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.

18 thoughts on “The Last Lesson of RB Rambukwella

  1. The accident was happened in the end of 2006 not 2007, I think it should correct and I was a student at year ten class. I can remember that day well.
    Also I should metion Mr. Rambukwella is the best principal I have ssen in my kingswood life from 1992 to 2000. The service was given by our vice principal Mr. Upasena is great and should salute all kingswoodians for his great serivce to the mother of kingswood.

  2. 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.

    1. Mr. Karunarathne, thanks you very much for visiting this post. We are honoured by your visit (in a humble way, of course). We remember very well the Prefects Courts of Senior boys such as you, Tennakoon, Manjula Ranasinghe, DKB Ekanayake etc in the early 90s.

      Cheers!

  3. I WAS WITH HIM ABOUT 3YRS IN THE SCHOOL AND I STILL CAN REMEMBER BEFORE EVERY MATCH WE PLAYED HE USED TO WISH US AND END OF THE SPEECH HE USE TO SAY US “PLAY UP ,PLAY UP,PLAY UP THE GAME” A GREAT GENTLEMEN PRINCIPLE IN OUR MOTHER KINGSWOOD. LONG LIFE SIR………………..!!!!

  4. 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 carved into my brain and it helped me to achieve many things in my life . Thank you sir , may the triple gem bless you !!!

    Surath Liyanage ( 1995 )

  5. Golden article, I really like the blog. Good work. 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 maintain at that time. But as Old boys who know about the traditions and as Old boys who think that Kingswood matters, the question rises, what can WE do about this and are we doing anything to rectify the current situation?

  6. A great Gentleman with good policies ,courage and Humar who drove the college to reep to its success May Triple Gem Bless Mr R.B.Rambukwella our Principle Sir, Health Happiness and Long Life !!! We salute you Sir.

  7. Wow…am glad to see this article.Thank you Admin for publishing this. 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 heart breaking. I still do remember his words…He is a mentor.. I salute Mr. Rambukwella-the greatest.

  8. as one of the only 2 to have lost and won back and worn all badges of Kingswood (Monitor, Prefect, Scribe and Senior Prefect during 1995-1996 period; I must confess that it was Mr. Rambukwella was the mere reason behind for stripping off the silver and gold from my chest and 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 among the naughty boys around and honestly, it was quite deceiving…Hats off to you SIR! we really miss a Principal like you now a days!

  9. We’re humbled by the many comments left behind by all past students — among them many who have given their best to the school in multiple fields — whose comments are well received. Hope we will be able to stick by the college, and collectively (and individually) give back, specially as some of you agree that there have been better times.

    An institution goes through ups and downs, but let us stick by our principles and values inculcated in us and give in whatever way we can.

    Thanks for all your comments.

  10. I can still imagine that he was standing under nelle tree. what a personality and what a proud man when he was standing front of us!!! He is a Heart of Oak. I still respecting him Sir.Mr Rabukwella.

  11. He is the Great principal who got me to design and build the Balcony to the college hall and named after Sir L.E Blaze as divisional Engineer Kandy engineering unit Central Province >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 by demolishing the class room 5X & 5Y where I did my OL science at Kingswood . They were honest at all their dealings and maintained the spirit of Kingswood . No one could point out the finger at them for any thing what happened recent years at Kingswood . Pls Remember they who laid the foundation for the new Kigswood grounds in 1994 when I was the President OBA and getting officials from the Sri Lanka Cricket Board such as Kehelgamuwa & Rangith Fernando where many have forgotten. . Both Names must be recorded in the History Of Kingswood not forgetting Mr Rambukwella wrote the second edition of KFE book

  12. I joined the school in 1990 when mr Rabukwella was the principal. He was the gentleman of the school who taught his boys through example how a gentleman should be. He brought to life all the rich heritage that was left to him of the school to pass on to the gentlemen of Kingswood. He was an example of none for him self but all for the school. Thank you sir. KFE

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