 1953 & Royal College '59 Group
Sacred to the memory of Principal E. L. Bradby
by T. D. S.
Member of the Royal College Class of 1949
SO Jul 13
Lawrence Bradby, Principal of Royal College from 1939 to 1945, was born in 1907
and educated at Rugby and Oxford, where he took a double First in Classics. At
the time of his appointment he was General Secretary of the NGO The
International Student Service. Earlier he was a much respected House Master at
Merchant Taylors School, which like Rugby is a famous Public School in England.
By virtue of his educational background and proven ability as a teacher and as
an educationist, he was well suited to be Principal of the renowned Royal
College, which had celebrated its Centenary in 1935. However he had one major disadvantage,
he was only 32 years old.
Fate decreed that Principal
Bradby would be a wartime Principal of Royal College. His arrival in Ceylon in
mid-September 1939 in time for the commencement of the Third Term for schools
in Ceylon, was delayed by World War II. His initial contract as Principal of
Royal College was for five years, thus ending in September 1944. It appeared in
1944 that World War II would end in 1945. Therefore he accepted an extension of
just one year because he wanted to get back to England, after World War II was
over. Before he left Ceylon in 1945 he presented The Bradby Shield for the two
Rugby Football matches which are played annually since 1943 between Royal
College and Trinity College, one in Colombo and the other in Kandy.
Incidentally, from 1921 to 1942 only one match was played annually. -
From a few hundred spectators in
1945, The Bradby Shield now caters for capacity crowds of several thousand
spectators, with many disappointed being left out because of lack of seats and
even standing accommodation. Besides the high standards in Rugby Football
maintained by both schools, there is much revelry organized by Old Boys of both
schools. For years the Old Boys of Trinity College organized a splendid Dance
at The queen’s Hotel, Kandy, of late the Old Boys of Royal College organize a
dance to match it at The Citadel Hotel, Kandy. In Colombo at Old Royalists
Rugby Dinner, coloursmen in Rugby Football scrum down to reminisce, to eat and
drink in style at a five-star Hotel.
This year The Bradby Shield
matches will be played as follows:
Saturday l9th July - Bogambara,
Saturday 2nd August - Royal
College Sports Complex
What makes Principal Bradby one
of our great Principals ? This article will a to answer that question.
Principal Bradby had only
childhood memories of World War I when he was a schoolboy at Rugby. In 1939 he
had no illusions. Even his departure from London for Ceylon, with his bride was
delayed because of the outbreak of World War II. When the Bradbys finally left
London, their ship was diverted at Gibraltar and had to take the circuitous
route via the Cape of Good Hope. Before leaving London he had read widely about
Royal College. That included every magazine of Royal College for the entirety
of the decade of the nineteen thirties and every annual report of the Principal
read on Prize Day during that decade. Besides he had many long and fruitful
discussions with Major H. L. Reed MC, our Principal from 1920-1932,
acknowledged then and now as one of our great Principals, and Principal L. H.
W. Sampson, his predecessor who had served from 1932-1938. Now he not only had
to implement his corporate plan to usher Royal College into the decade of the
nineteen forties but also to place the school on a war footing.
When Principal Bradby assumed
duties in November 1939, he exhorted the boys of the Sixth Form at Royal
College to join the armed forces and fight for King and Country. He gave vivid
accounts of Royalists who had seen action in World War I. Some of them had won
the Military Cross, others the Military Medal and many more were killed in
One of the best testimonials he gave for those seeking King’s Commissions was to D. S. Attygalle who was our Head Prefect in 1940, the Senior Sergeant of our Cadet contingent, a coloursman in Athletics and Rugby Football. He took the sword of honour the Army passing out parade at Diyatalawa in 1941, whereupon he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Ceylon Light Infantry, our oldest regiment. In 1967, Major General D. S. Attygalle was appointed Commander of the Army. When he retired in 1977, he was a four-star General. Principal Bradby recommended to the Navy, in the strongest possible terms, Kajan Kadirgamar who had Captained our Rugby Football team in 1940, was a Prefect and the Senior Sergeant. As a Naval Cadet he took the sword of honour at the passing out parade at Trincomalee in 1941. As a Sub-Lieutenant he saw action off the coast of Burma with the Royal Navy and was awarded the Burma Star. In 1960 Commodore Rajan Kadirgamar was appointed Commander of the Navy at the young age of 40 years. He was later promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
To keep the momentum with respect
to the Armed Forces, Principal Bradby himself applied for a Commission in the
Ceylon Cadet Corps. He was commissioned as a Major. However, at Royal College
he refused to be called Major E. L. Bradby because Major H. L. Reed MC, a
Principal of legendary fame, had seen action in World War I and was a much
As a scholar in the Classics, Principal Bradby was puzzled that whereas Royal College down the ages had some of her best pupils studying the Classics, the Oriental Classics, namely Pali and Sanskrit, were not even in our curriculum. He set right that defect with immediate effect and took a personal interest in the teaching of these new subjects.
Indeed Pali and Sanskrit turned
out to be very popular subjects at Royal College. Many years later Principal
Bradby was delighted to learn that one of his pupils, P. H. Premawardhana of
the Royal College Class of 1944, took a First in Sanskrit at the University of
Ceylon and joined the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service in 1956.
Principal Bradby was so pleased
with the standard of English, troth spoken and written, at Royal College and
repeatedly said that our standards in English were even higher then those at
Merchant Taylors School. By the same token he was puzzled, by all accounts he
had received, that Sinhala and Tamil were woefully neglected. Therefore
corrective action was taken without delay.
Principal Bradby was a devout
Christian and read the Bible frequently. However, professionally he had
misgivings about one aspect of the traditions of Royal College, namely readings
from the Bible at school functions. In his opinion Royal College, was a secular
institution as opposed to a Christian institution, therefore there should be
readings from the Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic scriptures as well. Thus in one
master stroke in early 1940, he honoured Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and
Islam by having readings from all four scriptures at the daily general
assembly. His strategy worked like a charm and it is a tradition of Royal
College even today.
Thus quite clearly Principal
Bradby had quickly got into his stride. Before his first year at Royal College
was duly completed, he decided to utilize the inadequate funds collected to
build a swimming pool ever since our centenary to build instead a gymnasium. It
was ceremonially opened in 1941 and gymnastics was introduced to our curriculum
with immediate effect.
Principal Bradby displayed the
human side of him in the supervision of the Royal College Hostel at "Maligawa",
across the street and opened in May 1939. Mrs. Bradby who was expecting their first
baby, was put in charge of all welfare measures. With food rationing due to
World War II, Principal Bradby was an unexpected visitor for a meal to check for
himself that nourishment was adequate. Everyday he was a visitor to the sick room,
where he comforted the inmates. Periodically he invited a few hostellers at a
time to join Mrs. Bradby and him for high tea.
In December 1941, Principal
Bradby was given a few days notice to vacate our splendid premises on Reid
Avenue, to make way for a Military Hospital. Ironically Royal College made
virtually homeless on Sunday 7th December 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl
Harbour, resulting in the United States entering World War II. Principal Bradby
and the boys of Royal College marched out through the Boake Gates singing,
" Are we down hearted ?
Oh no, No ‘.
Somehow Principal Bradby obtained
special permission for just one term to locate Royal College next door, at The
Colombo University College, now The University of Colombo. In that short period
of time, Royal College was re-located at Turret House and three bungalows on
Turret Road duly rented out for classrooms and even laboratories for Science
practicals. The Colombo University College continued to make available their
grounds for sports. The makeshift arrangements were operational for four long
years reflecting much credit on the resilience of Principal Bradby.
Exceptionally able though he was,
Principal Bradby had a clear idea of his limitations. He needed to have the
full support of the Old Boys and his staff. In The Royal College Union he had a
series of special committees. For example the Committee on University Education
had luminaries such as Professor Nicholas Attygalle (Medicine), Professor A. W.
Mylvaganam (Science), and Professor J. L. C. Rodrigo (Classics). The Games Committee
had former Captains of the Ceylon teams, such as C. C. Dissanayaka (Athletics),
Dr. H. S. R. Goonewardene (Athletics), Dr. C. H. Gunasekera (Cricket), S. S.
Jayewickrema (Cricket) and Danton Obeysekera (Boxing). On the Staff he
regularly consulted Vice-Principal H. J. Wijesinghe, his successor Vice-
Principal J. C. A. Corea (later Principal), Senior Science Master M. M. Kulasekeram
(later Vice-Principal), C. Samarasinghe (later Senior Science Master and still
later Vice-Principal), J. E V. Pieris (Head Master of the Lower School),
Bernard Mendis, and H. R . Fernando both Hostel Masters, senior teachers C. E.
Belleth (Science) and R. Rajaratnam (Science), both of whom had played in the
Royal-Thomian Cricket match in their time and other senior teachers, Captain C.
P. De A. Abeysinghe (Cadeting), Captain B. C. Anghie (Rugby Football), R. C.
Edwards (Art) and T. M. Weerasinghe (English).
Principal Bradby was indeed a
practical man. He rarely spoke in parables but instead spoke of well
established truths in the context of Royal College. Thus he spoke not of:
Mens sana in corpore sano (a
healthy mind in a healthy body) as his distinguished predecessors had done, but
instead he quoted from the Royal College Anthem:
"We will learn of books and men, and learn to play the game"
Accordingly, he accorded the
highest honour at Royal College to those who simultaneously shone in studies
and sports. A supreme example was Lakshman Wickremesinghe, our Head Prefect in
1944. He won both panel prizes in English, the Steward Prize and the Shakespeare
Prize, another panel prize the Dornhorst Memorial Prize, the Best Speakers’
Prize and several other prizes, was Chairman of the Senior Literary
Association, Editor of the Magazine, won Colours in Athletics, and Rugby
Football and entered The University of Ceylon on a scholarship. Four years
later he took a First in Economics and a scholarship to Oxford. There he
studied Divinity and was ordained a priest of the Church of England. At the age
of 35 years he became a Bishop, the youngest Bishop in the worldwide network of
the Church of England.
Principal Bradby also observed
that young Upali Amerasinghe of the Royal College Class of 1939 was cast in the
same mould. Our Head Prefect in 1946 he went on to win four panel prizes and
four Colours and was the Editor of the Magazine. He took a First in English at
the University of Ceylon and won four Colours. At Cambridge he obtained a
doctorate in English and a Blue in Boxing. Unfortunately he died of natural
causes at the young age of 29 years.
Principal Bradby gave every encouragement to sports even when Royal College was evicted from our traditional base. He gave the highest priority to team work as opposed to individual brilliance which he never commended at a General Assembly or in public. However, in private he greatly appreciated individual performance. Accordingly in 1940 he publicly commended the Athletics team, which won the Public School championship, in 1941 the Rugby Football team which for the first time ever defeated Trinity College and in 1942 the Cricket team which defeated S. Thomas College.
On the other hand in private he was thrilled in 1942, when our Cricket Captain and Head Prefect Gamini Salgado scored a splendid century in the Royal Thomian Cricket match. In 1943 he was delighted when Summa Navaratnam, Captain of Rugby Football scored a splendid try to defeat Trinity College for the first time in a match played in Kandy. He went on in due course, to Captain Ceylon’ In 1944 Principal Bradby was astounded when our Captain of Cricket George Rajapakse, later a Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament for Mulkirigala, scored twin centuries against Trinity College at Asgiriya. That was a feat no schoolboy in Ceylon could match for the next twenty years or so. Principal Bradby was also most appreciative of the excellence of Basil Henricus in boxing at the Stubbs Shield encounters. He went on to represent Ceylon at the Olympic Games and to represent Ceylon in Athletics and Rugby football to become a triple international.
Amongst other star sportsmen the Bradby era produced were Mahesa Rodrigo, who in 1946 was our Head Prefect, Captain of Cricket and Captain of Rugby Football. He went on to Captain Ceylon in Rugby Football and to score a splendid century for Ceylon against the West Indies. Hugh Aldons, captained Ceylon in hockey a sport which was then not played at Royal College, represented the nation regularly in rugby football and in one match in cricket against England.
Principal Bradby observed that
young Gamini Goonesena was a spin bowler of rare calibre. In due course he went
on to captain Cambridge University and Ceylon. He also observed that young John
De Saram was an athlete who trained exceptionally hard and was a very diligent student.
He went on to represent Ceylon at the Olympic Games and to win academic honours
at the University of Ceylon, such as winning a Smith-Mundt scholarship to Yale
University. He wound up his distinguished career as an UN international civil
servant as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, a prestigious Ambassadorship.
Principal Bradby attached much importance to debating. He was in raptures in listening to the oratory of one of our Head Prefects in 1941, the dimunitive Neville Kanakeratne who was a scholar in History. At the height of his career as a diplomat, Ambassador Neville Kanakeratne was looked upon as the finest orator Sri Lanka ever produced, even better than Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and President J. R. Jayewardene.
Principal Bradby also activated
the Drama Society, which produced a play every year "The Sham Trial" starring
Neville Kanakeratne and "The Merchant of Venice" starring Neville Kanakaratne,
as Shylock the Jew, were the most successful of such plays. All proceeds were
donated to war charities.
By the same token Principal
Bradby attached much importance to literary skills and hence the Editor of the
Magazine was a key school appointment. Accordingly several Editors, B. St. E.
De Bruin (1940), Neville Kanakaratne (1941), Lakshman Wickremesinghe (1944) L.
C. Arulpragasam (1945) and Upali Arnerasinghe (1945) wound up. their
distinguished careers at Royal College as Head Prefect and were awarded the
Dornhorst Memorial Prize. C. G. Weeramantry, the Editor in 1943 was such a good
writer and a scholar that he won the Dornhorst Memorial Prize without being
Head Prefect. Today, he is a world famous author on Law and was a Judge of the
International Court of Justice, at the height of his career.
With the fall of Burma, Malaya
and Singapore in early 1942, Ceylon could conceivably be the next victim. That became
a stark reality on Easter Sunday 1942, when carrier - borne aircraft from Japan
under the command of Admiral Chechi Nagumo of Pearl Harbour fame, bombed Colombo
and Trincomalee caused havoc. Against this background Principal Bradby opened a
branch of Royal College in Bandarawela, as a wartime measure. At peak, twenty
percent of the school operated from "Glendale" Bandarawela. With the
threat of an invasion by Japan receding in 1943, Principal Bradby continued expanding
the school activities as he deemed fit. The Royal College Farm at Narahenpita
which was opened in 1940 on a four acre plot was expanded in 1943 to twelve
acres and provided the Hostel with all the fruits and vegetables that was
needed, and the Boy Scout Troop, was established on a permanent basis in 1944.
Principal Bradby was a strict disciplinarian
but a just man. As a matter of routine he put into operation the Royal College
Motto "Disce Aut Discede (Learn or Depart). There were no exceptions, not
even for those who had excelled in the Royal- Thomian cricket match or in The
Bradby Shield Rugby matches. He went a step further and applied a similar
discipline on the teachers. He came into class, sat at the back, and listened
to them teach. Those who were sub-standard had to teach or depart.
Perhaps the greatest contribution
Principal Bradby made to Royal College was to ensure that our hallowed traditions
stood firm in dark days and in happier times. By virtue of these traditions,
success is important but honour is even more important. Consequently being a
successful man is important, but being a gentleman is even more important. May
those hallowed traditions of Royal College never perish.
In 1983 Principal and Mrs. E. L.
Bradby visited Sri Lanka as the guest of The Royal College Union for the
centenary of Rugby Football match with Trinity College They were treated right
royally. In 1996 he passed away at the age of nearly ninety years. Royal
College. honoured him with a touching memorial service held at The Cathedral of
The Church of Ceylon in Colombo. When His Lordship The Bishop of Colombo, The
Right-Reverend Kenneth Fernando of the Royal College Class of 1943, waxed
eloquence in saying an appropriate final prayer, his pupils, then in their
seventies, were moved to tears, while some even broke down and wept.
May the turf lie gently over this great Principal of Royal College.