Mevan Pieris: From Cricket Ball to Books, Phials & Paintbrush

MEVAN PIERIS has recently turned his mind to artwork with paintbrush, while yet sustaining his commitment to the academic disciplines in which he has devoted his endeavours during the past few decades by reproducing and/or renovating portraitures of eminent scientists; while also creating paintings of his own — both portraits and scenarios.

This is  a photograph of the restored painting of Professor Juan Pedige Charles Chandrasena who joined the University College in 1923 and was Professor of Chemistry in 1932 and retired or died soon afterwards. This Portrait is unsigned and the  guess is that it is the work of David Paynter. The painting was in a very bad state with certain areas of the canvas having deteriorated and sprinkled all over with wall paint through neglect. The frame was also damaged and here and there the paint had begun to peel off.

Charles L de Silva was educated at Royal College, and was the elder brother of Chari de Silva. He is known to have been an extremely kind-hearted and a brilliant teacher of both Organic and Physical Chemistry. He had died at a young age in his thirties. Chari  [former Chairman, Aitken Spence]. had been at his brother’s lectures. This painting was in a miserable state. I will send you as soon as I can get a picture in which it was before restoration, to indicate the massive effort on my part to restore it. The painting is the work of the famous portrait painter Mudaliyar ACGS Ameresekara. The late Mudaliyar had used an extremely poor quality primer on the canvas and the painting had crazed badly and was peeling all over

Prof Eric L Fonseka after restoration by Mevan Pieris … Professor Eric Fonseka was Professor of Chemistry in the war years and thereafter as well. It was Professor PPGL Siriwardana who taught me and Eric is said to have been a colourful teacher who would take the lectures in cap and gown. Eric Fonseka was also a Professor of Organic Chemistry and knew his Inorganic as well. He was PPGL Siriwardena’s role model. Eric too was a Royalist. Lionel Siriwardene was a Thomian and did his PhD in the 1950s at Cambridge when Gamini Goonesena made 200 runs against Oxford.”

The paintings below are some produced by Mevan Pieris — a demonstration of artistic skills beyond the tasks of restoration.

  watercolour painting of a hibiscus in bloom  

    watercolour art of a leopard

 Prof. J N O Fernando: PhD, London, Professor of Chemistry, Open University of Ceylon

Prof PPGL Siriwardena:  PhD, Cantab, Professor of Chemistry, University of Colombo

  Prof R S Ramakrishna: PhD, Oxon, Professor of Chemistry, University of Colombo.

A PS from Mevan: ” The three ties JNOF, PPGLS and RSR are wearing are their British University College ties. I did the crests carefully. In a magnification they will be visible. All are dead now and were unlike Professors of today, men of commanding personality.”

The Comments below are those presented by The Editor, Thuppahi

The “messages” displayed in these photographs can be frutifully set beside other action shots and stills which illutrate Mevan Pieris’s prominent role on the cricket field — playing for S. Thomas College, the SSC and Sri Lanka. Within that domain there is also one camera shot which displays his social conscience and ‘activism’: when he rushed onto the cricket field during Sri Lanka’s international one-day match at the Kennington Oval in London on  11th June 1975 and helped carry the injured Duleep Mendis to the pavilion.

In the first photo early in the day Mevan and one of the Aussie opening batsman can be seen in the background completely at ease as  Sri Lankan Tamil protestors use the occasion to criticize the political situation in Sri Lanka.

The Australian paceman Geoff Thomson was afar greater danger to the Lankan cricketers than the Tamil activists! He felled opener Sunil Wettimuny by hitting his toe and forcing him to retire hurt; ….and then getting a bouncer through Dulep[ Mendis’ attempted hook and hitting him on the head (no helmets then mind you).  So, …. you see Mevan Pieris (on Duleep’s right) and Dennis Chanmugam carrying Duleep back to the pavilion [first step towards hospitalization]. 

The deeply concnerned Sri Lankan batsman on the tight of the pix is Anura Tennekoon. It could be a mere coincidence that all four Sri Lankan cricketers in this little ‘cameo” are Thomians.

The photographs below reveal Mevan Pieris as one of the cricketing crew heading for Nuwara Eliya to acclimatize for cricket in UK and thereafter presented together for an official squad photograph.

 Mevan is on the extreme left … kneeling. He is the tallests of the lot in the formal group photograph


Australia won by 52 runs
Rick McCosker  b de Silva 73 111 2 0 65.76
Alan Turner  c Mendis b de Silva 101 113 9 1 89.38
Ian Chappell (c) b Kaluperuma 4 7 1 0 57.14
Greg Chappell  c Opatha b Pieris 50 50 5 1 100.00
Doug Walters  c Tennekoon b Pieris 59 66 5 0 89.39
Jeff Thomson  not out 9 7 0 0 128.57
Rod Marsh † not out 9 7 0 0 128.57
Extras (b 1, lb 20, nb 1, w 1) 23
TOTAL (60 Ov, RR: 5.46) 328/5
Fall of wickets: 1-182 (Alan Turner), 2-187 (Rick McCosker), 3-191 (Ian Chappell), 4-308 (Doug Walters), 5-308 (Greg Chappell)
Tony Opatha 9 0 32 0 3.55 0 0
Mevan Pieris 11 0 68 2 6.18 0 0
Bandula Warnapura 9 0 40 0 4.44 0 0
Anura Ranasinghe 7 0 55 0 7.85 0 0
Somachandra De Silva 12 3 60 2 5.00 0 0
Lalith Kaluperuma 12 0 50 1 4.16 0 0
Sunil Wettimuny  retired hurt 53 102 7 0 51.96
Ranjit Fernando † b Thomson 22 18 4 0 122.22
Bandula Warnapura  st †Marsh b Mallett 31 39 5 0 79.48
Duleep Mendis  retired hurt 32 45 5 0 71.11
Anura Tennekoon (c) b IM Chappell 48 71 6 0 67.60
Michael Tissera  c Turner b IM Chappell 52 72 7 0 72.22
Anura Ranasinghe  not out 14 18 3 0 77.77
Mevan Pieris  not out 0 3 0 0 0.00
Extras (b 6, lb 8, nb 2, w 8) 24
TOTAL (60 Ov, RR: 4.60) 276/4
Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Ranjit Fernando), 2-84 (Bandula Warnapura), 2-150* (Duleep Mendis, retired hurt), 2-164* (Sunil Wettimuny, retired hurt), 3-246 (Anura Tennekoon), 4-268 (Michael Tissera)
Dennis Lillee 10 0 42 0 4.20 0 0
Jeff Thomson 12 5 22 1 1.83 0 0
Ashley Mallett 12 0 72 1 6.00 0 0
Doug Walters 6 1 33 0 5.50 0 0
Max Walker 12 1 44 0 3.66 0 0
Greg Chappell 4 0 25 0 6.25 0 0
Ian Chappell 4 0 14 2 3.50 0 0


Michael Roberts & Alfred James:  Crosscurrents. Australia and Sri Lanka at Cricket, Syney, Walla Walla Press, 1998.

Michael Roberts: Essaying Cricket, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2005.

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One response to “Mevan Pieris: From Cricket Ball to Books, Phials & Paintbrush

  1. Chris Obeyesekere

    Thanks for the memories of a by gone era in Sri Lanka cricket. A time when there were no TVs and we could listen only to commentaries over the radio.
    Remember listning and hoping against all odds that our lads will win this match.

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