Through the 1990s, when I was a student at the school, there were a host of “memorial prizes” given out at the Annual Prize Giving, which added prestige and meaning to the event. Among these many prizes were Senior School prizes such as the Devadasan Memorial Trophy and the Jayawickrama Silver Medal (awarded to the most Outstanding Student). Other notable awards included the Luterz Challenge Shield awarded for inter-house scholarship, the Crowether Shield (inter-house sports) and the Randles Shield (for the best overall House). These were, growing up, significant prizes which added to the glory and sense of tradition of the school. Unfortunately, today, we have a situation where one by one these prizes have either been discontinued or removed. Very few people seem to care or be bothered by this.
Going by Prize Giving records that I have access to, we see many “memorial prizes” that come and go — which, perhaps, depending on the donations and donors, is understandable. But, there are some prizes that are traditionally given that demand a level of commitment to be made consistently available and continued. The last three individual prizes given at the Prize Giving are those of Leadership (awarded to the outgoing Senior Prefect), the most Outstanding Sposrtman and the Most Outstanding Student. These prizes, in the traditional prize list, are followed by sports and extra-curricular prizes given out to Houses. Together, these form a much looked forward to elite cluster in the traditional prize list.
Any Prize Giving souvenir or prize list before 2001 will indicate a very well maintained and mediated list of prizes that reflect a school concerned with tradition and colour. The “Most outstanding student” is generally a student who is deemed to have displayed an all round capability. In the earliest prize list records I have access to, this student is presented with a trophy and a medal: the Devadsan Challenge Trophy and the Jayawickrama Silver Medal. Then, in 1995, the Jayawickrama Medal leaves the prize list. Yet, the Devadasan trophy — along with prizes such as the Shanmugam Memorial Trophy for the Best Sportsman/Athlete — and other memorial shields for the Houses continue to be given out.
Then, in 2001, a radical 180 degree shift takes place. In this year we have a curious Prize List where the said three prizes are downscaled and removed of their traditional tags as (simply), (a) Leadership, (b) Best Athlete and (c) Best Student. The last to receive the Devadasan Memorial Trophy for the Best Student is NC Dias in 2000. From 2001 on, this prize was simplified as “Best Student”. Anjana Seneviratne was the first to receive this scaled down award in 2001. In more recent years, not only are some of the traditional shields been removed (or displaced) from the Prize Giving, but even their importance have been disregarded. Names such as Luterz, Crowther and Randles (after whom those premier shields were baptized) are ancestral figures of the school who have contributed in an immortal way to the sustaining of the college a hundred years ago.
Similarly, I recall how some of the inter-house sports prizes were named after diehard names in Kingswood history such as Arthur McGill, Winston Hoole — and more recently — DC Matharage. The fate of these prizes today, or of their historical significance to the current boys, is best left to speculation. A few months ago, I suggested to some of the past boys the importance of restoring these prestigious awards, not in order to undermine anybody, but to put back on track the erasure of the glory that is Kingswood. Imagine a Trinity College that does not award a Lion or a Ryde Medal; but, a crude, downsized nameless equivalent of them? However, I am yet to receive any positive or progressive response to my suggestion. These are, indeed, not very difficult to correct. It would require a good few hours of dedicated reading and research, and a mind committed to the betterment of the school.
Between 2003 and 2009, myself and my two brothers have had the rare honour of being garlended with the “Most Outstanding Student” accolade. Of the three, it is my belief that I deserved it the least, given the aptitude and achievement my brothers have displayed in a wide range of activities. In my year, I remember WD Nathavitharana walking off with the prize for “Leadership” and weightlifting international Ransilu Jayathilake trotting off with “Best Athlete”. Ransilu’s achievement, specially, was eye-catching as he was two grades my junior at college. He had, however, won an international recognition that year, which made matters quite final. However, in the certificate I received, my story was written as “Best All Rounder”. It surely was a long journey from the Devadasan Trophy and the Jayawickrama Medal to….Best All Rounder.
What these prizes are called today — and as to what they ought to be called — are exclusively the purview of those in charge of Randles Hill activities and those close to the school. But, with people talking all high and mighty of the prospects of 125, I felt that I should submit this to Kingswood Matters.