When JR and Banda ‘batted’ together for Nomads Tennis Club in 1926: A Piece of Social History

A Tennis Gathering at Nomads, 1926


Young J. R. Jayewardene is standing second from the left (facing); while young SWRD Bandaranaike is seated.

NOTE from Arun Dias Bandaranaike: This image of SWRDB with his ‘golf cap’ and sports jacket et al, matches other pics of him in that period shortly after his return to Ceylon from his sojourn at Oxford. In fact, there is in the family collection a photo of Solomon in a group photo of 1935 as a member of the Nomads Tennis Club, assembled in the garden at the home of Walter Dias Bandaranaike which was on Silversmiths Street off Armour Street, Colombo 10.  The image there is pretty much the same as this, which appears to be taken either in Nuwara Eliya (most likely) or Bandarawela.

The person who is standing two places away from JRJ in that same row and in the centre of the picture dressed in a striped cardigan, seems to be George R. de Silva, who married Walter Dias Bandaranaike’s daughter Evelyn, and lived in Kotahena. 

Back row, second from left is a lady I surmise is Irene de Silva, the sister of George R. de Silva, who married Copleston Dias Bandaranaike. Irene and Copleston are the parents of Justice Tissa D. B., who served in the Supreme Court during Chandrika’s first tenure as President.   Interestingly, Solomon was Copleston’s Best Man at his wedding to Irene.

CLARIFICATION from Lam Seneviratne, 30 October 2016:

“This  was no Ceylon  team of circa 1926,  SWRD and  JRJ  though  winning the  highest  accolades  in National Politics  never  came close to  National Tennis  honours! The  Nomads Tennis  Club  had been  formed a few  years  earlier and  SWRD  was  the Men’s singles  winner in those  early days. JRJ  then 20 years  old  must have  been  an  invitee  as  he  was in  their  social circle.  For Michael’s  benefit,  the  Obeysekera’s  were  accredited  Nomads  members and  two  of the  young ladies may  be sisters  Nedra and  Yolande Obeysekera.  Nedra  was  later the  woman’s tennis  singles  champion  and married F. C. de Saram.  Yolande  was  also a  Nationals  player.

Arun,  ….   your  ‘guesses’  of  the identity of   several  persons  in  it must  lead  us to conclude  that  it  is indeed  a  Nomads  photo.  Looking at  the  background  of the photo,  no tennis courts are  seen. Could this photo be  at  Mahanuga Gardens  with  the  group  seated beyond  the sidelines  of the  only  court? An  umpires  high  chair  is  on  the  right   outside the half  wall.  If  I  have not  further added  to  the  confusion   I  shall be  happy…………………………………  Kind  Regards…………………………….Lam

PS from Michael Roberts:

  • The pith helmets and the white ‘bamboo’ longs generate an old-world quaintness that is only outdone by the bathing costumes of that era — in comparison with the bikinis (or less) and the tennis ‘knickers’ of today.
  • The figure that intrigues me most is the easy-going bloke in the middle row extreme right whose stance suggests cheekiness and bonhomie.

ALSO SEE Roberts, “Social  History within Cricket,” 18 July 2016  https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/18/social-history-within-cricket/


Filed under cultural transmission, heritage, landscape wondrous, life stories, modernity & modernization, sri lankan society

3 responses to “When JR and Banda ‘batted’ together for Nomads Tennis Club in 1926: A Piece of Social History

  1. Arun D. Bandaranaike

    This photograph that has achieved a ‘life of its own’ (by virtue of the guesses and misses that it has engendered), is clearly an enigma.

    The factors that would help immensely in making sense of the gathering, and fomenting ideas as to the identities of the personnel are:
    1) From where was this archival photograph extracted, before it was wildly sent about as an attachment with emails?
    2) Who and with authority was able to pronounce that the year of the photograph being taken was this. In other words, why was 1926 selected as the year? What proof is there for such a conclusion?
    3) Since there was no “Ceylon Tennis Team” in the early years of the 20th century, the purveyor of this photo has erred in his/her caption of it as being a national team. LAM Seneviratne, who is a credible source with regard to tennis in Ceylon, has discounted the idea of a national team in that period. So, who started this ‘story’? And why?

    Some thoughts have been forthcoming as regards this group possibly being made up of members of the Nomads Tennis Club. I note some ‘issues’ arising from such a conclusion. Mevan Pieris would likely concur that this is unusual, IF indeed J.R.Jayewardene was included in amongst the group. None of his kith and kin would have been included in any event connected to the Nomads Club. Furthermore, JRJ was not known for playing tennis, but rather boxed (Danton Obeyesekere former Ceylon Bantam weight champion in the 1930s, has remarked about that in conversation years ago) as a schoolboy, played some rugby, and maybe dabbled in a bit of cricket. Did he ever represent a club at any sport? It would be interesting to know that for a certainty.

    The Nomads tennis matches were played in an around Colombo. There were courts in the Obeyesekere properties in Colombo 07, Mahanuga Gardens in Colombo 03 was also a venue. A careful examination of the photograph shows the venue to be a place other than the urban or suburban verity of Colombo. Why? In the frame of this picture one can see the tall umpires’ chair by the side of the tennis court. When one considers the vista beyond the copse of trees that is in the background to the tall chair, one sees what appears as a mountainous terrain in the distance. There is also a building (a house) which is partially hidden, but may be made out as being a building and one sees its roof as well. When analyzing the perspective, it does seem that the house is on higher ground than the plane on which the tennis court is located. In other words, the house is on a rise or a hillock and not on the level with the tennis court. This sort of landscape suggests the hill country of Ceylon, rather than Colombo. While the gear worn by the people in the group suggests a more temperate climate than one would associate with the warm and humid circumstances common in Colombo. What is more, most wear hats!! If they were shielding from the sun’s rays, would it be more likely that they were dressed that way to keep warm despite the sun’s shining down on them? Furthermore, SWRDB is wearing something like a cravat, in addition to his blazer and sports cap!! It must have been cool and not humid.

    Mevan Pieris has suggested that the person named as JRJ could, in fact, rather be Mudaliyar Lee Dassenaike. In later years Lee Dassenaike was portly, but, in the early years of the 20th century he may have been as slim as is evident in the photograph. His facial features though, do match the image seen in this picture. If Mevan’s hunch is correct, then the person who is thought to be JRJ is not JRJ at all!

    Which again begs the question: Who decided that the person standing behind SWRDB is JRJ? The answer to that question is as vital as trying to fit names to the other people, and trying to date the photo and all this other business.

    SWRDB did play tennis and he was a keen player. He played the game in Oxford, and his memoirs (actually letters he’d written to people in Ceylon during his days at Oxford) speak of his triumphs and failures on the courts in England. He was keenly competitive, as he himself avers in his writing, referring to his “own conceit” in attempts to get even with the hostile ‘white skins’ he was rubbing up against.

    Was JRJ known as a tennis player, sufficiently competent to be invited to play a tournament? That’s a good question to seek an answer for.

    The fact remains where there are many questions that have to be answered before one can be sure of the identities of the people in the photograph, and if, in fact, this is a gathering of the members of the Nomads Tennis Club.

    The one who Michael Roberts has observed as displaying a jaunty air and stands at the right extreme of the middle row, has been identified as likely being Vernon de Livera-Tennekoon (half brother of Oscar de Livera & ‘Kit’ de Livera, Mrs. Lyn Dassenaike et al) . I tend to agree with Mevan Pieris, that it could be he. If that is correct, then, this aggregation is quite likely made up of those who are members of the Nomads tennis club. Vernon did not exhibit a fantastic skill in tennis to have been considered ‘star class’ outside of the limited scope of the Nomads group.

    In this group, JRJ would not have been included.


    • PalithaDelivera Tennekoon

      My father Vernon delivera Tennekoon is not the gentleman standing on the extreme left in the second row.He was the secretary of the club in the 40’s and played Tennis with his cousins Asmore n Louis Pieris and Lee Dassanaike in the famous ” Nomads Doubles”as described by him.

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