Kingswood’s Being Moved to Randles Hill (1923)

One of the pressing problems young Kingswood had was the need for space and facilities. From its early Pavilion Street and Brownrigg Street days, this is an issue that weighs the hearts and heads of the closest of the school. Though for many years, this issue was sought after and many schemes to get a new spacious location for the school was tried out, nothing materialized out of these efforts.

On the other hand, Kingswood was showing good progress as an institute of learning. In the annual inspection of the school, carried out by the government appointed schools’ inspector, Mr. Leigh Smith (whose name is centrally connected with education in colonial Ceylon) makes the following observations regarding the school:

“There were many satisfactory features about the working of this school: the spirit of the Boys is excellent and endures, after school days are over, in the hsape of an excellent Old Boys organization There can be no question as to the value of such a training in loyalty. The school is not valued simply for the benefits derived from it in the shape of coaching for examinations”.

Leigh Smith’s observations second that, at least by 1915, Blaze’s vision of opening the school — which he had in 1891, 24 years earlier — had been well fulfilled. For, Blaze states in his memoir KFE: The Story of Kingswood, Kandy that the priority of his school would be “Education and not Examination”.

Sir John S Randles: the man who made Kingswood's new home a reality

Sir John S Randles: the man who made Kingswood’s new home a reality

However, the issue to do with space, though repeatedly consulted, was not favourably sorted out even by 1922. In 1923, the congestion issue was temporarily relieved when the Kingswood kindergarten classes occupied rooms set vacant by Girls’ High School, which had recently moved to Katukele. But those connected with the Methodist Mission were looking for a lasting solution that would not be solved short of the securing of “permanent premises” and much was done to achieve this end between 1917 and 1922. Blaze generously acknowledges the names of Dr. James Moulton, a Methodist Oriental scholar, Rev. William Goudie (the President of the Wesleyan Conference elected in 1920) and that of Mr. E.L. Bevan (a Methodist lay missionary).

In 1922, E.B. Denham, Education Inspector, sums up Kingswood’s plight as follows: “I consider Kingswood most inadequately housed and extremely badly equipped. It is no reflection on the Principal, as it is largely a matter of finance; but it has to be remedied… As they stand, the buildings are more fit for a Night School. Yet I can say that more daylight is let into education in this school than perhaps any other school of the same size in Ceylon” (my emphasis).

Rev. William Goudie

Rev. William Goudie

Among the alternative sites to which the school can be shifted, were grounds in Ampitiya, Getambe and Peradeniya. On Mr. Denham’s suggestion, Peradeniya was given priority and a serene plot of land named “Solomon’s Gardens” was decided on as the site for Kingswood’s permanent home. The premises were secured with much difficulty, but the buildings and equipment for the new school was estimated at Rs. 200,000 (in 1923). It is here that the legendary donation from an English Wesleyan Methodist, Sir John Randles — a businessman and MP — was made. Randles, having heard of Kingswood and its struggle to find roots in a home of its own, had donated 10, 000 Pounds (Rs 150,000) to that cause. His action of generosity — to a school that he had no connection with, or which he had never been to — was commented on by Randles in the following words:

“I am not a learned man. I am not clever. But I think I have a little of the commercial instinct within me and my instinct told me that I must put my money in the right place, where value would be received and good results follow. And of all the projects laid before me, the project of Kingswood seemed to be the most opportune and desirable”.

With the grants received through the Methodist Mission, the colonial government, the school’s community and — as mentioned — through the generosity of Sir John Randles, the new gates for Kingswood were opened in 1923, with the first stones being simultaneously laid for the new buildings. The school opened at the new home in 1925.

A brief wiki entry on Sir John Randles identifies him as a British Politician and as a businessman. He was born in 1875 in Boston, Lincolnshire and made his mark in the coal and steel industries. He is shown as having had a vibrant political career — with both victories and losses — in and around Manchester. He passes away in 1945. Today, John Randles’ portrait is reverently placed in Kingswood’s L.E Blaze Memorial Main Hall. The story of the British industrialist who, almost as if he was the hand of God, helped with the most generous of donations to set up Kingswood at its current premises has gained legendary status. To feel grateful to such acts of faith and to contribute to the school’s future betterment is our debt to carry.

 

Kingswood Values Modesty and Humbleness, More than the Hulk

“We are all temporary visitors at Kingswood. That we may die or move on, but Kingswood has to stay behind” — Words of Godfrey Scott (as overheard by the writer on an unspecified day, mid 90s).

I

 

In an age of chest-thumping, where everyone thinks he is a Hulk, we must remind ourselves that modesty is a quality and a virtue. Specially, in the case of Kingswood, modesty and humbleness are two qualities you should cultivate —- and there are two reasons for this. The first reason is tied up with the school’s early vision, where it was established and brought up as a college that is neither ambitious nor uncannily competitive. The “growth of character” and the “values” and “qualities” as befits a young gentleman were at the forefront of Louis Edmund Blaze’s agenda as school master. Part of Blaze’s vision was to break away from the Anglican School set up and the harsh and pressurized exam-mentality students were often coached for higher bar exams. This is both seen in Blaze’s emphasis on a range of extra and co-curricular activities from the onset itself; as well as in his own testimony as recorded in his memoir KFE: The Story of Kingswood, Kandy.

Secondly, Kingswood should be humble and modest, for we are modest in our actual achievements and claims to history. How many national or international-level thinkers have we produced? How many radical men have we given to society, who would transform existing social conditions for the greater good of mankind? How many top level doctors, engineers, lawyers or technicians have we produced, whose work will stand out in history — such as the work of a Senaka Bibile or a PR Anthonisz — and whose names will be spoken of as being products of Kingswood? In 123 years, Kingswood has not produced a national Cricketer. Kingswood’s main bid for a piece of history is in rugby: but, then, again, how many national rugby players have we produced since 1969 (when the game was resumed)?

Tissa J

Tissa J

The same applies to the field of scholarship and academic activity, for in the history of the school we have produced but a few academics whose names hold down with weight; and whose recognition carves itself to history’s bedrock. Of course, I am by no means suggesting that producing “historical giants” should be the main job of an educational institute — because, Kingswood, as an educational institute, has been doing its job quite well —, but my point is that our humble and modest claims should give us a cue to be modest and humble in our dealings. Among the historically-recognized “Kingswood figures” in the Academy, we still have a vibrant cluster: but, most of them being Old Boys and masters who are either from the 1960s or before. A name that comes to mind is a loyal Old Boy, Tissa Jayathilake, who regularly writes to the papers on anniversaries and special events that pertain to Randles Hill. Jayathilake is currently the Director of the Fulbright Commission, who is widely respected in the field of English studies. During his stay at Kingswood, he is said to have been of an equal prowess in football, cricket and athletics, while being the Senior Prefect as well. Jayathilake later graduated from Peradeniya with Honours in English. Sarath Amunugama, in French, had a profitable career at Kelaniya, now being a top administrator of the same university. The gentleman was chief guest at the Kingswood Prizegiving in 2001.

Two names that the field of Literature will remember are those of the Scott brothers, Andrew and the late Godfrey. Godfrey Scott was as close to the school as anyone could be till his death in 2001. In the mid 90s, I remember as a young boy seeing Godfrey Scott approach the school gate one evening. The security guard posted there — knowing neither Scott nor Kingswood — very harshly stopped the geriatric Scott from entering the premises. Scott simply told the security guard in a solid tone that he has come not to take anything away from the school, but to give to his alma mater; and that we are all temporary visitors at Kingswood. That we may die or move on, but Kingswood has to stay behind.

 

II

 

Dr. G.C Mendis

Dr. G.C Mendis

Kingswood was never an ambitious beast, it was never a presumptuous pig that ate everything that lay on its way.  In fact, between the inception of the school in 1891 and its Diamond Jubilee in 1951, there are three names that I am familiar with which are still respected in their respective academic fields. One of these is the name of Louis Blaze —- the founding father of the school, whose contribution to Education is well documented and respected. In fact, Blaze’s book History of Ceylon was used as the prescribed Junior High School school text for History till the 1930s: when that book was replaced by a text written by yet another Old Kingswoodian, G.C. Mendis.

G.C. Mendis’ name is among the pioneering products of the University of Peradeniya, where he graduated as a scholar and researcher in History and Archaeology. The third name to be evoked here is that of K.M. De Silva, whose writing and anthologies on Lankan History are still current. Now, let me connect the names of Blaze, Mendis and De Silva to the main thread I started with —- that of humbleness and modesty as a virtue:

In 1947, Louis Blaze is 86 years old; he is 4 years from breathing his last. He had “formally” retired from school in 1923, but was still known to be closely connected with the school’s activities. In that year, the chief guest of the Kingswood prize giving is Dr. G.C. Mendis. Writing the annual Prologue, Blaze, in that year, pens out a witty and perceptive verse, yet mapping out the global and local changes and anxieties in politics, strife and many kinds of destability. However, the Prologue ends with the following lines, with which Blaze (as Prologue Writer) addresses Mendis:

“And now Sir, you are welcome here tonight
Our keenest seeker after truth and light.
Well will you play in life your chosen part
Because you carry Kingswood in your heart”

This is the most humble, yet the most warm welcome a Kingswoodian can ever give a fellow Kingswoodian. The warmth of the words and the sincere kindred spirit visible in them is further polished by the fact that Blaze, the writer, is three generations senior to Mendis.

In 1949, the reciter of the Kingswood Prologue is none other than K.M. De Silva — who is yet a senior boy at school and (as it should be) the winner of the Senior Oratory Prize for that year. For a reader who is familiar with K.M. De Silva’s many publications on Sri Lankan history it would be an amusing fact to see some of the contents of the Prologue of 1949. In fact, this Prologue is dense with issues and aspects of Lankan contemporary history which De Silva would ponder on for the rest of his career as an academic. The Prologue refers to agrarian reforms of the 1940s, the Citizenship issue of the Estate Tamil people of Indian Origin, and regional tensions among South Asian powerhouses. In the decades to come, KM De Silva would be the editor, anthologer and author of many volumes in which the said issues would merely be triggering points.

What we can gather from Blaze’s words welcoming G.C Mendis in 1947 is how our Founder values knowledge and learning above age or ability. Blaze has always been known as a gentle, mild-mannered person. His priorities and values still hold a good lesson for us, the Kingswoodians of a Digital Age of Cyber Patriotism.

(A link to an article on GC Mendis, upon his death in 1976 can be found here. This link will take you to Michael Roberts’ Thuppahi’s Blog GC Mendis Commemoration Article)

Revisiting a “Welcome” 24 Years Ago

In the final week of January, the new students for the Primary Grade 1 classes were being admitted to school (also see: Grade 1 Welcome). On that same day, I happened to be at the school premises over some other matter and I had the opportunity of witnessing the parents / guardians of the newly enrolled students walking towards the main hall with their kids where, I think, a special assembly was organized.

Among the guardians who were walking towards the hall was Mrs. WG Asintha, who was a Primary School teacher for many years — and a formidable one at that, mind you — who had in her company a young lady and a newly entrant kid. Of course, Mrs. Asintha was all smiles as she generally is, and the vigour of her step had not lost its steadiness even though she has now been away from Kingswood for some years, following her retirement a few years ago. The child she was accompanying, I guessed, should be either a daughter’s, if not, one of her son’s. One way, or another, here she was ushering in to Kingswood another generation of Gnanaratnes.

A few meters behind Mrs. Asintha, I met another beaming couple leading a tiny tot towards the Blaze Memorial Hall: Mr. Withanage — Table Tennis coach at Kingswood for some years and the elder brother of the famous Kingswood, Kandy SC  and Sri Lanka Center, JCG Withanage — and his missus, leading to school what would be another generation of that sporting family.

imagesWhen I entered school in 1990, I remember quite well my first day at Randles’ Hill. The “welcome” for us was held in a building in the Primary School, which was subsequently given to Seethadevi College in exchange for some land annexed to the college ground. Welcoming me to the Grade 1C class was Mrs. Pearl Guneratne. Her husband cum Primary Head of our time, Mr. Guneratne was also a protagonist of that long ago “welcome”. Accompanying me to Kingswood on day 1 was my uncle — who, I was later to learn, was instrumental in my admission to the school.

Tradition should make one humble and humane. Witnessing the teacher of '90 and the TT Captain of the same year ushering their offspring in 2014 is a mark of a continuing tradition and a extending bond with Kingswood

Tradition should make one humble and humane. Witnessing the teacher of ’90 and the TT Captain of the same year ushering their offspring in 2014 is a mark of a continuing tradition and a extending bond with Kingswood

But, what is crucial to this essay is that even on that long ago debut, Mrs. Asintha was a main feature, for it was she whom I first saw on entering the hall in which the festivities were arranged. I was perpetually scared of Mrs. Asintha who had the most vocal voice in the history of mankind and who appeared to be stern, five days a week for the whole academic year. In fact, I very well remember that those days it was Mrs. Asintha who recited the five precepts (so that the students can repeat after her) and relevant verses for the students of that block, during religious observances every morning. She would recite the verses from her class — 1B — and the students of the entire block will repeat after her; and there were 4 classes in the ground floor of that block: 1 A, 1 B, 1 C and 3 C.

In 1990, Mr. Withanage would have been in a senior class; for, as the record books hold forth he was the Captain of the Kingswood Table Tennis team in the years 89 and 90. He is a left handed, free-flowing paddler whom I have seen as a coach than a player; but, whose exploits are neatly recorded in the Annual Reports of the Principal during his playing years, as well as in YMBA TT tournament souvenirs.

Meeting Mrs. Asintha and Mr. Withanage the way I did, for me, was a rare synchronization of past, present and future — the teacher and TT captain of 1990, heralding forth the future of the school to be. Surely, the school must have changed from the times they were familiar with it and Kingswood, today, has to have a different resonance altogether as an institute. But, for them to come back to this place with yet another generation to be installed there with pride and delight must surely mean that they carry an “unchangeable” Kingswood in their hearts and minds: a Kingswood that doesn’t waver in spirit and in sentiment.

Enter, Batch 2027!

Following much commotion and confusion at the interviews, the students for the Grade 1 classes were finally admitted to school on the 28th of January 2014, with a colourful welcome.

The Principal of the school Mr. PGS Bandara, the Regional Manager of the People’s Bank, priests, teachers and parents of the incoming students were there to grace the occasion.

Kingswood Primary School

Kingswood Primary School

Things started off with two “incredibly cute” welcome speeches from two students of Grade 2. Seniority pays off, one might say! The air became quite spiritual and pious, soon after,  with the chanting of pirith and sermons from a catholic and an Islamic priest, respectively.

Some aesthetic items were lined up for entertainment of which a “bhajan geet”, a Shanthikarma display and a power point presentation of the past activities of the primary section stole the limelight. The audience was seen to be clearly impressed by the talents of the primary students and their applause were warm and sincere.

The Principal appeared to be pleased as well, and he mentioned that he was fortunate to be at Kingswood, and that it is a “divine ground” to tread on for any student.  He said that the students were literally “gentlemen”, and that he has seldom come across such disciplined individuals.

The program was organized by the Head and the Staff of the Primary Section with the guidance of the Principal. The students who were enrolled at Kingswood would be the school’s batch of 2027. Only time will tell what talents they will add to Kingswood’s records and as to how they would contribute to the school’s future path. One would have to wait and see!

Kingswoodians On Rambukwella

Following are some comments and replies left for us by some Kingswood boys (mainly Past Boys) who had read our submission titled “The Last lesson of Rambukwella” (published in June 2013). The full article could be read at http://mykckblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/the-last-lesson-of-rb-rambukwella/ .

Amila Gamage:

“Mr. Rambukwella is the best principal I have seen in my Kingswood life from 1992 to 2000. The service given by our Vice Principal Mr. H.K Upasena is [equally] great”.

Chaminda Karunarathne (Senior Prefect, 1992): 

“I was well fortunate enough to be the Head Prefect of the school, during 1991-1992, post centenary year, under his guidance. He was a legendary master of discipline with a farsighted vision. I still stand on many principles which he believes.He deserves the title, Head Master for ever”.

T.A Miskin (Former Cricketer, 1991):

“I was with him for about 3 years in the school and I can still remember before every match we played he used to wish us and in the end of the speech he used to say to us “play up, play up, play up the game”. A great gentleman principal [at] our mother Kingswood. Long life, Sir!!!”

Surath Liyanage (Former Cricketer, 1995):

“Mr Rambukwell was one of the best principals who served at KCK . Mr Rambukwella encouraged and supported every sport at the school, not only Rugby. From 1990 – 1996 our sportsmen did well in every sport . I still remember his favourite quote “Whatever you do , do it properly ”. Actually, this quote [was] carved into my brain and it helped me to achieve many things in my life . Thank you sir , may the triple gem bless you!!!”

Pradeepa Senanayake (Past Interactor):

“I was at grade 3 or 4 when Mr.Rambukwella guided Kingswood. Even though I know very less about his reign I know enough about the standards the school maintained at that time”.

M. Shanaz (Past Interactor):

“I think for me he was the best Principal that we ever had (1985-1996). He was a great man. I always looked up to him. He made sure that all the Gentleman of Kingswood, were well maintained up to the standard in everything. He encouraged everyone to excel in everything. I felt helpless after he left my beloved College. It was heartbreaking. I still do remember his words…He is a mentor.. I salute Mr. Rambukwella-the greatest”.

Ranil De Silva (Senior Prefect, 1995):

“I must confess that it was Mr. Rambukwella [who] was the mere reason behind for stripping off the silver and gold from my chest and [it] was also him who put them back. It has been my greatest 2 years of my 14 year long college life..His way of managing the already set discipline to much higher standards was the most important practice for him. The clean white dress with the College tie everyday took us a while to spot [him] among the naughty boys around and honestly, it was quite deceiving…Hats off to you SIR! we really miss a Principal like you!”

Indika Wilegoda (President, Arts Society, 2002):

“I can still imagine [as] he was standing under the nelli tree. what a personality and what a proud man when he was standing infront of us!!! He [had] a Heart of Oak. I still respect Mr Rabukwella”

David Edirisinghe (Past President, Kingswood Union):

“He is the Great principal who got me to design and build the Balcony to the college hall and named it after L.E Blaze. Mr. Nihal Herath started this venture by getting my advice to extend the stage to accommodate the staff as it was designed for a few. They were honest at all their dealings and maintained the spirit of Kingswood. No one could point out the finger at them for anything. Please remember the[m] who laid the foundation for the new Kigswood grounds in 1994 when I was the President of the OBA and for getting officials from the Sri Lanka Cricket Board such as T.B Kehelgamuwa & Ranjith Fernando. Both Names must be recorded in the History Of Kingswood, [while] not forgetting Mr Rambukwella [published] the second edition of the KFE book”.

According to Vidyartha Sources Some Masters from Kingswood, too, Were Involved In the Beating of Vidyartha Boys. Kingswood Sources Confirm the Fact

Our blog team wonders: Of how many thug-incidents concerning Kingswood do we have to write about this year? Since we began this blog space, we have had to sadly acknowledge an alarming number of discipline breaches, mug ups and sports-related violence in which the school has been a party. The most recent — and the most violent — of these is the ONGOING clash with Vidyartha College, in which the college name has been drawn.

We use the word ONGOING with responsibility, as we learn that the series of clashes which began a few days ago over a simple incident in a train is not over, yet. We learn that more clashes have been “planned” to take place in the coming weeks, even as over 15 students of Vidyartha were handed over to the Police and were remanded (to be released on bail) last week. From what we hear and from what was carried in the news, the incident sparked when a verbal exchange between two students ended in a mini punch up in a train. Someone had trampled the other’s shoe and a heated argument has ensued. This was followed by a punch up of some Kingswood lads in Kandy. Vidyarthians were isolated from school buses and beaten up at Mulgampola, as a sequential next step. Things came to a bizarre crisis when what was reported as over a “100 Vidyarthians” flocked at the Kingswood gates to return the punch up.

According to Vidyartha sources some masters from Kingswood, too, were involved in the beating of Vidyartha boys. Kingswood sources confirm the fact. Kingswood sources further add that the Vidyarthians were “allowed to come in” to the Kingswood premises and were then beaten up. Over 15 of such boys were handed over to the Police. Other boys confirm that this string of violence is “not over”. They expect more exchanges as “retaliation” in the coming weeks.

A Facebook post wishing Kingswood's "Kingly Dynasty" long life. The germs, however, need to be treated and removed.

A Facebook post wishing Kingswood’s “Kingly Dynasty” long life. The germs, however, need to be treated and removed.

Our earnest question is as to how Kingswood — the self-proclaimed plane of “gentle men” — deteriorate to the level of such rowdy nincompoops? When we idly pride ourselves in ideals which our founding fathers considered wise a 100 years ago, we have shown a side in us that cannot be appraised under any circumstances. We don’t know who is right or wrong in this situation, but there are several alarming facts (provided that these facts are true) which any patriotic Kingswoodian should pay close attention to.

Principal Rambukwella with the Prefect of the Centenary Year (1991)

Principal Rambukwella with the Prefect of the Centenary Year (1991)

One is to do with the “teacher’s role” in handling the crisis. Both Kingswoodian and Vidyarthian sources testify that masters were seen active in the punch up at Randles Hill. Perhaps, this is a new trend set by some individuals in the Kingswood staff, which — in history — has been well respected for its level-headedness. Kingswood is the breeding ground of persons in the caliber of Ernest Spencer, W. Luterz, Arthur McGill, V.D. Paulraj, B.A. Thambapillai, Leo James, Winston Hoole, D.C. Matarage, to name a few of hundred and hundreds of teachers who have gone down in history as men who upheld the best of “Kingswood values”, as set out by our pioneers. In more recent years, Principals in the caliber of Nihal Herath (1985-1989), R.B Rambukwella (1989-1997) are known to have yoked the college with the best of discipline. Even in periods where the Head’s chair was vacant, Acting Principals in the mold of H.K. Upasena (1998-1999) led by sterling example holding the school at the highest level.

The teachers who were involved in the brawl — whoever they are, and provided the accounts of their thug activity is true — cannot be praised under any circumstance. Even if they were to be killed by the Vidyarthian studentship, we believe, that to promote a maul is against the best dictates of what Kingswood stands for. To “allow the (attacking Vidyartha students) into the school” and then to mug them up is also problematic and morally questionable. In a broad sense, by doing so, one is using the Kingswood “space” — which you, on other days, shower with all kinds of epithets, love, luster and gold dust — as a “strategic ground” to mug up school boys, thug style. But, the qualities Kingswood is said to stand for — indeed, the qualities found in the words of its founder — include “gentleness”, “manliness” (which, I think, means “acting straight”) and others, which do not include “strategic beat up” of boys from Vidyartha.

Kingswood, we feel, should be rescued from the shambles into which it is being thrown. In the Vote of Thanks of the Kingswood Union Secretary at the Prize Giving, 2013, that gentleman cautioned us all as to how testing these times could be for a school that is being run without a “Head”. By “Head”, Mr. Kamal Dole most probably meant the Principal of the school, but the reference could also be extended to mean a “brain”, or an “apparatus through which we can engage in meaningful thought”. As much as the school needs a proper Head Master / Principal, the more compelling need is for the school community — teachers, administrators and boys — to act with farsightedness and with a conscience. Internal discipline has become a main concern to many who are closely connected to the school right now; and remedies should be thought out and implemented without delay.

Maybe the masters and students who beat up the aggressors who came to round up the college that day had the best intentions in mind. But, it is simply not right by Kingswood’s standards and doesn’t set a right example for anyone who aspires to be a worthy citizen and individual.

Kingswood — 25; Other Offending Schools — 00

As a school and as a sporting body, we insist on discipline and fair play under all circumstances, nor do we promote sabotage or politically motivated decisions to stand in the way of a school sports team. We feel that the SLSRFA is being unfair and unsportsmanlike in their double-standards shown to Kingswood. Since the SLSRFA is a sports body and not a corrupt traffic cop by the road we request some consistency into these crimes and punishments.

When the ugly on field maraud against St. Anthony’s College happened, we were among the first to condemn the act and to call for firmer discipline within the First XV ranks. As much as we underline the paramount importance of discipline in sports under all conditions, we are quite skeptical of the ban of 25 Kingswood rugger players which the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Union is said to have slapped on the Kingswood team.

Not serious enough in the administrative eye

Not serious enough in the administrative eye

First of all, we applaud the SLSRFA for taking some form of disciplinary step in dealing with the Kingswood-Antho issue; even though, they played “shy bride” throughout the season and failed to take any action in what can be considered as serious breaches of on field discipline in matches involving Royal, St. Joseph, Science, Isipathana and Dharmaraja. We note that serious on field indiscipline was captured on streaming and video in almost all these matches, and a prolonged debate was initiated on the same issues by social networks and web-based sports media. But, either because majority of those schools are well connected, or because the SLSRFA didn’t have enough calcium nothing was done except the issuing of press releases warning future breaches of a similar bearing with punitive action.

Following the Kingswood-Antho fracas, we learn that St. Anthony’s has been “severely warned” — whatever that means — and the entire rugby squad of Kingswood’s 2013 First XV has been suspended from the game for one year. Speaking to the online Daily Mirror, on September 25th, the teacher in charge of Kingswood’s rugby, Mr. Ruban Wijewardena had said that the school is yet to be informed of such a decision by the SLSRFA and that when / if such a directive is given Kingswood will lodge an official complain against it. Daily Mirror had further condemned the suspension as unfair and severe, hinting that the punishment is more aimed at sabotaging Kingswood’s plans for next season’s rugby.

We would like to highlight the following as strange and abnormal:

1) While 25 players have been suspended from Kingswood, not a single player has been charged and suspended from any of the other schools that were reported of on field misconduct. This includes players, officials and well wishers. In incidents involving Royal and Isipathana there was equal or more incriminating evidence against individuals alleged to have been involved in the breach of player conduct.

2) The role played by the referees and officials when the Kingswood-Anthony’s disruption broke out is equally dubious, as video footage shows minimal interference on the part of the main referee in trying to control the situation. Rather, the Police and the players are left to bring matters under control. So, if by non-interference, the referee indirectly promoted “anarchy”, how could one charge-sheet players, who were not “directed” by the referee?

3) While 25 players from Kingswood are suspended, not a single SACK player is brought to book, even though logic dictates that it takes two to tango.

Jack Sparrow at the wheel seen to be much better than the governing of the schools' game

Jack Sparrow at the wheel seen to be much better than the governing of the schools’ game

Further, an insider to the schools’ game would know that the Kingswood team of 2013 was a virtual Under 18 side, over half the squad valid and legit to play rugby in 2014 as well. In fact, in most fixtures Kingswood wouldn’t play a Second XV game, as their first choice players were mostly between years 15-18. The suspension under question, if executed, would guarantee that these players, who are to mature next season, will be kept off the grounds, and that Kingswood will have to play a greenhorn side for a second successive season. Suspending 25 players is no easy decision — nor is it a light decision. It is pulling down from the bottom the entire foundation and base of a team, and therefore there should be much deliberation and good enough reason before such an action is taken.

The President of the SLSRFA is the immediate Past Principal of Kingswood College, Mr. Ranjith Chandrasekara, whose good work has always earned the praise of this blog team (Mr. Chandrasekara left Kingswood in early 2013 to take up a bureaucratic post connected to the Ministry of Education). Kingswood rugby had a decisive decade from 2001-2010 where everything that was kicked seemed to fly through the posts and every break they made seemed to end in a try. It was a decade of high discipline rugby and it was a decade which brought to the arena not only a cluster of high ranking stars, but also a group of big names in rugby coaching such as Ronnie and Nilfer Ibrahim, as well as Mohotilal Jayathilake. Among the rugby administrators that emerged out of the 2001-2010 spin of Kingswoodian dominance is Ranjith Chandrasekara’s name.

Ruban Wijewardena (screen left) in more prosperous years

Ruban Wijewardena (screen left) in more prosperous years

The ban on Kingswood shouldn’t be taken lightly. While as a school and as a sporting body, we insist on discipline and fair play under all circumstances, nor do we promote sabotage or politically motivated decisions to stand in the way of a school sports team. We feel that the SLSRFA is being unfair and unsportsmanlike in their double-standards shown to Kingswood, while turning a blind eye to the on field misdemeanor of at least five other schools. Since the SLSRFA is a sports body and not a corrupt traffic cop by the road — who will book a smaller vehicle, while saluting a VIP stickered Pajero for the same traffic offense — we request some consistency into these crimes and punishments. Kingswood should not be made a scapegoat or a plaything to satisfy SLSRFA bureaucrats’ unusual desires.

On a different note, one also has to question the integrity of the SLSRFA who has made blunder over blunder in the past few seasons, being repulsively unacceptable to the level where they cannot conduct a few games without some form of controversy. While their treatment of “chosen” schools has become a growing menace since late, their inconsistencies and blunders in administrative work as well as in enacting equal rules and conditions for all have been suspect.  Their almighty decision to revise the Royal-Isipatana scoreline this season was a unprecedented first in world history. Their “selective amnesia” in meting out discipline, therefore, is not to be marveled at; though it has  already earned the wrath of any level-headed sports fan.

Chest-Thumping Gentlemen and Humble Kingswoodians

I think Kingswood needs to put a pause on its heels and re-set the clock a bit. Commitment and innovative energy has to return to some of our activities. The sickening Facebook chest thumping and parading the “gentleman” banner in public should stop — for it only makes us laughed at.

In his KFE: The Story of Kingswood, Kandy, Louis Blaze explains about the humble beginnings of his “experiment in education”: the founding of Boys’ High School, Kandy (which is, in 1898, to be renamed as Kingswood after the Wesleyan institute by that name in Bath, England). In his narration, Blaze refers to how the Head of the School made it a special note to address the boys of the school as “the gentlemen of Kingswood”. This is a practice that has been followed by succeeding Principals, and is still very much in usage, 120 years later.

I'm Saman, I'm from Sri Lanka; you are?

I’m Saman, I’m from Sri Lanka; you are?

In an age of digital transmission, today, we see some boys of Kingswood taking “pride” in being a “gentleman of Kingswood”. Slogans and posts that are self-referential in being “gentlemen” are all too common on Facebook as well as in shirts and souvenirs of sorts. A “proud” FB post by a Kingswoodian would proclaim that he is “proud to be a gentleman of Kingswood till [he] die[s]“. Another would state that he is not a “carnivore” or a beast (by implication — a Trinity “lion” or an Anthonian “eagle”), but a “gentleman” and that he is “proud” of the fact. A semanticist’s nightmare comes with the post which claims that a “gentleman is simply a patient wolf” (my italics), which is followed by the claim, “I’m Kingswood” (which, once again, is better expressed as “I am from Kingswood” or “I am a Kingswoodian”).

While some may not agree with me, I find it both audacious and ridiculous to go around thumping one’s chest, while calling one’s self a “gentleman”. The Principal’s calling the boys “gentlemen” is understood in the in-school context in which that appellation happens. Further, the Principal’s (Blaze’s) calling the boys “gentlemen” was to bridge the unnecessary gap between teacher-student that existed in his contemporary times, of which Blaze was a vocal critic. This is in detail lined out in Blaze’s KFE: The Story of Kingswood, Kandy.

The FB chest thumpers, on the contrary, use the tag “gentlemen” in a self-referential usage. Have you ever found it ridiculous when someone exaggeratedly praises one’s own self? There is a folk saying in the English idiom where such narcissist self-praise is related to a monkey and the monkey’ tail. Whether some of these boys see it or not, their ludicrous claims (which, perhaps, are posted out of good intentions in order to generate team spirit etc) freely dashed across the world wide web only makes people with some form of commonsense laugh.

The post which elevates the “gentleman” up and above a “carnivore” or “beast” — in context, schools such as Trinity (who use the lion label to refer to themselves), St. Anthony’s (eagles) or Vidyartha (tigers) — is an unnecessary and childish comparison based on a historical accident. Had Blaze not insisted on the word “gentlemen” to refer to the boys, and had following principals not kept up to that ritual, there would be no gentleman today to be paraded on FB. Besides, the need to compare your “gentlemanly” status in the above form in itself shows very little depth in the “gentleman” to begin with.

"Real Men" in the water

“Real Men” in the water

For one to stand up and say “I am a gentleman of Kingswood” — outside the school culture — in itself is comical, as that cultural ritual of the boys being called a “gentleman” is not shared by non-Kingswoodians. If one is indeed a gentleman, one has to be judged and tested by the non-self / society. A Kingswoodian can only act and behave in a way where his “gentleman” is recognized and appreciated. Mohammad Ali used to call himself the “Greatest” and in the way he fought his bouts he proved he is indeed the greatest of the boxing ring. The Kingswoodian — who has much to meditate on, including humility and discipline — can only be expected to be called a “gentleman” by those he moves with. Him calling himself a gentleman — and with bravado too — can only reflect his ignorance and his stomach for empty banter.

Kingswood in an age of digital transmission

Kingswood in an age of digital transmission

Today, there are so many who are ready to “bleed for Mother Kingswood” and who claims there is “Kingswood in [their] blood”. But, these have only become empty and sensational flags you wave on net space. I have become more and more convinced over the years that for a mass majority of the boys Kingswood is more a “privileged space” they occupy — from whose good name, history and prestige they are ready to chip a piece, but commit very little for the school which they otherwise claim to cherish till they die. Such empty words have actually become the words we have inherited from ill-bent politicians and shrewd and vicious men who (in a media driven age) seem to be more frequent than one should hope for. Following suit, Kingswoodians of our times (2000s-2010s), have ended up making grand statements on Facebook (where all battles seem to be taking place and where all farms seem to be tilled), but are otherwise ready to do the “same old-same old” when it comes to school work.

Be it our Cricket, Rugby or our Arts what has been done in recent years which is pioneering or path breaking? We still look back and gloat over Maurice Fernando winning “Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year” (in 1958), of Upul Sumanasekara’s back to back hundreds in Big Match Cricket (1984/85) or of the triple crown winning First XV of Fazil Marija. What Nalaka Swarnathilake did for the arts by spearheading a week long kala ulela in the mid 1990s — an arts festival that was both qualitative as much as it was dense with items — is not even feasible today, in the days of “Facebook Gentlemen”.

I think Kingswood needs to put a pause on its heels and re-set the clock a bit. Commitment and innovative energy has to return to some of our activities. The sickening Facebook chest thumping and parading the “gentleman” banner in public should stop — for it only makes us laughed at; nor does it serve the balanced, humble personality which Blaze, long ago, desired of the school. Among other things, boys should be exposed to history —- the college’s history, not in a bantering way: but, to expose the young student as to how humble Kingswood’s history has been; how it has ranked value over price on most instances; and to inculcate in the student how to be a “better” Kingswoodian without empty words and stupid FB posts.

The Last Lesson of RB Rambukwella

In 1997, Principal RB Rambukwella left Kingswood after an 8 year spell as its head master. Taking over from Mr. Nihal Herath in 1988/89, Rambukwella’s tenure was known for strict discipline and a balance in extra-curricular work, sports and studies alike. The writer remembers the Principal’s deep concern for the “traditions” of the school, and attempts taken to keep these traditions alive, by making them a living part of the student’s day-to-day activities.

Parallel to the centenary celebrations of the school, the Kingswood Union and the Principal had LE Blaze’s memoir of the school’s first 25 years (originally printed in 1934) reprinted. The Prologues, too, was extended and collected into a single volume, holding together the verses from 1895-1991. In 1994/95, the Principal initiated a programme where a weekly 5-10 minute reading of LE Blaze’s KFE: The Story of Kingswood was delivered by young students over the intercom system.

Rambukwella is well remembered for his David Boon-like heavy musto and his stocky, compact bearing, as he would stand under the nelli tree each morning, half an hour to the commencement of the school. A man of few words — or, rather, a man who knew the economy of words — his departure from the school was both unexpected; but, only defined the depth of the fellow.

Principal Rambukwella

Principal Rambukwella

In late 1996, a tragic accident in front of the school claimed the life of MN Perera, who was in the Grade 7 class then. A school van had knocked the unfortunate boy in the middle of the pedestrian crossing, killing him instantly. On this particular day, Mr. Rambukwella was not in school, having left for an administrative meeting elsewhere. As the situation boiled up, with the negative influence of some hot headed teachers and boys, the school van in question was set on flames. The writer remembers watching these scenes pass from the distance of the front fence, even as he realized that to set the van ablaze would not probably avenge the dead boy’s fate.

Following the incident, Mr. Rambukwella vacated his office. In what was leaked from a staff meeting the Principal has had upon his return he had emphasized that what had passed in his absence is nonetheless a reflection of his position as a head; and that it was not acceptable to him. I carry a vague memory of similar sentiments being communicated to the boys as well. Between 1997-1999, in the transitional phase since Mr. Rambukwella’s leaving, the Acting Principal Mr. HK Upasena showed much commitment in keeping up his predecessor’s stride. In a way, these times were not very different — regards the uncertainty and volatile nature in a school running without a definite ‘Head’ — to the present days, where Mr. Ananda Weerasooriya has taken over from Ranjith Chandrasekara. But, Mr. Upasena had the benefit of taking over a system that was groomed by the most strict disciplinarians the college had in recent years been run through: Messers Nihal Herath and Rambukwella. Mr. Weerasooriya’s task, in that sense, is greater, as we do not see the same mettle in discipline over the past few years and with a staff that has its own divisions and pre-occupations.

Rambukwella set an example not only for each Kingswoodian to follow, but also for any authority in power as to how one should commit one’s self to the responsibility bestowed on her. It was, for Rambukwella, not a matter whether he was at school or not; but, as to how his authority should have been heeded even in absentia. In an age where politicians jump the side and mock the aspirations of the people who voted for them, where bungling ministers cling on like leeches to the offices they ill-serve and where we are indirectly trained to shift responsibility and hold on to our lot in spite of all, Rambukwella has served us with a valuable lesson.

My last meeting with Mr. Rambukwella was in 2002, when I represented the school at his then office, to invite him to be a guest at a school event. The former Principal congratulated me and said that he was indeed happy that the school continues to organize co-curricular events and that he was deeply honoured at the invitation; but, that his policy was never to return to a place he had left. Kingswood, which he served loyally, was therefore, not blotted by his principles and beliefs.