The Richmond Sixty Club & Others
Richmond 60 Club Wishes Walter J. May Happy Birthday, 8th January 2021
MESSAGE OF THE 6O CLUB PRESIDENT
As the President of the Richmond 60 Club, I am happy to write a few words for the special supplement issued to coincide with the 92nd birthday of Walter J. May on 08th January 2021.
He joined Richmond in 1952 as English Teacher & continued until 1956. I was a student at the time in the lower middle school and did not have much to interact with this outstanding personality, as much as I would have loved to. Nevertheless, I distinctly remember this tall lanky and handsome teacher at school smartly clad with folded shirt sleeves, a regular feature in his dress code.
Walter J May was a true sporting legend who excelled in the field of athletics and gained recognition as a National Champion besides representing Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He also represented Richmond and the University of Ceylon in both Cricket & Athletics with outstanding success. I am sure the others who were his students and contemporaries will elaborate on his success story in this supplement.
At the Richmond 60 Club we take great pride in recognizing personalities of outstanding character and ability who have significantly contributed to the success story of our beloved Alma Mater. Walter J May undoubtedly befits that category, having brought distinction to Richmond & Sri Lanka.
It is my pleasure to wish him Happy Birthday and good health during the later years in his life.
Nuski Mohamed FCA FCMA … (Hony. Life Member M.C.C. – Lords’ UK & Former Vice President, Secretary & Treasurer of Sri Lanka Cricket & the Asian Cricket Council)
WALTER J. MAY: A BRILLIANT ALLROUNDER OF OUR TIMES
There are among the mere mortals those who stand apart to be admired by the rest and become an example to others. Walter J. May is one such person. He was a shining star in the field of sports and a guiding light in the classroom –A rare combination that makes him unique among the Richmondites. I remember not so much the things I learned at Richmond, but the men who left deep impressions on my young mind — impressions that have not faded with the lapse of years. Walter May was certainly one of them.
He was from Matara and was a student at Richmond in the forties and a teacher in the fifties. Walter May played cricket for Richmond in 1945 and 1946, as an allrounder in the team. Later, he played for St. Thomas‟ College Mt. Lavinia. He held the opening partnership record in the Island’s Big Match – ‘Royal Thomian’, which was not bettered for a couple of decades.
He excelled as an athlete and went on to break several records in track events. He was victorious in 200-meter hurdles and 400 meters at the Public Schools Meet in 1947, and at the Inter Faculty Meets at the University. He was the national champion in the 400-meter hurdles thrice between 1948 to 1951 at the AAA meets. He represented the country at Inter University Championships in India. At the 9th, All-India, and Ceylon Inter University Championships, he won the 400m Hurdles Final in 58. 4 secs missing the record by 0.1 second. Next to Duncan White, who won the event at the 1948 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, Walter May was the most celebrated hurdler of the times.
On completing his academic career at the University of Ceylon, he returned to Richmond and joined the teaching staff. It was then that I got to know him well as an outstanding personality that inspired most of us both in the classroom and on the field of sports. I was fortunate to have as our coach a prominent athlete who represented the country at international level. I was particularly lucky to have had Walter May as coach because I specialized in the shorter version of the same event. He was a very relaxed coach who knew how to impart the essential skills needed to be a winner, without worrying over every single detail. I owe much to him for my technique of hurdling. It was due to his training I was able to equal the 80-meter junior hurdles record at the Southern Group Meet and get placed at the Public Schools Meet.
He was my cricket coach as well. It was 1955, a memorable year, my first year in the team, and happened to be the 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee Richmond- Mahinda match and Walter May was our coach. He brought his usual commitment and low-key approach to coaching the cricket team. The players paid close attention to whatever he said, and the team profited by his advice and enjoyed playing under him.
Walter May is seated second fromleft (the most relaxd person in the photo-shoot) … with Richmond principal ER de silva second from left and Mr wijesooriya of Mahinda 4th from right and DH de Silva & Dougie Gunawardena betwen them
Apart from being our cricket and athletic coach, he was in consecutive years, our English, History and Civics teacher as well. His manner of teaching attracted me to learn history, and to date I remain a history buff, I am sure due to that attraction. He had an exceptional way of teaching the subject and there were many ideas he imparted to inspire us to be students of history and life in general. He was a tall lanky man and you were in awe when he walks into the class. He never sat down, kept on pacing up and down while teaching. I remember in his English class reading “Tale of Two Cities”, which he made it sound so dramatic, I looked forward to his class with great anticipation, and it remains one of my favorite novels.
Now to the lighter side of life with him. He was also our dorm Master in the Winchester dorm in the College Hostel. At the time Mr. G.W.S. De. Silva was the Boarding Master and we had three Indian teachers (Mr. Cherian, Mr. Jesudasan and Mr. John) along with Mr. Walter May a Sri Lankan Burgher. Walter May was a very friendly person and generally did not take too seriously his functions as a dorm master, though he was a first-rate teacher and sports coach.After his coaching functions at about six in the evening he would disappear to the Galle town and return late in the night, long after the entire hostel had gone to sleep. The general story was that in town he would visit his favorite bar at the Sydney Hotel and imbibe in the heady stuff.
On one such night, he suddenly appeared in the dorm quite late when we were all in our dream world and got hold of G.P.T. Karunaratne (Gippa) by his throat and threw him to the compound outside and locked the dorm door. It was only the next day we learned the reason for the commotion. Apparently, after returning from his usual sojourn in town, he was correcting an assignment given to us in the civics class to write an essay on the various communities in the country. Gippa was never a good student and cared less to be one. In his essay quite innocently, he had written derogative stuff about the Burgher community. He had picked the information by listening to gossip, for he would never have found it in books, which he hardly read. Walter May had taken this as a personal insult thinking Gippa purposely wanted to annoy him.
Walter May was more than a celebrated sportsman, he was a teacher par excellence, and a role model. He left us and joined the Air Force and later he immigrated to Australia. There he remains a voracious reader enjoying life as a nonagenarian. I wish him good health, happiness and joy is as he bats towards his century!
Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana …..President Emeritus, International Institute of Space, …..Law & Policy, Former Deputy Director General, United Nations, and Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
WALTER J MAY
Walter J May is one of my athletic heroes. He was grace personified when he glided over the hurdles. He was a member of the crack University 4 x 400 Relay teams which won the Club Relays at the Public Schools Meets. As a schoolboy I used to watch them training at the University grounds. It was one thing that motivated me to enter the University.
He went on to excel in hurdles events and 400 meters at the Public Schools Meet, Inter Faculty Meets at the University and at the AAA meets. He represented the country at Inter University Championships in India. He played cricket for Richmond and STC Mount Lavinia.
Having graduated with a Second-Class Honors Degree, he joined the staff of his Alma Mata Richmond College and served their as cricket coach and Athletics coach before joining the Air Force. I was delighted to join the Richmond College staff and succeed him as the Athletics coach.
I got to know Wally closely when I was in Perth on a Commonwealth Scholarship following a course in Physical education.
In 2000 my wife and I went to Sydney to watch the Olympic Games. On our way back we stopped over in Perth. Prof Luksiri Jayasuriya, who was a father figure to most of the Sri Lankan students who studied at West Australian Universities invited us for a lunch, and he wanted to know whether there was any one whom I would like to meet. I readily named Wally May. We spoke about the good old days at Richmond and the University and continue to communicate to date.
Some of the officers in the Air Force whom I knew always had a good word for him. Wally is a perfect gentleman with a sense of humour and humility. I am proud to be associated with him and it is my great pleasure to write a few words to felicitate him.
K.L.F. Wijedasa .. .. [who was a member of the teaching staff and athletic coach at RCG. He was the national sprint champion and represented Ceylon in 100- and 200-meter events. He was also Ananda College coach and National Coach ]
RICHMOND COLLEGE TEAM 1946
TRIBUTE TO A TEACHER: AN ARTICULATE MAN WITH EXTRA-ORDINARY QUALITIES
Mr. WALTER J MAY GREW UP IN MATARA. He was born on the 08th of January 1929and had been at Richmond College from 1938 until 1945 when Rev SNEATH was the principal. Later he had joined St Thomas‟s College Mt Lavinia to continue his University entrance. Whilst at Richmond he had represented the school in Cricket and Athletics & soccer. His Captain of cricket was Christy Karunaratna (who represented Ceylon against West Indies In a cricket match In Galle) WJM entered Colombo University in 1948 and completed in 1952 with a class two honors degree in History. WJM returned to RICHMOND as a teacher in 1953 Besides being a teacher he was entrusted with the task of coaching the school cricket and Athletics teams by the Principal Late Mr. E.R. De Silva(who was the first Sri Lankan to succeed the Methodist Missionaries as Principal) The Captain of cricket at the time was Douglas Gunawardana who happened to open the innings with a J.N.A. Gunawardana making them the most successful opening pair in the schools at the time.
Whilst he was coaching the students, he was training for the AAA meet in Colombo as pet event was 400yds hurdles and he did train R.L.de Silva, Nandasiri de Silva (NANADASIRI JASANTHU LIYANA), Walter Gurusinghe too in this event. We were told that he used to equal Duncan White‟s record in Sri Lanka / Ceylon at that time, but unfortunately, he failed at the AAA meet in Colombo, though he had equalled it in his practice sessions in Colombo.
Mr WJM was one of those few teachers who never followed the normal systems of teaching but adopted a n” OUT OF THE BOX” way of conducting classes He was certainly a person with extra ordinary qualities, who was very articulate. Perhaps his family background, the experience he gained at the UNIVERSITY during that particular era may have contributed to his peculiar style of teaching. I would say it was certainly an un-orthodox system adopted by him. He wanted all students to participate in his lecture, to discuss and comment on the knowledge he imparted to the students, and not that rigid way of “LECTURING & LISTENING” as adopted in the routine way of teaching. He was inclined to make the subject more interesting, whilst his presentations were peculiar to him along with his own Vocabulary in using some terms to suit his message! I recall how he spoke about the arrival of the Portuguese to Srilanka and How they captured the maritime region by saying “YOU KNOW THE PORTUGESE CAME TO SRILANKA IN 1505 and THEY MET KING BUVENEKA AND NEEDED TO SIGN A TREATY SO THEY MET KING BUWANEKA & SAID HI BUWENEKA HOW ABOUT SIGNING A TREATY! & THEY SUCCEEDED ENSURING THEY HAD THE MARITIME PROVINCES !”
His was always smartly attired but he had his sleeves in the shirt rolled. He was one of the most handsome teachers we had and always willing to mix around and was relaxed and considerate towards the students accessible to students at any time with a good sense of humor. His delivery was excellent as his pronunciation was very clear and perfect.
WJM was very free with the students and some, misunderstood him. There was an incident when he required us to write about the PORTUGESE & DUTCH period and the impact it had on SRILANKA. But our friend GPT Karunarathna (Generally Mischievous) thinking he can have a dig at WJM in fun (being a burgher) made some caustic comments which were unwarranted and uncouth! WJM next day called GPT and got him to stand on a chair “WE CALL IT” “ON THE FORM” That gave the message to GPT and he tendered an apology to WJM after the class was over and the gentleman he is,(WJM) he, said “FORGET ABOUT IT” that is fine !
During Mr WJM „s period at Richmond he lived in the Hostel. He had many Police friends in the police and I clearly remember him associating with HILARY ABEYGUNEASEKERA an Inspector of Police whom I knew when I Joined the police. Probably that I believe influenced him to attempt to join the Police as PROBATIONARY A.S.P. but since he had applied to join the ROYAL CEYLON AIRFORCE, he preferred to join the RCYAF in 1956 as a Flt Lt and worked at DIYATALAWA till 1962 in the administration section & played cricket and Captain the Airforce team in cricket It was whilst here that he married Anne. His wife died several years ago and now he lives with his son his very caring son David. When he migrated to Australia in 1962, he had served in the Department of CIVIL AVIATION till1989 (AS THE HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGER). He still keeps well and is good health, with God‟s grace and gardening etc I was fortunate to meet him in 2018 in his house and I presented him of one our 6o Club souvenirs / VINTAGE and a compiled diary of all names and addresses of our members. To me he looks the same OLD WJM with a good memory and set ways with a lot of reading he does in his spare time. He told me he watches SRILANKAN MATCHES but since the twenty came into the scene he lost interest as he prefers a game of TEST cricket & now, he mostly watches rugby. WJM is still in touch with me which is GREAT! He says in his message to me; “REGARDS COLLEAGUES AND CONTEMPORARIES I CAN
NOT TRUTHFULLY THINK OF ANY SURVIVORS GIVEN MY VENERABLE AGEOF 91 PLUS”! I took some pictures which I did provide for the vintage news but if any more copies are required, I may provide Mr WJM in his Conduct as a teacher taught us “CONFIDENCE IS NOT OPTIMISM, & IT IS NOT A CHARACTER ATTRIBUTE.IT IS THE EXPECTATION OF POSITIVE OUTCOME”
MAY GOD BE WITH HIM ALWAYS
Nihal De Alwis, Former Intelligence Officer, Sri Lanka Police & Founder, Chairman of Security Services
ATHLETIC PERFORMANCES OF WALTER J MAY
1947 440 yds 1st W. J. May – time 54.1sec
220 yds Hurdles 1st W.J. May – time 26.2sec*
Ceylon AAA Nationals
1948 400m Hurdles 2nd W. J. May U of Ceylon
400m Hurdles 1st W. J. May 59.0s U of Ceylon
400m Hurdles 1st W. J. May 59.5s U of Ceylon
University of Ceylon Inter – Hostel Meet 16th August – 21st August 1948
440 yds 1st W.J. May Time:61.3 secs
Final 2nd W. J. May
440yds Hurdles Final
1st. W.J. May, Brodie 64.9secs
1st W. J. May, Brodie 2:18.2secs
Inter-Faculty Athletic Meet 15th November
9th All India & Ceylon Inter University Championships. It is 400m Hurdles Final W.J. May. 1st time 58.4 secs
(misses the record by.1 of a second)
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WALTER J MAY: EARLY DAYS IN THE ROYAL CEYLON AIR FORCE
Walter May, referred to as Wally by his superiors and contemporaries was a Commissioned Officer in the rank of Flying Officer in the R Cy A F and stationed at the Ground Combat Training establishment at Diyatalawa. I was commissioned as a “Student Officer” in mid 1958 and along with my colleague Indra Virasinghe were posted to this station for what is referred to as “square bashing”.
It was a small station whose Commanding Officer was a Royal Air Force Officer Sqn. Ldr. Bentley. The Chief Instructor was Fg. Off Gerry Weeraratne, the senior Administration Officer was Flt Lt Bandu Weeratne, Nissanka Ediriweera the Adjutant and the Officer handling Transport, and logistics was Wally. He was married to a very pretty young lady Anne Reith. As there was inadequate accommodation for married Officers Wally and Anne lived with her mother Mrs Reith in a beautiful cottage with a landscaped garden. The premises was a little beyond the Survey camp on the road to Bandarawela. The house was named St. Ives.
Wally who was a very spritely, tall athletic figure. He virtually marched up to the camp daily in the mornings and returned in the evenings. Even though he was in charge of the transport section he opted not to use an official vehicle. Wally had a characteristic sense of humor whereby he coined a string of phrases to describe men and matters. Some of these which I recollect are “K L” [ King Liability] or “Q L” [Queen liability] for useless persons. “R S “for Wrong Speech by a brick dropper. “Nitty” for Not to Worry. We had informal get togethers in the Officers Mess sometimes with the ladies. Wallys lingo was only known to the male Officers. The ladies and other male visitors were flabbergasted by the peculiar terminology.
If I am permitted to hark back to the days when Wally, Eddie and Gerry were bachelors they related some hilarious incidents pertaining to Wally. Apparently Wally had set his eyes on the pretty damsel Anne and was contemplating on the traditional genuflection seeking her hand. Unfortunately, the boss of all these Officers Sqn. Ldr Bentley who was a bachelor with the distinguished “greying at the temples” sign of maturity quite ignorant of the romantic aspirations of his Junior Officer had decided on a very suave move to attempt to woo the young lady. Wally had no alternative but to cry into his beer and get soaked in spite of the attempts of sobering him up by his colleagues. They described how Wally was so inebriated that he sat in the front seat of the taxi with his posterior facing the direction of travel. When the baffled driver began his journey he had yelled at him “mokada yako, passen passata yanne”. Gerry and Eddie had consoled the driver and held Wally firm until they arrived at the Air Force camp. Within a couple of months Wally had prevailed and had tied the knot. Please note that this entire paragraph is hearsay in that I had not been Commissioned to the Air Force.
After the square bashing my batch mate and I were sent off to the UK for training. On return to the then Ceylon I was posted to Diyatalawa as the Weapon Training officer. Wally was still there doing the same tasks. In the course of time he was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He was thereafter posted out to R Cy A F Katunayake. A couple of months later the Air Force Officers of Katunayake arranged their Annual Dance. They extended an invitation to their contemporaries of the other stations. Being a young Flying Officer as per tradition “wild oats had to be sowed”. I invited a young lady who was resident in Colombo. She accepted my invitation and I arrived at her residence. Low and behold she was being chaperoned by her mother. I got to Katunayake and had no friends in particular but only some acquaintances. Thankfully, Wally arrived at the scene and quietly inquired from me about the presence of the middle aged lady. I explained my predicament. Wally said “Nitty Bren” and within a few minutes invited the young ladies chaperone on to the floor. It was open sesame for me when he dropped a characteristic wink! That was Wally the gentleman – a man for all seasons.
With the passage of time I decided to get married to a girl from my home town Negombo. I realized that there were no Officers Married Quarters available. It was again Wally to the rescue. He induced his Mother-in-Law Mrs Reith to rent out a part of her house to us. She readily agreed. She was a very gracious lady who was the ideal support to a new bride. We resided at the beautiful “St. Ives” cottage and moved into Official Married Quarters when one fell vacant.
I heard that Wally and Anne had decided to migrate to Australia. I met him casually in Colombo when he told me it was their ambition to ensure that their son be educated in either Oxford or Cambridge. I was told that the Officers at Katunayaka had given Wally and Anne a rousing and boisterous send off and carried him up the gangway of the aircraft.
I have not met Wally since those halcyon days. It gave me great pleasure to write this statement of facts and perhaps some fiction.
A Brendan Sosa, Air Vice Marshal, retired
Walter May passed away in Perth this year shortly after this APPRECIATION was in the public realm: a life worthy and fulfiilling. …. while this item was made possible by the computer adjustments undertaken by the Aloysian John de Silva of Melbourne — ina typical Gallilean gestuee of amity.