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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Group of 1949

Royal College - Group of 49
by D. C. Sivapragasam – DN Thu July 2 2009

All parents clamour to get their children into Royal, but not all of them are lucky enough. Everyone thinks of other public schools as second best. Royal and S. Thomas' (Mt. Lavinia) are the most prestigious, like Eton and Harrow of England.

Royal College, Colombo

Royal was founded in 1835 by the then British Colonial Government, mainly for the education of the sons of the Britishers, under the Principalship of Dr. Barcroft Boake, a product of Oxford University. Though the school was initially called the Colombo Academy, it came to be known later as Royal College. On the panels of the College Hall are the names of those who distinguished themselves in the field of intellect.

Also, in the College Hall hang the portraits of those who rendered yeoman service to our country. Some amongst them are C. A. Lorenz KC, the Acting Queen's Advocate, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan Acting Attorney General and his brother Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam of the Ceylon Civil Service, Dr. C. A. Hewavitharne and his sibling Anagarika Dharmapala. Of the Politicians of recent times were 2 Heads of State - Sir John Kotalawala and President J. R. Jayewardene, while H. Sri Nissanka Q.C., a well known criminal lawyer and one of the founders of the SLFP also adorns the Hall. Royal completes 175 years this year.


Messrs D. S. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike were distinguished products of the school known by Royalists as "the other school", namely, S. Thomas'.

About 60 years ago, 96 boys entered Royal College. They came to be called the 49 Group. According to statistics compiled, it is perhaps the best batch that Royal turned out in recent times.

It is said that 32 of them became medical doctors, most of them consultants, while 9 entered the legal profession, 2 of them becoming President's Counsel, 2 others becoming Judges of the Supreme Court, 3 entered the Ceylon Civil Service and 18 became Engineers.

It is estimated that about 60% of this Group became professionals, but while in school, each one of them fought for the last place in class! But when they commenced their respective disciplines, they shone over the products of other schools.
Some surgeons of the 49 Group are, Ranjit de Silva - who captained Royal at cricket, Priya Samarasinghe, Geoff Vanden Driesen, Gamini Goonethilake, S. R. Ratnapala, whilst some of the well known physicians are, Henry Rajaratnam, J. B. Pieris, Gamini Jayakuru, Brendon Gooneratne, the latter distinguishing himself in Australia. His wife, Yasmin Gooneratne, a Professor of English in Australia, has several publications to her credit. Another wife of a member of the 49 Group is Professor Lalitha Mendis, who reached the pinnacle of the medical profession. She was the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and the Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine. She is the wife of the late Dr. Lalith Mendis.


The other physicians are, Danilo de Kretser, Tissa Cooray (WHO), N. T. de Silva (UK), H. S. Karunasekera (UK), Leslie Muthukuda (UK), Dan Perimpanayagam, Yasa Rajapakse (UK), Disampathy Subasinghe (UK), V. Dharmapalan (New Zealand), and the late R. S. B. Wickremasinghe - who was the Director of the MRI.

Of those who took to Law, are 2 well known President's Counsel Jayantha Gunasekera (former Secretary of the Bar Association) and Chula de Silva. Two other lawyers S. W. B. Wadugodapitiya and P. Edussuriya ended up as Judges of the Supreme Court, whilst A. Balachandran worked in the UN. T. K. N. Thilakan (District Judge) and Kumar Ponnambalam both died a few years ago. Alavi Mohamed, a Barrister also died recently, M. N. B. Pieris is a civil lawyer, in Colombo.

Harsha Wickremasinghe, D. G. P. Seneviratne and Dr. B. S. Wijeweera entered the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service.


Of the Engineers that come to mind are Professor C. L. V. Jayathilake (a Vice Chancellor of Peradeniya), Dr. Susantha Goonethilake, S. C. Amarasinghe (former GM of the Electricity Board), Dr. Sri Bhavan Sri Skandarajah, H. S. B. Abeysundara (Chemical Engineer), L. H. Meegama, C. Ramachandran and Bandula Yatawara.
Perhaps the cleverest of them all was Chelvanayagam Vaseeharan, a maths prodigy, who was to be appointed Professor of Mathematics.

In this class were 2 leading businessmen, namely the Cambridge educated Upali Wijewardene of the Upali Group, and Lal Jayasundera, Chairman of Hayleys, Ratna Sivaratnam headed another conglomerate - Aitken Spence, whilst K. Manikavasagar was a Director of Glaxo. Arjuna Hullugalle and Upatissa Attygalle are successful businessmen.

V. H. Nanayakkara and P. H. J. S. Ariyapala both Bachelors of Science, joined the Staff of Royal College. There was one member of the 49 Group who distinguished himself as a clever investigator in the Police Force. If he had not jointed the Police, surely he would have been on the side of the Law. That was none other than Rahula Silva. It is reported that he was charged in several cases of violence.
In all these cases he was successfully defended gratis, by his classmate Jayantha Gunasekera, a well known criminal lawyer.

There is the very talented artist/architect Laki Senanayake, a partner of Geoffrey Bawa, whilst A. A. Wijetunga and K. Sivapragasam became senior assessors in the Inland Revenue Dept. K. L. Gooneratne is a talented architect.
Late Bimal Padameperuma functioned as Chairman Engineering Corp and D. C. Wimalasena was Chairman, Petroleum Corporation.

T. D. S. A. Dissanayake, a prolific writer, first served in the UN. Later he was our Ambassador in Indonesia.


There were 2 members of this Group to whom life was a ball. They were Aru Sellamuttu and Ranjit Kiriella. Nimalasiri Fonseka, a bright spark in school, lives the life of a Squire in England.

Lionel Almeida and the late Tyrrel Muttiah took to planting, and were ruggerites. W. K. N. de Silva is a propriety planter. Bobby Perera, was one time Director of Quickshaws. Mahinda Gunasekera who is permanently domiciled in Canada does much for our country by countering false propaganda.

These classmates are a very close knit family, though half of them live overseas... The 49 Group, depleted as it is, gets together, definitely during the Royal-Thomian cricket encounter and the Bradly shield. Sometimes they meet more often, to welcome members coming home from abroad, for some reason or another.

It is at such gatherings that they reminisce about their schooldays, some wild and some even wilder. Only the pleasantest memories remain, and old yarns are told and retold, with salt and pepper added too.

Brotherly love

Masters then came to teach in full suit (coat and tie, mind you) and some driving their own cars. They instilled into this impressionable Group of youngsters all that Royal stood for; so much so that even today, they instinctively take the acceptable course of action in any matter. The feeling of brotherly love is strong in the 49 Group. A few years ago, with great emotion and bonhomie the 50th anniversary of the Group was celebrated for 3 days in a luxury hotel in the South. Almost all the members (from here and abroad) attended this occasion. On the last night of this grand get together, the College Song was sung lustily, with a tear in the eye. Apart from being top achievers in their respective disciplines, they had "Learnt of books and Learnt of men and learnt to play the Game."

Here's hoping that the 49 Group will meet for many more years, to reminisce and rejoice over a meal that cheers.

Island Thu July 2 2009

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert

Rodney, the ‘silent knight’ of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service has departed quietly into the sunset. He departed, the way he lived, with quiet dignity, without fanfare, fuss or bother…… in his own inimitable style. Rodney’s unexpected departure has left his family and friends engulfed in deep sorrow.

The sad news of Rodney’s demise reached me in the early hours of a cold morning in Geneva when my wife called me from hospital within minutes of his passing away. The initial shock and sense of disbelief gradually gave way to a flood of thoughts of Rodney and the happy times we spent together – a friendship spanning over 30 years. I was grappling with a range of emotions until the sun, I thought somewhat reluctantly, finally broke through the dark clouds hanging over Geneva valley. My mind went back to 1979; I had a few years before ventured out to start a career as an international lawyer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rodney returned that year to the Ministry after his tour of duty in New York, having worked under the late Shirley Amerasinghe, when Sri Lanka was basking in that “one brief shining moment of our own Camelot”.

We were the Chairman of the Law of the Sea Conference, the Non Aligned Movement and held the Presidency of the UN General Assembly. New York was the epicentre of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic initiatives. Rodney returned to Colombo with this rich experience behind him. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs too was undergoing radical change; a Ministry that had functioned directly under the Prime Minister since the dawn of Independence was now de-linked and was vested with a separate identity under a Foreign Minister. A new government had assumed office with an overwhelming mandate and a Ministry that had hitherto been insulated from domestic political forces was beginning to feel the impact of such forces. The economic environment was beginning to undergo radical change; a centrally-planned economy was giving way to a liberalized economy. These changes made it imperative that in the implementation of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, the necessary changes were effected, transforming the traditional political diplomacy to an economic diplomacy. In a sense it was ‘the best of times’ and perhaps the ‘worst of times’. Certainly these were uncertain times.

A young officer embarking on a career in the Foreign Ministry needed the sure and steadying hand of an experienced mentor and a dependable colleague to guide him through this uncertain terrain. Rodney assumed duties as Legal Adviser and offered his hand of friendship and I clasped it firmly. It was the beginning of a close friendship which was to make a deep impact on my career. I shall always treasure pleasant memories of working together with Rodney in the Legal Division attending to the multitude of tasks then being assigned to us.

He was the true professional, looking into minute detail, be it a complex treaty issue on which advice was sought or a routine Diplomatic Note that was being drafted. (We always prepared thoroughly before attending any meeting!) I particularly remember accompanying Rodney to attend meetings of a Presidential Committee appointed to finalize Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements, a virgin territory then, in the immediate flush of economic liberalization. Rodney explained at length the complexities involved, which may not always have been to the liking of some who thought that the only guiding principle in attracting foreign investment should be the maxim ‘let the robber barons come,’ but they all listened to his point of view which was always well articulated and respected his views.

Rodney’s sense of professionalism, the ability to be a team player and work together with colleagues, both within the Ministry and outside, and to be above the fray of narrow turf battles, left a deep and lasting impression on me, and I am sure to others closely associated with him. I also enjoyed Rodney’s warm hospitality and company, on his postings abroad as Ambassador.

His first appointment was as High Commissioner to Ottawa. Rodney had arrived in Ottawa without the family initially, and was attending to all the work involved in presenting credentials. He looked into every detail, which was nothing unusual. I was on a UN scholarship in Montreal at the time and used to commute to Ottawa to spend the weekends with Rodney. Not leaving anything to chance, Rodney wanted to rehearse the credentials presentation ceremony the evening before and I stood in for the Governor General of Canada.

The next morning standing on the steps of the Ottawa Residence with Sri Lankan friends, we watched Rodney being driven to the Governor’s residence in horse carriage to begin another chapter in hislong career. Rodney’s next posting was to Moscow, at the time the capital of the Soviet Union. In the winter of 1989, I had the opportunity of visiting this great city about which I had heard so much and enjoying the hospitality of Rodney and Cheryl .What I did not know then, was that these were the last days of the mighty Soviet Union and that consequent to the Gorbachev policy of Perestroika and Glasnost, cracks were beginning to appear on this mighty edifice, which once looked so solid. Rodney took me through the usual landmarks, including the Kremlin Palace. He was particularly keen to walk me through the streets of Moscow to show me something extremely unusual then, perhaps taken for granted now. This was to get a sense of the spirit of re-awakening that was rapidly spreading among the people of Russia. I vividly recall the speech-makers, the soapbox orators in the street corners of Arabat, enjoying their new found sense of freedom, a phenomenon unthinkable in the pre-Gorbachev era. Rodney had been a keen observer of the sea change that was sweeping through Russian society and gave me a vivid description of the current political changes in Moscow. But whether Rodney or I could ever have anticipated the grand finale that was soon to follow – the collapse of the Soviet Union – is entirely another matter.

Rodney was also a godfather to the Sri Lankan student community in Moscow, always willing to give his ear and lend a helping hand to them. To these young people far away from their homes, in an alien environment, Rodney and his family was a great source of comfort.

Rodney’s final posting as Ambassador was to China in Beijing. My commitments at the time did not permit me to visit Rodney in this magnificent city, much to my regret. As Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rodney presided over, [with complete acceptance to the political leadership of the day,] the transition from the 17-year United National Party Administration to the People s Alliance Administration in 1994.

During this period, he forged a constructive working relationship with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, which greatly contributed to the efficient functioning of the Ministry. I recall vividly the late Lakshman Kadirgamar’s first visit to the Foreign Ministry, when I accompanied Rodney and Additional Secretary Jayantha Dhanapala to brief the new Foreign Minister. Rodney together with Jayantha gave a detailed briefing to the Minister on the many issues pending from the previous administration in order to identify priorities of the new administration. For me this was a classic expose of an orderly transition between governments and particularly in maintaining a bi-partisan foreign policy. Perhaps a lesser known fact is Rodney’s academic background.

In the mid 1950’s he obtained his Degree of Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ceylon having read for the degree as one of nine undergraduates of the Law Faculty of the University of Ceylon, which was at that time housed in Peradeniya. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1960. He completed his Advocates finals in the early 1970s and was admitted to the Bar.

Although he did not go into active practice, his abiding interest in the law, saw him completing his Masters in Law degree at NYU. While in Sri Lanka, Rodney responded to the call of the Law Faculty to serve as a visiting lecturer in International Law. He discharged this responsibility with the same degree of meticulousness that he displayed in the Foreign Ministry. It was in this capacity that he was appointed Supervisor of my doctoral thesis.

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I recall the time he devoted to this task amidst his manifold duties in the Ministry. Rodney was the happiest when I was elected to serve on the International Law Commission in 2006 and he gave me every encouragement as I ventured down a new path on the eve of my retirement from the Public Service. During my career spanning 32 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was fortunate to serve under several outstanding public servants. Among them, late W. T. Jayasinghe and Rodney Vandergert have left a deep impression on my career, with their dedication to duty, sense of integrity and high degree of professionalism. They both moved on within a short space of a month or more of each other and the personal sense of loss is immense. However the sense of values and commitment to principle they both inculcated in us, during their sojourn, gives me much comfort and courage.

Many who had the opportunity of bidding Rodney a final farewell speak of Rodney’s mortal remains with his usual smile, dressed in the navy blue suit, which had fate not intervened, he would have worn for daughter Niloufer’s wedding next month. I prefer to remember Rodney the way he was and the warm goodbye he bid me at his home, a few days before I left for Geneva, only a few weeks before he left us. We had enjoyed a good dinner and talked into the night, of men and matters, as we always did. These are the memories that will linger on……… (The

Sunday Time - 21/06/2009)


With the passing away of RCA Vandergert, another oak in the Foreign Service has fallen; and we are the poorer by it. Mr. Vandergert could be well described as a pioneer in this country’s diplomatic service having joined what was then a still fledgling Ceylon Overseas Service, in 1960.

To those of us like me who followed him in to the profession nearly 3 decades or so later, he exemplified old world charm, much of which had vanished by the time we arrived on the scene. Very generous to a fault, he insisted on us young cadets on the need to apply oneself with diligence and seriousness to work. He did not exhort by mere words alone but led by practice. Happily caught in the coils of work, he like many others of that generation considered working half a day on Saturday more as a norm than an exception. Spelling mistakes or even a missing comma were particularly revolting and none missed his eagle eye, they being marked three times over and circled for good measure! When a report did not embody all what was expected, it would be sent back pronto with a concisely written minute flowing off an extremely neat fist, listing how best it could be improved. But when one was good he never attempted to gild the lily and complimented the compiler – "Vandergert here" he would promptly say into the extension line "I say that brief on …… was excellent".

Once, so many years ago, in the course of drafting a speech, he sent off a young recruit to the British Council just to check on a particular comma in the "Rubaiyat" which was missing in his copy - devoured by silver fish. "Now, please ensure that you check it on Fitzgerald’s translation and no one else’s", he insisted upon the young man whose academic brilliance lay in a field far removed from literature. With such punctiliousness in the days before the arrival of the now ubiquitous personal computer, compiling reports and week-end briefs or even a letter became a challenge, specially for the hapless stenographer, with sometimes more than two drafts having to be typed all over again until the desired excellence was achieved! But the value of it all had to be experienced to be believed. Almost naturally, the striving for similar excellence by those who were fortunate to come under his tutelage was evident in their own work as they climbed the professional ladder in later years.

The gentleman was blessed with a fine mind and an innate capacity for grasping the subtleties of a complex situation. Perhaps this had its roots in a more than passing interest in the law - he did have an Ll.M, though he was never one to wear it on his sleeve. Rancour and envy he had none. By the late 80s and early 90s, Rodney Vandergert, John Gooneratne, Manel Abeysekera, Jayantha Dhanapala, Nihal Rodrigo, Alfred David, among others of that vintage, were in their prime, having completed a quarter century and more in the Foreign Service. The likes of Bernard Goonetilleke and Daneshan Casie Chitty were to reach that milestone shortly thereafter. Many of them had imbibed the "Peradeniya tradition", post Ludowyke, and all had drunk deeply into the Queen’s language, and often new recruits were treated to a colorful nugget here or a Shakesperian quote there. In such company, Rodney Vandergert would be in his element, whether at cracking a joke filled with pun or, in a serious mode, explaining the finer points of a political development unfolding in some part of the world. Listening to him and the others was an edifying experience, not merely for the points conveyed but for the particular idiosyncrasies with which they were expressed.

For a diplomat, Mr. Vandergert was rather uniquely attired – he cared less for the frills of a crisply ironed and creased shirt and trousers, but for all the simplicity, he was well turned out at all times. The only thing of any material value on him was an old stainless steel watch, the white dial of which had been browned by time. When told of Carl Muller’s description of "the elf-faced Vandergert" in a novel, he laughingly shot back "at least my schoolmate got a better description of me than even a photographer could".Frugality with government funds was a professional ideal and a personal passion, and even as Secretary Foreign Affairs he took time to fine comb any expenditure, ever questioning the need for something he thought could be avoided. At times he would take such exactitude to Gilbertian heights! But that was Rodney Vandergert.

Uniquely approachable and helpful for an official of his seniority, Mr. Vandergert was Mr. Simple at all times. He would deflate any pompous cadet’s ego by relating a story of how whilst on a posting to Islamabad as a young diplomat, he had to personally carry and even a feed a rare parakeet which was a gift from the government of Sri Lanka his High Commissioner was to handover to a Pakistani Zoo.

Then he would regale us with the story of how he had to sometimes take the weekly incoming diplomatic bag to the racecourse where he and his High Commissioner, a keen turfite, would discuss its contents as the boss lowered his gaze in between races! Rodney Vandergert served Sri Lanka with distinction in many overseas posts, capping off a remarkable career as High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to the Soviet Union and finally as Head of Mission in China. Endowed with excellent analytical skills, his usually long and cascading reports were a pleasure to read not only for their originality and depth but for their remarkable syntax and idiomatic expression.

His lifelong passion was books. We would often see him reading one while at lunch; usually a sandwich which he used to draw rather neatly from a little tiffin box. I distinctly remember him pouring over "Pride and Prejudice", with the intensity of a first timer. "I am still discovering it, even on reading it for a fourth time", he exclaimed. The best portion of a good man’s life are his little unremembered acts of kindness, and Mr. Vandergert had many. As the evening sun on May 5 dipped its rays over the Borella Cemetery and those present at the last goodbye slowly withdrew homeward into the enveloping darkness, surely one thought would have preoccupied them all: we had just laid to rest an honorable and simple man. Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert was indeed more than the sum of his parts.Farewell, Sir, and thank you for the memories.

(The Island - 07/06/2009)

R.C.A. Vandergert - a tribute

Rodney Clement Austen Vandergert passed away on 4th May 2009. The lawyer, diplomat joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1961. During his formative days he functioned as Assistant Secretary, Deputy Director in various divisions of the Ministry of Defence & External Affairs and also in various capacities in Sri Lanka Missions abroad.

I came into contact with him towards the latter part of the seventies when he was the legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It had been a pleasure to work under him as he had been a very humane person and a gentleman par excellence.

He left us in 1980 when he was appointed the High Commissioner to Canada and upon his return after a successful tour of duty; he held high positions in the Foreign Ministry such as Director United Nations & Multi Lateral Affairs Division, Director-General Political Affairs etc. He was elevated to the highest position in 1994 as Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs which post he held in high esteem. He was only the second career diplomat who became the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He always looked placid and relaxed even in tough problematic situations and his inspiring friendliness coupled with courtesy and patience won the hearts of all who worked with him. I never saw him in anger and never heard him speaking in an aggressive tone. I also can never forget his face which was always lit with smiles.

He was a devout Catholic who preached what he practised, discharged his duties without fear or favour, harbouring ill-will to none. The honesty and integrity of character, the devotion to duty, the simplicity in no small measure, earned the respect of all who came in contact with him.

May he rest in peace!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rugby Greats of 1948

The team that made history for Royal

by T. Varagunam (Chancellor, Eastern University), Daya Perera (Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Canada) Tony Anghie (Retired Army Officer), Daya Samarasinghe (Retired Physician), Ashy Cader (Retired Executive), Geoff Weinman (Retired Executive), Desmond van Twest (Retired Physician), Trevor Anghie (Retired Physician)

It was in the year 1948 when Royal had a general feeling of despair caused by the fact that for the four previous years it had lost to Trinity and was yet to win the Bradby Shield; the shield awarded in the name of its own principal. This four year drought combined with the fact that since the year 1920, it had won only three matches compared to Trinity’s 19 had sent Royal to the doldrums.

The prevailing gloom was compounded by the fact that in 1948 only one second year player was left in the team from the previous year - Ashroff Cader.

Royal faced the formidable task of having to train and pick another 14 new players for its forthcoming matches against Trinity. Moreover, Royal’s coach - C. O. Foenander, a past captain of the Royal team, was unwilling to continue. A new coach had to be found. This task fell on M. T. Thambapillai, the Master in Charge of Rugby, and our Principal J. C. A. Corea.

The new coach had to be an outstanding player; a man who not only knew the game and would teach it well to youngsters, but also provide that extra zest which was so vital for playing the game well by a team, whose predecessors had such a dismal record. They picked Sydney de Zoysa – a rigorous and disciplined coach with masterly tactics and strategies acquired from his experience in the Police Force.

At first practice, we gathered round the old tamarind tree in the school’s rugby grounds. Thambapillai, the most understanding of masters, rather than attempting a coaching session suggested we play a ‘chuckers’ match until our newly appointed coach arrived. Rugby boots were at that time a commodity in great demand. So, those with boots became forwards and those without hung around behind as backs who relieved themselves of the ball immediately they received it, purely as a measure of self preservation. After coach Sydney de Zoysa arrived there was no such laissez faire. It was blood and sweat. He constantly kept reminding us, in his loud stentorian voice, that rugby is a game of guts and he transferred the theme of our school motto- "Learn or Depart," to our training – "If you can’t get it right, B….. off." And there was Thambapillai encouraging us in his mellifluous monotonous voice with, "don’t worry boys, with more practice you will soon get it right." Though mild in his manners Thambapillai’s capacity to motivate the players was the key factor in building our team.

Compared to the scientific training methods of today, with video analyses and constructive feedback, our training tilted towards the brutal. Jumping individually to grab the ball in the lineouts (the practice of towering was non-existent in those years), pushing and turning in scrums, dribbling, falling on the ball, passing the ball in all its forms, including the dummies, place and drop kicking, tackling, running with the ball, catching the high ball and ’marking’; were all drilled to points of exhaustion. This rigorous training went on for about six months and it first paid off when we beat St. Peter’s under the glowering and threatening eyes of our coach and later drew with Zahira; these two being the other Colombo schools which played serious rugby at that time.

More intensive practice followed and a few days before the dreaded day of playing Trinity, Sydney de Zoysa announced the squad (see photograph) which was going to make history for Royal. After making the announcement, he mellowed down and promised us a "show and dinner" if we won the Bradby Shield.

Props:(1) A. E. Bartholomeuz* and (2) Bala Seevaratnam*
Hooker (3) T. Varagunam
Second Row: (4) Eustace Fonseka* and (5) G. Perinpanayagam*
Flankers (6) Geoff Weinman and (7) Daya Samarasinghe
No 8: (8) Ashroff Cader (Captain)
Scrum half (9) Daya Perera
Fly half (10) S. D. N. Hapugalle*
Centres (11) Tony Anghie and (12) D. Raymond*
Wingers (13) Desmond van Twest and (14) A. Gunawardene*
Full Back (15) Trevor Anghie *-unfortunately no longer with us; and also M. T.Thambapillai, Sidney de Zoysa and J. C. A. Corea.

We are writing this 60 years after these matches were played. We have tried faithfully to recollect the significant events. But as everyone knows, the passage of time does influence one’s perceptions. Hence, what we have written may not accurately depict the reality that had prevailed. However, we managed to dig out, from Tony Anghie’s archives, an article written by Thambapillai in a local newspaper in June 1993 and have used it as a reference. In it, he refers to the 1948 season as a "milestone in the history of Royal Rugger."

The first match was played at the Police grounds on Havelock Road with an old Trinitian - Harold van Royen of the Police refereeing. Our school mates, envisaging yet another defeat turned up in fewer numbers than in previous years. A handful of staunch old boys and some past players, a few parents, together with some interested members of the public with some press reporters, constituted a total of about 300 spectators. There were no cheer leaders; the majority consisting of ageing old boys who were a poor substitute for the perky young things that populate the matches of today.

The Trinity team, truly magnificent in their tri-coloured jerseys and led by Ajward Mohammed strutted confidently into the field under the watchful eyes of their coach Philip Buultjens.

Their confidence was so overwhelming that, had they been given the chance, they might have done the ‘Haka’ Maori war dance of the All Blacks team. We jogged into the field led by Ashroff Cader, cowed under the burden of previous defeats.

The match itself must have been one of the hardest fought schoolboy games played in Colombo that year and according to Thambpillai it was a "ding dong battle." Some aspects of the battle are etched in our minds.

In the first half of the game, the teams were evenly matched, play occurring equally in both halves of the grounds. Ashy Cader’s jumping prowess got the ball out for us from the line outs nine times out of 10. Desmond van Twest, our winger, who often ‘threw in’ the ball in the line outs has this to say of him; "Ashy was an all time line out forward par excellence and at a pinch, could even be relied to pot the ball between the uprights from all parts of the field." But somehow, in spite of Ashy’s performance, the ball rarely progressed beyond the mid three quarters.

The same was true with the scrums. We got the ball out many times more frequently than Trinity did. The aggregate weights of the forwards were roughly equal on both teams, but Daya Perera put in the ball at just the right shoving time and Varagunam, supported by Bala Seevaratnam and Arthur Bartholomeuz hooked the ball to our advantage much to the amazement of the Trinity team.

The few times Trinity got the ball out from the scrums, our wingers - the non stop tackling machine Daya Samarasinghe and the attacking/harassing and spoiling Geoff Weinman saw to it that it never got to the Trinity three quarter line. And if it did, our mid three quarter, David Raymond’s venomous tackling stopped it from reaching the wingers. We were close to Trinity’s five yard line on many occasions. On one such occasions, Geoff Weinman tried a drop kick and failed. On another, Daya Samarasinge coming out of the scrum, elegantly poached a ball being passed between Trinitythree quarters but was brought down by a heavy Trinity forward.

A few minutes before the half time whistle, and close to the corner flag, we had a scrum down for some minor infringement of the rules. When the ball came out on our side a desperate Trinity flanker in his earnestness fell foul of the rules and we were given a penalty. There was Philip Buultjens on the line cursing away probably at the referee but a glimmer of a smile must have appeared on his face when he noticed that the angle was impossibly close to the touch line. In the pin drop silence, Trevor Anghie with his tree trunk thighs and with a concentration never seen before, accurately sent the ball between the posts, clearing the cross bar by more than six feet. This was the turning moment in our morale which the 14 fresher’s and their captain needed so badly.

Our successes at pushing and keeping the ball in the scrum and waiting for the correct time to get it out was fantastic team work with Eustace Fonseka and Gnani Perinpanayagam giving the necessary shove from the second row bound by Ashy Cader functioning as lock. As play continued, Daya Perera did a splendid job, as only he could, of rallying and harnessing our forwards. He at the same time, undermined the confidence of the opposition pack in a good humored way by talking down their efforts and thus deflating their spirits. In the second half we continued to maintain our superior play.

In an attempt to overcome this situation, Mike Schokman from Trinity started his booming kicks to the touch line and Philip Buultjens from the touch lines kept shouting "Schockman for god’s sake keep the ball in play." Fortunately for Trinity, Mike did not hear him or ignored him and continued this practice, until close of play. Towards the end of the game, at a five yard scrum from our touchline, Tinity’s scrum half Senanayake managed to sneak through and score a try which they failed to convert. Trevor Anghie converted another penalty almost in front of the posts, but from almost the half line. The match ended to our advantage with scores at 6-3.

A fortnight later, we set out for Kandy to play the second leg in an old decrepit bus. On route, some of the team were planning to throw the rugger ball out of the bus at Pasyala to make a stop in the vicinity of the ‘cadju girls’. With a horrified expression on his face Thambapillai foiled the effort. On arrival in Kandy, we were first taken to the Bogambara grounds which to us looked like a mini lake with little islands of earth protruding at intervals.

To our horror, we were told, that was where the match was to be played. We were then taken to one of the Trinity College hostels and after a brief period of rest, were instructed to get into our rugby kits and walk down as a group to Bogambara.

The intensity of the support for Trinity was apparent all over the town, most amongst the shop keepers and vendors. On route, down the streets we sensed a mixture of emotions directed at us who were considered ‘foreigners’ to Kandy. We noted some awe in the public at seeing the team that had broken the invincible Trinitians in the first match. A few passersby added remarks of ridicule and added a haughty demeanour in an effort to belittle us in the hope that we would be disheartened. David Raymond, who had been a boarder the previous year at Trinity, when asked whether he had come up to watch the match confessed that he was in the Royal team and they broke down with raucous laughter. We walked down almost in silence and probably watched over by some seniors and Thambapillai. If they were not there, some of us may have given a few choice repartees to the uncalled for remarks from the ogling public on the streets.

The second match to us was like wallowing in a mud field. But according to Thambapillai "it was a memorable match. One of the finest games in the series," and he goes on to say "the slight rarity of the atmosphere in Kandy and being their home grounds, Trinity had a slight edge over Royal. They came down on the Royalists like Assyrians on the fold."

The wetness made the ball difficult to handle and play mainly depended on the scrums and mauls combined with dribbling and kicking. A few ‘knock ons’ tended to be ignored by the referee. Having noted our superiority in the scrums during the first leg, Trinity had developed its own strategies. They had changed their pack to a heavier one and had equipped their hooker with leather shin guards.

The apparently unintended kicks during the scrums fell painfully on the Royal forward’s bare shins. Retaliation was fruitless. During the first half of the game, emboldened by their home ground they did all the attacking; their hefty three quarters drawing their men and passing out to their sturdy wingers, but to no avail, because of Tony Anghie and David Raymond who according to Thambapillai "tackled their hearts out." One of these encounters happened at our five yard line. Tony Anghie, with two Trinitians in pursuit, fell on Trevor Anghie, who was trying to clear the ball. In the melee that followed, the ball rolled into the Royal goal with the two Trinitians and the Anghie brothers practically on top of it.

To Thambapillai, who was watching from the pavilion, "Tony Anghie appeared to have touched the ball a split second earlier than the Trinitian." However, this was not the perception of the referee, who was none other than our coach Sydney de Zoysa, and he gave the try to Trinity.

Although the conversion of the try failed, Trinity’s courage surged and they continued their attacking game to the thrill of the Kandy spectators. Just before the half time whistle, one of their sturdy wingers, practically transporting our light weight winger Desmond van Twest on his shoulders, went over the line; but that try was also not converted.

The second half started with Trinity leading 6-0 and a vision of the shining Bradby Shield continuing to remain in their Principal’s Office. We kicked off with Sydney de Zoysa’s ‘do or die’ exhortation, burning a hole in our minds. Oh boy, we went hell-bent in our tactics as we had never done before. We will let Thambapillai describe what happened; "Royal seemed to get their second wind and Trinity seemed a spent force. Royal won the line outs, thanks to Cader and the scrums and mauls due to Varagunam’s slick hooking. In one of the movements, Dennis Hapugalle, the fly half, receiving a neat snappy pass from scrum half Daya Perera and taking the ball on the run, sold a peach of dummy to vis-a-vis Schokman, drew the first inside and sent the ball to Raymond who passed it to Tony Anghie. Tony, drawing the opposing winger passed to Desmond van Twest who touched down." Desmond van Twest’s perception of this try is that just before the ball was passed to him he had received a bone crunching, muscle crippling tackle from a Trinity forward and was gingerly climbing on to his feet when he saw the ball flying towards him. In his words he suddenly "got a boost of adrenalin and the pain in his body miraculously vanished."

He managed to evade and outsprint Trinity’s would be tacklers and scampered clear down the right wing to the touch line. A huge sigh, not a cheer, arose from the Kandy supporters in the crowd. Trevor Anghie had his first missed conversion and we were behind 6-3 but equal on the grand total. However, tension arose and there was still a possibility of Trinity hanging on to the shield. Then we dealt the coup de grace starting in a scrum within Trinity’s 25 yard line. We, as usual, got the ball and worked our three quarter line with the ball reaching right winger Ana Gunawardena. Trevor Anghie suddenly appeared from his full back position and backed him and received a tricky pass which he carried over the line along with two Trinitians hanging on his back. A cheer rose up from the few Royalist supporters and some of the more mature Trinitians.

Trevor Anghie converted and we led 8-6 comfortably in line for the Bradby Shield. The few minutes, that was left of play, were taken up by Daya Perera, having decided he had had enough and much to the relief of the rest of the team, kept kicking to touch the ball that was constantly coming out to our advantage from the scrums and line outs.

During the post mortem of the match, Sydney de Zoysa had a confession to make about that controversial try by Trinity. He said; "I know chaps the first try I awarded to Trinity should have been a five yard scrum. My heart was breaking, but I had to award Trinity that try." We who had sweated our hearts out on that mud field were not too impressed. But Thambapillai, the thorough gentleman that he was, reacted with; "it was characteristic of Sydney and the Royalists of his generation."

We cannot recall the post match celebrations nor the award of the Bradby Shield that was accepted by our captain Ashy Cader, but what we remember was that Sydney de Zoysa, on return to Colombo, did honour his debt to us with a magnificent dinner. He picked us up in a Police truck, cutting a roundabout or two on the way home just to add a frill and possibly a thrill to our victory.

We apologise for having written this account in a self-congratulatory tone. However, we maintain that our team was unique in several aspects. We were the first team to win the Bradby Shield for Royal. We were the first and possibly the only team to win the Bradby with 14 ‘first season fledglings’. A member of our team - Geoff Weinman, was the first and possibly the only schoolboy who played for All Ceylon while still in school. And ending on a lighter note, if you look at our group photo, you will notice that we are in blazers embellished with our College Colours emblem. Our previous teams and probably all of our subsequent teams were all photographed in their rugby jerseys!

Ajitha Wijesundera

Professor Suri Ratnapala, LLB; LLM; PhD
Professor of Public Law and Director,
Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law
T C Beirne School of Law
University of Queensland
CRICOS Provider No: 00025B

Thu, Dec 18, 2008

Prasanna, -

Thank you very much for sending me this nice piece of info. I have known Ajith from the Royal Primary days. He was Daya Weerasekare's Cousin, and one batch our junior. The School Van which I travelled, also used to pick him up from his residence close to Borella to come to RPS for sometime. Ajith was a very pleasant, unassuming guy with an innocent smile on his face. He is an extremely nice guy. I would endorse and appreciate all what has been mentioned about him and above all, he is a very down to earth, humble guy. I am so happy to hear about his professional achievements.




Hi all

Got this about our Dr Ajitha Wijesundare. Congratulations and best wishes to Ajitha




A great inning studded with humane considerations….Congratulations..Ajitha..god bless..


Great performance, he is a regular at the SSC pool Dew Drop club !

I'm quite thrilled by the accolades Ajitha is receiving because I grew up with him at Gregory's Avenue between 1956 and 1962-3. The two of us were the backbone of the local tennis ball cricket fraternity. He accommodated my cricket craving.

Those were the days when balls flew into hearses (six and out) and we waved at passing cars with school flags on their way to the oval during Royal Thomian time. Other members were the Thambimuttus (St. Peters), Siva (STC) and SP Sellayah (Royal under XIV cricket captain). Although Ajitha was a scholar he never turned down an offer of a game where my back garden (adjacent to Bullers Road) was the main venue. The rest of the soft ball cricketers were too old for us and not as enthusiastic as us. Besides, I didn't like the two bump cricket promoted by Dr. Laddie Fernando's sons. Without Ajitha I would never been able to indulge in cricket prior to joining the ranks of house cricket in 1962.

Who knows, I may even have lost interest in playing the game. About 1961-2 Ajitha made a poignant remark to me which I will never forget - "What man Eardley! I have never come across a keener cricketer than you. Yet, you haven't even made the house team. What a shame!!". I felt embarrassed at letting him down. Thanks to him mainly, I have fond memories of back yard cricket. I recall a moment in 1961 when we were playing cricket at Ajitha's back yard. Siva came up to us and said that Australia had set England a target of 250 odd at Manchester. I was disappointed that the target wasn't higher when Siva added, if not for a 98 last wicket stand between Davidson and McKenzie the target would have been much smaller. Ajitha was never a nerd: he liked his sport as much as his study. And he nurtured an ambition in me

Eardley Lieversz

An epitome of a gentleman I knew during Hockey playing days at college and at university. He has completed a long phase of great service to the nation. I am sure he will be up there in the medical profession
for many more years.

Long and illustrious career in public service for the greater good of people and above all a great human being.
Congratulations Ajitha.


The 130th Battle

Sunday March 8th 2009.

There was unusually heavy traffic at 7.45 am on this Sunday morning down the quiet road leading to the Royal Sports Complex. Cars, Taxis and even 3 wheelers were plying down this road stopping near the 2 tourist buses parked beside the RSC. Getting down from these vehicles were men in their mid sixties, some with their spouses, others single. Looking at these men one was reminded of the Panopepton advertisement that used to air on Radio Ceylon in the mid 50s and 60s. Each one had that “aali maali dubala gathiya” worn out look on their faces. (Tired and listless feeling).

Stepping into that bus was like entering a time capsule; a time capsule not going Back to the Future starring Michael Fox, this capsule was going Back to the Past, Back to Royal
Happy land , happy land starring the Class of 56.

The middle aged men in their mid sixties were now transformed to teens of the Nineteen
Sixties. Each ones face was beaming with the exuberance of youth, naughty, impish and mischievous. Not due to Panopepton, but thanks to the Spirit of Royal, the spirit of the Class of 56.

As soon as the bus was on its way to Bentota Beach Hotel, the organizer “Par Excellence” Ana Joy de Silva , began distributing brown paper bags of “ Tiffin ”, patties, sandwiches , rolls, cutlets. ( Again my mind wonders back to the early 50s and 60s, when the visitors tent was served with these similar bags of Tiffin at lunch time ). With great enthusiasm he served chilled bottles of his pride and joy , the Joy Fruit drinks, from the cooler beside me. Although the label that read “Best Before” was altered to read “Best After” the drinks were tasty and refreshing. One wonders if this is a marketing strategy of the new Marketing director, Lal Saranapala.

Beside me in the last row sat one of the Abeya twins. No not the Abhaya twins, this set is completely different , they are the brown eyed Tissa and Du Abeya Singhe, or Du the Lion. They were not satisfied with Ana’s chilled pride and joy, they were thirsting for the cup that cheers. On my right sat the Tissa twin and on the left separating me from the lion twin was the Joy cooler. O! those pathetic looks on their faces, like infants with pouting lips when they grasp for the nipple and are refused. Finally after a little persuasion, the Bottle was opened around 8.30 am and before we reached Bentota the bottle was sucked dry.

Thursday, March 12th 2009, dawns to the sound of the beat of drums accompanied by the blaring of trumpets, sometimes off key, drowning the crackling sound of gun fire and the blast of grenades in the North. The battle in the North is temporarily forgotten, giving pride of place to the annual battle for the 130th year, due to start shortly. Oh! that rhythmic beat is like cancer, it eats into your body and without ones knowledge the feet are tapping to the beat. It eats into your veins, your blood stream and there you are on your feet dancing like a voodoo dancer in a trance.

I had the privilege of accompanying the very reverend Lionel James Peiris and Gamini
“Kalu Albert” Edirisinghe, born not with a silver spoon in his mouth but with verbal diarrhea, for the 3 days to the SSC grounds. This guy could not keep his mouth closed for 1 second. When the armed personnel were doing a body search before entering the grounds, he had his arms and legs outstretched and tells the officer frisking him “ ata deka gedera thiyala aawa, athana monowath ne allanna” ( left my nuts at home , there is nothing there for you to hold), the officer was so embarrassed he let him go.

First day of the match went Royals way and many were the predictions of an early victory. First 2 hours of play on the 2nd day left them saying “ I told you so”. Kito Dias was walking up and down the Mustangs tent, looking up at heaven and signaling to the Royalists that there would be a down pour. ( I am sure he was hoping for a Kariyawasam miracle like in 1970, when rain came down at the crucial moment saving him from his second defeat). A prominent member of the class of ‘56 walks into the tent carrying his bottles of refreshment pretty upset that the other side was all out for 99. His theory was that at all cost the match should go on for 3 days, displays the bottles in his hand and says what are we to do with all this stuff, if the match finishes today. And so a spell was cast on the Royal side and before long indeed there was a down pour. Kito’s prediction was correct , the Royal team could not hold down the runs pouring down from the Thomian bats, they were flooding the SSC grounds with boundaries, twos and singles. This torrent did not cease till the late hours of the final day when the Thomians decided to declare.

Thus ended the 130th battle with the Thomians stealing the honors.