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Sunday, 16 March 2014





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Wesley College - 140 years

When the Dutch dominated the low country of "Ceylon" the more residential areas were around the Fort and the Pettah. These areas however went into decline with the transfer of colonial power to the English and those areas underwent a steady decline. In 1874 when Reverend D.H. Pereira built a school it was to educate the working class Dutch people's children. This was the Dam Street area not far from Hulftsdorp. An Englishman Rev. Samuel Wilkin was the chosen principal educator of the Dam Street school where 150 boys from the Pettah area attended.

In 1907 the campus was then moved to its present location on land belonging to the Methodist Church. It stood with the front gates facing Baseline Road and the rear entrance was on Karlshrue Gardens. This came around the time that Wesley's most famous benefactor Rev Henry Highfield took charge. The man was a legend to everyone who knew him and the statute of the great man is seen when one enters the gates of this esteemed institution.


From 1895 to 1925 under Rev. Highfield the campus grew in size and pupils of different denominations were accepted at Wesley who maintained that tradition throughout. Highfield was known to have ridden a bicycle around England collecting funds for his favourite dream: Wesley College. He continued collecting funds and even today the high impressive wooden ceilings, the works of art and design the endearing stain-glass windows shed light on the boys and men who would bring great repute to the institution. They were works of Victorian and Edwardian art in every sense of the word. The school hall is still the most astonishing piece of Wesley College and over the staff entrance today hangs a photograph of a man whose praises could be sung each year on founder's day, the first week in March.

Many famous old pupils of Wesley graced this school before they became the beacons of Ceylonese Society. One of the most noteworthy was Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, later the Governor General of Independent Ceylon. Appreciated by members of both sides of the house for being impartial, Sir Oliver was one Wesley will always be proud of. Mayors and politicians, businessmen and physicians, lawmen and lawyers they all had sung the school song with gusto every-time it was sung since it was composed and written by H.J.V.I. Ekanayake in 1898. This song was paradoxically based on a war song meant to rally Scots warriors against the rule of Edward king of England. It is a war song while the words of the school song mean to gather all Wesleyites old and young around "the bands of double blue". It advocated fraternity and some should listen more closely to the words and what it really means.

Most recent is the name synonymous with Wesley - Mohamed, who rose from Municipal Councilor to being Mayor of Colombo then rose from the back benches to being part of the engine room of the conservative UNP governments. Mr. Mohamed has had five sons and many nephews, grandsons and nephews all loyal old Wesleyites.

Other men were Sir D. S. Jayatillake who with composer lyricist H.J.V.I. Ekanayake founded the now world famous Sinhalese Sports Club in 1898. Wesley was honoured by the presence of another icon in Rev James Cartman (1945 - 1949) to whom the senior school library is dedicated to. Rev Cartman has the reputation of being the man who encouraged Wesley to being a bigger player at school cricket after the war years and the decline. His encouragement was taken up by two stalwarts Edmund Dissanayake and Shelton Pieris. The revival was stupendous and soon Wesley was treated as the school to beat.

Rev Cartman was followed by Cedric J. Orloof a civil servant who gave up a lucrative practice at law to lead the school into the glorious 1950s and beyond. His stay created a bond between two schools - Wesley and Trinity and that friendly rivalry is still carried on with a fraternity beyond par. During this time Wesley shone in all sports and as an academy. He was assisted by vice Principal Kenneth de S. Lannerolle himself an ardent sports fan.


The school in these years produced the famous Claasen brothers, Radley, Brian and Herman, the Adhihettys, Lou and Vincent, the Fuards, Abu and Ansar and M. N. Samsudeen. Orloof went on to take over Trinity College in 1957 and Wesley had their first of many old boys principals in P.H.Nonis. Wesley had to turn a corner when the dilapidated historical buildings were crumbling with neglect until Dr. Shanti Mc Lelland sacrificed a career in Canada to right the wrongs and return the school to its pristine glory. The school now boasts a magnificent swimming pool and a campus that has many loyal old Wesleyites proud.

The school also has three new primary school buildings and will soon have a spanking new five storeyed building to house the Colombo Primary School where the Boys' Industrial Home, Wellawatte once stood.

Dr. McLelland was preceded by principals Dr. Lou Adihetty, and Chemistry scholar world renowned. Dr. Adihetty was in his time Senior Prefect, and captain of the cricket, football, hockey and tennis teams. N.A. Benito affectionately known as "Nabbie" Fernando was a leading hockey player before he moved to England to teach there.

He was followed by M.A.P. Fernando also known as "Mappa" who served from 1985 - 2008.

The saying is that a great institution will always rise out of shambles.

That is exactly what Wesley has done over the past five years.



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