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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Little Theatre


by Upatissa Attygalle

 The above named institution had its origin in the Amateur Cinematic Society which was inaugurated in 1945. One of the principal persons who was for it having been mooted was the revolutionary, the wittiest, the most discerning, the most integrated and now legendary teacher of English, Ceylon ever had - the late R. C. L. Attygalle popularly known as ‘Dickie’. He persuaded the then Principal of Royal, the late J. C. A Corea to allocate funds for the purchase of a 33mm film projector and a copy of the film Henry the V for the Film Society. Dickie Attygalle had hoped to build up a library of films for the Society, regrettably Royal being a government school he was unable to obtain funds to buy more films.
Dickie had the extraordinary ability to make the classics of English Literature come alive and kindle the interest of all his students. Therefore the Technicolor 1944 version of William Shakespeare’s Henry the V produced directed and starred by Sir Laurence Olivier was a big hit with the students. Dickie Attygalle had many students in his class who acquired a love for the humanities thanks to his skill not just as a teacher but as an educator. Most of his students in later life excelled in their respective fields. One such student who distinguished himself as a politician was the late - Felix Dias Bandaranaike then known as Felix Dias.

Just after a year since the commencing of the Film Society, Dickie Attygalle left Royal for Paris as he was appointed as the chief of the division managing all UNESCO’s adult education programmes. The mantle of continuing the Film Society then fell on the able broad shoulders of another brilliant teacher and multi-talented master Mr. Bevii St Elmo de Bruin, who passed away on his 80th birthday on the 28th of August this year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Mr. Bruin who was fondly referred to as ‘Bruno’ by students was a teacher of Mathematics English and English Literature, Cricket and Athletics during his tenure at Royal College. He, too, like Dickie Attygalle had the unique ability to make students who never read anything but comic books to take anything but comic books evince an interest in English and English Literature. Many students, who did science as I did, took up English Literature as a subject thanks to Mr. Bruin showing us the beauty, the might and the grandeur of the English Language.

Mr. Bruin arranged with the British Council to hire films from their library to be screened at our Society’s film shows. During my stay at Royal Mr. Bruin screened a number’ of top grade films on a variety of subjects and themes. Some of them I remember are Nanook of the North, a documentary on the life of an Eskimo and his family made by the very influential American documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty, Scott of the Antarctic, the Technicolor film about the ill fated 1912 expedition to the South Pole starring Sir John, Mills as Captain Scott, and Kind Hearts and Coronets, a first class British Ealing comedy. Sir Alec Guineas who was one member of the admirable cast played eight roles in the film. Out of all the films I saw at Royal, there is one particular film that I shall never forget and that film was Arsenic and Old Lace. It was the screen version of the immensely popular comedy written by Joseph Kesserling for the stage. The film version was directed by the legendary Frank Capra and starred the inimitable Hollywood star Cary Grant supported by a distinguished cast who played their parts brilliantly to make the film one of the funniest rib—tickling comedies ever made up-to-date. I recall the film was screened in one of the Science lecture rooms which had pews of tiered seats and, we were all rolling in the aisles clutching our stomachs in uncontrollable laughter. Many of us had to walk slightly crouched the next morning due to the pain in our over strained abdominal muscles. I have seen the film over a dozen times since then and even today have the same reaction to it.

I am not sure whether there is a film Society in Royal College today but in our time at College we enjoyed the film shows and had a lot of fun during the breakdowns of the rather old film projector. I am sure all old Royalists who attended these film shows must-be fondly remembering those wonderful hours spent in the darkened lecture room watching the silver screen unfolding great films.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prasantha moves on


DIAS ABEYGUNAWARDENE, PRASANTHA NIMAL (ex Deputy Director SACEP) - Loving son of late Norman & Daisee Dias Abeygunawardene, precious son-in-law of late Ernest & Ruby Muthuvaloe, beloved husband of Subashini, darling father of Sulakshana, brother of Dushyantha (Dinko), brother-in-law of Mano, Emmanuel & Jo, Kamalini & Freddie, grandfather of Aevahn, Ayrron & Syesha & father-in-law of Elmo Anthony. Cortege leaves residence No. 09, International Buddhist Centre (IBC) Road, Colombo 6 at 4.30 p.m. on Thursday 26th January for Burial at Kanatte Borella (Roman Catholic Section).         023680 DN Jan 26 2012

Tributes from '59 Group members:

I just got the news about Prasanna.  Fortunately I was able to see him last week.  I then called a couple of others eg Jiggs, Huna etc and asked them to go and see Prasanna as soon as possible.
Prasanna was a real gent and we will all miss him.
Upali, please give Subarshini my deepest sympathies if you happen to go to the funeral
Firoz Nilam

I am glad i visited Prasantha few weeks ago. Had a long chat and indeed he was very happy to reminisce the past and forget about his sickness. I never expected him to leave us so soon.
He is a thorough gent.
May the turf lie gently on him.



Now that we are all passing through 64 the rate of movement to the other side will certainly accelerate and I do hope and pray that we have all lived our lives well to be content and pleased with our contribution towards humanity, our families, and the world in general.
Its been a long 6+ decades on the planet and lets hope we can all meet on the other side, someday.
Some have been there early and some will be dead on time and a few will be, as usual late. What ever it is let us think of the good we did,do and will be doing in future (provided always, if time permits).
Summarizing the 6 decades we have not done bad. Only a few (Less than 5) have failed in their duties. Out of 36x6=216 only about 5 have failed. Work out your first form arithmetic and see the percentage.(2.3148%) right or wrong?
Among many achievements, the latest is Lukshman Samaranayaka.(King James IV Professor).
Have we failed? NO!
Let us do more to help the needy.

Yes, Daya ndeed a very sad moment!! He was a decent bloke, and tried hard to taech me to play tennis!!!
Did call on him, about 2 months ago, but frankly in a way it was a merciful ending. May he rest in peace!!

Keep clicking Mate that's all that will be left of us once v are gone.As Skanda said,the 59 G is unique and v hv held together for so long,I still remember Ducky playing Tennis,like Muthu he too thought he was a Mcanroe
Suren Cooke

His most outstanding quality was his intense College, his Friends ,his Peers and of course his Family. Will Miss You Ducky ! Rest in Peace !.

Hello, All:

All the wonderful, heart-felt tributes to Prasantha make we wish I had gotten acquainted with him. He seems to have left an enduring legacy of love and service.  May the fond memories of his life sustain his wife, family, and friends.

Fifty years have slipped by with little or no effort on my part to stay connected with my "Group."  Most of the names on this distribution list are, therefore, just names to me, with various degrees of recollection of some of you.  I am blessed by being included in this network, and express my appreciation to those who have taken the initiative to keep this going.  The interest in each other, the support, and caring are quite evident.

My visits to Sri Lanka are rather infrequent (every other year, or so).  If the timing works out, I would love to attend one of your ("our") gatherings.

My best wishes to each of you in your various endeavors to make a difference in this world.

Raj Attiken, USA

May he Rest in Peace!

Tribute to Rama Sellamuttu

In a message dated 24/01/2012 18:11:08 GMT Standard Time, writes:
Dear Vipula,

Thank you for informing me, too, about the interesting event, with its noble concomitant - of remembering Rama with the generous gesture of dedicating a Rama Sellamuttu Memorial Trophy.  I am sure Rama's spiritual blessings will be in abundance for the success of the event.

Rama was easily my oldest friend, although we drifted apart long before I left old Ceylon, as we had to, when we grew and matured and our interests changed and diverged.

But my earliest memories of friendship, going back in fact to my first year at RPS, in 1953 (our class teacher was a Mrs Rajakariayar), are vivid. We used to sit next to each other and one day, the Head Master, the very lovable A.F. de Saa Bandaranaike, came around to our class, bringing with him a tall, mightily-built, black man and asked us whether we knew who he was. I nudged Rama, because I thought we knew who he was, partly because we were already collecting cricket pictures from the Daily News and The Hindu and this mighty man was in our scrapbook. He was, of course (then) , Learie Constantine, later Lord Constantine.

Rama grew up, as you would know better than I, as the son of his 'real' Father's eldest brother. His natural Father was Balendra Sellamuttu, the youngest son of old Adikhar Sellamuttu. Balendra Sellamuttu's childless eldest brother, Somasundaram, decided to bring up Rama, partly because Balendra was a bit reckless and the home he was able to offer Rama was less than stable.

In a very distant sense we were also related: Nagendra and Sangarappillai Sellamuttu, two elder brothers of Balendra, married two sisters, Kamini and Gnaneswari Tambyah, my Maternal Grandmother's brother. One of Balendra's sisters married Alfred Tambiaiyah, then MP for Kayts, when my Father was the MP for Chavakachcheri and they were both together with GGP first in the TC and, then, for a short while, also in the UNP.

Rama was brought up in a very protected way, perhaps even overly-protected. He used to be sent to spend the day with me, during a weekend or two, every month, when we were living down Madangahawatte Lane. Old Mr Somasundaram always - in those days - had a large, shining black, American car, which, if I remember well was a Buick in the old-style of a curved/slanting rear. They also had a loyal driver, who we called, interchangeably, Kaka or Nana (he was a Muslim) and was also fiercely protective of Rama - and the car! When Rama was sent home to us to spend the day with me, the car would stay, with the driver. So, we had also to feed and look after the driver.

Our home was not as palatial as that of Somasundaram Sellamuttu's, at 22 Queen's Road, but we were too young and too absorbed in each others' pranks to think of such things.
Rama's home had a talking parrot; his adopted Father owned award winning horses - one of which was called Joshua!

One day, in the very early 1960s, I spent the day at Rama's home, invited by the family, to meet a distinguished American athlete. I was not told who this distinguished person was, in advance. While we were playing with various of the luxury items in Rama's room and home, this handsome man, a little like Lord Constantine in appearance, turned up. It was Rafer Johnson, who had won the gold medal for the Decathlon at the Rome Olympics! Many years later, in the early 1990s, when I was a Visiting Professor at UCLA, my host there, Professor Axel Leijonhufvud, told me that the preacher at their Church was Rafer Johnson! I told him and his wife, Earlene Craver, the above story and asked them to enquire from Rafer Johsson whether he remembered his visit to 22 Queen's Road. Axel asked, as I requested, the following Sunday and Rafer Johnson had told him not only that he remembered his visit very well, and with much pleasure, but that he maintained contact with the family for many years!

Rama was a very special (and generous) person, who almost always had the courage to choose his own path, even when it was not easy to do so, coming from such a wealthy family. One manifestation of this - in the context of the trophy in his memory - was the kind of cricketer he chose to be. He was thoroughly unconventional, a very special kind of leg break bowler, which was always a difficult art. I remember with absolute and crystal clarity his run up to the wicker and his idiosyncratic action.

In those young days, in the 1950s, I was always invited to his birthday parties at 22 Queen's Road - and his birthday, if my memory serves me well, was in October - where one always met and shook hands with the majestically clad old Mr Adikhar Sellamuttu, always in immaculate sherwani and a pocket watch running across the lapels of it.

At least in all the years I knew Rama well, I was never allowed to sit anywhere but the front seat of the family car, micromanaged by Kaka/Nana! No 'outsider' was allowed to 'contaminate' the backseats, where Mr and Mrs Somasundaram sat in splendour.

I always thought Rama very intelligent, bordering on extreme cleverness, but it was rampantly undisciplined. Had his undoubted natural talents been harnessed and channelled in effective ways I have no doubts whatsoever that he would have achieved academic greatness.

By the early 1960s we had drifted apart and I lost all contact with him for over forty five years - and, then, suddenly, I received a most wonderfully sculpted e-mail from him, just bef0ore his untimely death. He attached a photograph of himself with his current wife; the illness that had consumed him and that eventually brought him down was written all over the way he had grown thin and wane. But the happy and mischievous face and glint in the eye was evident even in a photograph, sent by these less than perfect means. I wrote back, reminiscing fondly, and hoping we would soon get together again - which was, alas, not to be.

Ironically, I had been invited to spend several months at the University of Technology Sydney, as one of its ten Distinguished Visiting Scholars for this academic year and was, actually, scheduled to spend January to March in Sydney. However, as the time for departure neared, I did not feel like making the long journey and spending so many months away from what has become my intellectual and cultural base, here in Italy. Had I mustered the courage to spend the time in Sydney it would have given me the chance, finally, to pay homage to an old and valued friend.
 I know you were very close to him and I salute you for your selfless act of remembering a good, generous, friend. It was a blessing to have known him, and to remember the times I shared with his playful, joyous, generous ways.

I am copying this to some of my almost equally old friends of times gone by.

Warmest, even if melancholy, wishes,
Department of Economics
University of Trento
Via Inama 5
381 00 Trento
Tel: +39 0461 282379

Suren Cooke comments:
Does anyone Remember Rama learning to Drive?
His Father had an Opel and it was either at lunch time or at the end of day,when Rama got behind the wheel
And his driver fixed the big L board and sat beside him,and Ramas Car was parked near Deraniyagalas facing College.
He took off like Michael Schumacher and couldn’t straighten the wheel and the Car which was parked with the rear to the wall ended up with the front smashing the wall,he did a U turn,we all hooted and laughed and Rama didn’t know what to do.That was the last we saw Rama behind the wheel.

Muthu says:
Can't remember seeing this one, do you rmemebr this one Suren?  4th form detention by Alavi without notice we were all kept back. After about 30mins, Kaka , Rama's driver came to the class and started  shouting at Alavi and we were all set free.

"You have not converted a man because you have silenced him."

Viscount Morley, 'On Compromise', 1874.