Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Upali Wijewardene

Upali Wijewardene (1938–1983) was a well-known businessman in Sri Lanka who established the Upali Group.

At the time of his death, Wijewardene had branched in to newspapers, sweets and even started a domestic air line named Upali Air. He was killed when his private Lear Jet exploded in mid air on February 13, 1983.

Life and career

Early life
He was educated at Royal College and at University of Cambridge.

Wijewardene entered the medium of comics with Chithra Mithra (Picture Friend) in February 1981 because it offered a large market to begin a publication without advertising and it allowed him to test his printing presses. Within a few months, the magazine reached a circulation of 200,000 eclipsing its competitors Sittura (100,000) and Satthuta (75,000). Media initially described the magazine as "romance, booze, money, travel, dreams, adventure, wild women" crammed into 16 pages. It quickly expanded into 32 pages with a different story on every page. Editor Janaka Ratnayake noted that the publication had "many topics–romance, detective, sci-fi, heroes, two pages built around movie stars, and almost a page of pen pal" (1993). All the stories were serialized and in black and white with a spot of one color.[1]

The comic magazine fell apart after Wijewardene's death and ceased publication in 1986 with a circulation of 15,000. Ratnayake cited the failure of the magazine to Wijewardene's early death, sub-standard printing quality of the paper due to unskilled mechanics and competition from other magazines.[1]

Horse Racing
The name Upali Wijewardene was synonymous with “The Sport of Kings”, Horse Racing. He was the Chairman Board of Stewards of the Sri Lanka Turf Club and was a keen turfite, who raced in Sri Lanka and England, where he won the “Royal Ascot” with “Rasa Penang” ridden by the world famous Jockey “Lester Piggot”.

He also won the “Singapore Derby” and “Perak derby” - 1980 with his horse, named “Varron”. He raced “General Atty” too and won many races in England. He flew to all these countries, where his horses were racing in his private aircraft. He made it a point to fly from New Market to Nuwara Eliya to watch his horses and ponies racing there too.

He would land in Katunayake Airport and make a quick tarmac change to his private helicopter to fly to Nuwara Eliya. Wijewardene was responsible in reviving pony racing and thereafter, horse racing during the time there was a lull in racing
ersonal Life
Upali was married to Lakmani Rathwatte in 1975. The marriage did not produce any children. Later after 12 years after Upali death Lakmani married Nimal Welgama


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