Methodist Schools in Batticaloa and Galle are the earliest schools to sustain their continuity to the present

Shirley Somanader

1.  Methodist Central College, Batticaloa is specifically mentioned  as an English School from August 1814 as a separate institution apart from any Vernacular school.

Rev William Ault arrived in Batticaloa on the 12th of August  1814. * He died on April 01st 1815. He laboured in Batticaloa for just seven months. * But in the first of his two letters to his mother after arriving, he writes that he has established an English school,  I quote from his letter, “On my arrival here I found in this place a Tamil school containing about thirty boys. That school is now under my superintendence. We have established another, which now contains thirty, besides the English school, which I teach myself.                         

  .as it is today

2. Specific mention of the No: on Roll and identity of the pupils in Ault’s initial English School

*There were five pupils at first. Three of them were the orphan sons of British soldiers who died during the fever epidemic, which was prevailing at the time of Ault’s arrival. The fourth was Somanader, who afterwards came to be known as Rajakaria Daniel Somanader, Modlier of the Batticaloa Kachcheri. It is not known who the fifth boy was.”*

3. Specific details of staff and the Curriculum and ( the site?)

In this school, “Ault was employed daily in giving the first lessons in the English language and the first principles of true religion.”

4.  Continuity of the school after Ault’s unexpected death on 01st April 1815

Although the saintly Ault died within a space of seven months of his beginning his mission in Batticaloa, the torch he had lit was not extinguished with him. It was taken up in the person of a Good Samaritan in the person of Captain Thomas Aldersay Jones of the 19th Regiment, who was the Commandant of the garrison at Batticaloa, He helped many of the boys in their English studies till the arrival of Ault’s successor.

4.  The Second Missionary Principal of the school and his contribution*

Ault’s successor, the Rev. Elijah Jackson arrived  in July 1816. Mr. Jackson gave new life to the school soon after he came. He reports in 1817 of boys’ choir:“The singing in the church is tolerably good. I practice the Dutch and Malabar (Tamil) boys three times a week.” It will be thus seen that the boys of Central were equally helpful at the church Services in those far off days as they are now.

5. Again the school is sustained by the intervention of a lay person

In 1818, Mr. Jackson left Ceylon. The boys obtained help from Mrs. Sophia John, widow of Rev. Christopher John of the Royal Danish Mission, Tranquebar. She was the mother-in-law of Mr. J. N. Moozart, assistant Collector of Batticaloa. Her English pronunciation varied from the Englishman as she was a Danish lady. Mrs. John died in Batticaloa in 1821. Her grave could be seen until recently at the junction of Hospital Road and Convent Road within the property owned by an Advocate.

6. The  third Missionary Manager cum Principal

In 1819, the Rev. Thomas Osborne, the Station Superintendent , who took a great deal of interest in education, reports , on October 4th, to the Missionary Committee in London, “This morning I commenced an English School with about 21 boys (most of whom are descendants of Europeans, but there were 4 Tamil boys in the numbers.). It was held on the verandah of the Government church.

7. The school shifts to new premises: The newly built Mission House

Mr. Osborne reports again in October 1820 as follows: “On March 29th of this year I commenced building a good sized bungalow for the English school – parents objected to the verandah of the Government church because it was the place  where the dead were buried.”

8. The first lay teacher

* In 1823 there is another report, most probably from the Rev. Joseph Roberts, Superintendent of the Batticaloa Station. “An English school is held in the Mission premises. There is one teacher, not very clever, but industrious and attentive, and 23 boys

9. Further recorded Progress of the school

1824 – In the Missionary Survey of the North Ceylon District of 1910, it is mentioned that there was a Boys’ English school in Batticaloa in 1824

1827 – The school report for 1827 says, “The Boys’ English school has 14 pupils.”

1833 – ” In the 1830’s, perhaps owing to want of efficient teachers, co-education of a sort seems to have been attempted , we find from the record for 1833, the following: “The Batticaloa English school has 12 boys and 4 girls.

1837 –  In 1837, there were 15 boys and 12 girls studying in this school

1838 – In 1838, only boys were learning in the school but their number is not given.

10. In the shadow of the  Church l. The school shifts to its third site

The present Ault Memorial Puliyantivu Methodist church , Batticaloa was built in 1838. In 1839, when the Governor Hon. James Stewart Mackenzie, who to took great interest in education, visited Batticaloa, he gave the Rev. George Hole, who was then in charge of the Batticaloa station, the materials of the Old Dutch church and an old storeroom in the Fort, for school buildings with a donation of 25 British Pounds. With this, Mr. Hole was able to put up a  verandah on each side of the Puliyantivu Chapel. It is said that the Boys’ school was held on the verandah facing College House (presently the Puliyantivu Methodist Minister’s Manse).

The three teachers who taught in this school in the 1840s are also identified. They were: Solomon Setukavalar, Henry Namasuvayam and Samuel Jones Parasuramar. Even an interesting anecdote about the latter teacher is recorded.

Later Principals of the school:

11. 1844 – Mr Hole left Batticaloa in 1844. He was succeeded by Robert Pargiter who was in charge of the  school till 1845. Mr Pargiter later joined Anglican church and was Principal of St John’s College  for several years.

12. 1846 – Mr Pargiter was succeeded by Rev James Wallace, a young Scottish Barrister, He nearly drowned in a boat accident and died of exposure in April 1847.

13.  In 1847, the Rev. John Kilner was in charge of the School. Here is a report from the Rev. J. Gillings who was the Station Superintendent of the  Boys’ School in the island (of Puliyantivu): The school is attended by 66 scholars most of whom are members of Christian families. The last examination of the School was highly satisfactory. The historical part of the Old Testament with the evidences of Christianity, as stated in our third Catechism, ‘Watson’s Conversation for the Young’ and other works of a similar standard on the various branches of education formed the subject of careful investigation; and the intelligent acquaintance evinced by the pupils   – especially of the first class who enjoyed the benefit of Kilner’s labours –with the various points of enquiry, was highly creditable.

Mention of students who later distinguished themselves:

14. The following were some of the pupils in the School in the 1840s – Robert Kadramer, who afterwards became the Headmaster of the School and later a proctor D.C. Robert Atherton (Jnr.), son of the Assistant Government Agent. Atherton first joined the Ceylon Rifle Regiment as a Lieutenant but resigned his commission. He was a writer of topical verses and contributed many articles to the Ceylon Examiner about Ceylon Vegetables.

15. In 1857, the Rev. W. H. Dean reports, “The Puliyantivu Boys’ School has 72 boys. The School is under the care of a competent teacher and is rapidly improving.” The teacher here referred to was the Head master Mr. Arthur Fletcher who came from the staff of Jaffna Central.

Some of the pupils who were in the school at this time were: W.G. Rockwood, who afterwards became the famous surgeon and his brother.

16.  (1859 – 1871) – A New Site for the School. In the late 1850s the School had outgrown the church verandah and the Rev. W. H. Dean and Mrs. Dean started collecting funds to build a school. In the meantime, a large cadjan shed was put up on the site where the present Primary Section stands and the boys removed there.

In 1859, the new school was completed at a cost of 350 British Pounds, most of which was collected by Mrs. Dean. This school stood on the premises where Vincent School stands today. The Minutes of 1860 declares that our Mission at Batticaloa must take its place as educator or be superseded. In 1860 Mr. Fletcher left and was succeeded by Mr. Elijah Roelofsy who seems to have remained only one year. In 1862, the Rev. H.J. de Silva, who was a probationer, became the Headmaster. Mr. Robert Kadramer succeeded him in 1863. The Rev. Henry Hornby was the School Superintendent during this period . Mr. Hornby was afterwards Headmaster of Woodhouse Grove, the well-known Methodist Public School in England.

16.   1864 – 65  Boys were sent up for the Ceylon Local Examination .In December 1864 and the results were received in February 1865.  Some of the teachers during this period were: Abraham Sittampalam, George Robert Ampiabagar, William Nagapper and William .M. Walton, who was then a candidate for the ministry

17,    In 1866, Mr. Hornby left and the Rev. Edmund Rigg succeeded him as Station Superintendent. Mr. Rigg had been a master at Queens College, Taunton before he entered the ministry, and he took great interest in Central and taught in it. In 1867, Mr. Joseph Vallipuram was appointed Headmaster.

18. In 1870, the Rev. John Brown succeeded Mr. Rigg. When Mr. Brown visited Batticaloa in 1911, he recognized many of his former pupils and was glad to see them occupying high positions in various fields.

In 1871, Mr. Edward Helps, Inspector of Schools examined the School. His report was as follows: “The lower Standards gave a very fair performance in all heads. The fifth and Sixth Standards were unsatisfactory.”

19. On September 1871, the Education Committee met presided over by the Rev. John Kilner, Chairman of the North Ceylon District. The other present were: The Revs. J. Brown, S. Niles. Modliers Jeremiah Somanader, Ezekiel Somanader, W. Allegakoen and Messrs. J. Crowther, J. Allegakoen, J. Swaminader, C.J. Barbet and D. de Wolfe. It was resolved to raise 50 British Pounds for the support of an English Principal for the Batticaloa Boys’ English School. To enlist the sympathy of the public, a meeting was held with Mr. R. W. Morris, the Government Agent, in the chair. It was resolved, “To raise the Boys’ English School to such a state of efficiency as shall render it  unnecessary to send children of the place to other parts of the Island to obtain a good acquaintance of the English Language.”

On September 29th the Committee met again. It was announced that Rev. J. Otley Rhodes, who had been Principal of Jaffna Central College for some years had kindly consented to act as the Principal until a young missionary can be sent from England. There were 103 boys in the School at this time.

20. On November 15th 1872, the Rev. John G. Pearson, the first full time Principal appointed by the Home Committee arrived and was welcomed by the Education Committee.

* The above information is taken from Rev. Ault’s letters to his mother written soon after his arrival in Batticaloa in August 1814 , preserved by Rev. Restarick and now found SOAS Univ. of London. And the ‘History of Methodist Central College, Batticaloa 1814 – 1942’  by R.N. Setukavalar (Jnr). Based on                                                                             Original sources such as local newspapers and past Principal’s reports and reports of Methodist missionaries


Richmond College 1876 (as it was then) ……There is no particular merit in being the oldest English school in the Island. Yet facts are sacred and should be4 recognised and due credit given to the labours of those associated with the two schools. ….. SWS


The Galle School (1814)

1. Rev Benjamin Clough 1814 – 1815

2. Rev George Erskine 1815 – 1816

3. Rev Samuel Broadbent 1815 (June – July 1815)

4. Rev Robert Carver 1815 (June – July 1815)

5. Rev Thomas Squance 1815 – 1817

6. Rev James Lynch 1816 – 1817

The Galle School including the branch schools (181 –1859)

7. Rev John Callaway 1817

8. Rev John McKenney 1818 – 1819

9. Rev Samuel Allen 1819 – 1822

10. Rev John Callaway 1821 – 1824

11. Rev Alexander Hume 1820 – 1821

12. Rev Alexander Hume 1824 – 1825

13. Rev Richard Stoup 1824 – 1829

14. Rev Samuel Allen 1825 – 1828

15. Rev John McKenney 1828 – 1834

16. Rev Elijah Toyne  1833 – 1840

17. Rev Charles William de Hoedt 1836

18. Rev William Bridgnell 1841 – 1849

19. Rev W. H. A. Dickson 1847 – 1851

20. Rev Joseph Rippon 1851 – 1860

Richmond Institution/Richmond Hill Anglo-vernacular School (1859)

21. Rev John Scott 1860 – 1864

22. Rev George Baugh 1864 – 1866

23. Rev Thomas Roberts 1866 – 1869

24. Rev James Nicholson 1867 – 1875

25. Rev George Baugh 1875 – 1877


The Galle High School (upgraded and renamed – 1876)

26. Rev Samuel Langdon 1876 – 1879

27. Rev Robert Tebb 1879 (acting)

28. Rev Samuel Hill 1879 – 1882

Richmond College (renamed – 1882)

29. Rev Samuel Rowse Wilkin 1882 – 1888

30. Rev Thomas Moscrop 1883 – 1884

31. Rev Arthur Triggs 1888 – 1893

32. Rev Horatius Hartley 1893 – 1896

33. Rev James Horne Darrell 1896 – 1906

34. Rev John Eagle 1904 – 1905

35. Rev Arthur Stanley Beaty 1905 (acting)

36. Rev Arthur Stanley Bishop Nov. 1906 – May 1907

37. Rev W. J. T. Small 1906 – 1914

38. Rev Percy T. Cash 1914 – 1915 (acting)

39. Rev W. J. T. Small 1915 – 1921

40. Rev Percy T. Cash 1921 – 1922 (acting)

41. Rev Harry Binks 1922 (acting)

42. Rev Alec Andrews Sneath 1922 – 1933

43. Rev John Dalby 1932 – 1933

44. Rev Alec Andrews Sneath 1934 – 1939

45. Rev John Eagle 1939

46. Rev John Dalby 1939 – 1940

47. Mr. E R de Silva 1940 – 1957

48. Mr. Arthur Shelton Wirasinha 1957 – 1961

49. Mr Claude Ivor de Silva 1961 – 1962 (acting)

Explanatory Note on the Two Presentations:

1. The first 24 names in Mr Dias- Jayasinha’s  list are Methodist missionaries stationed in Galle from 1814–1875 …..details of their relationship to the Galle school are not given.

By contrast Mr Setukavalar gives many details of the English missionaries stationed in Batticaloa from 1814 – 1872.  relationship to the school, such as the number of  pupils in their class, the identity of some of them, what was taught, the names of the teachers, the places where the school functioned at different times, moneys collected for the expansion of the school, buildings put up, names of old boys and others involved in the effort, later achievements of old boys, the first headmaster of the school, government inspector’s reports on the school, Cambridge exam results, etc, etc.  They were recorded by man who was teacher at the school, who was selected to enter the Medical College at that time but opted to be a teacher. Much of the information was provided Miss Gladys Croft, English Principal of Vincent Girls’ High School at that time who gathered from facts from original British sources while she was on furlough in England. The information was also gathered from local newspaper reports and past Principal reports etc. Mr Setukavalar died in 1942,  he could not have manufactured the data in anticipation of Jayasinha’s claim 70 years later!

2. I wonder whether anyone can give such details re: the first 62 years of Richmond College.

3. Besides, we know that  the official history of the Methodist Church of Ceylon states that there is connection between the Dickson Road vernacular school , recently re-christened ‘Galle school’ by interested parties and the later English High school established by Rev Baugh in 1876

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