Remembering the Medical Luminary Chris Uragoda

Ravi Deraniyagala, in Island, 12 June 2020, where the title reads “Dr. Chris Uragoda, a medical luminary and Erudite Scholar”

Dr. Chris Uragoda was a medical luminary, a distinguished literati, an eudite scholar and above all unassuming gentleman par excellence. He was blessed with an unparalled richness of precious human qualities.

My close association with Dr. Uragoda was in the early 1990, when the General Committee of the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS) established in 1894, gave him to compile the history of the Society, as its centenary year was close at hand. The history of the Society he published in 1994. It was a comprehensive and unique publication, titled “Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka”. During the centenary year celebration of the Society in 1994, a copy of his book was presented to Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, the then Prime Minister, who was the Chief Guest at the Society’s wildlife photographic exhibition at the National Art Gallery Colombo and also to Hon. J. R. Jayawardene, the then President of Sri Lanka, at the formal sit-down dinner, held at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.

In the centenary year, Dr. Uragoda and family joined the many tours I organized, as the General Secretary of the WNPS viz the world heritage sites of the, Sinharaja Rain Forest and the Horton Plains, the destruction done to the environment by the prawn farms in Puttalam, the study of sea-birds in Chilaw, the turtle hatchery project in Rekawa, to watch the migrant Flamingos in Hambantota. The Society prints bi-annually a scientific journal, published since 1936, the “LORIS”. Dr. Uragoda was the editor of the LORIS in 2012. Dr. Uragoda and I shared many common interests viz wildlife, books and travel to places of interest. His many jouneys to the wilds with his family, are narrated in his books “Jungle journeys in Sri Lanka” and “Camping and jungle trips”. We have done many journeys together viz visits to the National Parks of Wilpattu, Uda Walawe and the Ruhuna (Yala).

Our visit to Jaffna was in the height of the civil war with the LTTE, that lasted for 30 years. We were the guest of the Sri Lankan Army. The highlights of our visit was the Dambakola Patuna sea beach, where the sacred Bo-tree was bought to Sri Lanka; our visit to the Kadurugoda Temple with the 60 Buddhist stupas of different sizes, built for the 60 arahats; our boat trip in the open sea to arrive at the Nagadipa Temple visited by Lord Buddha. In Jaffna, it was a 22nd day in September and it was Dr. Uragoda’s birthday We celebrated the day, with the commanding officer of the Jaffna army camp Brigadier Roshan de Silva and his assistant Colonel Indika Karunanayake joining us. The Delft Island, with the numerous wild ponies was done on a consequent visit.

Our visit to Thoppigala, was during the height of the separatist civil war. The village of Thoppigala, close to Batticoloa was devastated by the LTTE artillery. Their house roofs stood shattered. It was suggested to have a medical camp. When requested, Dr. Uragoda and Dr. Walter Gooneratne, who runs a medical clinic in Thimbirigasyaya volunteered to make the journey. The nearby army camp in Thoppigala appreciated our efforts, by taking all of us to Maduru Oya National Park. We visited the ancient anicut built by the earlier Sri Lankan kings, preserved and not destroyed with development, where water flows out from the Maduru Oya.

Dr. Uragoda’s book “Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka” has on its cover, a picture of Baker’s Fall drawn by Dr. Prithiviraj Fernanco. He desired to visit this place again. The Conservator of Forests and I, as the President of the WNPS, are members of the same government’s Fauna and Flora Advisory Committee. He permitted me the use of the Forest Department Circuit Bungalow at Pattipola. Next day at the peep of drawn, Dr. Uragoda and us hiked to Horton Plains. The Worlds End and the Baker’s Fall were magnificent. On our return we stoped at Farr-Inn for refreshments. The colonial famous Farr-Inn was a hunting lodge of Sir Thomas Baker and Governor Horton. It was a moonlit night and we returned to Horton Plains, to see and hear, the calls of the Sambur. It was a memorable incident.

Dr. Uragoda reprint of the History of Medicine in Sri Lanka,was presented to Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka in 2014, at the BMICH. Dr. Uragoda’s presidential address to the council of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1990, prompted the book “Traditions of Sri Lanka” printed in 2000 and reprinted in 2008. He wrote his memoirs outlining the changes that happened during a life time, titled “Sri Lanka Then and Now”. It was published in 2008″. In 2009 his book on “Traditional Appliances and Practices” was published. His three books Authors of Books in Sri Lanka book one from 1796 to 1948, book two from 1949 to 1975 and book three from 1976 to 1990. The books carry short biographies of the authors, which provides an insight to their background. Dr. Uragoda also wrote in 2017 Little known wonders of Sri Lanka and his last book published in 2018 was “A history of Sri Lankan Elephants. “The books “Medical Professionals in Sri Lanka” and the “Elephant Kraals” are with the printers.

In 1959, Dr. Uragoda was selected to specialize in respiratory diseases in the U.K. On his return from London in 1962, he was transferred, as physician to the Chest Clinic in Kandy. He worked in Kandy for eleven years. He was elected as President of the Kandy Society of Medicine 1971/72. Dr. Uragoda was transferred in 1973, as physician-in-charge of the Central Chest Clinic in Colombo.

Dr. Uragoda has won many awards in his lifetime. The Royal Asiatic Society, established in 1845 he had the distinction of being elected, as President. He was presented with the Sir S.C. Obeyesekere award donated by Lady Hilda Obesekere wife of Sir Paul E. Pieris Deraniyagala, He continues his medical research, which was recognished by the conferment of the Guinness Award of the Commonwealth Science Council. He was the President of the Sri Lanka Medial Association and he was the joint-editor of the Ceylon Medical Journal for 20 years. In 1985 he joined the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of London – so far the only Sri Lankan to service this prestigious faculty. In 1994, he was conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) of the University of Colombo. Dr. Uragoda received the Rev. Peter Pillai Award, the Sarvodaya Award and the Presidents Award of the Natural Resources, Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka.

Dr. Uragoda was born on the 22nd September 1928 at his ancestral home “Sandfield” in Hikkaduwa. His father was a reputed surveyor and his two brothers, were a medical professional and the other a lawyer. Dr. Uragoda studied at Richard College Galle and later at Mahinda College Galle and at Ananda College Colombo. He entered the medical profession in 1953, His wife was Padma Rambukpotha from Badulla. They have four children. Dianthie, Lalith who is a doctor, Neluka, who is married to a doctor and the youngest son Dishana is employed in Australia.

Dr. Chris Uragoda, the medical luminary his healing touch, as an eminent medical professional is legendary. He was a repository of knowledge and wisdom and a gentleman par excellence in his manners and speech. He carved a nitch in society, not only by what he achieved, but also by the noble and righteous way he lived. He spurned ostentation, vanity and showmanship and lived and led by precept and example. His integrity and graceful life, and what he published, has been a beacon light to many. He was 91 years old and on the 28th March 2020 he finished his earthly pilgrimage. His name and services should be remembered by us. The fragrance of his memory remains fresh, to who had the privilege to know him.

*****

ALSO NOTE

Dr BJC Perera: “Dr CG Uragoda. A Man for All Seasons,” 27 April 2020, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/dr-cg-uragoda-a-man-for-all-seasons/

C. Gunaratna: “Tribute to Dr Christopher GunAdasa Uragoda,”  Ceylon Medical Journal. E-mail: si7np5e@gmail.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._G._Uragoda

1 Comment

Filed under cultural transmission, heritage, landscape wondrous, life stories, patriotism, performance, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, teaching profession, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, wild life

One response to “Remembering the Medical Luminary Chris Uragoda

  1. Chandra Wickramasinghe

    Thanks. He was a fine gentleman who lived close to my home in Galle.

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