This article was originally published in a TCK Centenary Group’s newsletter
In February this year (2018) when I joined a group from the Colombo Branch of the TCK OBA for the presentation of “Smart Boards” to the College Kindergarten, my mind went back to 1959. That was 59 years ago when I sat on the floor in the old Kindergarten hall; with the cement coloured in red, gold and blue oval lines, huddled together among a bunch of anxious five year olds.
Sixty six boys were admitted to the lower Kindergarten of Trinity that year. Though the old Kindergarten hall is no more, replaced by the “Centenary Block” and most of the lovable old teachers gone to the great beyond, the feeling of being back in my boy hood home was dream like even for a 64 year old!
It was wistful nostalgia for the entire group that went up to Kandy for this presentation. Walking up to the Main hall car park from the Kindergarten, we found the physical environment of TCK changed and different to what it was half a century ago. We lamented the demolition of the quaint old “Mission House”, TCK’s very first home, for a grotesque concrete monstrosity to stand there instead. We also admired some of the new developments that have retained the overall architectural character of the school campus. Above all, what was heartening was to learn that the Grand Old School appears to be in safe hands, well and healthy, at the ripe old age of 146.
It was the five year olds of 1959 and the many friends who joined us on the way through Junior, Middle and Upper School that grew to be the 18 year olds to hold aloft the red, gold and blue banner in 1972 when TCK celebrated her centenary. We were small in number then. In 1959 the entire school may have had a thousand boys on roll. Even by 1972, we numbered 1500 more or less, with some A Level classes counting 6-7 boys !
Hence to make the “TCK Centenary Group” as we call ourselves, large enough to be a movement of impact, it was agreed that all who were in the 5th form, lower and upper sixth form classes (grades 10,11 and 12) in 1972, be included in it. What a wonderful agreement that was! The camaraderie that prevailed at TCK cut across a few years difference in age or grade. With almost two hundred in our group we are now a happy and proud arm of the larger TCK family, wrapped together in the red, gold and blue standard.
As for this column, I was somewhat taken aback when our dear friend and evergreen Trinitian Channa Jayawickrama called me from Kandy a few weeks ago asking me to write a piece for the group newsletter. Momentarily I asked myself, why me did Channa call? After all, we had amongst us Ajith Samaranayake, the boy who was destined to be one of the finest English journalists in Asia, DMG (Dimma) Dissanayake, Ubayasena Banda and many others whose literary contributions while school boys were good enough for national publications. They could have “out written” me by “leaps and bounds”. Then sad stark reality struck me. Of the names I mention, they have all crossed the great divide and it is left to lesser mortals like me to chip-in in the absence of the better.
I am unable in this article to make reference to all those from our group who have moved on to the great beyond. Perhaps that is done elsewhere in this newsletter. I cannot however, restrain myself from making reference to the likes of the two Rohans (Alawattegama and Paranawitharana) who left us far too early in life, Rugby Lion Y. S. Ping, that steel hardened Napierite P. Maheswaran whose death was a surprise to us all, and the rough and tumble Shathi Bahar. Shanti having enlisted with the Navy sacrificed his life in battle for the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. The portrait of Commander Bahar now adorns the walls of the OTSC in Asgiriya with some of the finest Trinitians who left their imprint on the sands of time.
In writing this piece, I thought it best to go down memory lane to 1972 and recall how we celebrated our Centenary. It was an event looked forward to by the entire Trinity family. From Thanksgiving services to exhibitions and carnivals, drama festivals and a city walk to cap it all! All activities were organized by a group of dedicated old boys, teachers and the boys themselves. “Event Managers” were not around then! Forgetfulness compelled me to seek assistance from the College archives and fading photographs in my own albums.
The celebrations began in November 1971, to coincide with a visit to then Ceylon by the Rt. Revd R.W. Stopford, former Principal (1935-41). He was by then the Lord Bishop of London. There was a traditional Thanksgiving service presided over by the good Bishop at the College Chapel.
What preceded the service was a spectacular procession (city walk) from the Hall to the Chapel, winding its way down D. S. Senanayake Street, Kande Veediya, Kotugodella Veediya, Cross Street, back to D. S. Senanayake Street and to the Chapel. It was led by the Senior Prefect Ravindra Sangakkara carrying the College flag. Ravindra, later a Professor of Agriculture at Peradeniya met with a fatal accident just over a year ago; we remember him with affection. The procession represented the entire Trinity family; from former Principals, staff, old boys, minor staff and, the boys walking under their “House” flags.
I vividly recall the lanky athlete G. T. A. Samaranayake now in the USA, Rugby Lion Jeffery Yu now in Canada, the amiable Ajith Senewiratne now in Australia, that steely rugby inside three-quarter Tissa Dissanayake now in retirement from the hotel industry, and myself leading the boys, carrying the Garett, Lemuel, Alison, Napier and Ryde flags respectively. What a show that procession was; half mile long and Kandy was there in numbers to watch its “Glamour School” on parade at home!
1972 saw the main celebrations. By then our Senior Prefect was Athula Unanthanne. He also led TCK at rugby and cricket that year. The centenary Prize Giving in February broke new ground in more ways than one. The Chief Guest was Madam Sirimavo Ratwatte Bandaranaike the Prime Minister. Not only was she the first politician to have graced a TCK Prize Giving as Chief Guest but, also the first female to do so. Then again, with almost all her family; father and brothers, being Trinitians the good Lady was not a stranger to the school. In fact, she was very much a part of it. The highly acclaimed 400+ page TCK Centenary souvenir printed in our very own press on the “Two Page Pedal Machine” was launched that evening. The centenary exhibition opened alongside the centenary Prize Giving.
The exhibition was truly massive in terms of a school boy activity. It showcased the variety that Trinity had to offer in terms of art and craft and the sciences in all its multifarious forms. One exhibit was a “Model of DNA charts on its biochemical functions”. The credit for this went to three boys: Ruwan Ekanayake now a leading Cardiologist, Asoka Balasuriya who went on to complete a PhD in the field of chemistry having played rugby as well for Trinity, and A. M. S. Bandara a very bright student whose steps after leaving school I have not been able to trace. Taking into consideration that the molecular structure of DNA was first identified only in the 1950s in Cambridge, exhibits of this nature reflected on the extremely high quality of what was on display.
The centenary exhibition was open to the public. Almost all schools in Kandy and many from the Central Province and a few from Colombo as well were attracted to it. What was to be a 5 day exhibition was extended to nine days with the doors closing only around midnight in the last couple of days.
As for student academic achievements, one might argue that the 1972 A Level class was too preoccupied with our centenary celebrations to concentrate on public examinations. Regardless, we still have amongst the group many who have made their mark at the highest levels. A few names that readily come to my mind are those of my Ryde House mate Professor Thangamuttu Jeyasingham Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University, Professor Asoka Nugawela the respected agricultural scientist, and Kandy’s very own Walter Perera who was appointed to the Professorial Chair of English at the Peradeniya University.
Festivities continued in to March. A drama festival, talent shows and musical evenings were on the cards for a full week or more. A “Mini Fair” in and around the College car park and the old bus garage was the “grand finale”.
The drama festival was also open to the public. Plays were staged by the TCLA, SLU and the TLU. The “West Side Story” by the TCLA in which rugby flanker Babu Dharmaratnam now in the USA, played “Riff” and another ruggerite Stewart Wright now in Australia acted as “Bernardo” was a hit. The Late Ronnie Thangiah the choir master with the golden voice was the man behind the production.
Ediriweera Sarathchandra’s “Pabawathi” was staged by the SLU. Francis Wickramage the talented “Sinhala guru” trained the cast.
D. Beling a burgher boy played the lead role of Pabawathi with great aplomb. Donald Fernando who was Alison House Master in later years was King Kusa, while the “narrator” was this writer. The main actor in the Tamil Play “Eatharakkum Oru Theerppoo” was the much loved Tamil teacher N. Selladurai himself, supported by the likes of J. R. Jesubatham now in the USA and M. V. Siddharthan an ardent “Sivaji Ganeshan” fan. I was saddened to learn that Siddha too is no longer among us today.
Many of the boys of 1972 will recall the “Mini Fair”. It was a “Trinity family” affair with games and amusements, music and trade/food stalls. It also gave the boys a rare opportunity of mingling with the girls of Kandy in an atmosphere of levity in days when the mere holding of hands was something often frowned at. The “fair” brought to an end the celebrations as far as the students were concerned. What was unique about the centenary was that there was no boy or member of the staff who was not involved in what was going on, in one way or the other. It belonged to “US ALL” and we were proud that it did!
Whereas it had all ended for the boys, there was in store for Trinity a greater show in August of 1972. Led by the OBA and a committee chaired by Colonel Stanley Ratwatte, they ran the “Jaya Mawatha Esala Exhibition” for 12 days. It was in reality the Bogambara Perehara Carnival. On each of the 12 days it was opened by a distinguished old boy or other dignitary and, in the true “Trinity family” spirit, the final day honours were carried out by the minor employees of the School. “Sharing and caring” was a value instilled in us at TCK!
No doubt the “carnival” would have brought in a substantial sum to the college coffers. In those days however, organizing public carnivals and matters of high finance were not in the “curriculum” for schoolboys. Not in the “Extra – Curricular” either!
To Our Teachers:
We entered TCK in a year (1959) the Prime Minister of Ceylon was assassinated. That was a rude shock to a fledgling democracy. Gender barriers were falling apart and lady teachers came into the Upper School by the late 1960s. We were senior students in 1971 when the first youth uprising took place. In 1972, when it was time for us to step out in to the real world, the “Soulbury Constitution” gave way for our nation to become the “Republic of Sri Lanka” from the “Ceylon” we were accustomed to. While we were carefree and happy in the world that was “Trinity College” our country was in the throes of change; at the beginning of what now seems an unending struggle to find an identity of our own.
We were then in our most impressionable years. Our teachers did not insulate us from the happenings outside; we were encouraged to discuss and debate the challenges facing the country but, they kept us safe from any adverse impact of the social turbulence around us. We are ever grateful to all of them. Tall among them stood, the awe inspiring Cedric Orloff, the master mathematician G. Y. Sahayama, the effervescent Lionel Fernando and that iconic Liberal, Hilary Abeyaratne. We salute them all with gratitude!
Gotabaya (GKB) Dasanayaka
“No one in this world is rich enough to buy back his childhood and youth. Only friends help to recreate those moments from time to time at no cost” : Author Unknown
A big ‘Thank You’ to a few friends in Kandy and Colombo who keep the TCK CG “alive and kicking” to “recreate” those cherished moments of our boyhood. Cheers!