Ronald Doyne Seneviratne, was the only son of
Abraham Isaac de Alwis Seneviratne, Mudliyar of Wellaboda Paththu in Matara.
Born at the turn of the last century on July 1, 1906, he passed away as
peacefully as he lived on October 2, 2001. The brilliant achievements of this
most modest man, in the field of medicine in particular, are well worthy of
record with some insight into his life and times.
Doyne spent his early years in Matara. Those
happy and peaceful times remained in his memory. This gave him the idea, at age
90, when his mind was still clear, to hand write his recollections of a bygone
Doyne recalls the destinies of his mother,
four sisters and interesting episodes during his visits to family friends along
with his parents. Perhaps, descendants of old families in the town may be
interested to know that he portrays the homes and visits to James de Saram,
Oswald Tillekeratne, D. Saa Bandaranayake, John Illangakoon, Mudaliyars
Gooneratne and Wickremaratne, Peter Rodrigo and D. Orta Ekanayake. Of industrial
giants, he mentions friendship with Edmund Samarasekera and his father of
citronella oil fame, and with Odiris, his sons Dharmapala and Harischandra whose
food products are now a household name islandwide.
Sri Lanka gained independence from British
rule over 50 years ago. Doyne's concise observations as follows, of British
governance are thus interesting.
"The highest power in the land was the
Governor representing the King. Power was delegated to grassroots levels by a
series of steps. Government Agents were the provincial head. Under them came the
Assistant Government Agents, in charge of Districts, into which a province was
divided. A district was divided into Korales and Pattus headed by Mudaliyars.
Under the Mudaliyar was the Headman who reached villagers. The Kachcheri was the
head office of the Government Agents and Assistant Government Agents.
"Good governance was maintained by
personal attention and regular circuits of inspection by Government Agents and
Assistant Government Agents. In order to keep alive the 'ruler' image, the
circuits were marked by much pomp & pageantry. The usual procedure at such
circuits is illustrated by my personal experience as a small child at St. Thomas
Girls' School, Matara. The school was informed well in time. The garden and
buildings were spruced up and the children drilled in their parts. Just before
the time of arrival, we were lined up at the gate - the little ones in front and
the bigger ones and teachers behind. On arrival, the dignitaries were welcomed
with patriotic songs. A specially selected child proudly presented a bouquet and
was rewarded with a pat on the head. The young ones gazed with awe and
admiration at the white uniform, with gold buttons, and white helmet with gold
spikes and a scarlet plume of the Government Agent."
Sadly the vanity of our rulers remains much
the same though half a century has gone by!
It was in 1918 that Doyne left for schooling
at St. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. About his interest in boxing which
commenced in Matara and continued at St. Thomas' he wrote:-
"A few days before leaving, I was
watching Mr. Manaring, Assistant Superintendent of Police in charge of Matara
Division, training a group of Police boys in boxing. Noticing my interest, he
invited me to join his boxing classes. My interest in boxing led me to join the
boxing classes at St. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, coached by Charlie
Jayatilleke, a well known boxer of that era. I was included in the college team
and won my weight in 1921."
Doyne's academic brilliance unfolded at St.
Thomas' College where he was awarded the Gregory Scholarship, passed the Junior
Cambridge with honours in 1921, the Cambridge Senior also with honours in 1922,
gaining exemption from the London Matriculation. He ended his school career
winning the coveted Victoria Gold Medal for the best all round student in 1924.
Having entered the University College in
1924, Doyne gained admission to the Medical College, Colombo an year later. He
had an exceptional record of achievements in these institutions as well. He was
placed first in the first class in the Pre Medical and first in first class in
every professional examination at the Medical College, winning in the process an
impressive array of gold medals, prizes and scholarships.
He won the Pre Medical Medal, Lucy de Abrew
Gold Medal for Biology, Charmers Gold Medal for Anatomy, Mathew Gold Medal for
Medical Juris Prudence, Vanderstraaten prize for Hygiene, Garvin Gold Medal for
Operative Surgery, the Rutherford Gold Medal for Tropical Medicine as well as
the Pre Medical First Professional and Post Licentiate Scholarships.
Doyne ended his working career having served
as Pathologist of the General Hospital, Colombo, Director of the Medical
Research Institute and Deputy Director of Health. He was a Lecturer and Examiner
of the Medical College of the University of Ceylon.
His pupils as well as others in the
profession, who know of his contributions to medicine still hold him in high
esteem for his achievements accomplished ,with modesty.
Doyne married Indrani Pieris in 1936. They
had a son Ranjith and a daughter Manil. He and his family lived in the home he
built in Cambridge Place, Colombo.
Doyne had his share of traumatic experiences
in life when his son and, later, his wife predeceased him. He, however had the
consolation and satisfaction of being looked after with devotion by his
daughter. Much to his delight, dullness in his home soon disappeared when his
grand-daughter Anushia came to live with him with her family. In the tranquil
eventide of his life, what gave him great joy was silently observing the antics
of his two small great grandsons, Devin and Janek who were the light of his
life. Doyne remained mentally alert and did not suffer from any serious ailment.
Despite Doyne's impressive qualifications and
achievements, he remained a very modest and unassuming man. He passed away
peacefully in his own home at the age of 95 years with his beloved daughter and
grand-daughter beside him. His goodness, gentleness and loving kindness to his
fellowmen will always be in the minds of those who knew him.