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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

61 Group Golden Jubilee Oration


Tuesday, March-08, 2011, 08.30-Hrs. Venue: Royal College, Colombo-7. Golden rays of sunlight cascade from blue skies via cumulus clouds; fresh foliage springs from trimmed lawns dividing tarred driveways leading from silver-grilled gates into a series of doorways at the brick-studded, stucco façade of the Assembly Hall.

Sixty-six old boys, some from overseas, reaching 60-plus, mostly attired in a neat confection of white shirt, striped navy blue and gold tie, dark blue and gold metal badge displaying the gold College crest and legend, The Class of 1961, Royal College – a gift from an overseas member, Eric Manny, from Vancouver - affixed on shirt pocket, dark pants, stride sedately through the Boake Gates from Rajakeeya Mawatha. To celebrate and rejoice its golden jubilee at Royal College, the RC-’61 Group, has arrived!

Inside the College Hall, at a special assembly, they sit in front row seats backed by two hundred and fifty students from senior grades. Onstage sits Principal Upali Gunasekara in white suit at centre table, rightflanked by Deputy Principal Lakshmi Attygalle, three teachers and Group Treasurer Rohan Abeygunawardana, retired accountant. His left flank covers three past masters: V Sivalingam, RBA Jayasekera and WA Wickramasena, Group President Shanthi Pathirage, chairman of Creative Blinds (Pvt) Ltd; and past Secretary Firoze Sameer, company secretary, American Premium Group.

Everyone stands, for the College song; sung from lusty throats in all its inevitable strains and cadences. One minute’s silence is observed for the 18-departed Group members: names are solemnly announced:

Arulampalam Balakrishnan, Vigneswaran Balasingham, VSK Bamunusinghe, N Chenthil-Kumar, Amal De Mel, MV de Tissera, M Noor Deen, TG de S Gunasekara, MF Jaldeen, UKD Jayantha, AR Moosa, TRS Pieris, Rajeswaran, Lakshman Ranasinghe, NA Ranjith, HS Roberts, NS Wannaku, Dhammika Weerasekera. The principal introduces the Group, explaining the day’s significance. While serving as compere, Sameer delivers the opening address followed by His Excellency the President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, addressing the assembly in Sinhala; Indrajith Coomaraswamy attached to the World Bank, and Special Municipal Commissioner Omar Kamil, both speak in English.

Rohan presents a cheque for Rs 323,426 to the principal for a proposed project, followed by special financial tokens of appreciation to the 3-past masters. Vote of thanks is delivered by past Group President Kumar Fernando, onetime director, General Treasury, closes this memorable, momentous occasion.

Old boys drift out chatting to each other; amble towards the tuck shop to snack and tea. Later, familiar corridors are explored, old classrooms are visited; the splendid 5-star washrooms admired; playgrounds are trod; past glories and times are discussed under the two inevitable tamarind trees; good ole days are reminisced five decades back; while group photo-catchers click intermittently on digital cameras and video units move about shooting the ever-changing scenes. Towards noon, a simple lunch at the tuckshop. One o’clock chimes and the Group departs; two luxury buses move out towards a hotel down south.

Waves break heavily on rocks in the azure Indian Ocean, a salubrious nip in the wind, coconut trees sway their fronds shading the floury sands; leisure hours spent protractedly; tea and snacks follow swimming and varied games, entertainment, competitions and prizes, into the long hours of the night; a Wok-special kitchen dinner amidst DJ-music and dance; special T-shirts emblazoned with College crest and legend 50-Years of Royalty. The following morn extends a sumptuous Sri Lankan breakfast washed down with steaming tea. And then, with undying memories to relive, the Group returns to base.

Friday night, 11 March, the revelry continues at Kumar’s Kohuwela home over dinner well past midnight. Each member receives a copy of the group photograph removed outside the College Hall premises and a DVD of the proceedings.

Friendships of over fifty years with former classmates, consolidated and relived perhaps for the last time. A splendidly memorable week to remember and reminisce in the years ahead. The RC-’61-Group moves on.

- RC-SixtyOnews


Good morning.
Principal Mr Upali Gunasekera;
Deputy Principal Ms Lakshmi Attygalle;
Teachers present;
Teachers past: Mr WA Wickramasena, Mr RBA Jayasekera, and Mr V Sivalingam;
My friends, Lalith, Indrajith, Omar, Kumar, Rohan and Shanthi;
Senior Students;
Old Boys of the ’61-Group.

Today, standing here in this august forum, I’m reminded of the days we sat over there, where you young students are now sitting. We sat at assemblies held in every week in this very same Hall. I remember the principals then. First Mr Dudley KG de Silva. Later came Mr Bogoda Premaratne, a very kind and caring principal who, I believe, is still active in service to the community.

I see the hallowed prize-winners listed in these name boards which adorn this great Hall. They have hardly changed, except for the additions.


Most of us Old Boys present here began our education in Class One at the Royal Primary School in January, 1955. Those classrooms still exist over there. We left Royal Primary in December 1960, at the time Mr HD Sugathapala had succeeded Major AF de Saa Bandaranaike, as Head Master.

We entered Royal College in Form-One in January 1961. A few students joined us from outside schools. That was Fifty years ago! We now celebrate that event today.


Our School Song endorses, “School of our Fathers!” Several of our fathers studied at Royal College during the reign of Major HL Reed and Mr LHW Sampson. My father’s name is listed as a Boake House prefect in one of those boards.

I remember that great teacher Mr CE Belleth. Mr Belleth taught my father in this School. Years later, he taught my brother Fazli in the ’59-Group. And thereafter, Mr Belleth taught me! That was the dedication teachers had in committing their entire lives to establish education in our College.


Four members of our ‘61-Group have played in the Big Match.
They are BNR Mendis, Sahadevan Thalayasingham, CAP Samarasinghe and Beverly Paul.


There are several ’61-Group members who have contributed to the College in various ways. However, a few come to mind as unique, which I shall now mention here, briefly.


In earlier times, it was the practice for one of the reserve players in our cricket team to serve as the Scorer. That changed in 1971. We didn’t have computers then. The color-code system of scoring in cricket matches was introduced. Under this new scheme, my classmate, Mazhar Ghouse, who is here with us today, was the first official scorer to be appointed for Royal College.

Mazhar did a grand job during that cricket season, culminating with that memorable Big Match where Jagath Fernando and Gajan Pathmanathan made that record-breaking partnership.


Another unique feature was the Train leaving Fort Railway Station for the annual Bradby Shield Rugby fixture with Trinity College.

Sometime in the 1960s, my classmate, the ever-ebullient Moin Ahamed, who is present here today, had the courage to take two huge College flags, and, with the permission of the station master, fix them on both sides of the railway engine. Moin was also the first to organize a paparé band in the train. This practice has continued over the following four decades.


Another unique feature was Kumar Fernando, my friend, over there.
Kumar has been very gracious in opening his home to us on every first Saturday night in every month.

We all meet in Kumar’s home in Kohuwala. We interact and consolidate our College friendships there, over an extended dinner. That is how friendships are nurtured over the years.


Last but not least, I must not fail to mention the pains taken by the President of our ’61-Group, Shanthi Pathirage. Shanthi has strived successfully to organize these events for us today.


I shall leave you students with a small piece of advice.

Friendship is important in College, and even after you leave College.

Especially long-term friendships.

You will leave this illustrious College one day, and go your separate ways into the world, to seek your fortunes.

But, please remember to continue your friendship with your classmates, as we, in the ’61-Group, have done. Friendship of fifty to fifty-six years!


I wish you all will emerge as the future leaders of this country;

That you will set a fine example of being an excellent citizen of Sri Lanka;

And that you will prosper in an environment of peace.

Thank you
Firoze Sameer



A very good morning to all of you;
Mr Upali Gunasekera, Principal, Royal College;
Ms Lakshmi Attygalle, Deputy Principal;
Present teachers.
Teachers past: Mr WA Wickramasena, Mr RBA Jayasekera, and Mr V Sivalingam;
My colleagues Lalith, Indrajith, Kumar, Firoze, Rohan and Shanthi,
and members of the ’61-Group of Royal College.
Senior Students.

When I walked through this corridor this morning, memories of the good old days in this School flashed through my mind – of the days when we used to trudge in school – books and bat in hand, as the afternoons and evenings was cricket all the way.


I remember entering Royal College in January, 1961. Being called upon to line up outside the West Wing lobby. And there, before us stood that giant-sized master, Captain MKJ Cantlay, who called out our names in his stentorian voice, allocating us to our respective classes in Form-One. Unlike today, there were three mediums of instruction: Sinhala, Tamil and English.

We were a mixed group every morning, and moving into our respective medium of instruction except for the English language class.


The 1961-Group could consider itself as an extremely fortunate group, as its members were given an extra one year in the year 1965, on account of the Siyarate Exhibition which was held in our grounds, thereby the syllabus for the year could not be completed. In the following year, we were termed the 5-R Group. “R” meant Returners.

And due to that extra year being granted, we earned the notoriety of the masters, as most of us became semi-rioters. Very few masters were spared in nicknames being imposed on them. Looking at our Group, most of our masters, including our principal at that time, Mr Bogoda Premaratne, sympathized with us, as they thought we would end up nowhere. However, I find today that the majority of this Group is well-set, holding prestigious and acclaimed positions in society.


My two sons, Ziyam and Zakir, could claim to be third generation old Royalists as my father too was an Old Boy. I hold in my hand a postcard dated 27.02.1933, addressed to my father by Principal LHW Sampson. The subject refers to a science deposit, and goes on to say: “Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and to inform you must call here for it.” It is signed as: “I am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant. L. Sampson, Principal, Royal College.”

I am thankful to my friend, Firoze Sameer, for having unearthed this document from among documents of his father, which he found in recent weeks. I believe this document would enable my two sons to gain easy access to Royal College when the opportunity comes to them to admit their sons to this glorious institution.


Most of our Group left Royal in the latter part of 1960; some to university to purse academic studies, while some others chose professional studies, while others entered their family business, like me.


Although we left College and moved in different strides, we continued our regular meetings during the Royal-Thomian period, and today we are among the few who could boast of a fifty to fifty-six year friendship, which is a rare phenomenon in today’s context.


On this occasion, I will be failing in my duties, if I do not place on record our sincere thanks and deep appreciation to Kumar Fernando, who continued to keep the College flag flying, by ensuring that our members had a regular domain to meet, greet and eat in his home, assisted by our good friend, Shanthi Pathirage.


I, for myself, owe what I am today: thanks to what Royal has taught me; great values and discipline, which were instilled in us by our former masters and principals, some of whom are here today. Thank you, Sirs. They spared no pains in moulding us, and directing us, to what we are today.


My dear students, you are the present generation of students in this great institution, which has surpassed a hundred and seventy-five years last year. You should carry the great traditions of your forefathers.

When you leave the portals of this great institution, please bear I mind that you will carry with you the Royal tag of that great name, which has to be maintained and preserved wherever you are, at all times.


On this occasion, when the 1961 Group of Royal College celebrates its golden jubilee today, we are glad to reflect on those very happy days we used to spend in this School in which “we learnt of books and learnt of men and learnt to play the game.”

Thank you.
Omar Kamil


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