I had just started schooling when the Second World War broke out. Some families left their homes in Colombo and its suburbs. School life was also disrupted. One of the worst affected was Royal College, Colombo.
In 1942, at the height of the war, the Royal College buildings were commandeered by the military to convert it to a Military Hospital. The school had to be hastily moved out to three large residential houses down Turret Road. However, as the space available was not sufficient to accommodate all the students, a Branch school was opened in the salubrious climate of Bandarawela. This was ‘GLENDALE’ which originally belonged to an English gentleman. This bungalow was converted to serve as a hostel. Almost all the students were ‘boarders’, thus this ‘Boarding School’ came to be known as ‘Glendale’.
With the end of the war normalcy was restored in double quick time. In late 1945 I sat the entrance examination for admission to form I of Royal College. I distinctly remember the Principal Mr. E.L. Bradby in the examination hall throughout the exam. A few weeks later I was thrilled when informed that I had been selected to the prestigious ‘Boarding School’ in Bandarawela. One day in early January 1946 about 20 boys between the ages of 10 and 11 began arriving at Glendale. The day for the boarders began each morning at 6.00 am with the ringing of the wake up bell. After washing up and tidying up we had half an hour of physical exercise which was conducted by the Warden himself or a resident master. Then followed breakfast when we were always given a half boiled egg with bread, pittu or string hoppers and a curry.
After breakfast we had an hours study time before assembly at 9 O’Clock. Assembly was held each week day morning in the open air under two huge Cypress trees. After Assembly there were two periods followed by a short interval when we were served tea or a fruit drink. After the fourth period we had the lunch interval when we were given rice and curry with fish or meat. On Sundays we were served chicken curry which was a luxury those days. We always had a dessert after lunch — usually a fruit salad. After the lunch break the afternoon session had three periods. This was followed by a snack and tea. On Sundays it was cakes. For dinner we usually had a beef course, followed by a pudding. For all the facilities and the excellent food we enjoyed our parents had to pay only Rs.60 a month. I leave it to the reader to calculate how much it would cost today.
From its inception in 1942 till its closure at the end of 1948 Glendale was in charge of the well-known educationist the much respected J.T.R. Perimpanayagam. Classes were small. There were no distractions like TV or Smart Phones. Nor did we spend hours on the roads travelling to school. Weak student would be helped by their class mates or sometimes even by their seniors. There was no bullying. Ragging was not heard of. It was ‘total immersion’ for the boys. In such an atmosphere there were no failures. Term-end concerts were a regular feature. We also staged many plays including those of Shakespeare.
Once a month we were taken for a film at the ‘Royal Talkies’ in Bandarawela town. Wearing our blazers we ‘marched’ in threes to town and back. In spite of the prevailing limitations, the Warden and staff made every effort to promote extra-curricular activities. Inter-school matches were played regularly against St. Joseph’s Bandarawela and St.Thomas’s College Gurutalawa on the Bandarawela Esplanade. An inter-house boxing meet too was held each year.
Our Warden was a dedicated and stern disciplinarian who instilled in us high moral values. Learning to abide by these virtues no doubt has served many Glendalites in their adult lives to be decent law abiding and civic minded citizens.
“I was thrilled when informed that I was selected to the prestigious ‘Boarding School’ in Bandarawela”
Glendale was disbanded in 1948 after 20 terms. About 200 boys would have passed through the portals of Glendale. Many Glendalites became eminent academics, civil administrators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, architects and military officers. Others ventured into business careers and plantation management. To start with we had a great achiever, Upali Kruppu. He obtained a First Class Honours degree in Engineering from the Colombo University, became the Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the first Vice Chancellor of the Moratuwa University. Mervyn de Silva galloped into journalism straight from The University of Colombo.
He was the Editor in Chief of the Daily News for some time and quickly moved away into free-lancing and was the founding editor and publisher of the now defunct Lanka Guardian. Upali Amarasinhe passed out with a first class Honouurs degree in English and went on to get a rare Phd in English from the University of Cambridge. R.G Salgado had his higher education at Nottingham University and retired as Professor of English at the University of Exeter, the first Asian to hold a chair in English in any British University. Next we have Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya who obtained a First Class in Sociology from the Ceylon University and went to Australia where he earned a Phd. After completing an illustrious academic career he was honoured by the government with the Order of Australia, equivalent to a knighthood.
The medical Profession was adorned by many Glenadalites like Doctors Nalin Rodrigo, F.S.N. Perera, H.D.S.A. Victor, Lionel Jayasekara, Tiru Vaithianathan, U.S. Jayawickrama, C. Aresecularatna, Kolitha Karunaratna, Prof. Varagunam (Former Chancellor Eastern University) Gamini Jayasinghe, Daya Samarasinghe, N.P.S. Gunaratna, T.W. Goonewardena, Raja Goonetilleke, M. Tennekoon, Percy Senaviratna, Soundhi Perimpanayagam (a son of the Warden) Prof Channa Wijesinghe, SarathWickramasinha and Prof K.N. Senaviratna in whose memory a commemorative lecture is given annually. Special Mention must also be made of Dr. Ranjith Atapaththu who was an M.P. for many years and later served as a Cabinet Minister.
Many Glendalites became legal luminaries. Among them were Vimal Wickramasuriya (High Court Judge) Lakshman Panditharatna, Nalin Weerasekara, Eardley Senaviratna, G. Wijesekara, Walwin Goonatilaka, U.C.B. Ratnayaka and three Presidents Counsel Daya Perera, P. Nagendra and D.W. Abeykoon.Those who became engineers were Ana Goonewardena, Brian Dissanayake, T.R. Cooray, Chandra Amarasuriya and G. L. Ranathunga, Among the Professionals, mention must be made of the Mendis quartet, N.O., L.O., T.K. and Eustace the only set of four brothers to have passed through Glendale. N.O. and L.O. qualified as engineers. T.K. became a Town Planner in the U.S. and later moved to Canada.
Eustace the youngest after completing his post-graduate studies is today a reputed scientist resident in Canada.The likes of N.B.M. Senaviratna, S.D. Saparamadu, S.R. De Silva and H. Premawardena entered the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. E.M. Ekanayaka who was also in the administrative service functioned as the G.A. Colombo District for some time. Glendale produced three Service Commanders. They were Lt. Gen. T. Weeratunga and Lt Gen Nalin Senaviratna who commanded the Army and Vice Admiral Asoka Silva who commanded the Navy. Royal has also set up a record worthy of the Guiness Book of Records.
Two Glendalites, Lt. Gen. Nalin Senaviratna served as Army Commander while Vice Admiral Asoka Silva served as Navy Commander and Air Vice Marshall Harry Gunatilaka (a Colombo Product) served as the Air Force Commander as contemporaries during the same period. They were in the same class as well. Top echelons of the business and corporate world were reached by Stanley Unamboowe who was chairman of the Blue Chip Carsons Group, While Norman Gunawardena and G.C. Wickramasinghe served as Directors of Aitken Spence.Not only was Glendale limited to producing brilliant academicians but outstanding sportsmen as well.
Last year while holidaying in Diyathalawa with my family it struck me that here was a good opportunity for me to visit Glendale which was only a half hours drive from the place where we were staying. Next morning we left for Bandarawela. There were two other old Royalists with us. They were my Son Athula (1976 Group) and my Grand Son Pubudu (2012 Group). Thus, our party had three members belonging to three generations of Royalists.
“Many Glendalites became eminent academics, civil administrators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, architects and military officers”
Next we made our way towards Glendale. There it was in all its Majesty – My ‘Boyhood Home’ 70 years ago. The building was closed, however, I identified the place on the verandah where we played table tennis and where we had the boxing ring. Looking around, the scene was the same. The distant hills as far as the eye could see. The rail track barely visible at times, winding its way to Badulla. The terraced paddy fields in the valley below. I relived many happy memories of my days at Glendale and deep in my heart I knew how much I am indebted to my Alma Mater – ROYAL COLLEGE.