Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back to School after 48 Years

It’s a long time since I hung my boots from government service and now serving  a private sector consultancy in Architecture and Engineering. A young colleague working with me on two hospital projects in Hambantota and Nuwara Eliya  is Architect Danajaya Bandara [Dana]; a product of S Thomas’ College Bandarawela and is 20 years my junior. We are of two different eras in the same school. I being form St Thomas’ Preparatory School and him from S Thomas’ College Bandarawela.
The school is now upgraded to a senior school while it was only a junior school then.   
We had been to Hambantota for a meeting and were travelling to Nuwara Eliya when we decided to stay overnight in Bandarawela.  It was obvious and apparent that we both would visit school before getting to Nuwara Eliya on 27th Feb 2014.

We belonged to two different eras at school, the Keble era and the SLA era. However I was more on a transition period. Mr Keble had left in 1956, entrusting duties to Mr Paul Raj . Mr S L A Ratnayake [SLA] succeeded Mr Paul Raj in 1964. SLA developed the infrastructure to its present state from where Mr Keble  left in 1956.

I had left school in 1966...........  but today I enter through an archway that have replaced the large white masonry pillars on which hung two large black swing gates made of steel and timber that were strong and sturdy. It is with  sanctity and high nostalgia that I step in this land which molded me to what I am today. Thanks to those dedicated mentors who cared of us......they need to be  remembered with much gratitude.

There are significant landmarks that have survived the test of time after 48 year.  I keep clicking my camera until it said the card is full…… 


This is Wijewardane dormitory. it was a single storey building then. The old music room is still at one end of the dorm. It was in this room that we sang along with Ms Blanchard, Ms Marshall and later with Ms Sarathchandra the former wife  of late Prof Ediriweera Sarathchandra.

On the other end is the Corea dormitory which is the same old single storey building. The flowerbeds on the opposite side of the road are no more, probably to accommodate two-way traffic. It was only the Headmaster’s car and Rev:Father Jeerasinge’s Skoda that plied this road then.

The Corea dormitory  looks the same even after 48 years. The rainwater harvesting  tank at the corner of the dorm is still serving as a collection pond. I could remember this tank as a tiny tot. It was as high as my chin then, which is not more than 2’ 6’’ tall.
It was this water that served as our bum wash, when the water ran dry in the faucets. The  old loo house in Corea,  still has those ledged braced and battened doors. The typical timber door detail that we drew on our drawing boards back in the first year at university for engineering drawing practice in building construction.


The embankment behind the kindergarten building alongside the small play area that held the two swings and the see-saw still looks the same. The play  area now holds a building. The tiny driveways that we carved into this embankment forming a mini Khyber Pass where we played with our Dinky Toys on Sundays have all but got washed with time. Present day boys hardy play with Dinky toys anymore. Times have changed.

The open Arena during the Keble era is replaced with a kindergarten play area.


The pathway down to the spout where we went for our weekly bath is now cemented. Boys do not bathe in the spout anymore and the waterway is not rich as then. The large buttercup trees that lined this path have gone. We collected the tiny buttercups that dropped after flowering on our way to the spout.


The dinning hall is the same old building but the partition that separated Ms Unambowe’s tuck shop is now incorporated in the dinning area. The blue Formica laminated long tables are still existent. The brown benches are now blue. I recall the mealtimes where Ms Janze  and Ms Luduvyke supervised us. Everything on the plate was deemed edible. There were times when murunga and mellum was found under the table and all in that table were punished. We were not of the habit of taking goodies from others’ plates  but loading them with the unpalatable stealthily.


The old trophies from Mr Keble's hunting trips that decorated the dining hall walls are no more.The old school photos that lined the top rail on the walls from 1948 onwards are still there. The indelible ink writing on the 1948 photos have stood the test of time.  The floor has the touch of the new trend; ceramic tiles.


The ground in front of the Blanchard dorm is still spacious where the scouts of  Gurutalawa  had their campfires when they camped here with Rev: Father Goodchild. This dorm too has grown taller and it is sad to see A/C comfort needed in Bandarawela now. The dhoby days are gone; get the feeling that the soiled linen is washed within in machines and dried on the fence.


It is with great reverence that I stood here still; my head held high looking on at the old school crest on the gable forming the portico where the Headmaster parked his car. Also it is rewarding to see this piece of legend not replaced when the School became a Collage and changed its motto from ‘THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD’ to ‘ESTO PERPETUA’. However it is sad to see this view distorted by the roofed stair way.  I feel it is unnecessary here. It was SLA who roofed the pathways from the dorms to the dining hall.



The red trapezoidal walls holding the canopy over the entrance to the corridor of the main building near the old school office is still intact. Not much change in the classrooms of yesteryear. The old Tamil medium section is still seen in the rear of the main building probably used  for other purposes now. The lodging house of the  office aid cum school supplier who rode daily to Bandarawela on the Humber delivery bicycle whose name I forget is  now a workshop.


The most pristine piece of architecture of the old school was the little chapel that came up during Mr Paul Raj’s period. The construction of it was a great experience to us. The building premises were out of bounds to us but we stared at the busy workmen going about their daily scores from an allowed distance. The chapel was later added with a belfry outside in the garden. We non-Christians were very much the choristers then
We had morning prep in the class rooms and were allowed outside of class to recite Sinhala Kavi and English Poetry loudly in order to memorize and recite byheart when in the class. This loud recitation was allowed  behind the chapel as its granite walls would buffer our loudness to those studying in the classrooms.

The need to be outside of the prep class was not mainly to byheart kavi but to catch the morning sun to rid the severe cold that prevailed towards the year end. We used to sit at the chapel doors or in the drain edges catching the morning sun but occasionally being punished for chatting while sunning.

Dana with me at the Chapel


The doorsteps and drain gullies where we sat sunning


A new upper school building complex has come up alongside the chapel to match with the architecture. 


It was very sad to see the play ground that had a green carpet of grass bare of it now. The old pavilion building looks ancient and dilapidated. The roof has had a new cladding but for the building.   


The games viewing benches done in 1965 by SLA was a novel idea making use of the embankment. The benching has now been extended. This may have had a negative effect in upgrading the old pavilion.


Finally the landmark building of the school, the Keble Memorial Hall designed by yet another old boy  late Architect Lala Adithiya stands solid at the entrance to the school. The work on the land leveling for the building commenced in my last year in school, 1966. SLA was very instrumental in  organizing many fund raising activities to raise the cost of construction. We boys carried brick cards home with each brick named after the wardens and dignitaries associated with S Thomas’ Colleges and Schools. If I remember right a full card collected 100 rupees. This was quite a sum then. The monthly school bill would also be around Rs 120 then. Madduma Ratnayake's family contributed with machinery for the land levelling while M Y Hemachandra & Co was the building contractor, another parent.

DSCF9566   The Keble Memorial Hall

We met three present day teachers Mr Denzil, Mr Bandara and Mr Lal who were very generous in serving us tea. They were impressed of my narration of how the school was then and of the letter writing that was mandatory on Sunday. Today it is the mobile phone that contact parents. Times have changed.

We discuss about school running now. One significant change seen today is the number of day scholars have exceeded the boarders. Get the feeling that priorities have changed from a boarding school to a day-school. This is reflected from the playground being bare of grass. It was here that we spent much of the evenings with Mr Markandan the Games Prefect. The grounds do not seem a priority anymore.

We discuss about any assistance that we could provide on engineering and architectural expertise. The need for developing the pavilion was a requirement, both Dana and I would like to look at it seriously.

It was a memorable visit for me and this writeup is for all of us who passed-out from this institution, and are indebted for all that we received. 


  1. Hi Uditha,
    Nice to see all these pictures of prep school. I remember playing behind the kindergarten during our lunch break. on the left of the picture do I see some steps which we used to go up to the swimming pool. And did miss Marshall take our music lesson.
    Any way thanks or that. you have done a good job
    Also the music room- did miss

    1. Hi MB,
      Yes the steps lead to the Pieris dorm, and the pool converted Edirisinghe dorm. You are right Ms Marshall took our music as well before Ms Sarthchandra I recon.

  2. Jayantha WanniarachchiMarch 6, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    SLA was appointed Headmaster while Mr. Paulraj was alive and not after his demise.
    Madduma Bandara's Family contributed by supplying the Machinery for levelling the site as his Father had died of an accident while we were in school.
    Wonderful piece of narration.Regards!

    1. Thanks for putting the record straight Wanni, you were senior to us, I was a brat then. I will correct the narration accordingly.


  3. It is like suddenly meeting your dead parents after 48 years.Remembring past is enjoying present with sweet and sour memmories.Sira from Melbourne

  4. Excellent. Very nostalgic going down memory lane