In Memoriam: Staff of Yesteryear
Miss L.A.L. Blanchard
Dr. R.L. Hayman was one time Headmaster of St. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa. He was attached to Prep. School from its inception. He was a local manager of this school. He knew Miss Blanchard very well and in fact he and Mrs. Hayman were like foster parents to her during her retirement in England. In this article, Dr. Hayman portrays Miss. Blanchard very vividly, and places before the reader the work and character of this great lady.
Mr. W.T. Keble had always wished to found an up country branch of the Prep. School and when the Navy commandeered the Kollupitiya branch, he had the incentive and the opportunity to act in the matter. He depended on Miss Blanchard to assist him the preparation for the opening of the school in Bandarawela and to take over much of the work concerned with the running of it.
Indeed, she not only built “Little Thatch” her cottage, at her own expense, but she also contributed a large sum of money towards the purchase of the land on which it and the “Farm” were built.
She had many other adventures which would have deterred most people from living alone. Once, single-handed, she had to drive a herd of buffaloes out of her garden where they were destroying the fruits of her labours. Another time she could not find Mischief, then a kitten. In the end she looked out of the back door and saw her advancing slowly and deliberately towards a large cobra with its hood raised. They were only a couple of yards apart and Miss Blanchard, without hesitation dived forward, snatched up the kitten and backed into the cottage shutting the door behind her. Not many people have taken such a risk, but she did not stop there, but decided to drive the snake away. Taking a bottle of kerosene in her hand she opened the door and slung the contents over the snake. It beat a hurried retreat and was not seen again.
Her piano was always at the disposal of the school and she herself was also an accomplished pianist and had a beautiful singing voice. She was so preoccupied with all these activities that she neglected her own needs and if left to herself, did not bother to have good meals until the doctor put his foot down and insisted on her feeding more adequately.
In her last years, her great interest was in the progress of another Keble, and one of another Keble, and one of the highlights of that period was attending his wedding, and another was visiting his house in London after he left Canada to make a home in England. It makes us sad that she died only three days before Anthony’s son was born. She had so looked forward to seeing the baby and had even been knitting some warm ‘woolies’ for him before she died.
Miss. Lydia Blanchard entered into eternal rest on September 25th, 1976 at the age of 93 years
Mr. David Edirisinghe
In a sense, Mr. Edirisinghe was a pioneer of the Prep. School, Bandarawela, for he joined Mr. Keble when the rolling patinas and a few make-dos shed was our home! We had hardly any buildings then, and the traditions of the Bandarawela branch were just being forged amidst the bustle of make shift arrangements and the British fighting a World War! Our buildings in Kollupitiya had been commandeered by the British for the Royal Air Force, and Mr. & Mrs. Keble and Miss Blanchard had to evacuate to a garage.
Mr. Edirisinghe was also Senior Master of Hulugalle House and in this capacity he did useful service. His Wednesday Sinhala Seminars in the school Chapel were much appreciated, and Mr. Edirisinghe will be missed by his colleagues and the boys.
Mr. P. B. Ratnayake: A Model of Devotion to Duty
As Secretary and Bursar of the school, P.B. was in charge of operations of the “nerve- centre” of the school. In this respect, he was indeed the Head’s “right hand man” as the Headmaster aptly described PB. The fact that PB performed this double-role as Secretary cum Bursar with great acceptance is a signal demonstration of the implicit faith and trust reposed upon him by the Head and also a glowing tribute to PB’s honesty and integrity.
PB never failed to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to the boys of Keble House of which he was the Senior House Master. In all their House activities, the Kebleites looked up to him for his guidance and advice.
As a colleague on the staff of the school, PB held the responsible position of President of the Staff Guild on a number of occasions, and his advice and opinions as a senior colleague on the staff, were greatly regarded. He was ever willing to lend a helping hand to any colleague who was in dire need. Amidst all his numerous and exacting school duties, PB remained essentially a family man. He was a dutiful father and a faithful husband. At the time of his death, he had made sure that his family was well provided for. The school has sustained a great loss, and the void created by his absence can never be adequately filled. Though PB is no more with us, he will continue to live in our hearts always.
Mr. G. C. G. Peiris
Godfrey Charles Gregory Peiris, fondly referred to as "Gods” by his very intimate friends on the staff, joined the staff of the school in July 1957. At his untimely death at the age of 47, Mr. Peiris had completed 20 years of service in the School. Considering the fact that the School is only 35 years old, this is indeed a unique achievement, and none other on the staff has rendered a longer period of service.
In drama, his talents were noteworthy. De Saram house, of which he was the Senior House Master, had stood in the forefront of dramatics many a time. ‘The Golden Touch” and “Cox and Box” were two of the best dramas that he produced.
Mr. Peiris possessed a commanding voice which added much to his personality. It is at Inter House Athletic Meets that parents, teachers and students will miss Mr. Peiris’ arresting voice over the mike as an announcer. With his deep voice he was able, literally, to run an entire Meet over the mike. His resonant voice also stood him in good stead at Carol Services where he was an effective bass. At community singing and at ‘get-togethers’ Mr. Peiris led the singing.
In appreciation of his long years of dedicated service to the School and to perpetuate his memory in a fitting manner, the dormitory in the Harold de Soyza Block has been named “Godfrey Peiris Dormitory’’.
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE SCHOOL TUTORIAL STAFF
Mrs. Malar Anandanayagam
Mrs. Malar Anandanayagam was the most senior teacher in the School. She joined the staff in 1962 as an Assistant English Teacher. Prior to her marriage she has served as Teacher in charge of Edirisinghe Dormitory from its inception.
She served as House Mistress of De Saram House and is still remembered by her students for the excellent work done in hut decorations during the Sports Meet.
Mrs. Merlyn Peiris
Mrs. Merlyn Peiris joined the Staff as an Assistant Teacher. She has served as Teacher in charge of the dormitory before her marriage. She has also served as Class Teacher and House Mistress. She left S. Thomas’ College, Bandarawela in 1974 after completing her training in English to join Government Service.
Mr. Reggie Joseph
Mr. Reggie Joseph joined the Staff in 1964 as Office Assistant. Considering his qualities the late Headmaster, Mr. S.L.A. Ratnayake, with far vision, requested Mr. Joseph to teach English.
In addition to class work, he was the cricket coach for a number of years. He was also the Senior House Master of Hayman House and he was appointed as the Prefect of Games in 1977.
He organized the first school level Leo Club of the Island in Bandarawela for the senior students of S. Thomas’ College, Bandarawela, which produces fine leaders of the School and the community. He was awarded the Most Outstanding Advisor Award for his services to youth.
Mr. Mithra Edirisinghe
During his tenure, Mr. Edirisinghe played an active role in the life of the School, He was one of the pioneer members of the School Badminton Club which produced the Island’s Number One Shutters; Ravi Kuruppu and Niroshan Wijekoon are few to name. Mr. Edirisinghe was also in charge of the School Hostel from early days.
Mr. Edirisinghe was elevated to the post of Secretary in 1983 in addition to his responsibilities as Senior Hostel Master. He was also appointed Prefect of Games in 1985.
Mr. Ananda Alahakone
Mr. Ananda Alahakone left us in May to take up an executive appointment in the Edna Group of Industries, after a period of 13 years of devoted and dedicated service in the School. This period of years has seen the great development of the School from the status of a primary school to that of a collegiate school, and, it is while measuring his services against the background of this development that Ananda’s contribution to the school stands out.
In 1976, the University of Sri Lanka selected Mr. Alahakone to follow a course in the Diploma of Education. Having come back to school after successfully completing the course, Mr. Alahakone was the first trained graduate on that staff and was a great asset to the school. In 1980, in recognition of his academic studies and his contribution to the school, The Headmaster appointed him Supervisor of the Collegiate Section. He carried out his duties in this capacity efficiently and to the entire satisfaction of the Headmaster. It is not an exaggeration to say that Mr. Ananda Alahakone and Badminton are synonymous. Ever since the Badminton Club was formed in the school for the first time, and Mr. Alahakone was put in charge of Badminton, he put his heart and soul in training the young lads who were subsequently to become great players of the country. To Mr. Alahakone belongs the credit of having to put the name of our school in the Badminton map of Sri Lanka, for today the country acknowledges our school as one of the leading schools in this sport. In 1974 the school won the national titles under all age groups, and that speaks glowingly of his efforts and labours. In addition to being the Secretary for the Uva Badminton Association, he has also been the tournament secretary of the Sri Lanka Schools Badminton Association, and on his shoulders fell the onerous task of organizing zonal and final rounds of the tournaments, which he performed skillfully and with acceptance. In recognition of his capabilities, he was placed Master-in-Charge of the Sri Lanka Badminton Team to Bangkok in November 1980.
As Senior House Master of De Saram House, Mr. Alahakone was a source of great inspiration to the De Saramites in all their House activities, and I am sure the De Sararnites, with very good reasons, consider his services to the House as unparalleled. The Sinhalese plays that he produced for the Inter House Drama Contests were of an exceptionally high standard.
At a general assembly of the school held in labour of Mr. Alahakone and to bid farewell to him, the Headmaster paid a glowing tribute to Mr. Alahakone’s dedication and his absolute loyalty to the school and the Head of the institution. The Headmaster presented a colored, enlarged photograph of the school to Mr. Alahakone - a fitting memento to a man who had spent a third of his life unto that time, to help in its development and a man who had, in return, drawn out so much from it to develop his own talents and personality.
Mrs. Vignes Joseph
We were sad to hear that Mrs. Vignes Joseph had left the Island for Oman, when the school reopened in January 1989, after a long closure.
She married Mr. Reggie Joseph, another dedicated teacher, in 1970.
She has been one of the great teachers the school has had during its life of 46 years. Apart from her teaching, she was in charge of Hayman house which emerged the champions in many competitions during her stewardship. Its a great loss to the school as well as to the country when it needs people of her caliber especially in English education.
Past student and Haymanite
Mr. Markandan joined the staff of S. Thomas’ College, Bandarawela, in the late 50’s. A keen sportsman, he was the Master in Charge and coach of various games such as football, cricket and athletics.
The organization of the annual inter house athletics championships at the tiny school grounds by Mr. Markandan is still admired by his colleagues.
He left school in 1970.