Memories of Peradeniya University Campus Sparked by A Visit in 2012

Rex Olegasegaram, whose favöured title runs thus: “Peradeniya Campus – A Visit Down Memory Lane

In November, 2012 when I drove into the Peradeniya University along with my wife Navaranjini, it was indeed a wonderful visit down memory lane covering my very enjoyable undergraduate spell in 1955/59. Then known as the Peradeniya campus of the University of Ceylon, it has indeed seen a number of physical changes in the interim period with new Halls of Residence, some significant changes to existing buildings (e.g. the old tinned roof of the Economics Department replaced with new modern structures), new approaches etc. Notwithstanding, a number of features that obtained at that time still continue: the older Halls of Residence, some lecture theatres, the library including the “pilloring” area, the gymnasium and the sport venues.

My elder brother Elmo and I had secured direct admissions to the University and in the month of June, 1955 accompanied by my parents we drove from Batticaloa to the Peradeniya campus of the University. It was exciting to drive into the stunningly beautiful campus with its lovely gardens and impressive buildings. We were on the main drag (Galaha Road) passing Jayatileke and Arunachalam Halls on the left, the sports venues on the right, the Arts Theatre, James Pieris and Hilda Obeyesekera halls, the entrance to the Lodge (vice chancellors residence) and on to the last Hall of Residence on that beat, Ramanathan Hall, allocated to us.

Ramanathan Hall

The first four days gave the “freshers” the opportunity to attend various orientation programmes and interact with each other, both within the hall and other freshers residing in other halls, prior to the seniors descending on the fifth day. The seniors lost no time in subjecting the hapless freshers to ragging sessions, particularly in our respective halls of residence. In the overall, the ragging sessions despite having a humiliating theme as a measure of initiation or induction, provided good fun and the opportunity to meet the seniors. An enthusiastic and jovial fresher, my friend and neighbour, Pastor, intoxicated with the spirit of ragging pretended to be a senior and embarked on ragging another meek looking fresher. Alas, this fresher happened to be a senior and asked Pastor to get lost using very juicy “unparliamentary” language. To our amusement, the dumbfounded Pastor hastily retreated stammering an apology.

During the period 1955/59, all the students on the campus had to be residents in the various Halls of residence immaterial of the location of their respective homes. The number of students was limited (around 2000) as only the Arts faculty (accounting for the substantial majority), the Law faculty and a few dental (dentos) and agriculture (agricolas) students in their final years made up the total population. Consequently the residents formed a fairly close knit socio community invariably knowing each other well. The situation is very different now with more faculties being represented in the campus, resulting in a major increase in the total student population. Although new Halls of Residence have sprung up and the overflow of students are allowed to live outside the campus and commute for their academic and student related activities, there is great pressure on accommodation in all the halls of residence.

Ramanathan Hall, in my time a men’s hall is now a women’s hall. This did not deter me from visiting many parts of the hall frequented by me in the old days, thanks to the very accommodating and obliging lady deputy warden in charge of the administration office. As we marched into the office my wife spotted a photograph and said with delight “you are in it”. I was pleasantly surprised to see a photograph of the Ramanathan Hall Athletics Team of 1956, the champions of the inter-hall competition. I could hardly recognise myself after 57 years. It was really exciting to see my fellow athletes of that time. Sadly, around half the number including my best friend Henry Solomons are not with us anymore.

A visit to the dining room was interesting as the layout was exactly the same as before and it was nice to sit down at the same table in the same place as before, recalling the old faces on the same table including Ernest MacIyntyre, John Gooneratne, Nimal Bhareti, R.S. Fernando, Harilal Nonis and my brother Elmo. The last three gentlemen are sadly not with us anymore. One of the more exciting experiences was visiting my old room (no.67) in my first year (1955/56). The furnishing was completely different reflecting the character of the occupancy- three students to a room at Ramanathan now compared to one during my time. This shows the pressure on accommodation. When the deputy warden kindly let us in, the current occupants were not there; however, as we were leaving the room two of the three girls occupying the room marched in. It was really nice talking to the two friendly girls. They appeared to be happy and coping well despite the “crowding”.

The main entrance to Ramanathan hall was still very impressive with the flower garden in front. It brought memories of a humorous nature when I saw the watcher’s chair. Mr. J.C.A. Corea, our warden, announced at dinner that he noticed a large number of students returning to the hall in the night after the curfew time of 10 PM and he would like to maintain a register with the watcher to facilitate those returning after 10 PM to write their names and sign. Mr Corea made it clear that he did not intend to take any action except to counsel those arriving late habitually and in extreme cases take disciplinary action. Although my friend Solo and I were not habitual late-comers, on occasions we would go to Kandy on our bicycles for a movie and dinner returning after 10 PM. In a mischievous mood, noticing that the watcher was very much asleep in his partially drunken stupor, we wrote the name of J.C.A. Corea instead of our names. A few other students had also followed our mischievous example and indulged in the same frolic. After a few weeks the genial Mr. Corea announced that he was withdrawing the register as he found his own name scrawled, however, we were all given sound advice in a convincing manner as to the necessity to return early to our rooms for reasons of good health and academic preparations. This approach did work.

On the way out from Ramanathan Hall, we headed briefly towards the famous Hindagala Restaurant, where we used to retreat occasionally for a very tastily prepared meal of corned beef, garnished with Bombay onions and topped up with an egg “bull’s eye”. Unfortunately, the restaurant is not there anymore and replaced with a bicycle repair shop and general store. This was disappointing.

Thereafter, we turned back and headed towards the sporting venues passing Hilda Obeysekera and James Pieris Halls, both women’s halls during our time. As we were passing James Pieris I was reminded of Mrs. Cook (then warden of James Pieris), a genial lady of short stature taking a walk along with her very tall English husband (a war veteran) and young son (“cooklet” as we affectionately called him). Due to the significant disparity in their respective heights we were almost convinced that Mr & Mrs Cook used a hidden telephone device in their attire to communicate with each other!

On passing Hilda Obeysekera Hall we went down through the famous “kissing bend” with its double bends and I explained to Navaranjini that this name was given not due to any amorous activities of the couples but due to cyclists (without brakes)  falling down and kissing the dust. In my time, I did go on my bike (predictably without any brakes!) heading for lectures/tutorials/sporting and other events. However, I managed to avoid kissing the dust by skilfully pressing the front mudguard with my leg over the handle bar. My friend Tissa was not so lucky. Despite my warning of the absence of brakes Tissa borrowed my bicycle and returned fairly soon with bruises swearing that he will never borrow my bike again. Apparently, while negotiating the kissing bend Tissa found a bevy of junior girls on their way to lectures blocking his pathway and unable to stop the bike in time crashed into one. Fortunately the girl did not sustain severe injuries. In the following year when the bright Tissa became a tutor, much to his embarrassment at the first tutorial class the victim was seated in the front row. Perhaps, Tissa made up by giving her good grades!

On reaching the sporting venues, I was rather emotional as the Tennis Courts, the impressive Athletics Cinder Track and the Soccer/Rugby field brought back many happy and satisfying memories. These venues had not changed over the last 55 years, except the tennis courts showing signs of some neglect.

In my very first year (1955/56) I launched into tennis and athletics winning colours. In my second year (1956/57), I was elected vice-captain of the Peradeniya campus tennis team with my senior Ms Sheila de Saram (from a family of good tennis players) as captain. In my third year (1957/58) I was elected captain of tennis. In both years, I had the pleasant task of organising the internal tennis tournaments, with participation from both students and dons (and their spouses).

I was amazed at the enthusiasm shown by the dons, both the older and the younger. Being a student in the Economics department, the tennis tournaments brought me into pleasant contact with the participating dons from other departments- Prof. H.A. Passe (English) and his enthusiastic wife playing mixed doubles, Prof. Hettiaraatchi (Sinhalese), Dr. M.B. Ariyapala (Buddhist Encyclopaedia), Dr Upali Amerasighe (English), Dr S.J. Thambiah (Sociology) and Dr.Karunandan (Audio-Visual). Professor Hettiaraatchi was an affectionate gentleman,treating me like a son and would give me a good hug whenever I fronted up to inform him of his playing schedule. The younger dons, Dr. Upali Amerasinghe and Dr. S.J. Thambiah were not only outstanding academics but also outstanding sportsmen in their school and university days. Prof. Ludowyke is reported to have referred to Dr. Upali as “my most perfect pupil”. I was most impressed with the attitude of Dr S.J And Dr Upali over an incident in the course of the tournament. I was forced to “scratch” one of the younger dons half way through the tournament as he was habitually late or not turning up for fixtures without any valid reason thereby hindering the progress of the tournament. As he walked into the courts noticing the next round being played without him, I was taken to task with a good dose of “ear-bashing” despite my explanation. Seeing this occurring both Dr.S.J. and Dr Upali came to my rescue and told the other Don in no uncertain terms that my action was completely correct as the tournament schedule cannot be held up.

Although not a tennis player, the vice-chancellor Dr Attygalle was very supportive when I invited him to give away the awards at the conclusion of the tournament (1957/58). Being the vice-chancellor for the whole University (both Peradeniya and Colombo campuses), he had an important meeting of the University Council in Colombo at the same time and suggested that I request Prof. Nadarajah (Dean) to deputise for him. I did so, however, Dr Attygalle fronted up to give away the awards. He had postponed the council meeting. I was very thankful and impressed. In both years, I was runner-up to T. Jothilingam (Jothi) at the finals, as I could not work out his clever and wily left-handed play. Both of us represented the combined university team at the pentangular tournament in Colombo (1957/58). Sheila de Saram won the women’s singles in 1956/57 and Rukmani Kodagoda (Ruky) in 1957/58. Rukmani was the All-Ceylon Women’s champion that year. I was privileged to have her in our team in the year of my captaincy. Sadly, both Jothi and Ruky passed away at a comparatively young age. Sheila de Saram, married to an all-Ceylon tennis player in the fifties, Scottie Meynert, lives in Sydney.

As indicated earlier, the Athletics cinder track brought many happy memories of achievements. In my first year I participated in the Fresher’s athletics meet, securing second places in the 5000 and 1500 Metres races and placed third in the Inter-hall meet (which included the seniors) in the 5000 metres. I had limited success in my second and third years. My fourth and last year saw a turning point. Having finished my spell as Captain of tennis in the third year I was able to concentrate on athletics and soccer. In that year, I won both the 5000 and 1500 metres and placed second in the 800 metres at the inter-hall championship meet. I beat my friend and long term rival Tillekeratne from Marrs Hall in the 5000 metres. In the 1500 metres, surprisingly, I got the better of the more fancied Anderson Fernando (also from Ramanathan)  as well as “Punchi” Saram of Arunachalam Hall (placed third). Punchi was my class and dormitory mate at S.Thomas, College Mount Lavinia in earlier years and consistently beat me in this event at school.

The crowning moment in that year was Ramanathan Hall narrowly winning and retaining the Gold Cup awarded to the Hall with the best all round performance based on points earned in all sporting inter-hall competitions for the year. Although Ramanathan was leading at one stage Arunachalam came from behind to gain a narrow lead until the last sporting event – the Medley Relays in Athletics. The last medley event- 5000 x 800 x 400 x 100 metres was to be the decider. Arunachalam had the better sprinters for the 100 & 400 metres, while we were on par in the 800 metres with an edge on the 5000 metres as I had won this event in the normal inter-hall Athletics championships earlier in the year. I had the responsibility to secure a good lead in the 5000 metres to enable the shorter distance runners to stave off a late challenge from the stronger short distance sprinters from Arunachalam. I did start off well, however, midway through (at the 7th lap) began to have some problems with my running shorts trying to slip out and was forced to come off the track briefly to adjust and secure the apparel. In this process my comfortable lead was lost with the Arunachalam athlete overtaking me. It took me a marathon effort to catch up and regain the lead but not the comfortable margin expected of me. However, the other three Ramanathan athletes “ran their hearts out” and staved off a strong late challenge from Arunachalam to win the medley and the Gold Cup. I was given the honour of receiving the cup at the awards on Colours week-end. My performance in the track events enabled me to compete with the best long distance athletes  in the country at regional and national athletic meets, namely Linus Diaz (who represented Ceylon at the Rome Olympics in 1960) and A.S.M. Khan (the “wonder boy” from Bandarawela).

While I savoured memorable success on the cinder track, I did have my share of disappointments. Although I was selected to represent the combined Ceylon University at the Inter-University Athletics Championships in Calcutta, our team was forced to withdraw due to lack of funds. Also in spite of being the favourite to win the marathon race in the final term as I had earlier won the 5000 metres, I failed. I was happy to see my old school mate “Punchi” Saram winning the event.

Going over to the soccer field also brought wonderful memories, when I played regularly for Ramanathan Hall (captaining the hall soccer team in the final year) and in the same year representing the Peradeniya campus in the “right half” position. We did have a good season in my last year beating outside clubs and St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota. Our encounter with the more fancied Colombo campus for the selection of the combined university team was the highlight when we beat them convincingly by 4 goals to 2. Alas, only three members were selected from Peradeniya campus – Peradeniya captain P.C. de Silva, V. Easwaranathan and Michael Roberts, as the power behind the selection process appeared to be with Colombo. Although I played a great game on that day, there were three other players from Peradeniya including my late brother Elmo meriting selection. Elmo was our centre-half and played a pivotal role in all the matches.

The University Sports Council (Peradeniya campus) was constituted from the captains and vice-captains of the various sports. As vice-captain of Peradeniya campus tennis in my second year(1956/57), I was a member of the council, which elected me to the commitee as its Treasurer. In my third year (1957/58), I was captain of tennis and elected as the General Secretary of the Sports Council. During my period, the vice-Chancellor, Dr.Attygalle hosted an annual garden party on the lawn of the Lodge, to which a number of senior dons and their spouses, as well as the committee members of the Students’ Union and the Sports Council were invited. Consequently, I had the privilege of attending the garden party two years in succession and the pleasure of chatting to a few dons, including Dr. G.P. Malalasekera (an eminent Buddhist Scholar) and Prof. J.L.C ,Rodrigo (Western Classics). Dr. Malalasekera gave me a lucid outline of the salient aspects of Buddhism and later presented me his illuminating booklet on Buddhism. Being a Christian, I was delighted to have this interaction with him. Prof. Rodrigo, an old boy of Trinity College, Kandy, was a classmate and boarding mate of my Uncle Walter Olegasegarem at Trinity in the 1910s during the principalship of the well known A.G. Fraser. He spoke to me of some interesting episodes at Trinity involving my uncle and himself – both were outstanding scholars and my uncle won the coveted Trinity Lion and the English Essay Prize.

A memorable event during my time in the life of the sports people and indeed the rest of the university including participants from the Colombo campus was the annual Colours Weekend. The activities start on Friday with sporting competitions between Peradeniya campus and Colombo campus teams’ e.g.Cricket, Football, Tennis, Netball (girls) and culminating in the Colours Night dance on the Saturday night in the gymnasium building. All the events were organised by the Peradeniya campus Sports Council. On Saturday evening (prior to the dance) awards will be given to winners of various team competitions as well as individuals (in sporting activities) winning colours for excellence during that year. The chief guest was usually the vice-chancellor. The colours night dance, with cabaret items and featuring one of the better known musical bands as well as the selection of the “Miss University”, was a most enjoyable finale. In 1957/58, when two of us from the committee invited a lady warden to be in the panel for selecting the “Miss University”, she bombarded us (unsolicited) with a series of criteria for selection until we politely terminated the long one-way conversation reminding her that it is up to her and the other members of the panel to make the selection!

A colourful personality on the campus was the cheerful and ebullient Director of Sports, Dr. Brant Little. He guided the Sports Council and often injecting additional funds into the Sports Council budget to cover any special activities from donors belonging to the business world due to his close rapport with them. He left us in early 1958 to his home country, Canada. Perhaps the University Athletics team in 1958/59 would have made it to the Inter-university championships had he been there to find the necessary funds. It was entirely due to his efforts that the Peradeniya University has one of the best, if not the best, Gymnasiums in Sri Lanka. The Gymnasium was officially commissioned during my spell as general secretary of the sports council and named it the “Brant Little Gymnasium” .

Brant Little on the left with Sir Ivor Jennings and C. Sunderalingam during Jennings’ farewell walk at Pera

Funds were allocated in the last month of our committee to erect the signage in his honour. Sadly no action has been taken by subsequent committees to honour this great gentleman’s lasting legacy of the Gym. When we visited the venue in Nov.2012, the signage merely stated “Gymnasium”. However, I was happy to note that the Gym continues to be well equipped and activities continue. There is an impressive Gym office and it had a number of photographs of sporting teams.Unfortunately, the photos were only from 1961 onwards and did not cover my period. The friendly manager in charge of the office apologised for this stating that the records prior to 1961, including the Minute Book have been sent to the archives. I told him it was quite in order as it is not possible to display earlier years as time moved on.

When Dr. Brant little left us, he was succeeded by Miss Dorothy de Saram.Dorothy, a past graduate of the University of Ceylon who subsequently obtained an MA in Physical Education, University of California. She was eminently suited to succeed DrBrant Little. A very efficient lady who kept the Sports activities moving smoothly. She is the sister of Sheila Meynert (nee de Saram) who was captain of Tennis in 1956/57, as mentioned earlier. Dorothy migrated to Melbourne with her family. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago.

In my academic life in the Arts faculty, I had the privilege of being taught by very eminent Professors and Lecturers. In the first year (General Arts Qualifying -GAQ), we had to choose 3 subjects and my choice was History, Geography and Economics. History and Geography were not new as they were my high school subjects. However, the level and the interpretations were something totally different. For example, our European History lecturer Fr. Dr. Pinto (a devout Catholic priest) provided a very interesting and well argued interpretation of the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Counter-reformation completely contrary to what we had learnt in the HSC at school. He contended that the Middle Ages, far from being the “Dark Ages”, produced some of the best intellectually stimulating and scholastic studies and the Renaissance was tainted with vulgarism as evidenced by the nude architectural works and far from ” freeing the mind”. Also, the Reformation was actually a rebellion against the fundamental beliefs of the Church and the Counter-reformation was the real reformation as it addressed the corruption and other shortcomings of the clergy. Fr. Pinto also had a sense of humour. The topic was the fall of the Roman Empire and as he lectured holding the map of the Roman empire, it fell down and as he stooped to pick it up said “this is like the fall of the Roman Empire” provoking a laughter from the students. Perhaps it was not an accident, as our seniors mentioned that the same thing happened in the previous year. Again, a female student entered the lecture theatre late as he was talking about Julius Caesar and his army crossing the river Rubicon and Fr. Pinto turned to her and innocently joked “have you crossed the Rubicon”? Howls of laughter erupted from the students, whose fertile and sharp minds gave the innocent remark a sinister connotation and thereafter this female student was called “Rubicon”. Dr. Labrooy, our enthusiastic lecturer in English History was so engrossed in the substance of the topic that as he talked about the cavalry advancing and retreating he would physically move forward up and down on the stage.

In the Geography Department, housed in the Administration block at that time there were accomplished lecturers of the ilk of Prof. Kularatnam, Dr.George Thambyapillai, and Dr. Fernando. Dr Thambyapillai was outstanding as he made the fairly complex area of Climatology very interesting. I recall our first geography tutorial- “What is Geography?”. One bright female colleague in our group had the opening sentence in her tutorial “Geography is about Maps and History is about Chaps”. Thereafter she was called “Maps and Chaps”

In our second year, we had the option of continuing with the same 3 subjects for a General Degree (additional 2 years) or a Special Degree in a detailed format (3years) in any one of the subjects, provided a good grading of either “A”(distinction) or “B” (Good) was obtained in the chosen subject.I obtained the qualifying grades in Economics and Geography. Prof. Kularatnam was keen that I should pursue with Geography, however, I had obtained the top grading in Economics and on the advice of the well respected lecturer in Economics Dr.HAdeS Gunasekera (later Professor), I opted for Economics, and in the third year specialising in Accountancy. On reflection, this was a good decision or may be Divine guidance as I continued with accountancy (after graduating) to pursue the profession of chartered accountancy.

Dr. HAdeS Gunasekera (“Hadea” as he was affectionately called) was simply brilliant as a lecturer in Economic Theory. He would dissect the most complex theories and concepts and put it across in such a lucid and simple manner that we could grasp them easily. I suspect Dr. Gunasekera had a special liking for our batch as he fell in love with our batch mate, the attractive Leela and later married her.

Equally brilliant were Dr. A.J. Wilson (Banking & Finance), Dr. Vandendriesen (Economic History), Dr. S.J.Thambiah (sociology), Dr Sarkar (Statistics)and Dr I.D.S. Weerawardene (Poilitical Theory). Dr.Indraratne (Accountancy and Applied Economics) and “Tawny” Rajaratnam (Economic History) were colourful personalities. Dr.Vandendriesen (affectionately called Vandy), hailed from a Dutch Burgher family settled in Jaffna for generations.

Dr. F.R. Jayasuriya succeeded Prof. Das Gupta as Head of Economics Department in my second year. Although Dr. Jayasuriya extended himself to great lengths to support the “Sinhala Only” Act in 1956 by fasting on the steps of the Parliament house in Colombo to the disappointment of many of his Tamil as well as moderate Sinhalese students, most of his favourite students were Tamils and he never discriminated against them in the University life. He headed the panel of University Dons in 1959 recommending 7 (may be 8) students for the Ceylon Government Graduate scholarship to do chartered accountancy. I was one of the successful candidates and the majority selected were Tamils.

I had also the privilege of being taught Auditing (part of the accountancy Section) by Mr. B.R .de Silva, senior partner of the chartered accountancy firm B.R. de Silva & Co. He was a sports fanatic (mainly athletics), founder member and first president of the well known Ceylon Track and Field Club (CT&FC). On hearing of my achievements in athletic competitions, Mr Silva offered me a private Graduate Articles scholarship to do chartered accountancy from his firm as well as represent CT & FC in athletic events. I did not accept his kind offer as I was subsequently placed for accountancy articleship with the then leading firm of chartered accountants Ford, Rhodes, Thornton & Co (now KPMG) through the Government Graduate Scholarship scheme.

Although not directly involved with him as my lecturer, Dr. Doric de Souza was well known to all students during my time. He was not only a well respected senior lecturer in the English Department, but also a leading personality in the socialist movement in the country. Some of his public lectures organised by the students union were of a high order with his excellent grasp of social history all over the world. Dr. Souza applied his great intelligence in the sporting arena as well. In my first year (1955/56), I witnessed the finals of the university internal Table Tennis Tournament where he beat the more flamboyant favourite (final year student) by sheer concentration and clever tactics. Being a friendly personality, I benefited by his invitation for a beer and an interesting chat when I met him at the Kandy Lawn Tennis club during a vacation. Dr Souza’s wife was the Librarian of the Campus library. She was a smart lady, well dressed and efficient in her job. It came as a surprise when we heard that during the long vacation she had her second child, as she showed very few signs of her pregnancy prior to the vacation – perhaps the way she dressed her saree cleverly concealing. Mrs. de Souza lived in Sydney with her children during the latter part of her life.

 A great and caring gentleman was our university Christian Chaplain, the Revd.Lakshman Wickremasinghe (later Bishop of Kurunegalle). He was a tall and handsome outstanding past student securing a first class in Economics and the sprinting champion in athletics (100 and 200 metres). Although successful in the coveted civil service examination, he turned down a lucrative offer to heed his calling to the Church. Always helpful and friendly, riding his vespa scooter he visited his flock in the halls, participating in our after-dinner prayer meetings on certain days. During my final year examination, I had a few problems unable to sleep and being stressed, which did affect my performance. When Revd. Lakshman became aware of this unfortunate situation he promptly took me to the Chaplain’s quarters, where I stayed with him for three days. He calmed me down with prayers and counselling, as well as taking me down to the examination venue on his Vespa. I will never forget his kind and caring intervention.

The visit to the Arts Theatre brought back  memories of week-end movies on the small screen, public lectures by prominent politicians of the ilk of Mr G.G. Ponnambalam, Dr. N.M. Perera,Mr. Pieter Keuneman, Mr Tissa Wijeratne, Dr. C Suntheralingam and our own Dr. Doric de Souza. Some of the lectures were breathtaking, particularly that of the great orator G.G. Ponnambalam where we experienced a most absorbing and “pin-drop silence” during a whole hour. The arts theatre was also the venue for a few lectures attended by a large number of students and requiring more space. From this venue, we visited a few other lecture theatres, the library as well as the “pilloring area” in the centre of the library complex. called “pilloring area” as it was an open covered area with several pillors, where students would meet for a chat between lectures or visiting the library. A few of these friendly chats between the girls and boys blossomed into more serious relationships. The pilloring area has not changed since my time and still housed the various Notice Boards. This brought back very pleasant memories as I used to post the Tennis Tournament Draw Sheets on these boards and update the results of the matches as the tournament progressed.

Both English and Sinhala drama productions spearheaded by Prof. Ludowyke and Dr. Saratchandra in my time were of a high order – Bernard Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion” and the Sinhala play” Maname”(1956). Edmund Wijeyasinghe ,who played the role of forest king in Maname was my batchmate. Although I was very much into drama in my school days my participation in this area at the university was limited, partly due to my intense involvement with sports and sports administration. However, I did enjoy acting in an inter-hall drama competition in my first year for Hilda Obeyesekera Hall in a play called” Man who married the dumb wife” with Shelagh Goonewardene (nee Jansen), Chula Unamboowe and John Gooneratne. The major roles were played by Shelagh, well known in this field and Chula Unambowe also an accomplished actor. Sadly, Shelagh, a beautiful person passed away recently in Melbourne and Chula, a real gentleman, passed away some years ago. Ernest MacIyntyre, the well known playwright and producer of English dramas for many years was my batchmate and hallmate at Ramanathan Hall. Certainly, Prof. Ludowyke and Dr Saratchandra had a decisive influence in Ernest’s early days in this field.

The last lap of this trip down memory lane (with the cooperation of a very accommodating driver) was to drive up the Hantana Hill taking the identical route of the cross-country marathon. In my active years in Peradeniya, on some days (time permitting) I used to run up the hill from Ramanathan Hall, with  a tennis racquet in hand and down to the tennis courts for a few sets and then to the soccer field for a hard game of soccer. Thereafter, a few rounds on the cinder track and on to the Gym for badminton, tennequoits and indoor tennis. When I got back to the hall it was time for a quick shower and dinner – what a wonderful life! It was interesting to reminiscence this routine when I met Dr. Michael Roberts recently (a well known academic and sportsman – two years junior to me) who told me had a similar routine (except running up the hill). This routine really kept us in peak fitness and certainly helped my performance in the athletic competitions, particularly the 5000 metres.

A visit down memory lane is not complete without a peak at the old special railway station (called “Peradeniya New” during our time but different now) which serviced and continues to service the university population. All our entrances and exits for holidays and more importantly for sports persons travelling to Colombo and other destinations for competitions went through this railway station for those depending on rail transport. It was not uncommon for a few of us , particularly returning from sporting events by day or night, to take a short-cut to the halls of residence by walking over the bridge treading on the railway line sleepers (instead of the pedestrian walk-way) with the river swirling underneath. Reflecting on this now, it seems so foolish and “giddy headed”, however, it did not appear to be a great deal at that time.

I must thank my good wife Navaranjini for sharing these memories and the physical call on her rushing from place to place within a limited time, as well as the very cooperative driver who was willing to go everywhere and assisting me with photographs.



Filed under architects & architecture, cultural transmission, education, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, meditations, patriotism, performance, pilgrimages, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, teaching profession, travelogue

3 responses to “Memories of Peradeniya University Campus Sparked by A Visit in 2012

  1. ChandraMaliyadde

    Watch with memories

  2. Rex Olegasegarem

    Thank you Michael for publishing my very pleasant memories of our wonderful life in the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya Campus} 1955/59.
    Also , I have written an article on my illustrious Great Grand Father . ” DR. Morgan Covington -The Brilliant Colonial Surgeon “. This was published in the latest May ,2023 issue of ” the Ceylankan”

  3. ChandraMaliyadde

    Only the Peradniya graduates can walk down this memorizing memory lane. Always the best

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