The Double Blue International
Wesley College Colombo - Sri Lanka
Ora et labora
The pages that follow charts Wesley's voyage of hope since its beginning in 1874
This is an International Website for all Wesleyites, past and present created in Cyberspace. With a few clicks of the rodent you will be transported in time to Wesley College Colombo. On its many pages we honour our Principals, Teachers and Past Students. They have done us proud. It is a repository of stories, legends, anecdotes and images of schooldays and school friends. A place to drop in from time to time, browse, read, recharge and reflect. For once it was your home away from home.
This website presents more than 125 years of educational, cultural, social and intellectual life of Wesley College Colombo. The school was founded by Rev. Daniel Henry Pereira who believed in the universal value of education. The early missionary Principals had to survive the scourge of disease and the hostile local clamour for independence. In later years the Principals and the school withstood the pressures of political upheaval and civil strife. There have been two World Wars in the 20th century. But throughout those years of trouble and turmoil Wesley continued to provide a fine all round education to its students. This is a tribute to the Methodist Mission in Ceylon and the many dedicated Principals and teachers who walked the corridors of this great school.
Schools are places of endemic change. Every year new students join and those who have left go farther on life's journey outside the school gates. We must change with time and we have done so maintaining our links with our glorious past. We have kept the old traditions whilst embracing the innovative and modern. Rejuvenation and modernisation is a continuous process. It would be dismissive to say that transition has procured no benefit. The introduction of computers and the internet into the curriculum and teaching has moved us forward into an exciting new era in education.
However timeless and imposing, the school is not just a set of buildings but a vibrant community. Education at Wesley College Colombo, since its inception, has been focussed in helping emerging adults discharge their responsibilities well, as individuals in this wonderful world. At school education has always been something more than just learning text books and sitting exams. Our long tradition of excellence in sports, arts, drama and music remain a tribute to our Principals teachers and the students and long may that ethic continue.
The main function of a school is to prepare students for life. I believe, as many Wesleyites do, our school has suceeded in that task. Well, most of the time anyway!!
We all hate change and often hear the lament "the school is not what it used to be". Perhaps it never was!! This is more a nostalgic vision of a mystical, non existent past.
As for the future, the school extends the hand of friendship to welcome back as many old boys as possible. We want the school to benefit from the skills, knowledge and experience the Old Boys can offer. Wesley College ensures friendship and goodwill to all old boys and hope the joy of shared memories will give them a continuing stake in the school's success.
Ora et labora
The Double Blue Links
Linking the Alumni of Wesley College Colombo across the World
Students have trod those long corridors, sat in the classrooms, assembled in the Great Hall and played in Campbell Park since 1907. After leaving the hallowed grounds, Old Boys look back on their time and wonder what has happened to their school, friends, teachers and Principals . Those memories are more than mere nostalgia. The emotions and sentiments associated with these memories give us the greatest pleasure.
As we see from the websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, Wesley College Colombo and its Old Boys have joined the digital revolution. Over many years we have scanned the world wide web, spoken to old boys and leaders of the many organisations of the school to collect information for the Double Blue International and the ever popular Australian OBU Newsletter. We feel strongly there is now a need for an International Newsletter. Keith and I realize the enormity of the task.
A Newsletter is only as good as the support it receives from the old boys. Any news about the school and its OBU’s and members will be most welcome. Please keep us informed of the old boys’ achievements, marriages and obituaries. Facts are sacred but comment is free. We hope the old boys will be able to express their views freely and fairly. The Double Blue Link is not an official newsletter of Wesley College Colombo or its Old Boys Unions although we have common objectives.
A man of great determination, charisma and passion, Rev Henry Highfield made a pioneering contribution to education in Ceylon, at the turn of the 20th Century. . There are few Principals who have left a legacy that has profoundly and irreversibly changed the landscape in Education in our Island. Rev Henry Highfield has achieved that distinction.
Wesley College Colombo exudes history. However, the great school we see today is just over a hundred years old, almost all the brainchild of the Rev Henry Highfield, Principal 1895-1925.
Highfield of Wesley unfolds a story of long life full of interest, endeavours and achievements. It spans a momentous period of Ceylon's history. Behind any great organisation is a great leader, and schools are no exception. The Principal of the school sets the tone, the vision and the expectations for the staff and students. He was also a clever and capable man with a gift for friendship which crossed all barriers.
Rev Henry Highfield is considered the father of the present school in Karlshrue Gardens. As the City of Colombo expanded in the late 19th Century the original school in Dam Street Pettah became smothered by buildings, dust and grime. Rev. Highfield had the wisdom and foresight to collect the funds to buy the prime land adjacent to Baseline Road. The property belonged to Charles Ambrose Lorensz, a prominent solicitor. His house became the Principals' bungalow. Rev Highfield's energy was colossal, and so was his enthusiasm. He had the vision and the determination to collect the money to build the school. It was not without its vicissitudes and setbacks. He cycled from house to house appealing to the affluent to part with their money. The foundation stone for the new Wesley College was laid in 1905 and the building completed in January 1907.
Rev. Highfield changed the ethos of the school. The students were brought up to be self-reliant and ambitious. While acknowledging the importance of learning he realised that was only a part of education. The greater aim of education is the formation of character. He changed the curriculum giving importance to sports and began the prefect system looking for moral principles and gentlemanly conduct while promoting intellectual ability. Part of his reforms was to introduce the concept of the school as a community. Rev Highfield started the four houses for the school to generate friendly rivalry and encourage loyalty. He set the standard to make the students good scholars and responsible leaders. He cared passionately about public service and the need for integrity in public life.
During his reign Wesley developed into a very good school set in idyllic surroundings.. It had an able and dedicated staff and was popular with parents. Rev Highfield as the Principal was humane and approachable. The School has developed a strong academic tradition and has produced a collection of great alumni. Sir O.E.Goonetilleke, the first Ceylonese Governor General undoubtedly the best of the bunch.
Rev Highfield set high standards for future Principals to follow. Wherever we walk in the school we feel his presence. He must wander ethereally in the corridors and classrooms of that magnificient building. Its elegant facade is a special tribute to this remarkable person. Today he is the 'pater familias' of a large and vibrant community of Wesleyites scattered all over the world. His legend lives on.
Wesley College has emerged from its quiet 19th-century grand traditions to embrace modernity but its fine original buildings still remain a tribute to Rev Highfield. It is indeed a magnificent architectural masterpiece and reflects the vision of a great man..
The Great Hall at Wesley College is a perfect tribute to Rev. Henry Highfield. It has begun to show its age. Its restoration will be part of our recovery. A project for all Wesleyites to unify around. A Project on which to rebuild our hope and courage to represent the spirit of Wesley in its struggle through many hardships for over a century.
The Great Hall during the Carol Service 2014
The Hall has survived two World Wars. There are signs of damage due to the elements and the ravages of time. Plans to restore the exterior and the interior of the Great Hall are in place. The iconic beams of the Hall are made of the finest Burma teak and is the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka. The majestic English Victorian stained glass windows are of the finest. The school does not receive any government funding to maintain its buildings and we do not charge an entry fee for visitors. This however, does mean we need to raise money to maintain the Hall. The project cost is estimated at Rs 12 Million. If anyone wishes to help please contact the Principal. We are immensely grateful to all those who give so generously. It is still being extensively used and appreciated.
About our Principal
Mr Manickam has assumed duties as the Principal of Wesley College. He was inducted to his new post by the President of the Methodist Church & the Manager of Wesley College, Rev. Asiri Perera. The ceremony took place at the College Hall. He is a distinguished old boy of the school. On behalf of the Worldwide brotherhood of Wesleyites I wish Mr Manickam a long and rewarding stay at Wesley College.
Ben Manickam was recently inducted by the Most Revd. Asiri Perera, President of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka and Manager of the School as the 22nd Principal of Wesley College Colombo in a solemn ceremony in the College Hall, in the presence of dignitaries from the Methodist Church, old and present boys, parents, teachers and well-wishers.
A second generation Wesleyite, Manickam, joins a long line of celebrated principals from Rev. Samuel. Wilkin in 1874 to charter the destiny of his Alma Mater to greater heights.
Speaking on the occasion Manickam said, “It is truly an honor, a privilege and a humbling experience that the custodianship of Wesley has been entrusted to me. On this momentous and historic occasion both in the history of Wesley and in my personal life, I am aware of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us. It is my vision to build on the work done by those who have gone before us and to enable Wesley to reach new heights and attain her God given potential”.
Outlining his road map for his Alma Mater the new Principal added, “For Wesley to reach her fullest potential, three aspects need to be in place – Synergy, Stewardship and Renewed Passion.
Expanding on Synergy, Manickam noted that individuals of the Wesley community must come together in a spirit of synergy to create a whole which is far greater and far superior than the sum of their individual efforts.
Quoting world-renowned violinist Yitzak Pearlman’s famous line “it is my duty to make music with what remains”, Manickam went on to explain that Stewardship was all about making the best use of what was available. “At Wesley we may not have all what we desire as yet. But stewardship is about optimising what we possess at present.
The new Principal also called upon the Wesley community to serve with “Renewed Passion. He commented that in an organisation as vast and complex as Wesley, it is quite possible to harbour hurts and misunderstandings due to mis-aligned or unmet expectations. Drawing on Norman Cousin’s famous quote “the greatest tragedy of our lives is not death, but what we allow to die within us while we yet live”, the new Principal urged the Wesley community to lay the past behind, rekindle our spirits and serve Wesley with renewed passion.
A former Principal of the Lanka Bible College and Seminary, Peradeniya for over 20 years, Ben Manickam comes to Wesley with a proven track record of initiating and sustaining organisational growth and development. Manickam was also Director of the Centre for Graduate Studies and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya for the MBA and MSc Programs.
The site is dedicated to the Principals, Teachers and Students of Wesley College who have now departed this world. It is created in memory of their immeasurable contribution to the life of the school. They have enriched our lives. I hope now they have found eternal peace. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning , we will remember them.
Facts are sacred but comment is free. The views expressed in the articles in this website are entirely those of the authors. Any readers who wish to discuss issues further are encouraged to write to the web editor or contact the authors directly. I have received articles from Wesleyites from all round the world and without exception they all have spoken very highly of the school and the staff. There was never any occasion to edit articles for inflammatory content although it is appreciated that no institution is perfect. I sincerely hope in the fullness of time this website would be a true and accurate record of life at Wesley since its lowly beginnings in 1874. It is also hoped all the staff and students have had the opportunity to express their views freely and fairly on this site.
I have lived all my working life in England, 5000 miles away from the school. Hence, I had no direct access to the school archives, magazines or photographs. Due to the distance, personal communications with teachers, Principals and past students was difficult and laborious. I collected most of the material via emails through loyal friends and well wishers. I had to phone, Skype, cajole, beg and even twist the arm of old boys to write their memoirs, and write they did. As an editor and a compiler I send my heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped me to make this website a success. Without you there will not be a Double Blue International. The site is a tribute to each and everyone of you. I wish to thank all the authors and the editors of the Centenary and 125th Souvenirs. Special mention must be made of Neville Weerasekera, Shelton Peiris, Shanti McLelland, and the OBU (UK) for their encouragement and help. I thank the numerous Old Boys who sent articles and messages of approval of my efforts in making an International Website. I would particularly like to thank the Achilles family now in Australia - Vernon, Dallas and Delmer for their support in sending me articles and photographs for this website. The site is only as good as its contributors. Keith de Kretser has been a tower of strength by his contributions and enthusiasm in keeping this website alive. Lalith Wijesinghe (LCR) has never wavered in his support. Ranjit Aaron who now lives in New Zealand has been a prolific writer remembering those happy years at school. Nizar Sappideen has sent me information about "our boys" in NSW Australia and there are many. Nizar has remained a true blue Wesleyite with his support for the DBI website. Mahendra Dissanayake has been a great help in finding a home for this website in his server for the past 20 years. I have always valued his helpful and friendly advice. He has now taken a well earned rest. It has fallen on me to host and manage the Double Blue international which I do with great pride.
I am Nihal Douglas Amerasekera. I was called ND at school, amongst other names which were less flattering!! My parents preferred to call me Nihal. Scenes of endless sunny childhood days flash by although I am now thousands of miles away from those memories of Ceylon. The unforgiving nature of the economy makes those journeys home a rarity. Those memories linger on of school and home and friends.......
I have always wanted to create a website to unify all Wesleyites whatever colour, race, religion or ethnic background they may have. At Wesley we were a multi-ethnic, multi religion and multi-cultural community. I consider the many students who passed through the gates of the school as belonging to one large family. It is my desire to bring them all together at this site wherever in the world they may be. There is no better meeting place than the internet to reflect, meet and greet.
- Provide information about school friends and teachers for a database of email addresses.
- Present photos and interesting anecdotes about school life.
- Publish articles and letters sent by old boys and OBU's.
- Make the site a meeting place for Wesley College Old boys all over the world.
- Record the recent and past history of our school including its gripes and swipes.
- Chronicle Obituaries and appreciations
- Keep alumni updated and involved with the Wesley College of today;
- Inform and interest readers about alumni networks and events worldwide;
- Take pride in alumni successes.
- Show the enormous influence Wesley College and its alumni have had and continue to have in Sri Lanka and the world.
Looking back is a curious and fascinating experience. Here I have sought out the eccentric, the ludicrous and the socially revealing aspects of everyday life at school. After the 'short' fun packed existence with its wonders and its heroes and villains, the rest of one's long life seems an anti-climax !! The experience taught me that being clever was less important than having a confident, cheerful attitude. Representing the school at sports was the peak of one's achievements. Everyone else fell short or so it seemed.
I started work on this website in the depths of a bitter, rainswept English winter in 1997. It was a pivotal year with the Labour Party of the United Kingdom returning to power for the first time in 18 years. Tony Blair became the Prime Minister, in a landslide victory. U.S. President Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term at the Oval Office. The United Kingdom handed over sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. By then the Internet had become an important mode of communication and a leading source of news and information with the birth of the information superhighway called the World Wide Web.
Those long days and nights spent on its creation gave me a wonderful insight into the richness of life and achievements of this great school. Time is precious. Content is not cost free. Writing is work. There are no advertising revenues and no sponsorships. But it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be the editor of this journal. I am humbled by the immense support received from old boys. It is inspiring to note there is a wondeful brotherhood of Wesleyites out there willing to help. I rejoice in the fact I am still able to be of service to such a multitude of old boys all over the world. At times it is hard to comprehend the convulsive changes that have taken place within society since my childhood.
Times have changed since my schooldays. A recent poem summarised the endless posibilities for students today.
I am not in school today.
But the tape deck on my desk,
Will record each word you say.
Switch on my laptop's Webcam,
When you have something to show,
And if you pass out homework,
Find my fax number below.
I’ve a pager and cell phone,
So I won’t be hard to reach.
Since I don’t need to be in class,
I’ll do lessons at the beach.
On 27th of September 2012 Principal, staff, students, past students and parents of Wesley College welcomed the leader of our nation in a grand style. A 10 year old student welcomed H.E President in all three languages and students charmed the President by presenting him a book, poem and a portrait of the President.
Prof. Epasinghe (Chancellor of Peradeniya University and adviser to President) , Mrs. Lalitha Rajapaksa ( widow of Hon. George Rajapaksa, son of Hon. D.M Rajapaksa ), Hon. Nirupama Rajapaksa ( Deputy Minister and the Grand daughter of Hon. D.M Rajapaksa) and Mr. Sam Wijesinghe ( Chancellor of Open University, former Secretary General of Parliament), Hon. M.H Mohamed (former Speaker and Transport Minister) and Thilanga Sumathipala (MP) were invited guests at the ceremony.
A porttrait of the "Lion of Ruhuna" Hon. D.M Rajapaksa who played cricket for Wesley in 1916 was unvalied by the President. Mr. Sam Wijesinha who was a close friend of Hon. D.M Rajapaksa donated the photo.
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Old Boys Database
Don't lose contact with your school friends. With the Internet and modern Telecommunications it is easier to keep in touch, than you think. Please send me your details including the email address to be included in the database, completely free of charge. Your friends are just a phone call away (or email away).