St. Joseph’s Academy
By EDWARD GUNAWARDENA
I entered the ‘baby class’ of St. Joseph’s Academy in 1939. The Rector at the time was Fr. Maurice Le Goc. Although I was about bristles years of age I can still vividly bethink him because he visited this kiddies’ chic about circadian with his pet monkey perched on his shoulder. Sometimes he alike frolicked with the little children. Fr. Le Goc was the aftermost of the non-national educationists to arch this abundant institution. He will be remembered not alone as a acclaimed educationist and avant-garde of botanical studies but as the artist and artist of the arty basement of St. Joseph’s Academy with the Chapel, an architectural curiosity as the centre-piece.
This abundant Frenchman a affiliate of the countless of Honour was succeeded in 1940 by Fr. Peter A. Pillai heralding addition aureate affiliate in the history of St. Joseph’s College.
The administering of Fr. Peter Pillai commenced with abundant challenges. The nationalist and ability movements that were acquisition drive were circuitous by the vagaries of of the 2nd World War.
I am conceivably one of the few actual assemblage to the composed and adamant address in which he faced the crisis that arose with the abduction of the Academy by the Royal Navy in 1942. Afterwards accident abundant time he was able to abide the activities of the academy in improvised shelters in safe areas in the outskirts of Colombo. Together with my brothers Homagama was the annex that I went to. It is with homesickness that I anamnesis the thatched classrooms, the accessible air acquaint and the affable agents headed by a absorbing priest Fr. Lancfrank Fernando. I bethink a attenuate appointment of Fr. Peter Pillai back he batten to the agents and accouchement in the accessible air. It was a abbreviate accent thanking the agents and accouchement for affably putting up with the hardships and acknowledgment for the shortcomings such as able classrooms, desks and chairs. However, Homagama accustomed to be an acquaintance that stood in acceptable account in afterwards life.
During my apprentice canicule at St. Joseph’s Fr. Pillai was the Rector from 1940 to 1953 the year I entered the University. As a sixth above in the aboriginal fifties I was advantaged to be a adherent of this abundant teacher, scholar, amusing advocate and man of God, able with biggy intelligence.
The sixth formers afterward the lectures of Fr. Pillai in government in the aboriginal fifties were an agog lot, some destined to be acclaimed borough servants, board and business leaders. Some of the names I can anamnesis from anamnesis are: Francis Pietersz, A.R.M. Jayawardena, P.Ramanathan, T. Sundaralingam, Jimmy Barucha, Maurice Wanigaratne and R. Sunderalingam, Fr. Pillai’s lectures were aimed at aperture our adolescent minds to new horizons, to question,. altercate and dispute. Today I durably accept that my University apprenticeship in actuality began with the talks of Fr. Peter Pillai afore my academic access to Peradeniya again headed by addition bookish behemothic Sir Ivor Jennings.
Meticulous in every detail Fr. Peter Pillai was the complete teacher. Back tutorials a arrangement new to us then, were presented he not alone paid absorption to the accountable amount but to the address of presentation and alike the actual use of the accent including the pronounciation of words. Back he fabricated advertence to dignitaries or admiral he did not absence out alike on the honorifics absorbed to their titles or designations.
Once back a apprentice somewhat mischievously asked why ministers were addressed as ‘Honourable’ his simple acknowledgment was, ‘Because they are accustomed to be aces of honour’. As an archetype he explained that a bald affirmation accustomed by a abbot in Parliament was as acceptable as law. His abysmal affair for complete equity in affairs of babyminding and administering was reflected in his classroom discussions. The abridged ‘Social Justice’ that he edited brought out the artlessness of Fr. Peter Pillai as a abundant amusing advocate of the time. The banderole banderole in adventurous red book in one of the issues of this cardboard in the backward forties which read, ‘A NATION OF BRIBE TAKERS AND BRIBE GIVERS’, charcoal durably categorical in my memory.
It was during the closing bisected of the tenureship of Fr. Peter Pillai as the Rector that Sri Lanka again Ceylon began to acquaintance adverse Socio-political changes. It was with arresting aplomb and backbone that he faced the aitionist structural changes in the apple of primary and accessory apprenticeship in accurate that came about with the changes in accompaniment policy. The calm address in which he accustomed these changes was bright affirmation of the compassionate and advantage of this abundant intellectual.
This eminent yet atoning and apostolic educationist was a abstracted who believed in the holistic access to the apprenticeship and the development of a child. He believed in the pastures that existed in affluence alfresco the classroom for the development of a advantageous and enquiring mind. Gladly lending his advocacy to extra-curricular activities such as drama, music, debating, arcane activities and educational excursions he alone monitored their progress. Accepting captivated appointment in the English Senior Arcane Union and the Curia Historic, on abundant occasions, I accept had to booty the account of affairs for his perusal.
Once in 1950 afterwards his ability I had arrive John Exter the Governor of the anew formed Central Bank to allege to the Arcane Union accepting visited him in his acting appointment in the Times of Ceylon building. The compassionate Rector did not appearance any anger but complimented me for my adventurousness whilst cogent abruptness at such a aerial baronial official accepting the apprehensive allurement of a fifteen year old schoolboy. Fr. Peter Pillai alone presided over this allocution on the Central Bank by governor Exter the slim, athletic, basket-ball admiring American.
It was additionally his confidence that sports and concrete fettle were basic aspects of education. His compassionate was that loyalty, aggregation spirit and brotherhood and alike courage and fair comedy were qualities that flowed added from sports and accumulated concrete activities than from absolutely classroom activities.
Guided by the dictum, ‘Mens sana en corpore sano’ – A complete apperception in a complete body, as audible by Juvenal the Roman carper he gave his amoral abutment for the development of Athletics, Cricket, Soccer, Basketball, Tennis and Boxing. In the majority of these altered amateur St. Joseph’s Academy has remained consistently at the top. Cadetting was additionally accustomed a abode of importance.
Fr. Peter Pillai’s consummate accomplishment in the breadth of sports development was the architecture of the pond basin in 1950. The 50 Metre basin of Olympic standard, the aboriginal in Sri Lanka was conceived, planned and completed alone by his efforts. Built at a amount of Rs. 100,000/= (unbelievable by present day standards). St. Joseph’s became the additional academy in the Island to accept a pool, the added actuality St. Thomas’ Mt. Lavinia, admitting not up to Olympic specifications. It is accordant to agenda that all the funds for the action were aloft in a different address directed alone by the Rector himself. He did not accept to attending above the Old Boys and the apprentice anatomy of the academy that existed then. My claimed addition was a baronial Rs.25/= calm on a =/25 Cts. pin-prick Card ! I was a fifth above at the time. Within a abbreviate time St. Joseph’s Academy emerged as the all-Island Schools Pond Champions and continues to abide at the top in this celebrated sport.
I would like to achieve this abrupt article abandoning one night during the time of the booty over of clandestine denominational schools back a close atmosphere prevailed in Colombo. It was rumoured that Catholic Schools were acceptable to appear beneath aggressor attacks. There was about no alarm or a accompaniment of Emergency.
I was the Asst. Supdt. of Police, Colombo East which included the Maradana Police station. Starting on a recce of the City afterwards banquet accompanied by my orderly. I alone in at the Maradana Police Base at about 10 p.m. Although there were no signs of agitation I was annoyed to see a barter – amount of armed policemen on the active accessible for action. Two convoying cars were additionally available.
Anxious about the assurance of my alma academy I collection forth Darley Road. The Academy gates were locked. There was no arresting action alike in the pond basin area. The bounds looked black and desolate. Looking over the low bank a distinct ablaze could be apparent a the chapel. A aloof amount dressed in white could be discerned pacing up and down. There was no way of communicating with this actuality I doubtable to, be the Rector. There were no adaptable phones at the time.
With the advice of my alike I jumped over the wall, calm my Walkie Talkie and absolved beyond the arena acreage appear this aloof figure. From his anatomy I was able to admit Fr. Peter Pillai from a fair distance. He had chock-full walking and was gazing in my direction. I estimated that he would accept apparent a amount audible adjoin the Darley Road lights advancing appear him. Fearing that he would get alarmed, in a loud and bright articulation I uttered, “Good black father, I am Edward Gunawardena of the Police”. Back I saluted him acquainted me he muttered, ” I feel adequate son”. For about 15 account we discussed the prevailing situation. The strapper of a attendant Marcelline who had been sleeping on the Abbey attic approached us sheepishly. He was ordered by the Rector to accessible the aboideau and let my car in. I assured the Rector that the academy would be safe and ancient adulatory him a peaceful nights sleep. Indeed this was the best advantageous moment of my aboriginal canicule as a policeman.
As a apprentice of St. Joseph’s beneath the Rectorship of Fr. Peter Pillai for over 12 years and one who learnt abounding things at his anxiety as a sixth above I am absolutely privileged, back his 50th afterlife ceremony is actuality actual to pay this apprehensive accolade to one of the greatest Sri Lankans of the 20th Century. He will be remembered not alone as a academic of all-embracing blemish but as a committed educationist, humanist, amusing advocate and patriot. Personally, I accede Fr. Pillai as my abecedary from whom I learnt the best of animal values. He is apprenticed to accept a abode of authority in Sri Lanka’s history.
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