Kingswood and Wesley: Cultural Links In a Different Age

Last week, I happened to be at the Kingswood Students’ Center when I has the opportunity of sharing my table with two kids from Wesley College. Wesley had come to Kingswood for a Junior Basketball tournament and the Students’ Center was teeming with Wesley boys and their parents / teachers. The two boys who spoke to me were, perhaps, ten or eleven — a tad too small, maybe, to have known the historical relations between Wesley and Kingswood. I asked them whether they knew of their eminent Past Principals Kenneth De Lanerolle and Harold Nonis — whom Wesley and Kingswood share as heads of institute —, but no familiar bells were seen ringing. I ended our brief encounter wishing both kids well and encouraging them to “beat Kingswood” at their game, that evening.

With distinct Methodist and Wesleyan relations, Kingswood and Wesley are still acknowledged as “brother schools”. Founded in 1874 under the auspices of Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira, with Rev. Samuel Roswe Wilkin as its founder principal, Wesley has a rich shared history with Kingswood, if we are to scrutinize the school logs of yesteryear. Kingswood was never of “Methodist origins” — as it was founded by Louis Blaze as a Private Boys’ School and was not handed over to the Methodist Mission in spite of repeated entreaties (until much later when a Board of Directors appointed by the Mission was admitted as patrons of the school) — though later ties only strengthened Kingswood’s profile in the transformative 1940s and 1950s.

College-GateToday, the cultural ties between the two schools are more readily acknowledged in the field of sports, where the “Rugby Big Match” of the school calendar is fixed between Wesley and Kingswood. This fixture, inaugurated in 1986, is played for the L.E. Blaze Trophy and has been a regular event till the mid 2000s, where the series was interrupted by unsporstmanlike behaviour on the part of some spectators; and was subsequently called off. The mid to late 2000s  also marked a downward glide in Wesley’s rugby fortunes which resulted in a series of “one sided” games which, in turn, hampered spectator interest. However, the resumption of this series last year is a commendable and positive step — not only in the name of rugby in the two schools, but also as a strengthening of a historical bond which, with years and many changes in the country’s education, has become “nominal” and “remote”.

Kingswood hosts an inter-school debate competition in memory of the late KM De Lanerolle of which Wesley once showed much interest in partaking, at being invited in 2005 and 2006. Unfortunately, they could not make it owing to (as they claimed) the “volatile security condition” of the country at that point. The organizers of the debate competition have not since extended their invitations “out of province” (with the exception of Kurunegala and Kegalle, I believe) since, which is a shame. In 2006, Richmond College, Galle — another “cousin” of Kingswood — made a strenuous one day visit to Randles Hill to be a part of the same competition. On both occasions, the enthusiasm and the “awareness” shown by Wesley and Richmond richly demonstrated how for some these shared cultural ties still mattered, though we are in a totally different age from Blaze’s time.

A memorable U-15 Div II Cricket final in 1978: Wesley vs Kingswood (photo c/o Wesley College Website)
A memorable U-15 Div II Cricket final in 1978: Wesley vs Kingswood (photo c/o Wesley College Website)

The Blaze Trophy in 2013 ended in a 8-8 tie at Bogambara, contested under soggy, slippery conditions. Kingswood was having a less than average season, which they eventually summed up the following weekend with an unpardonable exchange of fisticuffs with St. Anthony’s. What was contested with equal vigour, we hope, would be a resumption of a sporting tradition that runs way back as 1986, when Kingswood came trumps at the inaugural Blaze Test under Ronnie Ibrahim. Since then, out of 26 encounters Kingswood has won 18 and Wesley was won 05; while 03 games have ended in ties/draws.

Inaugural Blaze Trophy teams, posing in 1986
Inaugural Blaze Trophy teams, posing in 1986

Seeing Wesley at Junior Basketball, running about the Kingswood basketball court, links our times with the past generations of Kingswoodians who would have felt an “affinity of brotherhood” with the name Wesley. It is by all means a good resonance to cultivate, but has to be done productively — as the extension of  a cherished bond which has, in the past, made both Kingswood lives and the lives of Wesleyites meaningful.

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