Looking back at a proud Trinity history, many names have been involved in setting down the foundations of the true spirit of Trinity.
Amongst these great personalities, Miss Valesca Reimann was someone who helped Trinity in every way possible to achieve the reputation College holds at present.
She was an astonishing and adventurous woman who is considered a legend in Trinity history. At a time where education is limited to textbooks, this remarkable character showed how education spreads beyond books.
Reimann, with a Masters degree in Arts
Her story starts in Adelaide, South Australia in 1888. She was born to a musical family that was said to have German origins. Her father was a music teacher and he later established the College of Music in Adelaide (Australia’s first).
Miss Reimann, a sister among three siblings, majored in arts, obtaining her Master of Arts degree from the University of Adelaide.
The course of Miss Reimann’s life was changed dramatically in 1915 when Reverend A.G. Fraser, the Principal of Trinity, visited Australia for the Australian student Christian movement.
Getting down men to Sri Lanka for special purposes was a task close to impossible due to the war. Because of this, the Principal asked Miss Reimann to join the staff as the head Classics teacher.
Her appointment was only meant for two years, but it extended to 30 years because of her dedication to Trinity.
An adventurous journey to Ceylon
She left Adelaide on Christmas eve in 1915 to travel to Ceylon. The ship she was sailing on, the RMS “Omrah” sprung a leak on the way – Her journey to Ceylon starting in the same adventurous spirit that would continue throughout her time at Trinity.
She reached Ceylon on the 7th of January 1916 and spent her first day in Galle.
Here Miss Reimann mentions her first experience of the local food:
“For lunch we had a most curious curry. First we helped ourselves to plenty of rice. We added curried meat with gravy, like a thick stew, then several curried vegetables and a very hot mixture of onions, pounded chillies and ground coconut called “Sambal”. Finally, over the whole mixture we sprinkled coconut and added some hot chutney and plantain. Luckily I did not take much as I found it very hot and my eyes began to stream”All the Ganagways are up – Valesca Reimann
Encountering many new experiences and learning a lot of new things about the country, she made her way to Kandy by train. During the journey she met one of the Sinhalese College masters, who she says, “had an unpronounceable name of six syllables and fifteen letters!”
She met the College Principal for the second time at the Kandy station waiting to welcome her. She was to live with a missionary family bungalow in the College compound.
Her diaries are very interesting due to the detailed recording of her many encounters in Sri Lanka, and specifically her days at Trinity.
She visited many places, famously travelling to Matale and Dambulla by bicycle, and collected a vast amount of knowledge on Sri Lankan culture.
Below is a transcribed hand-drawn map of her travel destinations:
Life at College
She joined the Trinity community to teach the higher forms western classics, mathematics and English, and later trained the choir and played the piano in Chapel.
During her time she was probably the most familiar figure in the school for there was no activity that she ever missed, be it a society meeting or a house match, helping to edit the College magazine, organizing the Glee Club, and taking part committees.
She had a talent for observation and humour:
” The use of the handkerchief is rare. A College boy thinks nothing of sniffing hard right through a lesson. I found it very unpleasant at first, but one gets hardened to it.”
“I hear that one of our boys has received a telegram: “Uncle expiring. Funeral tomorrow.” and next it is followed by another: “Uncle recovering. Funeral postponed.”
She was such an amazing woman that neither her race nor her gender affected how the boys or the staff saw her.
However, her presence changed to the attitude towards women in the minds of the students and adults. With other women members of the staff, she attended the jubilee dinner, and, following this example, quite a number of old boys brought their wives and sisters, an unheard of thing 10 years previously.
‘I think,’ said Miss Reimann, ‘that it has been a jolly good thing to have one or two women in the boys’ school, and to let the boys see how European women treat them. It has reacted tremendously on their attitude to their own women’.
Later on Miss Reimann was called upon to write the College history, and together with the widespread reputation of her at that time, she was rewarded with a General Lion, being the first, and so far the only, woman to receive a General Lion in Trinity’s history.
Listed below are a few of the other early pioneers who had received General Lions:
1915 – ST. L H De Zylva, R C Edwards, Rev A G Fraser, G A Halangoda, A C Houlder, C P Jayawardene, G R Mulgrue, W Olegesegeram, C E Simithraaratchy 1919 – H Dedigama, H E Garvin, Rev L J Gaster, M Maung Gyi, H W Mediwake, A Paynter, P D Pelpola, Sgt. Rignell, V C Schokman, D B Seneviratne, M Tun Tin 1922 – H R V Johnson 1923 – R R Breckenridge
We also found probably the only available letter handwritten by Miss Reimann:
It is clear that she helped Trinity to achieve her now famous golden days alongside Principal Fraser. Miss Reimann is not spoken about much during recent times, but her name can be considered as one of the pillars which hold up the present day Trinity community, alongside other unspoken Trinity heroes!
“Trinity College will build on its heritage and goes to greater heights in the new millennium. The motto of Trinity is “Respice Finem”, so Trinity looks if not to the end, but to the years ahead in serving the youth of Sri Lanka.”All the Gangways are up – An expatriate in the Ceylon kaleidoscope – Valesca Reimann
Reimann, V. and Reimann, P., 2012. All The Gangways Are Up. Peter Reimann.
Reimann, V., 1922. History Of Trinity College Kandy. [Book] Trinity College Archives.
Digital.library.adelaide.edu.au. 2020. Valesca Reimann, BA 1910, MA 1914. [online] Available at: <https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/90905> [Accessed 7 May 2020].
TRINITY COLLEGE, KANDY, CEYLON. (1972). Centenary number, Trinity College, Kandy, 1872-1972.