Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka [FOGSL] the leading organization for the scientific study of avian fauna in Sri Lanka has taken the leadership in the conservation of birds during the last 40 years. Initiated in 1976, its 40 years of untiring effort in conservation and research has been recognized and honored both locally and internationally.

FOGSL has continuously been conducting awareness programmes on birds to the general public through exhibitions and monthly programmes. It introduced a new programme last year “BirdLife Asia Partnership Bird Fair’ which coincided with the Asia Council Meeting of the Birdlife International being held in Sri Lanka. FOGSL is also the affiliate in the country to BirdLife International. The Bird Fair being a success, FOGSL is to continue it as an annual event.

This year FOGSL is to conduct the Bird Fair with a more local touch by naming it the ‘Kurulu Kaiya’; scheduled for the  16th and 17th of December at the Thalawathugoda ‘Diyasaru Uyana’ wetland park. The Bird Fair is a multi-tasked event in promoting bird awareness to the public as a recreational pastime through birdwatching and to the academia through study groupings and discussions on avifauna and wildlife research. On the economic side it promotes trade and industry in birdwatching optics, books, guides and photographic equipment used in the industry. This is more in appreciation of the generous sponsorship that these institutions extend in return as funding to the various other programmes related to conservation of birds and wildlife.

Birds do play a very silent amusement in all of us though not  felt and realized directly.  From the time a child is shown his / her first flying bird by the mother, a liking towards it is developed as it is the only creature that adopts flight as a means to go places during the day apart from a butterfly which are unique to the child’s world. Almost all other creatures that a child encounters at early age is terrestrial.  It is almost through instinct from then on that the he / she realizes that there are birds of different colors and shapes and also they sound different in vocalization. This liking towards birds develop with age and there is a form of distinct identification that is registered in the mind which we generally recognize as common birds. The term common birds in this case do qualify both to the general bird species that occur almost in all habitats and locations while it also apply to the general identification character of color and shape of a species registered in our minds.

The common ones found in almost all locations and habitats generally are the Crow, the Bulbul or Konda Kurulla and the Spotted-dove. They have been included into our folklore; in children’s storybooks and even in our ancient ‘Jathaka Stories'. 

Apart from the named common birds arounds us there is a special adoption within our minds that involve our senses that define bird species through shape and color that only a very few seem to pursue further in our lives. Birdwatching is based on the extended analysis of this sensual categorization that takes place in our minds. As an example a bird with a colorful green plumage and a closely curved red or yellow beak is grouped in our thinking as a parrot. Likewise a white bird with long tall legs and long snaky neck and spear like beak are grouped in our minds as cranes or storks. All human minds go as far as this in relation to bird identification almost through instinct and from the early picture books that we are introduced to. But it is only in a very few people that the feeling to go look at birds beyond this point is triggered naturally. The science of birdwatching comes to play from this point onward and this is what FOGSL and all other such organizations related with birds extend as a service to those interested to study them further.

Sri Lanka has four species of Parakeets and just one parrot; the endemic Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot. So it was a myth to say we have parrots in this land. We have seven species of Kingfishers, ten species of Owls, fifteen species of Cuckoos, eight species of Woodpeckers that account to around 347 breeding and regular migrant species that are found year round in an area of  65,600 square miles. This number is enhanced by a further 150 species listed as vagrant or with uncertain presence where they have not been occurring as regulars. Sri Lanka therefore is unique in its avian fauna when compared with the North American land mass of 9.45 million square miles and only the home for 914 species of birds. There is scientific reason for this.

This then should be something very special to the child who knew his birds through the picture book of parrots, kingfishers, woodpeckers and owls. Birdwatching is the scientific extension of techniques to identify the different species in the field by understanding bird behavior, their anatomical features and filed characteristics. The differentiating species through observation in the field is challenging and interesting. Applying your own inbuilt analytical ways of thinking through self-argument in your mind, applying an elimination theory to isolate the species for definition is tough and not easy. This could be practiced alone or best in groups of likeminded people that is called a birding community where individual knowledge and experience is shared. It is not something that could be learnt overnight but requiring perseverance, patience and self-discipline.  It requires the time to travel to locations as some birds are biome restricted and occur only in special habitats. The migrants can only be seen during a certain period of the year. Birds are the only known fauna to adopt in mass migration by flight over continents to avoid adverse seasonal weather. This is now an advance scientific research where extensive work is carried out with collaboration in the scientific communities worldwide.

Pic Courtesy: Akila Panditha                                                                                                                                                                                            
Birds been at Thalawathugoda Diyasaru Uyana 
This is only a glimpse of the bird world waiting for you to explore beyond the Parrot and the Kingfisher that you knew from your kindergarten picture book. FOGSL that originated in the University of Colombo, Zoology Department is an NGO, providing free services to the general public on bird awareness. It also engages in research and conservation work with inputs from the general public. FOGSL is for all those who are interested in birds, wildlife and nature. It does not require academic qualification for membership but only your interest for outdoors. Membership is open for all ages from 8 – 80. ‘FOG KIDS’ is for the very young who are still with the picture book birds. The general membership is gifted with free knowledge through monthly awareness programmes and bird-watching excursions to Important Bird Areas [IBA] in the country on a cost sharing basis.

If this snippet did arouse that hidden bird within yourself; FOGSL is pleased to welcome you to the 18th P.B. Karunaratne Memorial Bird Educational and Photographic Exhibition on the 14th and 15th December 2017 at the Zoology Seminar Room University of Colombo and the ‘Kurulu Kaiya’ Bird Fair at the ‘Diyasaru Uyana’, Thalawathugoda wetland park on the 16th and 17th December 2017. You could then join hands in a national cause that will definitely change your lifestyle for betterment both in quality and health. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Socks, Toe-jam and Underpants ?

Boarding schools in the 1950-60 era had a strict dress code and a mandatory list of clothes that had to be furnished when entering the school. Such boarding schools were limited to a few in the hill country with Trinity College and the two S Thomas’ Colleges in Bandarawela and Gurutalawa. Students opting boarding in the city schools were less and was outnumbered by the day-scholars who went back home after school. Thus the lifestyle of the boarding school student were to be of a special experience being away from home.


The standard list of clothes in a boarding school was a half a dozen navy blue short trousers and white cotton shirts of which five were to be short sleeves and one long-sleeved to be worn during special occasions. Six pairs of socks and one pair of grey stockings also to be worn during special school functions complete with a blue blazer keeping to the traditions of the British schools. The list continued with the handkerchiefs, bed sheets, pillowslips etc. But strangely there was no mention of any under garments excepting for the vest that was worn under the shirt. Almost all occasions however special it saw to be, saw us clad in the navy blue Chinese cotton-drill short trouser and white shirt worn complete with polished black leather shoes and socks. The short trouser was also special from what it is today. Readymade garments had not arrived yet and one had to visit the local tailor for all your garment needs. The shape of the short trouser was more like a mini skirt but generously flared. The frontal opening called the golpy was secured not by buttons or fly zippers as today but by metal stud buttons that went into two button holes positioned facing each other holding the opening together. It was held on the waist by two metal buckles positioned on either side of the waste band fixed on to straps sewn on the outside of the band. Today it is so curious to think that we did wear such a garment then.

Out of all these garments the socks played a special part in our daily lives. Socks then were imported into the country and were all turned out either from knitted wool or woven cotton. What we generally wore were of the woven cotton type and they generally came in white colour and the open end did have a rubber threading that was to hold the sock in place tight to your lower leg just above the ankle. These rubbers generally did not last the first wash and the open end did open out as a flower from its first visit to the dhoby and trouble started from there on. Keeping the sock in position tight in your leg was a problem and various innovations and improvises were tried out with rubber bands and garters. The solution in not having to be pulled up for not being smart was to fold down the flared end up to the ankle and you passed the morning inspection before going to school. But trouble did start after a few hours when the sock would slide down into the shoe and you were almost wearing your shoes without socks. This meant a qualification for punishment and one had to keep doing your shoes and socks every hour or two in school. In contrast to this situation, today we wear the fashionable ankle sock. When I posted the above picture in social media sometime back my schoolmate Dr. Hemasiri Kotagama did comment thus;……. A frustration that I had at this age was that my sock always got sucked into the shoe. I tried rubber bands / garters to hold the sock in place!!! Toe jam was not a problem for me!!!” Probably having seeing the state of the socks of our friend Siri Silva, falling on to his shoes in the picture.

By the mid-sixties the problem of sinking socks came to an end with the introduction of Nylon and Terylene in the garment industry. Nylon socks production had by now commenced in the country. Then came the next problem with socks; the issue of Toe Jam that ‘Kota’ refers to say he was not a sufferer of.

What is toe jam? As derived in the Urban-Dictionary it is the substance that accumulates between your toes after a long day of having sweaty feet. Mixture of toe sweat and sock fuzz.” Our tender feet then were soft and the skin was not hard and it did sweat unlike in adulthood when your soles are harder and drier and do not sweat. Wearing shoes for long hours in our younger days found our feet perspiring and the sweat did absorb in the socks in case it being cotton or the mess in case it was of nylon. This sweat with the dust and the dead skin under the toes invited bacteria and accumulated as a sticky substance that gave off a nauseating odour when exposed to the atmosphere. Luckily though you had no problem as far as your feet were in the shoes; the moment one took his feet out of the shoe all the heads would go up with the offensive odour and the culprit would quietly slip his foot back in the shoe and the problem solved. This was not that much a problem to the day boy as the parents saw to it that the socks were either washed daily or foot powder applied as a remedy to keep the home a better breathable place. We in the boarding were a carefree lot and did continue wearing soiled socks until the dhoby brought in our quota of washed linen.

Toe jam did at times interfere with school norms. While in our senior forms in Gurutalawa we had two sessions of school one before lunch and one after lunch ending just before evening tea. We had the habit of visiting the dormitory and go in for tea in our flip flops relieving our weary feet off the shoes. But on the other hand the whole dining room was now smelling of a few hundred dead rats. This situation was so grave and the then Headmaster Mr. E L Perera decreed that evening tea is to be had in full school uniform inclusive of shoes and socks. My nephew Nishantha Abeysinghe now a senior manager and planter a Trinity College boarder reminisces once when they were trekking to college from the Nittawala grounds after rugger practices a good Samaritan offered them a lift in his car to the school. They were in the car with their boots and stockings out and wearing flip-flops, having traveled a few yards the car came to a screeching stop with a stern order commanded “bloody toe jam everybody out immediately”…..they had to walk back the rest of the way to the school.

Going back to the list of clothes and its lacking for any underwear; it could be because there was no such decent piece of garment imported into the country then to be listed in it. Today we see our grandchildren going to the kindergarten wearing underpants but we in our times was quite free underneath until our testosterone levels where high enough to show that occasional frontal bulge when excited. The synthetic fiber industry catching up in the mid-sixties gave a solution to this problem as well. The first ever under garment in the country if I remember right was the ‘DIS’ brand jockstrap garment; a design copy of the cricketers box guard. It had a frontal box turned out of softer material sewn on to a thick elastic waist band with two narrower bands coming off the lower end of the box to the posterior and fixed firm to the waist band at the back. This held your vital outer organ intact but your bum was still bare of any undergarment. However it being readymade and until the smallest waist size of this unusual garment fitted your waist one did not wear anything underneath. The slang term to call this style then was to say that one was to be freewheeling. And if your trousers were found to be too tight you were ruled "Offside".

But then it is equally interesting to note of what our adults wore as an undergarment in that era. Again the savior was the local tailor who invented a garment to be worn by menfolk that also was a good business. The local tailor turned out a ‘V’ shaped attire called a 'lunket" resembling a swimming trunk but it was opened totally in one end. The open side had four strings sewn on the waist helm and the thigh helm, to be tied firm to hold the garment in position on your lower waist supporting your hang down. This way it became one size fits all and they came in an array of colours, some in multi colours and some in flowery patterns for they were turned out by the tailor with whatever saved material. It had its own funny name in the colloquial tongue…. the “Wawula” [meaning Fruit Bat], resembling the leathery wing membrane of the Fruit-bat when left to dry on the line and fluttering in the breeze.

Me as a kid was highly curious to see how adults wore them covered in their sarongs for modesty with only their head and feet showing out. One needed to have both his hands free to get it fastened on your lower body. It was funny to see them get only one leg into it with both hands inside the sarong and the sarong held firm by your central incisors and the rest of it resting on your shoulders. The funny part being that it had no formal front side or rear side and could be worn front side back as one pleased depending you being left-handed or right-handed.

I doubt if any of us wore the 'Wawula' in school but we had teachers called by this name by our seniors which we did continue to call them when we went into the senior classes as well.

Such was the simple lifestyles then in the mid-20th century compared to the complexities that we have to think of what to wear to so many functions that come up during a busy day. Back then you were welcome with what you left home with in the morning……. as it was always a dress that was thought to be formal for all occasions.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

75 Years at the Frontiers of Knowledge

I was invited to contribute to the commemorative souvenior of S Thomas' College Gurutalawa on its completion of 75 as a special academic institution in this country.

Much of the material here is gleaned from the book published on the First Fifty Years in 1992 and as recorded by Mr. O. E. J. de Soyza. The writer has documented much of his memories in school from 1967 to 1971. All the headmasters during this period has not been discussed but for the more significant personalities.


The Benefactors
L/R - Rev Canon R S de Saram, Mr Leslie de Saram, Dr R L Hayman,  Rev Canon A J Foster

S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa located in the Village of Gurutalawa, 5 miles from the township of Welimada in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka, was a contingency plan to shift a section of S Thomas’ College in Mt Lavinia during the World War II in 1942. It was the generous gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie de Saram who did not even want their names to be displayed on the school plaque. Their names are substituted as “Two well-wishers” in the tablet that stands at the entrance to the college.

Memorial plaque at entrance to College

There had always been a question mark hanging over Gurutalawa during the post war era:  to continue or not. It did go into continuity thanks to two personalities; Dr W. R. L. Hayman and Rev. Fr. A. J. Foster. Together they built the school and ran it to their model.  This is a very brief write-up, more a tribute to these two personalities as well as a recording of the difficult times Gurutalawa had to undergo during this 75 years.
The WW II which commenced in the year 1939, and dragged on till 1945 was at its height in the eastern sector by 1942. The British administration in the country was in readiness to combat in defense. They had plans to evacuate Colombo and certain buildings had been earmarked for military takeover. The buildings of S Thomas College Mt Lavinia [STC Mt] had been earmarked for a possible military hospital.
It was only on the morning of Easter Sunday, 5th of April 1942 that Ceylon experienced the war on its shores. The Japanese bombers and fighters dropped bombs in the Colombo harbor. The defensive anti-aircraft fire did attack a few planes. The crashing of one plane into the big club grounds was witnessed by many.
The takeover of the school was now evident and notice was received to hand over the school to the military within five days. Dr. R L Hayman the Sub-Warden was sent to Gurutalawa to check on the premises gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Leslie de Saram to shift a section of the school. Noting the urgency and the difficulty in relocating the school in a hurry the generous Leslie de Saram now decided to hand over even the  buildings, equipment, furniture and the livestock of the farm to the sub warden to run the school and a boarding house for the students. Gurutalawa thus was primarily a contingency plan to shift the school during the war. There were three other such locations, in Mutuwal, Milagiriya, and at Gatembe in Peradeniya.
While the bombing was taking place on Easter Sunday in Colombo, there was also a Miss Mary Rudd who was also seeing all this action from a troopship outside the Colombo harbour. She was a nurse of a full team of a medical corps that was brought over to run the British Military Hospital that was located at S Thomas’ College Mt Lavinia.
Later one day Miss Mary Rudd went to Gurutalawa while stationed in the garrison town of Diyatalawa with Major Kirk. They hiked across the countryside to Gurutalawa where they met Dr. Hayman who was a friend of Major Kirk. It is noted that Dr. Hayman had given first aid to Miss. Mary Rudd for a leach bite she had had on the hike to Gurutalawa.
But things went beyond first aid and with the war ending in 1945 they got married in 1948. Later Dr. Hayman and Mrs. Mary Hayman together ran the school treating it as their extra-large family. A no nonsense lady, she established herself as the sick room matron while Dr. Hayman and Fr. Foster took charge of running the school. She was a devoted humble lady who had a special feeling for the fauna and flora. A keen birdwatcher, she also loved gardening. It was she who laid the flower beds and the exotic foliage in the school lawns and landscapes. Her compassion towards animals is amply displayed when a Christmas turkey they were presented with became their favorite pet which later died of old age. She was instrumental in training her two lieutenants in the sick room; Ariyadasa and Barathan who did continue all their lifetime as sickroom orderlies serving under many matrons that took over the services subsequently.
The early days…

The iconic picture of STCG ‘ The Chapel of St Francis of Assisi’ 

The school in Gurutalawa which was later named the S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa [STCG] commenced from the second term onwards in 1942 with just 55 boarders and 2 day boys. The day boys being the two Karunathilake brothers who lived on the opposite side of the Gonagala hill. These 57 pioneers had just 8 teachers including a farm manager and a matron in charge of catering. Dr. R L Hayman was Headmaster while Rev. Fr. A. J. Foster was the Chaplain. The teachers were Mr. R. S. D. Janze, Mr. E. L. Perera [later a Headmaster], Mr. W. A. Wijesinghe and Mr. G D Wijeyewardane.  Mrs. Thelma Gunawardane the wife of Mr. Wijeyewardane was the first food matron who later joined the academic staff in 1943 as the first lady teacher.
Many of the senior boys of 1942 did leave after sitting for their London Matriculation and the number of students from 1943 onwards was around 45 and always below 50 for the next two years.

First batch of Students and Staff in 1942

Among the pioneers of Gurutalawa many have had illustrious careers serving the country. The writer was privileged to have to serve under one of them in 1980 as a budding young Assistant Engineer in the Irrigation Department. My first boss was to be Mr. Darmawijaya Karunathilake the then Irrigation Engineer in Galle. The younger of the day scholar, Karunathilake boys.
Mr. Bradman Weerakoon became the erudite civil servant of the CCS and became the secretary to nine Prime Ministers in the country from both the UNP and the SLFP. His book “Rendering Unto Caesar“ is a fascinating story of one man's tenure under nine Prime Ministers and Presidents of Sri Lanka.
The farm club at school did mold some of them to take up careers in planting after training at the Government Farm School in Kundasale. Mr. Clifford Ratwatte and Mr. Nihal Ilangakoon both pioneers at STCG became Chairman of the State Plantations Corporation. The former was its founding Chairman.
One other pioneer was Mr. A K Chapman who later rendered his service to a career in teaching with love and devotion at STCG taking the leadership at difficult times till his retirement in 1976.
The school during its pioneering days was conducted with its classrooms, dormitories and staff accommodations and all other facilities in an improvised state. Rev. Foster’s Chapel was overlooking the green paddy fields and the woods within the orchard in the far ground with the beautifully laid flower beds in the foreground. The altar is said to have been so located that the open door behind it gave this pleasing view to all. Again in an improvised unit. Classrooms were makeshift locations. There was even the staircases utilized as benches for students to sit on.
Curriculum was limited to Divinity, English Composition, Latin, Sinhala/Tamil, Biology, Chemistry, General Science, Geography, History, Classical History and Mathematics. The eight teachers took the responsibility of teaching with Fr. Foster teaching English, History and Divinity. Dr. Hayman as Headmaster taught Physics and Mathematics. Mr. E L Perera also taught Mathematics and continued on the same lines when he was Headmaster.   
Some remained unchanged from the pioneering days. The rising bell was at 5:45 a.m., and the lights went out at 9:30 p.m. Two sessions of prep before breakfast and dinner did continue for a longtime. Classes were from the Lower 4th to Upper 6th going in line with the English schools. There were two sessions of periods, one before lunch and one after lunch allowing sufficient time for an hour and a half for evening games. On rainy days when games were not possible; it was cross country running with Fr. Foster which did continue to later days when it was Rev. Fr. H. C. Goodchild running in the rain with the boys.
It is interesting to note that the games played in the evenings were Badminton, Tennis, Boxing and Tenniquoits .The major games of football and cricket were played in the playgrounds about a mile away from the school. Tenniquoits also called ring tennis is not a game that is played today, but the writer recollects it being played in the mid-sixties at the badminton courts in the Keeble dormitory area with Mr. Marasinghe, also an old boy who was then in the administration staff. The Tenniquoit ring is a thick rubber ring resembling a frankfurter about eight inch in diameter that is thrown over the net as in badminton to be caught single handed by the players and thrown back to the opposite team.
Cricket played in the main playground have had some hilarious encounters having been played on a field with a steep gradient. The batsman could not see the boundary on the off side but a horizon. The leg umpire had his task made even more difficult standing in a position lower than the batsman. Thus very rarely was a batsman ruled run-out. Bating was on a half matting placed on the crest of the hill on a grassless wicket. Bowling was only downhill and the batsman also had to change with every over. Many a time did the batsman trip and fall at the upturn of the half matting while running between wickets and given out if stumped.
However these amusing games of cricket came to an end with the hill being cut and leveled. This project on the leveling of the playground had again been very interesting as narrated by my friend Bandula Vithanage. Arthur Vithanage; Bandula’s father a construction development contractor engaged in Irrigation rehabilitation work brought the first bulldozer into the country. Arthur Vithanage transporting his machine to Moneragala is intercepted by Dr Hayman and driver Piyasena at the Beragala junction while returning from Colombo. Curious in seeing a bulldozer being transported on a lowbed trailer for the first time in the country Dr Hayman inquires of its whereabouts and the possibility of its use in the levelling of the school playground. Arthur Vithanage on his return visited the school to find Dr Hayman, the staff and the boys with helpful village folks all engaged in a humongous task digging into the hillside with hand tools which would have taken years to complete. He immediately undertook the task at no cost to the college to make the playground to its level as it stands today. Dr. Hayman did make it a point to visit Arthur Vithanage during his return trips to the country in gratitude and reminisced their first meeting at the Beragala Junction which fulfilled his desire to see the playground turn in to a reality. The Vithanage brothers all became Gurutalawa Thomians while the youngest Bandula did contribute immensely to the school being a very active secretary in the OBA.
The leveled ground now paved the way for rugby and hockey as well. Gurutalawa mastered the game of hockey in a special way and became Uva champions many a time. Sarath Serasinghe a product of Gurutalawa led the Sri Lanka team during the 1970 /1980 period. Anybody going into this playground today will note the little pavilion on the top of the embankment. The falling profile of the embankment on either side of this pavilion marks out the original ground on which these amusing cricket encounters were played.
Something special in Gurutalawa then was its location and the locality still in its virgin state untouched by the development that had cut inroads to the countryside. On a clear day one could see the Horton Plains beyond Ohiya and even the Thotupola and Kirigalpoththa mountains. Hiking was a pastime the boys enjoyed in these hills during the weekends. There had been occasions when boys did hike all the way to Colombo via Ratnapura and Kandy with overnight stay in homes at Ratnapura and Kandy. Thus Gurutalawa could be accounted as the first ever outward bound school in the country.
To continue or not to continue
It was only at the Prize Giving in 1944 that the Warden announced the decision of the Board of Governors that the two branches at Peradeniya and Gurutalawa could not continue due to economic and other reasons and that from 1945 it would be only Gurutalawa that would function as a boarding school and those now in Peradeniya would move to Gurutalawa bringing the number of students to around 150.
This meant new infrastructure had to be designed and the task was entrusted to Architect Shirley de Alwis who designed the University in Peradeniya which was also being built during this period. The material to be used was stone that was abundantly found in and around Gurutalawa. The buildings would be sturdy and long lasting with ample ventilation opening into the soothing breeze across the hills.
The pioneers with Dr. Hayman and the rest did go into action. Tones of earth was removed through ‘shramadana’ for the foundation laying on 26th of June 1944 for a new building block. The master plan was to have the current junior dormitory block ready for the first term in 1945. A gargantuan task to be undertaken to complete in just 6 months. The most unusual inclement weather experienced in 1944 with other mishaps with artisan etc. pushed the expected completion date far back. The school would not be ready on time for the boys coming in from Peradeniya. Determination for completion was with everybody and the buildings were made ready for occupation with a temporary solution for the roof by having them thatched with ‘maana’ grass laid on a round timber roof frame. The senior boys arrived earlier than the juniors, to commence the first term on 8th January 1945.

Main College block thatched in “Maana Grass” in 1944

It is recorded as the last part of the building was the belfry tower of the chapel that was being finished in heavy rain even on the day before the planned consecration on 3rd of December 1945.  On the fourth day before the consecration the last stone on the tower was placed not heeding the foreman who preferred extra time for the lime mortar to harden. A crack developed right down the tower making all the masons and artisans run to safety. With additional shoring and supports with timber struts placed as safety measures, it was decided to bring down 6 feet of the tower for safety reasons.  None of the workers would undertake the task to reduce the height for fear of its collapse and Mr. Shirley de Alwis was consulted. His advice was that if it stood as it is for 3 days, there was no chance of collapse and to retain its original height.  Today this tower is the iconic symbol of S Thomas College Gurutalawa. The monolithic satin wood statue of St Francis of Assisi on the niche of the tower which took four years to carve by Mr. E Scott is a later addition.
It is noted that the year 1945 was a difficult period at Gurutalawa. The pioneers at times did comment overtly of the deteriorating discipline in Gurutalawa and it is recorded that it was the extension of the buildings to accommodate the Peradeniya boys that compelled a branch to continue in Gurutalawa without closure when the main school was scheduled to open in Mt Lavinia in January 1946 after the war.
The Peradeniya boys came with some of the staff as well. Mr. Davidson, Mr. S J. Anandanayagam and Mr. E F C Pereira joined the staff in Gurutalawa. Mr. Davidson and Mr. Anandanayagam both become Wardens at STC Mt Lavinia later.

Quadrangle junior dormitory

However the uncertainty of the continuity did drag on; it is said with two questions needing answers. What should be the optimum number of students to run the school? And should it function as a fully-fledged institution with secondary education up to Advance Level classes for the senior boys?
Dr. R L Hayman went on home leave to the UK in September 1945 which was long due and Mr. Davidson took the task of running the school. He went on until 1947 when he was called over to Mt Lavinia as Sub-Warden.

Corridor junior dormitory

Hayman Era to continue
It is interesting to note that the second term in 1946 brought in much change in the running of both the schools. When Mt Lavinia opened its boarding house, boys from Gurutalawa were encouraged to come over to Mt Lavinia. Mt Lavinia had command over Gurutalawa as well. It is recorded that two prefects in Gurutalawa were appointed by the Mt Lavinia administration. Gurutalawa cricketers went down to Mt Lavinia for trials to be included in the first XI team. However Gurutalawa was registered a separate school in the Department of Education in the Badulla district even though the school functioned as one in other activities with Mt Lavinia.  
1947 brought about a lot of change in the political, social and cultural setup in preparation for the country's independence. A new education ordinance was introduced and there was concerns and doubts on the future of fee levying schools continuing as unaided schools with no assistance from the Education Authority. Again the continuity of Gurutalawa was a topic for discussion.
In 1948 Ceylon gains independence and Mr. Davidson is called back to Mt Lavinia and now Dr. and Mrs. Hayman both with Rev A. J. Foster are back in Gurutalawa to continue the hard work they started together. Both Mt Lavinia and Gurutalawa become fully separate schools run by two administrations. They would be within the system of education in the country with Swabasha Education but continue as fee levying private schools without assistance from the Education Authority. A wise decision taken then when looking back today.

Portrait of Dr R L Hayman by David Paynter 

Things turn around for good once again with the number of students going up to 140. Mt Lavinia was now at full capacity and there was a need to expand Gurutalawa to cater to the demand. A new building programme was to commence with all amenities necessary for a boarding school. The sick room was extended and a separate surgery provided under Mrs. Hayman. The old kitchens and the bakery were demolished and a new kitchen was done with part of the old building utilized as the science laboratory. A new power generator was purchased and the buildings were wired permanently anticipating power from the main national grid. The thatched roofs were converted to asbestos as in the original plan.  
This new building plan was disrupted again in the most unusual way when saboteurs set fire to the classroom block in the early hours of 3rd November 1948. Due to the prompt action of the staff and the servants much of the furniture could be salvaged but not the thatched roof. The classrooms were rebuilt and roofed with asbestos in 1949 supervised by V Tharmalingam a young old boy who was now an engineering student at Peradeniya.  
The old swimming bath was heavily packed with the increased number of students and a new swimming pool and a filtration plant was on the drawing board. The work commenced in 1949 with a generous funding on the project by Dr. Hayman’s own finances. The project did take time to complete. It was only in 1953 that the swimming pool was declared open by Dr. Hayman himself followed with a swimming gala attended by STC Mt Lavinia, The Colombo Swimming Club, The Hill School and STCG. This swimming pool with the chapel and its lawns in the back ground became the iconic picture of the school that is interpreted as the Garden of Eden.

Swimming pool before the renovations - Resembling the garden of Eden

Improving the infrastructure was taken up on a priority and by 1952 there was the need to raise funds for a new laboratory, a new sick room, a new dormitory, a new assembly hall and a living quarters for the headmaster. It is noted that Dr. and Mrs. Hayman had all these years being living a pitiful life in a bathroom converted as their dwelling since 1948. A contemporary bungalow at a reasonable cost was completed in 1954.
The increase in the number of students required an increase in staff both in the Sinhalese and Tamil medium. New staff accommodations were built to accommodate them.  

Dr & Mrs. Hayman in the newly constructed Headmaster’s Bungalow before it was finished to a completion 

Hayman Era comes to an end   
The period from 1956 to 1963 was a time of unrest in the country with political and social changes.  The race riots in 1958 turned out to be a dark period in the country. The assassination of the prime minister followed with intended schools takeover in 1961 did halt the ongoing building programme as the future of the private schools ran in to uncertainty once again. Dr. and Mrs. Hayman were shocked and taken aback in the aftermath of the race riots.
The Old Boys Association was formed in 1959 by the pioneering students with many in esteemed positions in the government service. The inaugural meeting was held in Mt Lavinia and the office bearers elected were: Dr Hayman the President and Mr. S K Wickramasinghe the Vice President. Mr. P S Duleep Kumar was the Secretary elect who had a marathon innings in that position rendering a very exemplary and yeoman service year after year. The other members in the committee being Messrs K C Selvadurai, L W A Fernando, Benjamin Fernando, H C Wijesuriya, S A Carder, S K Punyadasa and L K Amarasuriya. There were others outside the committee who did contribute immensely, Nawaz Caffoor, Arther Perera, Sisira Nanayakkara and Clifford Ratwatte to name a few.
The first project undertaken by the OBA was to provide Rev. Fr. Foster with a spacious quarters enlarging the tiny and dingy room which he occupied all these years. It is noted that a princely sum of Rs 1,500/= was collected immediately for the cause.
The difference in the quality of the pass out becomes an immediate concern to OBA. The discipline among the senior boys and the usage of the English language had dropped with the introduction of the ‘Swabasha’ medium of teaching in the classrooms. It is recorded that for the first time in the history of the school the end of term question papers had leaked out. The cheering at the inter-house games by the seniors did worry the staff and the old boys. It was classed as unruly, antagonistic, unsporting and rowdy behavior. The degradation of moral ethics in the society had its impact in the school activities.
This rundown of ethics in the senior student needed to be checked and mitigated. As such more extra activities were introduced during this time. Scouting activities were enhanced and developed to a standard that no other school in that era would have attained. Students were seen going to the ultimatum in scouting achieving the Queens Scout Badge and some did go up to the Wood Badge.

Scouting was of a very high standards at Gurutalawa at all times

Rev. Foster started the Birdwatching club that was very attractive to the nature loving students. One of its founder students was Prof. Sarath W Kotagama now the eminent Environmentalist and Conservationist   the first professional Ornithologist in the country.
Sports were revived in a big way with immediate results seen. The Under 17 and the Under 15 hockey teams made history for having played against the South Indian Hockey playing schools when Mr. O. E. J. de Zoysa and Mr. Chinniah, the masters in charge toured South India with the teams.
The drama circle was reactivated with the staff taking up to acting on stage with the students. Mr. J de S Jayasinghe took the leading role while Mr. A. K. Chapman and Mr. F. L. Amerasinghe rendered their untiring support. Mrs. Amerasinghe was the seamstress turning out much of the needed stage costumes and backdrops.
By 1962 the number of students had risen to 300. The school was now very much on a positive progressive line both to the content of the old boys and parents. Rev A. J. Foster was canonized by the Anglican Diocese, a fitting honor for his evangelical services to the church and the school.
Dr. and Mrs. Hayman are now very content in having developed the school to its current state by 1963. It is eminent that both Mt Lavinia and the Board of Governors had given into the wishes of  Dr. Hayman and Fr. Foster to develop and function a schools in Gurutalawa when most have been for its closure  ever since the end of the war. However the change in the country’s political structure and the race riots in 1958 did have a very big impact for their continuity in Gurutalawa. It would sure have been a very difficult decision to make having spent the best part of their lives here in Ceylon developing a school and investing all their savings with generosity to a school that they built from scrap.
The legendary Dr. R L Hayman and Mrs. Hayman left our shores for good. Dr. Hayman had come to Ceylon then in December 1929 having completed his D. Phil in Oxford in 1926. He had served S Thomas’ College for 34 years giving his knowledge, assets and energies to both S Thomas’ Colleges in Mt Lavinia and Gurutalawa. Gurutalawa has had 21 years of his leadership both during thick and thin of its early days
The Hayman Era came to an end on 3rd March 1963.
Fr Foster to continue the Hayman Era
Rev. Fr. A.J. Foster educated at Parkston College, Dorset and a History literate of St Edmond Hall, Oxford was no doubt the most eligible successor to Dr. Hayman. He was with him all along and acted for him during his furloughs. However it should be noted that Fr. Foster was appointed the acting Headmaster and not the headmaster.

Main entrance to College

The pattern of running the school set by both Dr. Hayman and Fr. Foster continued as before. However further extra activities were introduced to keep the senior boys occupied in their leisure time. The Bird Watching Club started by Fr. Foster was assisted by Mr. J.W. Marasinghe an old boy who was also the office secretary to Dr. Hayman. The vacancies left by Dr. Hayman as the scouter in the scout troop and the swimming coach was deputized to Mr. Marasinghe. The chess club was revived and a new Gramophone Society was also started by Mr. R C G Wijesinghe the organist. A keen musician.
Wood work and wood carving were introduced to the curriculum. Mr. R T Kularatne was the new master in charge after undergoing training on the subject. Mr. T Gray’s wood carving and art work caught on immensely among the students. Its effects were visible on the desks and benches in the classrooms and on the trees in the orchard. Excellent calligraphy appeared all over and reprimand was easy with no evidence required.
Fr. Foster being an excellent administrator and planner; a significant improvement developed in the academic sphere. He entrusted sections of the school to three teachers who were strict disciplinarians. Mr. A K Chapman a pioneering student who took to teaching after graduation was made the head of the upper school. Mr. S. K. Gnamuththu a former principal of Dhramadutha College Badulla was made the head of the middle school. Mr. B. J. H. Bahar from Zahira College was head of the lower school. This meant there were three heads for just five classes meaning that they would know each and every boy personally. This was a very effective way in dealing with discipline and identifying weak areas of students and assisting them individually. One major achievement was seen when the boys offering Arts subjects were allowed to take Arithmetic for Mathematics which is generally difficult to master.
Fr. Foster the acting headmaster in his Prize day speech in August 1963 was so humble when he recognized the untiring effort of the three teachers who continued from Dr. Hayman's time, making sure that it was not his individual achievement. He also paid tribute to Mr. J. de S. Jayasinghe and Mr. P. Y. Ambros.

An inter-house swimming meet in the 1960’s

However tragedy did strike again when on 9th December 1964 news came to the classrooms of the sudden death of Fr. Foster. The gloom of doom did set over Gurutalawa once aging. All hopes for the future of the school was shattered to smithereens once again.
It was a devastating blow totally unexpected and the school administration took prompt action to appoint Mr. Chapman the Acting Headmaster and Mr. F. L. Amerasinghe to assist him.
Fr. Foster's remains were brought down to Colombo by the OBA. A requiem mass was held at the Chapel of the Transfiguration and the funeral took place at the general Cemetery Kanatte.
Post Hayman Era

Things continued under the Acting Headmaster Mr. Chapman with the able assistance of the teachers who were familiar with the traditions of the school. Rev. Fr. H. C. Goodchild who had occasionally acted for Fr. Foster was appointed the new chaplain of the school.  There were other teachers who continued from the Hayman/Foster era…… Messrs. J. de S. Jayasinghe, O. E. J. de Soyza, Benjamin Fernando the bursar from 1942, John Marasinghe, C.M. Chinniah, S.K. Gnanamuttu, A.C.M. Laffir, R.T Kularatne. Mrs. Altendorf and Mrs. Jayawickrema the matrons. Mrs. Altendorf who continued from the Hayman era ran a separate boarding house outside the school premises overlooking the nine acre pasture land on the Boralanda road.
Mr. Laffir the games prefect was the farm manager and also the manager of the cooperative store. The post war era continued with the food rationing programme under a cooperative scheme. Everyone had a ration book and the number of students and the staff living in the boarding school did qualify for a separate cooperative store. Thus a separate co-op store was in the school which also served as a tuck-shop and a grocery store. I do remember there was garments for sale as well.

Farm cowshed - Farm animal sheds and watertank - Farm approach road

There was also the loyal minor staff members who devoted their whole life to the school continuing their services from the Hayman / Foster era. Messrs. R. P. Simon. Perera (Bell Simon), Simon. Ranasinghe (Van Simon), P. A. Piyasena (Dr. Hayman’s Driver and Electrician), J. A. M Ariyadasa (Sickroom orderly), J. A. M. Karunadasa (Ground boy), Manis Appu (Head steward) and M. Ramaiah the gardener.
Simon Perera, alias, bell Simon was also a legend in the school. The day in the school begins with the clanking of the bunch of keys that bell Simon would be meddling with at the dormitory door around 5:30 a.m. before the rising bell he rang at 5:45 a.m. The day ends the reverse way when we hear him lock the dormitory door after the bell at 9:30 p.m. indicating lights out time. This marathon innings he played at school ringing that bell every 45 minutes during the day walking to the bell post on a tree by the swimming pool would have kept him healthy all these years till his retirement.   
Van Simon the cherubic figure sporting a head full of white hair did his shuttle service to Welimada and back in the navy blue Morris delivery van on purchasing duties to the kitchen and even banking and currency transports with no security guards in those good old days. The scout camps in faraway Yala and Lahugala jungles were not possible without him delivering the tents and other paraphernalia. A firm believer that he would one day be a lucky lottery winner, who purchased a lottery at every draw would still preserve the old tickets stuck to a wire above his bedhead. One only has to realize how much he has contributed to the development fund. A ticket was -/50 cts then.
Driver Piyasena was different probably because he was the head master’s driver. He later drove the Volkswagen passenger van of the school taking teams for matches etc. and attended to all electrical maintenance during breakdowns, having learnt the skills from Dr. Hayman.  
Ramaiah having learnt his skills from Mrs. Hayman was a qualified grafter. Later on he was under Mr. R T Kularatne taking weekly rounds in the gardens opposite the senior dorms, Headmaster’s bungalow and the immediate area outside the staff dinning. He was a master of the scythe and preferred to swing the scythe than to push a dull old lawn mower.
Manis Appu the head steward would never give you a second service of the beef stew. He had that herculean task to see that all the students had an equal portion of the soup or stew and when the last boy in the queue held his plate to him the cauldron would be clean empty. I have heard him say when we went to Mrs. Jayawickrama to discuss menus for our year end social nights. ‘You give me a pot of two chickens, I will still serve it to the whole school’. They were all masters in their field of activity.
Both J. A. M. Ariyadasa and J. A. M. Karunadasa were brothers.  Ariyadasa was the orderly in the sick room. The confident lieutenant of Mrs. Hayman was a master on dressing wounds. The large bottles containing cough mixture and cold mixture were never made empty. The recipe is a secret he leant from Mrs. Hayman.
His brother Karunadasa was the long standing ground boy that everyone met in the evenings at the playing fields. He was the darling and the favorite of some of the senior mischief makers as he was somebody who was from outside the school premises and that occasional fag smoked from behind the pavilion was kept a dead secret by him.
These minor staff members were like clockwork; they knew their role and responsibility in running their part for the smooth functioning of the school.
Mr. A. K. Chapman who always took responsibility of the school during difficult times was a tall character living in his quarters towards the Keble dormitory. He would crush his cigarette when he approached the junior dormitories on this way to the office every morning. The juniors would be sunning themselves in the quadrangle and the moment he appears everyone would chant a non-stop Good Morning wish. Mr. Chapman would respond as “what is so good about the morning men?”  
Mr. J. de S. Jayasinghe fondly known as Uncle to all was a southerner from Ahangama. He had a signature fragrance, the aroma of Old Spice mixed with cigarette tobacco. He was a great asset to the school and a very supportive staff member to Mr. Chapmen to run the school until a Headmaster was appointed since the demise of Fr. Foster. He was a no nonsense teacher who taught Biology, General Science and Buddhism to senior classes. An incorrigible student had once got four questions in the Buddhism paper out of five wrong in the year end examination. It was doubted that the fifth question on the Dammapada verses he got right was copied from someone. When the interrogation as to from whom he copied was to commence the poor victim had no way to defend but to narrate by heart all the 20 verses to everybody’s surprise.      
Mr. Ganamuttu a gentlemen clad in immaculate white vesti and white collarless long cotton shirt and well-polished reddish brown sandals would never take the short cut to the classroom block that was allowed only for the staff members. He always took the long roadway as he was very careful of where he stepped because the shortcut was over a root mass of the gumtrees running above ground. It was said that he kept his feet flat on the floor as the sandals would then waste evenly. The Greek Myths learnt with him still flashes across the mind. Listening to him read with so much enthusiasm was memorable. He loved teaching English literature. However at times he preferred to rest with eyes closed having given us some written work. It was then that someone would drop his metal box of mathematical instruments and everything would go wild like when Little Pandora opened the box full of troubles. It was mostly the Tamil medium boys who were most involved with Mr. Ganamuttu.
Mr. O. E. J. Perera also a pioneer student in the school taught English. A lean tall personality wearing thick glasses would always hang on the black board when writing on it. Returning from the board he would raise his hands to clap above his head. The sound of the clap was at times duplicated but the grammar class did continue blended with a tight lipped giggle as if nothing did happen.
Mr. R. T. Kularatne was a master unto himself. He was only encountered during the wood working class in the junior forms where we started with turning out a toy boat and later turning out a breadboard and a set of clothes pegs which we did take home and until recent times, the bread board was used in our ancestral home. We would meet him after school during horse riding. We all knew he feared riding them but was always riding his iron horse a rickety old lambretta scooter. He was loved by all for his yearend fireworks on the chapel lawn after carol service for which he would have spent a fortune at that time.
It is the beginning of 1965 and the school encounters another serious breach of discipline in the senior dormitories. Mr. Robin Thampo a popular film director was making the film ‘Sudho Sudhu’ with Gamini Fonseka in the lead role. Mr. Thampo’s connections with the master in charge of the cadet platoon finds the senior cadets also in the film as soldiers training in the army. The film shooting in the playground is halted abruptly by the Acting Headmaster and another teacher for the reason that consent of the parents had not been sought to use the students in the film. There had been rivalry between this teacher and the cadet master. The film crew had packed off as a result but the senior students had gone on a revolt against the teacher after a planned blackout. An evening newspaper had blown the issue out of proportion, which followed with the school closing indefinitely until a thorough investigation and several interrogations were done. No student was expelled from school but some changes did take place in the administration.
School did commence after a long holiday and Mr. Chapman went on sick leave at the end of the first term. Mr. Kingsley Dasanayake the former Principal of the Deaf and Blind School in Ratmalana was now the acting Headmaster. He succeeded in restoring confidence among the parents and well-wishers while being cordial with the boys. The assistance and the support he got from all the staff and the new chaplain Fr. Goodchild was duly gratified by him in his prize day speech.
Headmaster Frank Jayasinghe [1965 – 1968]
Discipline of the seniors was once again a question of discussion but the closure of the school and absorbing the students in Mt Lavinia were not a possibility now. The need of a professional educationist to head the institution was a priority and the selection was the best at a time when the school needed a strict disciplinarian.
Mr. Frank Jayasinghe a product of Richmond College Galle and Wesley College Colombo a specialized teacher in Science and Mathematics and an honors graduate of the University of London in Sinhala and Oriental Languages was installed as the headmaster by the Bishop of Colombo in January 1966.
An extremely strict disciplinarian, he was a terror to the seniors. He was an ardent tennis player who would control the school with his strong arm and the stick. I remember once when the senior boys started teasing the duty master during night prep on a rainy day in the dining hall he caned over forty senior boys’ three cuts each which left over half a dozen canes splintered.
The change in the political administration in 1965 -1970 brought in changes in the curriculum. All four religions were taught in school and the new mathematics were introduced. It was during this time that the writer entered Gurutalawa from St Thomas’ Preparatory School in Bandarawela.
Mr. Jayasinghe was supported by all the staff that continued from the Hayman era. However it is noted that Mr. F. L. Amarasinghe and Mr. O. E. J. Perera did leave school during this time. Also there was new staff joining Messrs. A. Kadurugamuwa (an old boy), R. E. Jayaraj, S. P. Dharmawardane, S. S. Selvendran joined the academic staff. Mrs. Loretta Jayasinghe the headmaster’s wife supplemented the vacancy of Mr. Soyza as the English teacher.  
Mr. Jayasinghe too did not last long, it was in his prize day speech in 1968 that he announced of his departure to Mt Lavinia as the Sub-Warden and that it would be Mr. E. L. Perera another of the Hayman era staff who would be taking over as the Headmaster.
It was such an irony that Gurutalawa had to have different headmasters at such close intervals. Mr. Jayasinghe had just had three years during which time the school excelled in tennis, his favorite sport. He didn’t last long at Mt Lavinia either and later went on to form the Wichely International School and is today an eminent personality of education.
Headmaster E. L. Perera [1969 – 1974]
Mr. E. L. Perera was already a familiar personality being a member of the staff during Dr. Hayman’s period, by now a member of the staff of Trinity College. He took over running of the school from Mr. Jayasinghe but things did not move in that dynamic manner as with Mr. Jayasinghe. He too was seen active in the tennis courts but a person who steered the school to a more spiritual atmosphere. A time for meditation was allotted before school commencement in the dining hall for about 30 minutes that was conducted and attended by him personally. If its effects bore fruit in those days is rather cloudy to know but we as adults today know of its positive effects in one’s body and mind.  
It is interesting to note that some boys including the writer was never an occupier of the senior dorms. The academically promising students were more or less screened and housed in the Keble Dormitory. There was the case when incorrigible characters were even appointed as prefects as a resort to discipline them. And it did work in most cases with extra responsibility entrusted to them.

Dr. R L Hayman Testimonial Laboratory Block 

The building programme was also revived during this time and the Hayman Testimonial Science Laboratory Block came up in this period. The bricks required for the project was manufactured in the school. The large pit formed after burrowing clay in the lower paddies was turned in to a water well supplementing the intermittent droughts which dried up the water source that flowed across the school premises. The bricks were passed from hand to hand up the hill to the building premises every evening when the boys would line along the road to the classroom block.
The new laboratory building was declared open by Dr. Hayman himself on 29th October 1970, when Dr. Hayman visited the school for the first time since his retirement in 1963. His passage to Sri Lanka and back was made possible by Mr. Lafir Kariapper an old boy. The laboratory was a long felt need as far back as 1951 when Dr. Hayman had made a plea for it then.

Dr R L Hayman with the 1970 scout troop during his first visit to the country since his departure in 1963

Gurutalawa now had a different challenge to meet with. The intake to the Lower 4th was generally the continuity of students from the two Prep Schools at Bandarawela and Kollupitiya. The intake from Bandarawela stopped in 1968 with them introducing a continuity of classes up to the G. C. E. Ordinary Level. However a quota of the students from Kollupitiya did continue to come and they were mainly the burgher boys whose parents served the Railway Department.
The school thus happened to rely much on direct entrants to the school and they were very raw and lacked the Thomian foundation and the Thomian grit…..the matter was not that grave as it is said in those days such raw entrants were a few in a class and very soon they would fall in line with the majority and make the perfect blend. But things turned out to be different with time when even boys from Kollupitiya also trickled since the unrest in 1971, after the insurgency.  The E. L Perera era came to an end in 1974.
Mr. M. L. C. Ilangakoon succeeded Mr. E. L. Perera and he revived the farm management and enhanced activities in the agriculture side both in the curriculum and in the practical classes in the field.  The garden produce supported the boarding and the students excelled in the subject. He introduced farm mechanization to increase productivity.  
However his stay in Gurutalawa lasted only for three years and he left in 1977 and was appointed as Warden of Mt Lavinia.

Rt. Rev Canon A J Foster memorial Hall

Gurutalawa A different school
Mr. S. C. H. de Silva succeeded as the Headmaster. A former principal of Prince of Wales Collage, he was the change maker of Gurutalawa. Changing the school to have a Kindergarten and classes up to Grade 6 were now inevitable to run the school as a private institution. The area of the Keble dormitory was changed to house the primary section of the school with sufficient classrooms and dormitories.
The boys completing the Ordinary Level did have to go to Mt Lavinia for Advance Level classes. This was also changed in 1978 with Advance Level classes also commencing in Gurutalawa. However this was not successful as it was difficult to retain qualified teachers to conduct the Advance Level classes.
The infrastructure needed much change and a new building programme commenced. Much of the old trees that dominated unbuilt areas had to be felled making way for the new buildings. The land area opposite the main classroom block which was the orchard was also turned into a building site.

New school buildings in the Primary Section

The staff did increase but so did many of the staff that continued form the Hayman era retire during this time. Mr. J. de S. Jayasinghe was appointed the deputy Headmaster a fitting position for his untiring devotion to the school. Rev. Fr. Goodchild who left school in 1969 was back as the school chaplain.
Dr. and Mrs. Hayman with Miss Joan Foster visited the school for the second time since their departure in 1963 as guests of the old boys.  
This new school did continue with almost a total student intake from the Uva province. Some old boys did send in their children as well. There had been changes in the numbers now with the day scholars outnumbering the boarders. The school for the first time in its record did have girl students going up to GCE O/L. Mr. Marasinghe’s daughter Miss. Shamindri Marasinghe was the last girl in the school since.
By 1987 the academic achievements of the school excelled. 1987 saw the first student Mr. D. C. Rupasinghe to enter Medical College from Gurutalawa. Gurutalawa had come up to the state of competing with any other government school by now, academically.
It should be noted as recorded in the First Fifty Years – History …… 95% of the students now hailed from non-English speaking homes in the province. The demand of the parents was to give their children a better English education and this was to be the very reason for sending them to Gurutalawa spending much for their tuition. The distressing fact was that the present day boys were shy and showed difficulty in carrying out a simple conversation. This showed a vast difference to those that came in from Bandarawela and Kollupitiya with a firm English foundation already driven into them.
Tragedy strikes again
Eight Headmasters and one acting Headmaster had been leading Gurutalawa up to 1987. The school did change from middle / upper school to a full school with a primary section. The student numbers were now in four digits. It is noted that the revenue by means of school fees were very much overdue and running the school required some stern and difficult decisions needing to be adopted.
This difficult responsibility was what Mr. J. B. Gunasegaram had to undertake in 1988 when he came in as the new Headmaster. The situation in the school required him to be a strict administrator during one of the darkest periods the country went through in 1988/1989.
It is said that some of the elements within and outside the school who dissented from his decisions took advantage of the situation of the country and the most gruesome event took place when unknown gunmen gunned down both Mr. and Mrs. Gunasegaram in the early hours of 20th October 1989.
Rev. Fr. Goodchild took over the school as the acting Headmaster until Mr. Colin Ratnayake was appointed the Headmaster…
Gurutalawa links again with Mt Lavinia
The period 2007-2012 was when Rev Fr Marc Billimoria was appointed the Head Master of the school. It was once again a very difficult period in the school. The farm had to been given on lease due to the inability to manage it by the school. The running of the school was also in a dilemma. The board of governors were in discussion whether to close down the school or to sell off the property.
The responsibility on Fr Billimoria was a gigantic one and the need to think different in resolving the issues was a need of the hour. He was genuinely supported by a dedicated set of old boys both at home and abroad. It was imminent by now that the problem at Gurutalawa was extra-large to be resolved by Gurutalawa alone. There was definitely a need to link up with Mt Lavinia as when everything started way back in 1942, if Gurutalawa was to be revived to its old glory. As a first step towards this bonding the Gurutalawa OBA agreed to appoint an active member of the Mt Lavinia EXCO Mr. Milinda Hettiarachchi as the Hony: Secretary of the Gurutalawa OBA.
Milinda Hettiarachchi presented the Guru position to the Mt Lavinia EXCO and proposed that both schools that was declared as one by late Warden De Saram to be reactivated once again. Initial reactions of the Mt Lavinia EXCO was not in favor to the proposal but did respond in a positive manner later.
Warden Rev. John Charles Puddefoot gave a kind hearing to the cause and a rigorous fundraising for the revival of Gurutalawa was organized by Milinda himself from the Thomians near and far. The call was responded lavishly and the revival of Gurutalawa commenced in a big way clouding the idea of closing down the school.
A Gurutalawa Day at Mt Lavinia is now an annual event to honour Dr R. L. Hayman and Warden De Saram recognizing their input both at Mt Lavinia and Gurutalawa.
Warden Indra De Soysa who succeeded Rev. Puddefoot agreed to continue with the reunion of both schools and to facilitate the Gurutalawa Day in Mt Lavinia. The dedication of the day being a Chapel Service and a Special Assembly in Mt Lavinia followed by a Cricket match played between both schools.
Gurutalawa in present times
S Thomas’ Collage Gurutalawa today is headed by Rev. Fr. Nihal Fernando. He is a Graduate of the Pontifical Urban University, of Rome, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kelaniya. The school under him is in an upward progressive trend, both in the academic fields and in the improving of the infrastructure which are now over 60 years old. The fund raising effort of Mr. Milinda Hettiarachchi and other philanthropic old boys are supporting him with the required finances and other amenities in these rehabilitations. The entrance road from the gate to the headmaster’s bungalow today has a macadamized surfacing done at cost of Rs. 2 million.

Rev Fr. Nihal Fernando Blessing the newly renovated swimming pool

The roofs of the chapel, the junior dormitories, Foster dormitory and the parents’ room that once had ‘maana grass’ and later asbestos are today covered with Zink Aluminiun profile sheeting costing Rs. 5.7 million, thanks to the generosity of two old boys Mr. Milton Fernando and Mr. Mahinda Padmasiri. The .Keble Hostel underwent a complete face-lift worth over Rs. 5.5 million utilizing funds generated from the school. It should be noted that Fr Nihal Fernando is not a loner in these developments. He is ably assisted by the current EXCO of the OBA and Mr. Milinda Hettiarachchi and Mr. Senaka De Fonseka who are both old boys of Mt Lavinia.
Of all the renovations undertaken by Rev Fr Nihal Fernando, the swimming pool project to tile the entire pool complete with new changing rooms, filtration plant and the surrounds costing over Rs. 7 million is the greatest gratitude that Gurutalawa offered to Dr. R L Hayman in present times in honorarium to his efforts and assets in founding this school in Gurutalawa in 1942.  
This year 2017 is recorded as the 75th year of S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa since its inception as a contingency plan to relocate part of S Thomas College Mt Lavinia in 1942.
Gurutalawa has had 22 Headmasters including those who acted for in this 75 years. The first 20 years has had only 2 Headmasters. However by the 25th year it had been headed by 7 Headmasters. The 50 year period to 2017 from 1997 has had had 15 Headmasters. It has not been an easy task in running this school ever since the departure of its founder Headmaster Dr. R. L. Hayman. The concerns of the governors on the need to function Gurutalawa then after the war cannot be a question to be asked now. Today the school is different to what it was initially required for. The issues and the concerns of discipline in the 1950/1960 era have come to stay as normal with the social structure in the country in a downward tilt.
The incumbent Headmaster Rev. Fr. Nihal Fernando has undertaken the task of upgrading the infrastructure to suite the present times. His major achievement had been the upgrading of the swimming pool to modern standards and the overhauling of the main building block with new roofing is no doubt a feather in his cap. It is also a fitting tribute to Dr R L Hayman to name the refurbished swimming pool in his memory. The upgraded main block is also a fitting tribute to Architect Shirley De Alwis a reputed personality in the discipline of Architecture in Sri Lanka.
Gurutalawa nestled in the valley of the Gonagala and the Warden’s Hill within the cool climes of the Uva province had shown resilience to many a problems that it had had to undergo during this 75 years. It has changed for the better but had to let go of some of its traditions during this period in need for continuing as an educational institution competing with many other government schools and its own sibling in Bandarawela.
Today we see a very different approach from Mt Lavinia towards Gurutalawa. The goodwill with Gurutalawa has never been close and favored as today. The Gurutalawa Day in Mt Lavinia initiated by Rev. Fr. N. M. P. Billimoria headmaster 2007-2012 and other social activities that are undertaken in Mt Lavinia with Gurutalawa will see many more years of Gurutalawa as a successful educational institution in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. It may not be the Garden of Eden that it was named after, with its rich orchard and the moorlands graced by the farm cows anymore…..but will always be a different school in this country.
Uditha Wijesena
The writer entered St Thomas’s Prep School Bandarawela in 1961; came to Gurutalawa in 1967 and left for Mt Lavinia in 1972. Much of the material for this write up was gleaned from Mr. O. E. J. de Soyza’s recordings in the First Fifty Year History of Gurutalawa. The photographs are also from the Gurutalawa websites and some taken on location by the writer himself.

        Headmasters of S Thomas College Gurutalawa

Dr W. R. L. Hayman
D Phil (Oxon)
Mr. C. H. L. Davidson
Dr W. R. L. Hayman
 D Phil (Oxon)
Rev. Canon A. J. Foster (Acting)
 MA (Oxon)
Mr. A. K. Chapman (Acting)
Mr. K. Dassanayake
Dr. F. Jayasinghe
BA (London), PhD
Mr. E. L. Perera
BSc (London), 1st Class Trained
Mr. M. L. C. Ilangakoon
BSc (London), AICTA
Mr. S. C. H. De Silva
BA (London), Dip Ed. (Lond.), Dip in School Admin (Indiana)
Mr. E. St. P. Gunawardene
BA (Cey.), Dip. Ed.
Mr. J. De S. Jayasinghe (Acting)
Mr. J. B. Gunasegaram
BSc, Msc (NY), MIMech. E. (Lond.), FIE (SL), C. Eng.
Rev. Fr. H C Goodchild (Acting)
Mr. C. B. Ratnayake
BSc (Cey.), Trained
Mr. L. A. M. Chandrasekera (Acting)
BA (Hons. Econ), Dip. Ed.
Mr. I. A. Fernando
Mr. G. C. Mendis
Mr. E. G. J. Canagasabey
Mr. J. Huyghebaert (Acting)
Rev. N. M. P. Billimoria
BA (Poona), PG Dip. Theo. (Oxon.), Dip. Min. TG (Ripon-Cuddesdon)
Rev. Nihal Fernando
Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy, BA. University of Kelaniya, Diploma in Counseling, University of Dallas