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At the end of the eastern Galle Road section of the town of Bamba lies St. Peters College, on a massive area of land bordering Galle Road in the West and the Wellawatte Canal on the South, stretching far down into the landside into the East. The school building and chapel graced the front while the cricket and rugby grounds bordered the rear. A pavilion was built sometime later on and even later a swimming pool was added for the benefit of the students attending. With the road development of Duplication Road extending into the school, the grounds had to be separated with the school as the road passed right in between spilling on to a newly constructed bridge over the Wellawatte Canal.
The school has a very colorful and old history dating back to old times when the children of Burgher railroad workers, engineers, engine drivers and policemen graced its halls of fame and went on to become me of honor and stature. The eighty one year period of St. Peters’ College, beginning 1922, could conveniently be divided into six distinct eras. Firstly, The beginnings dominated by that great French missionary Very Rev. Fr. Maurice LeGoc; Secondly the era of the First Rector Very Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera 1922 to 1943 who laid a solid foundation, a period which saw St. Peter’s making a big impact on the local educational scene in next to no time; Thirdly, the aftermath of World War 11 and the Rectorship of Very Rev. Fr. Basil A. Wiratunge O.M.I. from 1943 to 1955; Fourthly, an era spanning 21 years which take in the Rectorships of five Rectors all of whom had to grapple with financial constraints brought about by the daring and bold decision not to be vested with the State, but to function as a ‘Non fee levying private school’ - Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando (1956 to 1963), Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody (1963 to 1971), Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. (1971 to 1975), Rev. Fr. Claver Perera (1975 to 1976), and Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela (1976 to 1977); Fifthly, the enlightening and brilliant Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe E. Wickramasinghe (1978 to 1994) an era which could well be called ‘The Renaissance in Peterite History’; and last but not least the nine year old Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Felician Perera (1994 to date) on whose young shoulders has fallen the responsibility of guiding St.. Peter’s into and during the early 21st Century.
VERY REV. FR.MAURICE J.LEGOC AND THE “JOSEPHIAN” CONNECTION
St. Joseph’s College was founded in March 1896 and by 1921 St.. Joseph’s was 25 years old and the founding of St.. Peter’s College under the name “St. Joseph’s College South’ could well be considered as a silver Jubilee gift of St. Joseph’s to the nation. The land was purchased from E.C. de Fonseka for a sum of Rs, 75,000/- and on the broad shoulders of Fr. LeGoc fell the responsibility of bringing St.. Joseph’s College South into being. Building operations began on this neglected cinnamon land bordering the Galle Road and alongside the Wellawatte Canal, on the 7th July 1921.
On the 18th January 1922, Fr. LeGoc with a large number of Josephian students and Staff arrived by special train and alighted near Kinross Avenue at 2 p.m. and marched to St. Peter’s for the opening. The Josephian Magazine of 1922 described it thus, “Great St. joseph’s by the lake was setting out this bright January day to open and inaugurate the little St. Joseph’s by the sea. “His Grace the Archbishop Dr. Anthony Coudert blessed the building and premises and Hon. Mr. Edwin Evans Director of Education formerly opened the new school.”
Thus was St. Joseph’s College South born on 18th January 1922. Rev. Fr. D. J. Nicholas Perera was appointed President of the College, with classes from Grade 1 to Grade VII, while the number on roll was 204.
FIRST RECTOR VERY REV. FR. D. J. NICHOLAS PERERA, OMI : 1922-1943
Events moved fast under the direction of Fr. Nicholas Perera and on 16th, June 1926 it was sanctioned by His Grace the Archbishop and the Department of Education that St. Joseph’s College South be renamed St. Peter’s College with Fr. Nicholas Perera appointed as Rector. On the Feast of St. Peter 29th June 1927 the new College flag with the colours - Blue, White and Gold was blessed and hoisted by Rev. Fr. LeGoc, who in his speech that day mentioned that Blue signifies heaven, White Purity of Heart, and Gold Achievement and High Resolve and added that St. Peter’s would, at no distant date, be one of the greatest Educational Institutions in the island.
Under Fr. Nicholas Perera’s dynamic leadership St. Peter’s made great leaps forward. In 1930 Dr. P. R. Anthonis world famous Surgeon and Leslie J. D. Fernando entered the Medical College and the Science Faculty of the University College respectively. Messrs. A. O. Wirasinghe, A. M. S. Perera and A. L. Perera followed suit and later joined the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. In 1933 St. Peter’s challenged the mother institution, St. Joseph’s at cricket the first Big Match which Fr. LeGoc who was still Rector of St. Joseph’s insisted should be played on the Peterite grounds which had been opened in 1930. The magnificent Hall was completed in 1931. The extension of the classrooms, a Science Block, Physics Theatre, the Fathers’ Quarters followed in quick succession.
As early as 1934, St. Peter’s under the captaincy of Shirley Illesinghe won the Tarbat and Jeafferson Cups at the Public Schools Athlectic Meet, ably coached by Herbert Wittahatchy. In 1935, again under Shirley Illesinghe, St. Peter’s were Rugby Champions repeating it in 1936 under Archibald Perera. In a matter of a decade St. Peter’s had arrived.
From 1922 to 1943 Fr. D. J. NIcholas Perera had laid a solid foundation at St. Peter’s, and he brought lustre to the College with his genialty, experience and scholarship. On 9th November 1943 Fr. Nicholas Perera handed over the reins of Rector to Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunge.
THE SECOND RECTOR REV. FR. BASIL A. WIRATUNGE, OMI : 1943 – 1955
Fr. Basil Wiratunge took a tight control of the main administration branches of the school and helped produce the successes in studies and games which quickly brought St. Peter’s to the forefront of Public Schools of this period.
Fr. Basil assumed duties as Rector at a time when he not merely had to follow a policy of consolidation and expansion, but first he had to re-build, resuscitate, and reorganise the College after the travails of World War 2.
His first task was to convert a war time military hospital that the College had become during the evacuation period of 1942 to 1946 into the school that had been St. Peter’s. Nothing could unruffle Fr. Basil. At times of stress and difficulty there was Fr. Basil with his calmness and his implicit trust in Providence. Whatever the magnitude of his problems he radiated that calmness amongst all.
No wonder then that St. Peter’s College reached its zenith during the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunga from 1943 to 1955. Admissions to the University increased. In Sports, St. Peter’s excelled during his Rectorship. For two successive years St. Peter’s were invincible schools cricket champions in 1946 and 1947. The Primary School block and the College Pavilion bear testimony to his efforts to provide better facilities for the students.
THE DIFFICULT YEARS : 1956 – 1977
The period 1956 to 1977 covers the Rectorships of Five Rectors, all of whom were dogged by the problem of the Schools Take over bid, with severe financial constraints consequent to the decision by St. Peter’s not to be vested with the State but to function as a ‘Non Fee Levying Private School’. Nevertheless and notwithstanding each of the five Rectors of this difficult era made their individual contribution to the progress of St. Peter’s never succumbing to problems of the times.
Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando who succeeded Rev. Fr. Basil Wiratunge as the Third Rector of St. Peter’s from 1956 to 1963 will be remembered for the encouragement and support he gave to the development of Aesthetic Studies. He it was who started the first schools Fife and Drum band on June 30th 1956. Tyronne Misso, now migrated to and living in ustralia, was one of the Wellawatte boys who was a founder member of the band and contributed to its success from 1959-62 A Cultural Centre to promote Music, Drama, Dancing and Art was started in November 1956 with the help of Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody. Kandyan Dancing, Oriental Singing and the formation of Western and Oriental Orchestras came about. Rowing was introduced to St. Peter’s in 1959, as also a unit of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. Rev. Fr. Arthur Nicholas it was who first had to beat the direct impact of the Schools take over from December 1st 1960 when St. Peter’s decided to remain as a Private Non Fee Levying institution. The Welfare Society came into being under his astute leadership. A fine organiser and administrator he installed a modern Canteen to supplement the much needed finances. He also set up the College Boarding.
Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody succeeded Fr. Arthur Nicholas Fernando and was the Fourth Rector from 1963 to 1971. Fr. Weerakkody took office at a most turbulent period but his genial qualities helped him to attract benefactors to help the College. He encouraged the Old Boys’ Union and the Old Peterites Sports Club to invite more members. Perhaps his greatest contribution to St. Peter’s was the formation of the Parent Teacher Association which brought both parents and teachers together in the interests of the students. More authority and responsibility was passed on to the lay teaching staff with the formation of Boards of Discipline, Studies and Sports. He established the Employees Provident Fund for the Teaching Staff. On the 24th, July 1971 he left St. Peter’s to take up the Rectorship of St. Joseph’s. He will be best remembered for his efforts to inculcate the appreciation of Music both as Teacher and Rector. Many have been the Peterites who chose Music as a career as result.
Rev. Fr. Theodore E. Peiris O.M.I. who had been on the Tutorial Staff of St. Peter’s in the 1940s succeeded Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody and was Rector from 1971 to 1975. To him fell the honour of presiding at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the College on 18th January 1972. Even though the College still had a struggle on its hands where fiances were concerned Fr. Theodore was able to muster support for the celebrations, which continued throughout the year. The Sixth Rector of St. Peter’s Rev. Fr. Claver Perera was welcomed with much jubilation being the first fully fledged Peterite to adorn the Rectorial Chair. His stay lasted two years from 1975 to 1976. However within that short period he decentralised the administration with the appointment of Sectional Heads from Grade 6 to the Advanced Level. Under his guidance and training the Peterite Choir reached great heights a trend which exists up to today. Fr. Claver was instrumental in enlarging and renovating the College Chapel for the first time in 50 years.
Rev. Fr. Francis Madiwela took over the reins of office from Fr. Claver Perera and his stay also lasted two years from 1976 to 1977. Yet in the short time he was Rector he organised a number of Seminars for the Teachers to help them refresh their minds in all aspects of teaching. Fr. Francis Madiwela will best be remembered by the Old Boys’ Union because of his conviction that the Old Boys should have their own President, with the Rector who was President since 1927 being Patron. This change came into effect on 4th December 1977, shortly before his transfer to St. Thomas, Kotte as Principal.
THE RECTORSHIP OF REV. FR. JOE WICKRAMASINGHE : 1978 TO 1994 THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD IN PETERITE HISTORY
When the history of St. Peter’s College, now in its eighty first year, comes to be written, the Rectorship of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe will loom large. Indeed his life and work at St. Peter’s, bids fair to be ranked as one of the best performances of any Rector of St. Peter’s since its inception. Father Joe’s crowning efforts as an educationist par excellence reached its peak as Rector of St. Peter’s College from 1978 to 1994. From the doldrums in 1978, Father Joe steered St. Peter’s to great heights of excellence in studies, sports and discipline.
Father Joe’s greatest strength lay in his ability to harness the human resources at his disposal - in particular his students, teachers, old boys, parents and well-wishers - in all his endeavours. He made St. Peter’s financially viable very early in his rectorship A master builder, he was able to generate nearly Rs. 20 million within 16 years to bring the College infrastructure to what it is today - the new 3 storeyed Science Block and Laboratory; the new Canteen and Vocational Centre; the 3 storeyed Primary School Extension; the elegant and tasteful Swimming Pool, a dream come true for Peterites; the 3 storeyed Block at St. Peter’s College, Gampaha, the new Dental Clinic; the Badminton and Basketball Courts; the TV Room the Computer Room; the Junior Science Room and the new Office Block. To cap it all, in readiness for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter’s in 1997, Fr. Joe has collected enough funds to get started with yet another 4 storeyed Block of classrooms, Library and Auditorium, atop the Canal Side block of classrooms.
9TH RECTOR REV. FR. FELICIAN R. PERERA : 1994 TO DATE
With the retirement of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe the mantle of office of Rector was passed on to the youthful 9th Rector of St. Peter’s Rev. Fr. Felician R. Perera M. A. in Education (Lond.) He has guided St. Peter’s in the near nine years with acceptance from Old Boys, Parents the Tutorial Staff and the Present Boys and has helped to maintain the high standards achieved during the term of Rev. Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe.
On his shoulders fell the responsibility of organising the Celebration programme for the 75th Anniversary of St. Peter’s, and the completion of the new 4 storey Middle School Block. He has also built a new library and a very tasteful reading pavilion for the students and a gymnasium. The primary school has also got a new look with class rooms being done up and the garden turfed & paved, plus a new play area. The boarding which was closed has been re opened and with the assistance of the OBU a very modern computer laboratory has been set up. A Peterite Icon from those glorious days
Russel Harmer had the uncanny ability of making things happen By Maxie Kariyawasam - Daily Mirror Mon Sep 17 2007
Whenever Russel Harmer walked into the field, one could sense an aura of excitement among the spectators. Be it with the bat or behind the wickets, Russel had the uncanny ability of simply making things happen. Aggressive batting and slick work behind the he stumps, changed the course of many a game much to the delight of the onlookers and often brought sheer despair to the opposing sides. Russel learnt the basics of his trade while still a tiny tot at Wesley College when under the guidance of his first coach Mr. Lionel Jayasuriya. Russel was to have a meteoric rise from the under 12 sector stretching up to the first XI via both the U-14 and the U-16 segments. Representing the College Senior team during the last two years of schooling, Russel playing under Everad Schoorman and Donald Thurairatnam, set the school cricket scene alight with some superlative displays both with the bat and behind the sticks. His innings for Wesley against Ananda where he treated the opposing bowlers with utter disdain to score a magnificent 117 will long be remembered by those who were fortunate to witness this gem of an innings. Russsel’s extraordinary talents was to earn him a place in the 1964 and 1965 combined Colleges teams that included Sunil Fernando, Sarath Seneviratne, A.G. Perera, B.Reid, David Heyn and Anura Tennakoon, all outstanding schoolboy stars of yesteryear. While still in college, Russel turned out for Bloomfield C.C. and in his first outing, playing in a Daily News Trophy Match against Colts C.C. scored a scintillating century, which saw him being immediately drafted into the Sara Trophy side.
On leaving School Russel joined Rajendrams Ltd, later to be known as Maharaja’s Ltd and soon realized that he made the correct choice as far as employment was concerned due to the patronage he received form Mr. Rajamahenderan who also went on to recruit a galaxy of cricketing stars which made Maharajah’s a force to be reckoned with in Mercantile Cricket. Russel captained the Maharajah’s team in 1970/71 and had under him such renowned cricketers as Niel Chanmugam, Mervyn Peiris, Ralston Burke, Everard Schoorman, Srinath Silva, K.M. Nelson and his own brother Mervyn. Touring India and Malaysia with the Maharaja’s team Russel showed his calibre with a divesting knock of 100 runs against Malaysia out of a total of 195 for two wickets. Continuing to turn out for Bloomfield in heir first class matches, Russel was once involved in a mammoth stand of 297 runs for the second wicket with A.G.Perera against the B.R.C. Russell’s contribution was a blistering 174 and Perera’s a grand 104 not out. He then went on to captain Bloomfield with distinction.
In 1972, the Pakistan team led by Intikab Alam toured Sri Lanka and Russel was called upon for National Duty on the merit of his outstanding performances at club level. This writer distinctly remembers Russel coming for the match using the poor man’s conveyance the bus, while his more affluent team mates made it to the grounds in their own vehicles or were driven there by friends. Incidentally, another Sri Lankan great Duleep Mendis made his debut together with Russel in this match. In 1973 the M.C.C. team captained by R. Lewis took on Sri Lanka skippered by Michael Tissera and Russel was once again called up to don the Sri Lanka Cap.
After this encounter, Russel was for some strange reason confined to ‘Cold Storage’ by the National Selectors, although he continued to represent the C.C.A president’s XI in Gopalan Trophy matches against Madras. However, Russel literally fought himself back into the Sri Lankan team with a forceful knock of 132 for Mercantile Cricket Association against government services in the Robert Senanayake Trophy in 1975 and booked a berth for the Indian tour for three unofficial tests that followed. Final appearance
This precded Russell’s final International appearance against Tony Greg’s Englishmen in 1977, which side included Mike Brearley, Bob Woolmer, Bob Willis, Derek Underwood, Derek Randal, Allan Knott and Dennis Amiss, to name a few. In 1978, Russel turning out for the SSC in the premier Division match against Moratuwa CC claimed seven victims behind the stumps and followed this up in 1980 by repeating this very same feat against Saracens SC, thus joining a select band of 18 wicket-keepers who have performed likewise at club, Sheffield Shield and county levels, including the legendary Australian Wally Grout. Russel also set a record in the very first six a side tournament held by the B.R.C. when he clobbered an electrifying 24 runs in a single over.
Russel’s highly productive cricket career could be attributed to the fact that he hailed form a cricketing family. His father, the late Granville was a formidable opening bowler who represented Govt. Services for many years and his brothers Mervyn and Granville Jnr. were gifted cricketers who shone at both college and club levels. Russels’s cricketing genes appear to have passed on to his son Peter who was himself a crack wicket-keeper/batsman and past Josephian captain now domiciled in Australia. Perhaps the most emotional incident in Russell’s cricketing life would have come when he and his son Peter opened batting for the SSC in a Daily News Trophy encounter. Apart from being emotional this father and son opening combination is perhaps a unique occurrence in Sri Lankan Cricket.
Russel is currently in charge of the Ketharama School of Cricket and is extremely grateful to the former Minister of Sports Jeevan Kumaranatunge, Commander H.W. Silva, Director, Mr. Sooriyaarachchi, Manager, Mr. Jayantha Dharmadasa and Mr Duleep Mendis for the invaluable assistance and advice given to run this venture successfully.
He also expresses his deep gratitude to Mr.R. Rajamahendran of Maharajah’s for being his benefactor and guiding both his official and cricketing careers. This then is the saga of Russel Harmer who adorned the cricketing fields of Sri Lanka and abroad, generating a brand of excitement that very few others could emulate.