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His gentleness and loving kindness will be remembered

Ronald Doyne Seneviratne

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 era.

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.